Feminists: What Were They Thinking

They were thinking of all of the things that women could not do and the clear double standard that gave men advantage over women. There was no language to describe the kind of treatment women were subject to in the home and on the job. Attractiveness, narrowly defined, was the only metric used to value women.

They reference the play, “A Doll’s House,” by Henrik Ibsen. It is about the dissolution of a marriage because of the inequality between the husband and wife. The woman is a “doll”—a mere plaything subject to the whims of her father, and then her husband.

Here is a link to the full text of the play if anyone is interested.


The documentary talks about Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer, both of whom wrote seminal works in feminism. Freidan wrote The Feminine Mystique and Greer, The Female Eunuch. Below are links to articles on both that will give you an idea of where these seminal works fit in the second wave of feminism. Friedan’s argument was that women needed more than husbands and children for fulfillment. Her work seems to address only the problems of white, middle- lass women. Greer advanced the argument that becoming a homemaker was the equivalent to the surgical emasculation of men. Women could also be made “eunuchs”—robbed of the ability to fully realize their sexuality because of the nature of the suburban, nuclear family, consumerist family.

“4 Problems with The Feminine Mystique,” by Ashley Fetters



“What Germaine Greer and the Female Eunuch Mean to Me”



A Summary of The Female Eunuch



Judy Chicago talks about “being fathered.” What does that mean for her? How did her father’s experiences give him a particular outlook on raising his daughter? What does that have to do with feminism?

In the second wave of feminism, girls were required to take “Home Economics” in high school. These courses taught basics of cooking, cleaning, and diapering babies. It was formalized socialization for becoming a wife and mother. Women’s work is the work of service and sacrifice. What is the problem with this kind of training? In my mind, it is that the high school boys didn’t have to take them, too. It was also a problem that there were not materials on finances—what it really costs to live and feed even one child. No explanations of banking, loans, credit, or compound interest.

Some things to think about: How much do looks matter today? Are women still focused on establishing families and being taught to be “sweet,” “good girls,” and “young ladies”?




  1. Brianna Reyes

    First, I wanted to answer Gina’s Questions:
    If I have experienced confrontational confidence, I don’t remember the exact situation. However, when I experience confrontation, I tend to speak my mind, respectfully of course. I have always been the type of person to speak out in the workplace or in school if I felt something needed to be addressed. When I feel the need to address any issues, I always remind myself to stay calm. In addition, I believe to be heard in some cases, I have to be assertive and speak up. I always prepare myself before confronting any situation or problem by having 3 main points. If the problem requires more, I will have more. Being confident, organized, and assertive are my ways of handling any kind of confrontation.
    To answer Gina’s question about the “Me Too” movement, I do think the “Me Too” movement has raised some awareness about rape and sexual harassment, but this movement (in my opinion) only made a wide impact on social media. I have noticed more women and men coming forward about sexual harassment in the workplace and in other situations, rape. I think the “me too” movement did make an impact and did raise awareness. However, people are still afraid to come forward about sexual harassment and rape, in fear that people will not believe them.
    The first five chapters of Solnit were interesting to me because Solnit describes man situations I have experienced and seen other women experience. Like Gina mentions, in Chapter one, Solnit describes a time when an older man underestimates Rebecca and how that exact experience is something women often encounter. Solnit explains how some men will often assume they know things and women don’t. The idea that men think they are superior is something women have had to deal with in the workplace, at home, and in school. I personally feel like the men who act as if they are superior women often are raised by other men who hold these values. I am not saying this is the case in all situations, but I have noticed some men who are raised by single mothers or raised in a more modern household tend to be more respectful and caring about women.
    Furthermore, women are more susceptible to becoming a victim of sexual violence and in Chapter 2, Solnit digs into this topic. This topic will always be a touchy subject for some, but I strongly believe Solnit does well by explaining the struggle women face and how many rapes go unreported. As Gina mentions, Solnit describes how women are taught to avoid rape and becoming a victim, rather than teaching men not be the wrongdoer. She also mentions how colleges have not gone out of their way to try and prevent these incidents and that we must do something about it.
    Overall, these first five chapters really explain the struggle women face when it comes to men and how women have been underestimated and treated poorly by men for decades. My biggest concern is the abuse some women encounter and never speak of. When Solnit mentions this in chapter 4, I immediately started thinking of how many women I have personally seen in abusive situations. Like Gina said it really makes you wonder how many women could be in danger and you would never know.

  2. Christina Farmer

    Feminists were thinking that they deserved to be treated fairly and equitably to men. They were tired of being told what to do and treated as if they were second class citizens. They wanted equal pay and the ability to forge their own lives without restrictions. Many women told stories of doing things they did not want to do simply because men told them they had to do so. I was struck by how fresh the stories from decades were to these women–stories that were defining moments in the womens’ lives. Feminists simply wanted the dignity, respect and compensation that men were receiving.

