Chapter 2

Surf ’s up: Surfing the Second Wave

RTN is a product of the Second Wave WLM. For any modern feminist activist today, or any young person interested in women’s rights, this period of time is our most recent history. It is from this peak of feminism that we have inherited many of the laws, policies, ideas and support services which we take for granted today. It was this period of feminism which most recently changed our world. Yet many activists today do not really know much about this upsurge of feminism and often what they do hear about it is biased and incorrect. To try and correct this situation, it is worth going back to the beginning and outlining just how the Second Wave began here in the UK and look at some of its main features. In this chapter then, I will firstly explain the wave narrative, I will then chart how the Second Wave began across the Western world firstly in the US and what influences lay behind that emergence. This chapter will introduce some of the classic feminist texts of this period, such as Juliet Mitchell’s 1966 article ‘Women: The Longest Revolution’, and Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique. Early protests will also be covered such as the dramatic demonstrations at the Miss World Pageant in London in 1969 and the foundational conference held in 1970 at Ruskin College in Oxford. The tradition of consciousness raising or CR will be explained and contextualised and the birth of famous feminist magazines and periodicals noted, such as Spare Rib.

Back to the beginnings

RTN emerged in the UK at the height of the Second Wave WLM. The protest is just one of the many and lasting fruits of that phase of feminism. That phase was an upsurge that actually built on a much older history of course, dating back to the First Wave of feminism, to the work of the well-known Suffragettes. Most people have learnt about the Suffragette campaigns and their valiant direct action to secure the right to vote, which they eventually won in Britain for women on equal terms with men in 1928. The Suffragettes were also involved in other important campaigns though, which are far less known or publicised. They campaigned against rape within marriage for example, for fair divorce and custody laws, to raise the age of consent – which was eventually raised from 13 years old to 16 years old in 1885 – for equal education for women and also against prostitution and the prostitution of children. Many of these same campaigns were taken up again by feminists during the Second Wave from the late 1960s.

This does not mean however that this kind of feminist activism died out between these waves; indeed, many scholars have pointed out that the metaphor of a wave is perhaps misleading precisely because it obscures all the activism that was going on prior to, between and after these so-called waves. We can think of the wave descriptor as a handy and popular shorthand to refer to recognised peaks in the movement, but we must also acknowledge that this is a distinctly Western chronological measurement and that feminism certainly did not die out and rise up again in such a simplistic and linear way. Also, in other parts of the world, the progress of feminism followed a different timeline, with the 1980s for example being seen as a peak time, while here in the UK this was a decade often bemoaned by activists who felt feminism was beginning to decline. However we measure that past, in waves or peaks and troughs, all of the work that activists are doing today is influenced by what went prior and the same was true for our sisters before us, just as what we do now will, for better or worse, inspire the feminism that comes after us.

To chart where our own current resurgence comes from then, it is necessary to return to the roots of the Second Wave in the late 1960s. This was a period marked by uprisings; the WLM was just one in many of what were called New Left movements. Across Europe, in France, Italy and Germany during the 1960s, revolutionary movements, often led by students, were enjoying huge popularity. Further away, in China, Cuba and with the resistance in Vietnam, Communism was also providing inspiration to activists interested in alternatives to Western capitalism and was adding to the general revolutionary fervour that exploded across industrialised democracies following the post-war 1950s. Out of this political melting pot came the Black Power movements from the US for example, and the Civil Rights Movement and global, organised peace movements mobilised against the US war in Vietnam. This bloody war lasted from 1955 to 1975, and it was waged between the Communist North Vietnam and anti-Communist South Vietnam, the latter being supported by anti-Communist states including America. There was a huge resistance to American involvement in this war; many anti-war and pacifist organisations grew out of that resistance and many women were involved in such movements, not just in the US but across Europe too, including the UK. In fact, it was American women who had been active against the Vietnam War who were involved in founding some of the first women’s liberation groups in London during the beginnings of the UK Second Wave – as I shall explain later.

