To what extent do you think the gender movement of the 1960s encompassed more than the rights of women?To what extent do you think the gender movement of the 1960s encompassed more than the rights...

To what extent do you think the gender movement of the 1960s encompassed more than the rights of women?

To what extent do you think the gender movement of the 1960s encompassed more than the rights of women?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the Women's Rights Movement of the 1960s began, other important and impactful things were happening as well. This time is known as the counterculture of the 1960s. From a sociological standpoint, "counterculture" is defined as behavioral norms...

...of a cultural group or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day.

Change was seen more in the United States and England, but also spread to other parts of the world as well; the lines of separation were generational in nature, rather than political or religious. The Vietnam War divided the nation—a generation of older Americans believed in making the ultimate sacrifice during war time, as had been seen in World War II and the Korean War, as did many young people. However, much of the "sixties generation" did not agree with military conflict, especially in a place so far removed from the U.S. The threat of communism did not motivate many younger Americans as had been seen, for example, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which brought the U.S. into the second world war.

Other issues also came to the front of social change, including:

...race relations, sexual mores, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the the American Dream.

Whereas your question asks how the Women's Rights Movement impacted more than the rights of women, I believe that the Women's Rights Movement was driven by other, larger social issues. What fragmented society enough to allow these specific groups (women, blacks, etc.) to gain momentum was the division that the Vietnam War caused. Within this rift, the questioning of the actions and decisions of those in authority gave birth to the belief that all groups could and should question that authority with regard to a group's specific concerns. In retrospect, it is easy to see that women would have wanted to find jobs in the work force, rather than only being accepted in the role of housewife. The black community had also been long subjugated, and while a promise of equality was made in the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks were not only still treated as second-class citizens, but were being brutalized and murdered in the country in which their forefathers had lived for hundreds of years.

The counterculture movement of the time included the American Civil Rights Movement, the 1964 Free Speech Movement, social activism, the Anti-War Movement, feminism (beginning in 1963), environmentalism, the Stonewall Riots (which defined the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement), and the sexual revolution. The hippie (or "flower children") movement embraced many of these other movements—preaching free speech, peace, loving the environment, etc.—and drove much of the thinking of the "younger generation." Music changed dramatically, as well as art and film, clothing and hair styles, drug use; the country saw other changing social attitudes, too, such as communal living.

Eventually, hippies grew older, changing their lifestyles and their views. When the Vietnam War ended (for America) in 1975, the counterculture once again became a part of society as a whole...

...leaving a lasting impact on philosophy, morality, music, art, alternative health and diet, lifestyle and fashion.

I see the Women's Rights Movement more of a result of the Vietnam War than a catalyst for change in other areas of society in the 1960s.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because you characterize this as the "gender movement" I would think that issues of sexual orientation and what it means to be a "man" or a "woman" in America would be included in this movement.  Social scientists tend to talk about gender as something that is separate from sex.  Sex is a biological fact while gender is a set of social constructs that are made up around what it means to be a member of a given sex.

If we are looking at the movement in this way, then the gay rights movement is part of this gender movement.  There was a movement during the '60s (highlighted by the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969) that was focused on making it acceptable for people to be homosexual.  This was meant in part to change the social construction of gender from one that emphasized heterosexuality as a necessary part of being male or female.

One can also think about a distinction between women's rights and the rights of women to decide what it meant to be female.  Women's rights refers to legal issues.  It refers to women's ability to own property or to control their own bodies.  It refers to protecting women from discrimination based on their sex.  However, the gender movement went beyond this to focus on changing attitudes about what it meant to be female.  During the '60s, there was a move away (for example) from the idea that submissiveness was part of what it meant to be female.  There was a move away from the idea to be female meant that a woman would naturally want to be a housewife and mother.  This is a part of the gender movement that is not focused on rights.

To some extent, then, the gender movement of the '60s was focused on more than just women's rights.  It was also focused on other issues of gender such as gay rights and redefining what it meant to be a woman in the United States.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both of the previous responses were highly stellar.  I would say that one other reason why the women's rights movement of the 1960s encompassed more than the rights of women is because of the inspiration it set to other movement that followed.  The women's rights movement set the template for other successful rights based movements in that it segmented the emergence of change into different phases.  Social activism in the 1960s and 1970s set the stage for economic empowerment in 1980s and political leadership in the 1990s and beyond.  Other movements such as those for gay/ lesbian/ transgendered individuals or those centered on rights for Latinos have followed this same phase and incremental notions of the good.  In this, the women's rights movement encompassed more than the rights of women in that it helped to articulate a plan as to how all groups seeking to move from margin to center can embrace change in a realistic and progressive manner.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Previous posts have said it very well. The impact of what you are calling "the gender movement of the 1960s" went far beyond changing the relationship between society and women. Expectations were challenged in the areas of sex, race, religious beliefs, political outlooks - all the intellectual and emotional and philosophical areas that make human beings unique among living creatures and different from each other.

The struggle to redefine roles that were first upset in the 1960s continues today - witness the anguish and debate over same-sex marriage. Perhaps that's the most far-reaching way of looking at the 1960s movement - realizing that the roles of various groups of individuals began to be reexamined in that time, and the debate hasn't stopped since!

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Prior to the women's rights movement, everything was couched in masculine terms. As a child in school I was taught that if one did not know the gender of a person or if one were speaking of a person as representative of a group, one should always use the masculine gender. The Women's rights movement was a substantial assault on this stereotype. When the image of everything being masculine was challenged, other distinctions including race, sexual orientation, etc. were also challenged. The women's rights movement in essence was the first strike in the effort to create a cosmopolitan society which accepts differences and diversity as opposed to uniformity.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly, the women's movement spilled over into other areas and influenced new movements as mentioned in previous posts.  In addition, the women's movement and women's rights have altered what was the typical family with the man as the main breadwinner and head of the household. According to the New York Times now show that in the downturn of the U.S. economy, women may surpass men in the workforce.  And, many women earn more than their husbands.  In fact, some husbands remain home to care for the children while their wives work as the wives can compete more easily in the job market, especially if the husband is not a minority.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the political conversation may have been about "rights" the coffee shop conversation was about women in every other aspect of their lives -- jobs, education, working outside the home, sexual freedom, birth control, abortion.  Women were redefining what they expected and wanted for themselves and then considering how those things fit into a greater vision of life in the world they lived in.  Once women asserted their freedom in one area of their lives, the mental process spilled over into other areas of life.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Women's rights movements in American history have always, to some degree, been allied with other civil rights movements, most notably those involving abolition and later equal rights for African-Americans. Because women's rights of course involved the entire gender, this crossed over lines of race and ethnicity, and therefore the movement also encompassed the rights of minorities as well.
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
As women's rights were evaluated and reinvented, men also had to consider their own roles. Since men and women have always complemented each other and coexisted, redefinition of one role means examination of and reinvention of the other. If women no longer need to obey men or take advice from them, men need to reconsider how they treat women.
thewanderlust878 | Student

These are all fantastic answers to a great question. I personally agree with most of these in the fact that it was a "gender" movement, and not just say, a women's rights movement. During that time many people started change in people's viewpoints of others, including their sexual orientation, what sex they wanted to be perceived as, and the like. It really was a huge step towards gender equality.