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Backlash and Feminism

What Is the Backlash Against Feminism?

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Abortion Protest March

Photograph from an abortion protest march in New York City, 1977.

Peter Keegan / Getty Images

There is often perceived to be a backlash against feminism in U.S. politics and public media.

Politics

After the great successes of the women’s liberation movement, a backlash against the “second wave” of feminism began during the 1970s. Social historians and feminist theorists see the beginning of the political backlash against feminism in several different events:

  • The volatile political climate surrounding the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
  • The anti-feminist groups who attacked the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision
  • The election of Ronald Reagan
  • The rise of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority organization

Media

There is also a backlash against feminism found in the media:

  • In declarations that feminism is dead
  • In the description of the 1980s and beyond as “post-feminist”
  • In the narrative that treats feminism as a movement of the past rather than a still evolving force
  • In the accepted use of stereotypes of feminist women, and of women in general

Feminists point out that in the late 1800s and early 1900s, powerful voices also tried to sweep “first wave” feminism out of the public’s awareness.

The Susan Faludi Book

Susan Faludi’s book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women was published in 1991. It debunks the prevailing narrative that women are now fully equal and unhappy because of it. She argues instead that women have not yet achieved equality, and the pressure to stop the fight for equality is what makes women unhappy.

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