Through the years, women have had to fighthard to overcome the problems they have faced. Women, historically, have been treated by society as unequal to men. Equalityis one of the main problems that women have fought against. While equality with men has not completelybeen achieved yet, women have made great progress and have broken many barriersholding them back.
Women have had to workhard for what they have gained over the years and they are still fighting forwhat they deserve. It wasn’t just theproblems themselves that they had to fight against it, was the images thatwomen were given that they also had to overcome. Some of the roles women were given in societywere played up by media. Throughout history, women have faced problems such asgaining the right to vote, being respected in the workforce, and earning equalrights to men. Women have played manydifferent roles and portrayed many different images in the eyes of media and society,but over time, they have worked hard to overcome those traditional views andform a new respected image. Over the years most of the problems thatwomen have faced come from the inequality they had with men. In the book Diversity in U.S Mass Media, the author states that “Over the past80 years, women, though comprising more than half of the population invirtually any given year, have had to fight for equal rights with men in termsof voting, pay, employment opportunity, leadership opportunity and more.
” (Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p. 154). Women’s desire for equal rights led to thecreation of the feminist movement. Accordingto Webster’s Dictionary, Feminism is defined as “an organized activity onbehalf of women’s rights and interest and the theory of the political,economic, and social equality of the sexes” (Definition of FEMINISM, 2017). Although women didn’t get all the rights theydeserved at the same time, they did not give up until they got what theywanted. As the years passed, women began more movements and continued the fightfor equality. The movements they formedhappened at various points in history referred to as feminist waves.
Each of these waves ended with success insome form, but not long after each success, a new movement would begin. The first wave feminist movement started inthe late 1800s and continued well into the 1920s. The height of the first wave came in themiddle of the fight for women’s right to vote also known as the women’ssuffrage movement (Luther, Lepre and Clark, 2012 p. 154). Gaining the right to vote entered the mindsof women long before the turn of the twentieth century.
In the article Women’s Suffrage: The Movement by John Hanson, it was said that”The beginning of the struggle for woman’s suffrage in the United States isusually traced to “The Declaration of Sentiments” produced in 1848 at the firstwoman’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, N. Y.” (Hanson, 2011). Hanson continues with stating what thedeclaration says, “that all men and women are created equal, that they areendowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these arelife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
” (Hanson, 2011). The women of thistime believed wholeheartedly in that statement and they were going to see itthrough. The 1948 convention was just the start of thebattle for the right of women to vote. After the convention, many of the womenwere looked at differently by society. Most men and even some women argued againstthis movement, but that didn’t stop the feminist of that time such as ElizabethCady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony from continuing the fight (“The Nineteenth Amendment”, 2016). Moving into the startof the civil war, the women’s suffrage movement lost momentum and began to slowdown. The movement was still alive, but women had much more to worry about and withtheir husbands being gone in war time.
It wasn’t until after the civil war andthe addition of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments that thefirst wave feminist movement was back in full swing. When the men returned homefrom war they could see that the women have changed, in the way they took chargeat home and became more independent (Hanson, 2011). In the article The Nineteenth Amendment the author states,”In 1866, the year following the war, as thenation was grappling with the passage and ratification of the ThirteenthAmendment, which ended slavery, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton,two leading advocates for female rights and equality, formed the American EqualRights Association (AERA) to push for additional rights not just for women butfor freed slaves.” (“The Nineteenth Amendment”, 2016). The formation of theassociation showed that women were not just concerned for the rights of womenbut the rights of all humans. This was a huge step in the right direction, bygiving people something to belong to, this the motivation that pushed thesemovements forward.
Women moved forward in the fight for the rightto vote, with court cases and applies but the majority of them got denied inthe process. These women wanted their voices to be heard, some of their effortsincluded rallies, protest, and lobbing within congress. Some women thatparticipated in these protests were taken to jail because of their efforts. Inthe book, “The 51% Minority” theauthor Lis Wiehl says “One of the movement’s leaders, Alice Paul, went on ahunger strike in jail, and the tied her down and force-fed her three times aday for three weeks.” (Wiehl, 2007 p.xiv). This isjust one of the many ways that women used their bodies and actions to catch theattention of the government, media, and citizens of the United States. Many oftheir efforts went unacknowledged by congress.
The Article “The Womens Suffrage Movement” states that,”In 1878, a constitutional amendment was proposed that provided “The right ofcitizens to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State onaccount of sex.” This same amendment would be introduced in every session ofCongress for the next 41 years” (Hanson, 2011). Each time the amendment wasintroduced it failed to make it through completion as a federal law. In thecourse of the 41 years some states did legalize the right for women to vote instate and local elections. The first state to agree to the women’s right tovote was Wyoming (Hanson, 2011). Wyoming agreed to let women vote in the year1869 but Wyoming was not recognized as a state until the year 1890, and at thatpoint it was the first and only state with full women’s suffrage (“TheNineteenth Amendment”, 2010).
