The oppression of the 1960s and 1970s affected both women and minorities. Defined as the same, racism and sexism “. . . systemically subordinates a person because of their color” . . . “because of their sex” (Russell, 197?). Russell posited that in order for the women’s liberation movement to move forward, racism would also need to end and would require all oppressed groups to come together and “negate[ing] the negative of the present situation.” Oppression on all fronts needed to end.
Negating the then present situation included the fact that social reality and fairness was a one-sided ideal that tilted toward the dominance of white, Western, male thinking. The historical perception of the inferiority of women and minorities was a perpetuated concept that had decades of growth in the minds of Americans. The 1960s and 1970s were a time of awakening for both women and minorities; yet the groups did not come together for equality. It was a time where black women did not trust white women, due in part to historic oppression at the hands of white women during that time. Cleaning houses and raising their children, yet unable to use a bathroom inside the house, had planted seeds of dandelions in the minds of black women.
The progress of the women’s liberation would require white women to clearly define the goals of the movement as they moved passed the first state of anger. Russell thought that once the liberation became more of a movement and less an ideal, black women would be able to join the cause. Yet, the struggle of black women was not just a feminist one.
For Russell the struggle for liberation for all groups was possible if all groups worked together to advance the shift from a white, male, Western dominant culture. The women’s movement was more of a white –women’s movement when women of color were also racially oppressed. Equality would only be possible when there was equality of everyone, regardless of race or sex. A more humane world is the only answer.
Demanding for equality and protesting sexism, women marched against the 1968 Miss American Pageant. At the time of the protest, the pageant was more than 40 years old, which paraded women around on stage, crowning the ideal woman. Women were supposed to be beautiful and fit into a certain ideal in terms of height, weight, hair color. First organized as a publicity stunt and cash cow, the pageant’s popularity only seemed to grow as the years progressed. While there were women who flocked to compete and be crowned, there were also women who deemed the pageant as exploitative and demeaning.
The pamphlet ‘No More Miss America” outlined ten keys points that women were protesting. From traditional at home female roles, to racism, to mediocrity and inferiority, the pamphlet not only attempted to wake up the country, but also hoped to empower more women to join the movement. At the heart of the pamphlet is control. Point number ten discussed the idea that all men could grow up to be President; as a man the President would be leader of the free world. Even at the time of the protest America was the most powerful nation in the world. As a man, the leader of the most powerful nation would be a powerful person. A woman in America was supposed to aspire to be Miss America. A woman was chosen for her outward appearance; how well she looked in a bathing suit.
“Real power to control our lives is restricted to men, while women get patronizing pseudo-power, an ermine clock and a bunch of flowers; men are judged by their actions, women by appearance” (No More Miss America!, 1968). At the heart of the women’s liberation movement was the power for women to be whom and what they wanted. Women wanted to be considered, not ogled. The Miss America Pageant was a manifestation of all that women were against. Over the past 90 years, the pageant has evolved, providing educational and career opportunities for hundreds each year. Yet it is still a pageant, were women are put on display. There are still racial disparities and contestants still display an ideal physical type, now the twist is portraying a healthy ideal. After nearly 100 years, it may be time for a less sexist way to help women become what they want. There isn’t a Mr. America pageant to help men with their educational aspirations, is there?