Sisters across the pond

It is generally recognised that the Second Wave in the UK was influenced by the slightly earlier emergence of the WLM in America. The women who were part of those beginnings in the US did not come from nowhere, many of them already had political experience and a track record of activist involvement in the New Left movements of the time, which inspired and equipped them with the practical and theoretical knowledge needed to organise politically. Several histories of the Second Wave, such as David Bouchier’s 1983 comparison of British and American feminism, identify anti-racism and anti-war activism for example as fertile grounds for the new manifestation of the Women’s Movement to emerge. Specifically, it was often women’s experiences of sexism in such New Left movements that led to them identifying a need for their own spaces, indeed, for a movement of their own. Records show that women in the new social movements of the time were sometimes blocked, even ridiculed and harassed by predominantly male leaderships when they tried to raise women’s issues. Legend has it that this was why women then had to demand their own liberation within the liberation movements they were part of, hence the development of the term ‘women’s liberation’.

Bouchier (1983) reports that the first usage of the term itself, ‘women’s liberation’, actually came from women in an influential 1960s, interracial student organisation called the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee or SNCC. This was a movement known for campaigning against racial segregation in the Southern states of America. As early as 1964, women in the SNCC in Chicago were meeting together separately to discuss their unease at the way that they and women’s issues generally were being sidelined. Throughout the male-led New Left in fact, it was all too common for women activists to be expected to take on subordinate roles. In a 1968 memoir, two American activists called Beverley Jones and Judith Brown actually refer to the women activist’s role at that time as a ‘secretarial tour of duty for the movement’ ([1968]2000:44).

Jones and Brown also recall women in another group, an international student group called Students for a Democratic Society or SDS, being shouted off stages by male colleagues when trying to speak about women’s issues, and being told by male activists that they were not suited to leadership positions. These problems eventually came to a head in 1967 at the US National Conference on New Politics in Chicago, where women again found themselves silenced by a male leadership blocking women’s issues from the agenda. Historian of the US WLM, Jo Freeman, herself a feminist activist, reported that at this conference, one woman delegate who protested at the situation was told by a male chairman to ‘cool down little girl, we have more important things to talk about than women’s liberation’ (Freeman, 1975:60). He clearly did not know who he was dealing with, this nameless male chair, as the delegate in question was Shulamith Firestone, an activist who was to go on to write one of the key radical feminist texts of the Second Wave with her 1970 publication The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution.

Against this backdrop of sexism and marginalisation, women in the New Left movements of the US gradually began organising politically themselves, separately from men, from around the mid-1960s onwards. Also by this point, quite early on, a liberal feminist organisation called NOW, the National Organisation for Women, had already been founded by author Betty Friedan. This organisation grew out of women’s dissatisfaction with slow progress at the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women, where Friedan and other delegates met to decide what could be done to move faster on women’s rights. Freidan was already well known; she had published her groundbreaking bestseller The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Her book spoke to the disenchantment of the female half of middle-class, White America in the 1950s, a period which saw many women benefitting from higher education, only to be expected to spend their lives as wives and mothers supporting their husbands to progress in their own careers. While nobody, let alone Friedan, was suggesting that this was in any way a lesser or demeaning option for women, feminists were arguing that all women should have the choice between the home and a career, and, perhaps more importantly, should also be facilitated financially and culturally to do both if they so wished. This message resonated at the time with educated women who had found themselves isolated in the home, women who often blamed themselves for any boredom, loneliness, illness or insecurity that they experienced, with many turning to individual therapy and medication as a cure. Friedan shed light on the minutiae of their lives, noting poignantly that as these women were busy making peanut butter and jam sandwiches, dropping their children off at school and ironing their husband’s shirts, they were all asking themselves the same question – is this all? The book is credited with paving the way for a broader, mainstream and sympathetic reception for the emerging Women’s Movement of the period.

NOW was not the only group to form at this time. Several women’s liberation groups emerged with radical aims and less hierarchical, less formal organised structures than NOW; most were also women-only, which NOW was not. While NOW was formally mixed, men were apparently largely members on paper only and they never took leadership positions in the organisation. The new feminist groups that emerged however were explicitly women-only, and they also began to develop theories of political autonomy, separatism, political lesbianism and self-organisation for the Women’s Movement; ideas which would go on to be hugely influential and be picked up by feminists in the UK too. These were pioneering groups such as The Feminists in New York founded in 1968, The Furies in Washington DC, the Redstockings also in New York and the New York Radical Women, which had been founded by Shulamith Firestone and another activist called Pat Allen in 1967. Later I will look in further detail at some of the feminist theory around separatism, so it is important at this stage to clear up right away a common misunderstanding between separatism and political autonomy. For readers less familiar with the history of Second Wave feminism, I will also discuss exactly what political lesbianism was and what it means – and no, it did not mean that everybody had to be a lesbian in order to be a feminist or in order to be a good or proper feminist (whatever that is).

