Equality and Counterculture Movements in the USA in 1960s

Birth Control Pill

1960 – The birth control pill is officially approved to be used as a contraceptive. Ever since that moment that pill became a major source of confrontations between men and women, doctors and scientists, religious communities and ethnical groups. The pill was called a method of genocide and viewed as a liberating object (Nikolchev, 2010). The society could not agree about the pill for decades.

The pill quickly gained popularity, but the number of its fans was equal to the number of its haters. Religious communities led by the Pope disapproved birth control. Politicians debated it as well, by the middle of 1960s the pill was still officially illegal in eight states.

“The Feminine Mystique”

1963 – the book by Betty Friedan called “The Feminine Mystique” is published. It is often called the first motivation for the beginning of the women’s equality and liberation movements (Napikoski, 2015). The book spoke about the habitual view on women’s role in the American post-war society established during the 1950s and the growing discontent with their lives among women.

This social dissatisfaction and the following women’s equality movement is closely connected with the counterculture movements popular in 1960s in America. Counterculture movements also had anti-establishment character and were directed against the traditional habits and believes about such aspects as sexuality, human rights, leadership and authority, education, inter-cultural relationships and the modern understanding of American dream.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

1964 – The Act was directed at the protection of employment rights of women and ethnical minority groups (Sawhney, n. d). It established equal pay for men and women doing the same jobs and also prohibited employment discrimination based on gender from the side of private employers.

The first attempts to create social equality between men and women started back in 1940s, yet the vague plans never came into action. They were finally realized in 1964 and 1965 by the Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The women’s desire to have decent jobs, build careers, provide for themselves and their families is closely connected to the counterculture movement focused on freedom of choice and independence for every individual notwithstanding their gender or race. The difficulty of this reform occurred when men realized that the gender equality at the workplace would take away many professional and social benefits from them and started to protest against the change in official and non-official methods. For example, tried to keep highly-qualified females way from getting employed.

National Organization for Women (NOW)

1966- Betty Friedan in collaboration with some other leaders of feminists movements created National Organization for Women focused on such aspects as:

  • Education.
  • Equality of employment.
  • Political rights.
  • Family relationships.
  • Women in religion.
  • The social perception of women.

Liberationist and protectionist groups orientated towards the same aspects also occurred inside various ethnical groups in the United States. For example, a number of immigrant parents were dissatisfied with the educational system and the values taught in schools. Besides, African Americans and Hispanics fought against the tendency of being forced out of educational institutions and deprived of the opportunities to find good employment and self-realization. This way the USA of the 1960s becomes a massive social battlefield where new views challenge the old habits and what used to be considered the American traditional culture is altered.

New York Radical Women (NYRW)

1967- a new feminist group called New York Radical Women was created. One of it founders was Shulamith Firestone. They were a well know attention raising group that participated in a number of protests and actions focused on women’s liberation and equality. The core of this group included young women in their twenties who pretested against the domination of men.

New York Radical Women appeared in the end of 1960s and was a separate group from the ones created by Betty Friedan. NYRW declared that the ideas and methods chosen by the women liberation movements conducted before were not radical enough. This is why NYRW were orientated at public demonstration of their dissatisfaction by male domination in the society.

Miss America Pageant Protest

1968- Miss America Pageant Protest is one of the most well known actions organized by New York Radical Women. The protest gathered hundreds of feminist activists who came to Atlantic City Broadwalk. The protest was directed against the objectification of women and what feminists viewed as social hypocrisy making the society judge women according to their appearances and parameters.

One of the most famous actions of the Miss America Pageant Protest was the so-called Freedom Trash Can. This action involved a trash can where the activists tossed the objects symbolizing objectification of women. The objects were female underwear, stockings, girdles and Playboy magazines. The activists intended to set the contents of the Freedom Trash Can on fire, but gave up this idea for the fire safety reasons. It is important to notice that Betty Friedan disagreed with NYRW approaches and publically announced that her movements were not designed as men-hating and bra-burning ones (The 1960s-70s American Feminist Movement: Breaking Down Barriers for Women, 2014).

Reference List

Napikoski, L. (2015). The Feminine Mystique.

Nikolchev, A. (2010). A brief history of the birth control pill

Sawhney, V. (n. d). The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s. Web.

The 1960s-70s American Feminist Movement: Breaking Down Barriers for Women. (2014). Tavaana. Web.

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