    I think the ideals are closer to being achieved but more work is still needed. Before feminism, women had few choices-you got married (before your mid- 20’s), had children and kept your husband’s home. Any deviation to that shortlist of life steps was viewed suspiciously. If you chose to work (or had to work to support yourself), you had few choices of employment and were probably paid very little if you could find a job. The work of feminism gave women choices. Pay inequality is still real and pervasive. Women still do the majority of housework, childcare and “emotional work” (remembering birthdays, making holidays, decorating) while being expected to also bring home half or more of the family’s income. When a marriage fails, women tend to take the financial burden while men tend to have more income. Younger women need to take up the mantle of feminism that their mothers started and make more informed choices about education, career choices and partner choice.

    Judy Chicago talks of being “fathered” and how unusual that was. He adored her, he encouraged her, he taught her, he trained her in logic and values. He taught her that she could trust a man. Her father was stripped of his work as a labor organizer and died when she was 13. The world told her that her father was a terrible person but she knew him to be a wonderful person. His work informed his parenting because he believed that people (women) on the margins have value and should be taught their importance in the world so they can harness their power. Believing women have power and deserve equal treatment and respect to men is the basic foundation of feminism. The world would be a better place if more men “fathered” their children this way.

    I think Home Economics is wonderful because the only people that should cook are people that want to eat. The only people that should do laundry are the people that wish to have clean clothes. The only people that need to be taught how to run a home are people that want to live in a home. At least that is what I taught my sons. Funneling only girls into Home Ec is problematic because it teaches girls that the home is their domain to care for so the brunt of the never-ending (often unappreciated) work is left to women. It also does not teach women other useful skills (if you drive a car you should know how to change a tire, check the oil, etc.) so oftentimes the girls are ignorant of “male” skills (such as how to unclog a toilet). As boys are not taught how to cook and clean, they are dependent on women but since the work is undervalued you get the stereotypical man on the couch starting at TV while the wife runs herself ragged cooking, cleaning, shopping and parenting on weekends (so she can go to work all week bringing home her required salary). My kids took Life Skills in 6th grade. They learned how to balance a checkbook, sew a pillow, make a few basic meals, which type of basic tools are used for which problem and very basic household budgeting. I agree with the assessment that banking should be a class for all students in high school as well as how to apply for a job.

    I think looks still matter today. According to Statista, the US beauty industry made nearly $50 Billion in 2020 (and we were all home and wearing masks and pajama pants for about 9 months of the year). Being a good wife and mother are still part of the American ideal. Having children is seen as a natural milestone in a life well-lived. I think girls are still told to be sweet and nice but that definition has evolved from the 1950’s version of being quiet, pretty and agreeable to being kind to others but still achieving your dreams.

  3. Emily Hobbs

    In response to the questions you posed, looks matter tremendously in our world and our time. Movies, magazines, shows, and social media all show you exactly how you should look. Women are viewed as objects to be pretty, quiet, and “good”. We are to wear makeup, have our hair done, be “thick” in size, wear fashionable clothes and look a certain way that is presentable and acceptable in the eyes of men, society and the world. With the rise of social networking and easier access to the internet than ever before, we see skinny beautiful models and have the world’s idea of “beauty” shoved in our faces more than ever. So now it’s not enough to look good when you go out on the weekend, you have to have a full face of makeup everyday. Personally, I myself wear makeup everyday. I wear mascara, lipstick, foundation, blush, and do my eyebrows most everyday. For me, it isn’t about impressing anyone or fitting it, it’s about feeling good and feeling beautiful. Some women definitely strive to please others, but for some like me, it’s empowerment and it’s a reflection of inner beauty. I definitely think that there is still pressure on women to be beautiful, to get married, have a family and be a “good” and I would even say “successful” woman. From our families and our parents, there is a pressure to be successful, to be an educated woman, and to have babies of our own. I think women are under more pressure than they ever have been to look good and be good in the eyes of society.

  4. Gina Flanagan

    In the documentary, Feminism What Were They Thinking, feminists were thinking about how to educate, enlighten, and fight against a long list of injustices to women. They protested for equal rights in all things – at work, in the home, within the law, for mothers, for black women, for equal pay, equal opportunity, and sadly, the list goes on. As the Atlantic article points out, Friedan’s book was the catalyst of the second-wave feminist movement. Though I’ve not read her book, Friedan’s criticized her feminist views as only portraying through the lens of a white, upper-class woman. That is who she was, on the outside, and perhaps her only perspective. I think she would have had a greater impact in the movement had she attempted to educate herself and understand a black woman’s view not only on feminism, but also on race. Funmilola Fagbamila’s statement from the documentary about the intersection of feminism and racism was eye opening to me. She states, “You have an asking of black women to silence their gendered experience for the sake of addressing race.” I never thought about that before. She goes on to say, “We can’t divide the troops.” Feminism is for all women’s rights, no matter their race.