Firstly, to clear up the misunderstandings about separatism then, it is important to note a clear distinction between political autonomy and separatism. The former – political autonomy – refers to political self-organisation for any oppressed group, on their own in their own spaces, be it women, Black people, disabled people or lesbian and gay people for example. Self-organisation is widely considered by most social justice movements as a political right and it is an important, powerful and tested political tactic. So, in the case of feminism, political autonomy or self-organisation refers to women-only political organising. Separatism on the other hand, refers to a full-time political choice to live and build a domestic, activist, cultural and social life in and with women-only communities, avoiding wherever possible any interactions with men.

Autonomous, women-only political organising is not the same as separatism. Autonomous organising usually refers to temporary political or cultural spaces, which are not necessarily created in exclusion of participation in mixed spaces, domestically, politically or socially. In other words, women-only groups might be just one of many groups that feminists belong to. Feminist activists are usually involved in numerous political causes, most of which will be mixed, which means that feminists will, and do, work alongside men; including in the Feminist Movement, which today is by no means a women-only movement overall. Being part of a women’s group today, for some cause or another, feminist or otherwise, does not mean that all those women live full-time lives apart from men – the great majority do not. If they did consciously, and politically, live full-time lives apart from men, then they would be separatists, and that tactic has a proud and significant history in the WLM too, a fact which should not be overlooked.

In contrast to the often-mixed Feminist Movement today, the movement of the past, as mentioned, was generally consciously and explicitly women-only and some groups were indeed separatist. This decision was partly influenced by the sort of sexism I noted earlier, which women activists often experienced in the New Left movements in the early days of the emergence of the Second Wave. It was also influenced by emerging political feminist theory around the importance and significance of self-organisation, the empowering potential of women-only spaces and the need for women to design, build and lead their own liberation movement. I shall return to all these ideas in more depth later in this book.

Returning to the timeline of the history of the Second Wave, it was in 1968, in the US, that the young movement held its first major public demonstration; a demonstration which has gone on to shape the global perception of women’s liberation ever since. Led by the author and activist Robin Morgan, the group the New York Radical Women organised a picket of the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in September 1968. The women were protesting against the objectification of women, against the valuing of women based purely on their looks and on how much they matched up to a male-defined ideal of what feminine beauty looked like. Their picket was highly publicised by the mass media and picked up by news worldwide. At their protest, as well as ironically crowning a live sheep (apparently, no animals were harmed in the making of the protest) as a token Miss America, women also threw representations of femininity into what they called a ‘freedom trash can’. They binned make-up and bras, high heels and corsets; they demanded the right to define their own appearance, their own meanings of human beauty and worth. They did not burn the contents of this trash can. However, this action was reported in the media as ‘bra-burning’ and has become a symbol of women’s liberation which has entered into global consciousness and which is still used to denigrate the movement today.

Second Wave hits the shores of the UK

It was through news coverage of American events such as the infamous Miss World picket and also through influential publications such as those from Freidan and Firestone that the uprisings of women’s liberation in the UK began to stir. American authors were significant, with Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics being published in the UK in 1971, for example, and Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will reaching the UK in 1976. Through publications such as these and news of the organised and active women’s groups emerging in the US, the seeds of this new phase of the Women’s Movement hit the shores of the UK and began to roll. Not all roots lead back to America, however; British theorists were influential too in these early days. Juliet Mitchell for example wrote a motivating article in 1966 called ‘Women: The Longest Revolution’ which was published in the British New Left Review. Reflecting a similar male-dominated situation to that of the New Left in the US, Mitchell was at that time the only woman on the editorial board of the publication. Her article was hugely important, and helped to spark the interest of socialist groups in the UK, and in 1969, the International Marxist Group or IMG formed women’s groups and began to publish a journal called Socialist Woman. In the same year, cottoning on to the upsurge of interest in women’s rights, another radical UK publication, the anarchist-socialist journal Black Dwarf, had also published a special issue on women’s rights, which was largely written by the famous socialist feminist and historian Sheila Rowbotham.

