In the beginning of the sixties, feminist movement emerged as a social movement which concentrates on dealing with issues related to women. It sought to tackle issues such as abortion, domestic violence, sexual assault, voting issues, violence against women, sexism, etc. it influenced all spheres of life and concentrated on removing sexism and male chauvinism from society. Similarly, it has influenced the field of arts, which was also dominated by males. According to researchers, dealers and curators mostly consisted of males and they preferred male artists. This trend had negatively influenced women artists and they were excluded from major art events and exhibitions. Consequently, they did not get the chance to get acknowledged for their work and skills. During the time of discrimination against women and in the such an environment, where women were not acknowledged for their work and skills along with male chauvinism, female artists expressed their views through art in order to deal with patriarchal society. According to scholars, feminist art is defined as the art which concentrates on tackling patriarchy and to define and pave way for social creation of feminism. Several feminist artists came into view to deal with male chauvinism. The aim and objective of this research article is to explore true feminism.
This article will concentrate on discussing feminism and feminism movement. It will provide an overview on what feminism is all about and how it influenced art. At the same time, it will concentrate on feminism art of the sixties. It will also explore feminism and feminism art in today’s time. The main aim of this research article is to explore the topic of true feminism art of the sixties and feminism art of the twenty first century in the lights of broad and diverse academic resources. This article will employ the use of various journals, books, encyclopedias, magazines and electronic resources to discuss the topic of feminism art of sixties and twentieth first centuries. It will concentrate on discussing the works of prominent feminist artists and the events, which gave rise to feminism movement.
Feminist Movement: Overview
The feminist movement is also called the Women’s liberation movement which sought to deal and tackle with issues such as abortion, maternity leave, harassment and violence against women, domestic violence, genital mutilation of females, honour killings, etc. Scholars and academic have divided feminist movements into three waves, which have dealt with several aspects of feminism but in a different way. The first wave feminist had initiated between the nineteen and twentieth centuries and it was mainly concerned with Suffrage movement. The second wave of feminism was the period between sixties and eighties in which feminists sought to deal with discrimination against women in society and law. It had the basic ideas of first wave feminism. The basic idea behind these movements was to struggle and to improve the conditions of women. According to researchers, feminism is defined as the continuous battle against the oppression and suppression of females. It was essential to initiate the feminist movement because women were subjugated at all levels in the Western society. The feminist movement aimed at removing this bias and concentrated on removing sexism from society so that women would also get a chance to develop their careers. It is one of the most influential and long lasting social movements which have influenced women in all spheres of life.
Feminism and Art
The feminist art is considered to be the hard work and achievements of feminists, who worked hard to use art as a medium to represent the lives and experiences of women so that they can bring change in society as well as in contemporary art. Feminism art main aim was to ensure that women become more visible in the history and practice of art. The feminist movement started somewhere in the sixties and continued to develop in the seventies. Consequently, it gave rise to the notion “second wave of feminism”, which is persistent in today’s time. It was in the California State University of Fresno, where the first feminism art education program was started. The number of students was not more than fifteen and their instructor was Judy Chicago. She helped in the influencing the early feminism art and employed the use of costumer, video, performance in order to express feminism. In Los Angeles, Judy Chicago founded the art program. Together with Miriam Schapiro, they created Woman House in the early seventies. With the popularity of feminism movement, women emerged as separate and distinct individuals of society and started working with men. Artists such as Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, Suzanne Lacy, Faith Wilding, June Wayne, Mary Kelly, Dara Birnbaum, etc emerged in the world of art and brought piece of art to represent feminism. In the seventies and eighties, the Women’s Building was considered to be the essential hub for feminist artist to gather and exchange views. In the same arena, conferences, conventions, workshops and exhibitions were held to discuss and promote feminist art. At the same time, Women’s Video Festival was introduced in order to promote feminist art.
According to researchers, feminism is considered to be theory which concentrates on political, economic and social equality of genders. As a social movement, it is considered to be the organized movement, which strives to work for women rights and interests. The history of feminism has been divided and classified by academics and researchers in three waves, first wave, second wave and third wave. The third wave feminism starts from nineteenth century to early twenty first century. The second wave starts from late sixties and late eighties. The third wave starts from nineties till recent times. The first wave feminism had started in the United Kingdom and United States. It concentrated on removing the inequalities which were officially mandated. Feminists of this time included Mary Wollstonecraft, Lucy Stone, Helen Pitts, Olympia Brown, etc. According to researchers, the first wave ended when the U.S Constitution allowed the women to vote. It was considered to be big step for women. Other significant victories of this first wave included new reforms in education, healthcare and other professions. However, the second wave of feminism concentrates on the unofficial inequalities and it was important to tackle them. It created a link with issues, which had to be addressed in order to change the present situation of women. This wave allowed women to understand their lives personally and politically.
History of First Wave Feminism
In the 1800, women did not have any control in their life. During this time, an average married female was the mother of seven children. They could not get higher education. In wealthy families, women interfered in domestic issues but did not have any property rights. At the same time, religious restrictions also hindered with the growth and development of women. In the 1790, the Second Great Awakening had started which allowed women to show their leadership skills outside the domestic sphere. Several movements were started. Angelina and Sarah Grimke are considered to be famous and prominent abolitionists who had criticized and defied social customs. They publicly addressed the American Anti-Slavery Society and were severely criticized. In order to respond to criticism, Sarah Grimke wrote “Letters of Equality of the Sexes.”
