- - The most radical feminism

The most radical feminism

Th most rdicl fminism

Rdicl fminism ws comprtivly nw rrivl in ustrli nd mny womn in th Womn's Librtion Movmnt wr not rdicl fminists - thy wr just womn librtionists. But rdicl fminist idology quickly bcm dominnt. t th sm tim, th movmnt movd wy from dirctly politicl ctivity. Th id of slf hlp projcts - hlfwy houss, rp crisis cntrs nd so on - inspird mny womn who wntd to gt down to th nitty gritty of hlping thos poor womn out thr.

With th LP r-lctd (for prsumbly 3 yrs) in My 1974, nd thn IWY in 1975, govrnmnt grnts hlpd rlis mny fminist drms. Projcts of ll sorts nourishd: novls, non-sxist childrn's school books, historicl rsrch, womn's rfugs nd hlth cntrs. Nobody ws too worrid bout thory whn things smd to b working out so wll in prctic.

Suddnly, Novmbr 11, 1975 nd th world would nvr look th sm gin. For th first tim, mny womn's librtionists rlisd tht th politicl sitution hd to b dlt with, nd th WLM couldn't do it on its own.

Th politicl scn drknd during 1976. IWY ws ovr nd mny grnts drid up. Frsr md cuts in mny rs ffcting womn nd th womn's movmnt. t th sm tim problms bgn to surfc in th hlfwy houss nd hlth cntrs. Rostrs brok down, prsonl conflicts brok up collctiv projcts, nd govrnmnt funding ws qustiond.

Tody th WLM hs ntrd slump. nd lthough thr hs bn som r-vlution, th trgdy hs bn th continud dominnc of rdicl fminism.

glnc t Womn's Librtion publictions ovr th pst yr shows how widsprd is th mlis. Vshti's Voic thinks tht th WLM hs rrivd t n impss in ctivity nd intrst nd tht thr hs bn drought priod this yr in politicl discussion nd thinking round dirctions for th WLM. nn Summrs, Sydny WL ctivist, commnts ftr looking t th stt of th movmnt round ustrli, tht mny ctivists r disillusiond nd slf criticl.

Th problm is not lck of ctivity in itslf. For thos who wnt it, thr is ndlss ctivity in stffing 24 womn's rfugs. 3 working womn's cntrs, 5 rp crisis cntrs nd t lst 6 womn's hlth cntrs round th country. Quit sid from t lst 14 nwspprs nd mgzins, nd mny othr projcts.

WL ctivists sm to think tht whr ths projcts fll down is on politicistion. Womn us srvics, but don't undrstnd th ids bhind rp crisis cntr or womn's rfug. For instnc, in th Mlbourn Womn's Cntr, thr wr womn sking bortions nd crisis ccommodtion, but thr wsn't on cll to find out wht WL is on bout W r not winning womn on politics.

Th gnrl fling is tht th WLM hs bn co-optd by concntrting on rforms nd bnd_ids.

nd yt no on wnts to dmit tht thos who criticisd slf-hlp strtgis whn thy wr first strting off wr right. Rdicl fminists rgu now tht lthough slf - hlp didn't work out s strtgy it wsn't mistk.

In othr words, to b rl womn's librtionist ths dys, you'v got to b mor fminist thn vr bfor. Instd of rforms, you'v got to furthr rvolutionry gols.

Bhind ll this rhtoric is th socil rlity, th chng tht hs occurrd in ustrlin socity in th lst fw yrs. Prty du to th fforts of th WLM itslf, WL ids hv bcom vry widly ccptd. Not by vrybody of cours, but thy r no longr outsid th minstrm of socity, spurnd by ll dscnt popl s xtrms.

nn Summrs dscribs th widsprd influncs t govrnmnt lvl, in th churchs, nd in th consrvtiv orgniztions such s th NCC. Womn in unions, profssionl orgniztions, politicl prtis, th mdi, nd in th suburbs r orgnising thmslvs.

Th chng hsn't just bn t th top lvl. Womn in ll wlks of lif hv bn ffctd, nd th mjority of ordinry womn, in my opinion no longr lugh t WL ids but tk thm sriously.

Of cours, fw ccpt th idology bhind WL dmnds, but thr is no doubt tht thr hs bn chng in ttitud to womn s socil group. Th socity w r dling with tody is not th sm s whn th WLM just bgn.

Rdicl fminists usully rcogniz this.

