The most radical feminism
Extremist feminism was a relatively new reaching in Australia and many adult females in the Women ’ s Liberation Movement were non extremist women’s rightists – they were merely adult females liberationists. But extremist women’s rightist political orientation rapidly became dominant. At the same clip, the motion moved off from straight political activity. The thought of ego aid undertakings – halfway houses, colza crisis Centres and so on – inspired many adult females who wanted to acquire down to the nitty gritty of assisting those hapless adult females out at that place.
With the ALP re-elected ( for presumptively 3 old ages ) in May 1974, and so IWY in 1975, authorities grants helped gain many feminist dreams. Undertakings of all kinds nourished: novels, non-sexist kids ’ s school books, historical research, adult females ’ s safeties and wellness Centres. Cipher was excessively disquieted about theory when things seemed to be working out so good in pattern.
Suddenly, November 11, 1975 and the universe would ne’er look the same once more. For the first clip, many adult females ’ s liberationists realised that the political state of affairs had to be dealt with, and the WLM couldn ’ t do it on its ain.
The political scene darkened during 1976. IWY was over and many grants dried up. Fraser made cuts in many countries impacting adult females and the adult females ’ s motion. At the same clip jobs began to come up in the halfway houses and wellness Centres. Rosters broke down, personal struggles broke up corporate undertakings, and authorities support was questioned.
Today the WLM has entered a slack. And although there has been some re-evaluation, the calamity has been the continued laterality of extremist feminism.
A glimpse at Women ’ s Liberation publications over the past twelvemonth shows how widespread is the unease. Vashti ’ s Voice thinks that « the WLM has arrived at an deadlock in activity and involvement » and that « there has been a drought period this twelvemonth in political treatment and believing around waies for the WLM » . Anne Summers, a Sydney WL militant, remarks after looking at the province of the motion around Australia, that « many militants are disillusioned and self critical. »
The job is non lack of activity in itself. For those who want it, there is eternal activity in staffing 24 adult females ’ s safeties. 3 working adult females ’ s Centres, 5 colza crisis Centres and at least 6 adult females ’ s wellness Centres around the state. Quite aside from at least 14 newspapers and magazines, and many other undertakings.
WL militants seem to believe that where these undertakings fall down isonpoliticisation. Women usage services, but don ’ t understand the thoughts behind a colza crisis Centre or a adult females ’ s safety. For case, in the Melbourne Women ’ s Centre, « there were adult females seeking abortions and crisis adjustment, but at that place wasn ’ t one call to happen out what WL is on about … We are non winning adult females on politics. »
The general feeling is that the WLM has been co-opted by concentrating on reforms and set ‑ AIDSs.
And yet no 1 wants to acknowledge that those who criticised self-help schemes when they were foremost get downing off were right. Extremist women’s rightists argue now that although ego – assist didn ’ t work out as a scheme it wasn ’ t a error.
In other words, to be a existent adult females ’ s liberationist these yearss, you ’ ve got to be more women’s rightist than of all time before. Alternatively of reforms, you ’ ve got to « farther revolutionist goals. »
Behind all this rhetoric is the societal world, the alteration that has occurred in Australian society in the last few old ages. Party due to the attempts of the WLM itself, WL thoughts have become really widely accepted. Not by everybody of class, but they are no longer outside the mainstream of society, spurned by all « descent people » as extremes.
Anne Summers describes the widespread influences at authorities degree, in the churches, and in the conservative organisations such as the NCC. Women in brotherhoods, professional organisations, political parties, the media, and in the suburbs are organizing themselves.
The alteration hasn ’ T merely been at the top degree. Womans in all walks of life have been affected, and the bulk of ordinary adult females, in my sentiment no longer laugh at WL thoughts but take them earnestly.
Of class, few accept the political orientation behind WL demands, but there is no uncertainty that there has been a alteration in attitude to adult females as a societal group. The society we are covering with today is non the same as when the WLM merely began.
Extremist women’s rightists normally recognize this.
Of class it is true that the new general consciousness is non radical ( whether ‘ feminist ’ or socialist ) . But what the extremist women’s rightists don ’ t realise is the chances the incursion of WL thoughts provides. Alternatively of traveling out into the existent universe and seeking to construct on this base, they retreat into obscure theorising. The door stands unfastened but they won ’ T walk through.
The extremist women’s rightists retreat into their ain political orientation, their feminist pureness. They are urgently afraid of taint by the existent universe.
And so there is an compulsion with happening a pure, ‘ un-co-opted ’ extremist women’s rightist scheme.
Many of the popular schemes and patterns of the past few old ages have been good criticised in current WL literature. Kerryn Higgs and Barbara Bloch, for case, talk about how the motion has developed its ain orthodoxy. Alternatively of freedom and single look there has frequently been conformance and compulsive behavior. They discuss assorted conformances, such as sharing, autonomy personal harmoniousness, spontaneousness and sapphism. Their decision is dejecting.
