Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Struggle for Freedom: The Impact of Women's Movements in the United States Part III (b))

By Miriam B. Medina

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With the failing economy of the Great Depression during the 1930's, unemployed hostile men began to complain that women were taking away their jobs, though these women were forced to work at a reduced income. Consequently, the married women were laid off from jobs that were relevant to them and not for men, resulting in more unemployment.

The emergence of World War II caused many transformations within the American work force, as well as for women themselves. President Roosevelt issued a directive for production in 1942, ordering 60,000 planes, 45,000 tanks, 20,000 antiaircraft guns and 8,000,000 deadweight tons of merchant shipping. This was merely the tip of the iceberg. New factories, shipyards, and defense plants, were being built. Wartime production created millions of new jobs. Women joined the workforce, replacing the men that enlisted or that were drafted into the war. Rosie the Riveter represented women laboring in manufacturing. The number of female factory workers doubled during the war. Opportunities to work in the federal government were available to the women, which many accepted. After the war, the men demanded their jobs back. Some of the women were ready to leave, and happily returned to their normal family life, which was disrupted by the war. Others were reluctant to accept unemployment. It was also a time when the government established a policy of "equal pay for equal employment", a major breakthrough for women.

The 50s provoked cultural prejudices when the presence of Gays and Lesbians were becoming apparent. Many of them were barred from federal, state and local government positions. A Lesbian organization by the name of Daughters of Bilitis, whose founders were Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, was established in 1955 in San Francisco.

Once the right to vote was granted, feminism was placed on the back burner over a barely visible flame until the modern Women's Liberation Movement of the 60's turned the heat up to full blast once again. This newer version of the Women's Liberation Movement was provoked by female college students who marched, picketed and demonstrated themselves as equals with the male students in militant Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam groups, but they did not perceive themselves as treated like equals.

Where society has always placed males as preeminent beings, women, whether heterosexual or Lesbian, have seen themselves differently. Nonetheless, apart from the male ideas of how a woman should look, feel, act or behave, a woman still must fight against the boldness of female oppression according to her own philosophy towards male/female relationships. Privileges and compensations given to heterosexual women are denied to Lesbians because they challenge male dominance. Thus, Lesbians are treated unfairly by the heterosexual people as inferior and are labeled as outcasts.

In order to survive, amongst a bigoted society, many Lesbians have availed themselves of the infamous "closet" to hide their gay identity, thus avoiding public ridicule and humiliation as well as rejection from family and friends. Then they decided to fight back in 1969 during the Stonewall Riot, which occurred at Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York. Stonewall was the turning point for the gay rights movement, marking the beginning of a new concept of gay identity: Gay Pride versus gays in the closet. It was a travesty. Many homosexuals were tired of being pushed around. They decided to cooperate in many cases and fight for the rights that America owed them. By 1973, there were at least 70 gay and lesbian organizations that existed in the United States, organizing to fight for common rights they deserved but were not afforded. Today these unions number by the thousands.

During the 1970's, in protest of being merely sex symbols for men, women publicly burned their bras at a woman's rights rally, refusing to wear cosmetics and girdles as a way of proclaiming their right. The Equal Rights Amendment which was passed by Congress in 1972 forbade discrimination against women.

However, since then, through all the twists and turns that define women's history in the United States, women have come a long way in asserting their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and have resisted persecution in their struggle for economic independence. In seeking to remain independent, women have progressed remarkably in their endeavor to cause dramatic changes to their role in society. They have established different degrees of freedom and have fought through the years to create new forms of Legislation, demanding their rights be written into law.

Thus, we continue to struggle with our "Fight for Freedom", adding greater milestones to the voluminous pages of United States history and to the hallowed history of the Women's Liberation Movement. Where there is unity there is strength. So until, we meet again, I wish all of you the best of luck in your pursuits and much success. Freedom is not biased it belongs to us all. Sometimes, we just have to remind society of that fact.

Miriam B. Medina is an Expert Author at Platinum Level with

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