Humanities › History & Culture Goals of the Feminist Movement What Did Feminists Want? Share Flipboard Email Print Bus Conductors in London Demand Equal Opportunity, December 1968. Fred Mott/Evening Standard/Getty Images History & Culture Women's History History Of Feminism Important Figures Key Events Women's Suffrage Women & War Laws & Womens Rights Feminism & Pop Culture Feminist Texts American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century View More By Linda Napikoski Journalist J.D., Hofstra University B.A., English and Print Journalism, University of Southern California Linda Napikoski, J.D., is a journalist and activist specializing in feminism and global human rights. our editorial process Linda Napikoski Updated March 13, 2019 Feminism changed women's lives and created new worlds of possibility for education, empowerment, working women, feminist art and feminist theory. For some, the goals of the feminist movement were simple: let women have freedom, equal opportunity and control over their lives. For others, though, the goals were more abstract or complex. Scholars and historians often divide the feminist movement into three "waves." First-wave feminism, rooted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is closely related to the women's suffrage movement, as it focused primarily on legal inequalities. In contrast, second-wave feminism was mainly active in the 1960s and 70s and focused on inequalities embedded in social norms more than in laws. Here are some specific feminist movement goals from the “second wave” of feminism. Rethinking Society With Feminist Theory This was accomplished by, among other disciplines, women’s studies, feminist literary criticism, gynocriticism, socialist feminism and the feminist art movement. Looking through a feminist lens at history, politics, culture, and economics, feminists developed insights in just about every intellectual discipline. To this day, the fields of women's studies and gender studies are major presences in academia and in social criticism. Abortion Rights The call for “abortion on demand” is often misunderstood. Leaders of the women’s liberation movement were clear that women should have reproductive freedom and safe access to legal abortion, making the choice for her reproductive status without interference by the state or paternalistic medical professionals. Second-wave feminism led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which legalized abortion in most circumstances. "De-Sexing the English Language" Feminists helped spark debate over assumptions embedded in our language that reflect the assumption of a male-dominated patriarchal society. Language was often centered around males, assuming that humanity was male and women were exceptions. Use neutral pronouns? Identify words with gender bias? Invent new words? Many solutions were tried, and the debate continues into the 21st century. Education Many women went to college and worked professionally in the early 20th century, but the mid-20th century ideal of the middle-class suburban housewife and the nuclear family downplayed the importance of women’s education. Feminists knew that girls and women must be encouraged to seek an education, and not just as “something to fall back on,” if they were to become, and be seen as, "fully" equal. And within education, access by women to all programs, including sports programs, was a major goal. In 1972, Title IX forbade gender discrimination in education-related programs that received federal funding (such as school athletic programs). Equality Legislation Feminists worked for the Equal Rights Amendment, the Equal Pay Act, the addition of sex discrimination to the Civil Rights Act and other laws that would guarantee equality. Feminists advocated for a variety of laws and interpretations of existing laws to remove impediments to women's professional and economic achievements, or full exercise of citizenship rights (such as having women on juries on an equal basis to men). Feminists questioned the long tradition of "protective legislation" for women which often ended up sidelining women from being hired, promoted, or treated fairly. Promoting Political Participation The League of Women Voters had existed since just after women won the vote, and the LWV had supported educating women (and men) in informed voting, and had done some work in promoting women as candidates. In the 1960s and 1970s, other organizations were created and the LWV extended its mission to promote even more participation in the political process by women including by recruiting, training, and financially supporting women candidates. Rethinking Women's "Roles" in Nuclear Family Households Although not all feminists called for collective mothering or went so far as to urge “seizing the means of reproduction,” as Shulamith Firestone wrote in The Dialectic of Sex, it was clear that women should not have to bear the sole responsibility for raising children. Roles also included who does the housework. Research showed that even full time working wives did the majority of housework, and various individuals and theorists proposed ways of changing the proportion of who did which household chores, and who held responsibility for those chores as well. “I Want a Wife” No, this essay from the first issue of Ms. magazine did not mean that every woman literally wanted a wife. It did suggest that any adult would love to have someone to play the “housewife” role as it had been defined: the caretaker and the one who runs things behind-the-scenes. Supporting Women as Parents While feminism re-examined the maternal role expected of women, feminism also worked to support women when they were the primary caretaker of children or the primary custodial parent. Feminists worked for family leave, employment rights through pregnancy and childbirth including covering pregnancy and newborn medical expenses through health insurance, child care, and reform in marriage and divorce laws. Representation in Popular Culture Feminists critiqued the presence (or non-presence) of women in popular culture, and popular culture expanded the roles which women held. Television shows gradually added women in more central and less stereotyped roles, including some shows featuring single women who wanted more than just to "find a man." Movies also expanded roles, and female-driven comics saw a resurgence and widened audience, with Wonder Woman leading the way. Traditional women's magazines fell under critique, with the result of both some change in how women were depicted there, and specialty magazines like Working Woman and Ms. Magazine created to meet the new market demands -- and to reshape the market. Expanding the Voice of Women in Other Movements An example: women had often been shut out of unions or relegated to a Ladies Auxiliary through much of the 20th century. As the feminist movement gained momentum, pressure on the union movement to represent more jobs that were "pink collar" jobs (mostly held by women) increased. Organizations like Women Employed were created for representing women in offices where unions were not strong. And the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) was created to help women in leadership roles within unions develop solidarity and support in getting the union movement to be more inclusive of women, both among those represented, and in leadership.