Rowbotham is probably the most prolific historian of the UK WLM. She identifies one of the first women’s liberation groups in the UK as beginning in Hull in the North of England in 1968, growing out of a campaign by working-class women for better safety and conditions on the fishing trawler boats that their husbands worked on. This, and also the famous strike by women workers at the Ford motorcar factory in Dagenham, Essex, in the same year, are frequently cited in most histories of the movement as influencing the beginnings of the Second Wave in the UK. The Dagenham strike involved women sewing machinists who pieced together the interior upholstery for the cars, such as seat covers and door trims, which they argued should be recognised as skilled work. The workers demanded equal pay to that of their male colleagues assembling other parts of the cars on the factory assembly lines. Their strike garnered political support and smoothed the way for the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1970. The strike also influenced trade unionists, who, in May of 1969, formed the National Joint Action Committee for Women’s Equal Rights. Indeed, trade unions were also very important in these early founding days of the UK Second Wave; their role built on a long and established history, with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) having organised a women’s conference since as early as 1926 for example.

There were other important motivators too though, which can also be found playing an inspirational role behind the formation of the UK WLM in the late 1960s. For example, women’s long-standing role in the Peace Movement and particularly women’s activism in the British organisation CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was launched in 1958. The International Vietnam Solidarity Campaign proved another fertile arena from which new feminist activists emerged, as did the IMG as mentioned earlier, along with another group, the International Socialists – which later became the Socialist Workers Party or SWP, still active today. Communism in China was also influential to the new feminist movement. Communist politics generally were receiving popular attention from many of the New Left movements at that time, not least due to the great anticolonial struggles and national liberation victories which marked the Cold War period. In China, Mao’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s also provided a new focus for left-wing groups globally. Many of these groups were disillusioned with the model of Communism from the USSR, particularly due to their violent suppression of reform movements in Czechoslovakia, for example in the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968.

Regardless of one’s political stance, Communist China had an undeniable influence on the early WLM. Chairman Mao, who was Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1949 to 1976, made several proclamations about women’s equality, or as he termed it, the fact that women held up half the sky. Comments and slick slogans such as this, being shared and popularised throughout the New Left globally, reached and resonated with women in the early movement. The idea of a cultural revolution was also a powerful one, and it underlined the feminist focus on the need for cultural as well as economic revolution. In 1969, Kate Millett wrote that in any revolution, ‘the real test would be in changing attitudes’ ([1969]1972:170). The global focus on China by the New Left also highlighted specifically feminist critiques of the earlier Russian Revolution; namely, the perceived failure of valid Soviet Union experiments with alternatives to the patriarchal, nuclear family. Feminists in the West had learnt of Russian women’s multiple burdens, as their freedom to work and to serve the state had seemingly just been added to their presumed primary domestic duties, while promised provisions of state childcare and other collective facilities rarely materialised.

The influence of China can also be seen in one of the primary and powerful organisational methods of the Second Wave WLM, that is, CR. CR was reportedly first inaugurated in the movement, firstly in America by the group the Redstockings in New York. Both Rowbotham (1992) and Brownmiller (1999) in histories of the early movement, credit the term itself to an activist called Kathy Sarachild. But, allegedly, the roots of the term go back much further, to late 1940s and 1950s Communist China and the tool of ‘speaking bitterness’ or ‘speaking pains to recall pains’. This method was employed by women and men to raise class consciousness of class oppression, and that included women who were raising their consciousness to denounce not only feudal landlords but the culture of oppression they faced in all areas of their lives, including in the domestic sphere. This process became an inspiration to feminists in the West, as they began to uncover their own history under patriarchy and their shared resistance to it. Through sharing and collectivising their own struggles, they realised those daily struggles were not unique to them, and that so many of their problems were not in fact individual, but were faced by many other women. In talking about their personal experiences, of work, childcare, parenting, marriage, sexuality, violence, discrimination and poverty, they put these personal experiences in a political context. They realised that such issues targeted them and affected them not because of their own personal choices or life courses, but simply because they were women in a society where that meant second class. This powerful and life-changing realisation is summed up in the now well-known feminist slogan ‘the personal is political’, a term popularised in an essay of the same name by the American feminist activist Carol Hanisch.

Early CR groups were formed in London in the late 1960s, for example in a small women’s group in Tufnell Park in North London. Rowbotham highlights the importance of global networks here, when in a short 1972 history she identifies that many of the women who formed that early women’s group in Tufnell Park were American women, living in London, who had first been active together in a group in the London borough of Camden against the Vietnam War. Being a microcosm then of how the early movement formed overall, these women gained political experience in the Anti-War Movement, worked together and then began to organise together as women on women’s issues. Rowbotham records that in 1969 the Tufnell Park group joined with four other small women’s groups in London: Peckham Rye, Islington, Belsize Lane and Notting Hill. Together they formed the London Women’s Liberation Workshop, which went on to publish the feminist journal Shrew from 1969 to 1978.

