Section Eleven

Section Eleven: Social Protest And The Feminist Movement
Learning Objectives
To recognize the various ways people organize around gender identities and promote
changes in gender ideology.
To be aware of the various ways in which women resist domination and inequality at the
individual and collective levels.
To understand how race/ethnicity, class, and sexuality interact with gender in social
movements and protest.
To understand the history and the demands of the feminist movements.
To recognize the diversity of feminisms and women’s issues.
Section Summary
Contemporary feminist movements are very diverse with varying constituencies, ideas, goals,
tactics, and strategies.
 Feminism has a long history of attempting to transform gender ideologies.
 Women resist forces of domination and inequality through a variety of individual and
collective tactics.
 Women, and feminists, have often perpetuated various class, racial, and even gender
 Outside forces such as economics and politics affect feminist activism.
 Women may recognize their gendered subordination, but may not necessarily label
themselves as feminists.
 The focuses of feminists vary by race/ethnicity, class, and other socio-political
 Feminists broadly agree on the ideal of equality, but not necessarily on specific goals or
the best means to achieve equality.
Reading 51: Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier, and Cynthia Fabrizio Pelak, “The Women's
Movement: Persistence through Transformation”
The women’s movement has changed forms, but the core concerns with challenging gender
hierarchies and norms remain. Broad social changes such as urbanization, industrialization, and
changes in demographics alter women’s access to work and education and alter women’s status.
These changes made it likely that women will challenge their subordinate position.
 Western women’s movements appeared around the same time, with the first wave
appearing at the end of the nineteenth through the beginning of the twentieth centuries,
and the second wave appearing during the 1960s.
 Liberal feminist ideology focuses on gaining equal opportunities for women in the
current political and economic structure; this ideology was the focus of the first wave and
was a dominant theme during the second wave.
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The second wave challenged a broader set of issues. There were various forms of
feminist ideology during this period, including radical feminism, which suggests there is
a structural basis for women’s oppression that requires a radical reorganization of society.
During this period, the line between radical and liberal feminism began to blur, and
lesbian feminists and feminists of color challenged feminism to focus on the intersections
of oppressions.
Following the waves of women’s activism, periods of doldrums ensued during which
feminists were still active, but they were in abeyance. The political climate was less
conducive to feminist activism during these times.
The women’s movement has had two primary structures: large, hierarchical and
bureaucratic structures that tended to focus on political aspects of the movement; and
small, collectively organized structures that focused more on cultural aspects.
Challenges to the gender order include women’s resistance on an individual level and
collective challenges at the structural and cultural levels.
Today, feminists continue to be active in a wide variety of movements, including the
international women’s movement. The movement has increased dramatically since the
1970s, even though the word “feminism” has been stigmatized.
Countermovements have organized against feminism at every stage of its development,
and they continue to oppose feminist gains so feminists must be prepared to continue
their activism.
Reading 52: Pamela Aronson, “Feminists or “Postfeminists”? Young Women’s Attitudes
toward Feminism and Gender Relations”
Contrary to media and other portrayals of young women as uninterested in feminist concerns and
unaware of the gains of previous feminists, there is little to support the idea that we live in a
“postfeminist” era or that “feminism is dead.” In-depth interviews with a racially and lifeexperience diverse sample of young women reveal that young women are aware that the feminist
(or women’s) movement increased their opportunities and that gender inequality remains.
However, young people have varying positions regarding their self-definition as feminists.
 Aronson interviewed 42 young women of diverse racial and class backgrounds who had a
range of life experiences. Unlike other researchers, Aronson did not assume that the
definition of feminism was widely agreed upon and allowed her interview subjects the
opportunity to define its meaning in their lives.
 The majority of young women expressed a general optimism about the expanded
opportunities for women, particularly in education and career choices, and they
recognized that older women had struggled to generate these opportunities. The majority
were also aware that gendered obstacles persisted.
 These young women were very aware of gender discrimination. Nearly all of the young
women felt they had experienced minor gender discrimination and only a few felt they
had faced blatant discrimination.
o Almost one-third of the women were concerned with future workplace
o Some of the women who had experienced discrimination did not believe that such
gendered treatment would impact their lives. Many of the women with this
paradoxical approach were reluctant to label their experiences as discrimination
because they narrowly defined discrimination in terms of the workplace.