Kathie Gleeson criticises the manner the motion ignores its development out of the left, and the refusal to see how all our personal life is influenced by the political and economic world around us.
Lesbianism is no longer regarded as a scheme for all women’s rightists.
Barbara W. and her friends besides make a figure of specific unfavorable judgments of the motion ’ s patterns in their long article, which I have already quoted.
But extremist feminism today is no closer to supplying feasible schemes than it was in 1974. The adult females who so good criticise and analyse yesteryear jobs either admit their powerlessness, or have nil to propose but more of the same.
Barbara W. ends her article with 16 « practical and organisational » proposals. But looking closer it is beloved that they are truly nil more than a statement in point signifier of the demand to cover with the jobs set out in the article. There is merely one really concrete proposal – to alter the name of the organizing commission!
With all the elaborate analysis of errors and jobs, there is no existent effort to work out why there were such jobs. To the extremist women’s rightists they are merely the consequence of being « misguided » , holding the incorrect « attitude » , or « understanding » . Over the old ages, « many of our all right original penetrations have become distorted ( and ) our pattern has ended up conflicting with our theory. » Why? Because of « mistakes in opinion » !
Is it merely the consequence of a few mistakes of opinion that « we keep doing the same errors over and over once more » ? Why is it that so many adult females find that after 6 old ages of the motion it gets harder and harder to accommodate their theory with their pattern? Surely at this point there should be some inquiring of extremist women’s rightist theory itself.
« The thought that sexism is the basic subjugation, that the basic category system is one between work forces and women. » This is the cardinal thought of extremist feminism. In the article reprinted here, I have shown what happens if you follow this thought through to its logical decision. I hope it will be of usage to extremist women’s rightists who do desire to get down oppugning the theory itself.
Note: In the original article, and in this new debut, I haw concentrated on quotation marks and illustrations from the Australian motion. This is non because I think Australian extremist feminism is different – quite the opposite. I believe extremist feminism is pretty similar everyplace, and I could hold written a similar article based on literature from Britain or USA. But this manner there is no copout for Australians ; no 1 can state, « Extremist feminism is different – we haven ’ t made the same errors as overseas. »
Extremist Feminism, a relatively recent tendency in the Women ’ s Liberation Movement in Australia, is based on the theory that adult females ’ s subjugation is the cardinal political subjugation, that adult females are a category and that they are « engaged in a power battle with work forces » . Furthermore, harmonizing to thoughts of extremist feminism, the intent of male jingoism is chiefly to obtain psychological self-importance satisfaction and is merely secondarily found in economic relationships.
This article will try to demo that specifying adult females as a category brings the Extremist Feminists back to confirming the one thing all adult females do hold in common – the female function ; that the a-historical attack of personal political relations is portion of this female function, and that the deficiency of a scheme has meant the motion has reverted to those activities traditionally unfastened to adult females – for illustration « self-help » which is no more than charity dressed up.
AFTER the initial phases of consciousness-raising, after the first fury had died down, the Women ’ s Liberation Movement had begun to inquiry, to inquire where the subjugation had come from, and seek to work out the wax frontward. Radical in its belief that a new society was necessary, the motion was strongly influenced by the New Left with its accent on witting and experience. The societal group of which the New Left was composed – white, in-between category, pupils and the intellectually inclined – had weighed the « flush society » in the balance and found it desiring. The homemaker epitomised this flush universe of appliances, and in fact was one herself. As Betty Friedan put it, she found herself with a vague, incomprehensible feeling of « Is this all? » Alienation and feelings of impotence provided the drift for the growing of the Women ’ s Liberation Movement.
Consciousness raising groups were hence the first tasksof the motion. Womans came to understand that personal feelings of insufficiency and weakness were shared, that they were related to the societal state of affairs of adult females. Alienation was discovered to be a consequence of deficiency of control over the conditions of your life. In Women ’ s Liberation footings this meant no abortion or child care Centres, restricted occupation chances and low rewards, and above all the function outlook that whatever the single leanings or endowments, all adult females must go married womans, female parents and homemakers.
Betty Friedan ’ s administration, N.O.W. , had small problem set uping a scheme consistent with its limited purposes of improved position for adult females within the system, and followed the standard force per unit area group tactics. However the Women ’ s Liberation Movement, with its purpose of cardinal alteration, required a scheme broader in range. When the impulse of the motion slowed after the initial explosion of enthusiasm, the motion had to confront its ain deficiency of societal power, which is indispensable for alteration. In the absence of a strong and clearly extremist working category motion, the motion turned inwards.