In 1969, these fledging London groups organised their first public demonstrations at the Miss World Beauty Pageant and the Ideal Home Exhibition. The groups were protesting against narrow beauty standards for women, like their American sisters at the Miss America contest. Activists wore sashes with different, subverted pageant-style names such as Miss Judged and Miss Fit. Also, slogans such as Miss Fortune, who demanded equal pay for all women, and Miss Conception, who demanded safe, free access to abortion for all women. Miss Treated meanwhile, demanded an end to unequal household labour, and this same message was deployed at the protest at the Ideal Home Show. Activists picketed the show, critiquing what they saw as the oppression of women within the nuclear family, where women were expected to do most of the unpaid household labour, often on top of paid employment outside the home. Writer Sue O’Sullivan was at both events. In a reflection published in 1982, she recalls that activists targeted consumerism and capitalism, giving out flyers to women attending the Ideal Home Show asking if they would trade places with their husband if they could, and if buying goods for the home really could make them happy as advertisers promised.

Both of these events were covered in the British media and they raised awareness of the growing Women’s Movement in the UK. Fuelled by this growing awareness, in the autumn of 1969, a left-wing history group, called History Workshop, founded by historian Raphael Samuel in 1966, decided to hold a conference on women’s liberation. The successful conference went ahead at Ruskin College in Oxford in the South of England from the 27th February to the 1st March 1970. Exceeding expectations, it drew over 500 delegates, mostly women. Many historical collections cite this conference as the most discernible beginning of a national WLM, with Rowbotham herself stating that it is from this moment on that it becomes possible to talk about a UK Women’s Movement.

Forward Ruskin

While men manned the crèche at Ruskin and made piles of sandwiches for lunch, children evaded supervision and ran amok, swapping sugar for salt on the refreshment tables and greatly enjoying their experience of the first feminist conference of the Second Wave. The women delegates meanwhile, managed to discuss what exactly their new movement should be asking for and where it should be headed. Together they identified four key demands which they thought were paramount for the pursuit of women’s rights. They also decided that such a conference should happen again the next year and annually to form a consistent and coherent anchor, a national conference for the UK WLM.

Inspired by the turnout, obvious interest and energy, women organised another conference for the following year. It was held in Skegness, in the North of England from the 15th to the 17th of October 1971. At this conference, the four demands that had been discussed and put forward at Ruskin were formally adopted for the movement. These were equal pay now, equal education and job opportunities, free contraception and abortion on demand and free 24-hour nurseries. It was not all just about conferences and standing orders and organising committees though; direct action protests continued and in February 1970, in a repeat of actions by their American sisters, women also organised another, much bigger demonstration against the Miss World Pageant that year being held at the Albert Hall in London. Utilising direct action tactics, thanks to carefully placed plants within the Albert Hall itself, activists flour bombed the stage, presenters and contestants, resulting in the arrests of five women. Media attention on events such as this, although it was often negative, highlighted the existence of the movement to the public and led to an exponential rise in women’s groups across the country. For example, membership of the London Women’s Liberation Workshop reportedly rose from around 16 to 66 groups, in just a few months following the International Women’s Day march in London in 1971.

This cold and snowy protest march was held on Saturday the 6th of March 1971, to mark International Women’s Day, which is annually on the 8th of March. It was a mixed march of around 4000 people, mainly women, but including men and children. It started at Speaker’s Corner of Hyde Park in central London and marched down Oxford Street, the main shopping street of the city. Feminist activist Al Garthwaite attended the march. She told me about her memories of waltzing through the city streets, chanting along in trend-setting irony to the 1930s song ‘Keep Young and Beautiful, If You Wanna Be Loved’. Singing, chanting and waving washing lines and banners emblazoned with the four demands, the march then detoured to Downing Street to deliver a petition to the Conservative Prime Minister of the time, Edward Heath. The petition called for the government to meet the four demands that had been raised at Ruskin and agreed at Skegness. After that brief detour to the parliamentary seat of power, the march finally ended at a huge rally a short distance up Whitehall with speakers in Trafalgar Square. This march had been coordinated by the National Women’s Co-ordinating Committee, which had been established at Ruskin in 1970. However, this committee was not to last long and it was actually disbanded in 1971 in Skegness due to fears of infiltration by factionist left groups pursuing their own agenda, such as the Maoist Women’s Liberation Front. From that point on, there was no central, single co-ordinating body for the UK WLM. This is a structurelessness that has been seen as both a strength and a weakness of the movement. It has been the source of much commentary and complaint, both at the time and in accounts and reflections on the movement right up until the present day.