    Judy Chicago speaks very highly of her father. “Being fathered,” meant that her father adored, encouraged, taught, and played games with her. He played a very significant role in her life, perhaps more than her Mother did. He was an organizer himself and he believed in equal rights for women. Chicago was taught from an early age about logic and values. She says her father’s experience as a labor organizer fueled his passion for change, his desire to make the world a better place. These qualities, along with total adoration and respect for his daughter, allowed him to have a positive influence on her. She was loved and valued as a female child. This perspective helped her as a feminist not to hate men or continually seek approval from men. She wanted to prove that instead of “believing in the world, you should believe in yourself.”

    Some of the greatest clothing designers in the world are men and that’s ok. Perhaps Home Ec planted that seed. There is nothing wrong with preparing a girl to be a housewife and mother through a Home Ec class. It can prepare her with the skills for a job that she may not ever have, but isn’t that what any education does? We learn a myriad of things that we don’t ever put to use. Who really uses trigonometry or the table of elements though? The learning is what helps us grow as individuals and exposes us to a wide variety of topics. Not all degrees are useful in getting a job after college. By the time I came along with the opportunity to take Home Economics, I was in the 7th grade. All of us, boys and girls, had 6 weeks of “Exploratory” classes and one of those was Home Ec. Home Ec seemed very practical to me. I remember learning how to make homemade crepes and wanting to impress my Mom with my new skills. Watching the boys try to figure out sewing was entertaining because I had never seen a boy do that task. I guess my school was a little progressive because I also took Wood Shop.

    In today’s world, looks can matter a lot in some fields of employment. The first that comes to mind is pharmaceutical sales. In my experience working in a doctor’s office, drug reps were always very good looking and well dressed. The documentary talks about the movie 9 To 5 which starred two feminist actors Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. In the movie, they were the victims of brazen workplace sexism. It divided them and made them question themselves. “What am I doing wrong?” was a common theme. Workplace sexism has been going on for a very long time, even in places that I’ve worked as an Administrative Assistant.

    Women are still focused on establishing a family however I think it happens much later in life for them these days. I also think maturity takes much longer than it did when I was a twenty something. It seems that many wait until their thirties before marriage and then some years after to have a baby. My best friend has two daughters and I’m pretty sure that she used the phrase “good girl” to reinforce positive behavior, though they were never told to “let all boys win” – they would rather die first.

  5. Brianna Reyes

    This documentary reflects on how women are still fighting the same battles and for some of the same reasons they were many years ago. This production shows how women were fighting for equality and opportunity to live their lives without being undermined and treated any different than a man. They wanted to be treated equally and not be told their role in life. Although the feminist movement has made progress, feminists believe so much more needs to be done. This documentary shows how women overcame obstacles and how empowering the second wave of feminism was. Women have overcome obstacles like having to have illegal abortions, being abused by their partner, and sexually harassed (don’t get me wrong, these things still happen today in secret, but it has declined tremendously).
    One unforgettable moment from the documentary for me was when the mother and daughter were protesting together, and she makes the comment about protesting in the 1990s and how it was nice to be doing it with her daughter. She also mentions how it’s sad that she has lived through not being able to pass the equal rights amendment and not being able to get a woman president and she still cries a lot. Although I felt that was a bit dramatic it shows how much she cares about the obstacles women have faced and that she has been fighting for all women and their rights. It was bittersweet and heartbreaking at the same time.
    When it comes to looks, I feel like they do matter. Unfortunately, society has set a standard for what women “should” look like. Social media has a huge influence on young women and women in general because we feel the need to look like this daily. I can remember times as a teenager that I would feel as if I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t look like the girls in the magazine. Personally, I believe designers and social influence give young women this unrealistic image of what all women should look like.
    When Judy Chicago talks about fathered I believe this inspired her to become who she is and influenced her accomplishments. Her father was caring and supportive of Judy. In the documentary, she mentions how her father taught her values and morals from a young age that shaped what she believes in. He believed in equality and taught Judy how she should be treated and respected as a woman.

  6. Madison Dean

    I talked a lot about the part of the documentary that had to do with home economics in my think piece. This is something that not only angered me, but I also felt as though I connected to it. I think the problem with making girls take home economics and kind of shoving them into that life, is that they are in a way forcing young women into that life. I think also that it is not just about how boys didn’t have to take it, but they were the ones learning about finance and money. In a way, both sexes were being herded like farm animals into the directions that society wanted them to go in. Young women never/rarely got the chance to actually go a separate route, especially back then, and it is hard to think about where we could be now as a society if we had let girls into the work force and helped them do what they wanted to do instead of forcing them into a life of work and women slavery. When I was in middle school, home economics was still offered but it was not required. It definitely was a popular class for girls and rarely did you see a boy taking the class. Unlike most girls that I went to school with, I decided to take the workshop class which is normally taken by only boys. I definitely was the black sheep, and I would be picked on by the boys for wanting to learn to use tools and build cool things, but I think in a way it made me feel confident. I enjoyed learning about these things I saw my dad often work with, my teacher (a male) was excited that I was taking his class, and at the end of the day when I got on the school bus with my awesome handmade lamp, I felt like a winner. If society had let young girls do what they wanted in school back then, I feel like we would be a lot healthier and we might be in a better place. We would probably have equal rights too…

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