Topic 3 The “second” feminist “wave”

Second-wave feminism refers to the resurgence of the feminist movement between 1960 and 1970. It is influenced by Marxism, the European labuor movement, the American Political and Social Rights Movement, the anti-colonial movements in Africa and Asia, and focuses mainly on independence and greater political action to improve women’s rights.

The main common point of the theoretical and practical aspirations, which formed the topics of discussion of the second feminist wave, is the promotion and positive exploitation of gender difference as well as the exercise of criticism in the efforts to minimise this difference. Thus, in the feminist movement, a debate begins over the concept of gender equality, and the isonomic equality of the first feminist wave is challenged. Through the meaning of gender differences will be a “fertile source for the production of a different identity” and not a “ground for exclusion“. That is why the second feminist wave was also called the feminism of difference (Maropoulou, 2016b, p. 47).

Simone de Beauvoir had a significant influence on the feminist thought of this period with  her book ‘The Second Sex’ (Le Deuxième Sexe),  published in 1949, which was a statutory text  for feminists  of all  subsequent periods (Athanassiou, 2006).

Beauvoir in her work gives a radical interpretation of what a woman is, since for the first time the identity of the woman is presented as a historical and social construction, as something unnatural and non-given, as it is expressed by her position “one is not born a woman but becomes one”. Thus, for Beauvoir, the word “woman” denotes a social category and not a biological one, as the prevailing view was. She also points out that the woman is socially defined as the most important example of the social “other”, i.e., the male subject (Cameron, 2020). However, in the context of a patriarchal society the male subject is synonymous to human capacity. Thus, women as hetero-determined are considered “a secondary sub-case and a devalued ‘other’, as the second gender, which is characterised by a deficiency” (Athanasiou, 2006, p. 9). For Beauvoir, the biological sex is an analytical human feature, differing from gender, which summarizes all the cultural possibilities and perspectives that a gendered body brings (Liberi, 2010).

In this way, Beauvoir paved the way for the distinction between biological (sex) and social (gender) and opposed to the theories of biological determinism, laying the foundations for the explanation of the “female nature” in political, economic, social, cultural and ideological terms. Thus, ‘gender’ as a system of social relations and ‘gender relations’ as power relations, showed the way in which the content of femininity and masculinity is defined and constructed and thus became the interpretive variables of social developments, at all levels (Liberi, 2010).

This distinction between male / female physiology and the culturally and socially defined dipole of masculinity / femininity opened up many individual issues in relation to identities and gave impetus to later feminist thought (Cameron, 2020) by engaging different theorists such as Helene Cixous, Judith Butler, Monique Wittig, Michele Le Doeuff, Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva (Athanasiou, 2006). Using their theory Beauvoir helped to make it clear that at the base of the hierarchical rankings of patriarchy are the dipoles of self / other, man / woman, mind / body (Athanassiou, 2006).

As a result due to the struggles of the second wave of feminist movements, significant changes were made in state legislation on issues related to public and domestic violence and abuse of women, sexual harassment, etc., and feminist policies have been integrated into the governmental level of nation states. of the West as well as the European Union ( ).

It is suggested that you watch the documentary of Netfix, “Feminists: What were they thinking” which would help you better understand Second-wave feminism.

It is suggested that you watch the movie “On the Basic of Sex”, directed by Mimi Leder (2018) which would help you better understand Second-wave feminism.