Historically, women have been relegated to a limited role in society. In our maledominated culture, a considerable number of people view the natural role of women to be that ofmothers and wives. Thus, for many, women are assumed to be more suited for childbearing andhomemaking than for involvement in public life. Despite these widespread and governing beliefs,women, frustrated and tired of their inferiority and subordination, began seeking personal andpolitical equality, including equal pay, reproductive choice, and freedom from conventionalMassive opposition to a demand for women’s equality with men prompted theorganization of women to fight collectively for their rights. The birthplace of American feminismwas Seneca Falls, New York.
Here in 1948, at a landmark convention, the first wave of women’srights activists gathered. Their primary goal was to obtain voting rights for women (Moore 1992,21). In the mid 1960’s, the seeds of oppression (which spread from earlier civil movements) werescattered and sown among other dissatisfied women. These seeds began to take root, and growdramatically, initially within the context of the growth of more general and widespread leftradicalism in Western societies. As a result, beginning about 1965, the second wave of women’srights activists began to emerge with an autonomous agenda for female liberation.
Themovement’s objective was to secure equal economic, political, and social rights for women. The women’s liberation movement was composed of an association of women workingtogether in a common cause. Young radical women who had been active in the Civil RightsMovement gathered in small groups and began to focus on organizing in order to changeattitudes, social constructs, the perception of society toward women, and, generally, to raise theThe women adopted the phase “Sisterhood is Powerful,” in an effort to express succinctly the aim of the movement. This slogan was also an attempt to unify women by asserting a sharedconnection and circumstance, and thereby to build fundamental and lasting cohesion.
“Sisterhoodis powerful” was embraced by the women in order to convey a common identity of sisterhood,one firmly grounded in family-based concepts of interdependence. Biological sisterhood is aneasily understood relationship within the nuclear family. According to social identity theory, one way to define an “in-group” is to define an“out-group” (Hinkle and Brown 1990, 48). The liberation movement attempted to define femalesas the “in-group” and males as the “out-group,” with the two groups distinctively and sharplyseparated.
The rallying cry “Sisterhood is Powerful” was primarily designed to solidify theidentity of the “in-group. ” However, in reality, it is easier to define racial groups than it is todefine gender groups as separate divisions, since black people and white people are generallygeographically and socially separated from each other, white men and women are not. In order to incorporate women successfully into the movement, it was essential to broadenand expand the meaning of sisterhood to that of a common bond between women. Consolidatedby sisterhood, by a common connection of gender, heterogeneous women were expected todevelop an allegiance and common purpose.
Although the women working within the movementwere mostly white and middle class (Tax, 319), the slogan “Sisterhood is Powerful” was directedat all women – married and single, young, middle aged, and old, mothers and daughters, of everyrace and religion, rich, poor, employed, unemployed, women on welfare, and those with differentcultures and sexual orientations (DuPlessis and Snitow, 15). The objective of the slogan was tofoster a common identity for the multifaceted group of women who were committed to (or mightbe committed to) women’s liberation. Empowerment for women was considered both possibleand attainable only within the context of this type of common identity. Therefore, by organizingcollectively these women would acquire capacity to become a force with which to be reckoned. Equally important, as a cohesive group, the women would be difficult to divide and suppress. According to the ideology of women’s liberation, the solidarity of those joined in sisterhoodguaranteed not only the ability, but also the means required to obtain their goal of equaleconomic, political, and social rights for women.
In the United States, where a patriarchal society dominates, an isolated woman lackspersonal and political power and carries little, if any, influence. Indeed, the majority of females inthe women’s liberation movement clearly understood from earlier experiences that the solitaryvoice of a woman would be treated by men as inconsequential, and would therefore have