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Jeremy L.

Wong
9/25/2016 Reaction Paper #3 Womens Rights
Was the womens rights movement grassroots? Why or why not?
During the readings for this week, we looked at womens rights from varying
perspectives. Although the definition of grassroots is nebulous, its core using people as the
basis for change appears throughout the readings. I think that it would be a disservice to call
the womens rights movement of the 1960s anything but grassroots; the presence of organization
within an activist organization does not disqualify it from being grassroots.
The first article I had the chance to read was by Betty Friedan, and was an extremely
interesting piece. Freidan, as a second-wave feminist, helps to describe the cases behind the
second-wave movements growth in the 1960s and earlier. It mimics and accompanies the
documentary seen in class very well, focusing on the growth and upbringing of the modern
woman in America. Of course, this is with caveats; it shows predominantly middle-class
women that are white, but all the same, both the documentary and Freidans article display
similar tendencies. There is a sense of growth, preparation, and opportunity provided by earlier
first-wave feminists. Women of all ages can and do finish high school and go to college.
However, a sense of ennui pervades, and despite advances made earlier, the place of women in
social strata seemingly remains unchanged. Women go to college, get married, and find a sense
of emptiness in domesticity. Freiden never indicates direct coercion in her article. Again, this is a
far change from a commonlaw era wherein women could be treated as property. However,

independence is tampered by heteronormative ideals of women in the household. Despite


increasing opportunities for growth and self-actualization most notably education the results
are the same.
In Up Against the Wall Miss America, we had the chance to examine pageant culture
and race at the same time. This highly informative piece examined the inherently strange facet
of American life that is the beauty pageant. More than the simple beauty pageant, though,
author Georgia Paige Welch uses the article as a chance to view ongoing womens liberation
movements in tandem with existing movements in America most notably the struggle for civil
rights. Welch frames the response and backlash to the Miss America pageant as a facet of the
social and cultural awakening within black communities. In part, it was Miss White America,
and the creation of the rival Miss Black America pageant exhibits many of the tensions that
were not entirely unrelated. In fact, there are coterminous elements of second-wave feminism
and some schools of Afrocentric thought that existed at the time; notions of solidarity and
cultural nationalism. Ultimately, though, Welch implies that second-wave feminism remained
white and failed to assimilate or cooperate with black liberation and civil rights movements.
Despite similar goals and circumstances, Welch, by showing the two competing responses (the
Miss Black America pageant and the protests at the Miss America pageant) indicates that the
movements remained separate. She does, however, indicate that although the grassroots
structures of the two resulted in differentiated missions (there was no single leader to order
integration between the groups) that individuals within both movements started their own sub-

campaigns that would often affect issues of the other most notable, women of color that fought
in favor of feminism.
Alix Kates Shulman wrote