10 Important Feminist Beliefs

Ideas of the 1960s/1970s Women's Movement

During the 1960s and 1970s, feminists catapulted the idea of women’s liberation into the media and the public consciousness. As with any groundswell, the message of second-wave feminism spread widely and was sometimes diluted or distorted. Feminist beliefs also differed from city to city, group to group and even woman to woman. There were, however, some core beliefs. Here are ten key feminist beliefs that tended to be held by most women in the movement, in most groups and in most cities during the 1960s and 1970s.

Expanded and updated by Jone Johnson Lewis

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The Personal Is Political

Woman with feminist symbol
jpa1999 / iStock Vectors / Getty Images

This popular slogan encapsulated the important idea that what happened to individual women also mattered in a larger sense. It was a feminist rallying cry of the so-called Second Wave.  The term first appeared in print in 1970 but was in use earlier.

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The Pro-Woman Line

It was not an oppressed woman’s fault that she was oppressed. An "anti-woman" line made women responsible for their own oppression by, for instance, wearing uncomfortable clothes, heels, girdles. The "pro-woman" line reversed that thinking.

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Sisterhood is Powerful

Many women found an important solidarity in the feminist movement. This sense of a sisterhood not of biology but of unity refers to ways in which women relate to each other in ways that are distinct from ways they relate to men, or from the ways men relate to each other. It also emphasizes a hopefulness that collective activism can make change.

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Comparable Worth

Many feminists supported the Equal Pay Act, and activists also realized that women had never had equal pay opportunities in the historically separate and unequal workplace.  Comparable worth arguments go beyond simply equal pay for equal work, to acknowledge that some jobs had become essentially male or female jobs, and some difference in wages was attributable to that fact.  Female jobs, of course, were undervalued in comparison to the qualifications required and the kind of work expected.

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Abortion Rights on Demand

Pro-choice and pro-life signs at 2005 march in Washington, DC.
'March for Life' event January 24, 2005. Getty Images / Alex Wong

Many feminists attended protests, wrote articles and lobbied politicians in the fight for women’s reproductive rights. Abortion on demand referred to particular conditions around access to abortion, as feminists tried to tackle the problems of illegal abortions that had killed thousands of women a year.

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Radical Feminism

To be radical – radical as in going to the root - meant advocating fundamental changes to patriarchal society. Radical feminism is critical of feminisms that seek to gain admission for women into existing structures of power, rather than dismantling those structures.

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Socialist Feminism

Some feminists wanted to integrate the fight against the oppression of women with the fight against other types of oppression. There are both similarities and differences to be found in a comparison of socialist feminism with other types of feminism.

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Ideas of environmental justice and feminist justice had some overlap. As feminists sought to change power relationships, they saw that the treatment of the earth and the environment resembled the way that men treated women.

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Conceptual Art

The feminist art movement criticized the art world’s lack of attention to women artists, and many feminist artists reimagined how women’s experiences related to their art. Conceptual art was a way of expressing feminist concepts and theories through unusual approaches to creating art.

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Housework as a Political Issue

Housework was seen as both an unequal burden on women, and an example of how women's work was devalued. In essays such as Pat Mainardi's "The Politics of Housework," feminists critiqued the expectation that women should fulfill a “happy housewife” destiny. Feminist commentary about women’s roles in marriage, home and family explored ideas that had previously been seen in books such as The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing and The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Women who chose homemaking were also shortchanged in other ways, such as by unequal treatment under Social Security.

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Napikoski, Linda. "10 Important Feminist Beliefs." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/important-feminist-beliefs-3529003. Napikoski, Linda. (2021, February 16). 10 Important Feminist Beliefs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/important-feminist-beliefs-3529003 Napikoski, Linda. "10 Important Feminist Beliefs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/important-feminist-beliefs-3529003 (accessed June 4, 2023).