The Counterculture of 1964-1974 in the United States spawned many different movements – Wikipedia lists nine – that continue into the present day, have found their ways to a greater or lesser extent into changed customs and laws, and about which we still fight. Here I write of feminism- sometimes called Second Wave Feminism – what it tried to achieve, and how that has come out.
First Wave Feminism was mostly about suffrage, and its goals were realized. Second Wave Feminism was about the place of women in society. Third Wave Feminism, still in progress, is about diversity, tearing down power structures, and completely unrestricted sex.
The leaders of the Second Wave – Betty Friedan and her associates – identified many ways in which women were not equal to men in American society and worked to eliminate these inequalities. One of the major underlying causes they identified was female biology, and another was the role of caring for children and home. These prevented women from competing against men on an equal basis. Put another way, women could not rise to and hold the same positions in society as men – exercising power over people, money, and resources – in the same numbers as men, because women were busy doing other things.
The way to get women fully into the game was to eliminate the need to do those other things.
First, biology. Women carry and bear children, and women are generally smaller and weaker than men.
Contraception was the first answer. The drugs not only prevent conception, but can also eliminate menstruation and its attendant discomforts. Research continues to make the drugs completely effective, with no side effects. Like all the measures needed and discussed here, women who cannot pay must receive the drugs and any accompanying treatment at public expense, because the purpose is the righting of society. Also, there can be no restrictions based on age or other considerations; all females must be served on demand.
Abortion was the second answer. Whenever contraception is not used or fails, the woman may abort at her option. Like contraception, this eliminates all the discomforts and dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, and also of course prevents birth. Only a completed birth limits the woman’s option, because then the murder laws are in operation.
To solve the problem of women being smaller and weaker than men, the answer was to identify all aspects of society that had qualifications based on size or strength and modify those qualifications so that all women are included. Either the qualifications were shown to be unnecessary, or were simply ridiculed until changed. This has taken a while and continues today.
Now to the second underlying cause, women caring for children and home.
Comprehensive child care is the first answer. The battle to achieve this continues. There are problems with minimum ages, capacity quotas, costs, hours of coverage, and quality of care, to name a few issues. Much work remains to be done before any woman can demand comprehensive child care and receive it, no questions asked.
Home care is the neglected stepchild of the whole program. We have all heard of the househusband who stays home to care for children and home, but they are relatively few. Another partial solution is the 50-50 (or other ratio) split of household duties between husband and wife, but there is not always a husband at hand. The real answer, of course, is for someone other than the woman to do all the home-related work. We are not yet to the point where anyone has proposed the public provide comprehensive home care on demand.
Here I have offered only the barest outline, focusing on two major underlying problems preventing women from full participation in society. Other problems prevent the equality of women with men. The solutions I have outlined also support and feed into other feminist goals and other countercultural efforts.
If this program is ever fully implemented – if women can disregard biology, children, and home at will – then they will be free to compete with men for power. Progress is measured by examining any area of human endeavor. If power is not distributed at every level 50-50 between women and men, more work needs to be done. (This, again, is a Second Wave Feminist goal; the current Third Wave is heavily postmodern and seeks to destroy all power relationships as its major goal, and that is another story.)
Some 50 years have passed since the Counterculture began. Slowly but surely, the foundations have been laid and some of the superstructure of women becoming equal with men has been built. We have not examined what effect this work has had on society; it has always been assumed that it is all good. Nevertheless, large fractions of men and women disagree with the program. This plays out in politics as roadblocks continuously erected against the forward progress of contraception and abortion, as reluctance to provide comprehensive child care, and as the neglect of comprehensive home care.
We must always remember that all of the public strife over contraception, abortion, the roles of women and men, child care, home care, and all the rest occurs because Second Wave Feminists are fighting for a massive change to society. This change, if achieved, will put all women equal with all men in the exercise of power. Society will have been completely rebuilt; longstanding institutions such as the family will be substantially changed or eliminated. The Feminists are opposed by those who do not want to see the society greatly changed.
The fight goes on, and a dirty fight it is, by true believing people on both sides. Who will win and what kind of society we will have are not clear.
Disclaimer: I have tried in this piece to lay out what has happened and what people are trying to achieve. I have not said what I think of all this.