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o Other women focused on individual solutions to discrimination like facing the
perpetrator or their own choices.
Nearly all of the young women were supportive of feminist issues. However, only onequarter defined themselves as feminists and over half of the women did not want to
explicitly define themselves in terms of feminism. Race, class and life paths/life
experience in early adulthood were important factors in determining how young women
related to feminism.
o The women who did not qualify their definition of themselves as feminists were
white, college-educated women who came to feminism through women’s studies.
o The women who qualified their identification as feminists were women of color
or working-class white women. Most had attended college but had no experience
with women’s studies. While growing up their families had assumptions of
o The young women who did not define themselves as feminists were mostly from
privileged backgrounds but had either not attended college or not taken women’s
studies courses. These women were supportive of much feminist ideology.
o One-third of the young women were “fence-sitters” who refused to position
themselves in terms of feminism as an identity. These women came from a variety
of backgrounds. These women focused on evaluating the ideologies and
stereotypes associated with feminism.
o Many of the women who were unsure of their attitudes toward feminism had little
time to think about feminism. Most of these women were full-time workers who
had not attended college and/or young mothers.
Support of a feminist identity was closely tied with involvement in institutions that
support and nurture feminism like women’s studies inside universities which was most
available to white women. However, many young women cannot afford the luxury to
think about feminism.
Many of the women were aware of the negative stereotypes of feminists.
Although the women were aware of gender discrimination and supported feminist goals,
most of these young women stopped short of a collective or activist orientation.
Boxed Insert: Nikki Ayanna Stewart, “Transform the World: What You Can Do With a
Degree in Women’s Studies”
Stewart describes the variety of occupations for which women’s studies prepares students and
the numerous ways students bring feminism into the real world.
 Although people often ask women’s studies majors what they will do with their majors,
women’s studies teaches a unique set of skills: empowerment, self-confidence, critical
thinking, community building, and the intersectionality of oppression.
 There are at least 750 active undergraduate and graduate programs in women’s studies.
 Women’s studies education often includes a focus on applied theory and practice, and
students are able to ask new important questions in traditional fields and in activism.
 Although early women’s studies majors tended to work on gender-specific issues,
students today are bringing feminism into a variety of careers where they can make largescale change. Students today are often interested in being public intellectuals and media
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Reading 53: Grace Chang, “From the Third World to the “Third World Within:” Asian
Women Workers Fighting Globalization”
Chang describes how complex processes of globalization and government policies encourage
women to migrate to the United States and Canada as low-paid but often highly skilled workers.
Using Filipina nurses as an example, Chang demonstrates how some migrant women have
organized against the unfair government policies of their “old” and “new” countries and the
global forces that have often trapped them in terrible work conditions.
 Globalization has not created new jobs in most Third World countries, but it has instead
changed the economies in such a way that many people, especially women, must migrate
to the First World to find work.
 In order to promote “free trade,” the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank
have forced neo-liberal policies (like Structural Adjustment Programs) on Third World
countries that have hurt working families. As a result many of the Third World women
migrate only to become the “Third World within,” people of color living in industrialized
countries in poverty and without access to many freedoms. Chang calls this the
globalization of poverty: “the creation, perpetuation, and exacerbation of poverty
 Thousands of Filipinas who are trained nurses migrate to America where they are
excluded from nursing and forced into low-paid care work. These women care for others’
families while economically forced to live apart from their own families.
 The Philippine government benefits financially from the exportation of Filipinas through
the money sent home and the money paid to emigrate. The United States and Canada
benefit because Filipinas provide low-cost care work for middle- and upper-class
 In Canada Filipina nurses are unable to practice nursing for several years because of
restrictive accreditation practices and appalling immigration policies, like the Live-in
Caregiver Program that can trap women in abusive work situations. Canada also uses the
presence of the Filipina nurses against Canadian citizen nurses in labor negotiations.
