Second-wave feminism

period of feminist activity and thought that first began in the early 1960s in the United States

Second-wave feminism started in the 1960s in the United States. It lasted for roughly two decades. During first-wave feminism, women wanted to get the right to vote in elections and to be treated equally to men when it comes to owning and inheriting property. Second-wave feminism focused more on issues of sexuality (sex education, contraception, abortion, family planning) and violence directed against women (domestic violence, rape, and women's shelters). In many countries, there were also changes to the laws about divorce.[1]

It was a reaction to women returning to their roles as housewives and mothers after the end of the Second World War. The men that had to leave the workforce to join the defence forces had returned and women were fired from their positions and replaced by men. This movement was initially concentrated in the United States of America and then spread to other Western countries. This movement was triggered by the publishing of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, a renowned feminist text credited for daring to break social conventions about the portrayal of women. Friedan was inspired by Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex, first published in Paris in 1949.[2]

In the 1980s, there were disputes among different feminist groups (known as feminist sex wars), over issues of sexuality and pornography. These disputes started the "third-wave feminism" in the early 1990s.


  1. "Second-wave feminism (article)". Khan Academy. Retrieved 2021-10-04.
  2. Grady, Constance (2018-03-20). "The waves of feminism, and why people keep fighting over them, explained". Vox. Retrieved 2021-10-04.