Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

14 Feb

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”?



10 Replies to “Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

  1. The in the documentary spoke of the strength it took to declare their involvement with the feminist agenda due to the stigmas placed on the women involved. Judy Chicago’s idea of “being fathered” is having a father or male role model who encourages a young girl’s independence and spends time making sure that the girl can trust herself and her judgments. Judy Chicago spoke of her father spending time with her and his participation in the union, and the underlying tone is that as a man he would do what was right even if it did not always serve him. Judy Chicago’s father encouraged her to be her full in true self instead of cowering behind a man and waiting for hor him to make all her decisions. Ms.Chicago’s father had suffered severe damages to his career that she said resulted in his slow decline, but this painful experience added to his idea of being independent and representing what is right.
    Home economics becomes an issue when it focuses on solely teaches children assigned female at birth to keep the house. This kind of training instills the idea that all women are good for is having children and cleaning up behind their husbands. The form of home economics that only panders to female children also has the implication of men being either too important to keep the house of them being too dense.

  2. The documentary focuses on the stories of various women and how they came to be involved in the second wave of the women’s rights movement. Many of the women in the film share their struggles and journey to fight for rights, freedom, and justice. Judith Chicago shared that her main supporter was her dad, she refers to this idea as been “fathered”. Ms. Chicago’s experiences were important because she realized how her father put aside his own differences to raise an independent daughter. This experience put forth how she wanted to raise her children, inspiring her child to be its true self while she supports no matter what. The home-economics class was very problematic. By only teaching girls how to care for a home created a disparity and certain standard between girls and boys as they grew up. Girls were ingrained with the idea that their purpose in life was to have a child and care for their home. By not teaching economics to these girls, it creates a disadvantage and a burden when wanting to start a family since they probably did not know the high cost of having a child. I believe that now women have less pressure on starting a family, being a good girl, or a sweet young lady. I do think that “looks” still matter due to social media and unrealistic body standards. Even though, I find our generation to be more inclusive when defining “looks”.

  3. Judy Chicago’s talks about “being fathered” appears as a support system from her father in which he encouraged her to develop her own identity. He taught her all he could beyond the stereotypes of what it meant to be a “girl” thus giving her the ability to question the barriers around her. As a labor organizer and Marxist, he was fighting for equity and this same ideology influenced his parenting style and fostered feminist thoughts for Judy Chicago.
    In regard to the course “Home Economics,” the main problems I find in the program is the absence of male students and the lack of financial training. As someone who constantly seeks out information surrounding real world life, this type of course is essential to developing into an independent though its marketing at the time focused on molding the perfect housewife. Through the inclusion of these two factors, the course could cater to these real-world skills many people my age need. When discussing this course with my grandmother and my mother, the class served as a breeding program to introduce propaganda supporting the nuclear family among many other traditional conservative ideals. With the inclusion of more skill-based activities, finance training, and a non-gendered approach, “Home Economics” would be a suitable addition to the education program.
    Looks have always mattered, with emphasis on women’s appearance, though people avoid pointing it out. It tends to be a subconscious thought as judgement occurs off of looks and the media emphasizes it, yet many people avoid gesturing to it as a negative (e.g.- pretty privilege).
    Today many women are not focused on establishing families but rather on careers, but I often experience being taught to be “sweet” and a “young lady,” though it might stem from other reasons. As someone who often questions their gender, I have been approached by many of the conservative or older community around me in order to offer “advice” on how to succeed in life which more than often holds a basis in being “female.” This clarity of femininity is regarded as a way to easily move through life within the gender binary, but I am still encouraged to be an independent female. Stable careers are the expected outcome for my own future and the concept of a housewife is extremely discouraged, even shamed. For me, this progressive statement of “female independence” within many feminist chants has turned into a double-edged sword as I can be successful but have to be considered a lady.

  4. The problem with home making classes being isolated to the young women in high school and not including the men is that it imposes on those young women that their sole value is to be this homemaker. By separating the young men from the young women and mandating these courses, women are predisposed to define their life goal as achieving the nuclear family for which they can bring these teachings into practice. It also teaches men to be reliant on women to produce a home for them, unable to do so themselves. Mandating that women be capable of cooking, cleaning and diapering babies and not effective budgeting skills, child cost management and management of loans and bills is a societal method of stopping women from achieving independence, they are to be a puzzle piece activated by a man who is the breadwinner and complete those skills. This dependence on men to perform the economic tasks extended also to the legal capability of women, it took until 1974 for women to be allowed to apply for credit cards and mortgages without a male co-signer. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for the passing of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act she enabled women to be actors of their own life, finally able to achieve independent economic stability of their own accord without being reliant on a man.

  5. Judy Chicago was told she couldn’t be a woman and an artist. This enraged Judy partly because she was raised in a left-wing household where her parents believed in equal rights for women. She received a lot of encouragement from her father, and she explains that he taught her that she could “trust a man.” This kind of trust is so important–it builds healthy relationships, and I believe that trusting one another it is the foundation for solidarity and social change. Judy’s father was a labor organizer, and she says his passion was change. She also explains that he was a victim of McCarthy–In the 1950s, a series of investigations was launched to try to expose “communist infiltration” in the government. Judy’s father, a postal worker, was investigated during this era, receiving a lot of public backlash. Despite this, Judy held onto the views and beliefs her father taught her. Because of her father, Judy learned from an early age that women should be loved and respected and that they are deserving of equality and equal rights. This strong foundation and belief system greatly influenced Judy and her propensity for feminism and the feminist movement later in life.
    When I asked my mom about her home economics requirement in high school, she said what she learned was valuable knowledge. However, when I asked if there were any boys in her class, she said, “No. Girls took Home Economics and boys took shop.” We both agreed this was problematic because it perpetuated gender binaries and traditional gender roles. In terms of high school classes on finances like banking, loans, etc., I think this is really important and it is something still not widely taught today. I never learned basic finance in high school.