 In the United States, government immigration policies exclude Filipinas from welfare
benefits and worker’s rights making Filipina nurses unable to refuse underpaid service
work. However, Filipinas in the United States are in a slightly better position to organize
and to escape abusive situations.
 Filipina nurses and other mostly immigrant care workers have organized in New York
through the Women Workers Project with some success in order to regulate the domestic
industry and receive better working conditions. In Canada Filipinas have also organized
through the Philippine Women Centre to fight government policies and globalization
forces. Chang suggests that these women often have a more sophisticated understanding
of the realities of global policies than do educated Western feminists.
Reading 54: Cathy Cohen, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical
Potential of Queer Politics? “
Cohen describes the potential and the limits of queer theorizing and politics for radical social
change. While Cohen praises queer politics for making various peoples’ experiences visible, she
critiques the movement for ignoring the diversity of people within the category “heterosexual.”
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Activists and scholars need to focus on the relation of multiple identities to power, not just on
dichotomies of particular identities.
 The radical potential of queer politics is in its:
o ability to create a space in opposition to cultural norms where the marginalized is
o ability to recognize the fluidity of categories of identity (particularly sexual
behavior); and
o confrontational challenge to power that is not assimilationist but seeks broad
changes in the values, definitions, and structures of society.
 The problem with queer theory lies in its:
o use of single-identity politics that privilege sexual identity over other categories
of oppression;
o inability to recognize the intersecting oppressions particularly of people of color;
o monolithic understanding of heterosexuality that fails to understand how some
expressions of heterosexuality break sexual norms.
 Queer theory has not been able to destabilize heteronormativity because it has focused on
the binary of hetero and queer and has failed to grapple with the power differences within
and between each of these categories. Some of the people who are heterosexual, like
punks, bulldaggers, and welfare queens, do challenge heteronormativity.
 A leftist framework of politics that focuses on the structural and the cultural oppressions
of people based on multiple systems of identity is necessary to recognize the potential of
queer politics.
 People who have espoused queer politics have often had inherent privileges based on
race, class, or gender, and they must grapple with the differences within the queer
communities as well as with the possibility of establishing coalitions with heterosexuals.
Boxed Insert: “UN Commission Approves Declaration Reaffirming Goals of 1995 Women’s
Conference After U.S. Drops Antiabortion Amendment”
In 2005 the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women proposed a declaration to
reaffirm progress toward the platform laid out in the Beijing Declaration. The platform states that
abortion should be safe in places where it is legal and that criminal charges should not be
brought against women who undergo illegal abortions. The United States sought to add an
amendment that would have clarified that the platform does not include a right to abortion or
create any new international rights. Most other U.N. member nations rejected even a “watered
down” version of the U.S. amendment. According to the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., the
United States ended its push for the amendment when other countries indicated that the
amendment was just redundant considering what was already in the Declaration. Some feminists
suggested that the U.S. push for this amendment was an attempt to force American politics into
an international consensus.
Boxed Insert: “Fourth World Conference on Women Beijing Declaration”
Following in the spirit of previous U.N. conferences on the status of women, this declaration was
adopted (along with a detailed “Platform for Action” not included here) at the Fourth World
Conference on Women held in Beijing, China. This declaration focused on how to achieve the
advancement of women. There are three main goals of the declaration are equality, development,
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and peace. The declaration focused on women’s rights as “human rights” and the obstacles that
poverty and war/conflict presented to women’s lives. Some of the other issues addressed by the
declaration include violence against women; sustainable development; men’s involvement in
gender equality; and women’s access to economic resources, education, and health care.
Discussion Questions
Reading 51: Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier, and Cynthia Fabrizio Pelak, “The Women's
Movement: Persistence through Transformation”
1. Describe the three waves of feminism. When did each one occur? What were its
primary concerns?
2. What are the different feminist ideologies? When have these ideologies been
3. What is abeyance or the doldrums? What happens to feminism during these periods?
4. Describe the state of feminism today. Describe the role of intersectionality and the “I am
not a feminist but” syndrome.
Reading 52: Pamela Aronson, “Feminists or “Postfeminists”? Young Women’s Attitudes
toward Feminism and Gender Relations”
5. What do the media often suggest about feminism today? Is this an accurate
representation? Why or why not?
