Why Were the Feminists of the 1970s so Misunderstood?

Carol Roach By Carol Roach, 22nd Jun 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

n the struggle for women's rights which stems well over a century, some women made great strides in changing the social mores of the day. The plight of the poor is an ongoing topic in women’s issues and women’s rights


In our last article we looked at the so what analogy when someone with a full stomach hears someone else is starving. The cannot begin to understand the hunger pangs.

The second analogy to explain the “so what” attitude when is comes to the work of feminists

The second analogy - is referenced to the World War II soldiers and how many young people say, "oh that war was so long ago, what does it mean to me now, in other words "so what." The veteran's response would be if it wasn't for us you would be speaking German today, and that is the "so what."

People that go before us pave the way to make a better future for all that come after. It was no different for the women's libbers of the 1970's; they did make things better for future generations of women.

No, they did not make everything perfect and yes they made some errors, as we will see when I cover the third wave of feminism later on.

However, the movement had to grow and change as the times changed. In the last series, you remember Germaine Greer was disappointed that the movement did not evolve and change as much as she would have liked and rightfully so,; the feminist movement should change and evolve and continue to promote all that is "woman." As the song by Helen Reddy goes, " I am woman hear me roar."

"So what" you say again? "So what" the wheel was invented but, would you have that car sitting out in your driveway today if the wheel was never invented? The invention of the wheel was no small potatoes, and neither is the redefining of women either. The women's cause is no small potatoes.

The Women's Movement is not a So What kind of Deal

The Women's Movement is not a So What kind of Deal

Now that we see how important the women's movement is. Let's take a look at the public opposition at the time. Because women were challenging the most fundamental roles of women of their day they were largely misunderstood.

Other women thought they were putting them down if they choose to remain a wife and mother within the confines of their home. They felt that feminists were saying they were nobody if they were "just a housewife" and that the feminists only felt that workingwomen were worth anything. How could that be logical? If feminists are saying all women are important why would they go back and say all women except housewives?

The trouble is all the public really saw were radical feminists; there were also academic feminists, and moderate feminists of all kind. There was not one thought in feminism.

To make an analogy let 's compare it to Christianity which has one common denominator which is Christ. After that there are orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics and Protestants. Protestants are also divided into a a myriad of denominations such as: Baptists, Southern Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutheran, Quakers, Jehovah Witness, Seven Day Adventists, Evangelical, United and so on.

If anything is to be learned about feminism it is that feminism is about choices, every woman should have the choice to make the decision for her life and not have a man decide for her.It also means that other women can not make that choice for her either.

Why then did this misconception about feminism occur?

Reason number one - the average women did not take the time to sit down and listen to what the feminists were saying. They chose to listen to the negative hype from the media and their husbands who were already threatened by the woman's movement. They formed their opinions based upon what other people thought without looking into the issue and forming their own opinions.

Feminists were crazy?

Reason number two - Let's face it, if you were a man used to having your dinner on the table when you got home from work and now you have your wife telling you, "I am too tired to cook today let's go out for dinner, or

I won't be home when you get home I have my job to go to or I have my painting class" or whatever, "heat up your dinner in the microwave and I will be home at 9:00 pm, that too is threatening.

This new found female independence threatened their comfort level and their power within the household and in the workforce. They felt that women entering the workforce would steal their jobs.

Note: We can see today this never happened, men still work and still dominate many jobs in different industries but, back then it was a real threat to these men.

Reason number three - The women's movement itself was not unified, as there were different feminists with different points of view. The ones that got the most attention were the most radical and radical feminism challenged everything and anything. Radical feminism somehow became the group that all people associated with feminism. Yet, they never represented all the different voices in feminism; they were just the most vocal.

Therefore, when a man or woman saw a woman burning her bra, they did not look further than that woman or that group of woman and decided the whole movement was crazy.

These women did lots of good for the movement to get people's attention but, they also set the movement back as well.

Burning bras

The radical feminists lost the support of conservative women who thought the act of burning a bra (liberation) crazy and they also lost credibility with the corporate world. Women were trying to break into an all man's domain; the corporate world. They wanted to infiltrate the "old boys club" to level the playing field. They wanted to show men that they had brains, they could make important corporate decisions based on logic and not emotion and these decisions would be just as good as the decisions made by their male counterparts.

What is one of the things they do to show that they can work in a male dominated world? They burn their bras. This action did not serve their cause well.,l because the old boys club justifiably said, "you want to show us how level headed you are and you burn your bra? Hmm not working!

Of course other feminists did show that they were capable of working in the male dominated corporate world, and they did it by logical thought and quality in the job performance.

Nevertheless the radical feminists seemed to be the standard that all branches of feminism were judged. The radical feminists sometimes shocking (for the times) tactics overshadowed all the good that the rest of the movement was doing to empower women.

What happened then, was that feminism got a bad wrap. Men branded feminists as crazy hysterical females running around burning their bras. They called them man haters, and they called them women too ugly to ever catch a man in the first place. They also called them lesbians.

Yes, there were and still are lesbians in the movement; but, there are heterosexual females who believe in the cause as well. The next article in the series will focus on the first lesbian often sited in feminist literature. Her name was Sappho and she came from the island of Lesbos, Hence, we have the term lesbian originating from Lesbos in Greece.

to be continued

Previous link

The Feminists of the 1970's Tried to Shake Up Society

All photos taken from the public domain
Do you have a passion to write? Do you want to share your words with the world while getting royalties on your work for years to come? Follow me here on Wikinut


Burning Bras, Equal Pay For Equal Work, Equal Pay For Women, Equality For Women, Equality In The Workforce, Feminism, Feminist, Feminists, Gender Differences, Gender Issues, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Women Activists, Womens Rights

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar brendamarie
22nd Jun 2015 (#)

great article Carol. Way to go!!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Helen Thomas
26th Jun 2015 (#)

Very interesting article ~ Carol.

Thanks for sharing. Blessings.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?