Just a few weeks ago, the 19th amendment, which recognized women’s right to vote, celebrated its 91st anniversary . Since that first landmark in the continual struggle for women’s rights, many more successes have been won – as evidenced in everything from the number of women in college to the changing structure of traditional gender roles. Of course there are still many battles to be fought for gender equality, but society has come a long way.
So why is it that contemporary society assigns a negative connotation to the term ‘feminist’? From popular culture to politics, there is the implication that feminism is a dirty word, with a perplexing lack of regard for the many things the women’s movement(s) accomplished.
“Historically, women are the only group that have worked against their own expanding rights,” says Professor Merry Wiesner-Hanks, a gender historian and Chair of the History Department at UW-Milwaukee. “So that we have to think, ‘what is it about greater egalitarianism that is threatening to both men and women?’”
Nearly a century after suffrage, is the women’s movement still thriving in the U.S.? As we begin the conversation, we find no simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, but today, Prof. Wiesner-Hanks offers a historical and global perspective on feminism, and discusses how the struggle for equality continues today.
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