Of cours it is tru tht th nw gnrl wrnss is not rvolutionry (whthr `fminist' or socilist). But wht th rdicl fminists don't rlis is th opportunitis th pntrtion of WL ids provids. Instd of going out into th rl world nd trying to build on this bs, thy rtrt into vgu thorising. Th door stnds opn but thy won't wlk through.

Th rdicl fminists rtrt into thir own idology, thir fminist purity. Thy r dsprtly frid of contmintion by th rl world.

nd so thr is n obsssion with finding pur, `un-co-optd' rdicl fminist strtgy.

Mny of th populr strtgis nd prctics of th pst fw yrs hv bn wll criticisd in currnt WL litrtur. Krryn Higgs nd Brbr Bloch, for instnc, tlk bout how th movmnt hs dvlopd its own orthodoxy. Instd of frdom nd individul xprssion thr hs oftn bn conformity nd compulsiv bhviour. Thy discuss vrious conformitis, such s shring, utonomy prsonl hrmony, spontnity nd lsbinism. Thir conclusion is dprssing.

Kthi Glson criticiss th wy th movmnt ignors its dvlopmnt out of th lft, nd th rfusl to s how ll our prsonl lif is influncd by th politicl nd conomic rlity round us.

Lsbinism is no longr rgrdd s strtgy for ll fminists.

Brbr W. nd hr frinds lso mk numbr of spcific criticisms of th movmnt's prctics in thir long rticl, which I hv lrdy quotd.

But rdicl fminism tody is no closr to providing workbl strtgis thn it ws in 1974. Th womn who so wll criticis nd nlys pst problms ithr dmit thir impotnc, or hv nothing to suggst but mor of th sm.

Brbr W. nds hr rticl with 16 prcticl nd orgniztionl proposls. But looking closr it is dr tht thy r rlly nothing mor thn sttmnt in point form of th nd to dl with th problms st out in th rticl. Thr is only on ctully concrt proposl - to chng th nm of th coordinting committ!

With ll th dtild nlysis of mistks nd problms, thr is no rl ttmpt to work out why thr wr such problms. To th rdicl fminists thy r simply th rsult of bing misguidd, hving th wrong ttitud, or undrstnding. Ovr th yrs, mny of our fin originl insights hv bcom distortd (nd) our prctic hs ndd up conflicting with our thory. Why? Bcus of rrors in judgmnt!

Is it simply th rsult of fw rrors of judgmnt tht w kp mking th sm mistks ovr nd ovr gin? Why is it tht so mny womn find tht ftr 6 yrs of th movmnt it gts hrdr nd hrdr to rconcil thir thory with thir prctic? Surly t this point thr should b som qustioning of rdicl fminist thory itslf.

Th id tht sxism is th bsic opprssion, tht th bsic clss systm is on btwn mn nd womn. This is th fundmntl id of rdicl fminism. In th rticl rprintd hr, I hv shown wht hppns if you follow this id through to its logicl conclusion. I hop it will b of us to rdicl fminists who do wnt to strt qustioning th thory itslf.

NOT: In th originl rticl, nd in this nw introduction, I hw concntrtd on quots nd xmpls from th ustrlin movmnt. This is not bcus I think ustrlin rdicl fminism is diffrnt - quit th opposit. I bliv rdicl fminism is prtty similr vrywhr, nd I could hv writtn similr rticl bsd on litrtur from Britin or US. But this wy thr is no copout for ustrlins; no on cn sy, Rdicl fminism is diffrnt - w hvn't md th sm mistks s ovrss.

Rdicl Fminism, comprtivly rcnt trnd in th Womn's Librtion Movmnt in ustrli, is bsd on th thory tht womn's opprssion is th fundmntl politicl opprssion, tht womn r clss nd tht thy r nggd in powr struggl with mn. Furthrmor, ccording to ids of rdicl fminism, th purpos of ml chuvinism is primrily to obtin psychologicl go stisfction nd is only scondrily found in conomic rltionships.

This rticl will ttmpt to show tht dfining womn s clss brings th Rdicl Fminists bck to ffirming th on thing ll womn do hv in common - th fml rol; tht th -historicl pproch of prsonl politics is prt of this fml rol, nd tht th lck of strtgy hs mnt th movmnt hs rvrtd to thos ctivitis trditionlly opn to womn - for xmpl slf-hlp which is no mor thn chrity drssd up.

