Gender and the Boundaries of National Identity: U.S. Women as a Citizen Class During the Long 1960s

Sara Bijani, Western Michigan University


This text analyzes the public ideologies and institutions that underpinned women's unequal status within the national collective of United States citizens during the long 1960s, paying particular attention to the executive office of Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the national security establishment. Women were frequently framed within these institutions as a separate special class of citizen, with rights and responsibilities not akin to those of the elite--male bodied--members of the national collective. Allowing for the imaginative construction of "women" as a subject class in U.S. society, this text argues that even with the guarantee of formal political rights in place, women remained second class citizens throughout the long 1960s. Women's citizenship status provided the constitutive binary to the androcentric hegemonic center of elite national power during the long 1960s, with women at times presented as the agents of U.S. nationalism, and at other times as its abject others. Although politically and socially conscious feminist movements proliferated during this period in U.S. history, these movements were unable to overcome popular ideologies that constructed women as members of a separate subject class, making their long term political impact fairly minimal.