This essay identifies poor women who serve as heads of their families as the ideal engine for the Women’s Radical Movement: as author Betsy Warrior notes, poor women have both the knowledge of the oppressive system, and the instinct to protect that allows them to be both educated and motivated to create change. Unlike rich women–who lack the critique of the system–and poor men,–who Warrior notes do not have the protective instincts of mothers–poor women are uniquely situated to be revolutionaries.
In this article, author Shulamith Firestone looks to analyze the perception of the Women’s Rights Movement in the United States by tracing its development across generations. Mainly, she wants to answer the question of why intelligent and successful young girls are hesitant to identify with the feminist movement. In her exploration, Firestone finds that a major obstacle for the Women’s Rights Movement is that it has habitually sacrificed its interests and objectives in order to entertain “more worthy” causes. As a way of guaranteeing the success of the movement in the future, Firestone pushes radical feminists to stop this practice.
This article explores the similarities and differences between the Old and New Waves of the Feminist Movement, from the sources and origins of each movement, to the ways that they have been perceived by the rest of society, to the aims of each respective group. Following a mainly historical chronology of events, author Ellen DuBois traces the progress of the movements and the way that one has affected the other. Her hope, as she expresses at the conclusion of the essay, is that two waves will suffice in liberating all women.
By coining the term “socialist feminism,” members of the group aimed to encompass the way that capitalist realities negatively impacted women–rather than aiming to demolish the family structures that oppressed women and identifying those structures as the source of oppression. Rather, socialist feminism aimed to acknowledge that this negative impact within family structures actually stemmed from the way that capitalism formulated roles for both men and women. The end goal of this acknowledgement would be to merge socialist and feminist interests into the same ideology.
In this analysis, Marlene Dixon analyzes the fatal flaws which plagued the Radical Feminist Movement as well as other New Left Movements. Main among these flaws, Dixon notes, was each movement’s inability to take into account the way that class conflict would affect a holistic approach to liberation. This analysis contributes to current movements’ inclusion of intersectional approaches to liberation.
This essay by Jo Freeman represents an evolution of the Radical Feminist Movement, as thinkers such as Freeman moved away from a rigid idea about the intrinsic and necessary natures of the movement, and towards a more flexible and practical way of thinking that allowed change to occur fluidly and naturally. Rather than lacking a structure as a sort of rule within the movement, Freeman suggests something more “concrete” that is ironically less of a rule.
This essay explores and criticizes the culture within the New Left and Radical Feminist Movements that led members of these movements to aggressively and openly “trash” one another. According to the author, who speaks to her own personal experiences of being “trashed,” this phenomena often targets individuals in a way that suggests that they set back the progress of the movement as a result of their character, individual choices, or inherent personality traits. This culture, especially in the Radical Feminist Movement, became a highly problematic aspect of the movement, which at times sought to challenge women to sacrifice traditional sources of happiness such as motherhood and marriage.
In this 1970 essay, author Roxanne Dunbar includes an intersectional analysis of the oppression of women, focusing on both gendered and class-based issues. Drawing on her own experience growing up in a poor farming community, Dunbar observes the way that women in socioeconomically challenged positions face additional obstacles in their fight for liberation, as they are not awarded the same privileges as wealthy women are. She notes that these challenges are again multiplied when race is also considered, but chooses to specifically focus on poor white women in this analysis.
In this speech originally given to the American Psychological Association, activist Carol Downer described her analysis of the medical field in the United States, and the way that male dominance within the field effectively inhibited doctors from catering to women, whose correct care was dependent on a deep understanding of the way that women conceive of their own bodies. At the basis of this argument is the implication that women’s bodies cannot be understood from an outside perspective, and that medical care is necessarily linked to psychological understandings of one’s self.
Kathleen Barry’s essay unpacks both the physical consequences that a woman faces when she endures rape, and the psychological effects that are the result of every woman’s knowledge of the threat of rape. She includes an analysis of the “myth of female promiscuity” to describe the ways in which rape cases effectively put women on trial for their sexuality, not men on trial for their actions.
