Will Women’s History Month (March) 2018 once again be detached from the present? Or, will it recognize that we live in a country that feels deeply divided – by geography, race, class, religion, media, political worldview – and help solidify a Fourth Wave of Feminism?
The intention of the #MeToo hashtag was to empower women through empathy, especially young, vulnerable women, according to creator Tarana Burke. After millions of people shared their own #MeToo stories, #TimesUp shifted and expanded the purpose from being a movement exposing the prevalence of sexual violence against individuals to one with broader implications and potential political impact.
Is This the Fourth Wave Feminism?
Feminism is the one-word simplification of the two words “Women’s Movement.” The First Wave of feminism largely dealt with the station of White women involved in suffrage and political equality in the 19th century and early 20th century.
Second Wave feminism began in the 1960s with protests against the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City and continued into the ‘90s focusing on guaranteeing social equality regardless of sex.
“Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Shaped Our Times: Women of Wisdom” by Lynn Gilbert and Gaylen Moore, is an absorbing collection of portraits and edited transcripts of 42 iconic women from the Second Wave including Billie Jean King, who is particularly close to our hearts.
As portrayed in the 2017 film, “The Battle of the Sexes”, Billie Jean was a driving force behind the Virginia Slims tennis series because she wanted to end inequality of pay between male and women on the courts.
Virgina Slims Media Training
We had the privilege of working next to Billie Jean King in media training the Original 9 players and the many that followed into what evolved into the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). As the number of players grew in the Slims series, she frequently joined our training sessions to emphasize that a player’s role was as important in developing the women’s sport off the court as on.
At the time of her match with Bobby Riggs Billie Jean said, “To beat a fifty-nine-year-old guy was no thrill. The thrill was exposing a lot of new people to tennis. The most important thing was that women liked themselves better that day.”
“I walked into the offices of the Philadelphia Bulletin a few weeks later and all the secretaries stood up and clapped. They just went berserk. The editor said, ‘You have no idea what you did. The day after you played Bobby Riggs, all of these women asked for a raise,’” Billie Jean recalled in Particular Passions.
Women of Wisdom
Photographer/Author Lynn Gilbert says “when I photographed the women for the book, including Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Barbara Walters, it was the height of the Second Women’s movement. Billie Jean King, was one of the most outspoken supporters of gender equality. She not only brought about change on the tennis court, but in all sports. These changes filtered into in the workplace, not just in America, but around the world.”
“We are at a moment in time, where the ground work for Women’s Rights is coming to fruition. Women want equality to men written into the constitution. Who knew that it doesn’t exist under the law? I had no idea and neither did my friends,” she added.
Lynn Gilbert’s portraits of Billie Jean and Barbara Walters are part of the permanent collection of Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. Other portraits in her book include Julia Child, Betty Friedan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Louise Nevelson, and Gloria Steinem. These are being featured on 21 New York City bus kiosks during Women’s History Month.
Historians say the Third Wave of feminism began in the early 1990s was a response to the perceived failures of the Second Wave and its emphasis on the experiences of upper middle-class white women. Will Women’s History Month 2018 blend the past with #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #5050by2020 to serve as a catalyst for the Fourth Wave as #WhatsUpNext?