Introduction: Toward a New Understanding of Second-Wave Feminism
In this introductory chapter, Angie Maxwell and Todd Shields claim that the need to mark beginnings and endings of social movements, the over-reliance on popular, yet limited voices, the fact that feminism is not immune to white privilege, and the pain associated with lost battles for women’s rights have all contributed to obscuring the true legacy of the Second-Wave feminist movement. They contend that existing narratives have inordinately focused on the media-appointed “leaders” of the movement, who were almost exclusively white, heterosexual, well-educated women who overshadowed the multi-racial, grassroots cast of hundreds of thousands of women in America and around the globe. While Third-Wave feminists drew attention to these omissions and recovered the history of overshadowed communities, the time has come to reconcile both waves and re-examine the legacy of Second-Wave Feminism in American politics. This reassessment shows that the Second Wave was comprised of a heterogeneous army of women who, though often divided, still significantly influenced economics, theology, political activism, electoral success, attitudes toward homosexuality‚ and support for gay marriage. In fact, in many ways they were so successful that they were blind to the anti-feminist counterattack forming across the country. This introduction highlights the feminist historians, political scientists, gender studies scholars, and economists who are placing women’s activism at the center of our political landscape in their contributing chapters.