A Kind of Memo

by Casey Hayden and Mary King (1965) This paper about women in social movements was one of the first documents of the emerging women's liberation movement. by Casey Hayden and Mary King (1965)

(Editors Note: Casey Hayden and Mary King circulated this paper on women in the civil rights movement based on their experiences as Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee volunteers. It is widely regarded as one of the first documents of the emerging women's liberation movement.)  

We've talked a lot, to each other and to some of you, about our own and other women's problems in trying to live in our personal lives and in our work as independent and creative people. In these conversations we've found what seem to be recurrent ideas or themes. Maybe we can look at these things many of us perceive, often as a result of insights learned from the movement: 

Sex and caste: There seem to be many parallels that can be drawn between treatment of Negroes and treatment of women in our society as a whole. But in particular, women we've talked to who work in the movement seem to be caught up in a common-law caste system that operates, sometimes subtly, forcing them to work around or outside hierarchical structures of power which may exclude them. Women seem to be placed in the same position of assumed subordination in personal situations too. It is a caste system which, at its worst, uses and exploits women. 
This is complicated by several facts, among them:

  1. The caste system is not institutionalized by law (women have the right to vote, to sue for divorce, etc.);
  2. Women can't withdraw from the situation (a la nationalism) or overthrow it;
  3. There are biological differences (even though those biological differences are usually discussed or accepted without taking present and future technology into account so we probably can't be sure what these differences mean). Many people who are very hip to the implications of the racial caste system, even people in the movement, don't seem to be able to see the sexual caste system and if the question is raised they respond with: "That's the way it's supposed to be. There are biological differences." Or with other statements which recall a white segregationist confronted with integration. 

Women and problems of work: The caste system perspective dictates the roles assigned to women in the movement, and certainly even more to women outside the movement. Within the movement, questions arise in situations ranging from relationships of women organizers to men in the community, to who cleans the freedom house, to who holds leadership positions, to who does secretarial work, and who acts as spokesman for groups. Other problems arise between women with varying degrees of awareness of themselves as being as capable as men but held back from full participation, or between women who see themselves as needing more control of their work than other women demand. And there are problems with relationships between white women and black women. 

Women and personal relations with men: Having learned from the movement to think radically about the personal worth and abilities of people whose role in society had gone unchallenged before, a lot of women in the movement have begun trying to apply those lessons to their own relations with men. Each of us probably has her own story of the various results, and of the internal struggle occasioned by trying to break out of very deeply learned fears, needs, and self?perceptions, and of what happens when we try to replace them with concepts of people and freedom learned from the movement and organizing. 

Institutions: Nearly everyone has real questions about those institutions which shape perspectives on men and women: marriage, child rearing pat-terns, women's (and men's) magazines, etc. People are beginning to think about and even to experiment with new forms in these areas. 

Men's reactions to the questions raised here: A very few men seem to feel, when they hear conversations involving these problems, that they have a right to be present and participate in them, since they are so deeply involved. At the same time, very few men can respond non-defensively, since the whole idea is either beyond their comprehension or threatens and exposes them. The usual response is laughter. That inability to see the whole issue as serious, as the straitjacketing of both sexes, and as societally determined often shapes our own response so that we learn to think in their terms about ourselves and to feel silly rather than trust our inner feelings. The problems we're listing here, and what others have said about them, are therefore largely drawn from conversations among women only and that difficulty in establishing dialogue with men is a recurring theme among people we've talked to. 

Lack of community for discussion: Nobody is writing, or organizing or talking publicly about women, in any way that reflects the problems that various women in the movement come across and which we've tried to touch above. Consider this quote from an article in the centennial issue of The Nation:

However equally we consider men and women, the work plans for husbands and wives cannot be given equal weight. A woman should not aim for "a second?level career" because she is a woman; from girlhood on she should recognize that, if she is also going to be a wife and mother, she will not be able to give as much to her work as she would if single. That is, she should not feel that she cannot aspire to directing the laboratory simply because she is a woman, but rather because she is also a wife and mother; as such, her work as a lab technician (or the equivalent in another field) should bring both satisfaction and the knowledge that, through it, she is fulfilling an additional role, making an additional contribution.

And that's about as deep as the analysis goes publicly, which is not nearly so deep as we've heard many of you go in chance conversations. 
The reason we want to try to open up dialogue is mostly subjective. Working in the movement often intensifies personal problems, especially if we start trying to apply things we're learning there to our personal lives. Perhaps we can start to talk with each other more openly than in the past and create a community of support for each other so we can deal with ourselves and others with integrity and can therefore keep working.

Objectively, the chances seem nil that we could start a movement based on anything as distant to general American thought as a sex?caste system. Therefore, most of us will probably want to work full time on problems such as war, poverty, race. The very fact that the country can't face, much less deal with, the questions we're raising means that the movement is one place to look for some relief. Real efforts at dialogue within the movement and with whatever liberal groups, community women, or students might listen are justified. That is, all the problems between men and women and all the problems of women functioning in society as equal human beings are among the most basic that people face. We've talked in the movement about trying to build a society which would see basic human problems (which are now seen as private troubles), as public problems and would try to shape institutions to meet human needs rather than shaping people to meet the needs of those with power. To raise questions like those above illustrates very directly that society hasn't dealt with some of its deepest problems and opens discussion of why that is so. (In one sense, it is a radicalizing question that can take people beyond legalistic solutions into areas of personal and institutional change.) The second objective reason we'd like to see discussion begin is that we've learned a great deal in the movement and perhaps this is one area where a determined attempt to apply ideas we've learned there can produce some new alternatives.

NOW Statement of Purpose

Adopted at the organizing conference in Washington, D. C. ( October 29, 1966) The original mission statement of the National Organization for Women.(Adopted at the organizing conference in Washington, D. C., October 29, 1966)

We, men and women, who hereby constitute ourselves as the National Organization for Women, believe that the time has come for a new movement toward true equality for all women in America, and toward fully equal partnership of the sexes, as part of the world-widerevolution of human rights now taking place within and beyond our national borders.

The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.

We believe the time has come to move beyond the abstract argument,discussion and symposia over the status and special nature of women which has raged in America in recent years; the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions that now prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom of which is their right, as individual Americans, and as human beings.

NOW is dedicated to the proposition that women, first and foremost,are human beings, who, like all other people in our society, must have the chance to develop their fullest human potential. We believe that women can achieve such equality only by accepting to the full the challenges and responsibilities they share with all other people in our society, as part of the decision-making mainstream of American political, economic and social life.

We organize to initiate or support action, nationally, or in any part of this nation, by individuals or organizations, to breakthrough the silken curtain of prejudice and discrimination against women in government, industry, the professions, the churches,the political parties, the judiciary, the labor unions, in education,science, medicine, law, religion and every other field of importance in American society. Enormous changes taking place in our society make it both possible and urgently necessary to advance the unfinished revolution of women toward true equality, now. With a life span lengthened to nearly 75 years it is no longer either necessary or possible for women to devote the greater part of their lives to child-rearing; yet childbearing and rearing which continues to be a most important part of most women's lives-still is used to justify barring women from equal professional and economic participation and advance.

Today's technology has reduced most of the productive chores which women once performed in the home and in mass-production industries based upon routine unskilled labor. This same technology has virtually eliminated the quality of muscular strength as a criterion for filling most jobs, while intensifying American industry's need for creative intelligence. In view of this new industrial revolution created by automation in the mid-twentieth century, women ca nand must participate in old and new fields of society in full equality-or become permanent outsiders .

Despite all the talk about the status of American women in recent years, the actual position of women in the United States has declined,and is declining, to an alarming degree throughout the 1950'sand '60s. Although 46.4% of all American women between the ages of 18 and 65 now work outside the home, the overwhelming majority-75%-are in routine clerical, sales, or factory jobs, or they are household workers, cleaning women, hospital attendants. About two-thirds of Negro women workers are in the lowest paid service occupations .Working women are becoming increasing-not less-concentrated on the bottom of the job ladder. As a consequence full-time women workers today earn on the average only 60% of what men earn, and that wage gap has been increasing over the past twenty-five year sin every major industry group. In 1964, of all women with a yearly income, 89% earned under $5,000 a year; half of all full-time year round women workers earned less than $3,690; only 1.4% of full- time year round women workers had an annual income of $10,000or more.

Further, with higher education increasingly essential in today's society, too few women are entering and finishing college or going on to graduate or professional school. Today, women earn only one in three of the B.A.'s and M.A.'s granted, and one in ten of the Ph.D.'s .

In all the professions considered of importance to society, and in the executive ranks of industry and government, women are losing ground. Where they are present it is only a token handful. Women comprise less than 1% of federal judges; less than 4% of all lawyers;7% of doctors. Yet women represent 51% of the U.S. population.And, increasingly men are replacing women in the top position sin secondary and elementary schools, in social work, and in libraries-once thought to be women's fields.

Official pronouncements of the advance in the status of women hide not only the reality of this dangerous decline, but the fact that nothing is being done to stop it. The excellent reports of the President's Commission on the Status of Women and of the State Commissions have not been fully implemented. Such Commission shave power only to advise. They have no power to enforce their recommendations; nor have they the freedom to organize American women and men to press for action on them. The reports of these commissions have, however created a basis upon which it is now possible to build.

Discrimination in employment on the basis of sex is now prohibited by federal law, in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.But although nearly one-third of the cases brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the first year dealt with sex discrimination and the proportion is increasing dramatically, the Commission has not made clear its intention to enforce the law with the same seriousness on behalf of women as of other victims of discrimination. Many of these cases were Negro women, who are the victims of the double discrimination of race and sex. Until now, too few women's organizations and official spokesmen have been willing to speak out against these dangers facing women. Too many women have been restrained by the fear of being called "feminist."

There is no civil rights movement to speak for women, as there has been for Negroes and other victims of discrimination. The National Organization for Women must therefore begin to speak.

WE BELIEVE that the power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively applied and enforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil and political rights and responsibilities on behalf of women,as well as for Negroes and other deprived groups.

We realize that women's problems are linked to many broader questions of social justice; their solution will require concerted action by many groups. Therefore, convinced that human rights for Allaire indivisible, we expect to give active support to the common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination and deprivation, and we call upon other organizations committed to such goals to support our efforts toward equality for women.

WE DO NOT ACCEPT the token appointment of a few women to high-level positions in government and industry as a substitute for a serious continuing effort to recruit and advance women according to their individual abilities. To this end, we urge American government and industry to mobilize the same resources of ingenuity and command with which they have solved problems of far greater difficulty than those now impeding the progress of women.

WE BELIEVE that this nation has a capacity at least as great as other nations, to innovate new social institutions which will enable women to enjoy true equality of opportunity and responsibility in society, without conflict with their responsibilities as mother sand homemakers. In such innovations, America does not lead the Western world, but lags by decades behind many European countries.We do not accept the traditional assumption that a woman has to choose between marriage and motherhood, on the one hand, and serious participation in industry or the professions on the other. We question the present expectation that all normal women will retire from job or profession for 10 or 15 years, to devote their full time to raising children, only to reenter the job market at relatively minor level. This in itself, is a deterrent to the aspirations of women, to their acceptance into management or professional training courses, and to the very possibility of equality of opportunity or real choice, for all but a few women. Above all, we reject the assumption that these problems are the unique responsibility of each individual women, rather than a basic social dilemma which society must solve. True equality of opportunity and freedom of choice for women requires such practical, and possible innovations as a nationwide network of child-care center which will make it unnecessary for women to retire completely from society until their children are grown, and national programs to provide retraining for women who have chosen to care for their own children full-time.

WE BELIEVE that it is as essential for every girl to be educated to her full potential of human ability as it is for every boy-with the knowledge that such education is the key to effective participation in today's economy and that, for a girl as for boy, education can only be serious where there is expectation that it be use din society. We believe that American educators are capable of devising means of imparting such expectations to girl students. Moreover, we consider the decline in the proportion of women receiving higher and professional education to be evidence of discrimination.This discrimination may take the form of quotas against the admission of women to colleges, and professional schools; lack of encouragement by parents, counselors and educators; denial of loans or fellowships;or the traditional or arbitrary procedures in graduate and professional training geared in terms of men, which inadvertently discriminate against women. We believe that the same serious attention must be given to high school dropouts who are girls as to boys.

WE REJECT the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting himself, his wife, and family, and that aw oman is automatically entitled to lifelong support by a man upon her marriage, or that marriage, home and family are primarily woman's world and responsibility-hers to dominate-his to support.We believe that a true partnership between the sexes demands different concept of marriage an equitable sharing of the responsibilities of home and children and of the economic burdens of their support.We believe that proper recognition should be given to the economic and social value of homemaking and child-care. To these ends we will seek to open a reexamination of laws and mores governing marriage and divorce, for we believe that the current state of"half-equality" between the sexes discriminates against both men and women, and is the cause of much unnecessary hostility between the sexes.

WE BELIEVE that women must now exercise their political right sand responsibility as American citizens. They must refuse to be segregated on the basis of sex into separate-and-not-equal ladies auxiliaries in the political parties, and they must demand representation according to their numbers in the regularly constituted part committees-at local, state, and national levels-and in the informal power structure,participating fully in the selection of candidates and political decision-making, and running for office themselves.

IN THE INTERESTS OF THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF WOMEN, we will protest,and endeavor to change, the false image of women now prevalent in the mass media, and in the texts, ceremonies, laws, and practices of our major social institutions. Such images perpetuate contempt for women by society and by women for themselves. We are similarly opposed to all policies and practices-in church, state, college,factory, or office-which, in the guise of protectiveness, not only deny opportunities but also foster in women self-denigration,dependence, and evasion of responsibility, undermine their confidence in their own abilities and foster contempt for women.

NOW WILL HOLD ITSELF INDEPENDENT OF ANY POLITICAL PARTY in order to mobilize the political power of all women and men intent on our goals. We will strive to ensure that no party, candidate,president, senator, governor, congressman, or any public official who betrays or ignores the principle of full equality between the sexes is elected or appointed to office. If it is necessary to mobilize the votes of men and women who believe in our cause,in order to win for women the final right to be fully free and equal human beings, we so commit ourselves.

WE BELIEVE THAT women will do most to create a new image of women by acting now, and by speaking out in behalf of their own equality,freedom, and human dignity-not in pleas for special privilege,nor in enmity toward men, who are also victims of the current,half-equality between the sexes-but in an active, self-respecting partnership with men. By so doing, women will develop confidence in their own ability to determine actively, in partnership with men, the conditions of their life, their choices, their future and their society.

Copyright 1995, The Feminist Majority Foundation and New Media Publishing Inc.

This document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library-A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm . Please contact this collection for information about reproducing this article.

Sexual Politics

by Kate Millett (1968) Circulated as a short pamphlet, the ideas in this article were later incorporated into Chapter 2 of Kate Millett's classic feminist book of the same name. by Kate Millett.

(Editors Note: This 1968 essay by Kate Millett was circulated before the publication of her book Sexual Politics. The ideas within it were later incorporated into Chapter 2 of the book, which is a feminist classic. )

Is it possible to regard the relation of the sexes in a political light at all? It depends on how one defines politics. I do not define the political area here as that narrow and exclusive sector known as institutional or official politics of the Democrat or Republican--- we have all reason to be tired and suspicious of them. By politics I mean powerstructured relationships, the entire arrangement whereby one group of people is governed by another, one group is dominant and the other subordinate.

It is time we developed a more cogent and relevant psychology and philosophy of power relationships not yet considered in out institutional politics. It is time we gave attention to defining a theory of politics which treats of power relationships on the less formal than establishmentarian grounds of personal intercourse between members of well defined and coherent groups-- races, castes, classes and sexes. It is precisely because such groups have no representation in formal political structures that their oppression is so entire and so continuous.

In the recent past, we have been forced to acknowledge that the relationship between the races in the United States is indeed a political one-- and one of the control of collectivity defined by birth, or another collectivity also defined by birth. Groups who rule by birth are fast disappearing in the West and white supremacists are fated to go the way of aristocrats and other extinct upper castes. We have yet one ancient and universal arrangement for the political exploitation of one birth group by another-- in the area of sex.

Just as the study of racism has convinced as that there exists a truly political relationship between races, and an oppressive situation from which the subordinated group had no redress through formal political structures whereby they might organize into conventional political struggle and opposition--just so any intelligent and objective examination of our system of sexual politics or sex role structure will prove that the relationship between the sexes now-- and throughout history-- is one of what Max Weber once termed "Herrschaft"-- or dominance and subordination-- the birthright control of one group by another-the male to rule and the female to be ruled. Women have been placed in the position of minority status throughout history and even after the grudging extension of certain minimal rights of citizenship and suffrage at the beginning of this century. It is fatuous to suppose that women-- white or black-- have any greater representation now that they vote -- than that they ever did. Previous history has made it clear that the possession of the vote for 100 years has done the black man precious little good at all.

Why, when this arrangement of male rule and control of our society is so obvious -- why is it never acknowledged or discussed? Partly, I suspect because such discussion is regarded as dangerous in the extreme and because a culture does not discuss its most basic assumptions and most cherished bigotries. Why does no one ever remark that the military, industry,the universities, the sciences, political office and finance (despite absurd declarations to the contrary on the evidence that some little old lady owns stock over which she has no control). Why does no one ever remark that every avenue of power in our culture including the repressive forces of the police -- entirely in male hands? Money, guns, authority itself, are male provinces. Even God is male -- and a white male at that.

The reasons for this gigantic evasion of the very facts of our situation are -many and obvious. They are also rather amusing. Let's look at a few of the thousand defenses the masculine culture has built against any infringement or even exposure of its control: is to react with ridicule and the primitive mechanism of laughter and denial. Sex is funny -- it's dirty -- and it is something women have. Men are not sexual beings -- they are people -- they are humanity. Therefore, any rational discussion of the realities of sexual life degenerate as quickly as men can make them into sniggering sessions, where through cliché so ancient as to have almost ritual value, women who might be anxious to carry on an adult dialogue are bullied back into "their place".

At the level of common attitude -- sex and particularly that very explosive subject of the relationship of the sexes -- is a subject closed to intelligent investigation and accessible only to persiflage and levity.

The second evasion our culture has evolved is via folk myth. From Dagwood to the college professor, sex is folklore and the official version of both is that the male is the "victim" of a widespread conspiracy. From the folk figure of Jiggs or Punch to the very latest study of the damage which mothers wreak upon their sons, we are assailed by the bogey of the overbearing woman -- woman as some terrible and primitive natural evil -- our twentieth-century remnant of the primitive fear of the unknown, unknown at least to the male, and remember, it is the male in our culture who defines reality. Man is innocent, he is put upon, everywhere he is in danger of being dethroned. Dagwood -- the archetypal henpecked husband -- is a figure of folk fun only because the culture assumes that a man will rule his wife or cease to be very much of a man. Like a dimwitted plantation owner who is virtually controlled by his far-cleverer steward or valet, Dagwood is a member of the ruling class held up both to scorn and to sympathy-scorn for being too human or too incompetent to rule, yet sympathetic because every other member of the privileged group knows in his heart how burdensome it is to maintain the illusory facade of superiority over those who are your natural equals.

The phantasy of the male victim is not only a myth, it is politically expedient myth, myth either invented or disseminated to serve the---political end of a rationalization or a softening and partial denial of power. The actual relation of the sexes in our culture from the dawn of history has been diametrically opposite to the of official cult of the downtrodden. Yet our culture seeks on every level of discussion to deny logical charge of oppression which any objective view of the, sex structure would bring up, masculine society has a fascinating tactic of appropriating all sympathy for itself. It has lately taken up the practice of screaming out that it is the victim of unnatural surgery . . . it has been "castrated". Even Albert Shanker. has discovered of late that black community control, the Mayor, and the Board of Education have performed this abomination upon his person. To those in fear of castration word one word of comfort. The last instance of its practice on a white man in western culture was the late l8th century when the last castrati lost a vital section of his anatomy in the cause of the art of music --at the hands of another male, I must add. For castration is an ancient cruelty which males practice on each other. In the American South it was as a way to humiliate black victims of the Klan. In the Ancient East it was a barbarous form of punishment for crime. In the courts of the Italian Renaissance castration was a perverse method of providing soprano voices for the Papal Choir. It was felt that women were too profane to sing the holy offices so to supply the demand for the higher musical register, eunuchs were created through putting young men to the knife

As the practice of physical castration has been abolished clear that the word in current usage must be accepted in a metaphoric rather than literal connotation, if we are to any sense of the fantastic anxiety contemporary male egos, for on every hand, in the media and in the culture both high and low, men today have come to see the terrible specter of the "castrating female" all about them, their paranoiac delusions are taken for social fact. Having in a confused way, associated his genitals with his power, the- male -now bellows in physical pain and true hysteria every time his social and political prerogatives are threatened. If by castration is meant a loss through being forced to share power:with oppressed groups deprived of power- or even of human status, then there are many white men in America who will suffer this psychic operation,-but it will be the removal of a cancer in the brain and heart not of any. pleasurable or creative organ. To, argue that any woman who insists on full human, status is a "castrating bitch" or guilty of the obscure- evil: of "penis envy" (only the consummate male chauvinist could have imagined this term)'is as patently silly as to argue that dispossessed blacks want to become white men-- issue is not to be Whitey, but to have a fair share of what Whitey has - - the whole world of human possibility

While I am fully aware that equal rights entail equal responsibility there are some things Whitey has which I- am very sure I don't want, for example, a Green Beret, a Zippo for burning down, villages the ear of a dead of peasant, the burden of the charred flesh a Vietnamese child. Nor do I have an any interest in acquiring the habits of violence, warfare-' (unless in the just cause of self-defense -- a cause I cannot foresee ever happening-in American foreign policy) ), or the white man's imperialist racism, or rape or the capitalist exploitation of poverty and ignorance.

Because of the smoke-screen of masculine propaganda one hears endless cant about castration--whereas real and actual crimes men commit against women are never mentioned. It is considered bad taste, unsportsmanlike ---to refer to the fact that the are thousands of rapes-or crimes against the female personality--in New-York City every year--I speak only of those instances which are reported--probably one tenth of those which occur. It is also generally accepted that to regard Richard Speck and so many others like him in anything. but the light, of exceptional and irrelevant instances of individual pathology, is another instance of not playing that Speck merely enacted the presupposition of the majority male supremacists of the sterner sort--and they are -legion. That his murders echo in the surrealist chambers of masculine phantasy and wish fulfillment is testified to by every sleazy essay into sadism and white slave traffic on the dirty movie belt of 42nd St. and anti-social character of hard core pornography. The Story of O tells it like it is about masculine phantasy better than does Romeo and Juliet. So does the -Playboy, chortling over the con-game he has played on that Rabbit, he dreams of screwing ---the Bunny, or woman reduced to a meek and docile animal toy.

For the extent and depth -of the male's hatred and hostility toward his subject colony of women is a source of continual astonishment.' Just as be hind the glowing' mirage 'of "darkeys"crooning in the twilight --is reality the block, the whip and the manacle, the history of women is full of colorful artifact. ...the bound feet of all of old China's women---women deliberately deformed- that they might be the better controlled -- (you can work with those useless feet, but you cannot run away) -- the veil of Islam (or an attenuated existence as a human soul condemned to wear a cloth sack over her head all the days of her half-life) ;-- the lash, the rod, domestic imprisonment through most of the world's history -rape, concubinage, prostitution . Yes, we have our own impressive catalogue of open tyrannies. Woman are still sold in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. In Switzerland, they are even today disenfranchised. And in nearly every rod of ground on this earth they live only via the barter system of sex in return for for food of the latter. Like every system of oppression male supremacy rests finally on force, physical power, rape, assault and the threat of assault. A final resource when all else has failed the male resorts to attack. But the fear of force is there before every woman always as a deterrent-- dismissal, divorce, violence --personal sexual or economic.

As in any society in a state of war, the enforcement of male rule which euphemism calls "the battle of the sexes", is possible only through the usual lies convenient to' countries at war-- The Enemy is Evil---the Enemy is not Human. And men have always been able to believe in the innate evil of women. Studies of primitive societies just as studies of our own religious texts -- illustrate over and over-the innumerable instances of taboos practiced against women. A group of aborigines agree with Judaism in the faith that a menstruating, woman is "unclean," taboo, untouchable. Should she have access to weapons or other sacred and ritual articles the male, she will place a hex or spell upon them that their "masculine" owners will not survive. Everything that pertains to her physical make-up or function -is despicable or subversive. Let side the village and inhabit a hut alone and without food during her period - let her be forbidden the temple -- even those outer precincts assigned to her for a-specified number of-days after, as the Gospels-coolly inform us she has given birth to the very savior of the world'-- for she is still, dirty. Dirty and mysterious. Have you ever thought it curious that 'nocturnal' emissions were not regarded as either dirty -or mysterious, that the penis was (until Industrialism decided to veil it again for greater effect) never considered as dirty-- but so regal and imperious that its shape is the one assigned to scepters, bombs, guns, and airplanes?

In history; vast numbers of peoples have worshipped the phallus openly. It may also be true that ever larger numbers of peoples once worshipped the womb or the fertility powers of the earth. It may also be true that one of the-many causes for the commencement of that now-universal oppression and contempt for women lay in the male's very fear of the female powers of giving life and perhaps inspired that enormous change in world affairs we call the patriarchal take-over. Living so close to the earth, without having yet developed toys of his own in warfare and the rise of princely city-states full of toiling slaves building him empty monuments, and unaware of his own vital role in conception the male may well have past glances of envy on the woman and what was -- in those conditions-- her miraculous capacity to bring another human life out of her very belly-and seen in it a connection with the phases of the moon, and the seasons of the earth's vegetation -- and stood both in awe and terror -- and finally in hatred -- and decided to cast this function down from what he rather naturally I assumed was its collusion with the supernatural, the terrible, the uncontrollable forces of nature -- and denigrate it to the level of the the bestial, the pernicious and the obscene. And thus the filthy totem was,appropriated by the male and taboo assigned in a thousand ways to operate against the female.

Having vitiated all effects of the female power the male set about aggrandizing his own. Having finally appropriated all access to the supernatural for himself he established an alliance with the new male god (both his brother his father, depending on auspicious or inauspicious circumstance), he then proceeded to announce his kinship with the divine through a long and impressive list of patriarchs and prophets, high priests and emperors. Now that he had gone into partnership with God, the male set himself up as God to the female. Milton puts it this way: "He for God only, she. for God in him".

In some cultures females were allowed to participate on an inferior level as figures of identification for human females-- useful in encouraging them to an enforced cooperation in their own control. So they can see themselves as honored through the rapes of Jove on Europa and Leda, favored in divine seduction scenarios as an endless series of wood nymphs, possibly debased versions of other tribal goddesses at loose ends now their matriarchal reign had ended -- or incarnate in that first troublesome woman, Juno - the insubordinate wife.

But in sterner patriarchal societies such as the Judaic and Christian, there was never any kidding around about goddesses. Christianity did not elevate the Virgin to goddess status until the 12th Century and the Protestants dethroned her a mere 4 hundred years later. The device of making her both virgin and mother not only excites admiration for its ingenuity but astonishment as its perfection of effect -- here is divine or nearly divine woman completely relieved of that insidious sexuality by which woman herself has always been defined.

Mere mortal women in the Christian ages were continuously assured of their inherent evil and inferiority by a whole procession of fanatic mile supremacists--from Paul who found even the exhibition of their hair in church a powerful provocation and an indelicate enticement to hellish practices more apparent in his mind than in others-- (such it is to represent the sexuality of the whole race in only one half of it)-- to Jerome, Augustine, Aquinas and a whole parade of ascetics, hermits, and other non-participating types who have projected their own teeming sexuality onto the female. For so strong is the hold of the Christian assumption through Eve and other notable exempla that the "evil" of sex was introduced via the female alone-- that today even Women think of Women when they think of sex, sexiness, sex objects, sexuality and sex symbols -- a state of rather surprising paradox in a society which rigidly enforces heterosexuality for women.