The yearsfollowing several more states would give women the right to vote such as Utah,Colorado, Kansas, Indiana and many more (Hanson, 2011). Gaining the right to vote in these states, wasthe biggest achievement for these women so far. It just showed them that ifthey keep working hard and pushing, they will eventually get what they want.What they wanted was the right for all women to vote in the United States. In January of 1918 the UnitedStates House of Representatives passed the Nineteenth Amendment, only for it tofail in the Senate September of that same year (“The Nineteenth Amendment,2010). That was not the end of the fight, the following year the amendmentwould be passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
On August 10, 1920 the nineteenth amendmentdeclaring that women had the right to vote was ratified and became part of theConstitution of the United States (Braden, 1996 p.19). Women now had the rightto vote for federal, state, and local elections in each state. Women hadfinally won the battle they have been fighting against for years.
Thededication and determination of the women is what led to the success of theamendment. Women became one step closer to their dream of equality. Feminist would continue thefight of equality with men in the second wave feminist movement. The secondwave feminist movement focused on women entering the workplace and women’srights with family and sexuality (Luther, Lepre and Clark, 2012 p.
154-155). Thebook “The 51% minority” says “womenin the workplace were frowned upon, as they would be taking a job that might goto a husband or father” (Wiehl, 2007 p.xv). There were times when women werelooked down upon if they had a job.
Many of these women were told by theirhusbands they were not allowed to have jobs. Women that did have jobs, workedin less physically demanding jobs such as nursing, teaching or inside an office.It wasn’t until World War II that most women had been given the opportunity towork. During the war men were draftedand had to leave home to fight for our country. Women were asked to step up andtake on roles that the men had left behind.
They were asked to work in jobsthat women have never had the opportunity to work in before. A lot of the jobsthat women were asked to take on were physically demanding. The author of thebook “The 51% Minority” said “Womencould help win the war by working, and six million Rosie the Riveters went intothe workforce” (Wiehl, 2007 p.
xv). Rosie the Riveter was an inspirationalcharacter for women in advertisements, she gave women motivation to join theworkforce during war time. Rosie became an image woman could relate to, theygained courage and strength, and the ability to believe in themselves.
Women wentto work, they enjoyed it, and they gained the feeling they were needed and appreciated. When the war was over, sowas the need and appreciation for women in these positions. Men came home tofind the women they had left behind working hard to take care of their family. Menwere not happy to see many of their jobs being preformed by women. The men thatcame home from war, viewed women as incapable of preforming these physicallydemanding jobs as well as they could. Lis Wiehl states in her book “The 51% Minority” that “When the boyscame marching home, the girls were expected to move out of the way” (Wiehl,2007 p.xv).
Many women were force out of work and made to go back home. Wiehlgoes on to say, “Though 98 percent of women polled at the time said they wouldlike to use the skills they had acquired and continue working, one out of everyfour lost her factory job.” (Wiehl, 2007 p.xvi). Women wouldn’t take no for ananswer, they liked being out of the house, working and feeling useful insociety. Throughout the 1950s women would struggle getting hired in positions becauseof their gender, companies would much rather hire a man over a woman. Many ofthese companies preferred men over women when hiring, because they felt thatmen were better equipped for physical labor. Women were being discriminated againstin the workplace, because of their gender.
Second wave feminist worked alongsideof civil rights activist to fight for equality in the workforce. Along withwomen, African Americans were not given the same opportunities in the workplaceas white men. Once again because of looks someone wouldn’t be considered foremployment.
Through the success of the Civil Rights Movement women and AfricanAmericans would become one step closer to equality. In the book Challenge & Change the author says,”A great step toward receiving equal rights for women came with the passage ofTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination onthe basis of sex.” (Benowitz, 2015 p.235).
Title VII also ruled against thediscrimination of race, color, religion, and national origin in employment(Wiehl, 2007 p.xvi). Women finally achieved yet another milestone in the fightfor equality. Women proved themselves, increasingly women would enter theworkforce. The fight for equality to men has still not been won entirely, butwomen have come a long way on this journey of equality and fair treatment. Throughout these year’s in history, womenhave been viewed in several ways such as homemakers that years later make atransition into career women.