In this Manifesto by Jo Freeman, the author reclaims the title of “bitch” in a way that establishes the term as a description of a woman who does not conform to traditional social roles designated for women, and who exists as a subject, not an object. She describes the characteristics of a bitch in a way that makes her a threat to social structures that uphold misogyny.
This piece of feminist satire by Judy Syfers is not purely comical; rather, it serves to prompt a wife’s male counterpart to consider the value that his wife brings to him, in the sense that she is a loyal and uncomplaining servant. As a heterosexual woman, Syfers explaining why she wants a wife effectively separates the status of being a wife from the romantic relationship that society thinks it is. In other words, you don’t have to be a man or a lesbian to want a wife: you only have to want a servant.
In this essay, author Kay Potter recounts her personal experiences with reporting her rape, and the arrest and prosecution that followed. Interrupting the sequence of events with her current analysis of the sentiments implied by some steps of the process or comments made by figures of authority throughout, Potter makes a political statement about the way that the law deals with these crimes, and offers an explanation for why they are so common.
Written by Pat Mainardi in 1970, this essay is an analysis of the conversations that commonly arise between women and men, as women try to illuminate the political nature of their social statuses. Specifically, Mainardi analyzes the debate over housework, and the arguments that men make as to why they cannot or should not participate in the upkeep of the home. In this format, Mainardi’s arguments are clear and easy to follow: she interprets the underlying sentiments of the male argument explicitly.
As a critique of the feminist movement’s protest against the Southeast Asian war, Shulamith Firestone wrote this essay, which articulated that a gathering of women should be used to create more productive gains for women. In her critique, Firestone notes the way in which women in this protest used their traditional roles as mothers, wives, and mourners to protest the war. Rather than gather in a way that capitalized on the traditional roles of women, Firestone concludes that dramatic action by women would be the most productive and least offensive. Broadly, this is a critique of the tactics previously used by women, which ironically worked within an oppressive system in order to change it.
During a protest against the war in Southeast Asia, radical feminists staged a mock funeral for the end of traditional womanhood in the United States, which they deemed forced women to accept an unsatisfactory hand in life, and blame themselves for their inability to adapt to these conditions. Author Kathy Amatniek wrote this oration to read at the mock service, articulating the motives behind the death of traditional womanhood.
Marge Piercy was an American novelist and activist who wrote this 1969 expose in order to expose the inherent sexism of the American left at the time. Following the chronological order of events and the general acceleration of the New Left Movement in the United States, Piercy notes how the treatment and attitude towards women within the movement has been largely tied to the state of the movement as a whole: during the 1967 “Summer of Love,” it seemed as though Movement people held an interest in one another as human beings as opposed to gendered ones.
Widely regarded as one of the first documents of the emerging feminist movement, this essay by Casey Haden and Mary King reflects the experiences that they had as volunteers in the Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement. Haden and King parallel treatment of women to treatment of African Americans, noting the similarity between hierarchies based on sex and hierarchies based on caste, but also noting that the challenges faced by women are complicated by the fact that they are not institutionalized by law, and women cannot withdraw from the system.
In this essay, author and activist Anne Koedt questions the way that conventional sex appeals to and is constructed for women–more accurately, she criticizes the fact that “normal” conceptions of sex do not take into account the mutual enjoyment of both men and women.
In her 1975 feminist critique, French author Helen Cixous offers women an ultimatum which demands that they either interpret and utilize the bodily expressions that society has accepted for them and remain trapped in their bodies, or find a new way of expression that liberates them by allowing them to use their bodies to truly communicate. In Cixous’s imagination, written and physical expressions are means by which women can empower and liberate themselves.
In this publication, student protestors at Berkeley articulate their interpretation of the motives behind conspiracy charges brought against the movement. As the protests at Berkeley continued, the suppression of student activism and the violent response to the protests began to incentivize students to produce more of this literature, and continue to push the movement forward.