Judaism is even more punctilious than Christianity in the matter of male supremacy. First thing in the morning every male Jew is enjoined to thank God for creating him a male and therefore a superior order of being. I have never been informed as to what Jewish women are instructed to say on such occasions of coming to consciousness--perhaps it is some little bit of advice to themselves not to fall into the much-satirized posture of the overbearing Jewish mother.

Of course it is not surprising that religion as we know it takes the enforcement of male supremacy by divine fiat as part of its function in a patriarchy -- so too does literature, all traditional and contemporary notions of government, those platitudes which currently pass for social science --and even--despite the influence of the Enlightenment--science itself cooperates in a number of transparently expedient rationalizations in maintaining the traditional sexual politics on grounds so specious as to have a certain comic charm.

A further way in which contemporary masculine culture refuses to face the issue of sexual politics is through the reduction of the two sexual collectivities of male and female into an endless variety of purely individual situations, whereby all cases are unique --each a delicate matter of adjustment of one diverse character to another --all of them merely the very private matter of one-to-one. relationships. That this is so largely our favorite method of portraying sexual relationships today --since Freud and the development of that very private science of psychoanalysis - is probably due in good part to the convenience it offers in shielding us from the unpleasant reality of sexual relations should we begin to view them on general or class/caste terms as we have learned to see race. For we know very well now that race is not a matter between one employer and his "boy" or one family and its "maid", but it is to be perceived in the far more pertinent light of one race's control over the other

The Individual Case translates our older myth of the dangerous Female into a newer but by now rather shop-worn cliché of the bitch stereotype --the most stock figure of the contemporary media. It is interesting to note how this bitch leads one to fancy - without ever coming right out and saying it -- that all women are bitches. It is puzzling too how, as woman -- with woman's minority status and therefore a creature completely out of the male power structure-- she is arbitrarily and unjustly blamed for nearly every fault in American life today -- and turned into a veritable symbol of the Hateful Establishment. As beauty queen, the male establishment is willing to allow woman a place as mascot or cheerleader--but it is a long way from admitting her to any personal stake in the establishment's show. As a girlfriend or a wife, she may participate vicariously for a time, --but she is easy to replace and the trade-in on old models of wife and mistress is pretty brisk. She may sleep with so many thousands a year or such and such an office, but she is dreaming if she ever fancies such glory is her own.

For the purpose of male propaganda, one of the most felicitous effects of the Individual Case myth is that it immediately translates any resistance to the present political situation in sex relations into a damning conviction of the sin of neurosis. As Psychology has replaced religion as the conformist in social behavior, it has branded any activity at odds with the force quo (which, by the way, it has taken to be "normality") as deranged, pitiable or dangerous behavior. By this criteria, current "normality" in the United States is racism, police brutality and ruthless economic exploitation.

This is what happens, if, like the Shrinks, you take 19th Century social life as both the State of Nature and the State of a Healthy Society. Any woman who fails to conform to the sterile stereotype of wife and motherhood as all and only, or who fails to bow in elaborate deference to male authority and opinion on any and all questions ---is clearly off her nut. Men have said it.

One other device to maintain the current and traditional sexual politics is to claim that the whole thing has already been settled a long time ago "we gave you the vote" as the male authoritarian puts it with such stunning arrogance —we went to the polls and elected you into the human race because one day you mentioned the oversight of your exclusion and, obliging fellow that we are, we immediately rectifies this very trivial detail .

The foregoing is both a distortion of history and a denial of reality. Women fought hard and almost without hope, driven to massive and forceful protest which has served as a model both for the labor movement and the black movement. They struggled on against overwhelming odds of power and repression for over one hundred and fifty years to get this worthless rag known as the ballot. We got it last of all,-- black and white-- women are the last citizens of the United States'-- and we had to work hardest of all to get it.

And now we have it we realize how badly we were cheated--we had fought so long, worked so hard, pushed back despair so many times that we were exhausted-- we just said then give us that and we will do the rest ourselves. But -we didn't realize, as perhaps blacks never realized until the Civil Rights Movement, that the ballot is no real admission to civil life in America; it means nothing at all if you are not represented in a representative democracy. And we are not represented now any more than black people...both groups have only one senator --- one Tom apiece. The United States has fewer women in public office than hardly any nation in the world--we are more effectively ostracized from political life-in this country than any other constituency in America --and we are 53% of its population. Political nominees announced their intention of helping asthmatic children and the mentally retarded of every age, if elected-- but not a word about women half the population- but not a word --the largest minority status group in history. But not one word.

It is time the official fallacy of the West and of the United States particularly - that the sexes are now equal socially and politically - be exploded for the hoax it really is. For at present any gainsaying of this piety is countered with the threat that "women have got too much power I they're running the world", and other tidbits of frivolity which the speaker, strange as it may seem, might often enough believe. For the more petty male ego(like that of the cracker or the Union man..in the North who voted for Wallace) - in his paranoia is likely to believe that because one woman or one black man in millions can make nearly or even a bit more than he does -- the whole bunch are taking over that sordid little corner of the world he regarded as his birthright because the was white and male -- and on which he had staked his very identity-just because it prevented him from seeing himself as exploited by the very caste he had imagined he was part of and with whom, despite all evidence to the contrary, he fancied he shared the gifts of the earth and the American dream--. Nightmare that it is.

The actual facts of the situation of woman in America today are sufficient evidence that, white or black, women are at the bottom unless they sleep with the top. On their own they are Nobody and taught every day they are Nobody and taught so well they have come to internalize that destructive notion and even believe it. The Department of Labor statistics can't hide the fact that this is a man's world --- a white man's world: the average year-round income of the white male is $6,704, of a black male $4,277, of a white I female $3,991, and of the black woman $2,816. As students you live in a Utopia--enjoy it, for it is the only moment in your lives when you will be treated nearly as equals. When you get married or get a job you will be made to see where power is, but then it will be too late. That is why you should organize now: look at your curriculum and look at your housing rules,--that's a start at realizing how-you are treated unfairly.

But the oppression of women is not only economic; that's just a part of it. The oppression of women is Total and therefore it exists in the mind, it is psychological oppression. Let's have a look at how it works, for it works like a charm. From earliest childhood every female child is carefully taught that she is to be a life-long incompetent at every sphere of significant human activity therefore she must convert herself into a sex object -- a Thing. She must be pretty and assessed by the world: weighed, judged and measured by her looks alone. If she's pretty, she can marry; then she can concentrate rate her energies on pregnancy and diapers. That's life --that's female life. That's what it is to reduce and limit the expectations and potentialities of one half of the human race to the level animal behavior.

It is time we realized that the whole structure of male and female personality is arbitrarily imposed by social conditioning a social conditioning which has taken all the possible traits of human personality-- which Margaret Mead once, by way of analogy, compared to the many colors of the rainbow's spectrum --and arbitrarily assigned traits into two categories; thus aggression is masculine, passivity-feminine violence- masculine, tenderness feminine, intelligence masculine' and emotion feminine, etc., etc....arbitrarily departmentalizing human qualities into two neat little piles which are drilled into children by toys, games, the social propaganda of television and the board of education's deranged whim as to what is proper male - female Role- Building. What we must now set about doing is to reexamine this whole foolish and segregated house of cards, and pick from it what we can use: Dante, Shakespeare, Lady Murasaki and Mozart, Einstein and the care for life which we have bred into women -- and accept these as human traits. Then we must get busy to eliminate what are not properly humane or even human ideas -- the warrior, the killer, the hero as homicide, the passive, dumb cow victim.

We must now begin to realize and to retrain ourselves to see that both intelligence and a reverence for life are HUMAN qualities. It is high time we began to be reasonable about the relationship of sexuality to personality and admit the facts -the present assignment of temperamental traits to sex is moronic, limiting and hazardous. Virility - the murderer's complex- or self definition in terms of how many or how often or how efficiently he can oppress his fellow --- This has got to go. There is a whole generation coming of age in America who have already thoroughly sickened of the military male ideal, who know they were born men and don't have to prove it by killing someone or wearing crew cuts. There is also a vast number of women who are beginning to wake out of the long sleep known as cooperating in one's own oppression and self-denigration, and they are banding together, in nationwide chapters of the National Organization for Women -- in the myriad groups of Radical Women springing up in cities all over the country and the world, in the women's liberation groups of SDS and in other groups or, on campus, and they are joining together to make the beginnings of a new and massive women's movement in America and in the world -- to establish true equality between the sexes, to break the old machine of sexual politics and replace it with a more human and civilized world for both sexes, and to end the present system's oppression of men as well as women.

There are other forces at work to change the ;whole face of American society: the black movement to end racism, the student movement with its numbers and powers for spreading the idea of a new society founded on democratic principles, free of the war reflex. free of the economic and racial exploitation reflex. Black people, students and women --that's alot of people with -our combined numbers it is probably 70% of the population or more. It is more than enough to change the course and character of our society -- surely enough to cause a radical social revolution. And maybe it will also be the first Revolution to avoid the pitfall of bloodshed, a mere change of dictators and the inevitable counter-revolution which follows upon such betrayal and loss of purpose.

We are numbers sufficient to alter the course of human history -by changing fundamental values by affecting an entire change of consciousness. We cannot have such a change of consciousness unless we rebuild values---we cannot rebuild values unless we 'restructure personality.' But we cannot do this or solve racial and economic crimes unless we end the oppression of all people- unless we end the idea of violence, of dominance, of power, unless we end the idea of oppression itself -- unless we realize-that a revolution in sexual policy is not only part of but basic to any real change in the quality life. Social and cultural revolution in America and the world depend on a change of consciousness of which a new relationship between the sexes and a new definition of humanity and human personality are an integral part.

As we awake and begin to take action, there will be enough of us and we will have both a purpose and a goal -- the first truly human condition, the first really human society. Let us begin the revolution and let us begin it with love: All of us, black, white, and gold, male and, female, have it, within our power to create a world we could bear out of the desert we inhabit for we hold our very fate in our hands.

Toward a Radical Movement

by Heather Booth, Evie Goldfield,& Sue Munaker (1968) This paper investigates the mythology of the liberated "New Woman" as defined by the popular media of the day. by Heather Booth, Evie Goldfield, Sue Munaker(April-1968)

(Editors Note: This essay was written by three people who were among the pioneers of the women's liberation movement.)  

Ours is an age of promise. Technology and abundance have made it clear-that a decent life might at last be easily within -the reach of all. Self-determination, freedom seem like real possibilities. More than this, though, it is an age of promise denied. Under the banner of freedom, atrocities are committed. With all the rhetoric of economic development, the majority of the earth's people are hungry exploited, powerless

Not only the impoverished , but many others are learning that no one is really free in our society; that while some group are much more oppressed than others ordinary individuals have little ability to live the life or bring about the changes as they desire. Among these others are groups of women, angered at the society that relegates them to a secondary and servile position.

The movement for social change taught women activists about their own oppression. Politically-, women were excluded from decision-making'. They typed, made leaflets, did the shit-work. The few women who attained leadership positions had to struggle against strong convention.

So, women in the movement were in a unique situation. As some married, they found that there were no models for a marriage in which both man and woman were politically active. Was the once active woman now to assume a supportive role,,. to stay home with the kids or get an unwanted job to support her activist husband? Were both partners interests to have equal weight in determining what kind of work they would do, where they would live?

In December, 1965 at a national conference of the Students for a Democratic Society the-subject of women's role in society and in the movement was openly discussed. The discontent of the women activists was brought to the surface, therein initiating a radical women's movement.

The problems discussed were not-just those of political activists, but of all -contemporary women. Women had integrated into the labor force during the war doing what they thought was useful purposeful work. When the men came home though,women were: either pushed into the lower sectors of the labor force or, moved back into the home. Women's image began, to change in the popular magazines; domesticity was glorified frills were again in vogue, drudgery was glamorous.

Women who returned to the domestic setting found that things not quite the same as before. New labor-saving devices gave them more free time.' This freedom made a vacuum in their lives; they had nothing meaningful to fill it with. The housewife role, offered up as the most fulfilling -for-women, was expanded, elaborated,filled up with trivia so that each labor-saving device could be compensated for by a new task. Women joined clubs and charity organizations in vast numbers, They took enrichment courses and dabbled in the arts. Shopping became a major occupation; an incredible amount of energy was expended on finding those items which would adorn the house and the women, expressing her identity.

Yet, none of this really satisfied. It was not serious, not involving; it merely whittled away the long, endless hours.

Many women remained in the labor force, although often displaced laced from the jobs they held during the war. More women than in preceding generation's began to work outside the home, but not on an equal basis with men. With their taste of economic independence came the taste of exploitation both as women and as workers,. As workers they learned that rights can be won through collective union action, as women the lesson was not learned so quickly.

A new generation of women sense the boredom and bitterness of their mothers They do not want to be confined to the same roles. They are trying to understand why it is that women are still expected to* play subordinate roles.


There have always been myths which defined as the essence of the "true woman her natural* passivity and maternal instincts. While today's elaboration of them may be more subtle, they are still unfounded haunting women as they are invoked to justify today's norms.

Woman's nature is usually explained in terms of her biology. She is passive in her sexual role; she receives the penis. Therefore, she desires to encircle and enclose rather than to extend to and to strive. Man's sex, on the other hand, is activity itself, the symbol of strength, potency and dominance. Too often this metaphoric passivity is taken as literal truth. Freudian psychology and its popularly understood implications assume that what was thought, though not proven, true for Victorian German upper-middle class women is held to be universally- true. Freud's concept of penis envy tells us that women are motivated primarily by the fact that they are not men. Erik Erikson, a favorite of social psychologist describes,"...'the basic modes of feminine inception and maternal inclusion" preparing women for the perceptive and acceptant traits of future motherhood .(Childhood and Society, pp.88-90). Only as people began to suspect-that the "truths" were unsubstantiated did they begin to find that in fact women are sexually as non-passive as men (see the Masters-Johnson study, The Human Sexual Response).

And then, why should-function follow form? Even if women were by nature sexually passive, it hardly follows that they should be passive in other realms. But social institutions, historically created by men, have perpetuated the functional myths to justify their own position.

The Judaic-Christian Church teaches that to the extent that women are sexual creatures they are unclean, foul, "the doorway to the devil." Yet, by regarding sex only as a duty, the pure chaste woman can attain a holiness' denied to man. Embodying these myths are the harlot, the Virgin, (the latter to become a respectable woman). Both of them are socially useful, each subordinate to men, serving their needs.

Today's family has institutionalized the myth with a new slant. The ideal woman is 'wife, mother,mistress, the playboy's dream. She is to comfort and serve him under the guise of "modern free woman" that releases the man from guilt. She is still his woman, weak, gentle, submissive, emotional, sensitive, intuitive, unable to cope -with the ''world. without a man". She attains her identity through her husband and later through her children, whom she treats like private property; she's hurt when they leave home because they are denying her of her identity.

Historically, there may have been an excuse for this role as part of a division of labor. Continuous pregnancies kept women physically weak and less mobile than men. Now that the pill enables people to control the timing and number of children they will have, the incessant childbearing role is a lame excuse for confining women to domestic chores. Educational institutions further perpetuate the myths. The liberal arts education: legitimates for men their right to control and manage the society. For women it is a waiting period in which they can find a husband and make themselves educated companions or introspective victims. Women are irrelevant to the decisions made in society, so this education they receive is irrelevant for preparing them to make such decisions. The situation is perpetuated because women are either excluded from academic consideration or else presented in shallow characterizations.

Evolving from the sexual myths and reinforcing them are the limiting and steveotyped of masculine feminine. A woman who does not conform to the notions of feminine as serving and supportive is deviant: masculine-castrating, shrewish, sluttish, frustrated or frigid. Thus, nonconformist women are labeled and put in their place. As long as artificially constructed, mythically based images of masculine and feminine are the only alternative, both men and women are going to find conflict between their imposed sexual identity and their goals as human beings.

New myths are being created. They pay that women are 'better off than they have ever been...that a New Woman is emerging. She is middle class and liberated. She is able to have a family; yet, because of labor saving devices, she has much leisure time to devote to meaningful activity. A wide variety of consumer goods enable her to enjoy life on a scale never enjoyed before. These are the myths; what is the reality?


Although a large number of women do-work, it is usually. in service occupation. And, even if women considered their jobs worthwhile, the jobs pay less than men's and are low in status. According to statistics gathered by the Department: of Labor in 1964, women are paid $5-10 less per week at the same jobs as men. The median annual income for white working men is $6497, for white women- $3859, for nonwhite men-$4285, women- $2674, Only 1% of these women make more than $10 000 per year and 1/4 those women own estates. While a radical movement does not aim to integrate women into the male job structure, even less to encourage women to become business executives, weapons experts or advertising writers, it it important to note where discrimination exists. With the exception of those few who "make it in a man's world" women are systematically excluded from science, business, and medicine law and academia. Most working women are low paid waitresses, secretaries, elementary school teachers, social workers, or nurses.. Some are in high paying occupations which exploit their femininity such as models, playboy bunnies, or exotic dancers.

The career woman image does not apply to the bulk of women workers who are stuck in low paying, tedious, dead-end positions. Neither does it apply to middle class white collar women- workers who are idealized by the media. We are supposed to believe that a career is glamorous because a woman dresses stylishly and serves men in such jobs as airline stewardess or New York secretary. The justification for channeling women into service occupations is that women are better servants. The excuse for keeping them put of high status occupations is that women are bad risks; they will marry and have kids. These are self-fulfilling prophesies. Women are raised to believe. that they should serve and that they- can I t have both a career and a family.-- Then, ;the smart thing to do is to. find a man to support them.Society reinforces conditions. by not providing enough child care centers, public all day nurseries; paid pregnancy leaves, shorter work days etc. Why is there a new myth?

The mystique of the idealized New Woman has been generated in order to sell a lot of unnecessary products to a lot of bored, insecure, passive, frustrated women. Clothing and make up are not just adornments, but become expressions of one's very essence which is constantly being manipulated by the mass media.

Miss Clairol says: "Have you found the real you?" Some women never do. In fact, many women never make the most exciting discovery of all: They should have been born blonde. A host of other advertisers echo her statement.

Styles change constantly;"new" products flood the market. Women must be made to want--no, need more and more things. The New Freedom for women is the freedom to buy and thereby support our market economy. Leisure time is time for consuming. Irrationally changing clothing styles would not be accepted in a society where priorities centered on human needs rather than on profit-making. In the United States, priority is put on automobiles and military equipment--goods which will produce the most profits, rather than on something socially necessary from a humane point of view, such as low cost decent housing for poor people. Passive, docile, accepting women are therefore, important to this system since their' tasks as consumers can be manipulated. As long as work for most people, is meaningless and unfulfilling and women are not expected to DO anything, women will have to gain identity, from what they buy, what they own and how they look.

What about sexual liberation It would be nice if the mini-skirted girl in gay colors and way-out make up really were a symbol for a new sexually liberated woman. Since women have been thought of primarily as sexual beings, it would be expected that their liberation would come through sex but those who have been "sexually liberated" have often merely adapted men's attitudes towards sex. Women are still seen and see themselves as sexual objects and treat men in kind, taking pride in the number of conquests they make. This attitude is at best one of revenge for women's own sexual exploitation. Women cannot liberate themselves through sex while in other important respects their social role remains unchanged.


The initial work of any new radical women's group is to understand the realities and myths which relegate women to a subordinate role. Women come into the movement with two perspectives: either with a -primary concern for women's issues- as abortion, child day- care centers, or the desire to research, and discuss--in greater depth women's position in society, or with a more general concern about political issues such as racism and the war. There is no contradiction between women's issues and political issues for the movement for women's liberation is a step toward changing the entire society. Women are not seeking equality in an unjust society, rather from an understanding of the basis of their own oppression they are developing programs for overall social change.

The common understanding, whichever the perspective, is that part of the way that women are oppressed is that they see their problems as personal ones and thus blame themselves. The first step in building a movement is to see that the problems are that men as individuals are not "the enemy"; rather "the enemy" is those social institutions and expectations perpetuated by and constraining members of both sexes. Radical women are not forming groups for the purpose of segregating them selves from men, but in order to focus on the means by which women can come to terms with those institutions.

There are now about 35 small radical women's groups concentrated in a few cities. The programs develop according to the interests of the members. In groups where most of the women are in the radical movement, the first discussions often center on their role in the movement. From these talks comes the realization that as women they have been non radical, playing passive political roles as secretaries or administrative help rather than as strategic planners.

Though the original groups were just of young radical New Left women there are now groups of once non-political housewives, women now married to movement men who previously had no political of their own, college students, high school students. They want to share their understanding of their problems as women with other women. As they see the nature of other types of oppression-of the poor, of black people, and other movements of liberation --- NLF, Black Power, etc.

Groups are undertaking action projects such as leafletting women factory workers about the war, high prices, and women's wages. Some are fighting to change abortion laws and practices, setting up communal child care centers, forming drug and consumer co-ops. One university group is planning a student run course on women, for women. Others are setting up seminars on imperialism and other political issues. By discussing these serious political and intellectual questions in small groups with other women, inhibitions about females using their minds rationally can be overcome. Several groups are talking about running guerilla theater in stores and shopping centers to dramatize the war, high prices, and women's role as consumer and servant.

Some are looking for ways to relate to the anti-war movement that will not be auxiliary. Women may set up and run coffee shops near army bases to talk with the GI's, to see how they feel about the war, and to pose alternatives for them. Women may also try to organize wives of servicemen and women in the service or other women in the towns where bases are located. Some women are going door-to-door to talk with wives of working class men about the war, racism, and the presidential election. Many are planning for some activity around the Democratic Convention.

Talking about common problems in the context of the need for social change is in itself liberating. Creating programs such as these allows for the development of self-confidence, leadership and an analysis which widens the possible alternatives seen for women. Working on such issues, one develops a vision of and a movement for a society in which all people can define themselves without the awkward imposition of social roles.


The roots of the movement for women's liberation were in the contradictions between the promise held out and the existence lived. The promise was for freedom and justice now. Instead there was oppression and injustice for all but a few. Once it seemed as though reforms such as civil rights bills, anti-draft legislation, the end of the war in Vietnam, would in themselves bring justice . But unlike the feminists of the 1800's, women now realize that America's problems must be attacked at their root. For justice to come to black people there must be black economic and political self-determination. For an end to militarism there must be an end to control of society by business which profits only with the suppression of national wars of independence. For the true freedom of all women, there must be a restructuring of the institutions which perpetuate the myths and the subservience of their social situation.

It is the explicit consciousness of these hopes and analysis which lead us to fight for women's liberation and the liberation of all people.

The Women's Rights Movement in the U.S. : A New View

by Shulamith Firestone (1968) A radical interpretation of the feminist movement in the USA— a history largely unknown at the time. by Shulamith Firestone

(Editors Note: This article first appeared in Notes from the First Year New York: The New York Radical Women, 1968.) 

What does the word 'feminism' bring to mind? A granite faced spinster obsessed with a vote? Or a George Sand in cigar and bloomers, a woman against nature? Chances are that whatever image you have, it is a negative one. To be called a feminist has become an insult, so much so that a young woman intellectual, often radical in every other area, will deny vehemently that she is a feminist, will be ashamed to identify in any way with the early women's movement, calling it cop-out or reformist or demeaning it politically without knowing even the little that is circulated about it. Indeed, the few historians of the women's rights movement in the U.S. complain that the records have been lost, damaged, or scattered due to the little value placed on them. Anyone who as ever researched the subject knows how little is available, and how superficial, slanted, or downright false is the existing information.

I would like to suggest a reason for this. It is the thesis of this article that women's rights (liberation, if you prefer) has dynamite revolutionary potential; that the Nineteenth Century WRM 1 was indeed a radical movement from the start, that it was tied up with the most radical movements and ideas of its day, and that even to the bitter end, in 1920, there was a strong radical strain which as been purposely ignored and buried. To show this, we will have to dig out and completely review the whole history of the WRM in the U.S., to weigh just what it meant in political terms, and to understand the political and economic interests causing these distortions.

The early women's Movement was radical. Remember that to attack the Family, the Church, and the Law was no small thing in the Victorian Era. Few people realize what a grass roots movement it was, nor know of the tortuous journey's made by dedicated women into the back woods of the frontiers, and door to door in the towns to speak about the issues or to collect signatures for endless petitions which were laughed right out of the assemblies. In those days, the meager funds that kept the WRM going were not from wealthy male donors, you can be sure, but were the nickels and dimes of housewives and laundresses. From the beginning the WRM identified itself with women in the working class. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and several others, the most militant or the movement, appeared as delegates to the National Labor Union Convention as early as 1868, before any attempts to organize female labor had ever succeeded. Other early labor organizers such as Kate Mullaney or Augusta Lewis, were feminists. This is not to mention the better known radical origins of the WRM in the Abolitionist Movement and in the ideas of women radicals such as Fanny Wright or the Grimke sisters. The Movement was built by women who had literally no civil under the law, who were pronounced civilly dead upon marriage, or who remained legal minors if they didn't marry, who could not even sign their own wills or have custody of their own children upon divorce, who were not allowed to go to school at all, let alone college, were, at best, equipped with a little knowledge of embroidery, French, or harpsichord as their sole political education, who had no political status or weapons whatever. And yet, today, we hardly remember that less than a century ago, even after the Civil War', more than half of this country's population were still slaves under the law, women by law not owning even the bustles on their backs.

Indeed the women's Movement from the first was tied up with anti-slavery forces in this country. It was due to their work in the Abolitionist Movement that many women first became aware of their own slavery. It is an added irony that' the first Women's Rights Conventions at Seneca Falls in 1848 came about as a result of the ire felt by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton when they were denied seating at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in England in 1840.

Today again, women are beginning to move largely on the inspiration and impetus from the Civil Rights Movement in the Sixties. And indeed the Black Struggle and the Feminine Struggle always seem to run parallel in this country. Both were aborted, their energy drained off, at about the same time, and it is only recently that they have begun to demand to know what happened, to analyze what went wrong and why.

And, just as with black history, there is a suspicious blank in the history books when it comes to the WRM, one of the greatest struggles for freedom this country has known. Little girls are taught to believe that all their rights were won for them a long lime ago by a silly bunch of ladies who carried on and made a ridiculous display, all to get that paper in the ballot box.

Why is this? Why are little girls familiar with Louisa May Alcott rather than Margaret Fuller, with Scarlett O'Hara and not Myrtilla Miner, with Florence Nightingale and not Fanny Wright. Why have they never heard of the Grimke Sisters, Sojourner Truth, Inez Milholland, Prudence Crandall, Ernestine Rose, Abigail Scott Duniway, Harriet Tubman, Clara Lemlich, Alice Paul, and many others in a long list of brilliant courageous people? Something smells fishy when scarcely fifty years after the vote was won, the whole WRM is largely forgotten, remembered only by a few eccentric old ladies.

May I suggest the reason for this, why women's history has been hushed up just as Negro history has been hushed up, so that the black child learns, not about Nat Turner but about the triumph of Ralph Bunche, or George Washington Carver and the peanut.

And that is that a real woman's movement is dangerous From the beginning it exposed the white male power structure in all its hypocrisy. Its very existence and long duration were proof of massive large-scale inequality in a system that pretended to democracy. Both the Abolitionist Movement and the Women's Rights Movement, working at times together, at times separately, threatened to tear the country apart, and very nearly did during the Civil War. (If the feminists then hadn't been persuaded to abandon their cause for 'more important" issues, i.e. other, men's issues, the history of the Women's Rights Movement might have been different.)

