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Inquiry Project - Second Wave Feminism

Slafennog's picture

Gwendolyn Vary

Multicultural Education

Professor Jody Cohen


Teaching a Unit on Second Wave Feminism to a Senior Seminar in a High School


Forward to the unit: To start I choose to do this thinking about the different ways I was taught while in high school, and how if I could have taught it what I would have done. This is based off a seminar style class that I find to be effective in my college classes and combining it with the greater question style of learning that we did in my high school. I have designed a unit of the class below in an area that was not taught to me in high school, but has captured my interest in college. I created a thesis statement, which would be written on the board and left for the whole unit for student to use as kind of a guide. I then list a series of questions, that are not tied to a specific reading but rather are to be thought about holistically in order to go beyond just the very basic level that I felt my high school class stayed on. I then explain how I would direct the conversations’ to go and what I would hope to accomplish, thought I would expect and allow detours as the discussion allowed. At the end I have included that names of books, and other reading that I would like to include sections of along with my reasoning behind including those readings. I would not assign all of the selected texts –because I would hope for them to get more in-depth into the texts rather than drown in to much- but would select parts of longer books, or let the students choose between the readings.

Why I choose to teach this unit: My thought is that this unit would take about three weeks in which we explore second wave feminism and its effects. I chose second wave feminism over the other waves (and other movements) because it was very clearly a nonlinear movement just like the human rights movement, so that the class can start to explore the counter narrative idea that history is always a forward progressive movement. I would bring in critical discussion about how history has affected our views on gender and sexuality, and show how this movement changed/introduced new language about gender, sex, and sexual orientation. I would make sure to tie it into today, to demonstrate that the movement is not over, and how these issues still effect people today –as to avoid the it’s happed, it’s over narrative.

Thesis: Second wave feminism politicized the body by bringing it into the public sphere, while at the same time alienating conservative members of American society with its liberal relations to gender roles. By bringing women and their bodies more radically into the political and public sphere it made the success and failures of this movement have a deeper effect on connected liberal movements including the gay rights movement and the modern waves of feminism.

Questions I want to answer in this unit: 

  • How did this movement take place within both the law and in political sphere? How did it challenge specific issues?
  • How did the movement approach abortion rights, the rights to sports, and equal rights within the constitution?
  • How was the feminism a nonlinear movement?
  • Did the different movements/groups accomplish their goals? How are we still dealing with the implications left over by the radical changes created by the movement?
  • What role did the movement play in the gay rights movement, and today’s feminism?

Where I want the student to be when we get to the end: People have very clear preconceived notions about both feminism and human rights, but yet very rarely are the definitions people give off the top of their head the same for every person. Both feminism, and human rights within the united states are viewed as something that we don’t need in the United States because we don’t have violations that need protecting by these groups, creating a certain level of compliancy within our nation.

How I lay out my class discussion over the unit:

I will lead the conversation using the 3 point format, a long success, a short term success, and a failure. I would do that to show that it is a nonlinear movement, which is still not done accomplishing all its goals. That is also why I reference all three (and maybe four) waves of feminism. The long term success I see as Title IX, the short term is Roe V Wade and abortion rights, and the failure is the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). 

Talking about the long term success of Title Nine in the Education Amendment of 1972; this not only demonstrated that there was a positive long term effect of the movement, but how the body and gender was a central idea to the movement. Using sports as a lens I could look at the oppression that women were out under with regards to how little freedom they were given in the public sphere. Sports as I pointed out were for the most part considered a masculine part of our society prior to the movement. Women playing sports, allowed them to use their body as a political weapon, challenging the traditional gender roles. I would bring in how the argument for and against the right of women to participate in sports had been long going. Drawing attention to the pace at which women’s sports revolutionized in the 1970’s and 1980’s  and the way in which it dramatically changed the women and sports are associated.  Talking about the backlash by the NCAA and other organizations which have traditionally supported men’s sports in order to draw parallels with the nonlinear momentum of Title IX and how its support, repeal of support, then reinstating of support, is a fair representation of the political atmosphere of the last 3 decades of the 20th century.  Also showing how women’s athletics are still not on a 50/50 plain with men’s athletics is also key.