FTR th initil stgs of consciousnss-rising, ftr th first rg hd did down, th Womn's Librtion Movmnt hd bgun to qustion, to sk whr th opprssion hd com from, nd try to work out th wx forwrd. Rdicl in its blif tht nw socity ws ncssry, th movmnt ws strongly influncd by th Nw Lft with its mphsis on conscious nd xprinc. Th socil group of which th Nw Lft ws composd - whit, middl clss, studnts nd th intllctully inclind - hd wighd th fflunt socity in th blnc nd found it wnting. Th houswif pitomisd this fflunt world of gdgts, nd in fct ws on hrslf. s Btty Fridn put it, sh found hrslf with vgu, inxplicbl fling of Is this ll? lintion nd flings of powrlssnss providd th imptus for th growth of th Womn's Librtion Movmnt.

Consciousnss rising groups wr thrfor th first tsks of th movmnt. Womn cm to undrstnd tht prsonl flings of indqucy nd hlplssnss wr shrd, tht thy wr rltd to th socil sitution of womn. lintion ws discovrd to b rsult of lck of control ovr th conditions of your lif. In Womn's Librtion trms this mnt no bortion or childcr cntrs, rstrictd job opportunitis nd low wgs, nd bov ll th rol xpcttion tht whtvr th individul propnsitis or tlnts, ll womn must bcom wivs, mothrs nd houswivs.

Btty Fridn's orgnistion, N.O.W., hd littl troubl stblishing strtgy consistnt with its limitd ims of improvd sttus for womn within th systm, nd followd th stndrd prssur group tctics. Howvr th Womn's Librtion Movmnt, with its im of fundmntl chng, rquird strtgy brodr in scop. Whn th momntum of th movmnt slowd ftr th initil burst of nthusism, th movmnt hd to fc its own lck of socil powr, which is ssntil for chng. In th bsnc of strong nd clrly rdicl working clss movmnt, th movmnt turnd inwrds.

Th movmnt t this stg hd n xtrmly motionl, tns tmosphr. Mny womn, discovring th opprssiv ntur of th rol with which thy hd lwys idntifid, suffrd n idntity crisis, nd sought support nd idntity in th movmnt, in sistrhood. Mny turnd to th movmnt s if to lovr, sking from this nw rltionship th fulfilmnt promisd but nvr providd by th trditionl rol. In its inbility to find strtgy, th movmnt rllid its on obvious strngth - unity.

Rdicl fminism grw out of this srch for thory to unit ll womn, srch for fml cultur to rplc th ml cultur which ws sn s bing th min nmy. ll thos socil rlitis which do divid womn wr ignord by th simpl xpdincy of rlgting thm to th ml domin, whrby thy wr md unimportnt.

From th bginning, th movmnt hd rgud tht mny fml chrctristics such s motions wr in fct good nd ncssry for ll humns. This gv wy now to n dvoccy of th fml cultur, which in turn mounts to th only thing tht dos cut cross ll clss, rc nd ntionl lins for womn: th fml rol.

s Rdicl Fminism hs grown nd dvlopd it hs rtrtd mor nd mor into th fml rol.

Just s so mny mn hv told us in th pst. Rdicl Fminists now tll us tht womn r rthy, un_ggrssiv crturs, who think diffrntly nd whos sxulity is diffrnt - mor diffus nd romntic.

Thus th constnt prssur in th movmnt to b sistrly, to hv no disgrmnts, nd to rlt totlly to vrybody. rticls r writtn ttcking thought nd thory s ml. Womn, suddnly dvlop n intrst in crfts, prticulrly thos not xctly trditionlly rgrdd s unsuitbl for fmls, .g. wving or crochting. Whn n ction is not compltly succssful th rspons of mny Womn's Librtionists is to blm thmslvs.

It is xtrordinry tht Rdicl Fminist womn, whil complining tht mls hv writtn womn out of history, will unflinchingly mk ths gnrliztions. To ignor politiclly powrful (nd wrlik) womn such s Scrimvo Bndrnik, Indir Gndhi nd Gold Mir; or vn th hundrds of womn psychologists nd sociologists who hv studid sxulity - mong thm Mrgrt Sngr, Hln Dutsch, Mrgrt Md; to ignor ths womn is to dny tht womn do hv history.