The Seven Demands

Equal pay

Equal education and job opportunities

Free contraception and abortion on demand

Free 24-h nurseries

Financial and legal independence

An end to all discrimination against lesbians and a woman’s right to define her own sexuality

Freedom from intimidation by threat or use of violence or sexual coercion, regardless of marital status; and an end to all laws, assumptions and practices which perpetuate male dominance and men’s aggression towards women

This is not to say that the movement of that time was not organised however, as the national conferences carried on from 1971 right up until the (as yet) last National Women’s Liberation Conference in Birmingham in 1978. Over the course of these conferences, women added another three demands to the previously agreed four, resulting in what still stands as a manifesto, or wo-manifesto, for the UK WLM today, known as the Seven Demands. The three additional demands are financial and legal independence; an end to all discrimination against lesbians and a woman’s right to define her own sexuality; freedom from intimidation by threat or use of violence or sexual coercion, regardless of marital status; and an end to all laws, assumptions and practices which perpetuate male dominance and men’s aggression towards women. This last seventh demand is indicative of a focus in the movement at that time on male violence against women. It was a focus which was fraught with much controversy then, particularly between feminists identifying as radical or revolutionary feminists and those identifying as socialist feminists. The former two schools of feminism – radical and revolutionary – insisted on conceptualising male violence against women as a keystone of women’s oppression and a tool of male supremacy, whereas socialist feminists, often reluctant to problematise men as a homogenous group in this way, focussed instead on the role of capitalism in the oppression of not only women, but men too. This is a much-simplified summary of just some of the many theoretical disagreements that rocked the WLM at the time, some of which are still going on today; I shall discuss these in more detail later in this book in Chapter 3.

Although significant in any chronology of the UK Second Wave, and providing some degree of strategic direction in the form of the Seven Demands, these national conferences were by no means the only largescale events of the period. There were also national conferences all over the country on many different themes and topics, for example on rape, women’s health, parenting and many more. There were national lesbian feminist conferences from at least 1974, with the first Black lesbian group being formed in London in 1982. There were Black feminist conferences from at least 1979, organised by, for example, the Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent or OWAAD, which founded in 1978. In 1979, Southall Black Sisters was formed, responding to and campaigning against male violence against Black women, an organisation that is still very active today. In the same year, the Brixton Black Women’s Group, founded earlier in 1973 by an activist called Olive Morris, opened the first London Black Women’s Centre. There were feminist groups of younger women, older women, disabled women, religious women, mothers and carers. There were also many specifically socialist feminist, revolutionary feminist, lesbian feminist and Black feminist groups, journals and conferences organised, and all of this was going on between the annual national conferences. Such was the extent and diversity of feminist events of that time, it would be a difficult task to provide an exhaustive list, though the wonderful Feminist Archive at their Leeds site has produced a valiant attempt, which can be easily accessed online.

If you revisit original journals, flyers and other publications, many of which can be viewed in summary on websites such as that from the Feminist Archive, you will see the vast array of topics that the Second Wave WLM addressed, from childrearing and poverty to housing and immigration, as well as male violence, which is my focus here. RTN was one response to male violence, a direct action, public, highly visible and creative mass demonstration against rape and all forms of male violence, but it was not the only response. Practically, feminists of the Second Wave also established service provisions and support services around all forms of violence against women. They set up the first refuges for example for women fleeing domestic abuse, they founded the first Rape Crisis helplines and the first projects in schools on safe relationships. These women brought previously taboo crimes into the public domain, and they influenced laws and shaped opinion on rape, domestic abuse and prostitution. They secured the Domestic Violence Matrimonial Proceedings Act for example in 1976, which introduced civil protection orders, or injunctions, for those at risk of violence from their partners. They secured changes in the Sexual Offences Act 1976, which proclaimed to improve the treatment of rape victims at trial. Feminists of many different schools and tendencies were involved in this practical work, including radical and socialist feminists, even though they did not always see eye to eye on the complex issue of theorising the causes and meanings of male violence against women. I shall now uncover some of the reasons behind such disagreements and look in more detail at the tendencies or schools of feminism which were prominent during the Second Wave.

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