Feminist Visibilty in the Long 1970s

AHA Session 20
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Governor's Square 15 (Sheraton Denver Downtown, Plaza Building Concourse Level)
Natasha Zaretsky, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Natasha Zaretsky, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Session Abstract

The proposed panel explores the intersection of cultural and political representations of women activists, intellectuals, or politicians who have come to stand for feminist politics during the ‘long’ 1970s. The seventies are a decade that has historically been overlooked as an “un-decade”—a time between the aftermath of the turbulent 1960s and the prelude to the Neo-Conservative 1980s. This decade, however, was marked by major social, political, and cultural paradigm shifts in the United States. Feminist movements in particular changed the way many Americans conversed about women’s roles, gender politics, and feminine and feminist identity. With the development of the National Organization of Women (NOW, 1966), the passage of Title IX (1972),  Roe v. Wade (1973), and the establishment of women’s studies programs, publishing houses, women’s health clinics, battered women’s shelters, and daycare centers, feminists altered the discourse about discrimination and second-class citizenship in the United States to include gender equality. Despite such advancements, nevertheless, media portrayals of feminists and their ideas and politics often presented a distorted representation of the 1970s movement. This panel explores three women who made major advancements during this period, but whose image has either been inaccurately historicized or all together overshadowed and forgotten in the historical memory. 

Presenters explore how public figures made feminism, or the effects of a women’s movement, visible and tangible within the United States by putting ideologies associated with feminism’s ‘second wave’ into practice through political and cultural mediums. Our papers range from an exploration of women, such as Patsy Mink, whose political accolades with Title IX left a lasting impact on women, to the creation of politician Shirley Chisholm as a radical feminist icon, and beyond to television writer Ann Marcus’ feminist influence on the writing and content of popular television shows. Through the use of an intersectional lens, we examine the impact public figures have had on popular perceptions of feminism and its different meanings, public debates concerning women’s rights, and the presumed race and class implications of feminism. Together, these papers examine the process related to the historical production, and oftentimes historical overshadowing, of these figures as liberated role models—both actual and fictional. The goal of this panel is to elicit conversations about 1970s feminism and the need to revisit the decade, the movement, and its participants to get a better idea of how everyday people came to see and understand gender differently.

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