Accessible in full text here. Below is an excerpt:
… The Women’s Liberation Movement that began in the 60s was originally a radical movement seeking deep and fundamental change. It identified the ways in which male and other forms of privilege had been woven into every social, political, economic institution and cultural practice in our society and went on to challenge white supremacy, heterosexist privilege, class divisions as well as the images of gender that had been normalized and in this way rendered invisible The Women’s Liberation Movement I remember argued for the need for a radical transformation of all our institutions. It urged women to rethink every aspect of our lives, always asking us to reflect on whose interests were served by the ways in which society was organized and by the values we had been taught to embrace.
Central to this project was the distinction between sex and gender. In order to challenge the conservative view that women’s social role was determined by her nature, many feminists argued that while one is born either a man or a woman and that is a function of biology (and yes, many of us mistakenly thought that there were only two possibilities at that time), gender roles were determined by society. Women began to notice that how we were taught to define ourselves, what it meant to be a real woman, served the interests of men and capitalism. This made us suspicious of what we had been taught were our “natural” tendencies or inclinations and made us wonder about our so-called “free” choice.
A very important article of the period, a true classic, was entitled “Homogenizing the American Woman: The Power of an Unconscious Ideology” written by Sandra Bem and Daryll Bem. The authors pointed out that even if discrimination were to end tomorrow, nothing very drastic would change, because discrimination is only part of the problem. “Discrimination frustrates choices already made. Something more pernicious perverts the motivation to choose. That something is an unconscious ideology about the nature of the female sex….”… In other words, many of us began to realize that we had been socialized to want things that would replicate and reinforce the status quo.
The Women’s Liberation Movement of the Second Wave rejected prevailing standards of beauty, the Barbie doll image, (being thin and blonde), that were virtually unattainable by anyone who wasn’t white and by most of us who were white as well. The critique took the form of recognizing and challenging the ways prevailing standards of beauty and rules of dress and decorum both reflected and reinforced the existing race, class and gender hierarchy in society. Women of the Second Wave were tired of being turned into sex objects by the fashion industry and so they threw out their high heels (which were understood to be on a continuum with Chinese foot binding practices — a way of circumscribing women’s movement and keeping them dependent), took off their girdles and their bras, stopped trying to be a size 2, and focused on healthy eating healthy for them and the planet.
If we look at popular culture today what do we see? Well, Barbie is back with a vengeance. Little girls start dieting in fourth grade and never stop. This used to be more of a problem among white girls but it has spread to all ethnic groups. And dieting isn’t the half of it, anorexia and bulimia are occurring in alarming proportions. …