The Women's Movement in America Since 1960
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 Susan Faludi's Backlash (p. 1133) and Paula Kamen's Feminist Fatale (p. 1137) sounded the alarm: Feminism in America is in trouble. Now Davis (Living Alive!, 1980, etc.) offers a calmer, more optimistic historical perspective in which feminism never died but only dispersed and lost momentum for a while. The women's movement is dead, the media proclaimed in the 1980's (a myth perpetrated by the New Right, according to Faludi, and through the fault of older feminists, according to Kamen). Here, Davis offers the facts: that feminism, like other civil- rights movements, has always made progress in waves, between which there have been periods of regression; that, historically, feminism has been hindered by the conflict between ``equality'' feminism and ``a kind of separate-but-equal movement''; that, though the feminist movement became less visible after the defeat of the ERA in the 70's, it in fact dispersed into myriad submovements, including the fight for equality for women of color, the women's health-care movement, the lesbian movement, and so on. Historically, such diversity is not a bad idea, Davis maintains. Factions that clash within one large group, rendering it ineffective (e.g., the conflict within NOW between white middle- class women and women of color), can often make progress separately, banding together in coalitions for individual causes. Such banding, Davis says, is now occurring on a global scale--a movement, along with the younger generation's gradual awakening to feminist issues through abortion rights, date rape, and other personally involving experiences, that may well prove to be even more successful in the upcoming ``third wave.'' In any case, the progress made in the 1970's was phenomenal, and younger feminists have a firmer base from which to crusade for fairer treatment and a more comprehensive awareness of all women's needs. Davis's levelheaded analysis of how and why some feminist efforts succeed and some fail should provide an invaluable source of information and inspiration for many.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-60207-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991


NonfictionDIVIDED WE STAND by Marjorie J. Spruill
by Marjorie J. Spruill