, Volume 14, Issue 11-12, pp 679-692

Women who do and women who don't, join the women's movement: Issues for conflict and collaboration

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The women's movement as a social movement with intentions to create social change has had a cyclical history of appearance and disappearance. At its periods of reemergence, “backlash” reactions also occur. This paper deals with the women's movement in this context. Using a social movement analysis, it considers the possibility of success in creating social change, given that powerful groups of women oppose it. There is a renewed interest in antifeminism since the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. Questions that arise: (1) Why do some women become feminists and others antifeminist? (2) What are the characteristics of social movements and the backlash that would explain these differences and lead to possible reconciliation? The material that forms the empirical basis of this paper is drawn from 24 feminists and antifeminists in five countries who wrote according to a structured outline about their relationship to the women's movement. Contributors differed in background, age, race, sexual preference, and life-style. Through their stories the issues that both separate and unite women emerge—issues such as abortion, men, motherhood, and the family. Surprising similarities emerge between those supposedly on different “sides” of the fence, and it becomes evident that no clear dividing line does exist, but rather a complex interweaving of the issues, experiences, and difficulties of being “woman.”