Second Wave Of Feminism - Public Vs. Private - Personal Politics

The phrase "the personal is political" was popularized by second-wave feminism. The rallying cry's message was that women had suffered in secret as individuals but would no longer do so. 

  • The term 'personal' refers to both what one goes through as a female body and what one goes through as a woman in the home and at work. 
  • Menstruation, pregnancy, delivery, housekeeping, rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and a slew of other issues were pushed to the forefront of public debate. 
  • Feminists broadened our awareness of oppression by politicizing issues that had previously been kept quiet. 
  • Women's bodies and homes, not only their social and political lives, have been identified as oppression sites. 
  • Feminists deconstruct the often accepted difference between a public and a private existence in this manner. 

The duality of the public and private, when used to represent the difference between the home realm and civil society, relegates women to the private sphere and sends males out into the public. In this instance, the private connotes a sense of belonging to a family. 

  • The public sphere encompasses anything that isn't private, such as politics, the military, work, and everything else that isn't part of home life. 
  • Because the spheres are mutually exclusive, it's possible that each one is controlled by a distinct set of principles. 
  • Second-wave feminism emphasizes that the problem is that women are generally excluded from the public arena, where life-altering choices are made. 
  • This keeps problems like spousal and child abuse out of the public eye; the ‘sanctity of the home' shields actors from unwanted interference, but it also shields them from private damages in the home. 
  • Alternatives proposed by feminists include validating the home sphere as worthy of public attention or denying the existence of a rigid public-private divide.


Some advocate bringing public values into the private sphere, while others advocate the opposite. 

  • The distinction between public and private is frequently used to categorize different kinds of activity into production and reproduction. 
  • Activity that generates surplus value for the state is referred to as productive activity (the public sphere). 

Reproductive activity produces use-value, or value that may be consumed right away in the household. 

Childbearing and raising, as well as household work and caring for aging parents, are all part of reproduction. 

  • Women's reproductive work is not recognized inside the capitalist system, according to Marxist and socialist feminists. 
  • They are looking for methods to make the personal political by bringing reproduction into the domain of productive work or by assigning a productive value to reproduction, or by completely erasing the difference between production and reproduction. 
  • In addition to the sex/gender dichotomies (masculine/feminine, male/female, man/woman), the public/private divide, and the production/reproduction divide, second wave feminist social theory examined additional dichotomies to determine whether or how they may contribute to women's oppression. 

Dichotomies divide thinking into two groups that are mutually exclusive. 

The issue is that the two groups seldom function on an equal footing; one is seen as inferior or undesirable, while the other is regarded as superior and valuable. 

Furthermore, many feminists have pointed out the negative consequences of dichotomous thinking on women. 

Women are often linked with the subservient, lesser side of the duality. 

  • The culture/nature divide is a perfect example of this. 
  • Man produces culture via reason and artifice, while woman is linked with nature since her main function is to give birth.
  • This contradiction must be broken down through feminist philosophy. It does it in a variety of (and sometimes conflicting) ways. 
  • Showing the various ways women contribute to culture is one approach to combat the divide. 

Another argument is that delivery isn't only or even mainly a "natural" process. 

Other perspectives dispute that there is such a clear distinction between culture and nature, or argue that man-made culture isn't worth praising. 

Ecofeminism is perhaps the greatest long-standing challenge to the dichotomy. Ecofeminism and kindred environmental groups reassert the importance of nature in Western thinking.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.