6. What do the interviews suggest is true regarding young women’s attitudes about
feminism? Do the young women appreciate the gains made in the past? Do these young
women identify as feminists? Do the young women agree with the goals of feminism? Do
these women perceive (or expect future) gender discrimination?
7. How do life experiences alter how the young women perceive feminism? What
experiences are important to those women who identify as feminists? What experiences
keep other women from identifying as feminists?
8. How might a feminist movement successfully engage many of these young women in
activism in the future?
Boxed Insert: Nikki Ayanna Stewart,
9. What are some of the skills students gain with a women’s studies degree?
10. How do women’s studies majors bring feminism into the real world? What are some of
the jobs held by women’s studies majors?
Reading 53: Grace Chang, “From the Third World to the “Third World Within:” Asian
Women Workers Fighting Globalization”
11. What aspects of globalization encourage the migration of workers like the Filipinas
described by Chang? How and why does the Philippine government encourage the
women to migrate?
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12. How are the Filipina nurses treated when they arrive in Canada and the United States?
What are the policies that keep these women in low-wage positions?
13. How have the Filipinas organized to improve their work conditions? What do you think
would be an equitable solution for these immigrant women?
14. Who really benefits from the migration of Filipina nurses to the United States and
Reading 54: Cathy Cohen, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical
Potential of Queer Politics? “
15. How is queer politics transformative? Who or what has been left out of queer politics?
16. Why is it important to recognize the multiple identities people have in order to challenge
one aspect of power?
17. What should a queer politics that truly challenges power in all forms look like?
Boxed Insert: “UN Commission Approves Declaration Reaffirming Goals of 1995 Women’s
Conference After U.S. Drops Antiabortion Amendment”
18. What was the U.S. amendment to the Beijing declaration? Did this amendment pass?
Why or why not?
19. Why do you think the United States sought such an amendment? Why do you think this
amendment failed?
Boxed Insert: “Fourth World Conference on Women Beijing Declaration”
20. What do the women who wrote the declaration seek to accomplish? What are some of the
aspects of women’s lives this declaration looks to affect?
21. Why is development and peace included in this declaration on women? What role do
these factors play in gender equality? How might these issues be more pressing than
some of the gendered issues discussed by Western feminists?
Assignments and Exercises
Activist Project: The purpose of this project is to engage students in activism around issues of
women or gender. Divide the class into groups of five. Students should participate in an activist
event or produce materials for a women’s/gender organization. Examples may include:
(a) designing a consciousness-raising group;
(b) creating a performance or art work that is performed/shown at an activist event;
(c) developing a brochure, an outreach program, or another form of volunteer work for an
existing group;
(d) developing a brochure or other informative outlet that focuses on a women’s issue and
that will be distributed to a target population.
Gather information on local groups to flesh out relevant parts of the examples. Students should
present their group project to the class after completion. Require each student to turn in a paper
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that explains what s/he did, what s/he learned, and how her/his project connects to readings from
this section.
Paper on the Global Debate on the Future of Feminism: This exercise will highlight the variety
of concerns feminists have all over the world. Students should discuss the differences between
the demands of women in different parts of the world. What are the issues that divide feminists
in “Northern” industrialized nations from those in “Southern” developing nations? How do
religion and cultural practices factor into this debate?
Explore Women’s Activism in Non-Feminist Causes: Women have been active in a variety of
causes. Ask students to gather information on women activists who are involved in a cause of
the student’s choosing, but that is not feminism. Ask students to write a paper that describes the
activism, the motivations behind the women’s involvement, and the gender ideology of the
movement. Students should discuss their findings in front of the class so that the entire class
becomes aware of the variety of ways in which women and gender are involved in social change.
Recognizing and Challenging Sexism: Ask students to recognize one aspect of sexism they have
encountered or have taken part in (this may be as it intersects with race, class, or sexual
identities). Have them write about this incident and then develop a plan of action (collective or
individual) to challenge that aspect of patriarchy.
