Second-Wave Feminist Movements in the United States Versus Brazil
Word Count: 1676
Alexis Williams
IB History of the Americas
Mr. Gagnier
18 November 2018

Alexis Williams
Mr. Gagnier
18 November 2018
Second-Wave Feminist Movements in the United States Versus Brazil
During the early 1960’s, a period of feminist activity appeared in the United States appeared called, Second-wave feminism. Whereas the main goals of first-wave feminism were centered on gaining suffrage for women, second-wave feminism broadened the rights of women by protecting women’s reproductive rights, sexual rights, and protection against violence. This movement was so powerful that it not only occurred in the United States but also spread to Europe and countries in Latin America, like Brazil. In Brazil, many strides were taken that inevitably improved the lives of their female population, but they were still held back by many factors that led to the movement not being as successful than in the United States. So, the second-wave feminist movement in the United States was more successful than in Brazil because of its inclusion of typically marginalized populations, its more secular religious atmosphere, its more prosperous economic landscape, and its more peaceful approach in creating change.

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While second-wave feminism occurred around the same time in both the United States and Brazil, there was more success in the United States because of the incorporation of its African American population into the movement. Although African American’s in the United States faced their own social prejudices, such as segregation, lack of universal suffrage, and lack of equal pay, black women still helped in the second-wave feminist movement. In Brazil, there was a lack of universal unity among women because the black women were commonly stereotyped in domestic labor and weren’t included in the movement (McCallum 56). This mindset prevented those of African descent from joining the movement because they saw it as improving the lives of the higher class and not improving the lives of the impoverished working class in their country (Lebon 762). In contrast, the United States had many prominent African American feminist icons that inevitable led to more participation within minority groups than in Brazil. For instance, folk musician, Ella Baker, was an African American civil rights, women’s rights, and human rights activist. Despite not attending many political protests, she was nicknamed, “the voice of the Civil Rights Movement” (Cohen 56). This was because she influenced others, despite race and gender, to improve the situations of minorities through her music. On the other hand, in Brazil, there was an, “invisibility of the black woman in… spaces of political representation” (McCallum 62). Which is why there was a lack of feminism in the black community in Brazil during this time period when compared to the United States. Although, strides in feminism in both the United States and Brazil both inevitably improved the situations of women in their respective countries, the second-wave feminist movement was more noticeable in the United States. This is because of the unified, “distinctly feminist consciousness”, during the time period (Taylor 21). While Brazil was distinctly separated between colored and non-colored women, the United States chose not to see color, and in the end induced more change due to their more unified front.