The history of the struggle for suffrage alone is an absolutely incredible account of tooth and nail opposition from the most reactionary forces in America. The work involved to achieve the vote was staggering. Carrie Chapman Catt estimated that:To get the word "male" out of the Constitution cost the women of this country 52 years of pauseless campaign. During that time they were forced to conduct 56 campaigns of referenda to male voters, 480 campaigns to get legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters, 47 campaigns to get state constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions, 277 campaigns to get state party conventions to include woman suffrage planks, 30 campaigns to get presidential party conventions to adopt woman suffrage planks in party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.(Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler, WOMAN SUFFRAGE AND POLITICS, New York, 1923, Chas. Scribners Sons, pg.107)

Defeat was so frequent arid victory so rare, and then achieved only by the skin of the teeth, that even to read about it is grueling, let alone to have lived through it, or to have devoted oneself to the struggle.

We ought to question this. Is it possible that male chauvinism was the sole cause? Certainly it played a large part, perhaps underlying all the other forces obstructing the movement. Remember that in that period, male power was as taken for granted as once was the Divine Right of Kings, that it was so entrenched, unquestioned, and absolute that even demands for the mildest reforms were dangerous and struck those in power as ludicrous.

However, there was even more to it than that. Eleanor Flexner, in Century of Struggle (Atheneum, Harvard U. Press) examines the anti-suffrage forces that fought to such great lengths. She finds several institutions involved in denying the vote to women:

1) CAPITALISM: The big industrial states of the North were among the last to give in. Oil, manufacturing, and railroad lobbies worked secretly against suffrage, not only because the big liquor interests were threatened by an early alliance of the Women's Christian Temperance Union with the Suffrage cause, but also because the WRM had from the beginning been identified with the labor reform, and "creeping socialism" in general. Let's not forget that women were and still are a cheap labor supply. The vote could have worked against that. ( An interesting fact that Flexner brings out in this connection is that the Women's anti-suffrage committees were a female front for big money interests. Records show that 4/5 of their contributions came from MEN, generally in quite substantial sums. We can credit the women in these groups with being the first organized Aunt Toms.)

2) Racism: The second large bloc to fight woman suffrage to the bitter end was, you guessed it, the Southern States. In those days they openly stated the connection between the black struggle and the feminist struggle that is better disguised today. For, to grant the vote to women would not only ,enfranchise another HALF of the Negro race, but would call attention to the fact that suffrage was NOT universal. With 51% of the population looking out for corruption at the polls, the 14th amendment might get enforced as well as the 19th.

3) GOVERNMENT: "The political machines which were uncertain of their ability to control an addition to the electorate which seemed relatively unsusceptible to bribery, who were militant, and bent on such disturbing reforms as the abolition of child labor, and worst of all, cleaning up politics." FLEXNER, Op. Cit., p. 299

4) THE CHURCH & THE FAMILY: Maybe none of the other causes listed, goes so deeply to the root as this one. Judeo-Christianity has always espoused the inferiority of women, pointing to Genesis for proof of women's temptress nature, her special role, her mission to be fruitful and multiply and after Eden, to multiply in pain and submission to man. 

The family unit based on women's responsibility for child rearing, on male supremacy and thus her submission to male authority and the sexual double standard, was severely threatened at its core by any talk of change. After all, who could know at that time that the movement could be stopped with only partial or surrogate freedoms? They saw clearly, that to follow through on Women's rights would mean abolition of the traditional family structure, which certainly gave these men quite a few advantages.

5) THE LAW: The facade which reinforced and guaranteed the status quo. Thus the revolutionary potential of Woman Power was recognized by the men in power as the real threat to their system and, as so often happens, it was recognized more clearly by the enemy than by some of the crusaders themselves. Even with the Suffrage Association later turning conservative in their obsession with getting the vote at all cost, and in their zeal practically assuring the male power structure that if they were granted the vote they wouldn't USE it, the establishment wasn't convinced. It took 53 years from the first state suffrage referendum in Kansas in 1867 to the final ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. And even then there was so much stalling that from January 10, 1918, when the amendment was finally passed (by the EXACT 2/3 majority required) it took two years and nine months to get it ratified. And then it passed by only a miraculous two votes. When all else had failed, the losing minority even tried the desperate tactic of crossing the state line into Alabama to prevent a quorum until they could undermine the majority vote.

But though these forces finally appeared to give in, they did so in name only. They never lost. For by that time, the barrage of campaigns, this pooling and concentration of all energy onto the limited goal of suffrage (which in the beginning after all, had been seen only as a preliminary, a weapon with which to wrest real political power) had depleted the Women's Rights Movement. The monster of the vote had swallowed everything else. Three generations had come and gone, the master planners were all dead. The later women who had joined in to work for the clear cut issue of the vote had never had time to develop a broader consciousness, to see where the vote fit in By that time they could hardly remember that there had been anything else to fight for. By the time the Suffrage Movement disbanded the Women's Rights Movement was dead. The opposition had had its way.

For what is the vote worth finally if the voter is manipulated? Every husband knows he's not losing a vote, but gaining one. Today, some 50 years later, women still vote as wives, just as they govern as wives. Lurleen Wallace symbolized the puppet political position women have in this country. Margaret Chase Smith has been the only woman Senator elected independently of any connection with husband or father. And where are the woman mayors? In 1968, Jackie Kennedy correctly told a reporter that "in my family politics are left to the men," while Lady Bird, the highest lady of the land, provides an exemplary model for the young ladies with her concern for Easter outfits and beautiful highways.

Though as often quoted to show progress, one third of all women work, they work in the worst sense of the word; that is, they have merely added a new exploiter to the old one. For they are concentrated in the service occupations, at the bottom rung of the employment ladder, in jobs that no one else will bake. As for earnings, latest figures show that even black male workers make more.

The average woman earns approximately $2,827 annually, a little over half the average man's earnings ($4,466). Despite the talk about bitchy businesswomen, how many businesswomen do you ever see? How many women in any managerial or decision making position? How many professionals? Ninety five percent of all professionals are still male. Academic opportunities are shrinking, not growing; even the women's colleges and magazines are run by men. Nor does anyone mention the fact that future prospects look even dimmer. The routine jobs that were granted to women, a lollipop to appease their hunger for real and important work, will be the first to go, come automation. Perhaps men will have their way after all, and women will go back to the home they never should have left.

What went wrong? Why did the Women's Rights Movement fail?

1. BY SELLING OUT THE CAUSE FOR "MORE IMPORTANT" ISSUES: Women, more than any other oppressed group, were easy to convince that their struggle should be delayed for "more important issues." This may be due to the special conditioning which women undergo for the beginning to please rather than disturb - to put the interests of the male or the child above their own. Whatever the reason, many of them sold out on their own cause too often.

First, in the Civil War, the back of the tough little W.R.M. was broken when the energy of women was channeled into war work. After the war, the movement had to be built up again from scratch. Only the staunchest feminists insisted that the word SEX as well as Color go into the Fourteenth Amendment. The Abolitionists, who had been glad to accept the alliance with women all along, suddenly decided that now it was "the Negro's hour," - that the cause of women was too unimportant to delay for a minute any advances in the liberation of the blacks. Needless to say they had forgotten that HALF of the black race was female, so they sold out their own cause as well. Once again the principle was proved that unless oppressed groups stick together, and on alliances of self interest rather than do-goodism; nothing can be accomplished in the long run to dismantle the apparatus of oppression. As long as it remains to be used on one group, it can just as easily be employed on another. 

Later, in World War I the same thing happened. Most of the Suffragettes bent over backwards to prove their patriotism. They were sensitive to the charge that they cared more about their own interests than the good of the country. Only the militants kept at it, acknowledging the war only by such slogans as "Freedom Begins at Home." Naturally they were baited for this, and vilified. But they were right in knowing that if they gave up now they would never get the vote. For once, they were needed in the labor force: if only temporarily for the "war effort", and thus they had a certain bargaining position.

They know that then their citizenship could be questioned by no one, whereas after the war there would be the usual conservative backlash, the attempt to put them back in the home. And indeed it is no accident that the Amendment finally passed when it did, right before the end of the War. in 1918

In this regard we should keep in mind that Revolutions anywhere are always glad to use any help they can get, even from women. But unless women also use the Revolution to further their own interests as well as everyone else's, unless they make it consistently clear that all help given now is expected to be returned, both now and after the Revolution, they will be sold out again and again, just as they were in Algeria.

2. BY SINGLE ISSUE ORGANIZING AS OPPOSED TO ORGANIZING To RAISE THE GENERAL CONSCIOUSNESS Many organizers labor under the illusion that they can "use" an existing, already "hot. issue to build up their own cause. I think this is a delusion, that in fact it does not save time or effort, but can really set a movement back or even destroy it. To reach the people "where they are at" when they are in the wrong place, it a false approach. Rather, we should be concerned with educating them at all times to the real issues involved. If there ARE real issues, people will catch on soon enough.

An example of this failing in the Women's Rights Movement was the alliance with the Women's Christian Temperance Union. After the Civil War, when the solid base of the W.R.M. had been broken, it seemed opportune to use whatever women's organizations there were a as a platform to promote genuine women's issues. The staunchest feminists were against this alliance. Others, notably Frances Willard, argued that she could "use" the temperance issue to further women's rights, since temperance was "where the women were at." It not only failed, but it set back the vote fifty years. Once the W.R.M. became allied in the public mind with the unpopular temperance issue (justly unpopular, I might add); once it was associated, not with freer women, but with a straight-laced, self-righteous Mother, once the big liquor interests stepped in...well, the rest is history,

Again, Stanton and Anthony made a mistake merging their radical feminist National Suffrage Association with the timid provincial American Suffrage Association. The National was concerned with the vote only as the means to a much broader end. They were against any type of partial suffrage and favored instead applying pressure on Washington to amend the Constitution. But Stanton and Anthony were getting old, and with many misgivings, they finally merged with the "better organized" American, a single issue organization, devoted strictly to suffrage, and working on the state level. Again, they might have saved fifty years.

Once the pressure was taken off Washington, the Suffrage issue sank into the "doldrums" until years later, when Harriet Stanton Thatch, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's daughter returned from England with a set of new tactics, and a renewed pressure for the National Amendment, an approach that had lain dormant since her mother's time. It must also be stressed that the later militants were not single issue oriented like the others. Their strategy was better because they approached the problem fearlessly from a broader perspective.

Again, we can see how this principle operates on the international level as well. Women in socialist countries or situations, such as Russia or the Kibbutz, have been used in the economy, but because a tremendous raising of consciousness did not occur during the revolutionary period, because they were too concerned with THE Revolution and not THEIR Revolution, because their definition of themselves did not change radically but was only reformed on certain ISSUES such as Labor, they found themselves later not only not free, but perhaps in an even worse position. They simply had added certain new jobs to their old ones. Now they work harder.

I would like to conclude from all this, that contrary to what most historians would have us believe, women's rights were never won. The Women's Rights Movement did not fold because it accomplished its objectives, but because it was essentially defeated and mischannelled. SEEMING freedoms appear to have been won. Let's investigate these briefly:

1. SEXUAL Though its true that women wear shorter skirts than they used to, I would suggest that this happened not so much in their interest as because MEN preferred it that way. After all, girls are still sent home from high school in winter for wearing pants to keep their legs warm. Miniskirts are impractical, requiring constant attention to ones sitting posture, constant emphasis on ones sexual nature. High heels, girdles, garter belts, nylons and all the other trappings of the chic modern woman may appear more natural, but in fact are almost as uncomfortable as the corsets and bustles were. For though women may strive for a 'natural' look, they do indeed strive. Girls today are as concerned about 'image' as ever. And they are still sexual objects. Only the styles have changed.

As for sex itself, I would argue that any changes were as a result of male interests and not female. Any benefits for women were accidental. A relaxing of the mores concerning female sexual behavior was to HIS advantage; there was a greater sexual supply at a lower or nonexistent cost. But his attitudes haven't changed much since the good old Professional Whore days.

2. LABOR As stated above, though one third of the women are employed, they have merely taken over the shit jobs. Even when they earn as much as their husbands do, the equal work does not grant them a new equal status in the family; rather, they are considered to be "helping out." And when they come home, there's still that housework to do, the child care, the cooking of supper. ("The woman's work is never done.") So that here again, the change resulted in male advantage; that is, the woman took over the menial jobs he didn't like, jobs that she had no commitment to, and would give up any time in favor of marriage or babies, if he so desired. (Then he could argue as an employer that he couldn't hire her for the good jobs or give her equal wages for equal work when she'd just turn over and get married.

3. WOMEN & MONEY This is the one you never hear the end of: How the women control all the bread and spend it on whatever they please. But, the advertisers and manufacturers want it that way, though in their personal lives they will be the first to berate the little woman for spending all that money. It doesn't take much to figure this one out. This is a consumer economy, one that needs full time consumers of useless products for its very existence. What better target than a class of semi-educated semi-conscious unhappy people, who also have some access to the budget money? It is no accident that the domestic pages are full of cartoons depicting irate husbands chewing out Big Mama for always going shopping when ever she's unhappy. So let's start putting the blame where it belongs: on that same husband when he's in his office doing market research.

4. LEGAL RIGHTS - A Canadian documentary on the Women's Rights Movement, WOMEN one THE MARCH, showed that the Canadian Supreme Court had once handed down a decision declaring that, no, women were NOT people. Later, there was a lot of fanfare when the decision was reversed. A plaque was even presented to someone, I forget who. And that's about where it's at. Now we are declared human in certain books, but though some legal rights have been won, as with the Negro, its guise another thing to have them actually enforced. More often they are distorted or even used as grounds for more severe exploitation, i.e., "See what you've done now that we've given you your freedom?"

But such advances so hard won, and yielded with such ill grace, turned out to be a big hoax, and we're finally catching on. There are several important lessons to be learned this time around if we don't want to be subtly subverted yet again.

To capitulate briefly, these are:

1. Never compromise basic principles for political expediency.
2. Agitation for specific freedoms is worthless without the preliminary raising of consciousness necessary to utilize these freedoms fully.
3. Put your own interests first, then proceed to make alliances with other oppressed groups. Demand a piece of that revolutionary pie before you put your life on the line.

This document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library-A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm . Please contact this collection for information about reproducing this article.

Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement

(1968-69) Issues of the first national women's liberation newsletter. (Editors Note: Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement was the first national women's liberation newsletter. The first issue appeared in March of 1968 and the final issue in June of 1969. Several future CWLU members worked on it during its 7 issue lifetime. Edited by Jo Freeman aka "Joreen", out of Chicago, Illinois, it provided a way for many small groups across the country to communicate.)

We are in the process of putting the issues up on the web. As much as possible we are attempting to keep the same original layouts.

Available Now!

Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement (March 1968)

Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement (June 1968) 

Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement (October 1968)

Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement (January 1969)


Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement (August 1968)

Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement (February 1969)

Note: A complete photocopied set of Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement is available from Redstockings.

The Jeanette Rankin Brigade: Woman Power?

by Shulamith Firestone (1968) The Jeanette Rankin Brigade was a women's protest to end the SE Asia War. This article is a radical feminist critique of that well intentioned, but ultimately frustrating effort. by Shulamith Firestone

(Editors Note: In January of 1968 with the SE Asia War raging, the Jeanette Rankin Brigade came to Washington to pressure Congress to end the conflict. The Brigade was named for Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to Congress. Rankin voted against US entrance into both WWI and WWII and was a well known feminist and peace activist. Shulamith Firestone analyzed the Brigade from a radical feminist point of view.)  

A lot of energy and a good few months of our early formation period were spent preparing an appropriate action for the Brigade peace march in Washington, D.C., the largest gathering of women for a political purpose since the heyday of Jeanette Rankin (the first woman elected to Congress from Montana in 1917). The brigade was a coalition of women's groups united for a specific purpose: to confront Congress on its opening day, Jan. 15, 1968, with a strong show of female opposition to the Vietnam War.

However, from the beginning we felt that this kind of action, though well-meant was ultimately futile. It is naive to believe that women who are not politically seen, heard, or represented in this country could change the course of a war by simply appealing to the better natures of congressmen. Further, we disagreed with a women's demonstration as a tactic for ending the war, for the Brigade's reason for organizing AS WOMEN. That is, the Brigade was playing upon the traditional female role in the classic manner. They came as wives, mothers and: mourners; that is, tearful and passive reactors to the actions of men rather than organizing as women to change that definition of femininity to something other than a synonym for weakness, political impotence, and tears.

So that we came as a group not of appeal to Congress, but to appeal to women not to appeal to congress. Rather we believed that such a massive gathering should be used to devise ways to build up real political strength.

To drive this home, we felt that a dramatic action would be least offensive and most effective. In addition to a speech written and delivered to the main body of the convention on Jan. 15, and reprinted below, we staged an actual funeral procession with a larger-than-life dummy on a transported bier, complete with feminine getup, blank face, blonde curls, and candle. Hanging from the bier were such disposable items as S & H Green Stamps, curlers, garters, and hairspray. Streamers floated off it and we also carried large banners, such as "DON'T CRY: RESIST " Kathy Barrett of the Pageant Players, a New York street theater group, worked with others on simple but effective costumes for the funeral entourage. We had a special drum corps with kazoo, and a sheet of clever songs written by Beverly Grant and others. Peg Dobbins wrote a long funeral dirge lamenting woman's traditional role which encourages men to develop aggression and militarism to prove their masculinity. There were several related pamphlets, including one written by Kathie Amatniek which elaborated on the following Progression:






Finally, by way of a black-bordered invitation we "joyfully" invited many of the 5,000 women there to attend a burial that evening at Arlington "by torchlight" of Traditional Womanhood, "who passed with a sigh to her Great Reward this year of the Lord, 1968, after 3,000 years of bolstering the egos of Warmakers and aiding the cause of war..."

The message inside read:

Don't Bring Flowers...Do be prepared to sacrifice your traditional female roles. You have refused to hanky-wave boys off to war with admonitions to save the American Mom and Apple Pie. You have resisted your roles of supportive girl friends and tearful widows, receivers of regretful telegrams and worthless medals of honor. And now you must resist approaching Congress playing these same roles that are synonymous with powerlessness. We must not come as passive suppliants begging for favors, for power cooperates only with power. We must learn to fight the warmongers on their own terms, though they believe us capable only of rolling bandages. Until we have united into a force to be reckoned with, we will be patronized and ridiculed into total political ineffectiveness. So if you are really sincere about ending this war, join us tonight and in the future.

Later, 500 women split off in disgust from the main body of the convention to call a counter congress. Although predictable under the circumstances, nevertheless it was unexpected. We were not really prepared to rechannel this disgust, to provide the direction that was so badly needed. There was chaos. The women were united only in their frustration, some calling for militancy of any kind at that late date, others for more organization for the future. They were all keenly disappointed, and fully aware of their impotence.

It was a great moment. But we lost it. And we learned the value of spontaneity, of quick and appropriate political action, the value of learning to size up a situation and act on it at once, the importance of unrehearsed speaking ability. For I think one good guiding speech at the crisis point which illustrated the real causes underlying the massive discontent and impotence felt in that room then, would have been worth ten dummies and three months of careful and elaborate planning.

The measure of that impotence was the very fact that the number of marchers was, for the first time in years, accurately reported: the march was no threat at all to the Establishment. By the same token general coverage of such a large march was slight or nonexistent, handled by minor reporters who had to work or wring some human interest value or slight sexual titillation from the fact that a few younger women could be spotted at this dull and hennish hotel teaparty. But where minor reporters failed, Ramparts succeeded. They had to use odd agile photography distorted quotations, and a whole lot of incorrect facts, granted, but succeed they did. (Even Life couldn't have done better, had they been interested in trying.)

Letters of protest poured in from women in radical groups around the country. But Ramparts just chuckled patted the little women on the cheeks published a few (out of context) and went on its more important radical business.

Despite all this discouragement and the small returns on all our labors, the Washington experience was not entirely wasted. We learned alot. We found out where women, even the so called "women radicals" were really at. We confirmed our worst suspicions, that the job ahead, of developing even a minimal consciousness among women will be staggering, but we also confirmed our belief that a real women's movement in this country will come, if only out of the sheer urgent and immediate necessity for one.

This document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library-A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.

http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm . Please contact this collection for information about reproducing this article.

Funeral Oration for the Burial of Traditional Womanhood

by Kathie Amatniek (1968) The Jeanette Rankin Brigade was a women's protest to end the SE Asia War. Radical feminists staged a mock funeral for "Traditional Womanhood" during protest. This was the funeral oration. by Kathie Amatniek

(Editors Note: In January of 1968 with the SE Asia War raging, the Jeanette Rankin Brigade came to Washington to pressure Congress to end the war. The Brigade was named for Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to Congress. Rankin voted against US entrance into both WWI and WWII and was a well known feminist and peace activist. Some of the radical women staged a mock funeral for traditional womanhood during the protest.)  

You see here the remains of a female human being who during her all a lifetime was a familiar figure to billions of people in every corner of the world. Although scientists would classify this specimen within the genus species of homo sapiens, for many years [here has been considerable controversy as to whether she really belonged in some kind of sub-species of the genus. While the human being was distinguished as an animal who freed himself from his biological limitations by developing technology and expanding his consciousness, traditional womanhood has been recognized, defined and valued for her biological characteristics only and those social functions closely related to her biological characteristics.

As human beings, both men and women were sexual creatures and they shared their sexuality. But the other areas of humanity were closed off to traditional womanhood...the areas which, as has already been noted, were more characteristically human, less limited by biology. For some reason, man said to woman: you are less sexual when you participate in those other things, you are no longer attractive to me if you do so. I like you quiet and submissive. It makes me feel as if you don't love me, if you fail to let me do all the talking ...if you actually have something to say yourself. Or else, when I like you to be charming and well-educated...entertainment for me and an intelligent mother for my children....these qualities are for me and for me alone. When you confront the world outside the home - the world where I operate as an individual self as well as a husband and father - then, for some reason, I feel you are a challenge to me and you become sexless and aggressive.

If you turn me off too much, you knew, I'll find myself another woman. And if that happens, what will you do? You’ll be a nobody, that's what you'll be. An old maid, if I haven't deigned to marry you yet. A divorced woman..with some children, no doubt. Without me, you won't even have your sexuality anymore, that little bit of humanity which I have allowed you. And even if you manage to solve that problem in some kind of perverse way, it's going to be hard for you.

What kinds of jobs can you get to keep yourself in comfort? I control those few interesting challenging ones. And I control the salaries on all the other kinds of jobs from which my fellow men who work at them will at least get the satisfaction of more pay than you. And I control the government and its money which, you can bet your tax dollar, isn't going to get allotted for enough good nursery schools to put your children into so you can go out to work. And because of all these things, there can always be another woman in my life, when you no longer serve my needs.

And so traditional Womanhood, even if she was unhappy with her lot, believed that there was nothing she could do about it. She blamed herself for her limitations and she tried to adapt. She told herself and she told others that she was happy as half a person, as the "better half" of someone else, as the mother of others, powerless in her own right.

Though Traditional Womanhood was a hardy dame, the grand old lady finally died today - her doctor said, of a bad case of shock. Her flattering menfolk had managed to keep her alive for thousands of years. She survived the Amazon challenge. She survived the Lysistrata challenge. She survived the Feminist challenge. And she survived many face-liftings. She was burning her candle at one end on a dull wick and she went out slowly, but she finally went...not with a bang but a whimper.

There are some grounds for believing that our march today contributed to the lady's timely demise and this is partly the reason we have decided to hold her funeral here. The old hen, it turns out, was somewhat disturbed to hear us - other women, that is - asserting ourselves just this least little bit about critical problems in the world controlled by men. And it was particularly frightening to her to see other women, we- women, asserting ourselves together, however precariously, in some kind of solidarity, instead of completely resenting each other, being embarrassed by each other, hating each other and hating ourselves.

And we were-even attempting to organize ourselves on the basis of power...that little bit of power we are told we have here in America...the so-called power of wives and mothers. That this power is only a substitute for power, that it really amounts to nothing politically, is the reason why all of us attending this funeral must bury traditional womanhood tonight. We must bury her in Arlington Cemetery, however crowded it is by now. For in Arlington Cemetery, our national monument to war, alongside Traditional Manhood, is her natural resting place.

Now some sisters here are probably wondering why we should bother with such an unimportant matter at a time like this. Why should we bury traditional womanhood while hundreds of thousands of human beings are being brutally slaughtered in our names...when it would seem that our number one task is to devote our energies directly to ending this slaughter or else solve what seem to be more desperate problems at home?

Sisters who ask a question like this are failing to see that they really do have a problem as women in America...that their problem is social, not merely personal...and that their problem is so closely related and interlocked with the other problems in our country, the very problem of war itself...that we cannot hope to move toward a better world or even a truly democratic society at home until we begin to solve our own problems.

How many sisters failed to join our march today because they-were afraid their husbands' would disapprove? How many more sisters failed to join us today because they've been taught to believe that women are silly and a women's march even sillier? And how many millions of sisters all across America failed to join us because they think so little of themselves that they feel incapable of thinking for themselves...about the war in Vietnam or anything else. And if some sisters come to conclusions of their own, how many others of us fail to express 'these ideas' much less argue and demonstrate for them because we're afraid of seeming unattractive, silly, "uppity." To the America watching us, after all, we here on this march are mere women, looking silly and unattractive.

Yes, sisters, we have a problem as women all right, a problem which renders us powerless and ineffective over the issues of war and peace, as well as over our own lives. And although our problem is Traditional Manhood as much as Traditional Womanhood, we women must begin on the solution.

We must see that we can only solve our problem together, that we cannot solve it individually as earlier Feminist generations attempted to do. We women must organize so that for man there can be no "other woman" when we begin expressing ourselves and acting politically, when we insist to men that they share the housework and childcare, fully and equally, so that we can have independent lives as well.

Human qualities will make us attractive then, not servile qualities. We will want to have daughters as much as we want to have sons. Our children will not become victims of our unconscious resentments and our displaced ambitions. And both our daughters and sons will be free to develop themselves in just the directions they want to go as human beings.

Sisters: men need us, too, after all. And if we just get together and tell our men that we want our freedom as full human beings, that we don't want to live just through our man and his achievements and our mutual offsprings, that we want human power in our own right, not just "power behind the throne," that we want neither dominance or submission for anybody, anyplace, in Vietnam or in our own homes, and that when we all have our freedom we can truly love each other.

If men fail to see that love, justice and equality are the solution, that domination and exploitation hurt everybody, then our species is truly doomed; for if domination and exploitation and aggression are inherent biological c characteristics which cannot be overcome, then nuclear war is inevitable and we will have reached our evolutionary deadened by annihilating ourselves.

And that is why we must bury this lady in Arlington Cemetery tonight, why we must bury Submission alongside Aggression. And that is why we ask you to join us. It is only a symbolic happening, of course, and we have a lot of real work to do. We have new men as well as a new society to build.

This document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library- A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.

http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm . Please contact this collection for information about reproducing this article.

Black Women in Poverty

by Various authors (1968) An exploration of the complexities of reproductive freedom in the context of America's racial and gender nightmare. by Various Authors(1968)

(Editors Note: This exchange of ideas shows the complexity of race and gender politics in the USA. In it Black activists discuss reproductive politics and the role of Black women in social transformation.) 

a statement by the Black Unity Party (Peekskill, NY)

The Brothers are calling on the Sisters not to take the pill. It is this system's method of exterminating black people here and abroad. To take the pill means that we are contributing to our own GENOCIDE.

However, in not taking the pill, we must have a new sense of value. When we produce children, we are aiding the REVOLUTION in the form of NATION building. Our children must have pride in their history, in their heritage, in their beauty. Our children must not be brainwashed as we were.

