By Myra Marx Ferree
First released in 2000. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.
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Extra resources for Controversy and Coalition: The New Feminist Movement Across Four Decades of Change
The New Feminist Movement, on the other hand, has grown out of prevailing social trends and is thus grounded in the actual experiences of women—at work and at home—that have reinforced the perceptions both of inequality and unfairness, and of change and new opportunities, some of which brought women into direct competition with men (Rosenfeld and Ward 1991). The earlier movement went as far as the challenge to male supremacy could go at that historical moment. It required four decades of basic social change to create the conditions for the emergence of the third wave.
When low fertility goes hand in hand with increasing life expectancy—close to eighty years on average for American women born today—childbearing and child rearing will absorb only a small fraction of a woman’s life. When linked to higher educational attainment and the relative fragility of contemporary marriages, such demographic realities enhance the likelihood that a woman will enter the paid labor force and remain there more continuously than in the past. Thus, a majority of American women will have the opportunity to develop a sense of self outside the traditional role of wife-mother, as well as to experience the obstacles and discrimination still prevalent in the workplace.
This trend is hardly surprising, since the number of children born during the Great Depression and reaching adulthood in the postwar period was not sufficient to meet the labor force demands of the 1950s. There were jobs enough for men in those fields defined as “men’s work,” leaving the world of “women’s work” open to married women who supplemented family income to meet expanding consumer needs. Public reaction, as always, was ambivalent: on the one hand, there was the need for the kinds of paid work typically done by women; on the other, the strong belief that family care is a woman’s most important responsibility (Kessler-Harris 1990; Bradley 1989).