As civil rights issues, protests against the war in Vietnam, and the free speech movement all converged, the students at the University of California, Berkeley engaged in a series of large protests that became a well-known part of the New Left Movement as a whole. In this statement, students both articulate the reasons behind their protests, and create a list of demands to be met by administration and law enforcement on campus.
Initially a newspaper started by the Sparticist League of the San Francisco Bay Area, this first issue of Women and Revolution is meant to serve as a manifesto for women’s liberation. The Sparticists are still an active political group, identifying as Trotskys with the goal of a communist revolution.
Audre Lorde was a feminist activist who wrote poetry to confront issues of racism, sexism, capitalism, and heterosexism. Her work expresses raw emotion that reflects the experiences that she had in her real life as an African American lesbian woman. In this work of poems, Lorde explores the black woman’s relationships to African deities of creation, fertility, and warrior strength. It aims to reclaim the female body, and in doing so, empower the feminist movement.
In these essays written during his time in Paris, Baldwin reflects on his efforts to find and build relationships around his unique identity as an individual, rather than his identity as an African American, or even the son of slaves. Baldwin speaks of a reconciliation he was able to come to in Europe, as a result of the lack of “social paranoia” that exists in the United States. This reconciliation was apparently one that helped him come to terms with his identity as it was defined in the United States in a way that released him from the illusion of thinking he hated the United States.
Thomas Sankara served as President of Burkina Faso for four years before being killed in a military coup supported by the United States and France. Beloved by his people for his social programmes, confrontation of the national elite, and challenging of Western imperialism on the continent, Sankara’s accomplishments in his short time in office were many. Among them were the vaccination fo 2.5 million children against meningitis and yellow fever, the redistribution of feudal land, the construction of national roads and railways, and opposition of foreign aid. Below is a speech Sankara gave at the United Nations, where he unified the colonized people of the world against a global order that promoted internalized elitism perpetuated by imperialist powers.
In this lecture, Angela Davis addresses her career-long struggle to identify as a feminist, given the current state of the feminist movement. Breaking through the glass ceiling, as Davis notes, is grounded in a hierarchy that favors those who are already high enough to break through the ceiling–those who are white and affluent. This type of feminism is irrelevant to any other subdivision of women. As a black revolutionary, the kind of feminism that is consumed by the mass media is of no interest to Davis, as it is fundamentally a carceral feminism.
In this chapter of one of his most important works, Frantz Fanon establishes the way that identity is manifested through language, and the way that language is perceived by others in a way that enables them to push identities onto others. In his discussion, Fanon focuses specifically on how black people are conceived by white people, observing that black people change their language around white people as a direct result of colonialist subjugation. By this, Fanon means that colonization conditions individuals to believe that mimicking the behavior of the colonizer will award the colonized individual opportunities that he has previously been barred from. By replicating the linguistic behavior of the oppressor, colonized individuals indicate that the have successful adopted a culture.
Frantz Fanon was a French West Indian political philosopher whose work focused on post-colonial studies, decolonization, critical theory, and Marxism. In this work, Fanon works to theorize the way that different identity-based “schema” operate on an individual’s experience in the world. Specifically, Fanon focuses on the idea of “bodily schema” and the idea that black individuals have none, as a result of the historical-racial schema that prevents society from viewing black individuals as singular as opposed to representations of their race.
In 1972, See Red Women’s Workshop was founded as a feminist organization committed to combatting sexist images of women in the media by replacing them with more empowering alternatives. Feminist activist came together to produce a collection of posters and comics that served that purpose.
In this book originally published in 1980, graphic artist and author Seth Tobocman attacks the politics of the Reagan Era, which led up to the Tompkins Square Riots and the formation of ACT-UP. Tobocman’s art is bold and expressive, illustrating some of the most complex moral and political dilemmas of our time in a way that has been utilized by movements across the world. Below are a few examples from his book.