PROCREATION is beautiful, especially if we are devoted to the Revolution which means that our value system be altered to include the Revolution as responsibility. A good deal of the Supremacist (White) efforts to sterilize the word's (Non-whites) out of existence is turning toward the black people of America. New trends in Race Control have led the architects of GENOCIDE to believe that Sterilization projects aimed at the black man in the United States can cure American internal troubles.

Under the cover of an alleged campaign to "alleviate poverty", white supremacist Americans and their dupes are pushing an all-out drive to put rigid birth control measures into every black home. No such drive exists within the White American world. In some cities, Peekskill, Harlem, Mississippi and Alabama, welfare boards are doing their best to force black women receiving aid to submit to Sterilization. This disguised attack on black future generations is rapidly picking up popularity among determined genocidal engineers. This country is prepared to exterminate people by the pill or by the bomb; therefore, we must draw strength from ourselves.

You see why there is a Family Planning Office in the Black Community of Peekskill.

by black sisters

September 11, 1968

Dear Brothers:

Poor black sisters decide for themselves whether to have a baby or not to have a baby. If we take the pills or practice birth control in other ways, it because of poor black men.

Now, here's how it is. Poor black men won't support their families, won't stick by their women -- all they think about is the street, dope and liquor, women, a piece of ass, and their cars. That's all that counts. Poor black women would be fools to sit up in the house with a whole lot of children and eventually go crazy, sick, heartbroken, no place to go, no sign of affection -- nothing. Middle-class white men have always done this to their women -- only more sophisticated-like.

So when whitey put out the pill and poor black sisters spread the word, we saw how simple it was not to be a fool for men any more (politically we would say that men could no longer exploit us sexually or for money and leave the babies with us to bring up). That was the first step in our waking up!

Black women have always been told by black men that we were black, ugly, evil, bitches and whores -- in other words, we were the real niggers in this society -- oppressed by whites, male and female, and the black man, too.

Now a lot of the black brothers are into a new bag. Black women are being asked by militant black brothers not to practice birth control because it is a form of whitey committing genocide on black people. Well, true enough, but it takes two to practice genocide and black women are able to decide for themselves, just like poor people all over the world, whether they will submit to genocide. For us, birth control is freedom to fight genocide of black women and children.

Like the Vietnamese have decided to fight genocide, the South American poor are beginning to fight back, and the African poor will fight back, too. Poor black women in the U.S. have to fight back out of our own experience of oppression. Having too many babies stops us from supporting our children, teaching them the truth or stopping the brainwashing as you say, and fighting black men who still want to use and exploit us.

But we don't think you are going to understand us because you are a bunch of little middle class people and we are poor black women, The middle class never understands the poor because they always need to use them as you want to use poor black women's children to gain power for yourself. You'll run the black community with your kind of black power -- you on top!

Mt. Vernon, N.Y. 
Patricia Harden -- welfare recipient
Sue Rudolph -- housewife
Joyce Hoyt -- domestic and psychotherapist
Rita Van Lew-- welfare recipient
Catherine Hoyt--grandmother
Patricia Robinson -- housewife

POOR BLACK WOMEN by Patricia Robinson

It is time to speak to the whole question of the position of poor black women in this society and in this historical period of revolution and counterrevolution. We have the foregoing analysis of their own perspective and it offers all of us some very concrete points.

First, that the class hierarchy as seen from the poor black woman's position is one of white male in power, followed by the white female, and then the black male and lastly the black female.

Historically, the myth in the black world is that there are only two free people in the United States, the white man and the black woman. The myth was established by the black man in the long period of his frustration when he longed to be free to have the material and social advantages of his oppressor, the white man. On examination of the myth, this so-called freedom was based on the sexual prerogatives taken by the white man on the black female. It was fantasized by the black man that she enjoyed it.

The black woman was needed and valued by the white female as a domestic. The black female diluted much of the actual oppression of the white female by the white male. With the help of the black woman, the white woman had free time from mother and housewife responsibilities and could escape her domestic prison overseer by the white male.

The poor black woman still occupies the position of a domestic in this society, rising no higher than public welfare, when the frustrated male deserts her and the children. (Public welfare was instituted primarily for poor whites during the depression of the thirties to stave off their rising revolutionary violence. It was considered as a temporary stop-gap only.)

The poor black male deserted the poor black female and fled to the cities where he made his living by his wits -- hustling. The black male did not question the kind of society he lived in other than on the basis of racism: "The white man won't let me up 'cause I'm black!" Other rationalizations included blaming the black woman, which has been a much described phenomenon. The black man wanted to take the master's place and all that went with it.

Simultaneously, the poor black woman did not question the social and economic system. She saw her main problem as described in the accompanying article -- social, economic and psychological oppression by the black man. But awareness in this case has moved to a second phase and exposes an important fact in the whole process of oppression. It takes two to oppress, a proper dialectical perspective to examine at this point in our movement.

An examination of the process of oppression in any or all of its forms shows simply that at least two parties are involved. The need for the white man, particularly, to oppress others reveals his own anxiety and inadequacy about his own maleness and humanity. Many black male writers have eloquently analyzed this social and psychological fact.

Generally a feeling of inadequacy can be traced to all those who desperately need power and authority over others throughout history.

In other words, one's concept of oneself becomes based on one's class or power position in a hierarchy. Any endangering of this power position brings on a state of madness and irrationality within the individual which exposes the basic fear and insecurity beneath -- politically speaking, the imperialists are paper tigers.

But the oppressor must have the cooperation of the oppressed, of those he must feel better than. The oppressed and the damned are placed in an inferior position by force of arms, physical strength, and later, by threats of such force. But the long-time maintenance of power over others is secured by psychological manipulation and seduction. The oppressed must begin to believe in the divine right and position of kings, the inherent right of an elite to rule, the supremacy of a class or an ethnic group, the power of such condensed wealth as money and private property to give to its owners high social status. So a gigantic and complex myth has been woven by those who have power in this society of the inevitability of classes and the superiority and inferiority of certain groups. The oppressed begin to believe in their own inferiority and are left in their lifetime with two general choices: to identify with the oppressor (imitate him) or to rebel against him. Rebellion does not take place as long as the oppressed are certain of their inferiority and the innate superiority of the powerful, in essence a neurotic illusion. The oppressed appear to be in love with their chains.

In a capitalist society, all power to rule is imagined in male symbols and, in fact, all power in a capitalist society is in male hands.

Capitalism is a male supremacist society. Western religious gods are all male. The city, basis of 'civilization', is male as opposed to the country which is female. The city is a revolt against earlier female principles of nature and man's dependence on them. All domestic and international political and economic decisions are made by men and enforced by males and their symbolic extension - guns. Women have become the largest oppressed group in a dominant, male, aggressive, capitalist culture. The next largest oppressed group is the product of their wombs, the children, who are ever pressed into service and labor for the maintenance of a male-dominated class society.

If it is granted that it takes two to oppress, those who neurotically need to oppress and those who neurotically need to be oppressed, then what happens when the female in a capitalist society awakens to the reality? She can either identify with the male and opportunistically imitate him, appearing to share his power and giving him the surplus product of her body, the child, to use and exploit. Or she can rebel and remove the children from exploitative and oppressive male authority.

Rebellion by poor black women, the bottom of a class hierarchy heretofore not discussed, places the question of what kind of society will the poor black woman demand and struggle for. Already she demands the right to have birth control, like middle class black and white women. She is aware that it takes two to oppress and that she and other poor people no longer are submitting to oppression, in this case genocide. She allies herself with the have-nots in the wider world and their revolutionary struggles. She has been forced by historical conditions to withdraw the children from male dominance and to educate and support them herself.

In this very process, male authority and exploitation are seriously weakened. Further, she realizes that the children will be used as all poor children have been used throughout history -- as poorly paid mercenaries fighting to keep or put an elite group in power. Through these steps in the accompanying analytic article, she has begun to question aggressive male domination and the class society which enforces it, capitalism. This question, in time, will be posed to the entire black movement in this country.

This document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library-A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm . Please contact this collection for information about reproducing this article.

No More Miss America!

(1968) The 1968 Miss America Pageant was the scene of one of the first public protests by a women's liberation group. (Editors Note: In 1968 a group of feminists went to Atlantic City to protest the Miss America pageant. They originally intended to burn symbols of oppression in a "Freedom Trashcan" but were unable to secure a fire permit. The objects were simply deposited in the trashcan instead. Several members of the group managed to display a large protest banner inside the pageant.)  

On September 7th in Atlantic City, the Annual Miss America Pageant will again crown "your ideal." But this year, reality will liberate the contest auction-block in the guise of "genyooine" de-plasticized, breathing women. Women's Liberation Groups, black women, high-school and college women, women’s peace groups, women's welfare and social-work groups, women's job-equality groups, pro-birth control and pro-abortion groups- women of every political persuasion- all are invited to join us in a day-long boardwalk-theater event, starting at 1:00 p.m. on the Boardwalk in front of Atlantic City's Convention Hall. We will protest the image of Miss America, an image that oppresses women in every area in which it purports to represent us.

There will be: Picket Lines; Guerrilla Theater; Leafleting; Lobbying Visits to the contestants urging our sisters to reject the Pageant Farce and join us; a huge Freedom Trash Can (into which we will throw bras, girdles, curlers, false eyelashes, wigs, and representative issues of Cosmopolitan, Ladies' Home ]ournal, Family Circle, etc.- bring any such woman-garbage you have around the house); we will also announce a Boycott of all those commercial products related to the Pageant, and the day will end with a Women's Liberation rally at midnight when Miss America is crowned on live television. Lots of other surprises are being planned (come and add your own!) but we do not plan heavy disruptive tactics and so do not expect a bad police scene. It should be a groovy day on the Boardwalk in the sun with our sisters. In case of arrests, however, we plan to reject all male authority and demand to be busted by policewomen only. (In Atlantic City, women cops are not permitted to make arrests- dig that!)

Male chauvinist-reactionaries on this issue had best stay away, nor are male liberals welcome in the demonstrations. But sympathetic men can donate money as well as cars and drivers.

Male reporters will be refused interviews. We reject patronizing reportage. Only newswomen will be recognized.

The Ten Points  We Protest:

  1. The Degrading Mindless-Boob-Girlie Symbol. The Pageant contestants epitomize the roles we are all forced to play as women. The parade down the runway blares the metaphor of the 4-H Club county fair, where the nervous animals are judged for teeth, fleece, etc., and where the best "Specimen" gets the blue ribbon. So are women in our society forced daily to compete for male approval, enslaved by ludicrous "beauty" standards we ourselves are conditioned to take seriously.
  2. Racism with Roses. Since its inception in 1921, the Pageant has not had one Black finalist, and this has not been for a lack of test-case contestants. There has never been a Puerto Rican, Alaskan, Hawaiian, or Mexican-American winner. Nor has there ever been a true Miss America- an American Indian.
  3. Miss America as Military Death Mascot. The highlight of her reign each year is a cheerleader-tour of American troops abroad- last year she went to Vietnam to pep-talk our husbands, fathers, sons and boyfriends into dying and killing with a better spirit. She personifies the "unstained patriotic American womanhood our boys are fighting for." The Living Bra and the Dead Soldier. We refuse to be used as Mascots for Murder.
  4. The Consumer Con-Game. Miss America is a walking commercial for the Pageant's sponsors. Wind her up and she plugs your product on promotion tours and TV-all in an "honest, objective" endorsement. What a shill.
  5. Competition Rigged and Unrigged. We deplore the encouragement of an American myth that oppresses men as well as women: the win-or-you’re-worthless competitive disease. The "beauty contest" creates only one winner to be "used" and forty-nine losers who are "useless."
  6. The Woman as Pop Culture Obsolescent Theme. Spindle, mutilate, and then discard tomorrow. What is so ignored as last year's Miss America? This only reflects the gospel of our Society, according to Saint Male: women must be young, juicy, malleable-hence age discrimination and the cult of youth. And we women are brainwashed into believing this ourselves!
  7. The Unbeatable Madonna-Whore Combination. Miss America and Playboy's centerfold are sisters over the skin. To win approval, we must be both sexy and wholesome, delicate but able to cope, demure yet titillatingly bitchy. Deviation of any sort brings, we are told, disaster: "You won't get a man!!"
  8. The Irrelevant Crown on the Throne of Mediocrity. Miss America represents what women are supposed to be: inoffensive, bland, apolitical. If you are tall, short, over or under what weight The Man prescribes you should be, forget it. Personality, articulateness, intelligence, and commitment- unwise. Conformity is the key to the crown- and, by extension, to success in our Society.
  9. Miss America as Dream Equivalent To-? In this reputedly democratic society, where every little boy supposedly can grow up to be President, what can every little girl hope to grow to be? Miss America. That's where it's at. Real power to control our own 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.
  10. Miss America as Big Sister Watching You. The pageant exercises Thought Control, attempts to sear the Image onto our minds, to further make women oppressed and men oppressors; to enslave us all the more in high-heeled, low-status roles; to inculcate false values in young girls; women as beasts of buying; to seduce us to our selves before our own oppression.


Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female

by Frances Beal (1969) An indictment of racism and sexism by an activist in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. by Frances Beal (1969)

(Editors Note: Frances Beal was active in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee when this widely reprinted essay was written.)  

In attempting to analyze the situation of the black woman in America, one crashes abruptly into a solid wall of grave misconceptions, outright distortions of fact and defensive attitudes on the part of many. The system of capitalism (and its after birth...racism) under which we all live, has attempted by many devious ways and means to destroy the humanity of all people, and particularly the humanity of black people. This has meant an outrageous assault on every black man, woman and child who reside in the United States.

In keeping with its goal of destroying the black race's will to resist its subjugation, capitalism found it necessary to create a situation where the black man found it impossible to find meaningful or productive employment. More often than not, he couldn't find work of any kind. And the black woman likewise was manipulated by the system, economically exploited and physically assaulted. She could often find work in the white man's kitchen, however, and sometimes became the sole breadwinner of the family This predicament has led to many psychological problems on the part of both man and woman and has contributed to the turmoil that we find in the black family structure.

Unfortunately, neither the black man nor the black woman understood the true nature of the forces-working upon them. Many black women tended to accept the-capitalist evaluation of manhood and womanhood and believed, in fact, that black men were shiftless and lazy, otherwise they would get a job and support their families as they ought to. Personal relationships between black men and women were thus torn asunder and one result has been the separation of man from wife, mother from child, etc.

America has defined the roles to which each individual should subscribe. It has defined "manhood" in terms of its own interests and "femininity" likewise. Therefore, an individual who has a good job, makes a lot of money and drives a Cadillac is a real "man," and conversely, an individual who is lacking in these "qualities" is less of a man. The advertising media in this country continuously informs the American male of his need for indispensable signs of his virility the brand of cigarettes that cowboys prefer, the whiskey that has a masculine tang or the label of the jock strap that athletes wear.

The ideal model that is projected for a woman is to be surrounded by hypocritical homage and estranged from all real work, spending idle hours primping and preening, obsessed with conspicuous consumption, and limiting life's functions to simply a sex role. We unqualitatively reject these respective models. A woman who stays at home, caring for children and the house often leads an extremely sterile existence. She must lead her entire life as a satellite to her mate. He goes out into society and brings back a little piece of the world for her. His interests and his understanding of the world become her own and she can not develop herself as an individual, having been reduced to only a biological function. This kind of woman leads a parasitic existence that can aptly be described as "legalized prostitution".

Furthermore, it is idle dreaming to think of black women simply caring for their homes and children like the middle class white model. Most black women have to work to help house, feed and clothe their families. Black women make up a substantial percentage of the black working force and this is true for the poorest black family as well as the so-called "middle class" family.

Black women were never afforded any such phony luxuries. Though we have been browbeaten with this white image, the reality of the degrading and dehumanizing jobs that were relegated to us quickly dissipated this mirage of "womanhood". The following excerpts from a speech that Sojourner Truth made at a Women's Rights Convention in the 19th century show us how misleading and incomplete a life this model represents for us:

...Well, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be something out o'kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de niggers of de Souf and de women at de norf all a talkin' 'bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all dis here talkin' 'bout? Dat man ober dar say dat women needs to be helped into carriages and lifted ober ditches, and to have de best place every whar. Nobody ever help me into carriages, or ober mud puddles, or gives me any best places...and ar'nt I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm...l have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me - and ar'nt I a woman? I could work as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear de lash as well - and ar'nt I a woman? I have borne five chilern and Iseen ‘em mos’ all sold off into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard --and ar’nt I a woman?

Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion in the Movement today as to who has been oppressing whom. Since the advent of black power, the black male has exerted a more prominent leadership role in our struggle for justice in this country. He sees the system for what it really is for the most part. But where he rejects its values and mores on many issues, when it comes to women, he seems to take his guidelines from the pages of the Ladies Home Journal.

Certain black men are maintaining that they have been castrated by society but that black women somehow escaped this persecution and even contributed to this emasculation. Let me state here and now that the black woman in America can justly be described as a "slave of a slave." By reducing the black man in America to such abject oppression, the black woman had no protector and was used, and is still being used in some cases, as the scapegoat for the evils that this horrendous system has perpetrated on black men. Her physical image has been maliciously maligned; she has been sexually molested and abused by the white colonizer; she has suffered the worst kind of economic exploitation, having been forced to serve as the white woman's maid and wet nurse for white offspring while her own children were more often than not, starving and neglected. It is the depth of degradation to be socially manipulated, physically raped, used to undermine your own household, and to be powerless to reverse this syndrome.

It is true that our husbands, fathers, brothers and sons have been emasculated, lynched and brutalized. They have suffered from the cruelest assault on mankind that the world has ever known. However, it is a gross distortion of fact to state that black women have oppressed black men. The capitalist system found it expedient to enslave and oppress them and proceeded to do so without signing any agreements with black women.

It must also be pointed out at this time, that black women are not resentful of the rise to power of black men. We welcome it. We see in in it the eventual liberation of all black people from this corrupt system under which we suffer. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you have to negate one for the other. This kind of thinking is a product of miseducation; that it's either X or it's Y. It is fallacious reasoning that in order the black man to be strong, the black woman has to be weak.

Those who are exerting their "manhood" by telling black women to step back into a domestic, submissive role are assuming a counter-revolutionary position. Black women likewise have been abused by the system and we must begin talking about the elimination of all kinds of oppression. If we are talking about building a strong nation, capable of throwing off the yoke of capitalist oppression, then we are talking about the total involvement of every man, woman, and child, each with a highly developed political consciousness. We need our whole army out there dealing with the enemy and not half an army.

There are also some black women who feel that there is no more productive role in life than having and raising children. This attitude often reflects the conditioning of the society in which we live and is adopted (totally, completely and without change) from a bourgeois white model. Some young sisters who have never had to maintain a household and accept the confining role which this entails, tend to romanticize (along with the help of a few brothers) this role of housewife and mother. Black women who have had to endure this kind of function as the sole occupation of their life, are less apt to have these utopian visions.

Those who project in an intellectual manner how great and rewarding this role will be and who feel that the most important thing that they can contribute to the black nation is children, are doing themselves a great injustice. This line of reasoning completely negates the contributions that black women have historically made to our struggle for liberation. These black women include Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune and Fannie Lou Hamer to name but a few.

We live in a highly industrialized society and every member of the black nation must be as academically and technologically developed as possible. To wage a revolution, we need competent teachers, doctors, nurses, electronic experts, chemists, biologists, physicists, political scientists, and so on and so forth. Black women sitting at home reading bedtime stories to their children are just not going to make it. 


The economic system of capitalism finds it expedient to reduce women to a state of enslavement. They oftentimes serve as a scapegoat for the evils of this system. Much in the same way that the poor white cracker of the South who is equally victimized, looks down upon blacks and contributes to the oppression of blacks, --So by giving to men a false feeling of superiority (at least in their own home or in their relationships with women,) the oppression of women acts as an escape valve for capitalism. Men may be cruelly exploited and subjected to a11 sorts of dehumanizing tactics on the part of the ruling class, but they brave someone who is below them - -at least they're not women.

Women also represent a surplus labor supply, the control of which is absolutely necessary to the profitable functioning of capitalism. Women are systematically exploited by the system. They are paid less for the same work that men do and jobs that are specifically relegated to women are low-paying and without the possibility of advancement. Statistics from the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor show that the wage scale for white women was even below that of black men; and the wage scale for non-white women was the lowest of all: 

White Males----------- $6,704.
Non-white Males ------4,277.
White Females ---------3,99l.
Non-white Females-----2,861

Those industries which employ mainly black women are the most exploitative in the country. Domestic and hospital workers are good examples of this oppression; the garment workers in New York City provide us with another view of this economic slavery. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) - whose overwhelming membership consists of black and Puerto Rican women has a leadership that is nearly lily-white and male. This leadership has been working in collusion with the ruling class and has completely sold its soul to the corporate structure.

To add insult to injury, the IGLOO has invested heavily in business enterprises in racist, apartheid South Africa. --With union funds. Not only does this bought-off leadership contribute to our continued exploitation in this country by not truly representing the best interests of its membership, but it audaciously uses funds that black and Puerto Rican women have provided to support the economy of a vicious government that is engaged in the economic rape and murder of our black brothers and sisters in our Motherland - Africa.

The entire labor movement in the United States has suffered as a result of the super exploitation of black workers and women. The unions have historically been racist and chauvinistic. They have upheld racism in this country (and condoned imperialist exploitation around the world) -and have failed to fight the white skin privileges of white workers. They have failed to fight or even make an issue against the inequities in the hiring and pay of women workers. There has been virtually no struggle against either the racism of the white worker or the economic exploitation of the working woman, two facts which have consistently impeded the advancement of the real struggle against the ruling capitalist class.

This racist, chauvinistic and manipulative use of black workers and women, especially black women, has been a severe cancer on the American labor scene. It therefore becomes essential for those who understand the workings of capitalism and imperialism to realize that the exploitation of black people and women works to everyone's disadvantage and that the liberation of these two groups is a stepping stone to the liberation of all oppressed people in this country and around the world.

This document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library-A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm . Please contact this collection for information about reproducing this article.

The Grand Coolie Damn

by Marge Piercy (1969) An angry articulate expose of the sexism prevalent in the American Left of the time. by Marge Piercy (1969)

(Editors Note: Marge Piercy is a novelist and poet. An early pioneer of the women's liberation movement, she sent shockwaves through the American Left with this expose of its endemic sexism.)  

The Movement is supposed to be for human liberation. How come the condition of women inside it is no better than outside? We have been trying to educate and agitate around women's liberation for several years. How come things are getting worse? Women's liberation has raised the level of consciousness around a set of issues and given some women a respite from the incessant exploitation, invisibility, and being put down. But several forces have been acting on the Movement to make the situation of women actually worse during the same time that more women are becoming aware of their oppression.

Around 1967- the year of what the mass media liked to call the Summer of Love- there was a loosening of attitudes in the Movement just as there was a growing politicization among dropouts and the hippie communities. For a while, Movement people were briefly more interested in each other as human beings than is the case usually, or now. Movement men are generally interested in women occasionally as bed partners, as domestic-servants-mother-surrogates, and constantly as economic producers: as in other patriarchal societies, one's wealth in the Movement can be measured in terms of the people whose labor one can possess and direct on one's projects.

For a while, people were generally willing to put effort into their relationships with each other and human liberation was felt as something to be acted out rather than occasionally flourished like a worn red flag. People experimented with new forms of communities and webs of relationship reaching beyond the monogamous couple. Men and women were trying new ways of relating that would not be as confining, as based on concepts of private property and the market economy as the means by which we have learned to possess each other. Some of the experimenting was shallow, manipulative, adventurist, with little regard for consequence to the others involved; but some was serious and had a tentative, willed openness that allowed room for men and especially for women to grow whole new limbs of self and encounter each other in ways that made them more human.

It is not necessary to recount the history of the last two ears to figure out what happened. Repression brings hardening. It is unlikely the Movement could have gone along with the same degree of involvement in personal relationships. An excessive amount of introspection and fascination with the wriggles of the psyche militate against action. One of the high schools in New York was effectively cooled by involving students in therapy groups and sensitivity training. But there is also a point beyond which cutting off sensitivity to others and honesty to what one is doing does not produce a more efficient revolutionary, but only a more efficient son of a bitch. We are growing some dandy men of steel nowadays.

The typical Movement institution consists of one or more men who act as charismatic spokesmen, who speak in the name of the institution, and negotiate and represent that body to other bodies in and outside the Movement, and who manipulate the relationships inside to maintain his or their position, and the people who do the actual work of the institution, much of the time women. Most prestige in the Movement rests not on having done anything in particular, but in having visibly dominated some gathering, in manipulating a certain set of rhetorical counters well in public, or in having played some theatrical role. To be associated with a new fashion trend in rhetoric is better rewarded than is any amount of hard work on the small organizing projects that actually recruit new people and change their heads.

The Movement is an economic microcosm. Presumably the rewards will be bringing about a revolution changing this society into something people want to live in and which they have a chance of affecting, and which will get off the back of the rest of the world. But the day-to-day coin is prestige. Another short term reward is a modicum of power, largely to force other people out of some group, or to persuade that group to engage in one activity rather than another. A third type of power is over the channels of communication. These may be formal channels such as New Left Notes; the Guardian, underground papers, Liberation News Service; or other media. There is also power over informal channels of communication. A person may come to usurp the prestige of an organization simply by being the speaker on all public occasions or by representing that group to other Movement groups. That may be actually the only work lie does, but what meager satisfactions can come from parading the name of his group before others, he will enjoy. At the least he will get a chance to travel a little. Lives in the movement are not exactly running over with pleasures, so that if you have spent all winter on the lower east side of New York, a trip to Rochester or Buffalo can look glamorous.

It is possible to build up power simply through insisting or arranging that all goes through you. The important thing is to keep all transfer of information or requests between any Dick and any Bill routed through you. That gives a look of busyness and importance. It can be a career in itself. There is a loss of information and energy, but strangely enough, good will is created with both Dick and Bill. Your phone will ring all the time and people call wherever you go, making manifest your importance before others. Almost all informal Movement contacts of this sort are between men. Especially in Ivy League schools, SDS chapters seem to act as fraternities, creating in-groups who respect and trust only each other.

If the rewards are concentrated at the top, the shitwork is concentrated at the bottom. The real basis is the largely unpaid, largely female labor force that does the daily work. Reflecting the values of the larger capitalist society, there is no prestige whatsoever attached to actually working. Workers are invisible. It is writers and talkers and the actors of dramatic roles who are visible and respected. The production of abstract analyses about what should be done and the production of technical jargon are far more admired than what is called by everybody shitwork.

Nor is the situation improved when the machers are competing to demonstrate their superior, purer, braver militancy, rather than their purer analysis. In an elitist world, it's always 'women and children last." Only a woman willing and able to act like a stereotyped American frontier male can make herself heard.

The leader co-opts the work of his laborers. How many times a macher will say, "I have done," "I have made" when the actual labor was somebody else's. It is easy for the macher to pretend he has written a leaflet he glanced over, inserting the fashionable cant phrase of the week. I am aware that men in the Movement who are not domineering, highly verbal, manipulative, or hyper-competitive also turn into invisible peasant laborers. If there were no women at all in the male-dominated Movement, men not ready to stomp on others would end up playing many roles flow filled by women. Which is to say that poor whites may be no better off economically than poor blacks, for the System oppresses them in some of the same ways.

We take this allotting of prestige for granted, in which we are an exact microcosm of the society we oppose. Work is shit. It is mindlessly done by unappreciated- invisible workers, and the results, the profits in prestige and recognition, are taken away. Truly, it is not necessary that work be shit even in the bowels of the beast. One of the things that really is true about visiting Cuba is discovering how proud people can be of their work- work they would be ashamed to do here. Because work is admired, and makes sense in a society that makes sense, it is social in the full meaning. All right, we cannot have little islands of evolutionary culture in the heart of the empire, but we can try a little harder not to reflect the ugliest aspects of the society we are presumablyrejecting.

