Fighting with the Sky

We All Need a Little History

Posted on: August 7, 2009

There is a common belief among feminists today (the Third Wave, I dare say), that the women’s movement of the 70s was a monolithic entity that was solely for white women. The “second wave” of feminism is often critiqued for this fact, among others. It should also be pointed out that many people have this same belief about feminism today. But feminism today is certainly NOT monolithic.

But this is not necessarily the case. The view that feminists today have of “the” women’s movement of the 70s is more to serve themselves than an accurate view of what feminism is the 70s was like. While there are certainly things that feminism in the 70s can be criticized for, it wasn’t this monolithic entity that it is perceived to be.

And no one points this out better than Ruth Rosen in her book The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. I read this book for my feminist theory class my senior year of college. It’s a great history of “the” women’s movement and how “the” women’s movement still affects the world today. From the back cover of the book:

Rosen’s fresh look at the recent past reveals that feminists never burned their bras but were haunted by aprons; that black women supported the movement more than their white counterparts; and that the FBI hired hundreds of women to inflitrate the movement. Using extensive archival research and interviews, Rosen challenges readers to understand the impact of the women’s movement and why the revolution is far from over.


I am firm believer in the old adage that you need to know where you have been to know where you are going. I think it is important for feminists today to fully understand how the movement has progressed to get us where we are today and to where we want to go in the future. We have to know what techniques have worked in the past and how we can modify those techniques to work today.

Rosen’s book is a great look at the women’s movement from the 1960s to the present. If you are interested in the history of the women’s movement, it is a must read. But even if you are a feminist activist but don’t have a specific interest in history, it is still a worth while read because it helps us look at how we got to where we are today and where we want to go in the future.

How does history factor into your view and practice of feminism?

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2 Responses to "We All Need a Little History"

Love it! I think it's being covered for 50 BPT at some point too – I'll be sure to link this 🙂

Thanks for the tip. The World Split Open is now on my must-read list.

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