Timeline of the Women’s Movement: This activity will familiarize students with the major
events in feminist history. Develop a timeline of the feminist movement (it can focus on the
United States or be more global) and distribute it to the class with missing information in it. Use
class time to fill in the missing information and to highlight the major arguments and ideologies
of feminists during each period. Timelines exist on the web; for example:
[] []
Field Trip on Women’s Activism: This exercise will introduce students to a historical or
contemporary aspect of the women’s movement by allowing them hands-on access. If there is a
local activist event scheduled (e.g., “Take Back the Night,” a women’s peace march, or an art
exhibit highlighting domestic violence), arrange a class field trip to explore the issue being
discussed. Alternatively, take students to a historical site of women’s activism such as:
(a) Michigan (the grave of Sojourner Truth in Battle Creek)
(b) New York (the Women’s Rights National Park in Seneca Falls)
(c) New Jersey (Atlantic City, the site of the infamous 1969 Miss America Pageant)
(d) Massachusetts (the Sojourner Truth memorial in Northampton)
(e) Texas (the Houston Convention Center, the site of the 1977 Convention for the
International Women's Year).
While there, lead a discussion about the diversity of the women’s movement and its goals, while
exploring local women’s roles in providing women (and men) with greater freedom.
Group Projects Envisioning the Feminist Movement Ask your students to break into groups of 35 students and to work with their group to develop a platform for a new feminist organization.
Students should focus on one major aspect of feminism. Ask students to develop a list of goals
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and to use information from the text to defend the importance of the chosen goals. Then ask the
students to develop a plan for recruitment and action. Students should discuss how their
organization differs from current feminist organizations.
Web Links
Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action
This University of Minnesota website provides the Beijing Declaration as it is in the textbook,
but it also includes the text of the Platform for Action that details how the Declaration is to be
carried out in the U.N. member nations. You can explore the wording regarding abortion that
was discussed in the Boxed Insert “UN Commission Approves Declaration Reaffirming Goals of
1995 Women’s Conference After U.S. Drops Antiabortion Amendment” and many other aspects
of this declaration.
Filipina Women’s Network
Grace Change talked about how Filipinas sought to better their lives through nursing jobs in the
United States. At this site learn about a variety of issues facing women in the United States with
Philippine ancestry and what these women are doing to change their situation.
The Library of Congress: Suffrage Archives
The Library of Congress maintains an impressive collection of materials documenting the
struggle for women’s suffrage in the United States from 1850-1920. This website maps the
library’s collection and provides an introduction to this fascinating feminist movement.
Votes for Women Pictures:
Other documents on the National Women’s Suffrage Association:
National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women
Since 1975 the government of the Philippines has focused energy on women’s issues,
particularly as they relate to the development of the country. This is the official website of this
government organization that researches Filipina issues and sets policies for improving the status
of women in the Philippines.
National Women’s Hall of Fame
This website is the virtual home of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to
great American leaders. Have you heard of the National Women’s Hall of Fame? Do you know
the historical significance of its location in Seneca Falls, New York? Who do you think should
be added to this collection of women? Are you surprised by any of the women included?
Rift Between Feminist Generations
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Relationships between feminist generations aren’t always easy. As the third wave emerges, it
sometimes encounters resistance from second-wave activists. At the first site below, Tamara
Straus interviews Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, authors of Manifesta: Young
Women, Feminism, and the Future (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), about the tensions between
second-wave feminists and their successors in the new feminist generation. At the second site,
read about how feminists from the second-wave recently described the activism (or lack of) by
young women today.
The Third Wave Foundation
Feminists in the United States refer to the suffrage movement as the “first wave,” and the
women’s liberation movement of the 1970s as the “second wave.” The generation of young
women active in feminist projects during the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century call
themselves the “third wave.” Visit The Third Wave Foundation’s website for an overview of its
projects, and more. Why do you think this organization uses the “wave terminology” that Lisa
Jervis critiqued in the boxed insert?
Women’s Rights National Historical Park
The National Park Service also recognizes the significance of Seneca Falls as the sight of the
First Women's Rights Convention to the fight for women’s rights. It has created the Women’s
Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls to commemorate the importance of this location
and as a place to present information on the fight for women’s rights in the United States.
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