As the fight gets stiffer and we settle in for the long haul, as all of us accumulate enough experience of failure and look long and hard enough at the cost to ourselves of what we are trying to do, as we get older and go through our share of the nasties, there is an attitude that sustains many: I am a professional revolutionary. To take that kind of step in one's head and rhetoric is felt as a leap of commitment. It explains to the person and to others what he is doing. After all, he is acting quite differently from what was expected of him. He is failing to make it in any way he was taught all through growing up American to expect he would do (and to be scared he wouldn't do). So it turns out there is an answer. No, Ma, I'm not a burn. I'm a professional- like a doctor or a lawyer, like I was supposed to be.

One trouble: to be a professional anything in the United States is to think of oneself as an expert and one's ideas as semi-sacred, and to treat others in a certain way- professionally. Do you question your doctor when he prescribes in dog Latin what you should gulp down? The expert has expertise. Unfortunately he also often has careerism. He is giving up everything else, and he is not about to let some part-time worker (differentiation between part-time and full-time in the Movement is instructive and dangerous) challenge his prerogatives. Shall the professional revolutionary haul garbage, boil potatoes, change diapers, and lick stamps? Finally, what opposes the professional is counter-revolutionary, even though it may be repressed by the power structure with the same zeal.

The incidence of violent brand-loyalty to one’s own current dogma has risen. The word “cadre" as something to caress in the mouth and masturbate over has gone whoosh to the top of the pole in the last year. Cadre has meaning when a movement has really gone underground, when its members have been through training that has attempted to change their characters, when groups have shared violent and harrowing experiences over time so that they know they can trust each other. Cadre applied to the white Movement in the United States at this time is elitist bullshit. Our big problem is learning how to reach all kinds of people and we haven't invented any training yet that helps much on that score. People are working hard on projects scattered around the country, and here and there they are making headway in one or another enclave of the old or new working class (or groups in motion are reaching out to them); or in high schools or the army or neighborhoods under stress such as the threat of urban renewal, things are happening; but experts are experts largely in manipulating current jargon.

Now common, ordinary, gross chutzpah is something that in this society sprouts more commonly from the egos of men than from the more shattered and battered egos of women. Women are not encouraged toward professionalism in general, and we are certainly not in the Movement encouraged to gives ourselves too many airs. Suppose you, Woman Alice, unknown, unvouched for, unaccompanied, come wandering into a meeting and want to speak. The male supremacist will not even hear you. He may launch a sentence where you are in the middle of speaking, and probably he can simply drown you out. The male chauvinist will keep quiet while you speak and may even give a quick acknowledgment that some noise has occurred. He will patronize and move on. The male liberal will note your energy and will commiserate and then co-opt you. You will end up working for him, no matter what you think you are doing. When you oppose him, you will find out which side he is on.

With the professional comes his professional language. A predominantly student movement is a great soil for the growth of monstrosities of jargon. The use of scholarly Marxist jargon is exactly analogous to the use of any other academic jargon. It is a way of indicating that you have put in your time, read the right texts and commentaries, that you are an expert. It is one thing to learn from the long line of revolutionaries who have come before us: we must learn that history or caricature it. (With the factionalism, name-calling, and assumption of infallibility that has been growing lately, I sometimes get the impression of people role-playing as professional revolutionaries based on certain comic books in which that was how you could identify the Reds.) It is another thing to adopt the language of any of them, especially translated into lousy American. Now we have scholarly quarrels about the definition of key terms and the appreciation among the in-group of the way in which someone is handling them, as in any English or Sociology department. Such articles are written for a snobbishly defined audience of peers. The jargon covers up holes in the world. Most of us know damn little about how the society works and how people live, but rather than find out, we will adopt a jargon that stands between the observer and what lie is trying to observe. Such articles fail to make our politics lucid to people on a level where they can become autonomous political thinkers and doers. If you have contempt for people and think they cannot know what they want and need, who the hell is the revolution for?

Women in the Movement, with a few outstanding exceptions, have trouble talking jargon. One source of unease is lack of practice. The phenomenon of a woman speaking in a meeting, and the meeting going on as if she had belched, is too widespread to need comment. Women don't generally practice on each other. Women are able at least on occasion to be more honest in talking about their lives together than men ever are: not always, not often, but it is a possibility. The mores of the society do not prevent women who trust each other from speaking about their sexual and emotional troubles. Much of this ability comes from our being taught to define our “careers" in terms of that part of our lives, so that it is shoptalk. In contrast, so much of what passes for communication between men and women are responses to signals given, the fulfilling of subtly or not so subtly indicated wishes, games of protection and mutual blackmail. The bases of many relationships are unspoken, not because they lie too deep for words, but because speaking about them would disgust. It would expose connection based on gross and subtle forms of lying and exploitation that could not bear examining aloud.

Sometimes women simply refuse to use jargon. I know one woman who grew up in the Old Left and who will not use language she associates with that type of life and politics. In the small group of organizers she operates in, her refusal is viewed by the male ideological clique as a pitiful weakness. She is crippled. If she cannot talk their language, they cannot hear her, although she speaks the language of the kind of workers they are attempting to organize. They cannot accept her criticisms or insights unless couched in their terminology. Not that that always produces acceptance.

I remember watching a girl at a council meeting a few years ago who was striking in all aspects. She spoke well in a husky but carrying voice, she was physically attractive, she had read her texts and had a militant Left position and an obvious sense of style. In her head she was on the barricades, and that excitement carried in her speeches. She had no impact. I heard many people giving precis of the council afterward, and no one singled her out to mention, although many of the issues she spoke to carried. She did not succeed in becoming part of that collective of machers who are always counting points with each other. If she had been sexually connected with any of the machers present, the odds on her achieving impact would have been much greater, for she would have been automatically present at the small caucuses and meetings where policy, unfortunately, originates.

Around that time, when I attended many women's liberation meetings I saw the whole thing as interesting primarily as an organizing tool: here was a way to organize women who could not be reached on other issues or in other organizing contexts. I am older than most Movement women, have a harder sense of myself, make a living off my writing and care about it, and have a good, long-standing, and non-possessive relationship with a man I trust politically and personally. It took me two more years of grisly experiences, of getting used and purged, to get my nose well rubbed into women's exploitation, to find out women's liberation was not talking about the other fellow, and to understand how much I had adopted male values to think of liberation as a tool. We are oppressed, and we will achieve our liberation by fighting for it the same as any other oppressed group. Nobody is going to give it to us because we ask, however eloquently. I once thought that all that was necessary was to make men understand that they would achieve their own liberation, too, by joining in the struggle for women's liberation: but it has come to me to seem a little too much like the chickens trying to educate the chicken farmer. I think of myself as a house nigger who is a slow learner besides. A tendency to believe quite literally in the rhetoric of Movement males is a form of naiveté' that no woman can afford. Most Movement males' idea of women's liberation is something for their girlfriend to do to other women while they're busy in decision making. That's her constituency to bring in.

Fucking a staff into existence is only the extreme form of what passes for common practice in many places. A man can bring a woman into an organization by sleeping with her and remove her by ceasing to do so. A man can purge a woman for no other reason than that he has tired of her, knocked her up, or is after someone else: and that purge is accepted without a ripple. There are cases of a woman excluded from a group for no other reason than that one of its leaders proved impotent with her. If a macher enters a room full of machers, accompanied by a woman and does not introduce her, it is rare indeed that anyone will bother to ask her name or acknowledge her presence. The etiquette that governs is one of master-servant.

Women come into the Movement for as many reasons as men do. It is not sufficient to speak of women as being recruited in bed, since their attraction to the man is usually as much to the ideas they hear him spouting, what they think he represents, and what they imagine their life with him will he, as it is to his particular body or personality. Movement men often project a very sexual image. What's behind that too often is, as with actors, narcissism, impotence, and a genuine lack of interest in anybody else except his hero, The Professional Revolutionary in the Mirror, and a small peer group whose opinions he values and whom he likes to shoot the bull with, much like ex-fraternity boys.

I've listened to the troubles of dozens and dozens of women and men in the Movement. There are a lot of lonely and a lot of horny women. Sex lives of women seem to fall into two patterns, both dreary. Domestic unions on the whole are formed young and maintained in hermetic dependency, until exchanged for others that appear almost identical. People seldom maintain relationships with any content without living together, though it happens. As in conventional marriages, the woman living with a man often finds her world constricted. She is his thing. She keeps house for him and plays surrogate mother, and often he talks to her no more than the tired businessman home from the office. Often the relationship is much like that of the woman living with a medical student and helping to put him through school. Of course, since the woman's intellectual energy is concentrated on that relationship, she may in fact dominate or manipulate or control the man, as is frequent in conventional marriages also.

The other model is the liberated woman: she can expect to get laid maybe once every two months, after a party or at councils or conferences, or when some visiting fireman comes through and wants to be put up. She may find she can work for years and even take part in planning demonstrations, and doing important research, and organizing without achieving recognition or visibility. There is a phenomenon I have noted, by the way: allowing for geographical variations, the list of men whom Movement women not living with anyone have gone to bed with is surprisingly repetitive. One is left to draw the conclusion that all the liberated (i.e., living alone) women have gone to bed with the same set of men, who would fit in one large room.

These serviceable males fall into two categories: those who make it clear that what they are doing is fucking, and those who provide a flurry of apparently personal interest, which fades mighty quick. The first category are on far fewer hate lists than the second. There are men in the Movement who have left women feeling conned and somehow used, emotionally robbed, in every city in the country. Rarely have I heard any man in the Movement judge any other man for that kind of emotional exploitation, and never so it could hurt him. The use of women as props for a sagging ego is accepted socially. Everybody sees it and everybody agrees that they don't. Scalp-hunting goes on both sides of the sexual barrier, but the need to extract a kind of emotional conquest which is sometimes not even sexually consummated, out of woman after woman, seems exclusively the disease of male machers.

This sort of thing can even be called organizing. Many Politicos spend their energies organizing inside the Movement, instead of into the Movement: hence the passionate concern with who is, and who is not, in the vanguard. Transferring the loyalties of worker-woman Lizzie from research project of Macher A to the Pamphlet project to Macher B is organizing.

The men who often get the most Opposition from Movement women and are often publicly called male oppressors, are precisly those men who have the least skill at co-opting the labor of women: men with a bluff style, frontal attack, an obvious sense of their own competence, and a tactless assault on what they see as other's lack of it. They often succeed in rapid fashion in uniting some of the women in a caucus against them.

The style most rewarded is that of the manipulator: the person who makes use of the forms of workers' control and community decision making to persuade others that they are involved in a "we" that is never out of his control. Given the careerism, in almost any Movement enterprise there is at least one person who feels a vested interest: that endeavor is his baby. If there were true workers' control, he might find himself ousted. Most Movement ventures exist hand-to-mouth, and the entrepreneur can always tell himself that a couple of weeks of financial chaos would wreck that precarious balance and run the enterprise into the ground. The rationale for retaining control may be Political: the entrepreneur as Professional revolutionary finds it necessary to keep Political control of the little Iskra, lest the bourgeois revisionists get it into their slimy paws, or the soft minds of the shitworkers be led stray. The means to that control is seldom an obvious role as boss, for anti-authoritarianism is as deep-rooted among women in the Movement as among men.

No, the successful entrepreneur uses all the forms of workers' control and collective decision making. He may covertly despise these indirect, time-consuming methods. Or he may have contempt instead for those who attempt to work without them, and feel morally superior because of his attachment to the forms of participatory democracy. This distinction is equivalent to the different between the modes of the male supremacist and the male liberal: but both aim to retain control.

Methods vary. The macher may play off faction against faction or appear to float above petty quarrels. He may form sexual alliances, sabotage others, repeat gossip, start rumors, flatter, sow suspicion, retain the switchboard-control central function, flirt, listen to troubles, pay attention. Since most people in this society are dreadfully lonely, a little attention is a pungent tool. But he must always keep the others from combining.

On one Movement staff where I worked, there was one macher; a couple of other males who did not challenge his hegemony, plus a two thirds majority of women. Whenever we threatened to form an alliance on anything that mattered, the macher would begin jiggling the sexual balance of the group, pursuing publicly one of the staff or another until he had succeeded in creating a harem atmosphere in which all attention once again centered on him. He would use his confidant relationship to the staff members to persuade each to talk about the others, comments he would remember and reveal as if reluctantly at the proper moment. Even the fact that he was sexually involved with only one of the staff could be turned to moral advantage, for he would keep her in her place (on his right hand, just under the thumb) by constantly pointing out that he could in fact be involved with the others, by ignoring her in the office, and flirting and teasing, and creating a constant subsurface tizzy centering on his person. None of this, of course, was ever openly discussed. The superficial reality was business as usual, bureaucratic efficiency and personal relations kept out of the office. The effect was to make his position impregnable and enable him to dismiss whomever he chose.

The ability to dismiss from a collective is as important as the ability to recruit. One effective method is to stir up the workers so they themselves expel the person threatening the macher's power. If the expulsion is carried out in the name of workers' control or women's liberation, an expulsion whereby the entrepreneur's power is strengthened, the irony is complete. If the threat to the macher's power is a woman, he will probably carry out the expulsion himself. If he has recruited her sexually, he can expel her on the same basis. There is a false Puritanism in never publicly permitting the allusion to relationships everyone knows about.

The male supremacist tends to exploit women new to the Movement or on its fringes, His concept of women is conventionally patriarchal: they are for bed, board, babies and, also, for doing his typing and running his office machines and doing his tedious research. By definition women are bourgeois: they are housewives and domesticators. A woman who begins to act independently is a threat and loses her protected status. He can no longer use her.

Such a man will sit at his desk with his feet up and point to the poster on his wall of a Vietnamese woman with her rifle on her back, telling you, "Now that is a truly liberated woman. When I see you in that role, I'll believe you're a revolutionary." He has all the strength of the American tradition of Huckleberry Finn escaping down river from Aunt Polly, down through Hemingway where the bitch louses up the man-to-man understanding, to draw upon in defense of his arrogance. Not only are women losers, but for a woman to think of herself is bourgeois subjectivity and inherently counterrevolutionary. Now dear, of course you find your work dull. What the Movement needs is more discipline and less middle-class concern with one's itty-bitty self!

At times it may seem to women as if the only way to win their battle is to form some sort of women's brigades and achieve instant liberation by eliminating that whole part of life which hurts the most and competing with the men in meeting goals set by the male-dominated movement. But where women have fought beside their men, how often afterwards they have found themselves right back where they were before. It is easy for men to deal with women as quasi-equals, all soldiers together, during a long or short crisis, but inside their heads in all the old dominance/submission machinery and the old useful myths about mom and the playmate and good girls and bad girls.

The male liberal respects the pride of women. He has learned well the rhetoric of women's liberation and offers apparent partnership. He will permit small doses of spokesmanship roles, so long as his hegemony is not challenged. Because he is willing to listen on a basis of apparent equality to women who work with (for) him, he is in a better position to draw out higher quality labor. He is just as career-oriented and just as exploitative as the male supremacist, but he gives back enough tidbits of flattery and attention to make the relationship appear reciprocal by contrast with what goes on with bullied males, and he is by far the more efficient long-range co-opter.

Often a woman working with a male liberal will learn imperceptibly to accept a double standard for his behavior: alone with her when she is his equal; and with other machers; when he will pretend essentially not to know her. After all, he will gain no points by insisting others treat her as an equal. Further, if he acted as if the woman were of importance, he might lose some control over contacts essential in dominating his scene. Thus the woman will come to accept the master-servant manners in public, for the sake of the private relationship of equals. It can take her a long time to see that the public manner reflects the power realities.

The importance of male solidarity to enforce discrimination and contempt for women cannot be overemphasized. The man who goes in the face of this will find himself isolated. He will pay for betraying his caste. Men in this society reinforce each other's acted-out manhood in many small social rituals, from which the man who truly treats women as his equals will be excluded.

Neither can we over-emphasize our own acquiescence. As I said, I have been a house nigger in the Movement. Since I was first on my own as a skinny tough kid, nobody ever succeeded for long in exploiting me as a woman, until I came into the Movement. Then I lay down my arms before my brothers to make the revolution together. How much I swallowed for my politics I have only realized in the pain of trying to write this piece truthfully. I have also begun to see how many male structures I took into my head in order to make it in the male-dominated world. How often in writing this I have been afraid, because I have incorporated so much male thinking that I can hear the responses I am going to get. Finally I have come to see how separated from my sisters I have been at times to preserve one or another super exploitative relationship with one or another male macher. As a house nigger how much worse treatment of other women I have watched and satisfied my conscience with vague private protestations to the professional revolutionary in question: nothing that would get him angry at me, you can be sure.

Two inhibitions have acted on me constantly. One inhibition occurred in relationships where work and sexual involvement overlapped. I have not been able to keep tenderness and sensual joy from being converted into cooperation in my own manipulation. One takes the good with the bad, no? The good is loving and the bad is being used and letting others be used. One holds on to good memories to block perceptions that would rock the boat. Yet always what was beautiful and real in the touching becomes contaminated by the fog of lies and half-truths and power struggles, until the sex is empty and only another form of manipulation.

The other, stronger inhibition comes from having shared the same radical tradition, rhetoric, heroes, dates, the whole bloody history of class war. It is pitifully easy for radical women to accept their own exploitation in the name of some larger justice (which excludes half the world) because we are taught from childhood to immolate ourselves to the male and the family.

Once again in the Movement, oppression is becoming something for professionals to remove from certifiably oppressed other people. When I am told day in and day out to shut up because our oppression pales beside the oppression of colonialized peoples and blacks, I remember half of them are women too, and I am reminded of my mother telling me to eat boiled mush because the Chinese were starving and would be glad to have it. When people are unhappy, no one can tell them their pain is unimportant. The ruling class isn't dissatisfied: they are healthy, well-fed, live in beauty, enjoy their own importance: fun-loving cannibals. Our men aren't dissatisfied either.


It is true some oppression kills quickly and smashes the body, and some only destroys the pride and the ability to think and create. But I know no man can tell any woman how to measure her oppression and what methods are not politic in trying to get up off her knees. The answer does not lie in trying to be the token woman or in trying to learn quickly how to manipulate or shove around those who manipulate us. Certain of any oppressed group can always rise from that group by incorporating the manners and value system of the oppressed, and outwitting them at their own rigged game. We want Something Else.

We are told that our sense of oppression is not legitimate. We are told women's liberation is a secondary issue, to be dealt with after the war is won. But the basis of women's oppression is economic in a sense that far predates capitalism and the market economy and that is woven through the whole fabric of socialization. Our claims are the most radical, for they entail restructuring even the nuclear family. Nowhere on earth are women free now, although in some places things are marginally better. What we want we will have to invent ourselves.

We must have the strength of our anger to know what we know. No more arguments about shutting up for the greater good should make us ashamed of fighting for our freedom. Even since private property was invented, we have been waiting for freedom. That passive waiting is supposed to characterize our sex, and if we wait for the males we know to-give up control, our great-grand-daughters will get plenty of practice in waiting, too. We are the fastest growing part of the Movement, and for the next few years it would be healthiest for us to work as if we were essentially all the Movement there is, until we can make alliances based on our politics. Any attempts to persuade men that we are serious are a waste of precious time and energy; they are not our constituency.

There is much anger here at Movement men, but I know they have been warped and programmed by the same society that has damn near crippled us. My anger is because they have created in the Movement a microcosm of that oppression and are proud of it. Manipulation and careerism and competition will not evaporate of themselves. Sisters, what we do, we have to do together, and we will see about them.

Females and Welfare

by Betsy Warrior (undated but probably around 1969). A feminist analysis of the welfare rights movement. y Betsy Warrior (undated but probably 1969)

(Editors Note: This pamphlet outlines a feminist strategy for welfare mothers struggling to change the welfare system.)

There are 35 million poor people in this country. A THIRD OF THE POOR LIVE IN FAMILIES HEADED BY FEMALES. Many of these families are on welfare, and more should be getting some kind of welfare supplement added to their income. Many of us think that in the richest nation in the world there should be no poor people at all, and that the political and economic reasons for their existence must come to an end.

Why were the welfare mothers picked by radical organizers to disrupt the political system, with the economic breakdown on a local level, and the change in the whole political structure that their demands might bring?

Since five million of the poor are aged, it isn't likely that these older people would start an active fight against the system that kept them in poverty. Old people are more conservative and lack the energy and determination for a prolonged fight. But other families, a lot of them headed by males -- why don't they fight the system that made them poor? They could fight for an adequate income.

What are the special qualities welfare mothers possess, to make them the ones chosen to fight the establishment? The basic reason is mothers will fight for their children, to supply their needs, and they will struggle for as long as it takes for their children to grow up. They possess both will and sustained determination to demand long and loud that the political structure allow their children enough to live on decently, and in doing so change the political. structure.

The fact that most of the families on welfare are headed by females says just as much about the status of females in this country as it does about the political economy. Females in this country are too often dependent on someone else for their livelihood. Many lack an education good enough to allow them to support a family by themselves; or if they have an adequate education, they don't have the time or energy left after the duties of motherhood, household drudgery and menial tasks, to use it. Women have a status as dependent human beings in this country that doesn't change, whether it's one man or the state that allows them money to live on.

Bringing welfare mothers together to fight for themselves has many positive aspects. It helps them to see their situation isn't caused by personal inadequacy, but the fault of a bad economic system. They find more can be achieved by speaking out and joining together to fight the welfare department than by remaining quiet and alone, or trying to hide the fact that they're on welfare. Of course, this only applies to the women who can be encouraged to join the welfare groups. There are many who are too defeated and afraid to even try to help themselves, these women are even more in need of incentive and help.

The females in the group can become more politically aware of how their live's are run by city hall and demystify the local bureaucracy for themselves. By alleviating some of their more pressing material needs it might give them and their children more energy and hope to tackle some of the many other problems they have as females and human beings.

But the great majority of welfare mothers do not realize what long range effects their actions will have on the system. They're being used as political fodder by men who want the system changed for themselves, and any benefits the mothers receive in the process are purely coincidental or, material.

The welfare mothers run the risk of becoming as competitive, aggressive and power-hungry as the males who oppress them. 'This is because their groups are being patterned after the structure of male organizations, by male organizers, establishing a context of leaders and followers, encouraging competition for recognition and power between the women in the groups.

Though the mothers may change their material and political position, they won't be free until they identify their oppression as being inherent in the role they play as females, and abolish that role. Without consciousness of their inferior status as women they will remain the victims of society and merely tools of the people who wish to use their dissatisfaction to break the system.

Whether the money a mother receives is doled out by a husband or a paternalistic welfare department makes little difference. Both are degrading, and many women prefer welfare to a husband. It is her position as a dependent female in relationships to males that is at the root of her problem.

For instance, if an active welfare mother gets married, her husband usually doesn't let her continue her work in the group. It is time-consuming and he wants all her time spent on him, being his house slave. So her experience that could be very valuable to other members of the group is wasted, and her relative independence is ended.

It is common practice for the male directors and superintendents of welfare to use the female clerks and secretaries as flunkies to transmit their refusals of help and threats to the welfare mothers, while they remain protected behind locked doors. Although most of the social workers are female, men have a monopoly on the positions of power in the welfare system. The social workers carry out their decisions and receive the scorn and abuse of the mothers. This confuses the mothers as to who the real enemy is. The women who work in the welfare department are poorly paid and overworked, not much better off than the welfare mothers, but they are set one against the other. Until they can see each other as sisters in oppression and start liberating themselves as females, they might succeed in changing the system, but others (men) will benefit more by their success. Though the mothers will be the ones to bear the brunt of reaction and risk what little they have....

This article was originally published by
New England Free Press
791 Tremont St.
Boston, Mass. 02118

Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm

by Anne Koedt (1970). A classic article by the NY based feminist writer. Widely read throughout the women's liberation movement at the time. by Anne Koedt (1970)

(Editor's Note: This the classic article on women's sexuality by the NY feminist Anne Koedt. It is one of the most popular pages on the site. This is the complete version.)

Whenever female orgasm and frigidity are discussed, a false distinction is made between the vaginal and the clitoral orgasm. Frigidity has generally been defined by men as the failure of women to have vaginal orgasms. Actually the vagina is not a highly sensitive area and is not constructed to achieve orgasm. It is the clitoris which is the center of sexual sensitivity and which is the female equivalent of the penis.

I think this explains a great many things: First of all, the fact that the so-called frigidity rate among women is phenomenally high. Rather than tracing female frigidity to the false assumptions about female anatomy, our "experts" have declared frigidity a psychological problem of women. Those women who complained about it were recommended psychiatrists, so that they might discover their "problem" -diagnosed generally as a failure to adjust to their role as women.

The facts of female anatomy and sexual response tell a different story. Although there are many areas for sexual arousal, there is only one area for sexual climax; that area is the clitoris. All orgasms are extensions of sensation from this area. Since the clitoris is not necessarily stimulated sufficiently in the conventional sexual positions, we are left "frigid."

Aside from physical stimulation, which is the common cause of orgasm for most people, there is also stimulation through primarily mental processes. Some women, for example, may achieve orgasm through sexual fantasies, or through fetishes. However, while the stimulation may be psychological, the orgasm manifests itself physically. Thus, while the cause is psychological, the effect is still physical, and the orgasm necessarily takes place in the sexual organ equipped for sexual climax, the clitoris. The orgasm experience may also differ in degree of intensity - some more localized, and some more diffuse and sensitive. But they are all clitoral orgasms.

All this leads to some interesting questions about conventional sex and our role in it. Men have orgasms essentially by friction with the vagina, not the clitoral area, which is external and not able to cause friction the way penetration does. Women have thus been defined sexually in terms of what pleases men; our own biology has not been properly analyzed. Instead, we are fed the myth of the liberated woman and her vaginal orgasm - an orgasm which in fact does not exist.

What we must do is redefine our sexuality. We must discard the "normal" concepts of sex and create new guidelines which take into account mutual sexual enjoyment. While the idea of mutual enjoyment is liberally applauded in marriage manuals, it is not followed to its logical conclusion. We must begin to demand that if certain sexual positions now defined as "standard" are not mutually conducive to orgasm, they no longer be defined as standard. New techniques must be used or devised which transform this particular aspect of our current sexual exploitation.

Freud-A Father of the Vaginal Orgasm

Freud contended that the clitoral orgasm was adolescent, and that upon puberty, when women began having intercourse with men, women should transfer the center of orgasm to the vagina. The vagina, it was assumed, was able to produce a parallel, but more mature, orgasm than the clitoris. Much work was done to elaborate on this theory, but little was done to challenge the basic assumptions.

To fully appreciate this incredible invention, perhaps Freud's general attitude about women should first be recalled. Mary Ellman, in Thinking About Women,summed it up this way:

Everything in Freud's patronizing and fearful attitude toward women follows from their lack of a penis, but it is only in his essay The Psychology of Women that Freud makes explicit... the deprecations of women which are implicit in his work. He then prescribes for them the abandonment of the life of the mind, which will interfere with their sexual function. When the psycho-analyzed patient is male, the analyst sets himself the task of developing the man's capacities; but with women patients, the job is to resign them to the limits of their sexuality. As Mr. Rieff puts it: For Freud, "Analysis cannot encourage in women new energies for success and achievement, but only teach them the lesson of rational resignation."

It was Freud's feelings about women's secondary and inferior relationship to men that formed the basis for his theories on female sexuality.