Another major shortcoming of the Brazilian second-wave feminist movement has to do with the differences in the primary religious groups in the United States versus Brazil. One of the main differences is the Protestant majority in the United States, whereas Brazil has a mostly Catholic population (Hunt 140). Because the Catholic church requires more involvement than the Protestant church, those who participated in the second-wave feminist protest were often, “extracted women and men from long-standing cultural traditions” (Hunt 141). It was generally frowned upon to be uninvolved in the church, so most women put their religious beliefs above their societal rights. Another example of how religion affected the success of the second-wave feminist movement was because of the homosexual tolerance in the Protestant faith. During the 1960’s many homosexual women, were fighting for their own social rights and didn’t feel as connected to the goals of the women’s rights movement. But it did help them feel more involved because of the Protestant’s tolerant mindset on homosexuality whereas it was generally disfavored in the Catholic faith (Whitehead 299). The second-wave feminist movement in Brazil typically favored the rights of straight Hispanic women and marginalized those who didn’t fit the image, whether it is for racial or sexual reasons. The feminist movement in Brazil and Latin America as a whole had a, “decidedly heterosexual bias” (Bastian 153). In contrast, in the United States, because of the second-wave feminist movement the United States began to become more accepting of groups that were, “excluded from traditional narratives of the past” (Ragan 8). During the 1960’s there were many social movement’s taking place, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement, as well as the Women’s Movement. The second-wave feminist movement was more successful in the United States than in Brazil because the Protestant faith was more accepting of those with different sexual preferences than the Catholic faith. Also, in the Catholic faith it was customary for women to be so heavily involved in religion that there was no room for them to fight for their equal social rights.
Another major difference between the United States and Brazil, which helped contribute to the difference in the success of the second-wave feminist movement, is the economic status. During the 1960’s there was an immense gap between the rich and the poor population, with about 25% of the population living below the poverty line (Goirand 21). In contrast, the population of American below the poverty line during the same time period was only 11%. Although these percentages may seem like a minimal difference, it created a prominent divide between the upper and lower class in Brazil, whereas in the United States there was more of an eminent middle-class. This difference is significant because, “the better educated are more likely to identify as feminist” (Peltola 26). When women are at a higher class, they have more free time to focus on participating in political protest that will better the lives of all women. Whereas, in Latin America, women had to work and had little time to better their social rights because they had to better themselves financially. During the 1960’s, there was a, “structural barrier to opportunity”, to overcome before lower-class women would become acceptable to help the second-wave feminist movement (Magarey 135). This structural barrier was practically nonexistent in the United States because of how World War II unified the lower-class women in America. While all the men were out of the county to fight in the war, the poor women had to fill the work force in order to provide for their families. This created a sense of unity and opened the indigent women to the inequalities in the workplace. Women of all socioeconomic statuses were becoming more aware of the inequalities between women and men in the workplace and in other social situation, whereas, in Brazil, the lower class were more focused on, “neighborhood rights” (Goirand 19). They eventually gained success in the 1970’s when political rights were established in order to improve the infrastructure of low-income housing. In conclusion, the increased involvement in women of all economic status in the United States created a sense of unity which led to a more successful second-wave feminist movement. On the other hand, Brazil’s movement failed because the lower-class women were focused more on their own economic hardships, and secluded themselves from gaining rights for women as a whole because they didn’t feel as connected to the cause.
The last differences that led to a more successful second-wave feminist movement in the United States than in Brazil are the methods used to induce change. While the second-wave feminist movement started in the United States during the 1960’s it was heavily influenced by literary works in Europe. For example, French feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, wrote: “The Second Sex” which, “appeared in America with a success unsoiled by any salacious comment”. (Damousi 315). Even though the book was originally published in France during the year 1949, because of its literary nature it was easily able to be shipped into the hands of American women motivating them to fight for equal rights. This method was a form of peaceful protest that quickly allowed for the desire of feminism to spread across the nation. Also, during this time period, Brazil didn’t have a constitution until the 1980’s. This made it hard to adopt laws to fit the more progressive mindset of the new age. Whereas, in the United States, abortion was deemed illegal until 1973 when the Supreme Court Case, Roe v. Wade, the precedent that, “the right of privacy … founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty…is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” (Linton 227). Because the United States had a structured government with a Supreme Court, they could easily change their laws in order to keep up with the changing view of their constituents. In contrast, in Brazil, there was a monarchy set in place until the late 1980’s that determined majority of the political views until the federal democracy was created. While in the United States, the primary methods of social protest, literary mass media and, court demonstration, were mainly non-violent. In Brazil, the w protesting were often less educated, and not as economically prosperous which led their protest to often be, “not organized by recognizable tried-and-true forms of social protest” (Holston 1). They were often disorganized, violent, and lack a clear goal. In conclusion, the second-wave feminism movement was more successful in the United States than in Brazil because of the methods used to induce change. While the United States used non-violent techniques, such as political protest, mass media, and national legislation. The less organized Brazilians lacked a clear mission for their movement, so a majority of their protest were more radical, violent revolts than political protests.
Overall, the second-wave feminist movement in the United States was far superior to the movement in Brazil. This mass difference is mostly due to how the Brazilians marginalized their minority populations whereas those of the United States incorporated them into the movement. In order to improve the lives of all women, you must first incorporate all women into the movement because, “anything less than this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement” (Thompson 345). While the movement in America proved to be more successful, it is still a loss because as a whole we failed to advance the world to a more feminist viewpoint. Instead of using out more diverse, affluent, accepting efforts across the world and helping nations that don’t even allow women’s suffrage we are too busy fighting wars over land and power. While it may seem difficult to incorporate all women, not limited to race, sexuality, religion, and economic class, into the movement it is necessary in order to achieve global female equality.

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