Furthrmor, to mintin tht womn hv bn succssfully nd totlly supprssd to th point whr thy hv bn compltly unbl to prticipt is to ccpt th id tht womn r pssiv; nd it is to dny tht womn hv rptdly bn bl to ovrcom thir conditioning so fr s to brk through to rl ctivity.

Th xcptionlly litist ttituds to thir lss fmous contmporris who prticipt in ml domintd lft orgnistions is not only insulting; it is inconsistnt with ny ids of sistrhood to hv such contmpt for th sincrly hld blifs of socilist womn.

Th rffirmtion of th fml rol is tkn to its logicl conclusion by Jn lprt. Hr thory tht womn should rul nd b worshippd by virtu of thir potntil mothrhood brings us full circl, bck to th gildd cg from which w hv so dsprtly bn trying to scp. But this tim th purpos of th brs is not to kp womn insid - instd th rdicl fminists wul to kp th world out.

Th rdicl fminists hv contributd importnt insights into wht is wrong with cpitlism. On of th most sophistictd rdicl fminist writrs. Shulmith Firston, nlysd importnt qustions, such s lov, childrn, nd th rltionship btwn sx nd rcism. But Firston, s do ll th othrs, continud to suffr from th lck of strtgy. Thy hd no id of wht to do. In th srch for somthing to do, for socil powr, rdicl fminism looks towrds modls in pst socitis, whr womn ruld, or fml groupings wr powrful. ltrntivly, th ky is thought to li in lsbinism, vgtrinism, or th occult.

In Th First Sx, by lizbth Gould Dvis, th id of th nobl svg is givn nw twist. This book vry populr with Rdicl Fminists, dvncs th thory tht th prhistoric mtrirchis wr ruld by physiclly nd psychiclly suprior, vgtrin womn. Unfortuntly, mt_ting, lustful mn took ovr, nd tody w s th consquncs.

Mdivl (nd modrn) witchs nd midwivs r idlisd, with thir grt hling powrs of skill in midwifry - (thy) obtind skills through inborn psychic gifts, gnrtions of xprimnttion - or prhps bing ttund to thir nturl instincts by living quit lif in th woods.

gin w find th Rdicl Fminists rguing tht womn r closr to ntur!

Th hnd tht rocks th crdl ruls th world!

Short cut thoris, proposing singl univrsl ky to opn th door to fminist hvn, bound.

Lst yr th ky ws Lsbinism. lrg numbr of Rdicl Fminists bcm lsbins, not out of sxul intrst, but s point of politicl principl. It ws rgud simply tht fminism is th thory, lsbinism is th prctic. Lsbins mintind tht thy wr th rl rvolutionris, bing womn who hd rfusd to submit to th fml rol. Th rliztion ws, howvr, not long in coming tht rlting to womn cn still b highly rol-dfind.

This yr th ky is fshion hs bn th qustion of hlth/ntur hling/vgtrinism. lintion, or lck of hrmony btwn mind, motions nd body cn b ovrcom by th mzing hling qulitis of food. Furthrmor, Mt ting nd ml violnc smd lockd togthr. Institutionl mdicin will b suprsdd by strologicl birth control, fml ntur hlrs nd th hling crisis (or in mor fml trms, suffring).

Th thoris of mtrirchy nd witchs, of lsbinism nd ntur hling ld nturlly into n idology njoying growing populrity - fml supriority. This is vry convnint solution to th srch for powr, sinc it suggsts womn r in fct powrful now.

Mor rcntly, fml supriority is dvoctd quit opnly. On writr hs only minor rsrvtions bout sying stright out tht thr r importnt innt diffrncs btwn mn nd womn, tht biology is dstiny, nd tht biology hs md womn infinitly suprior to mn.

Th dvocts of fml supriority lnd to hsitt bcus of on consqunc - if mn r nturlly infrior, it givs thm cop-out - thy cn't hlp bing bstrds. Howvr thr r mor srious politicl implictions thn this. dvoccy of fml supriority is no lss sxist or potntilly opprssiv thn ml chuvinism. It is uthoritrin, litist nd rctionry. Furthrmor, on logicl conclusion is inscpbl: if th fml rol pitomiss ll tht is good in humn ntur, nd fmls r suprior to mls, thn womn r not opprssd. How long will it b bfor w s n rticl pushing this lin?