Once having laid down the law about the nature of our sexuality, Freud not so strangely discovered a tremendous problem of frigidity in women. His recommended cure for a woman who was frigid was psychiatric care. She was suffering from failure to mentally adjust to her "natural" role as a woman. Frank S. Caprio, a contemporary follower of these ideas, states:

...whenever a woman is incapable of achieving an orgasm via coitus, provided the husband is an adequate partner, and prefers clitoral stimulation to any other form of sexual activity, she can be regarded as suffering from frigidity and requires psychiatric assistance. (The Sexually Adequate Female, p.64.)

The explanation given was that women were envious of men - renunciation of womanhood. Thus it was diagnosed as an anti-male phenomenon.

It is important to emphasize that Freud did not base his theory upon a study of woman's anatomy, but rather upon his assumptions of woman as an inferior appendage to man, and her consequent social and psychological role. In their attempts to deal with the ensuing problem of mass frigidity, Freudians embarked on elaborate mental gymnastics. Marie Bonaparte, in Female Sexuality, goes so far as to suggest surgery to help women back on their rightful path. Having discovered a strange connection between the non-frigid woman and the location of the clitoris near the vagina,

it then occurred to me that where, in certain women, this gap was excessive, and clitoral fixation obdurate, a clitoral-vaginal reconciliation might be effected by surgical means, which would then benefit the normal erotic function. Professor Halban, of Vienna, as much a biologist as surgeon, became interested in the problem and worked out a simple operative technique. In this, the suspensory ligament of the clitoris was severed and the clitoris secured to the underlying structures, thus fixing it in a lower position, with eventual reduction of the labia minora. (p.148.)

But the severest damage was not in the area of surgery, where Freudians ran around absurdly trying to change female anatomy to fit their basic assumptions. The worst damage was done to the mental health of women, who either suffered silently with self-blame, or flocked to psychiatrists looking desperately for the hidden and terrible repression that had kept from them their vaginal destiny.

Lack of Evidence

One may perhaps at first claim that these are unknown and unexplored areas, but upon closer examination this is certainly not true today, nor was it true even in the past. For example, men have known that women suffered from frigidity often during intercourse. So the problem was there. Also, there is much specific evidence. Men knew that the clitoris was and is the essential organ for masturbation, whether in children or adult women. So obviously women made it clear where they thought their sexuality was located. Men also seem suspiciously aware of the clitoral powers during "foreplay," when they want to arouse women and produce the necessary lubrication for penetration. Foreplay is a concept created for male purposes, but works to the disadvantage of many women, since as soon as the woman is aroused the man changes to vaginal stimulation, leaving her both aroused and unsatisfied.

It has also been known that women need no anesthesia inside the vagina during surgery, thus pointing to the fact that the vagina is in fact not a highly sensitive area.

Today, with extensive knowledge of anatomy, with Kelly, Kinsey, and Masters and Johnson, to mention just a few sources, there is no ignorance on the subject. There are, however, social reasons why this knowledge has not been popularized. We are living in a male society which has not sought change in women's role.

Anatomical Evidence

 Rather than starting with what women ought to feel, it would seem logical to start out with the anatomical facts regarding the clitoris and vagina.

The Clitoris is a small equivalent of the penis, except for the fact that the urethra does not go through it as in the man's penis. Its erection is similar to the male erection, and the head of the clitoris has the same type of structure and function as the head of the penis.

C. Lombard Kelly, in Sexual Feeling in Married Men and Women, says:

The head of the clitoris is also composed of erectile tissue, and it possesses a very sensitive epithelium or surface covering, supplied with special nerve endings called genital corpuscles, which are peculiarly adapted for sensory stimulation that under proper mental conditions terminates in the sexual orgasm. No other part of the female generative tract has such corpuscles. (Pocketbooks; p.35.)

The clitoris has no other function than that of sexual pleasure.

The Vagina- Its functions are related to, the reproductive function. Principally, 1) menstruation, 2) receive penis, 3) hold semen, and 4) birth passage. The interior of the vagina, which according to the defenders of the vaginally caused orgasm is the center and producer of the orgasm, is:

like nearly all other internal body structures, poorly supplied with end organs of touch. The internal entodermal origin of the lining of the vagina makes it similar in this respect to the rectum and other parts of the digestive tract. (Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p.580.)

The degree of insensitivity inside the vagina is so high that "Among the women who were tested in our gynecologic sample, less than 14% were at all conscious that they had been touched." (Kinsey, p. 580.)

Even the importance of the vagina as an erotic center (as opposed to an orgasmic center) has been found to be minor.

Other Areas- Labia minora and the vestibule of the vagina. These two sensitive areas may trigger off a clitoral orgasm. Because they can be effectively stimulated during "normal" coitus, though infrequently, this kind of stimulation is incorrectly thought to be vaginal orgasm. However, it is important to distinguish between areas which can stimulate the clitoris, incapable of producing the orgasm themselves, and the clitoris:

Regardless of what means of excitation is used to bring the individual to the state of sexual climax, the sensation is perceived by the genital corpuscles and is localized where they are situated: in the head of the clitoris or penis. (Kelly, p.49.)

Psychologically Stimulated Orgasm- Aside from the above mentioned direct and indirect stimulation of the clitoris, there is a third way an orgasm may be triggered. This is through mental (cortical) stimulation, where the imagination stimulates the brain, which in turn stimulates the genital corpuscles of the glans to set off an orgasm.

Women Who Say They Have Vaginal Orgasms

Confusion- Because of the lack of knowledge of their own anatomy, some women accept the idea that an orgasm felt during "normal" intercourse was vaginally caused. This confusion is caused by a combination of two factors. One, failing to locate the center of the orgasm, and two, by a desire to fit her experience to the male-defined idea of sexual normalcy. Considering that women know little about their anatomy, it is easy to be confused.

Deception- The vast majority of women who pretend vaginal orgasm to their men are faking it to "get the job." In a new bestselling Danish book, I Accuse,Mette Ejlersen specifically deals with this common problem, which she calls the "sex comedy." This comedy has many causes. First of all, the man brings a great deal of pressure to bear on the woman, because he considers his ability as a lover at stake. So as not to offend his ego, the woman will comply with the prescribed role and go through simulated ecstasy. In some of the other Danish women mentioned, women who were left frigid were turned off to sex, and pretended vaginal orgasm to hurry up the sex act. Others admitted that they had faked vaginal orgasm to catch a man. In one case, the woman pretended vaginal orgasm to get him to leave his first wife, who admitted being vaginally frigid.

Later she was forced to continue the deception, since obviously she couldn't tell him to stimulate her clitorally.

Many more women were simply afraid to establish their right to equal enjoyment, seeing the sexual act as being primarily for the man's benefit, and any pleasure that the woman got as an added extra.

Other women, with just enough ego to reject the man's idea that they needed psychiatric care, refused to admit their frigidity. They wouldn't accept self-blame, but they didn't know how to solve the problem, not knowing the physiological facts about themselves. So they were left in a peculiar limbo.

Again, perhaps one of the most infuriating and damaging results of this whole charade has been that women who were perfectly healthy sexually were taught that they were not. So in addition to being sexually deprived, these women were told to blame themselves when they deserved no blame. Looking for a cure to a problem that has none can lead a woman on an endless path of self-hatred and insecurity. For she is told by her analyst that not even in her one role allowed in a male society-the role of a woman-is she successful. She is put on the defensive, with phony data as evidence that she'd better try to be even more feminine, think more feminine, and reject her envy of men. That is, shuffle even harder, baby.

Why Men Maintain the Myth

  1. 1Sexual Penetration Is Preferred-The best physical stimulant for the penis is the woman's vagina. It supplies the necessary friction and lubrication. From a strictly technical point of view this position offers the best physical conditions, even though the man may try other positions for variation.
  2. The Invisible Woman-One of the elements of male chauvinism is the refusal or inability to see women as total, separate human beings. Rather, men have chosen to define women only in terms of how they benefited men's lives. Sexually, a woman was not seen as an individual wanting to share equally in the sexual act, any more than she was seen as a person with independent desires when she did anything else in society. Thus, it was easy to make up what was convenient about women; for on top of that, society has been a function of male interests, and women were not organized to form even a vocal opposition to the male experts.
  3. The Penis as Epitome of Masculinity-Men define their lives primarily in terms of masculinity. It is a universal form of ego-boosting. That is, in every society, however homogeneous (i.e., with the absence of racial, ethnic, or major economic differences) there is always a group, women, to oppress.

    The essence of male chauvinism is in the psychological superiority men exercise over women. This kind of superior-inferior definition of self, rather than positive definition based upon one's own achievements and development, has of course chained victim and oppressor both. But by far the most brutalized of the two is the victim.

    An analogy is racism, where the white racist compensates for his feelings of unworthiness by creating an image of the black man (it is primarily a male struggle) as biologically inferior to him. Because of his position in a white male power structure, the white man can socially enforce this mythical division.

    To the extent that men try to rationalize and justify male superiority through physical differentiation, masculinity may be symbolized by being the mostmuscular, the most hairy; having the deepest voice, and the biggest penis. Women, on the other hand, are approved of (i.e., called feminine) if they are weak, petite, shave their legs, have high soft voices.

    Since the clitoris is almost identical to the penis, one finds a great deal of evidence of men in various societies trying to either ignore the clitoris and emphasize the vagina (as did Freud), or, as in some places in the Mideast, actually performing clitoridectomy. Freud saw this ancient and still practiced custom as a way of further "feminizing" the female by removing this cardinal vestige of her masculinity. It should be noted also that a big clitoris is considered ugly and masculine. Some cultures engage in the practice of pouring a chemical on the clitoris to make it shrivel up into "proper" size.

    It seems clear to me that men in fact fear the clitoris as a threat to masculinity.
  4. Sexually Expendable Male-Men fear that they will become sexually expendable if the clitoris is substituted for the vagina as the center of pleasure for women. Actually this has a great deal of validity if one considers only the anatomy. The position of the penis inside the vagina, while perfect for reproduction, does not necessarily stimulate an orgasm in women because the clitoris is located externally and higher up. Women must rely upon indirect stimulation in the "normal" position.

    Lesbian sexuality could make an excellent case, based upon anatomical data, for the irrelevancy of the male organ. Albert Ellis says something to the effect that a man without a penis can make a woman an excellent lover.

    Considering that the vagina is very desirable from a man's point of view, purely on physical grounds, one begins to see the dilemma for men. And it forces us as well to discard many "physical" arguments explaining why women go to bed with men. What is left, it seems to me, are primarily psychological reasons why women select men at the exclusion of women as sexual partners.
  5. Control o/ Women-One reason given to explain the Mid-eastern practice of clitoridectomy is that it will keep the women from straying. By removing the sexual organ capable of orgasm, it must be assumed that her sexual drive will diminish. Considering how men look upon their women as property, particularly in very backward nations, we should begin to consider a great deal more why it is not in men’s interest to have women totally free sexually. The double standard, as practiced for example in Latin America, is set up to keep the woman as total property of the husband, while he is free to have affairs as he wishes.
  6. Lesbianism and Bisexuality-Aside from the. Strictly anatomical reasons why women might equally seek other women as lovers, there is a fear on men's part that women will seek the company of other women on a full, human basis. The recognition of clitoral orgasm as fact would threaten the heterosexualinstitution. For it would indicate that sexual pleasure was obtainable from either men or women, thus making heterosexuality not an absolute, but an option. It would thus open up the whole question of human sexual relationships beyond the confines of the present male-female role system.

Books Mentioned in This Essay

Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Alfred C. Kinsey, Pocketbooks, 1953.

Female Sexuality, Marie Bonaparte, Grove Press, 1953.

Sex Without Guilt, Albert Ellis, Grove Press, 1958 and 1965.

Sexual Feelings in Married Men and Women, G. Lombard Kelly, Pocketbooks, 1951 and 1965.

I Accuse (Jeg Anklager), Mette Ejlersen, Chr. Erichsens Forlag (Danish), 1968.

The Sexually Adequate Female, Frank S. Caprio, Fawcett Gold Medal Books, 1953 and 1966.

Thinking About Women, Mary Ellman, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.

Human Sexual Response, Masters and Johnson, Little, Brown, 1966.

Copyright © by Anne Koedt, 1970

The Politics of Housework

by Pat Mainardi (1970). A widely read article from a member of the NY Redstockings Group about the savage inequalities in domestic family labor. by Pat Mainardi of Redstockings

(Editors Note: This article was originally published by Redstockings in 1970. Redstockings was an early women's liberation group centered in New York and was responsible for a number of influential writings.)

Though women do not complain of the power of husbands, each complains of her own husband, or of the husbands of her friends. It is the same in all other cases of servitude; at least in the commencement of the emancipatory movement. The serfs did not at first complain of the power of the lords, but only of their tyranny. -John Stuart Mill On the Subjection of Women

Liberated women-very different from Women's Liberation! The first signals all kinds of goodies, to warm the hearts (not to mention other parts) of the most radical men. The other signals-HOUSEWORK. The first brings sex without marriage, sex before marriage, cozy housekeeping arrangements ("I'm living with this chick") and the self-content of knowing that you're not the kind of man who wants a doormat instead of a woman. That will come later. After all, who wants that old commodity anymore, the Standard American Housewife, all husband, home and kids? The New Commodity; the Liberated Woman, has sex a lot and has a Career, preferably something that can be fitted in with the household chores-like dancing, pottery, or painting.

On the other hand is Women's Liberation-and housework. What? You say this is all trivial? Wonderful! That's what I thought. It seemed perfectly reasonable. We both had careers, both had to work a couple of days a week to earn enough to live on, so why shouldn't we share the housework? So I suggested it to my mate and he agreed-most men are too hip to turn you down flat. You're right, he said. It's only fair. Then an interesting thing happened. I can only explain it by stating that we women have been brainwashed more than even we can imagine, Probably too many years of seeing television women in ecstasy over their shiny waxed floors or breaking down over their dirty shirt collars. Men have no such conditioning. They recognize the essential fact of housework right from the very beginning. Which is that it stinks.

Here's my list of dirty chores: buying groceries, carting them home and putting them away; cooking meals and washing dishes and pots; doing the laundry digging out the place when things get out of control; washing floors. The list could go on but the sheer necessities are bad enough. All of us have to do these things, or get someone else to do them for us. The longer my husband contemplated these chores, the more repulsed he became, and so proceeded the change from the normally sweet, considerate Dr. Jekyll into the crafty Mr. Hyde who would stop at nothing to avoid the horrors of-housework. As he felt himself backed into a comer laden with dirty dishes, brooms, mops and reeking garbage, his front teeth grew longer and pointier, his fingernails haggled and his eyes grew wild. Housework trivial? Not on your life! Just try to share the burden.

So ensued a dialogue that's been going on for several years. Here are some of the high points: "I don't mind sharing the housework, but I don't do it very well. We should each do the things we're best at." MEANING: Unfortunately I'm no good at things like washing dishes or cooking. What I do best is a little light carpentry, changing light bulbs, moving furniture (how often do you move furniture?). ALSO MEANING: Historically the lower classes (black men and us) have had hundreds of years experience doing menial jobs. It would be a waste of manpower to train someone else to do them now. ALSO MEANING: I don't like the dull, stupid, boring jobs, so you should do them.

"I don' t mind sharing the work, but you'll have to show me how to do it." MEANING: I ask a lot of questions and you'll have to show me everything every time I do it because I don't remember so good. Also don' t try to sit down and read while I'M doing my jobs because I'm going to annoy hell out of you until it's easier to do them yourself."

"We used to be so happy!" (Said whenever it was his turn to do something.) MEANING: I used to be so happy. MEANING: Life without house work is bliss. No quarrel here. Perfect Agreement.

"We have different standards, and why should I have to work to your standards? That's unfair." MEANING: If I begin to get bugged by the dirt and crap I will say, "This place sure is a sty" or "How can anyone live like this?" and wait for your reaction. I know that all women have a sore called "Guilt over a messy house" or "Household work is ultimately my responsibility." I know that men have caused that sore-if anyone visits and the place is a sty--they're not going to leave and say, "He sure is a lousy housekeeper." You'll take the rap in any case. I can outwait you. ALSO MEANING: I can provoke innumerable scenes over the housework issue. Eventually doing all the housework yourself will be less painful to you than trying to get me to do half. Or I'll suggest we get a maid. She will do my share of the work. You will do yours. It's women's work.

"I've got nothing against sharing the housework, but you can' t make me do it on your schedule." MEANING: Passive resistance. I'll do it when I damned well please, if at all. If my job is doing dishes, it's easier to do them once a week. If taking out laundry, once a month. If washing the floors, once a year. If you don't like it, do it yourself oftener, and then I wont do it at all.

"I hate it more than you. You don't mind it so much." MEANING: Housework is garbage work. It's the worst crap I've ever done. It's degrading and humiliating for someone of my intelligence to do it. But for someone of your intelligence....

"Housework is too trivial to even talk about." MEANING: It's even more trivial to do. Housework is beneath my status. My purpose in life is to deal with matters of significance. Yours is to deal with matters of insignificance. You should do the housework.

"This problem of housework is not a man-woman problem. In any relationship between two people one is going to have a stronger personality and dominate." MEANING: That stronger personality had better be me.

"In animal societies, wolves, for example, the top animal is usually a male even where he is not chosen for brute strength but on the basis of cunning and intelligence. Isn't that interesting? MEANING: I have historical, psychological, anthropological and biological justification for keeping you down. How can you ask the top wolf to be equal?

"Women's liberation isn't really a political movement." MEANING: The revolution is coming too close to home. ALSO MEANING: I am only interested in how I am oppressed, not how I oppress others. Therefore the war, the draft and the university are political. Women's liberation is not.

"Man's accomplishments have always depended on getting help from other people, mostly women. What great man would have accomplished what he did if he had to do his own housework?" MEANING: Oppression is built into the system and I, as the white American male, receive the benefits of this system. I don't want to give them up.

Participatory democracy begins at home. If you are planning to implement your politics, there are certain things to remember.

  1. He is feeling it more than you. He's losing some leisure and you're gaining it. The measure of your oppression is his resistance.
  2. A great many American men are not accustomed to doing monotonous, repetitive work which never issues in any lasting, let alone important, achievement. This is why they would rather repair a cabinet than wash dishes. If human endeavors are like a pyramid with man's highest achievements at the top, then keeping oneself alive is at the bottom. Men have always had servants (us) to take care of this bottom stratum of life while they have confined their efforts to the rarefied upper regions. It is thus ironic when they ask of women-Where are your great painters, statesmen, etc.? Mme. Matisse ran a military shop so he could paint. Mrs. Martin Luther King kept his house and raised his babies.
  3. It is a traumatizing experience for someone who has always thought of himself as being against any oppression or exploitation of one human being by another to realize that in his daily life he has been accepting and implementing (and benefiting from) this exploitation; that his rationalization is little different from that of the racist who says, "Black people don' t feel pain' (women don't mind doing the shitwork); and that the oldest form of oppression in history has been the oppression of 50 percent of the population by the other 50 percent. 
  4. Arm yourself with some knowledge of the psychology of oppressed peoples everywhere, and a few facts about the animal kingdom. I admit playing top wolf or who runs the gorillas is silly but as a last resort men bring it up all the time. Talk about bees. If you feel really hostile bring up the sex life of spiders. They have sex. She bites off his head. The psychology of oppressed peoples is not silly. Jews, immigrants, black men and all women have employed the same psychological mechanisms to survive' admiring the oppressor, glorifying the oppressor, wanting to be like the oppressor, wanting the oppressor to like them, mostly because the oppressor held all the power. 
  5. In a sense, all men everywhere are slightly schizoid-divorced from the reality of maintaining life. This makes it easier for them to play games with it. It is almost a cliché that women feel greater grief at sending a son off to a war or losing him to that war because they bore him, suckled him, and raised him. The men who foment those wars did none of those things and have a more superficial estimate of the worth of human life. One hour a day is a low estimate of the amount of time one has to spend "keeping" oneself. By foisting this off on others, man has seven hours a week-one working day more to play with his mind and not his human needs. Over the course of generations it is easy to see whence evolved the horrifying abstractions of modern life. 
  6. With the death of each form of oppression, life changes and new forms evolve. English aristocrats at the turn of the century were horrified at the idea of enfranchising working men-were sure that it signaled the death of civilization and a return to barbarism. Some working men were even deceived by this line. Similarly with the minimum wage, abolition of slavery, and female suffrage. Life changes but it goes on. Don't fall for any line about the death of everything if men take a turn at the dishes. They will imply that you are holding back the revolution (their revolution). But you are advancing it (your revolution). 
  7. Keep checking up. Periodically consider who's actually doing the jobs. These things have a way of backsliding so that a year later once again the woman is doing everything. After a year make a list of jobs the man has rarely if ever done. You will find cleaning pots, toilets, refrigerators and ovens high on the list. Use time sheets if necessary. He will accuse you of being petty. He is above that sort of thing (housework). Bear in mind what the worst jobs are, namely the ones that have to be done every day or several times a day. Also the ones that are dirty-it's more pleasant to pick up books, newspapers, etc., than to wash dishes. Alternate the bad jobs. It's the daily grind that gets you down. Also make sure that you don' t have the responsibility for the housework with occasional help from him. "I'll cook dinner for you tonight" implies it's really your job and isn't he a nice guy to do some of it for you. 
  8. Most men had a rich and rewarding bachelor life during which they did not starve or become encrusted with crud or buried under the liner. There is a taboo that says women mustn' t strain themselves in the presence of men-we haul around 50 pounds of groceries if we have to but aren't allowed to open a jar if there is someone around to do it for us. The reverse side of the coin is that men aren't supposed to be able to take care of themselves without a woman. Both are excuses for making women do the housework. 
  9. Beware of the double whammy. He won't do the little things he always did because you're now a "Liberated Woman," right? Of course he won't do anything else either.... 

I was just finishing this when my husband came in and asked what I was doing. Writing a paper on housework. Housework? he said. Housework? Oh my god how trivial can you get? A paper on housework.

The Woman Identified Woman

by Radicalesbians (1970) This manifesto was originally published in Notes for the Third Year and challenged commonly held stereotypes about lesbians. by RADICALESBIANS (1970)

(Editors Note: This manifesto originally appeared in Notes from the Third Year, a collection of feminist writings that was very influential at the time.)  

What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the woman who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society - perhaps then, but certainly later - cares to allow her. These needs and actions, over a period of years, bring her into painful conflict with people, situations, the accepted ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, until she is in a state of continual war with everything around her, and usually with her self. She may not be fully conscious of the political implications of what for her began as personal necessity, but on some level she has not been able to accept the limitations and oppression laid on her by the most basic role of her society--the female role. The turmoil she experiences tends to induce guilt proportional to the degree to which she feels she is not meeting social expectations, and/or eventually drives her to question and analyze what the rest of her society more or less accepts. She is forced to evolve her own life pattern, often living much of her life alone, learning usually much earlier than her "straight" (heterosexual) sisters about the essential aloneness of life (which the myth of marriage obscures) and about the reality of illusions. To the extent that she cannot expel the heavy socialization that goes with being female, she can never truly find peace with herself. For she is caught somewhere between accepting society's view of her - in which case she cannot accept herself - and coming to understand what this sexist society has done to her and why it is functional and necessary for it to do so. Those of us who work that through find ourselves on the other side of a tortuous journey through a night that may have been decades long. The perspective gained from that journey, the liberation of self, the inner peace, the real love of self and of all women, is something to be shared with all women - because we are all women.

It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy. Those sex roles dehumanize women by defining us as a supportive/serving caste in relation to the master caste of men, and emotionally cripple men by demanding that they be alienated from their own bodies and emotions in order to perform their economic/political/military functions effectively. Homosexuality is a by-product of a particular way of setting up roles ( or approved patterns of behavior) on the basis of sex; as such it is an inauthentic ( not consonant with "reality") category. In a society in which men do not oppress women, and sexual expression is allowed to follow feelings, the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality would disappear.

But lesbianism is also different from male homosexuality, and serves a different function in the society. "Dyke" is a different kind of put-down from "faggot", although both imply you are not playing your socially assigned sex role. . . are not therefore a "real woman" or a "real man. " The grudging admiration felt for the tomboy, and the queasiness felt around a sissy boy point to the same thing: the contempt in which women-or those who play a female role-are held. And the investment in keeping women in that contemptuous role is very great. Lesbian is a word, the label, the condition that holds women in line. When a woman hears this word tossed her way, she knows she is stepping out of line. She knows that she has crossed the terrible boundary of her sex role. She recoils, she protests, she reshapes her actions to gain approval. Lesbian is a label invented by the Man to throw at any woman who dares to be his equal, who dares to challenge his prerogatives (including that of all women as part of the exchange medium among men), who dares to assert the primacy of her own needs. To have the label applied to people active in women's liberation is just the most recent instance of a long history; older women will recall that not so long ago, any woman who was successful, independent, not orienting her whole life about a man, would hear this word. For in this sexist society, for a woman to be independent means she can't be a woman - she must be a dyke. That in itself should tell us where women are at. It says as clearly as can be said: women and person are contradictory terms. For a lesbian is not considered a "real woman. " And yet, in popular thinking, there is really only one essential difference between a lesbian and other women: that of sexual orientation - which is to say, when you strip off all the packaging, you must finally realize that the essence of being a "woman" is to get fucked by men.

"Lesbian" is one of the sexual categories by which men have divided up humanity. While all women are dehumanized as sex objects, as the objects of men they are given certain compensations: identification with his power, his ego, his status, his protection (from other males), feeling like a "real woman, " finding social acceptance by adhering to her role, etc. Should a woman confront herself by confronting another woman, there are fewer rationalizations, fewer buffers by which to avoid the stark horror of her dehumanized condition. Herein we find the overriding fear of many women toward being used as a sexual object by a woman, which not only will bring her no male-connected compensations, but also will reveal the void which is woman's real situation. This dehumanization is expressed when a straight woman learns that a sister is a lesbian; she begins to relate to her lesbian sister as her potential sex object, laying a surrogate male role on the lesbian. This reveals her heterosexual conditioning to make herself into an object when sex is potentially involved in a relationship, and it denies the lesbian her full humanity. For women, especially those in the movement, to perceive their lesbian sisters through this male grid of role definitions is to accept this male cultural conditioning and to oppress their sisters much as they themselves have been oppressed by men. Are we going to continue the male classification system of defining all females in sexual relation to some other category of people? Affixing the label lesbian not only to a woman who aspires to be a person, but also to any situation of real love, real solidarity, real primacy among women, is a primary form of divisiveness among women: it is the condition which keeps women within the confines of the feminine role, and it is the debunking/scare term that keeps women from forming any primary attachments, groups, or associations among ourselves.

Women in the movement have in most cases gone to great lengths to avoid discussion and confrontation with the issue of lesbianism. It puts people up-tight. They are hostile, evasive, or try to incorporate it into some ''broader issue. " They would rather not talk about it. If they have to, they try to dismiss it as a 'lavender herring. " But it is no side issue. It is absolutely essential to the success and fulfillment of the women's liberation movement that this issue be dealt with. As long as the label "dyke" can be used to frighten women into a less militant stand, keep her separate from her sisters, keep her from giving primacy to anything other than men and family-then to that extent she is controlled by the male culture. Until women see in each other the possibility of a primal commitment which includes sexual love, they will be denying themselves the love and value they readily accord to men, thus affirming their second-class status. As long as male acceptability is primary-both to individual women and to the movement as a whole-the term lesbian will be used effectively against women. Insofar as women want only more privileges within the system, they do not want to antagonize male power. They instead seek acceptability for women's liberation, and the most crucial aspect of the acceptability is to deny lesbianism - i. e., to deny any fundamental challenge to the basis of the female. It should also be said that some younger, more radical women have honestly begun to discuss lesbianism, but so far it has been primarily as a sexual "alternative" to men. This, however, is still giving primacy to men, both because the idea of relating more completely to women occurs as a negative reaction to men, and because the lesbian relationship is being characterized simply by sex, which is divisive and sexist. On one level, which is both personal and political, women may withdraw emotional and sexual energies from men, and work out various alternatives for those energies in their own lives. On a different political/psychological level, it must be understood that what is crucial is that women begin disengaging from male-defined response patterns. In the privacy of our own psyches, we must cut those cords to the core. For irrespective of where our love and sexual energies flow, if we are male-identified in our heads, we cannot realize our autonomy as human beings.