Anuradha Ghandy was a founding member of the Indian Communist Party, and strongly contributed to and drafted policy regarding the caste system in India, and the intersection between feminism and Marxism. As a salient part of her philosophy, Ghandy understood that it was impossible to isolate women’s liberation from the struggle to overthrow the entire imperialist system. In this summary at the end of her 100-page work, Ghandy criticizes the weaknesses of the theories propelling the feminist movement, including seeking the roots of the oppression of women in their reproductive roles, and falling into an imperialist trap that emphasizes needing to liberate women from sexual repression.
The 1968 protest against the Miss America Pageant utilized many disruption tactics, the most well-known of which was a “Freedom Trash Can” used for burning items that the protestors deemed as oppressive to women. Another tactic used was that of chanting and songs performed during the actual pageant, disrupting the event as it went on. Below is a series of original songs composed by the protestors for the pageant.
In 1968, 200 feminist activists protested at the Miss America Pageant, symbolically trashing items that enabled domination of women, such as bras, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets, and more. The protestors saw the pageant as a mechanism for perpetuating the ideal female, who was subject to unachievable and oppressive standards set by men. The poster below was used to publicize the event and the motivations behind it.
In 1972, author Charlotte Bunch articulated lesbianism was a political choice that fundamentally threatened male supremacy by challenging the idea that men were crucial to the existence of women. In her essay “Lesbians in Revolt,” she develops lesbianism as a way to identify women relative to other women, as opposed to defining them relative to their male counterparts. This “woman-identified woman” would be one that commits herself to other women politically, emotionally, physically, and economically.
In 1970, Ghassan Kanafani, a leader for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was interviewed in Beirut. At the time, the PFLP was fighting against forces in Jordan to determine whether Jordan would be ruled by the PFLP or the Hashemite Monarchy. In this interview, Kanafani rejects a westernized perception of the events, where the PLFP is engaged in a civil war, and instead incorporates fascism, and the history of exploitation of his people in his understanding of the motives behind the fighting. Defining the PLFP’s efforts not as a conflict but as a liberation movement for justice, Kanafani fundamentally alters the way that the interviewer is forced to think about his questions, and the way the world must consider his answers.
As a way to overthrow the imperialist rule by both American and Japanese governments that had persisted in the Philippines for years, the Philippine Communist Party encouraged citizens to form local underground governments in order to advocate directly for the interests of the Filipino people. The main goal of these localized governments was to strip power from the National and Liberal parties, which the Communists saw as puppet governments for imperialist powers. Among the suggestions that the Communist Party gives to these local governments are the enforcement of equitable crop sharing, establishment of local courts, and the creation of mass schools to educate leaders of the movement in the barrios.
This text addresses a crucial and highly-criticized aspect of the Women’s Liberation Movement: the lack of intersectionality, and the way that race and class-based power structures persisted within the movement. While white women fight for liberation mainly from their sex and normative gender-based rules, this text points out that black women could gain gender equality tomorrow and still face discrimination associated with race.
This publication by Robin Morgan captures the sentiment of the Women’s Liberation Movement following the Miss America Pageant Protest. Like many others attest to as well, Morgan speaks of an awakening for women that makes oppression personal–to Morgan, women are the oldest oppressed class in the world. It is for this reason that the status of women in the larger New Left Movement has not been sufficient to satisfy the needs of feminists. Instead, the new movement aims to establish itself as important, and its subjects as primary.
The Radicalesbians identified lesbianism as the result of a woman acting on natural impulses to deviate from society and instead pursue a more liberated form of existence. Lesbianism is the product of rage. Most importantly, this text identifies the personal consequences of radicalism (such as lesbianism): guilt from not meeting societal expectations, remaining in perpetual state of war with everything around you, and a life of solitude.
In this first volume of the monthly publication by the Furies, the group introduces themselves and and their ideology, which is based on reforming the avenues taken by women in their liberation so that do not fall prey to the male propaganda they attempt to refute. Furthermore, the group establishes lesbianism not as a matter of sexual preference, but as one of political choice. If women make the choice to love women, they will become woman-identified, and will become empowered to overthrow male supremacy.
