Monday, January 24, 2011

Summary of Articles by Levy, Echols, Friedan, and de Beauvoir

Ariel Levy “The Future That Never Happened”

This article describes the history of the changing feminist movement.  Ariel Levy describes the women’s liberation movement through its various goals and ideas.  Levy emphasizes both women’s liberation and the sexual revolution as primary movements in during the seventies.  Feminists worked to advance women’s sexual pleasure and even at the time, Hugh Hefner worked with feminists by funding abortion cases and the legalization of birth control.  Still, Hefner expressed a double standard, as he believed that it was moral for men yet immoral for women to enjoy this type of sexuality and promiscuous lifestyle. 

Furthermore, Levy explains the controversy of how to represent sex.  Especially in the eighties, anti-porn feminists opposed sex-positive ideals expressed by other feminist leaders.  The question of what exactly freedom and independence meant played a huge role in leading to this division.  The movement has seemed to move in an anti-sex direction to some feminists such as Candida Royalle.  Furthermore, in more recent history, rather than remaining a cohesive and unified group, feminists now often express opposing views and ideas.  For instance, Levy introduces CAKE, a feminist group that emphasizes the new sexual revolution with a very sex-positive perspective.  Levy criticizes the group explaining that the ideals seem to revert back to the objectification of women and thus seem to be making no progress. I agree with this point, as the group seems to take the idea of sexual revolution too far.  It seems to focus on one’s body and beauty over one’s independence, intelligence and freedom.  Now, the feminist movement sees fewer women involved.  Many believe that things such as competition for male approval and impractical beauty standards have seemed to taken the place of feminism. 

Alice Echols “The Re-Emergence of the Woman Question”

Echols also tells the history of the women movement, especially emphasizing its relationship to the civil rights movement and the new left.  Through groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democracy Society (SDS) women viewed many powerful black women as role models.  Through the movements women learned skills and began to question their conventional subordinate roles.  Once whites were somewhat expelled from the civil rights movement they focused on resisting the draft, which resulted in a feeling of alienation by women who eventually began to organize by themselves.  In 1967 at a SDS convention, women expressed the problem of sexual inequality within the movement.  Still facing the opposition of men, women issued a manifesto.  It was motivated by the black power movement’s strategy to organize their own movement as the oppressed group.

Betty Friedan, Excerpt from The Feminine Mystique

Friedan emphasizes the issues and history associated with the mystique of feminine fulfillment.  She includes evidence of the decline of women attending college and pursuing careers outside of the home.  Furthermore, she brings up “the problem” associated with being an American housewife.  Feelings of emptiness and desperation, accompanied by a sense of feeling trapped, were becoming common during the 1960s.  Friedan explains how women need to find their identity and discover ways to be creative in order to achieve fulfillment.  She also introduces steps such as doing housework quickly and efficiently, not over-glorifying marriage.  The idea of a national education program is also emphasized as a possible way for women to continue their education.  This seems to be an appropriate pathway, as many women felt unfulfilled and desired education yet still did not want to cause issues within their marriage or with their children.

Simone de Beauvoir, Excerpt from The Second Sex

The idea that women are viewed as the “other” or second sex is apparent in this excerpt.  De Beauvoir makes a point to show that women are defined only comparatively to men, rather than on their own.  She also describes her ideas about the history of the women effort, explaining that they have been unable to “take” anything for themselves.  She explains this to be due to the poor ability of women to organize themselves into a united group.  There is little cohesiveness between them and in addition, they are deeply associated to their male oppressors.  Still, de Beauvoir begs the question of wonder women should stay inferior to men.  Clearly she questions the status quo, yet at the same times asks how exactly women can conquer the obstacles they are faced with in order to achieve their own success and independence. 

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