The Equal Rights Amendment, as the failure of the second wave feminism, even though it started under the end of the first wave of feminism in 1923 when it was written by Alice Paul, a suffragist leader and founder of the National Woman's Party. What the ERA was designed to do is within the constitution of the united states is make it so it explicitly guarantees that the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex. The first — and still the only — right specifically affirmed as equal for women and men are the right to vote. The ERA was introduced into every Congress between 1923 and 1972, until it was passed and sent to the states for ratification by the states, but at that deadline, the ERA had only been ratified by 35 states, short of the 38 required to put it into the Constitution.

When talking about abortion, specifically the Roe V Wade, as partly a segway into the later argument about the back lash that the second wave feminist would feel in the 80’s. While the Roe V Wade decision was not the first victory within abortion that these women won, it was the biggest. Abortion, like the sports, has a lot of debate around the body and what a women has the right to do with her own body. “abortion didn’t start with Roe v. Wade; but rather safe abortion started with Roe v. Wade” which was one of the central arguments that was made. Showing that the law was not preventing this from happening, it was just putting women in more danger because it bared them from accessing health care and doctors. Abortion thought, just as it is today, is a very touchy subject with a lot of preconceived notion, which has not changed and was present during the 2nd wave movement. When I was looking at my research for the reaction to the movement the term victimology came up quite often; especially when I was looking at sources written defending those who reacted negatively to the movement.

When discussing the gay right movement I will use Davis talks about the intersection between Feminism movement, Gay rights movement, and the law. She discusses the similarities between movements, the long history of racism and sexism in the in the US, the counter culture surround the movements, and goes into specifics with famous pro-gay activists. I will also use Bamforth to talk about the need to change the laws and protect sexuality on a “moral basis.” How sexuality is an very important aspect of everyone existence and why the law is not the only thing that is going to need to be changed in order to effect real change by these movements, as well as referencing the laws changed in the first and second wave and how the movement is still not over. Kathleen has a lot of specific about how “damaging” it is to be a queer person and the cost of being a queer person in our heterosexual environment

  • It’s estimated that 10% of the population is not heterosexual
  • Recent studies showed that gay same sex couples make more money then cohabiting hetero sexual couples, but less then married heterosexual couples, and lesbians couples make by far the least amount of money This shows how women are gays are disadvantages, and combined lesbians have both things working against them.
    • this is despite the fact that individually lesbians make more money than either the women living married or unmarried with a man makes by themselves.
    • gay men make more individually than an unmarried man living with a women
    • a heterosexual married man is making the most money and is making on average 2.6 times more than his wife

To expand more on the topic more on the topic I will bring in:

  • A comparison between Lawrence v. Texas, and Bowers v. Hardwick, sodomy laws
    • Bowers v. Hardwick up held anitsodomy laws (Sodomy is generally anal or oral-sexual activity between people or sexual activity between persons, but may also include any non-procreative sexual activity) in Georgia.
    • Lawrence v. Texas revered the supreme court decision on sodomy laws because under the 4th amendment consensual sex was protected, this struck down sodomey laws in 13 other states as well.
  • Southern Baptist church punishment of gays and how there is still a religious basis in the law
    • Religious
    • the conservative movement in the united states
    • “god-given role” that should be had by men and women as both an antifeminist and antigay text
    • abortion and body rights
  • AIDS

In this unit, I would select readings from the following:

Bamforth, Nicholas. Sexuality, Morals and Justice: Nicholas Bamforth. New York, NY: Cassell Pub., 1995. Print.

This books talks about the “moral basis” for the establishment of LGBTQ laws. He discusses the need to a change in laws from treating LGBTQ members as a subordinate group but rather insisting that they have laws that can actually work for the general population and allow them to have “relevance, plausibility, and acceptability” in todays society as people.  He argues that sexuality is “unique and central” to all people and their for should be protected under the law. This books makes stark and strong philosophical differences between gays, lesbians, and bisexuals and argues against “the arrogance of universalism”. However the main focus is the morality that is underlying in the reform of the law and activism that allows one to affect change in the LGBTQ movement. The author is also a skeptic when it comes to the effectives of the law.