But why is it that women have related to and through men? By virtue of having been brought up in a male society, we have internalized the male culture's definition of ourselves. That definition consigns us to sexual and family functions, and excludes us from defining and shaping the terms of our lives. In exchange for our psychic servicing and for performing society's non-profit-making functions, the man confers on us just one thing: the slave status which makes us legitimate in the eyes of the society in which we live. This is called "femininity" or "being a real woman" in our cultural lingo. We are authentic, legitimate, real to the extent that we are the property of some man whose name we bear. To be a woman who belongs to no man is to be invisible, pathetic, inauthentic, unreal. He confirms his image of us - of what we have to be in order to be acceptable by him - but not our real selves; he confirms our womanhood-as he defines it, in relation to him- but cannot confirm our personhood, our own selves as absolutes. As long as we are dependent on the male culture for this definition. For this approval, we cannot be free.

The consequence of internalizing this role is an enormous reservoir of self-hate. This is not to say the self-hate is recognized or accepted as such; indeed most women would deny it. It may be experienced as discomfort with her role, as feeling empty, as numbness, as restlessness, as a paralyzing anxiety at the center. Alternatively, it may be expressed in shrill defensiveness of the glory and destiny of her role. But it does exist, often beneath the edge of her consciousness, poisoning her existence, keeping her alienated from herself, her own needs, and rendering her a stranger to other women. They try to escape by identifying with the oppressor, living through him, gaining status and identity from his ego, his power, his accomplishments. And by not identifying with other "empty vessels" like themselves. Women resist relating on all levels to other women who will reflect their own oppression, their own secondary status, their own self-hate. For to confront another woman is finally to confront one's self-the self we have gone to such lengths to avoid. And in that mirror we know we cannot really respect and love that which we have been made to be.

As the source of self-hate and the lack of real self are rooted in our male-given identity, we must create a new sense of self. As long as we cling to the idea of "being a woman, '' we will sense some conflict with that incipient self, that sense of I, that sense of a whole person. It is very difficult to realize and accept that being "feminine" and being a whole person are irreconcilable. Only women can give to each other a new sense of self. That identity we have to develop with reference to ourselves, and not in relation to men. This consciousness is the revolutionary force from which all else will follow, for ours is an organic revolution. For this we must be available and supportive to one another, five our commitment and our love, give the emotional support necessary to sustain this movement. Our energies must flow toward our sisters, not backward toward our oppressors. As long as woman's liberation tries to free women without facing the basic heterosexual structure that binds us in one-to-one relationship with our oppressors, tremendous energies will continue to flow into trying to straighten up each particular relationship with a man, into finding how to get better sex, how to turn his head around-into trying to make the "new man" out of him, in the delusion that this will allow us to be the "new woman. " This obviously splits our energies and commitments, leaving us unable to be committed to the construction of the new patterns which will liberate us.

It is the primacy of women relating to women, of women creating a new consciousness of and with each other, which is at the heart of women's liberation, and the basis for the cultural revolution. Together we must find, reinforce, and validate our authentic selves. As we do this, we confirm in each other that struggling, incipient sense of pride and strength, the divisive barriers begin to melt, we feel this growing solidarity with our sisters. We see ourselves as prime, find our centers inside of ourselves. We find receding the sense of alienation, of being cut off, of being behind a locked window, of being unable to get out what we know is inside. We feel a real-ness, feel at last we are coinciding with ourselves. With that real self, with that consciousness, we begin a revolution to end the imposition of all coercive identifications, and to achieve maximum autonomy in human expression.

This document was obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women's Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library-A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm . Please contact this collection for information about reproducing this article.

Poor White Women

by Roxanne Dunbar (1970?) A powerful account of growing up poor, white, rural and female.
by Roxanne Dunbar (Undated but probably written around 1970)

(Editors Note: Exploring how consciousness developed among rural southern white women, the article seeks to explain the gender and racial complexities of growing up poor, white and female. Roxanne Dunbar was active in the Boston women's liberation movement.)  

A caste-class society depends for its perpetuation on the desire of the lower caste masses to get on top, and to identify with those of the privileged caste or class rather than their own people. An enlightened power group will encourage ‘climbing’ knowing full well that the few who ‘make it’ will be thoroughly corrupted or destroyed in the process.

For the agrarian poor white female, class and caste oppression Is multiple (surely infinitely multiple for those who are black). In the farming community where I grew up, the distinction between male and female was absolute; but the women had none of the ‘privileges’ given the female sex among the wealthy. Men had many of the privileges reserved for men only, though. For instance, women were expected to work in the fields doing heavy labor when needed, but men were never expected to do domestic work or care for the children.

The care of the children definitely was in the hands of women only. Women cared for one another in maternity, and helped each other with the children. Children were raised somewhat ‘communally’ (by ‘blood’ aunts or honorary aunts), but only with women sharing the labor.

In some country families, the women did dominate - - probably more often than did the men (usually there was a division of labor based on sex, and totally separate spheres of power, and since these poor white men had no power outside the patriarchal family, and there was no town government, there was no exteriorization of the patriarchal role). In one such family, the man hardly ever spoke and was shy. The woman was strong and independent. She was just, egalitarian, and no-nonsense. She ran the farm, and her husband was a sort of foreman for her. Her children were extremely good at everything, and were considered to have the highest characters of any young folk in the community. To have such independence, though, the woman had to have a man. That is, widows and divorced women were powerless and tragic.

In general, women talked as loudly and as much as the men in mixed company. Any joke about women was met with a more biting joke about men, or the reverse. The women were not passive, nor were they expected to be ‘soft’ and ‘maternal’. They whipped their children, yelled at them, demanded that they entertain themselves. But the men were not abstract figures; they were constantly present, in and out, working with the women, and living in crowded quarters with the family.

The women basically seemed to consider the men as weaklings who must be kept in line to keep them working, and to keep them from drinking. I suppose that generations of men moving off to the West leaving women in charge of farms and children made for very sturdy, independent women, but also for meandering men. I know my mother feared that my cowboy father would one day walk out, or take to drinking. The women seemed determined that equality meant equal bondage. If they were to be tied to farm and work, the men should be also, The men wanted the freedom to rove, and have land and family of their own as well. The women did not go for that bargain.

By the time I was born (1938), many of these patterns were beginning to change, so that by the time I had left home (1955), the tenuous cultural patterns had been shattered, I hear much in my childhood about the leaner years of the depression, when there were no shoes for my brother and sister, barely any food, and how lucky I was. But still we were very poor. It was a poor community, and getting poorer. The city people were buying up the land for wheat crops. It got harder and harder for a family that did not own land (like mine) to find a farm to rent or sharecrop. We moved a half dozen times between the time I was born and when I started to school. There was always talk of going to California, mostly by my mother.

My mother wanted a better life. She had always lived in incredible poverty, with no mother (her Indian mother died when she was two) and a drunken Irish father. She blamed my father for our poverty, and he blamed his misfortune, though he railed against the Roosevelts, the Northerners, and the rich. Mostly, though, they fought with each other.

In the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, many of the ‘dirt farmers’ went to work in the city at the defense plants, and moved away. My mother wanted that, so she could have a refrigerator, stove, running water, a bathroom, closets, like all city people seemed to have even when they were very poor. My father refused to move to the city, but he did finally stop trying to farm. He got a job out of a larger town nearby, driving a gasoline truck, delivering to the rich farmers. He made $150 a month when he started (1947), and ten years later he was making $200. We moved into the tiny town (150 people), but we continued to raise our own food and meat. My grandfather and grandmother were among the founders of that little town, so that we had a certain status, though poor. We were never considered ‘white trash’ but there were such families there. The desolation of their lives was far, far greater than my own.

Then it was in the early fifties that movies and television invaded the culture, introducing new (urban) patterns. The country folk were mystified by the city people portrayed, and they were humiliated in their ignorance and roughness. The women were embarrassed by the white, soft ladies in low cut gowns with their jewels and high heeled shoes up against those country women with their leathered brown skin and muscles, and drab work clothes and heavy shoes, The men felt more manly toward the soft-voiced, tender ladies on the screen than toward their own unsightly women.

The image of the male which Hollywood created was not so very different from the country man, The female image was totally different. The farmers’ taste and desire were supposed to change, and his self-image thereby. But the country women were to change completely -- psychically and physically. And it didn’t work. The sight of country women in rhinestones and platform heels and brief dresses over their muscular bodies was a pitiful one indeed. The men left them (in fantasy) for Hollywood (the new West).

Worst of all (for me), the women tried to create the glamour in their daughters, which they themselves could not attain. ‘Pretty as a movie star’ was a common way of describing a girl who fit the image. The image was curly blonde hair, blue eyes, rosy complexion, and a soft round body. I was tall, dark, thin, with very straight hair and big feet (‘big feet’ was a terrible ‘problem’ for most country women). But my mother tried; she made me get permanents (the electrical contraption), and she actually bought shoes that were too small for me, which crippled my feet. Shirley Temple was the daughter all mothers wanted, and I clearly could never become Shirley Temple. How much pain, how much wasted energy on trying to create little Shirleys?

But I worshipped movie stars and stared at their pictures for hours. I had another idol, though, which loomed large in my childhood, and which was more complex and damaging -- Scarlett O’Hara. Everyone had seen Gone With The Wind. It was an epic dramatization of our people’s plight, we thought. And a woman was the central figure. Gone With The Wind is a perfect example of the kind of brilliant propaganda which was created by sell-out ‘pop’ artists and intellectuals during the ‘20s and ‘30s for Fascist regimes in the West (Europe and America).

All the stereotypes of the Bourbon imagination (economy) were recreated in dazzling, compelling form. Scarlett was not just a woman; Scarlett was the South (Bourbon, of course) - - proud, beautiful, strong-headed, and in war, brave and unfailing, never really defeated. After the war she made alliances with the carpetbaggers, but always was wily, crafty, never disloyal to her real self. In fact, she was too demanding, too crass. The North (Rhett Butler) was not that evil. In the end Rhett shuts the door in spoiled Scarlett’s face, and we all know she deserved it. Somehow we were left with the illusion that Scarlett was triumphant, which indeed the Bourbons have been.

At another level the stereotypes of caste were reinforced, again in the mode of the Bourbons. Scarlett was a lady, though strong and capable of anything a man could do, Scarlett was the new woman of the new South. Rhett was the new man -- strong, masculine and in charge. Melanie and Ashley were relics from the past -- the innocent ante-bellum Bourbon South with all its serene beauty. And, of course, Black people are portrayed as happy darkies, loyal and childlike. Poor Whites did not appear as major characters, but the big tent of imagination encompassed us. The poor were there, but we were allowed to identify with the White South (the Bourbons), and to share their war, frustration, glamour. This perfect meshing of all Southern interests with the interests of one class, the class in power (Bourbon) is analogous to such trickery on a national level now, and is, in fact, as old British device for keeping the poor folk ‘loyal’. The glamour and power and ‘nationalism’ (Southern) of the Bourbons have always been sufficient to keep the poor Whites down in the South.

But Gone With The Wind had an even further effect upon poor White females, We ‘played like’ we were Scarlett O’Hara. It fit rather well with our worship for movie queens since Scarlett O'Hara was really Vivian Leigh. Scarlett’s tragedy made her an even more attractive figure. In terms of behavior, Scarlett taught us that a woman should be strong, but hide the fact; should be sexy, but virtuous, though sex could be used to save a man or one's country. Scarlett before the war, or after the war, would not have made the impression it did, had not Scarlett in wartime been offered as an image of a lady digging potatoes and living in poverty, That it was a temporary situation only gave us hope that ours, too, was temporary, For Gone With The Wind truly allowed us - poor White girls - to believe that we, too, were Southern princesses.

Poverty is a reflection of bad character, of evil in America, where everyone supposedly has the right to climb. A clever poor White girl lies about her humble background, when she goes to the city, that is, if she wants to catch a man who will raise her status. She will say that her family used to be wealthy and own slaves; that the Civil War destroyed the family’s wealth. That is, she will have aristocratic pretensions and separate herself from her people. In other cases, her family raises her believing they do in fact have a noble Bourbon past. Just as in Mexico, where every non-tribal Indian claims noble Spanish blood, every white family in the South claims origins with the elite.

So the poor white woman grows up either in ignorance destined to marry a poor White man and live in relative poverty or move into the post-wartime economy of urban employment, or she will make it out into a higher class through marriage. In any case, her identity will remain highly confused. Ashamed of her class status, she probably will not in her lifetime discover her caste status as a woman, though she is fully aware that she is subservient to the men of her class, who are just as poor.

Rape Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

by Kay Potter (1971). An article first published in a pamphlet issued by Women Against Rape. by Kay Potter 

(Editors Note: This article was taken from the pamphlet Stop Rape) which was first issued in 1971 by Women Against Rape. Stop Rape was widely distributed within the women's movement and served to change the way our society looks at rape.)  

Rape could happen to you, no matter your age, color, wealth or marital status, but then you know that already since it is a fact that in the United States one rape is reported every fourteen minutes it is important that you should also know what will probably happen to you if you have to report a rape.

Once you have been raped the agony has just begun. In your state of shock and misery, you will be treated as though you are the criminal; your every action will be watched by people who presume that you are a liar. You must be prepared for this treatment if you are to have any chance of convicting the man who raped you. Even then it won't be easy; I know from experience.

After the rape has happened, call the police. You must do this immediately: the police will never believe you have been raped if you don't notify them immediately. Give them a description of the rapist, anything at all that you can remember. This will be even more difficult than you might think because repeat rapists know how important the description is and make every effort to keep you from being able to identify them. But try: height weight, clothing, type of build, color of skin and hair, facial oddities, anything at all including the direction you last saw him running. If he had a car, any information about it is important. You should begin now noticing what people and cars look like in case you ever need to use such information.

As soon as you have called the police the description is put on the police radio and any officers in the area that aren't at Biff's can begin looking for suspects.

There are a lot of things not to do immediately after you have been raped which are also very important and against all of your instincts. Remember, nobody cares about your instincts or feelings in this case. Do not destroy anything that may be evidence. This means don't take a bath. You will undoubtedly feel filthy but dirt, cuts, bruises and sperm (in short, your whole body) are considered evidence. You must live with the evidence of the rape until is has been officially recognized. You certainly must not change your underwear because it may be ripped or have sperm on it.

It is a good idea to call a friend right after you have called the police. There are several reasons for this besides your needing comfort A friend should be given a complete description of your attacker to help your memory along at the show-up, the pretrial hearing and the trial. If she is a good friend she will probably come over and write down everything you can remember about the whole rape which would be even more helpful. If you don't have any friends who are willing to be out after dark, write it down yourself. You'll need it again and again. if your friend does come she can babysit for your children when the police take you away, which is what will happen next.

Policemen who come to your home after a rape are instructed to take you directly to a hospital. You can of course go to the hospital yourself and avoid contact with them but then the description of the rapist does not get sent out to the squad cars. If you refuse to go to the hospital with the police it counts heavily against you at the trial no matter what your reasons. These policemen merely fill out a preliminary report about your rape. There is a simple form that they fill out by checking certain boxes. You do not need to go into any detail with them because you will just be exposing yourself to them for their vicarious sexual thrills.

You will be taken to a hospital where you will wait for a policewoman who will take your whole statement and write another fuller report. This policewoman makes the determination of whether or not a crime has been committed. It is also her job to gather evidence, including any of your clothing which is ripped. if she is a sympathetic woman at all this is the time you can break down and cry. You may as well because it will be your only chance. However, don't let loose too much because if she determines that in fact you have been raped she will order a vaginal examination for sperm and lacerations. The doctor who performs it will undoubtedly have no time for your feelings. One woman who was raped by four men and cried at her vaginal exam was yelled at by the doctor for being -"such a baby".

First thing in the morning you will be at police headquarters if they have picked up a suspect who fits your description. You will talk to another policewoman who will take your full statement again. You can tell already how important it is that your memory is clear and accurate. You may or may not be shown the suspect's picture but if he has been picked up you will have to identify him in person at a line-up or show-up as the police say. At the show-up, there will be an attorney for the suspect to make sure his rights are protected, the policewoman who conducts the proceedings and you.

I went to a freight-type elevator with the policewoman and the court-appointed attorney for the suspect. The doors opened and there were about five men standing around in their shirt sleeves: one had on a uniform The place looked and smelled like a gym. We turned right into a long hall with an open door at the end. I could hear the sounds of a lot of men, I didn't know when I was going to be confronted by the man who had attacked me,-I didn't know which of these men were criminals. I had only slept two hours since he attacked me because the police said I had to be here at 8 A.M. I didn't know what was happening at all and nobody told me.

The policewoman was very busy. She spoke to several men as we passed. She was obviously doing her job as she led me into a medium-sized room which had a long window-glass running its length. We went to the right into a tiny locker room. She said I could sit down on one of the grey wooden benches and she left. The room was cold. I felt that my skin was the same grey enamel as the lockers.

The policewoman returned and led me back into the larger room; there was a very bright light on the other side of the glass. The policewoman told me that the suspects would be brought in and that if I could identify one of them I should tell her his number. She also told me that none of the suspects would be able to see me.

A door opened and five men filed in. There was no sound from any of them and they all looked at their feet.

The policewoman instructed them to stop, each standing in front Of a number on the wall behind him. You know what it looked like from watching television. What you don't know is what it felt like and how hard it is to identify someone under those conditions.

The lights on the men were very bright. When he attacked me he had come out of the shadows. He honestly didn't "look the same". I had to remember what I had seen and see it all again in this light and this place. I really just 'wanted to forget everything at this point. Then I realized that although he couldn't see me he certainly could hear me when I gave his number.

I was cold and alone and afraid. Afraid I would identify the wrong man; afraid he would jump through the glass and kill me when he heard my voice; afraid I would be sick right there and ruin all the control I was fighting so hard for.

After you positively identify a suspect at a show-up, the policewoman fills out the forms to get a warrant. Both of you will go to the prosecutor's office where a warrant will be issued on the charges. Then you will both go to the clerk's office and swear that the charges are true. Then you can go home and lie awake nights wondering if he got out on bail.

After some period of time (it will be shorter if he is waiting in jail for this trial) you will have to appear at the pretrial hearing. This is theoretically the time when it will be determined if there is enough evidence for a real trial. This is actually the time when the behind-the-scenes plea bargaining goes on. The rapist's attorney will try to get him off with less punishment by pleading guilty to a lesser charge, sometimes called copping a plea. If this is done, you will never have to testify because the case will never actually come to trial. Obviously this plea bargaining influences the statistics we have on rape since many rapists plead guilty to something else.

You will be pressured to let the rapist cop a plea because the prosecutor doesn't really want to prosecute this case anyway. You have little to say about this as you are only the complaining witness for the state.

One interesting aspect of the pretrial hearing is the case in which the repeat rapist refuses to plea bargain. He goes on insisting that he is innocent and hoping that you would rather let him go free than take the witness stand in a real trial. He has been through a real trial and knows that you have good reason to be afraid.

Months later on the day of the trial you will meet the prosecutor for the first time and he will read the information of your case for the first time. He will take you to a conference room and ask you to tell him the events of the rape. That's all he will do. You will return to the court room and sit. A while later he will take you again to the conference room to ask if you are sure that you want to prosecute as the defendant is willing to plead to a lesser charge now.

Although I had been in a court room at the pretrial hearing, I was still upset to arrive on time for the trial and find that no one was in the court room but the guards. They would give me no information about where the prosecutor was. About half an hour later two men arrived and hurried to the two tables near the bench.

They both looked very busy. Neither of them acknowledged me at all, although I was the only woman in the courtroom. one of the men turned out to be the prosecutor who was supposed to function as my lawyer. I knew this because when a friend asked me before the trial if I had a lawyer, I called the policewoman to find out if I needed one. She assured me that the prosecutor would take care of me.

He didn't know my name. He couldn't read the writing on the report. He tried for two hours to get me to let the defendant cop a plea. I kept saying that if he didn't want to go to trial then he shouldn't. He kept saying that Of course it was my decision but he would strongly suggest that we bargain. I repeated that if he didn't feel we had a good enough case to go to trial then he shouldn't. He treated me as though I were a hostile witness because I wanted to go through with the trial. Finally he called the policewoman, who backed me up but it didn't make him happy. These conversations with the prosecutor took almost all morning. Then they called the jury. The prosecutor did not challenge any of the potential jurors. He just sat there doodling.

Then there was a lunch break.

After lunch I was told I would not be allowed in the court room until after I had testified. I was put in a small room at the side of the court room with the policemen who were also to testify for the prosecution. While we sat there, they passed the time by telling war stories.

Eventually I was called to the stand. The moment that the door opened to the court room I felt that I was in a play. I had to make, my entrance and my costume was all wrong. I wished that I had worn something very plain and sweet so that I would have looked like the "girl next door". It may have helped make me "more believable" to the jury.

On the witness stand I had to wear a microphone; no one had told me about that or I would have rehearsed with one. The prosecutor treated me with overt dislike. He asked me questions that he knew I could not answer and made me look stupid to the jury. The defense attorney further encouraged this attitude with his condescending tone of voice.

When I finally escaped from the witness stand, I felt that I had been forced to misrepresent myself. My performance got no applause. I fled to the small green room again. I feel now that this was a mistake because I did not hear the rapist's testimony and when he lied I missed the chance to react for the benefit of the jury. Also, when I was recalled to the witness stand I did not understand the importance Of the questions I was asked.

I still wish I had asked all my friends to go to court 'With me instead of feeling ashamed to want their help. I needed to make the jury, prosecutor, defense attorney and the judge understand that I was a person with friends who would support her.

If you insist on going on with the trial you will find that the rapist has a right to choose either a trial with a jury or with just a judge. He will invariably choose a jury: partially because juries don't know as much about the law as judges but more importantly to make you relive the whole awful rare in every living detail before a group of strangers who presume that at the very least the defendant did not do it but more usually that you are lying.

Even if everyone, including the defense, concedes that sexual intercourse did take place between you and the rapist on the night in question, you will be appalled to hear that it wasn't rape at all.

Probably the most common defense against rape (short of proving that the rapist was busy helping his aging mother wash dishes at the time) is to agree that sexual intercourse happened and that you instigated it in some way. You slyly inveigled him into the alley, begging him to hold a knife to your throat, encouraging him with little animal noises while he tore away your clothing and ripped your vagina to shreds. Later, because you were a woman scorned, you charged him with rape in a furious vendetta against all men.

The jury will agree with this reasoning, find the rapist innocent and he will go out on the streets again.

You see "the burden of proof" is on the state in a rape case. Rape cases are difficult to prove because it is your word against his. A robbery or an assault could also be your word against his but these cases are easier to prove. You will never be told why this is so but you might guess, especially if you have been raped. Rape cases are more difficult to prove because the male prosecutor doesn't believe you at all but instead sides with the rapist. All of this subconsciously, of course. The defense attorney gleefully claims that you are a sexual temptress. The men on the jury agree because after all it could have been one of them up there as the defendant. The women on the jury also agree because they all know that rape doesn't happen to nice girls; it has never happened to them nor to any of their friends (as far as they know).

And so the rapist will go free to rape again and this trial will never even be admissable in evidence against him when he rapes again because he was not convicted.

The prosecutor told the judge, after the innocent verdict, that I was very frightened of the defendant. The judge told the defendant that since he was a smart fellow who didn't want to get in any more trouble he should stay away from me.

The defense attorney told me that he was sure that the defendant wouldn't bother me again.

"But then, he never bothered me in the first place. Right?" I said.

The Vagina on Trial

by Kathleen Barry (1971). An article first published in a pamphlet issued by Women Against Rape. The institution and Psychology of Rape by Kathleen Barry

(Editors Note: This article was taken from the pamphlet Stop Rape) which was first issued in 1971 by Women Against Rape. Stop Rape was widely distributed within the women's movement and served to change the way our society looks at rape.)  

There are sick, evil men lurking in the bushes and violently, sexually attacking innocent "nice girls". There are helpless good guys who are driven to sexual violence by immoral women who lead men on through their suggestive behavior. Rape is an abhorrent crime which everyone is against and society tries (although it is difficult) to curtail. All of these statements sum up the current myths about rape. They are, in fact, myths we have been forced to believe to avoid uncovering the reality of rapists, female behavior and society's efforts. It is necessary to explore the myths and study the reality if we are to begin to fight one of the most violent offenses by men against women.

Every woman has had terrifying experiences causing her to fear rape. And that fear is a primary factor in controlling her behavior. Recently when going for a walk one evening with some other women, I was struck by two awarnesses: first, how unusual it felt to be walking on the street at night and secondly the total absence of women and the preponderance of men on the street in the evening. The fear of rape has kept us off the streets and behind securely locked doors. While it has immobilized women, men come and go freely and concede to do the things for us we can't do ourselves because of our fears. This freedom for men and immobilization of women is essential for men to maintain control not only of the society in general but of women in particular. Rape is the most common and threatening act calculated to induce fear in all women and thereby the means men have chosen to maintain control of women. In this context, rape has become an institutionalized necessity developed as an effective means to control all women and leave men free to hold power, dominate and control. Rape has the unspoken legitimacy of being institutionalized in this society and as a result men are given license to use women in any way they see fit. Because of the protection afforded to men by a society controlled by men, men become the natural inheritors of the right to rape. But to camouflage the blatancy of this accepted and assumed violence, men take on the role of protector of women which only implies another kind of violence. Men protect women from the violence of men. There are then benefits to men that come with institutionalization of rape-control of women, right to rape, and the role of protector and thereby controller.

The fear of rape not only controls the physical movements of women; the mythologies about rape have been used to try to control women's minds and distort their vision. Women have been psychologically conditioned to believe in what society has defined as their own innate promiscuity. Recently several women were discussing a jury trial of a particular rape case. The discussion led to how the defense attorney is allowed to malign the character of the women to a humiliating and degrading extent. In searching to find a way to prevent this from happening one woman exclaimed "What we need is a jury of our peers." Everyone agreed until moments later someone realized that is was not the woman who was charged and on trial. Women have been led to believe for so long that they have an uncontrollable sexuality which victimizes men and makes females innately promiscuous-a myth that we must believe at the same time that we believe all women are frigid. These myths are steeped in male concepts of sexuality. Basic to male sexuality is an association between their sexual organs and powers. A good example of this can be seen in the sexual mores surrounding wars past and present which say that men should not have sexual intercourse with a woman before battle because she will rob him of his virility, strength and sense of power. Men still hold on to an irrational fear that women have some mysterious power to subdue their sexuality. This has led them to two simultaneous and contradictory presumptions about women. Not only do they believe out of fear that women are innately promiscuous, but to immobilize the promiscuity they describe the same women as innocent virgins, making the woman something harmless in the mind of the male. Women not only do not make this genital association with power, we often do not understand the fears that men attribute to the power of women. We are constantly traded between two sets of images: one of our raging sexuality and the other of our sweet, pure virginity. And neither apply-our mistake has been to accept and believe their definition of us thereby distrusting ourselves.

It is interesting to note that although men have tried to portray women with a perverted sexual power reflected in their promiscuity, sexual exploitation only goes one way. It is the female body that is used as the subject of pornography for male eroticism and fantasy. It is females who are used as prostitutes by men to serve sexualities which cannot be fulfilled by one woman. It is females who are raped by men. The reverse of these statements does not happen in this society.

