Second Wave Classics: recommended reading


Sexual Politics, Kate Millet (1968)
The Politics of Housework, Pat Mainardi (1970 )
Feminism Old Wave and New Wave, Ellen Dubois (1971)
Why I Want A Wife, Judy Syfers (1971)
The BITCH Manifesto, Jo Freeman (1972)
and many more from the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union Herstory Archive.

The Dialectic of Sex, Chapter One, Shulamith Firestone (1970)
The Personal is the Political, Carol Hahnisch (1970, new introduction 2006)

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14 comments on “Second Wave Classics: recommended reading

  1. Can I add Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch to the list? I prefered her more recent followup, The Whole Woman to this one, but it’s definitely a classic.

  2. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
    Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm by Ann Koedt
    The Woman Identified Woman by Radicalesbians
    The Women’s Liberation Movement by Jo Freeman
    Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich
    Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

    It’s difficult since the definition of 2nd wave is so ambiguous. A lot of the definitions I’ve seen specify it as 1960s-70s, and others through the late 1980s. Generally speaking, those who would say that the second wave ended in the late 70s-early 80s classify the work that women of colour were doing (like This Bridge Called My Back, the Combahee River Statement, Sister Outsider) as the beginning of the third wave. But clearly that’s not the same third wave as riot grrrl or Bust magazine.

    Does the wave metaphor even make sense? Definitely not a topic for a feminism 101 blog, but relevant when trying to figure out what counts as class 2nd wave writing.

  3. I think the wave metaphor can make sense, although I agree that the definitions which confine it merely to America in the 1960s-70s are woefully lacking. In fact, I think for the wave metaphor to best make sense it needs to be looked at deliberately as much more than just the Western Feminism movement, because then the waves can be related to by feminists from other parts of the world more clearly.

    I had a go at a brief summary of the waves in the Jargon File:

    first-/second-/third-wave – different periods of feminist activism with different priorities. An Anglo-Americocentric description of feminist history, although largely generalisable.
    First wave feminism : the advocacy of basic legal (de jure) equality: suffragists, property inheritance and contractual agency rights. Historically a movement for wives of the propertied classes, but a broader movement today in those countries where women are still denied de jure equality.
    Second wave feminism : working for the implementation/enforcement of de jure equalities but also concerned with de facto (unofficial) inequalities: finding the political in the personal and fighting for changes in long-standing sexist prejudices and traditions – socioeconomic equality not just legal equality, and for more than just the propertied classes.
    Third wave feminism: a challenge to essentialist views of femininity (as biologically reductive) and feminisms (as homogenously directed) combined with an emphasis on the intersectionality of oppressions.

  4. I like the definitions you have there. I think the distinction drawn between the 2nd and 3rd waves is a good one, because there is a real division there in terms of shifting towards theories that included race and class. But I do think most that people associate the 3rd wave with riot grrrl, Bust and Bitch magazines, and writers like Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (Manifesta) – all pretty weak in terms of intersectioinality.

    I think dividing feminism into waves is sometimes useful and sometimes not. I think it is helpful for some of the broad stuff: the big issues and debates of that moment in history. The downside is that it can obscure a lot of the diversity within a specific time period. I find that lots of feminists will refer to the 2nd wave, and they’re really referencing radical feminists. So another way of approaching it might be as theoretical perspectives that cut across specific time periods (and generations), and the developments within those schools of thought.

    Also, I agree with what you’re saying in terms of non-Western feminists. I’m in Canada, and the waves approximate a lot of Canadian developments, but some of the issues and debates are different.

    Anyway, I really enjoy your blog, and I think it’s a great resource!

  5. […] Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog: Sexual Politics, Kate Millet (1968) The Politics of Housework, Pat Mainardi (1970 ) Feminism Old […]

  6. Sisterhood is Powerful edited by Robin Morgan

  7. Great list! Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will.

  8. Woman’s Estate by Juliet Mitchell was basic reading.

  9. What about Ti-Grace Atkinson? I recall reading her works and being blown away… Too Rad for the best seller list..

  10. […] say. How dare they. Kate Millet is invisible to feminists, they spit on her. But she’s at the top of the list! Scholarship Kate, yes, safe and middle class. Hardship paper slippers Kate, nah, too […]

  11. Maybe I missed it… but what about Simone de Beauvoir- A Second Sex? I read it my sophomore year of college, and even though I had already taken some gender studies courses, it had a tremendous impact on me.

  12. Words and Women by Casey Miller and Kate Swift
    well worth a read

  13. This probably belongs in the Third Wave because it was published in 1988, but it’s far and away the most powerful feminist book I’ve ever read:

    ‘The Chalice and the Blade’ by Riane Eisler

    Other favourites of mine from the Second Wave are Mary Daly’s ‘Gyn-ecology’ and an Aussie feminist classic, ‘Damned Whores and God’s Police’ by Anne Summers.

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