After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism

9780804774376: Hardback
Release Date: 26th February 2019

Dimensions: 140 x 216

Number of Pages: 264

Edition: 1st Edition

Stanford University Press

After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism

Taking Back a Revolution

Hardback / £21.99

It is more than fifty years since Betty Friedan diagnosed malaise among suburban housewives and the National Organization of Women was founded. Across the decades, the feminist movement brought about significant progress on workplace discrimination, reproductive rights, and sexual assault. Yet, the proverbial million-dollar question remains: why is there still so much to be done?

With this book, Lynn S. Chancer takes stock of the American feminist movement and engages with a new burst of feminist activism. She articulates four common causes—advancing political and economic equality, allowing intimate and sexual freedom, ending violence against women, and expanding the cultural representation of women—considering each in turn to assess what has been gained (or not). It is around these shared concerns, Chancer argues, that we can continue to build a vibrant and expansive feminist movement.

After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism takes the long view of the successes and shortcomings of feminism(s). Chancer articulates a broad agenda developed through advancing intersectional concerns about class, race, and sexuality. She advocates ways to reduce the divisiveness that too frequently emphasizes points of disagreement over shared aims. And she offers a vision of individual and social life that does not separate the "personal" from the "political." Ultimately, this book is about not only redressing problems, but also reasserting a future for feminism and its enduring ability to change the world.

Contents and Abstracts
1Taking Stock
chapter abstract

This chapter provides an overview of the book and introduces the argument that commonalities and differences are both needed for a revitalized feminist movement. A review of progress and pitfalls, including ongoing ambivalence about the word feminism, is offered. Four shared causes are suggested: inequalities in the workplace and at schools, personal freedoms and reproductive justice, ending violence against women, and the problem of sexist imagery. These are linked with "partial successes" aimed at reframing these social problems. For instance, achieving gender parities in the political and economic realms, where the United States still lags, will likely require availability of high-quality and affordable daycare for all women. Likewise, stereotypes may not be overcome until women have equal power and control of the culture industries. Finally, the chapter provides brief previews of the volume.

2Debating the "F" Word
chapter abstract

Aiming at identifying a set of reasons for ambivalence still felt by many women (and men) toward the word feminist, this chapter begins by exploring early antifeminist reactions that sought to stigmatize feminists as judgmental and "anti-male." The author argues that judgments also sometimes divided feminists themselves, from the second wave onward. Moreover, problems involving women who pursued careers and those who worked at home may have unwittingly become separated as "mass issues" as the American feminist movement unfolded. Other reasons cited for ambivalence include insufficient attention to race and class differences among women, and the structurally divisive character of gender itself, which often goes unrecognized. The chapter underscores the importance of taking feminist standpoints on social issues rather than judging individuals; such standpoints can inform policy positions so that all women's needs and experiences are constructively encompassed.

3Achieving Political, Economic, and Educational Equalities
chapter abstract

In the public realms of politics, the economy, and education, women have made great progress but have not yet achieved equal participation (or gender parity) with men. By some statistical measures, American women's political participation lags behind many other countries and has plateaued or worsened. While women now make approximately eighty cents to the dollar of male earnings, reflecting steady gains, complete parity has not been reached here either. Nor have women become equal participants in all academic disciplines, such as the sciences. This chapter suggests that part of the problem in the United States is that contrary to early feminists' intentions, universally affordable and high-quality daycare has not yet been achieved for women across class, racial/ethnic, and other differences. Without this achievement, the author argues, parity will be hard to attain for all women; she calls for renewed feminist attention to this issue.

4Liberating Sexual Choices
chapter abstract

Intimate freedoms—involving reproductive rights and justice, as well as LGBTQ sexual freedoms—still elude achievement for all women, even though important battles involving legalization (of abortion rights in 1973, and of gay marriage in 2015) have been won since the second wave. Yet by several political and ideological criteria, pro-choice advocates are on the defensive as abortion's availability has contracted relative to earlier decades. The LGBTQ movement has recently been able to use rights and equality discourses effectively, though ongoing biases and setbacks have recently occurred also. The author argues that both of these feminist issues—reproductive and sexual freedoms—have been affected by challenges to the constitutional separation of church and state. She suggests that the two movements are best fought for separately and together to maximize collective feminist efficacy on these issues of personal choice.

5Ending Violence against Women—and Men
chapter abstract

As with overall violence in the United States, violence against women diminished in recent decades. However, gender skewing continues as violence is committed disproportionately by men. Feminist approaches to violence against women have been criticized for inadequate insensitivity to intersectional concerns. This chapter suggests that feminists ask why violence against women continues in the first place; the author argues that changing "ordinary" sexist assumptions is needed, as these may exist on the same continuum as "extraordinary" sexist acts and violence. Kindred with C. J. Pascoe's concept, the idea of "compulsory masculinity" is used to denote pressures on young men to act in sexist and heterosexist ways to avoid stigmatization. The chapter advocates renewed attention to both intersectional differences and common sexist ideas as experienced by young men and women at school, in families, and within other social institutions.

6Changing Sexist Imagery
chapter abstract

Huge transformations have occurred in how gender is portrayed in popular culture, from television to films, music, advertising, and news. However, when examining not only changes in gendered contents but forms—that is, whether women hold equal power and control in these industries—the situation is less sanguine. Evidence suggests a tremendous disparity between progress in altering gendered cultural contents and progress in diminishing the male-dominated character of the culture industries overall. What the author calls "looksism," or sexist biases on the basis of looks, is also an ongoing problem for women. Awareness is shifting as feminists in Hollywood, partly inspired by the Me Too movement, call for equal power. This chapter documents the need for "taking back" these male-dominated industries, suggesting that without such change, the gender revolution in culture will remain incomplete.

7Taking Back a Revolution
chapter abstract

The concluding chapter returns to the book's chief arguments for the simultaneous consideration of commonalities and differences, and for bringing together common issues reframed so as to take both dimensions into account. It also returns to the language of the feminist "third wave" to indicate that other renewals of feminism(s) have occurred. But argued here is that the present situation is especially urgent for renewing feminist commitments, some of which may be newly threatened; the author contends that unnecessary divisiveness can be particularly consequential. Most important, the chapter argues for awareness of feminist concerns about taking both emotions and rationality into consideration when approaching the major remaining tasks outlined throughout the volume.

Lynn S. Chancer is Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and Executive Officer of the Ph.D. Program in Sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of four books and numerous articles on everything from gender, race, and class to pornography, prostitution, and beauty.

"Lynn Chancer's advice for completing the feminist revolution is sage, practical, and eminently useful. Feminists young and old will be reinvigorated by this call to battle."

Judith Lorber
author of Breaking the Bowls: Degendering and Feminist Change

"In this sweeping, unflinching account, After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism tackles the paradox of American feminism. Interrogating feminism's own thorny contradictions and challenges, Lynn Chancer offers women a bold and inspiring plan for claiming equality with men—once and for all."

Lisa Wade
author of American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus

"With her characteristic brilliance, Lynn Chancer charts the hard-won victories and persistent obstacles that have marked women's changing status since the rise of second wave feminism. After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism is a tour-de-force diagnosis of contemporary feminism's conundrums and a blueprint for feminists of all stripes to come together to achieve equality."

Kathleen Gerson
author of The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family

"After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism makes a compelling case for how feminists can find common ground from an intersectional perspective to organize for social justice. Impressive and timely, this is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in gender, social movements, and contemporary culture."

Isabel Pinedo, Hunter College

"Lynn Chancer, a lifelong feminist scholar, has the perspective necessary to help us understand where feminism is now, where it came from, and where it could go. Whether you're a newly-minted feminist or an old hand, this book is a fresh read on feminism's promise for full liberation as well as the roadblocks that could stop the revolution in its tracks."

Laurie Essig
author of Love, Inc. Dating Apps, the Big White Wedding, and Chasing the Happily Neverafter

"After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism is an engaging, well written, and accessible map of our feminist past, present, and future. This book should be required reading for everyone interested in gender justice and committed to the full human rights of all women and men."

France Winddance Twine
coeditor of Feminisms and Antiracism: International Struggles for Justice

"Lynn Chancer offers us an alternative to 'leaning in,' one responsive to the needs of diverse groups of women and rooted in intersectional activism. Her insights are a welcome and revitalizing intervention, outlining a bold and practical way forward and a hopeful path toward 'big tent' feminism."

Kerwin Kaye
Wesleyan University

"Lynn Chancer illuminates the commonalities that connect feminists from across the movement. Anyone who has been marginalized because of any aspect of their being—including gender, sexuality, race, class, education, and beyond—will find solace and hope in this book."

Beverly-Xaviera Watkins
NYU College of Global Public Health