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Feminists in the 1970s

Carolyn Graglia takes the position that the feminists of the 1970s have essentially forced women into the workplace without giving them the choice of staying at home and raising a family. In this way the feminists of the 1970s have not liberated American women. Graglia makes the argument that contemporary feminism’s message has been to convince society that a women’s full-time commitment to her and marriage and child rearing is not a worthy endeavor. Feminists have also taken the position that women should ape male sexual patterns and engage in promiscuous sexual behavior. Graglia claims that rather than giving women more options, feminism has actually forced women to be members of the working world. Women who feel a desire to be full-time mothers and wives are looked at as if they have chosen the wrong path. The whole purpose of feminism is to support the rights and equality of women. According to Graglia, it is wrong to pressure women into giving up child rearing and homemaking if that is what they want to do. By forcing women into a box, feminism has actually caused women to feel like their choice has been restricted.

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Sara M. Evans takes the position that despite the class, racial, regional, ethnic, and religious differences between women, the women’s movement of the 1970s has allowed women in the United States to make tremendous strides in their private and public lives. In the 1960s, women achieved a law that stated men and women should be paid equally. Although there is still a significant wage gap, this was a milestone for women across the country. In addition, the number of female elected officials have skyrocketed, with women holding positions in nearly every governmental organization in the country. Progress can also be seen through the lens of education. 43% of law students, 38% of medical school students, 36% of business school students, 39% of Ph.D. students, and 38% of dentistry students are all women. These numbers are nearly five to six times what they were in 1960. The number of children growing up with a single mother is 23.5% which is much higher than it was in the past. This statistic indicates that women are now more easily able to get a divorce as well as an increase in premarital sex. In fact in the early 1990s, 56% of women had sex by the age of 18. Also, in 1973 the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion which allowed women to take control of their reproductive health. Overall, the movement of the 1970s have brought about a great number of changes that have allowed women a greater degree of choice and freedom.

After examining both sets of arguments, I would have to agree with Sara M. Evans that the women’s movement of the 1970s did not fail to liberate women. Based on all the statistical evidence laid out Evans it is clear to me that women’s lives have vastly improved since the 1970s. Graglia seems to be fixated on the fact that feminism has made stay at home mothers and wives feel undervalued. However, I disagree with this point of analysis. Since most women stayed at home prior to the 1970s, the bulk of the feminist movement would naturally deal with new frontiers such as education, sexuality, and the professional world. While many women today are encouraged to work, the choice of being a homemaker is still a path that can be pursued with little to no backlash.

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