But according to the myth of female promiscuity there is no such thing as the "nice girl". The single woman wants to flit from man to man using them to fulfill her sexual needs. The divorced woman wasn't satisfied with one man and has given up the good life to fulfil her innate drives. The married woman is beyond a shadow of a doubt trying to cuckold her husband by having affairs with other men. And the widow isn't content to live with the dignity of happy memories as she buries her husband to begin to tramp after men. By convincing women through these kinds of arguments of their own promiscuous nature men have succeeded in making us believe that if raped we will get only what we deserve and desire. Not only do they think that we all spend all our time craving them, but many men insist that we desire and enjoy rape. This concept may be successfully used to help rapists rationalize their violence but it has no basis in fact. From understanding the myth of the vaginal orgasm and through the research of Masters and Johnson we know that the clitoris is the organ of female eroticism. Most sexual pleasure is derived from manipulating that organ. Anatomically it is separate from the vagina. In the case of rape, violent thrusting of the penis into the vagina cannot provide the stimulation of the clitoris necessary for sexual pleasure for women. Violent sexual intercourse against the will of the woman cannot be pleasurable to her.

The image of femininity has also served to keep women at the mercy of men. By thinking of ourselves as fragile, delicate creatures we learn to bypass any of the things we could learn for our own physical self defense. And we have been encouraged to dress to fit the fragile image which leaves us with shoes we can barely hobble in no less run with, skirts that either tangle at the ankles or are too tight for moving fast, handbags and all kinds of trappings to prevent movement.

In addition we are taught that our only value is as a sexual object and we are expected to dress accordingly and then are accused of being enticing. These kinds of clothing not only support the image of delicacy and sexual objectification, but actually prevent women from being able to run, kick or move with whatever self-defense measure the situation calls for when being approached by a rapist.

We are used to endless discussions of the character and psychology of women who are victims of rape but part of the protection of the rapist is to taboo much of the discussion of him. Who are rapists? First of all, we must rid ourselves of the notion that all rapists are pathologically sick and perverted men who would qualify for institutionalization for mental derangement. According to a study by Menachem Amir three of five are married and lead normal sex lives at home. They are healthy, young men primarily between the ages of 17 and 30. Studies reveal that men imprisoned for rape are normal people, and we can only conclude that to rape is an accepted part of the definition of a normal male. Rape also does not result from these normal, healthy, young, mostly married men acting on impulse. Amir's study reveals that 90 percent of all rapes were planned. So the rapists cannot be considered as momentarily responding to suggestive behavior of a woman or just flipping out for a minute. Rape is premeditated.

The male role dictates that men have a dual function. They are the rapists and the protectors of women. This dual role mystifies our thinking and tends to make us emphasize their good-guy protector role leaving us as easy prey when they assert their right to rape. Adding to this confusion is the male association between sex and violence. Movies, television and novels as well as everyday life find sexual relationships existing on the same level as street violence.

Rape is forcible intercourse with a non consenting woman. We see ample examples of the violent rape on dark streets. But we tend to overlook the rape of a woman who accepts a date for the movies and finds that she must pay with her body by the end of the evening forcible and against her will! Or the woman who learns that she must give in to her boss if she is to keep her job-forcible and against her will! Or the gang rapes of women at rock festivals -forcible and against their wills! How many married women are instructed by their husbands, ministers and marriage counselors that they are obliged by law to provide their bodies for the sexual needs of their husbands whether or not they desire intercourse -forcible and against their wills! And to reveal their real status as sexual property, the law protects rapists by upholding that no man can be accused of raping his wife. Who are the rapists? Strangers, friends, work or business associates, dates, boyfriends and husbands.

Men can feel free and uninhibited to force sexual violence onto women as they receive full protection from the law, police and courts. Men know this and therefore understand that limitations are not placed on them in this area. The careful wording of the law with the broad latitude given the defense (rapist) make clear the state's intention to not prosecute rapists.

In Michigan the prosecutor must prove that the rape was forcible and that there was penetration of the vagina. Forcible rape is determined primarily through trying to ascertain if the woman consented or not. Bruises, marks on the body, cuts or gashes all reveal assault but in the eye of the court they do not prove forcible rape and proof must be presented beyond a shadow of a doubt. Thousands of rapists have received acquittals by claiming that the victim had consented. Consent has been defined as everything from inviting the rapist to your apartment as a stall tactic, to not screaming loud enough. Anything a woman does is used against her in court. And therefore there can be no other conclusion than that the courts exist as one part of a giant male conspiracy to allow the maiming and killing (always a potential in rape) of women.

Allowing a male friend into your home who turns violent and rapes you cannot be prosecuted in court. In the eyes of the court, allowing the male into your home implies consent for him to have sexual intercourse with you. The courts apparently see that opening your front door to a man means that the vagina is opened to his penis. As brash and boorish as these conclusions may sound, we must understand that they constitute the thinking of the society and the courts, not of women. It is no chance of fate that one man can visit another in his home, have an argument where the visitor beats up the other man and the beaten man can charge his former friend with assault. Yet a woman who has been raped in her home by a former male friend need not press charges because NO COURT will believe she didn't consent. But if rape was defined as anytime sexual intercourse took place with a woman against her will then husbands, boyfriends and all men who are able to define their woman as their property would be subject to prosecution, women would be protected and have more freedom of movement and the chains of control would be dealt a heavy blow. It is exactly these things which the police and courts must prevent-not rape.

Here we come to the heart of sexism and its brutal mutilation of women. Now we must ask in all seriousness who is on trial. Women first of all may not do anything to try to prevent the rape such as trying to divert the attention of the man or direct him to a place where there is help for her nor may they do anything to prevent violence to try to save their lives, such as going limp instead of screaming which may provoke more pain for themselves.

The requirement of the courts to prove penetration of the vagina is also established to protect the rapist and further victimize the woman. The only possible way to prove penetration is through examination of the vagina and detection of sperm. There could not be a requirement in all the canons of law with more loopholes in it than this one. What if the rapist didn't have an orgasm? There is no sperm but the vagina was penetrated. What it there was sperm but the woman had sexual intercourse with her consent in 24 hours preceding the rape? If we can't with any reliability determine penetration by examination for sperm, then what about the examination of the vagina. Although penetration may be revealed if the female is a young girl who has had no sexual experience, we know from the scientific data of Masters and Johnson that there is no way to prove penetration in a sexually mature woman unless it is done minutes after intercourse. But because the courts hold on to this requirement, women upon reporting a rape are rushed to emergency of the local hospital where they are initiated into the post-rape humiliation.

The treatment a woman receives after she has been raped indicates clearly that she has stepped out of her place in reporting a rape and asking for justice. The policemen responding to the call provide the first level of harassment. They apparently seek vicarious pleasure from having the woman recount over and over again the details again of the rape when their initial report usually doesn't require the information they are eliciting from the woman. Because the law requires proof of penetration of the vagina the raped woman must be taken by the police to the hospital. Here doctors who also identify with the rapist hold attitudes toward the victimized woman from disinterest to sadism. A woman reported recently that when she arrived at the hospital after being raped and visibly upset, the doctor shook her unmercifully yelling "Shut-up, you bitch!" After all, doctors know the only reason the police bring her there is to check for sperm for evidence for the state.

Doesn't it come down to the fact that what is on trial is the female vagina and it is on trial for simply existing. And now we come to the ultimate conclusion that this society protects rapists because of its insidious contempt for the female and all she represents but most particularly her sexuality.

Lesbianism and Feminism

by Anne Koedt (1971). A theoretical paper exploring this highly complex relationship. by Anne Koedt

(Editor's Note: This 1971 pamphlet distributed by the CWLU explores the complex relationship between the gay and feminist movements. Anne Koedt was a pioneering NY feminist probably best known for her article, "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm".)

Female homosexuality is becoming an increasingly important problem. It is believed by some that women are becoming rapidly defeminized as a result of their overt desire for emancipation and that this “psychic masculinization" of American women contributes to frigidity ... Some sexologists fear that this defeminlzation trend may seriously affect the sexual happiness of modern women They claim it will more than likely influence the susceptibility of many to a homosexual way of thinking and living- Frank S. Caprio M.D., Variations in Sexual Behavior

Feminism is the theory; lesbianism is the practice-Attributed to Ti-Grace Atkinson

When Gertrude Stein entertained friends, she conversed only with the men and left Alice Toklas the duty of talking with the ladies.—Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Only women can give each other a new sense of self, ... We must be available and supportive to one another [and] give our commitment and our love —Radicalesbians, “Woman Identified Woman”

I like her breasts and don’t understand her legs.—Jill Johnston, "Lesbian Baiting"

Feminists have been called “lesbian” long before they may have, in fact, considered its application in their personal lives; it as been an insult directed at them with escalated regularly ever since they began working politically for women's liberation. Their reaction to lesbian baiting has been mixed. On the one hand it was clear that feminism was threatening to men and that men were retaliating with whatever verbal weapons were at hand. But the threat of being called lesbian touched real fears: to the extent the a women was involved with a man, she feared being considered Unfeminine and Unwomanly, and thus being rejected. There was also the larger threat the fear of male rejection in general. Since it is through a husband that women gain economic and social security, through male employers that they earn a living, and in general through male power that they survive, to incur the wrath of men is no small matter. Women knew this long before they put it in feminist terms. Thus it is not just vanity and personal idiosyncrasy for women to wish to remain in the good graces of men. It is a practical reflection of reality.

For feminists the main educational value of lesbian baiting has been its exposure of the very clear connection in men’s minds between being “unfeminine” and being independent. Being called unfeminine is a comparatively gentle threat informing you that you are beginning to waver, whereas being called a lesbian is the danger signal—the final warning that you are about to leave the Territory of Womanhood altogether.

Acts of feminine transgression may take different forms. A woman may appear too self-reliant and assertive; she may work politically for women’s rights; she may be too smart for her colleagues; or she may have important close friends who are women. Often women have been called “lesbian” by complete strangers simply because they were sitting in a cafe obviously engrossed in their own conversation and not interested in the men around them. (Curiously enough it is precisely on the most seemingly “feminine” women that men will frequent this kind of abuse, since the purpose is more to scare the women back into “place” than to pinpoint any actual lesbianism).

The consideration of lesbianism as a personal option grew out of very different reason. For many feminists there had always seen a logical, theoretical connection between the elimination of sex roles and the possibility of loving other women en. With some this became a reality when they met a woman they were attracted to. For others, lesbianism has meant a freedom from male relationships in general, a release from the task of looking for that elusive “special” man who wasn’t a male chauvinist. Other feminists saw a love relationship with a woman as a positive thing because they felt other women could not encourage the passivity and submissiveness that they had previously found themselves falling into with men. Most important of all, perhaps, women found that there were other women to love in their own right as persons.


With the increased interaction between the gay and women’s liberation movements, a heightened consciousness about lesbianism has evolved among feminists—and along with it a corresponding disagreement and confusion as to what exactly it means to be a lesbian. It is clear that more is being implied than the straight dictionary definition of women sleeping with members of their own sex. Some women define it as meaning having sex exclusively with women, a more rigid definition than the one commonly used. Other gay women see lesbianism as much more than a defining term for the sex of your bed partner; to them it is a “total life commitment to a life with women” and “an entire system of world view and life living”. Indeed, some gay women seek to equate their lesbianism with vanguard radical feminism since “we rejected men and sex roles long before there even was a women’s liberation movement” For the purposes of this discussion the meaning of the word lesbianism is restricted to its simplest definition of “women having sexual relations with women” so that the various “life style” arguments which are sometimes added to the basic definition can be looked at separately.

I think that the first thing to do is to define radical feminism: To me it means the advocacy of the total elimination of sex roles. A radical feminist, then, is one who believes in this and works politically toward that end.[She does not by this definition live a life untouched by sex roles; there are no “liberated” women in that sense]. Basic go this position of radical feminism is the concept that biology is not destiny, and that male and female roles are learned—indeed that they are male political constructs than serve to ensure power and superior status for men. Thus the biological male is the oppressor not by virtue of his male biology, but by virtue of his rationalizing his supremacy on the basis of that biological difference. The argument that “man is the enemy” is then true only insofar as the man adopts the male supremacy role.

What then is the relationship between lesbianism and radical feminism? Taking even the most minimal definitions of lesbianism and feminism, you can final one major point of agreement biology does not determine sex roles, thus, since roles are learned there is nothing inherently “masculine” or “feminine” in behavior.

Beyond these basic assumptions, however, there are important differences. Radical feminism naturally incorporates the notion of lesbianism —but with strict reservations.[ Reform feminism which envisions only an “equal partnership with men” clearly has in mind improved male-female relationships, not new possibilities for loving -and relating sexually to women as well.]

Mainly I think that many radical feminists have resented the whole baggage of assumed implications that some gay women leave tagged onto lesbianism. It has been presented too often as a package deal where if you accepted the idea of lesbianism, you would necessarily also have to accept a whole gay position which frequently runs contrary to radical feminism.

The following are some of the points of agreement:

Homosexuality as “Sick” or “Healthy”

The agreement that there is nothing innately sick about persons having sex with someone of their own sex does not mean that therefore all gay behavior is healthy in feminist terms. A lesbian acting like a man or a gay man acting like a woman is not necessarily sicker than heterosexuals acting out the same roles; but it is not healthy. All role playing is sick, be it “simulated” or “authentic” —according to society’s terms.

The fact that there has occurred a role transfer, and that now it is being acted out by the “wrong” sex, does not change the nature of what is being acted out. A male homosexual who dresses up with make-up, makes catty remarks about other women, worries excessively about boy friend approval, and in general displays the insecurity and helplessness that have been the symptoms of women’s oppression, is as far away from being the full person he could be as the woman acting out that same role. The point is that they are, in a sense, both in drag.

On the other hand, two lesbians who have chosen not to fall into imitative roles, but are instead exploring the positive aspect of both “masculine" and feminine behavior beyond roles— forming something new and equal in the process—would in my opinion probably be healthy.

Gay as Radical Feminist Vanguard

One position advanced by some lesbians is the idea that lesbians are the vanguard of the women’s movement because 1) they broke with sex roles before there even was a feminist movement, and 2) they have no need for men at all. (Somehow they are the revolution.) The following is one example of this position:

Feel the real glow that comes from "Our" sisterhood we can touch you something about being gentle and kind for we never felt competitive. Remember WE long before YOU have known discontent with male society and WE long before YOU knew and appreciated the full potential of everything female. It is WE who say welcome to you, long blind and oppressed sisters, we have been fighting against male supremacy for a long time. Join US! We are not intimidated by relational differences for we have never felt mortgaged by society.

Several points seem to be ignored with this kind of argument. For one, there is confusion of a personal with a political solution. Sex roles and male supremacy will not go away simply by women becoming lesbians. It will take a great deal of sophisticated political muscle and collective energy for women to eliminate sexism. So at best a lesbian relationship can give a woman more happiness arid freedom in her private life (assuming both women are not playing roles). But a radical feminist is not just one who tries to live the good non-sexist life at home; she is one who is working politically in society to destroy the institutions of sexism.

Another assumption implicit in the argument of “lesbian-as-the-vanguard-feminist” is that having balked at one aspect of sexism—namely, exclusive heterosexuality.—they are therefore radical feminists. Any woman who defies her role—be it refusing to be a mother, wanting to be a biochemist, or simply refusing to cater to a man’s ego —is defying the sex role system. It is an act of rebellion. In the case of lesbianism, the act of rebellion often has earned the woman severe social ostracism. However, it becomes radical only if it is then placed in the context of wanting to destroy the system as a whole, that is, destroying the sex role system as opposed to just rejecting men. Indeed, there can be reformism within lesbianism too; when a lesbian says “I have nothing against men; I just don’t want to be involved with them,” she is really describing an accommodation within the sexist system even though she has performed the rebellious act of violating that system by being a lesbian. It is also In this context that a statement like “feminism is the theory; lesbianism is the practice” is erroneous. For not only is the sex of a woman’s lover insufficient information to infer radical feminism, but there is also the false implication that to have no men in your personal life means you are therefore living the life of fighting for radical feminist change .

The notion that lesbians have no need for men at all also needs clarification First of all, since we are all women living in a male society, we do in fact depend regularly upon men for many crucial things, even if we do not choose to have men in our personal relationships. It is for this reason that one woman alone will not be fully liberated until all women are liberated. However, taking the statement to mean having no need for men in personal relationships (which can be an important achievement for women, since one should obviously want the person, not the man), one must still ask the question: has the male role been discarded? Thus again the crucial point is not the sex of your bed partner but the sex role of your bed partner.

Gay Movement as a Civil Rights Movement

The organized gay movement seeks to protect the freedom of any homosexual, no matter what her or his individual style of homosexuality may be. This means protection of the transvestite the queen, the “butch” lesbian, the couple that wants a marriage license, or the homosexual who may prefer no particular role. They are all united on one thing: the right to have sex with someone of one’s own sex (i.e., “freedom of sexual preference”).

As is clear from the wide range of homosexual behavior, not all modes necessarily reflect a dislike for sex roles per se. Nor was the choice necessarily made deliberately. The boy who grew up trained as a girl, or the girl who was somehow socialized more toward the male role, did not in their childhood choose to reverse sex roles. Each was saddled with a role (as were we all) and had to make the best of it in a society that scorned such an occurrence. Merle Miller in an article in the New York Times- (January 17, 1971), where he "came out” as a homosexual, said “Gay is good, Gay is proud. Well, yes, I suppose. If I had been given a choice (but who is?), I would prefer to be straight” His point was not that gay is sick but rather that he did not choose his gayness. And, furthermore, had he been trained heterosexually, society would have been a great deal easier on him. Which is a very understandable sentiment given the cruelty and discrimination that Is practiced against homosexuals. In such cases the bravery and rebelliousness is to be found rather In the ability to act out homosexuality in spite of social abuse.

In writing to change oppressive laws, electing officials who will work toward these ends, and changing social attitudes which are discriminatory against homosexuals, the gay movement is addressing itself to its civil rights It is my feeling that the gay liberation issue is in fact a civil rights issue (as opposed to a radical issue) because it is united around the secondary issue of “freedom of sexual preference.” Whereas in fact the real root of anti-homosexualIty is sexism. That is the radical gay person would have to be a feminist. This tracing of the roots of gay oppression to sexism is also expressed in Radicalesbians’s “Woman Identified Woman”:

It should first be understood that lesbianism like male homosexuality is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy . . . . In a society in which men do not oppress women, and sexual expression is allowed to follow feelings the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality would disappear.


One position taken by some lesbians is that bisexuality is a cop-out. This is usually argued in terms like “until all heterosexuals go gay, we are going to remain homosexual,” or “lesbianism is more than having sex with women; it is a whole life style and commitment to women. Bisexuality is a sign of not being able to leave men and be free. We are women- (not men-) identified women.”

The first position mentioned is an apparently tactical argument (though it has also been used by some, I think, to dismiss the discussion of bisexuality altogether by safely pushing it off into the Millennium), and makes the case for politically Identifying yourself with the most discriminated against elements—even though you might really believe in bisexuality.

Taking that argument at face value (and I don’t completely), I think it Is a dangerous thing to advocate politically. For by, in effect, promoting exclusive homosexuality, they lend political support to the notion that it does matter what the sex of your partner may be. While I recognize the absolute necessity for the gay movement to concentrate on the freedom of people to sleep with members of their own sex (since it is here that discrimination exists), it must at the same time always be referred back to its larger, radical perspective: that it is oppressive for that very question even to be asked. As a matter of fact, if “freedom of sexual preference” is the demand the solution obviously must be a bisexuality where the question becomes irrelevant.

I think in fact that the reason why bisexuality has been considered such an unpopular word by most gays is nor to be found primarily in the arguments just discussed, but rather in gay adherence to a kind of fierce homosexual counter-definition which has developed. That is, a counter identity-- a “life style” and “world view”—has been created around the fact of their homosexuality. This identity is so strong sometimes that to even advocate or predict bisexuality is considered “genocide”’ The following is an example: In a response to a statement by Dotson Rader that, “as bisexuality is increasingly accepted as the norm, the position of the homosexual qua homosexual will fade," one gay response was that “The homosexual, like the Jew, is offered the choice between integration or the gas chamber.”3

It is not with the actual gay counterculture that I want to quarrel; I think it is a very understandable reaction to an intolerable exclusion of homosexuals from society. To be denied the ordinary benefits and interaction of other people, to be stripped of your identity by a society that recognizes you as valid only if your role and your biology are “properly” marched—to be thus denied must of course result in a new resolution of identity. Since gays have been rejected on the basis of their homosexuality, it is nor surprising that homosexuality has become the core of the new identity.

The disagreement will feminism comes in an attempt to make a revolutionary political position out of this adjustment. The often heard complaint from feminists that “we are being defined once again by whom we steep with” is correct, I think. The lesson to be learned from a feminist analysis of sex roles is that there is no behavior implied from our biology beyond, as Wilma Scott Heide has noted, the role of sperm donor and wet nurse 4. A woman has historically been defined, on the basis of biology, as incomplete without a man. Feminists have rejected this notion, and must equally reject any new definition which offers a woman her identity by virtue of the fat that she may love or sleep with other women.

It is for this reason, also, that I disagree with the Radicalesbian concept of the “woman-identified woman.” For we ought not to be “identified” on the basis of whom we have relationships with. And here is a confusion in such a term; it seems to mix up the biological woman with the political woman. I think the often used feminist definition of “woman identified’ as meaning having identified with the female role in society is more useful; it refers to a specific political phenomenon of internalization. So far as finding a term which describes women’s solidarity or sisterhood on the basis of our common oppression, the term is feminism. Beyond that, what is left is the biological female--an autonomous being who gains her identity by virtue of her own achievements and characteristics, not by virtue of whom she has a love relationship with.

Once we begin to discuss persons as persons (a word which doesn’t ask the sex of an individual) even the word “bisexuality” may eventually be dropped, since implicit in its use is still an eagerness to inform you that it is both sexes. Perhaps we will finally return to a simpler word like “sexuality,” where the relevant information is simply “sex among persons.”

If you don’t sleep with women ........

If you are a feminist who is not sleeping with a woman you may risk hearing any of the following accusations: “You’re oppressing me if you don’t sleep with women”; “You’re not a radical feminist if you don’t sleep with women”; or “You don’t love women if you don’t sleep with them.” I have even seen a woman’s argument about an entirely different aspect of feminism be dismissed by some lesbians because she was not having sexual relations with women. Leaving aside for a minute the motives for making such accusations, there is an outrageous thing going on here strictly in terms of pressuring women about their personal lives.

This perversion of “the personal is the political” argument, it must be noted, was not invented by those gay women who may be using it now; the women’s movement has had sporadic waves of personal attacks on women—always in the guise of radicalism (and usually by a very small minority of women). I have seen women being told they could not be trusted as feminists because they wore miniskirts, because they were married (in one group quotas were set lest the groups quality be lowered by “unliberated women”), or because they wanted to have children, This rejection of women who are not living the ‘liberated life” has predictably now come to include rejection on the basis of the “unliberated” sex life.

The original genius of the phrase “the personal is political” was that it opened up the area of women’s private lives to political analysis. Before that, the isolation of women from each other had been accomplished by labeling a woman’s experience “personal”. Women had thus been kept from seeing their common condition as women and their common oppression by men.

However, opening up women’s experience to political analysis has also resulted In a misuse of the phrase. While it is true that there are political implications in everything a woman qua woman experiences, it is not therefore true that a woman’s life is the political property of the women’s movement And it seems to me to show a disrespect for another woman to presume that it is any group’s (individual’s) prerogative to pass revolutionary judgment on the progress of her life.

There is a further point: Even the most radical feminist is not the liberated woman. We are all crawling out of femininity into a new sense of personhood Only a woman herself may decide what her next step is going to be. I do not think women have a political obligation to the movement to change; they should do so only if they see it in their own self-interest. If the women’s movement believes that feminism is in women’s self-interest, then the task at hand is to make it understood through shared insights, analysis, and experience. That is, feminism is an offering, not a directive, and one therefore enters a woman’s private life at her invitation only. Thus a statement like “you don’t love women if you don’t sleep with them” must above all be dismissed on the grounds that is is confusing the right to discuss feminism with the right to, uninvited, discuss a woman’s private life and make political judgments about it.

However, taking the issue presented in the above accusation (outside of the guilt provoking personal context-provoking guilt is a tactic not so much for informing as it is for controlling others), there are several points to consider. One element of truth is that some women are unable to relate sexually to other women because of a strong self-hatred for themselves as women (and therefore all women) But there may also be many other reasons. A woman may not be interested in sleeping with anyone- a freedom women are granted even less often than the right to sleep with other women. She may not have met a woman she’s attracted to. Or she may be involved with a man whom she likes as a person, without this necessarily being a rejection of women.. It should also be noted that the women who suffer from strong self-hatred may not necessarily find it impossible to relate sexually to women. They may instead find that taking the male part in a lesbian relationship will symbolically remove them from their feminine role. Such a woman then may become one who “balls” women so as not to be one.

All in all, as has been noted earlier, there us no magic that makes lesbianism proof positive of any high feminist motives. Rather what, what the woman brings to their relationship as far as relinquishing sex roles will, I think, determine her ultimate altitude about really loving other women.


Homosexuality, with its obvious scorn for the “rules” of biology, challenges a cornerstone of sexist ideology and consequently makes most men nervous. There is at this time less fear of female homosexuality than of male homosexuality, possibly because men still feel secure that isolated lesbian examples will not tempt most women away from their prescribed feminine roles, and perhaps also because lesbianism is frequently seen by men as something erotic (it seems, alas, we can still remain sex objects in men’s eyes even when making love to each other).

With male homosexuality, however, men (and thus male society) are more personally threatened. The precise irony of male supremacy is that it is a system rationalized on the basis of biology but actualized through socialization. Deviants who inadvertently were socialized differently, or who chose differently, are thus a threat to the premise that biology is destiny. Thus, to have another man break rank is to threaten all men’s group supremacy status. Also, for a man to leave the “superior’’ group is to go down- that is, become “inferior” or “feminine”. Frequently male homosexuals may may touch on the- unspoken fears in many men that they are not powerful and “manly” enough to fulfill their supremacy destiny and the gay male thus becomes, the symbol of total male failure. Still other men display a robust camaraderie (a la Mailer) where “buggering” a fellow male obviously means that one would have to play woman and good fellowship wouldn’t allow another man such degradation.

To understand men’s fear of homosexuality, their, is above all to understand men’s fear of losing their place of power in society with women. And to hold that power men must preserve both the ‘‘absoluteness’’ of their ideologies and the group unity of their members.

It must kept in mind that while homosexuality does contain an implicit threat to sexist ideology, it is, at best, only a small part of the whole fight to bring down the sex role system. (Indeed, if the gay movement were to be seen as only the demand for the right of making role transfers within society, for example, it would work against feminism by supporting a reformed version of the sex role system.

Thus it is only in the most radical interpretations that lesbianism becomes an organic part of the larger feminist fight. In this context it joins the multitude of other rebellions women have been making against their prescribed role —be it in work, in law — or in personal relationships. As with all such rebellions, they are only personal accommodations to living in a sexist society unless they are understood politically and fought for collectively. The larger political truth is still that we are women living in a male society where men have the power and we don’t; that our “female role” is a creation that is nothing more than male political expediency for maintaining that power, and that until the women’s movement alters these ancient political facts, we cannot speak of being free collectively or individually.


  1. Anon. Vortex, Lawrence Kansas
  2. T.B., letter, Everywoman. March 26, 1971
  3. Letter to the Editor. Evergreen, May 1971
  4. Judith Hole and Ellen Levine, Rebirth of Feminism (Chicago. Quadrangle, 1971) p.76