The motion at this phase had an highly emotional, tense atmosphere. Many adult females, detecting the oppressive nature of the function with which they had ever identified, suffered an individuality crisis, and sought support and individuality in the motion, in sistership. Many turned to the motion as if to a lover, seeking from this new relationship the fulfillment promised but ne’er provided by the traditional function. In its inability to happen a st
rategy, the motion rallied its one obvious strength – integrity.
Extremist feminism grew out of this hunt for a theory to unify all adult females, a hunt for a « female » civilization to replace the « male » civilization which was seen as being the chief enemy. All those societal worlds which do split adult females were ignored by the simple expedience of pass oning them to the male sphere, whereby they were made unimportant.
From the beginning, the motion had argued that many « female » features such as emotions were in fact good and necessary for all worlds. This gave manner now to an protagonism of the female civilization, which in bend sums to the lone thing that does cut across all category, race and national lines for adult females: the female function.
As Extremist Feminism has grown and developed it has retreated more and more into the female function.
Merely as so many work forces have told us in the yesteryear. Extremist Feminists now tell us that adult females are crude, un ‑ aggressive animals, who think otherwise and whose gender is different – more diffuseandromantic.
Therefore the changeless force per unit area in the motion to be « sisterly » , to hold no dissensions, and to associate wholly to everybody. Articles are written assailing idea and theory as « male » . Women, « all of a sudden » develop an involvement in trades, peculiarly those non precisely traditionally regarded as unsuitable for females, e.g. weaving or crocheting. When an action is non wholly successful the response of many Women ’ s Liberationists is to fault themselves.
It is extraordinary that Extremist Feminist adult females, while kicking that males have written adult females out of history, will unflinchingly do these generalisations. To disregard politically powerful ( and warlike ) adult females such as Scrimavo Bandaranaike, Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir ; or even the 100s of adult females psychologists and sociologists who have studied gender – among them Margaret Sanger, Helene Deutsch, Margaret Mead ; to disregard these adult females is to deny that adult females do hold a history.
Furthermore, to keep that adult females have been successfully and wholly suppressed to the point where they have been wholly unable to take part is to accept the thought that adult females are inactive ; and it is to deny that adult females have repeatedly been able to get the better of theirconditioning so far as to interrupt through to existent activity.
The exceptionally elitist attitudes to their less celebrated coevalss who participate in « male dominated » left administrations is non merely dissing ; it is inconsistent with any thoughts of sistership to hold such disdain for the unfeignedly held beliefs of socialist adult females.
The reassertion of the female function is taken to its logical decision by Jane Alpert. Her theory that adult females should govern and be worshipped by virtuousness of their possible maternity brings us full circle, back to the gilded coop from which we have so urgently been seeking to get away. But this clip the intent of the bars is non to maintain adult females inside – alternatively the extremist women’s rightists waul to maintain the universe out.
The extremist women’s rightists have contributed of import penetrations into what is incorrect with capitalist economy. One of the most sophisticated extremist women’s rightist authors. Shulamith Firestone, analysed of import inquiries, such as love, kids, and the relationship between sex and racism. But Firestone, as do all the others, continued to endure from the deficiency of a scheme. They had no thought of what to make. In the hunt for something to make, for societal power, extremist feminism looks towards theoretical accounts in past societies, where adult females ruled, or female groupings were powerful. Alternatively, the « cardinal » is thought to lie in sapphism, vegetarianism, or the supernatural.
In « The First Sex » , by Elizabeth Gould Davis, the thought of the « baronial barbarian » is given a new turn. This book really popular with Extremist Feminists, advances the theory that the prehistoric matriarchates were ruled by physically and psychically superior, vegetarian adult females. Unfortunately, meat ‑ eating, lubricious work forces took over, and today we see the effects.
Medieval ( and modern ) enchantresss and accoucheuses are idealised, with their « great mending powers of accomplishment in obstetrics – ( they ) obtained accomplishments through congenital psychic gifts, coevalss of experimentation – or possibly being attuned to their natural inherent aptitudes by populating a quiet life in the woods. »
Again we find the Extremist Feminists reasoning that adult females are closerto nature!
The manus that rocks the cradle regulations the universe!
Short cut theories, suggesting a individual universal key to open the door to feminist heaven, abound.
Last twelvemonth the key was Lesbianism. A big figure of Extremist Feminists became tribades, non out of sexual involvement, but as a point of political rule. It was argued merely that « feminism is the theory, sapphism is the practice. » Lesbians maintained that they were the existent revolutionists, being adult females who had refused to subject to the female function. The realisation was, nevertheless, non long in coming that associating to a adult female can still be extremely role-defined.
This twelvemonth the key is manner has been the inquiry of health/nature healing/vegetarianism. Alienation, or deficiency of harmoniousness between head, emotions and organic structure can be overcome by the astonishing healing qualities of nutrient. Furthermore, « Meat feeding and male force seemed locked together. » Institutional medical specialty will be superseded by astrological birth control, female nature therapists and the healing crisis ( or in more female footings, enduring ) .