The Miss America Pageant Protest marked a turning point for the Women’s Liberation Movement, because the media coverage of the event itself exposed the American public to the existence of the movement. With a focus on the goal of consciousness-raising, author Carol Hanisch analyzes the successes and failures of the protest. While the protest was motivated by a collective realization of the formative nature of the pageant for all women, Hanisch notes that one major error that was made during the event was that it came across as anti-womanism in a sense. This piece articulates the importance of goal-oriented protest, and the correct identification of an enemy. Moreover, the goal of consciousness-raising takes on a powerful form during this event.
As the Women’s Liberation Movement widened its scope and began to see involvement in all corners of the country, it became increasingly more important to maintain a certain degree of connectedness between chapters, so as to ensure that the motives and goals of the movements were consistent and made more achievable through unity. This magazine is essentially a collection of accounts from across the United States, meant to keep women updated with the status of the movement as a whole, as well as bring new participants into open and hotly-debated conversations.
This magazine was published by the Redstockings, a radical feminist group, as part of their Action Series. The series of writings in it contain intersectional analysis of the New Left Movement, and the issues that that intersectionality presents. In the first article, Beverley Jones claims that one obstacle that radicals are facing is that when people act only on moral principles, they become liberated but not radicalized. When you attempt to help other people, you maintain important illusions about our society and the way it operates, because they refuse to admit the degree to which they are oppressed as individuals, and what it would take to overcome that oppression.
Author Amanda Third makes an account of the way that the religious right in the United States draws connections between the feminist movement, and terrorist attacks that occur on U.S. soil. Important to her argument that the religious right connects feminism to terrorism is the establishment that both represent an “apocalyptic end to modernity.” This fifth chapter from the book establishes rhetorical connections between feminist writings of the 1960s and 1970s, and terrorists’ articulations of a call to arms.
This 1968 book by Brazilian author Paulo Friere is considered one of the pillars of the critical pedagogy movement, which aimed to apply critical theory to the study of culture. The methodology in the text aims to empower illiterate and impoverished individuals around the world, but takes on an especially relevant role in the analysis of the lower economic classes of the United States and Western Europe, the size and presence of which have been accepted as a norm. In this first chapter, Friere outlines the need for pedagogy, and states the steps by which the oppressed can regain their humanity.
Valerie Solanas’s 1967 publication is a satirical analysis of the problems facing the female gender, and the radical solutions she has to these problems. In her criticism of the patriarchy, Solanas argues for the elimination of the male gender, and establishes men as an “incomplete versions” of women. In light their incompleteness, men spend their lives trying to compensate for their inferiority to women by attempting to live through them. Often noted as one of the most radical texts of the women’s liberation movement, the SCUM Manifesto created space for imagining new and innovative solutions for the oppression of women.
In the mid-1930s, as the Communist Party in the United States attempted to navigate a complex process of self-definition, the inclusion of women in politics reflected the Party’s negotiations with regards to group identity. While working women during this time underwent their own process of self-realization, the Communist Party used them largely as a symbol for party values, and a yardstick by which to measure progress. In these issues published between 1929 and 2937, of which this is the last, the contradiction between emerging Communist ideals and traditions of sexism in the United States can be seen.
The Art Front was a magazine first published by the Artists Union of New York as a response to Nelson Rockefeller’s destruction of a mural by Diego Rivera in 1934. Politically, the Artists Union and the magazine were aligned with the Communist Party in the United States, and the Union emerged largely as a way to provide financial relief for artists during the Great Depression Era. The magazine itself consisted of just 25 issues, and was created by just 16 writers. This issue was the last of the 25, published in 1937. The three articles in it cover the intersection of art and politics in China, a “revival” in printmaking, and the Labor Pavillion at the upcoming World Fair
Founded in 1969, the New York Radical Feminists were a group that took on the role of organizing women who were being attracted to the newly-popular feminist movement. With the goal of building a “mass-based” movement for radical feminism, the NY Radical Feminists wrote manifestos and organizational tactics such as this to avoid organizational and tactical flaws.