Hogshead-Makar, Nancy, and Andrew S. Zimbalist. Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 2007. Print.

Demonstrates the social equality of extra curricular activities connected to education. how sports are considered a “masculine” thing and their social pressures surrounding sports. How introduction of women when they “step out of the bleachers or slips out of (their) cheerleading uniform” allows a women to challenge the traditional gender roles of men and women.  How sports have emphasis on the body and are extremely gendered; with title IX providing legal equality between the sexes when it comes to athletics.  


Lahey, Kathleen A. Are We 'persons' Yet?: Law and Sexuality in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1999. Print.

This book is used to discuss participation and judicial rights of LGBTQ in the case of Canada. It is also used to discuss the modern impact of being LGBTQ has on a person from an educational and economical standpoint. This book discusses this in terms of the ‘Queer Penalty’.  It also has a chapter the references both the future of LGBTQ in Canada and compared that to the future of LGBTQ in the European model. This book is mostly going to be used to frame the LGBTQ costs in economic terms both through legal standpoints and figures showing the difference between the incomes of a heterosexual man, heterosexual women, gay man, and lesbian women.


Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 123 S. Ct. 2472, 156 L. Ed. 2d 508 (2003).  (AND) Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 106 S. Ct. 2841, 92 L. Ed. 2d 140 (1986).

            Lawrence v. Texas was a supreme court case that led to the sodomy laws in Texas being stuck down. This by extension led to the striking down in 13 other states and made same-sex activities legal in every state. This was an overturn of the Bowers v. Hardwick, which originally upheld similar laws in Georgia. The Supreme Court stated that consensual sex was protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.


Richards, David A. J. Women, Gays, and the Constitution: The Grounds for Feminism and Gay Rights in Culture and Law. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998. Print.

            This book discusses the intersection of women's and LGBTQ rights in the course of second wave feminism . Using political theory, history, and law the books talks about how the similarities between the two with both movements being based in the lack of rights and inequalities that the feel are due to them; taking it all the way back to the long history of racism and sexism in the united states.  The book makes references to the works done by Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde as pro-gay advocates; stressing the development of contemporary feminism.  The book discusses this counter culture in terms of both public and private sectors of society; and how rights-based feminism is a bridge to constitutional rights for the LGBTQ.


Runes, Dagobert D. The Disinherited and the Law. New York: Philosophical Library, 1964. Print.

This book talks about the inequality of the law, both with regards to question of who makes the laws for whom,  who it incriminates, and why it works the way it works. This book states that the law is made from the powerful to control the powerless, while it is biased on the side of democracies and uses the USSR for more than a few of where the law has gone wrong, this book does use several good examples where the law has taken advantage of people within the realm of sex, that it “is biased that it singles out for punishment the helpless and lost.”


Southern Baptist Convention. Resolutions & Baptist Press. Resolution On Homosexual MarriageNew Orleans, Louisiana - 1996. Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions. Southern Baptist Convention, 1996. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

As the largest Protestant group in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention shift to a right wing doctrine in the late 20th century is part of the demonstration of a shift in the United States which has continued since the Reagan administration to a more conservative. This shift is in part to the liberalization of the 1960’s and 70’s in which second wave feminism and the eventual LGBTQ movement made significant gains in the legal world which include more equal rights for women, abortion rights, and the decriminalization of homosexuality. This groups doctrine, accepted by many Americans is part of the new conservative right which had many backers from the religious sect who saw this movement as a deterioration of morals in the united states. This included a shift away from traditional “god-given role” in which men are superior protects of the nurturing women.  Other resolution that the Southern Baptist Convention included most of the ideals now embraced by the right wing politicians in the united states; including anti-abortion, gay marriage, pornography, and the push for the traditional family structure.,39,39