Theseviews were not only the view of society but the depiction of women throughoutmultiple media platforms. For much ofAmerican history, women were primarily viewed as homemakers and housewives. The role of a homemaker is to keep the housein order, make sure that all the cooking and cleaning gets done. Majority of these women that were consideredhomemakers were married and had children. Society thought women were worthless outside of being a housewife andthat women needed the guidance and protection of a man (Busby and Leichty,1993).
Society also thought that men should be the bread winners and head ofthe household, thus leaving women powerless. Images of women in the home overtookmagazines, advertisements, newspapers, television, and films. This image ofwomen lasted from the end of the 1800’s to the mid 1900’s.
Magazines in early years kept the idea ofhomemakers alive by giving women the idea that they had to be perfect (Luther, Lepre and Clark, 2012 p.185). The idea of being perfect kept womeninterested in reading the magazines. Inthe book Diversity in U.
S. Mass Media theauthor states, “The magazines they read in the early 1900s included informationon how to keep a better home, how to behave and look like a lady, how best tocare for your husband and children, and how to cook to please your family.”(Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.185). During this time these were the kind ofstory’s women wanted to read because it was the only thing they knew. As statedby the authors of the article Feminismand Advertising in Traditional and Nontraditional Women’s Magazines 1950s-1980s,advertising in magazines before the 1970 pictured women at home with aprons oncooking or cleaning (Busby and Leichty, 1993).
This just enhanced thestereotype that women were made to be housewives. The image of women was nodifferent in newspapers, but the representation of women journalist was evenworse. According to Maria Braden the Author of Women Politics and the Media if women were journalist they rarelycovered anything outside of the women’s pages (Braden,1996 p.12). The women’s pages covered topics about the home and thingswomen cared about. Because women were writing the material things they caredabout mostly got posted in these pages.
Braden goes on to say that women wouldnot get to cover material outside of the women’s pages until World War II, andafter the war women were sent back to their old jobs or worse they were sentback to tend to the home (Braden, 1996 p.12-13). Women journalist had a toughtime getting to cover material that was considered outside of their field ofknowledge. Continuing this idea ofwomen being housewives, the new electronic media of television, radio, and filmalso contributed to this perception of women.
In entertainment television womenstill fell into gender stereotypical rolls and were greatly underrepresented(Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.163). Womencouldn’t escape this reputation in media. Electronic media made therepresentation of women more visual, in the sense that you could see it playedout on screen. In the book The 51%Minority author, Lis Weihl says “early television shows pushed an image offamily togetherness in which the male ruled supreme and the woman, in herstarched apron was intended to find her fulfillment by concentrating on thechildren and the nest, to the exclusion of all else.” (Weihl, 2007 p.xv). Womenin television and film were important to the storyline but, they had specificroles to play and never ventured outside of the stereotypical role.
Examples ofthis can be seen in shows such as LeaveIt to Beaver and I Love Lucy (Luther,Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.163). Television and film would continue to show womenin the home for many years.
The image of women throughoutmedia wouldn’t change until the 1960s. Women would make the transition from ahappy housewife to a successful working career woman. The change of this imagestarted shortly after women gained equal entry into the workplace. The changewas monumental because women themselves were the reason their imaged changed.They went from only working in the home to working in society and havingsuccessful jobs. Women changed the way they wanted to be viewed in society by changingthemselves and taking on new roles, and it reflected throughout media.
Womenwanted to be represented as they were in real life, hardworking and successful.Women as career women would become more prevalent in television and film beforeany other types of media. The authors of Diversityin U.
S. Mass Media say, “The single, working woman began making anappearance on television in the late 1960s and 1970s” (Luther, Lepre, andClark, 2012 p.164). This was a big change in the way media portrayed women,they were shown to now have a life outside of the home. Television shows nowshowed women going to work each day and coming home to take care of theirfamilies.
One of the best ways this was depicted, was in the show Julia, she was a single working mom justtrying to support her family (Luther, Lepre, and Clark, 2012 p.164). Printmedia was slow to transition into this idea of the career women. Print mediawouldn’t start depicting women as more than a housewife until the late 1970sand 1980s (Senat, 2004 p.74). In fact, before the change in media women werenot pictured as “women” but rather as “girls”, but when more women becamejournalist they saw a need to change the image of women and they did (Senat,2004).
The image of career women in media is still prevalent in todays media.Women are depicted as smart, educated, powerful, and successful in their jobs. Throughout historywomen played many roles in changing the way they were represented in societyand media. Women faced many problems such as gaining the right to vote, respectin the workplace, and equality with men. With hard work and determination womensucceeded in overcoming these problems and the stereotypes that women were labeledwith.
Women are still working hard to brake the molds that society and media triesto put them in.