During Women’s History Month, Latin Biz Today looks to spotlight feminism movements and progress as our Latina sisters in the U.S. and internationally continue to fight for equality in their professional and domestic lives.
1940s: As WWII engulfs the globe, American women, while committed to their domestic chores begin to enroll in the workforce, especially in jobs related to the war industry. Barriers against married women taking jobs are eased and they are hired for unskilled or semi-skilled jobs that support the war effort. The popular Rosie the Riveter icon becomes a symbol for a generation of American working women.
1950s: Feminism takes a step back as men return from the war and take back to the jobs women had held during wartime. Women turn their focus back to the home, starting a family, and domestic activity. The focus is on women becoming wives and mothers with pressure to get their “MRS” degree and land a husband. Marriage right out of high school is a cultural norm. Single women who are sexually active and become pregnant are shunned by society, being sent off to stay with distant relatives or homes for wayward girls. The media portrays women as content to be submissive and domestic.
1960s: There is a boom in the number of jobs available to young single women. More girls go on to higher education and the Women’s Lib movement demands equal pay and opportunity for women. The FDA approves the first commercially produced birth control pill, and John F. Kennedy signs the Equal Pay Act which prohibits gender-based wage discrimination between men and women performing the same job in the same workplace. The National Organization for Women (NOW) is created by Betty Friedan (author of The Feminine Mystique) as a grassroots activism movement to promote feminine ideals, lead societal change, eliminate discrimination and achieve and protect equal rights of all women and girls in all aspects of social, political, and economic life.
1970s: There is a continued focus is on dismantling workplace inequality. Women seek equity on both political and personal levels. Title IX which states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” is signed into law by Richard Nixon. In the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the US Supreme Court declares that the Constitution protects a woman’s legal right to an abortion.
1980s: Women enter the workforce in droves with their power suits, shoulder pads and commuting sneakers. Climbing the corporate ladder, they hit their heads on the “glass ceiling.” The phrase “Difference Feminism” comes into effect, aimed at achieving equality between men and women while emphasizing that there are indeed differences between the two sexes, but that does not mean equality can’t exist. The movie 9 to 5 is a success portraying three working women who fantasize about getting even with their sexist and hypocritical bigot of a boss. Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court. Sally Ride is the first American woman in space. Geraldine Ferraro is the first female vice presidential nominee of a major party.
1990s: Daughters of the second wave of feminists grow up choosing paths that were not available to their mothers. They postpone marriage and children, instead pursuing higher education and assuming independence outside of the home. Women become providers. The “Girl Power” movement begins with indie subculture films, female music creators and festivals like Lilith Fair, art, websites, and magazines like Sassy. Sex and the City is a top TV show exploring sex and relationships of four inseparable girlfriends leading very different lives. Janet Reno becomes the first female attorney general of the US. Madeleine Albright becomes the nation’s first female secretary of state. President Clinton signs the Violence Against Women act which helps victims of domestic rape, sexual assault, stalking and other gender related violence.
2000s: Y2K brings us more women growing up with female role models from all walks of life, many examples of female success stories and a heightened awareness of the barriers that exist due to sexism and racism. This generation looks to redefine ideas created by the media about womanhood, gender, beauty and sexuality. There is a shift in the perceptions of gender with a societal acknowledgment that there can be cross-over sexual traits that may have previously been associated with one gender or another. Women are seen as more assertive, powerful and in control of their own sexuality. Barack Obama is elected the first African American president. As the first African American couple in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama is a strong role model for women as an advocate for poverty awareness, education and nutrition.
2010s: Questions arise about body shaming, sexual harassment and rape culture. Women’s March demonstrations are held throughout the world on January 21, 2017, to support gender equality, civil rights and other issues that are expected to face challenges under newly inaugurated President Trump. The #MeToo movement gains widespread attention with revelations from victims of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assaults. The movement condemns the behavior of other powerful men in politics, business, entertainment and media.
2020s: Only a year and a few months into this decade, there is an increased use of online mobilization for female initiatives in activism and organization. The first female (and African American/South Asian) vice president, Kamala Harris is sworn into office. Women are appointed in high numbers by President Biden to the White House senior staff. Feminism today is a social movement and belief that is focused on changing society for the better by not only continuing to fight for equal rights from previous decades, but by making sure women have a seat at the table of corporations, government, higher education, athletics, and every aspect of our lives.