Bfor th industril rvolution, th fmily's conomic function ws conspicuously productiv. Th fmily frm ws th fundmntl unit for production of bsic ncssitis. But with th industril rvolution, th point of production ws movd to th fctory, nd th fmily, t lst in urbn rs, lost ny obvious productiv function. Th only rmining on, th production of lbour powr (th production nd mintnnc of th workr him or hrslf) is invisibl, disguisd s prsonl srvic wif dos out of lov for hr husbnd. Th function of th fmily, prt from th conomic on of consumption, bcm minly politicl. Trining in uthoritrin ttituds nd sxul rprssion, sociliztion of childrn into th comptitiv, supr-individulistic psychology of cpitlism - tht is th mjor tsk of th fmily.

Bsd on th pprnt divorc of th fmily from conomic production, th myth grw of th fmily s outsid socity, s rfug, whr prsonl lif is crrid on nd whr th mn my rcuprt from th prssurs of th world. Dspit th lrg numbrs of womn (nd childrn who workd, this thory ws dvlopd prticulrly during th Victorin priod. Th nglishmn's hom ws his cstl - his wif, in hr pcful snctury, formd th bsis for cpitlism's vrsion of womn's plc.

Thus womn's opprssion tody is bsd on th rol of womn s th cntr nd lynchpin of th fmily. Th pprntly prsonl ntur of th fmily, sprt from socity, hs mnt tht womn tnd to s thir problms in prsonl, prticulrist wy. During its rly stgs, th Womn's Librtion movmnt concntrtd on brking down this fls consciousnss nd through consciousnss-rising groups hlpd womn to prciv th socil ntur of thir opprssion. Thus th concpt: th prsonl is politicl.

Th ctchword now mounts to: th politicl is prsonl. vrything must b lookd t in prsonl subjctiv wy.

Th problm hr is tht th Rdicl Fminists fil to s tht th prsonl, subjctiv pproch is historiclly conditiond prt of th fml rol; instd thy rgrd it s inhrntly fml. This -historicl pproch trps thm into ccptnc of th ssntilly bourgois idology tht th fmily, nd consquntly womn, r outsid socity.

No doubt such nthusistic protgonists of womn's librtion s John Ruskin would unhsittingly gr with thory tht womn rmin untrnishd by not bing xposd to th world!

Sing th fmily s outsid socity lds to th frqunt ttmpts to chng fmily nd sxul rltions by shr willpowr. Thus th Rdicl Fminist communs such s mzon crs.

Twist nd turn s thy might, Rdicl Fminists lik vryon ls r still unbl to void th prssing qustion: Wht to do now? Th nswr usully givn is simply do wht you wnt.

Lik ll chng-your-hd thoris, Rdicl Fminism is voluntrist nd utopin. It upholds vision of nw socity, of fundmntl chng, fml world bsd on lov trust, frdom nd humnity. But this world rmins distnt drm.

Rdicl Fminism ithr dclrs this world will spontnously ris, or tht if w try hrd nough w'll gt it. Voluntrism, th id you cn do nything you wnt right now, is in th long run dmorlising whn disillusionmnt sts in. In th short run, th lck of strtgy condmns movmnt to ctivity only round short-trm objctivs. strtgy, n undrstnding of how to build th movmnt nd to bridg th gp btwn immdit ctions nd th vntully mssiv socil chng - this is n ssntil concpt. Rdicl Fminism is lcking such concpt.

Th movmnt, undr th influnc of Rdicl Fminism, hs lrgly rvrtd to thos immditly ctionbl ctivitis trditionlly opn to womn - good works. Th prsnt movmnt round slf-hlp is littl mor thn chrity. Stting up child-cr cntrs, hlfwy houss, hlth cntrs nd rp crisis groups - whil ths my b ncssry nd usful, thy do not hlp to build movmnt cpbl of chnging th ntur of socity. In fct, s chrity orgnistions usully do, thy xcus th govrnmnt nd th whol socity from tking th rsponsibility. nd such n isoltd institution cn vn b co-optd into th govrnmntl structur. This is vidnt from th dpndnc of th Womn's Hlth Clinic in Sydny nd th Womn's Cntr in Brkly, Cliforni on govrnmnt grnts.

This is not to sy w should not ct round short-trm objctivs. Howvr whil doing so w nd to dvlop n undrstnding of how to build, strtgy tht tks us towrds our ultimt gols.

W nd to rlly undrstnd consciousnss, which th Rdicl Fminists, for ll thir obsssion with it, clrly do not. Consciousnss is chngd in th procss of popl struggling to chng socity nd thmslvs.

© , 2012