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Women and happiness: Part two - The way it was and is now

Updated on June 9, 2010

Women and happiness: Part two - Whine, womyn, and thongs (a title used by Christine Rosin, 1990)

*To see the first article in this series, click here: "Women and happiness : Part One -The way it was. "

As is often the case, when much needed change is made, a shift to another extreme may occur. The results may not be what we expected or even what we wanted. They may careen out of control for a while as did the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s. A steady stream of women’s complaints disguised as manifestos gave rise. Rampant institutionalization in the form of women’s studies sprang up on college campuses. And a brand of female sexual power and promiscuousness celebrated everything from prostitution to bra burning.

By the 20th century, "...the feminist movement morphed into vanity and voyeurism rather than sustained political action. Its notions of women as a class were never inclusive. It had little room for women who couldn’t or wouldn’t embrace the worldview of organized feminism, and no place at all for women whose views rested on the more conservative end of the political spectrum." (Chrisrine Rosin, 1990).

However, not everybody looked at feminism in the same way. The Movement created enormous pride and was a life altering event for many of the women who chose to fight for their beliefs. As Helen Reddy (a feminist musician) said, the Movement "was something that profoundly altered how I felt about myself and about life...from that time on I was changed."From that time on I was changed" (Reddy, 1980).

The dramatic change that many women underwent created an experience that was not just made up of a whiny group of women like many thought. It was "a compelling utopian vision, a great unity of purpose, and a respect for diversity... One of the most consequential social movements of the 20th century" (Douglas, 1990). Gloria Steinem, a key figure in the movement remarked "The Women's Lib Movement will benefit not only the women, but the men of the society as well by dissolving the sex role stereotypes and expectations" (Steinem 1970) Overall, women in the Movement, although some a little unsure, saw it as a chance to fight for what they believed in and in turn, change the boundaries of society to allow themselves, as women, to be free.

However, many men in this 1970's society, described the Movement as something so different you would think that they were not talking about the same thing. Characterizing the women as "new and angry" male-hating freaks or a "small band of bra-less bubbleheads," Men had a reaction to the Movement that was less than positive. These negative reactions to the Movement can be explained by many men's fear and hatred toward the change the women of the Movement were trying to make. As Time magazine said, the Women's Movement was a time "that [tried] men's souls"

Many women had negative reactions to the movement as well, and still do. "Today’s feminism...", writes Christine Rosin in her book: Whine, Womyn, and Thongs: How feminism has failed "...a kind of Facebook feminism that elevates personal experience and personal performance above all else—allows everyone from Madonna to Martha Stewart to serve as icons of female empowerment, and is a label largely devoid of meaning. It also allows women living in the prosperous West to avoid confronting the challenges and ambiguities of women’s condition in other parts of the world.

Today few people have even an inkling of the vehemence, theatrical posturing, and convoluted reasoning of the anti feminist forces. Some opponents merely dismissed or ridiculed calls for changes in women's status, without specifying particular flaws in the feminist position. Others cited divine ordination, applied to "natural law", and fanned public fears of familial and social disintegration. Frequently these critics resorted to charges of presumed lesbianism, communism, and socialism against advocates of women's rights and against the movement itself. This adamant opposition to equality for women was a manifestation of common apprehension about ongoing social, economic, and political changes beyond antifeminist control.

And yet there are millions of women who have benefited from the movement. In Friedan's day, women were clearly the second sex. Not so today. Yes, many women are struggling with the challenge of combining family and work. But men do not have it easy either. They are increasingly less educated than women. They are bearing the brunt of the recession.

The New York Times recently reported that "a full 82 percent of the job losses have befallen men." Reuters referred to the surging male unemployment rate as a "blood bath." Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "FastStats" show that men are less likely than women to be insured—and more likely to drink, smoke, and be overweight. They also die six years earlier than women on average.

The struggle for women's rights is far from over, but the serious battlegrounds today are in Muslim societies and in sub-Saharan Africa. In these and other parts of the developing world, most women have not yet seen so much as a ripple of freedom, let alone two major waves of liberation. We should be directing our efforts toward the millions of women who have never had the luxury of coping with the problem that has no name.

*Next in the series: The paradox of declining female happiness


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    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      @marieryan: Thank you for the kind comments. Yes, I think it would be interesting to compare perspectives on this issue from women all over the world. I know we all have some of the same issues but our societies affect how we are able to cope with them.

    • marieryan profile image

      Marie Ryan 

      10 years ago from Andalusia, Spain

      This was so well-written, Alekhouse.

      Such a complex issue, but you have given a fair picture of events so far in the West!

      I agree with 'green lotus' in that it would be fascinating to have a Muslim woman's view on "Women and happiness"

      Great title, by the way!

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Yeah, you're absolutely right. Guess that's the way of the world...unfortunately

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Funny how people who disagree with cultural customs are labeled communists. Factions that oppose change have used that brand for quite a long time and are still doing it today. People who question the distribution of wealth, the power of huge banking systems are now called communists.

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      I like your idea for a hub on "...mistreatment of, and bigotry toward, women has been driven "underground" Do it! Nice comment. Thanks.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      Nice writing, Alekhouse. I think what many people don't realize is that, besides what, in society, has obviously taken women in a direction that's hardly what The Women's Movement aspired to; much mistreatment of, and bigotry toward, women has been driven "underground". That's a Hub I've been incubating for quite a while.

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thank you again for such glowing comments. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • dohn121 profile image


      10 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I liked how you empathized with the men as well! I don't think anyone really has it that easy right now--with exception of the Plutocrats. If gas went up to $10 a gallon, we'd all be in trouble, except for the rich who could afford it. But then again, we'd have another Revolution on our hands!

      I really enjoy your writing, alekhouse. While I was in college, I read a few books on feminism and learned much about the Beat Poets of your generation. Charlotte Perkins Gilman comes to mind. Thanks for writing this and sharing this with all of us.


    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks for the comments, SP, I am definitely writing more. I'm almost finished with the third one and thinking about the fourth. Having to do quite a bit of research.

    • SweetiePie profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Even in the nineties I was criticized for taking a women's studies class, but it was one of the most fascinating I ever took. If other people do not understand that I found this class interesting I have decided that is there problem. I enjoyed this second segment of your series by the way. Hope you write more.

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      I know. I wanted to delve into this and started doing some research. But it's a huge job. I'm working on scaling it down.

    • Green Lotus profile image


      10 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I believe a great deal of progress has been made in the west over the past 30 years, certainly over the past 90 years. It would be worthwhile to hear comments from those who live in Muslim societies and in sub-Saharan Africa. While I do perceive that they are repressed, curiously enough, they often speak to the contrary.

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks, jd, I agree and I certainly am grateful. And in hopes that the corporate world will eventually catch up!

    • judydianne profile image


      10 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

      Great part two! Women in the U.S. should be grateful for the courage of these women. Things are certainly different now for women than they used to be. Now if wages would catch up. I know progress has been made, but it is still a corporate man's world.

    • alekhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      10 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Thanks for good comments. I think your absolutely right about the effect of the radical bra-burning incidents, and the courage. It certainly changed things forever.

    • Elena. profile image


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Bravo, Alekhouse, excellent part 2! I think you managed to capture the pendulum effect of the movement, its positive and not so positive repercussions. As I said the other day, much as it was "laughed about" and critizised, I don't think it would have had the impact it had, had it not been for the radical, bra-burning courage of some of those women.


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