Hard Times for the Women’s Movement

Hard Times for the Women’s Movement

In the era of Reagan the women’s movement has lost its center. Social activism of all kinds is retreating, and feminism is no exception.

The National Organization for Women (NOW), during the post-ERA presidency of Judy Goldsmith, suffered substantial losses in its membership and treasury. A recently renewed militancy strains to reverse this decline by emphasizing two “big issues” from the 1970s: abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Eleanor Smeal, newly reelected president of NOW, is dedicated to “raising hell” as well as consciousness. NOW organized a major demonstration in Washington last March (estimates ranged from 80,000 to 120,000) in behalf of legalized abortion. NOW’s leaders insist that the right to an abortion is central to women’s freedom. Although feminist rhetoric has shifted substantially since the 1960s, from “population control” to “abortion on demand” to “a woman’s right to control her own body” or “pro-choice,” some underlying moral reservations and questions
of numerous women (many of them feminists) go unanswered.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels