“A classic example of liberal mother-daughter conflict”
… The movement’s various factions had little in common. The reformers did not want to overthrow the existing system — they wanted to throw open the gates so that women could become part of it. And they had little interest in changing the rules for private relationships between men and women… They envisioned themselves — and their daughters — marrying and having children while also sitting in corporate boardrooms or running for Congress. The leaders of the radical wing of the women’s movement wanted to go much further than simply leveling the playing field when it came to things like job opportunities. They were going to examine everything about American womanhood — in fact, about womanhood back to the time of the pharaohs.. And they were going to free women to be all they could be, even if that meant getting rid of capitalism or the nuclear family or the Judeo-Christian tradition, or anything else that got in the way.
Anybody else here remember Rita Mae Brown’s In Her Day fondly? When it first came out (from a small-press womyn’s publisher, of course), I found it both hilarious and true to life. My college dorm mates who were still part of the aspiring lesbian-separatist-marxist collective that had rejected me for insufficient seriousness were scandalized that the celebrated author of Rubyfruit Jungle should lower herself to washing The Movement’s dirty linen in public. Multiple meetings were held, to discuss whether Brown had sold out for the corporatist dollar, or if she had merely been driven temporarily insane by some cruel setback in her personal life; and if so, could the collective still support Rubyfruit as an acceptable softcore entertainment, or must it be discarded with extreme prejudice to demonstrate a commitment to revolutionary seriousness?
Boy, were we young and innocent, in those days.
The Atlantic City demonstration was, in retrospect, a huge success — after all, we’re still talking about it now as the moment when the women’s movement made its debut on the national stage. But when it was over, some of the protestors expressed regret about the tone of the event and said they should have been expressing solidarity with the sisters who were being paraded around in their bathing suits, not making fun of them. (Morgan herself called the sheep “not my finest hour”.) And everyone quickly grew to despise the term “bra burning”. The demonstration captured traits that would come to define the movement. It was didactic and playful, smart and sometimes sophomoric. The women who participated succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, then disagreed about whether or not the message was appropriate…
In 1972 the members of the National Women’s Party walked out of their headquarters and up Capitol Hill to watch the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. At 85, Alice Paul was still in Washington, trying to orchestrate everything. Amelia Fry, an historian who had volunteered to assist with the lobbying, felt Paul’s intensity “like a single beam of strong light”. When an exhausted Fry finally escaped for a lunch where some topic other than the ERA might be discussed, she was conscious that “a mile away was Alice in the one hundred eigtieth day of the forty-ninth year of telephoning, assigning tasks, getting advocate statements written, and running her small army.”
The Equal Rights Amendment had become increasingly more popular as legislatures and courts abolished the discriminatory practices the amendment was meant to reverse… Once the bill was released, it passed 352 to 15 after only an hour of debate — the first time the House had acted on it since its introduction in 1923. The Senate held out for another two years… But in 1972 resistance gave way and the bill passed quickly. The Hawaii legislature, waiting expectantly, became the first state to ratify the amendment minutes later.
Because once we had “our” amendment on the books, that would change everything! No, actually, we could still believe that. The Watergate burglaries were still a few months in the future, just to keep the chronology straight…
What do you all remember from those dear, departed days?
Kind of off-topic:
Man, they must have had apoplexy when Sorority Coed Slasher Prom Night Killer Movie (or whatever it was called) came out!
LOL @ the Amazon ad for Fred Sauer’s dumbass book appearing under this…
It is fascinating that the older women had a “I can be a man too” template, while the younger ones wanted to break the mold entirely.
As a heterosexual socialist feminist, I was never “hardcore”. I just took karate and did consciousness-raising groups. In those groups I would watch in amazement as a woman would start by complaining that her husband didn’t even help with carrying the laundry while she was pregnant, to deciding on a divorce, to coming out, all in the space of a few months.
Not much. I was born on August 25, 1972. Richard Nixon was re-elected a little over two months later. I like to think there is no causal relationship between those two events, but the upshot is that I’ve spent my entire life under the shadow of Movement Conservatism.
I’ve got a 25 year old rad fem friend on facebook. Women are still doing the exact same things that they did in 1972. I just don’t bother her, but watching her work through the realization that being a radical feminist doesn’t mean having the biggest problem with men is interesting. I made an incredibly big mistake and tried to tell her that she was a liberal feminist, and I got jumped for being the agent of the patriarchy trying to keep her down. She tried female separatism, and wound up unhappy, and I haven’t heard much about feminism lately.
Does anyone still read Rita Mae Brown? I do and am about to give her up. I suspect she is a Tea Partier or Libertarian or both.
I remember being so excited about feminism–in 1974 I had just left an abusive, very conventional marriage and reading and talking about the patriarchy and the possibility of overthrowing that system opened up such possibilities. Watching it all drain away in the last few years is heartbreaking.
I remember role swapping with my wife, chucking my career to stay home and keep house. It took a few months to realize that while my wife was willing to give up the housework, she wasn’t willing to give up deciding exactly how when and where it was to be done insisting on micro- managing every thing I did. A difficult time for me trying to do the right thing.Also,too our income was cut in half of course.
Thanks everybody… same time, same place next week. Let’s go for two chapters: “Backlash” and “You’re Gonna Make It, After All”.
I’m thinking it’s a good thing we didn’t pick SHOCK DOCTRINE for our summer reading, yes?
@Constance: I gave up reading Rita Mae Brown’s later books because they bored me. But some people enjoy them.
Here’s a short bio she wrote on her webpage: judge for yourself. http://www.ritamaebrown.com/content/about.asp
As a young working class woman in the 1970’s, I felt utterly ignored by the feminist movement. The women around me were dealing with poverty, neglect and often abuse. Sally Field’s movie ‘Norma Rae’ taught us more about feminism than any other medium. Yeah, I know, Sally Field. But feminists were seen to be more interested in arguing over nomenclature and ‘the politics of sex’ while working class women took care of their kids and cleaned their houses and typed their letters. Of course, this is a generalization, but the perceived lack of interest in how most women lived dried up a lot of support.
In Her Day linky no work. I fix (actually, improve and streamline).
Offered by a manly (but sensitive) man in the spirit of pansexual feminism.
Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony
I was just a baby in 1972, so I can’t contribute memories of that time. But I can talk about the repercussions. I’ve really benefitted from what those feminists did. I have a career in sciences that would not have been available, if those women hadn’t broken the barriers down.
My mom, on the other hand, is a hard core conservative, in part, because of her own bitterness about how feminists treated women (like her) who CHOSE to be a wife and homemaker. She felt that raising a family was one of the best things she could contribute to the world, and the way the second line of feminists (those who wanted to completely redo the role of women) behaved toward women, like my mother, was really, really nasty. I’ve heard the same thing from my partner’s mother (another hardcore conservative).