  6. This documentary discussed the works of women who contributed to the feminist movement and how their own personal experiences drove them to address the cultural struggle of identity that women faced. Judy Chicago’s perspective on the roles of women is attributed to what she called “being fathered”. She stated that her father rejected the social norms of gender roles and encouraged her to not rely on a man. Her unconventional ideas of gender at the time pushed her to pursue her passion for art. Judy Chicago’s statement that she’s “sick of trying to act like a man” stood out to me especially. This quote is echoing in the second era of feminism in the way that women should have the freedom to pursue careers in art and music. This take on feminism opened a new door, where women did not want to be socially oppressed, yet Chicago argues that she neither wants to be tied to her male competitors. She sheds light on outdated role of women in society by mentioning Home economics class, that was mandated for all and only young girls. Despite these gender norms, the role of a women in society has progressed greatly. Women have joined the workforce and have strayed further and further away from the housewife stigma. Some ideas that the documentary touched on are the “girls don’t win” or that “if you want to succeed and have power you were a boy”. The absurdity of these ideologies are seen in present day and the advocation of the feminist movement worked so that women can be liberated from these feminine stereotypes of being “sweet” and “good”.

  7. I think something that stood out to me as incredibly relevant to some of our class discussions was when the documentary mentioned how women didn’t want to be identified as a suffragette because of the negative connotation, similar to how some women don’t want to identify as feminists today because there is this image of feminists as butch man-haters. I believe these negative images are due to the deeply ingrained patriarchal system in which we have grown up. This also relates to gender role dynamics of today. I believe that women and young girl are still staught to be “sweet,” “good girls,” and “young ladies” because of this same patriarchal system that still remains, despite many strides being taken in the feminist movement since the youth of Judy Chicago or Jane Fonda. Despite feminism being more widely accepted as a movement, this social structure that emphasizes traditional gender roles still remains prevalent in our lives today. I think today, women are thought to be able to “do it all”, meaning to have a successful career and a successful family/romantic life. This puts expectations on women that are not put on men, and further puts them into a box, or an image of what an ideal woman looks like. The physical attractiveness of a women is also prized, and people who are deemed “pretty” by eurocentric standards of beauty that emphasize thinness, blondeness, and having blue eyes, have privilege. This is not the case with men, who aren’t conditioned to constantly worry about being pretty, or “good” enough (because these are linked). If you are a woman and you are not found attractive of men, that is supposed to be a reflection on you, when in reality, it is a reflection on the unfair emphasis we as a society put on the male gaze.

  8. The Docomunentry speaks to being raised in a time when looks do matter, as Aloma Ichinose says at the beginning of the movie “Beauty was a commodity.” Looks very much still matter today but I do think the idea of women being “sweet” and “good” has changed. I think there are regional and cultural exceptions but in general, women are suspected to be more of their own person; they are expected now to have children and a full-time job. Men are not expected to do both but it is harder for them to be stay-at-home fathers. To be a successful woman in today’s culture you must be presentable, and while we may not need to be “sweet” or “good” we are still expected to be more proper when it comes to dress and language than men. When going up for jobs we are expected to not be wearing anything “distracting.” Both men and women who are “attractive” (in the socially constructed sense) are more likely to get jobs and in fact to get significant others with which to make a traditional family.

  9. The documentary does a wonderful job at documenting what life was like when what you look like matters. It was very relevant to the things we had been learning in class. How women were scared to join the movement because they didn’t want the negative connotation that came with the movement. In a time where beauty was seen as a commodity for women. As I continued to watch the documentary I seen how the things women were fighting for are still very relevant today. Women were taught to be sweet young ladies that are nice and proper but it’s the same thing they are taught today because the world puts these expectations on them. It contrast everything that a boy is taught while trying to become a man. Men are expected to be the more powerful, harder working, and have more free reign in the way they speak and act. However, I do believe that if society should see women on that same context as well. It will help us break the chains of “expectations “ put on women and will allow them to thrive in a world that is fair. Even beauty has qualifications in a mans world and if you don’t meet those standards it puts women at more of a disadvantage. We need to realize that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and give chances to all women no matter what they look like or how they act but because they can get the job done the same if not better than a man.

  10. During the second wave of feminism girls were required to take home economics which fostered the harmful belief that women’s work was of service and sacrifice. The fact that home economics was required for girls instead of both genders conveys the belief that life skills such as cooking, cleaning and caretaking aren’t important nor beneficial in general. It implies that it is not valued as much because it is associated with women. It would also force men to rely on women to perform these tasks because they simply do not know how to do them. This kind of thinking and training tells students that women are expected to take on all these things without their partner, a man, participating equally. It also enforces toxic gender roles and heteronormativity. It leaves little room for students to critically analyze gender roles and imagine it differently. In other words, it leaves no room for questions. A student will not feel comfortable asking and or considering a situation in which they don’t have a partner.It conditions women to accept their “place” in both the home and society as a whole. If home economics were to include finances and require everyone to take it, it would actually be beneficial because students would learn actual life skills that does not force heteronormativity. It would also leave room for things such as same sex relationships, single parents etc. In addition, finances not being taught in the female home economics class would force women to rely on men for anything finance related.

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