ABSTRACT

Like all social movements, American feminism tried to get a foothold in the population at large. At the same time, academic women (and a sprinkling of men) in sociology, anthropology, psychology, English, comparative literature, and history who were learning to examine their disciplines from an entirely new and feminist perspective were neglecting or dismissing psychoanalysis as retrograde and conservative. They did not want to be bothered with intangibles such as the unconscious and thus were investigating where, how, why, and when women had been disadvantaged. They delved into the reasons and proposed wide-ranging remedies for the inordinately prevalent inequities that pervaded the entire society. To begin with, the social sciences and history were in the lead; by the end of the decade, the humanities were catching up. Women in the professions, in law, medicine, and politics, some of whom were being inspired by the academics, also became active. Thus the women's movement soon turned into an interdisciplinary, political endeavor that cut across many of the boundaries of race and class. Anthropologists were quoted by lawyers, sociologists by historians, and medical researchers by professors of French. Thereby the range of empirical inquiries and of theoretical premises was broadened. Ultimately, there were recommendations—some on paper and others on the steps of city halls or the White House—for political action. Links with other liberation movements, that is, black, gay, or ethnic, were being forged. The women's movement explored internal differences in terms of means and ends (including black women's primal allegiance to their gender or their race) while trying to present a united front. All their endeavors were geared to the political arena and were aimed to alter the political and economic distribution of power.