The two waves differed from one another largely because the reasons behind their emergence were quite different. The first wave movement began as far back as the eighteenth century and its purpose was to protect women against being treated like objects in US policy. This is actually why the first wave ended with the introduction of the women’s right to vote. (DuBois and Vicki, 1990) On the other hand, the second wave was more concerned with the restoration of all the rights that women had been denied in the past.
This was propagated by the fact that a large share of women had entered into the working environment after the Second World War. Consequently, this wave was more broadly based because its primary concern was the restoration of women’s economic, political and social rights so as to place them in the same category as their male counterparts. Therefore, it can be argued that the major concern during the first wave was political but in the second more concern was given to cultural aspects. Extent to which the wave analogy is useful
The use of the wave analogy is particularly useful in this regard because it is used to describe separate periods in history. To some extent this is actually true because there were certain issues in the first wave that could not be addressed during the second wave. One example was the fact that certain sexual rights were a no-gone-zone during the first wave. At that time, abortion was not being discussed at all. However, during the second wave, there was greater emphasis on the need to restore such rights.
In other words, women during the second wave were more daring than they were in the first. It should also be noted that the analogy is successful in highlighting certain ideological differences that were prevalent in these two phases. During the first wave, cultural and political concerns/ rights were treated as separate and distinct. On the other hand in the second wave, these matters were regarded as synonymous. This was why many women rights activists were fond of using the term; the personal is political.
It was largely as a result of the belief that there were sexist power structures that highly affected the way women went about living their lives. This was a new phenomenon that had not been realized in the first wave. Consequently, by dwelling on separate ideologies, it is possible to understand why the term ‘wave’ was coined. Extent to which the analogy is problematic The wave analogy creates a picture of there being a distinct difference during these two time periods.
However, as some feminists have asserted, there were still a lot of common battles that were fought both in the first and in the second wave. Consequently, one can argue that by using this analogy, individuals can be dissuaded from looking at the common issues between these differing time periods. (DuBois and Vicki, 1990) The latter point can be illustrated through the work of a number of feminists at that time. Women such as • Margaret Sanger • Voltairine Cleyre Were primarily concerned with advocating for women’s economic rights (an aspect that is thought to be limited to the second wave).
They also fought for the restoration of reproductive and sexual rights too. The interesting thing about these women was that they operated within the periods synonymous with the first wave but they addressed “second wave issues” consequently, it can be said that the use of such an analogy tends to ignore work that was done in one phase but went contrary to expectations. The use of the wave analogy also creates the impression that each wave had uniform concerns that were addressed however this is not necessarily the case.
For example at the beginning of the first wave, greater concern was given to the issue of ownership of property especially following the practices of chattel marriage where children and wives were all treated as property belonging to the husband of the household. However, later on, the second wave changed adversely because now people were more concerned with the restoration of certain forms of political power. In Britain, the 1918 representation of the people act was passed. In the United States, the first wave ended after women were given the right to vote in the 1919 nineteenth Amendment.
Consequently, it can be said that the use of the wave analogy is problematic because it covers up the changes that occurred in each wave. (DuBois and Vicki, 1990) The use of this analogy is also problematic in that it creates an impression of lack of continuity between the two phases. However, historical writings show that this was not the case. In fact most work in the second wave was actually a continuation of earlier work that had been done during the first wave. The use of this term is therefore very misleading to those who are trying to understand it. Conclusion
Feminist struggles have continued from as far back as the eighteenth century to date. While some issues were distinct to certain periods in history, others have span across time, consequently, the use of the wave analogy is more problematic than useful. This is because certain women faced challenges in the first wave that were thought to belong to the second wave. Additionally, there were more similarities than differences between these two waves. References DuBois, E. C. and Vicki, R. (1990): Unequal Sisters – A Multicultural Reader in U. S. Women’s History, New York, Routledge
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Topic: Comparison of first and second wave movements
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