The theories of matriarchate and enchantresss, of sapphism and nature mending lead of course into an political orientation basking turning popularity – female high quality. This is a really convenient solution to the searchfor power, since it suggests adult females are in fact powerful now.
More late, female high quality is advocated rather openly. One author has merely minor reserves « about stating straight out that there are of import innate differences between work forces and adult females, that biological science is destiny, and that biological science has made adult females boundlessly superior to men. »
The advocators of female high quality lend to waver because of one effect – if work forces are of course inferior, it gives them a cop-out – they can ’ t assist being assholes. However there are more serious political deductions than this. Advocacy of female high quality is no less sexist or potentially oppressive than male jingoism. It is autocratic, elitist and reactionist. Furthermore, one logical decision is ineluctable: if the female function epitomises all that is good in human nature, and females are superior to males, so adult females are non oppressed. How long will it be before we see an article forcing this line?
Before the industrial revolution, the household ’ s economic map was conspicuously productive. The household farm was the cardinal unit for production of basic necessities. But with the industrial revolution, the point of production was moved to the mill, and the household, at least in urban countries, lost any obvious productive map. The lone staying one, the production of labour power ( the production and care of the worker him or herself ) is unseeable, disguised as a personal service a married woman does out of love for her hubby. The map of the household, apart from the economic 1 of ingestion, became chiefly political. Training in autocratic attitudes and sexual repression, socialisation of kids into the competitory, super-individualistic psychological science of capitalist economy – that is the major undertaking of the household.
Based on the evident divorce of the household from economic production, the myth grew of the household as « outside » society, as a safety, where personal life is carried on and where the adult male may recover from the force per unit areas of the universe. Despite the big Numberss of adult females ( and kids who worked, this theory was developed peculiarly during the Victorian period. The Englishman ’ s place was his palace – his married woman, in her peaceable sanctuary, formed the footing for capitalist economy ’ s version of a adult female ’ s topographic point.
Therefore adult females ’ s subjugation today is based on the function of adult female as the Centre and anchor of the household. The seemingly personal nature of the household, separate from society, has meant that adult females tend to see their jobs in a personal, particularist manner. During its early phases, the Women ’ s Liberation motion concentrated on interrupting down this false consciousness and through consciousness-raising groups helped adult females to comprehend the societal nature of their subjugation. Thus the construct: « the personal is political » .
The motto now amounts to: « the political is personal » . Everything must be looked at in a personal subjective manner.
The job here is that the Extremist Feminists fail to see that the personal, subjective attack is a historically conditioned portion of the female function ; alternatively they regard it as inherently female. This a-historical attack pin down them into credence of the basically bourgeois political orientation that the household, and accordingly adult females, are « outside society » .
No uncertainty such enthusiastic supporters of adult females ’ s release as John Ruskin would unhesitatingly hold with a theory that adult females remain stainless by non being exposed to the universe!
Sing the household as outside society leads to the frequent efforts to alter household and sexual dealingss by sheer self-control. Thus the Radical Feminist communes such as Amazon Acres.
Turn and bend as they might, Extremist Feminists like everyone else are still unable to avoid the urgent inquiry: « What to make now? » The reply normally given is merely make what you want.
Like all change-your-head theories, Extremist Feminism is voluntarist and Utopian. It upholds a vision of a new society, of cardinal alteration, « a female universe based on love trust, freedom and humanity. » But this universe remains a distant dream.
Extremist Feminism either declares this universe will spontaneously originate, or that if we try difficult enough we ’ ll acquire it. Voluntarism, the thought you can make anything you want right now, is in the long tally corrupting when disillusionment sets in. In the short tally, the deficiency of a scheme condemns a motion to activity merely about short-run aims. A scheme, an apprehension of how to construct the motion and to bridge the spread between immediate actions and the finally monolithic societal alteration – this is an indispensable construct. Extremist Feminism is missing such a construct.
The motion, under the influence of Radical Feminism, has mostly reverted to those instantly actionable activities traditionally unfastened to adult females – good plants. The present motion around self-help is little more than charity. Puting up child-care Centres, halfway houses, wellness Centres and colza crisis groups – while these may be necessary and utile, they do non assist to construct a motion capable of altering the nature of society. In fact, as charity administrations normally do, they excuse the authorities and the whole society from taking the duty. And such an stray establishment can even be co-opted into the governmental construction. This is apparent from the dependenceof the Women ’ s Health Clinic in Sydney and the Women ’ s Centre in Berkeley, California on authorities grants.
This is non to state we should non move around short-run aims. However while making so we need to develop an apprehension of how to construct, a scheme that takes us towards our ultimate ends.
We need to truly understand consciousness, which the Radical Feminists, for all their compulsion with it, clearly do non. Consciousness is changed in the procedure of people fighting to alter society … and themselves.