First wave feminism is considered to be the era in which the feminism activities were started during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It started in United States and United Kingdom and aimed at removing gender discrimination. It concentrated on women’s suffrage because women were not allowed to vote during those times. From Miriam Schneir perspective, the first wave of feminism was the time when woman had taken her pen to protect herself from male chauvinism and gender discrimination. According to historians, Mary Wollstonecraft was the first female who had published the very first feminist treatises. The name of her treatises was, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In it, she expressed her views of current situation of women and supported the fact that there should be gender equality. In her uncompleted work, by the name of Maria or Wrongs of Woman, she had extensively discussed and explored the topic of sexual desires of women. It was criticized severely because it sought to talk on female sexuality. British feminists consider Wollstonecraft as the founder of British feminism. It was because of her ideas; feminists in Britain strived and campaigned for the right to vote. After continuous efforts, some women were given the privilege to vote in the year 1918. During the same time, Maria Stopes emerged and wrote a sex manual by the name of Married Love. The basic aim of this manual was to concentrate on the issue of equality in marriage. It also talked about female sexuality and its importance.
In the United States, Margaret Fuller was considered to be the pioneer of feminist work. She had written Woman in the Nineteenth Century. In United States, several prominent and well known feminist activists emerged. Active feminist movement members included women such as Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, etc. these women were also the same individuals who made continuous efforts to remove slavery from the American society. Other prominent activist includes Victoria Woodhull and Matilda Gage, who worked hard to ensure that women get the right to vote. Several of these women had to face charges because of the fact that they had raised their voices. Carrie Chapman, Alice Paul, Sarah Grimke, etc are the name of some of the woman who violated the laws so that their voices could be heard. The first wave feminism consisted of women who belong from orthodox Christian groups. According to researchers, first-wave feminists are considered to be sensible and moderate and were ready to work within the system of politics.
According to researchers, the first wave of feminism was very different from second wave of feminism because of several issues. Firstly, it did not deal with social issues such as abortion, etc. They did not talk about the reproductive rights, which women have. According to researchers, feminists of that time did give views on marriage and asserted that woman has the right to refuse sex. However, marital rape had no legal recourse. During that time, feminists also talked on unwanted pregnancies and birth control pills. In the year 1860, Married Women’s Property Act was passed. It allowed women the authority and power to voice their opinions in the wills of their children. It also gave them inheritance laws. It was in the year 1920, when women were given the permission to vote. This was a major event and a big victory for feminists because it influenced the lives of women and gave the place for second wave feminist movement.
History of Second Wave Feminism
The second wave feminism movement is considered to be the feminist movement which took place from early sixties and continued to develop in the seventies. The first wave feminist movement concentrated mainly on the legal equality. However, second wave feminism concentrated on several social issues such as abortion, domestic violence, work discrimination against women, violence against women, reproductive rights of women, marital rape, etc. This second wave of feminism emerged in the late forties in which patriarchal concepts emerged. Television shows such as Father knows Best, etc are the male chauvinist programs which concentrated on the fact that woman are best to be housewives and mothers.
The Second Sex has been written by Simone de Beauvoir. In her work, she explained that women were considered to be ‘other’ in the male dominated society. She came to the conclusion that male dominance has taken roots in the entire world and it is accepted as a norm. Women are viewed as objects and their work is to become pregnant, look after their children and menstruate and there is no valid justification to categorize them as the ‘second sex’.
According to Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Betty Friedan had openly criticized and protested against the image of women, which was depicted in the media. Women were placed at homes, to do house-chores and take care of children. This image was publicized and hindered in the development and growth of women. It showed that women did not have talent. The concept of perfect family consisted of husband, who was the bread earner and the wife, as the home maker and caregiver of children. This concept did not show happiness but rather degraded women.
During this movement, President Kennedy had appointed Esther Peterson to occupy one a high post in his administration. He also founded the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Eleanor Roosevelt was the chairperson of the Commission. Betty Friedan released, Feminine Mystique in the year 1963. In the same year, President John F Kennedy administration released a report which demonstrated that women were subjected to severe and harsh discrimination in United States. With Friedan book and report, several housewives criticized and show discontent and dissatisfaction on the present condition of women. This led to the development and formation of several local and government feminist organizations, which concentrated on liberating women from male oppression and subjugation. This was the starting point of the movement.
The movement grew and prospered and won several legal cases. These achievements include Equal Pay Act of 1963, Amendments in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, etc. Friedan joined forces with several women and men to lay down the foundations for NOW: National Organization for Women. Other significant victories of the movement are as follows:
- Formation of Executive Order
- Women’s Educational Equity Act
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- Illegalization of marital rape
- No-fault divorce legalization
- Allowing women to enter the military
The above are some of the major achievements of the second wave feminism. The second wave of feminism assisted women to become aware of them and gave them the opportunity to look at their personal lives. According to researchers, the goal of the second wave feminism was to remove the negative images of the women and to create their positive images in order to respond to these negative images. At the same time, it concentrated on removing oppression.
Abortion Act of 1967
The Abortion Act of 1967 was introduced in the year 1967 by the Parliament of United Kingdom. It made abortion legal if practiced by registered and authorized practitioners. David Steel was responsible for introducing this Act. It was subjected to heavy criticism and became one of the most debatable and controversial subject of all times. However, it was passed on twenty seventh of October in the year 1967. David Steel supported this Act because there were several women who had died because of illegal abortion practices. At the same time, such unwanted children were sent to orphanages or were looked after by relatives. They were also sent abroad. The act ensured that abortion remained legal in the United Kingdom. It ensured that abortion was legal up to twenty eight weeks of pregnancy.
Sisters of 77
“Sisters of 77” is considered to be an important documentary which concentrated on giving insight on the history of women. It was shown on the first National Women’s Conference and sought to end the discrimination and oppression of women. It concentrated on removing gender inequality. This was the first conference which was funded by the federal government and it was brought by more than twenty thousand men and women.