As we come to the end of 2015, it’s important for us to not only reflect on what’s happened this year, but what’s happened over the past century. This year, we’ve seen a lot of dynamic social change: growing anti-racism and anti-homophobia movements, celebrities making politicizing statements, and legislative changes that reform the identity of what it means to be accepted in America. 2015 is just one year in the larger context of change over the past century, which has brought many different perspectives and initiatives to the country.
So far in 2015, people in the U.S. have made some waves, though not all positive – California’s affirmative consent law went into place, a controversial Rolling Stone article on sexual assault and rape on campus was denounced in the media and subsequently retracted. Bystanders use social media and technology to explore the trend of police brutality in the country, reality television personality Caitlyn Jenner announced that she identifies as transgender, while the United States ruled that same-sex marriage should be legal. There have been 353 mass shootings in the country as of December 2, 2015. College students across America joined the #MillionStudentMarch on November. 12, protesting for tuition-free public universities, eradication of student loan debt, and a higher minimum wage, with some campuses expressing support for protesters at the University of Missouri, where students aimed to make meaningful change to the racial climate on campus.
Seems like a mouthful, right? Even more change has been enacted through the past 100 years, and we wanted to take you through it, from the perspective of how it affects women, LGBTQ individuals, and the globe.
In 1915, feminism was on the tip of legislators’ tongues: The suffrage movement was just beginning to take off, and women were beginning to organize as the Women’s Peace Party, advocating for the antiwar movement. White women gained the right to vote in 1920 under the 19th Amendment, while black women would continue to be barred from voting via a numerous of tricky policies that disenfranchised African-Americans in the U.S. while avoiding using the basis of race as criteria. It wasn’t until the 1960s when black women were officially granted the right to vote. A similar story can be said for Native American women: seeing as they were not considered citizens of the U.S. until the late 1910s, other discriminatory policies led the Supreme Court to decide in Trujillo v. Garley that Native Americans were indeed able to vote.
The Cable Act in 1922 stated that any American woman who married an “alien” (read: non-European immigrant) would have her citizenship status revoked, effectively squashing freedom of marriage for interracial relationships. Similar pigeonholing attitudes would only define the issues that plagued both white women and the struggles of women of color, an ensuing exploration of thought and behavior that continues to this day. Many white women will not be able to explore the intersectionality of how race and culture affects women of all nationalities, just as many women will not see the issues that LGBTQ women face on a day to day basis.
Patsy Mink became the first Asian-American woman in Congress when she was elected as a representative in 1964. The 1970s were subsequently a defining moment for both the third wave of feminism (sporadic first wave being the 19th century and the second being the push for suffrage) and the LGBTQ movement. Feminism became defined through the lens of female intellectuals like Betty Friedan, whose 1963 book The Feminine Mystique provided a sharp, fresh look into the lives of ordinary American women. Women fought for equality in all aspects of society – an ongoing fight today.
The LGBTQ movement snowballed during the 1970s and continues to this day, not simply concluding with this year’s 2015 same-sex marriage decision. Increasing visibility over the years has helped the cause tremendously, putting a face on the movement and the issues that many face, be it a lack of acceptance, problematic language, or even watering down the movement to avoid the many different sexual orientations that exist. Homophobic and transphobic attitudes are still prevalent in many communities, and activists are working to erase such hate and educate many on hurtful attitudes.
In recent years, what we’ve seen of the new wave of feminism has become incredibly visible as activists take advantage of developments in technology and social networking platforms to promote their beliefs and messages. Celebrities are also eager to push for gender equality, just as Beyoncé stood for #FEMINISM and Emma Watson began to endorse the movement in her political work. At the same time, we see what many believe are archaic pushes back against it, such as the recent Congressional defunding of Planned Parenthood and statements by presidential candidates that objectify and criticize women simply for being women. It can only be said that while so much has been done, so much is left to be done.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.