“I’m a radical feminist, not the fun kind.”
“In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them.”
Gloria Steinem, speaking at Andrea Dworkin’s memorial.1
Born in Camden, New Jersey, on September 26, 1946, Andrea Dworkin devoted much of her life to liberating women from male violence.
A brave and determined activist from a young age, Andrea refused to sing Christmas carols at school because of her Jewish faith. For that, she was kicked out of the school choir. Her mother, a committed reproductive rights activist, taught Andrea the importance of women’s reproductive freedom when she was very young.
“My mother was one of the earliest members of Planned Parenthood. It was one of her first and greatest passions, a real crusade. By the time I was in the sixth grade I knew women died from illegal abortions and that it was wrong, even though I didn’t have the faintest idea what an abortion was.”
Andrea’s mother suffered from heart trouble, so Andrea was constantly shuffled from one relative’s home to another. Her father worked for the Post Office, and as a teacher and school guidance counselor. He was also a Socialist who http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-A-Ec/Dworkin-Andrea.html#ixzz4MMZ0BzZc had a profound influence on Andrea’s life.
“It would be hard to overstate how much he taught me about human rights and human dignity, how to talk and how to think,” Andrea once said. “My first role model was my father who is a very unusual man, being intellectual, honest and brave. One thing that amazes me is that people think that I think men are irredeemable. On the contrary, I think its incomprehensible that men behave the way they do, because my father was a very gentle, loving and nurturing parent. He served as both parents for my brother and myself and was also a person of extraordinary loyalty and kindness to my mother. So it was quite a shock to me when I went out into the world and found that other people didn’t treat women the same way.”
Andrea would find out long before adulthood that not all men were as kind as her father. At the age of only 9, Andrea was raped in a movie theater. Fighting male sexual violence against women and children would shape the course of Andrea’s life and work.
After graduating from Cherry Hill High School in 1964, Andrea went on to attend Bennington College in Vermont, hoping to become a Greenwich Village artist.
At the age of 18, while protesting the Vietnam War, Andrea was arrested and sent to New York Women’s House of Detention. While there, the facility’s doctors subjected her to a brutal and humiliating body cavity search. This left her scarred both physically and emotionally.
“It was a notorious and very brutal prison. Twelve floors of women who mostly had done nothing… You were body searched constantly and they claimed that they were looking for heroin. They looked for heroin in every orifice of your body. Also, they said they had to give you a medical examination for syphilis…two doctors gave me an internal examination that totally brutalized me. It was a rape. They were male doctors, very sadistic, having a good time laughing and joking. It’s been 20 years and I haven’t forgotten one detail of it. I started hemorrhaging shortly after”http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/1988vol9/vol9_1988_interview.php
When Andrea was released, writer and activist Grace Paley encouraged her to tell the newspapers about her abuse. Her story was published in the New York Times and other news outlets around the country. Her testimony led to a government investigation into the jail and it was eventually closed down. http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-A-Ec/Dworkin-Andrea.html#ixzz4MMaD0geB
After the story of her abuse was published, Andrea Dworkin’s parents disowned her. “They were furious with me for being arrested. My mother’s reactions were terrible and my father was more concerned for her health than mine. I was very badly hurt. That was the last time I was home. I never again was a child in my parents’ house.”
Following her graduation from college in 1968, Andrea moved to Amsterdam and married a Dutch activist. She and her husband worked together to help young men avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War.
But Andrea’s husband soon became extremely abusive. He beat Andrea and burned her with cigarettes.
In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Andrea wrote, “I was buried alive in silence. I didn’t know that such horror had ever happened to anyone else.”
After escaping her abuser, Andrea ended up “living as a fugitive, sleeping on people’s floors and having to prostitute for money to live.”
She hid from her husband until a female friend helped her return to the United States.http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-A-Ec/Dworkin-Andrea.html#ixzz4MMdb9VXV
Upon returning to the USA, Andrea divorced her husband and worked at a number of menial jobs. She eventually became an assistant for the poet Muriel Rukeyser, who encouraged Andrea to write.
Andrea wrote her first book of feminist theory Woman Hating in 1974, when she was only 27 years old.
“The nature of women’s oppression is unique: women are oppressed as women, regardless of class or race; some women have access to significant wealth, but that wealth does not signify power; women are to be found everywhere, but own or control no appreciable territory; women live with those who oppress them, sleep with them, have their children — we are tangled, hopelessly it seems, in the gut of the machinery and way of life which is ruinous to us.”
Woman Hating identified connections between foot binding in China, witch burning in Europe, and misogyny in fairy tales and pornography, highlighting the ways in which society promotes contempt for women.
The first line of Woman Hating states: “This book is an action, a political action where revolution is the goal.”
Woman Hating received praise as well as condemnation. Many thought Andrea’s views were insightful and brave, while others attacked her as a man-hater.
Because she viewed the sex trade as a vicious method of harming women, Andrea joined Barbara Deming, Jane Verlaine, and other radical feminists in organizing against pornography.
In 1978, Andrea delivered a rousing speech at San Francisco’s first “Take Back the Night” march, which brought the feminist anti-rape movement to national attention. Grassroots feminist groups dedicated to opposing pornography as a tool of the patriarchy sprang up all over the country.
In 1980, Andrea published a collection of short stories with feminist themes, The New Woman’s Broken Heart. T he following year she published Pornography: Men Possessing Women, which described and analyzed the way male violence against women is perpetuated by the sex trade.
“Capitalism is not wicked or cruel when the commodity is the whore; profit is not wicked or cruel when the alienated worker is a female piece of meat; corporate bloodsucking is not wicked or cruel when the corporations in question, sell cunt; racism is not wicked or cruel when the black cunt or yellow cunt or red cunt or Hispanic cunt or Jewish cunt has her legs splayed for any man’s pleasure; poverty is not wicked or cruel when it is the poverty of dispossessed women who have only themselves to sell; violence by the powerful against the powerless is not wicked or cruel when it is called sex; slavery is not wicked or cruel when it is sexual slavery; torture is not wicked or cruel when the tormented are women, whores, cunts. The new pornography is left-wing; and the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.”
Andrea went on to collaborate with prominent anti-pornography activists such as Susan Brownmiller, Laura Lederer, Lynn Campbell, and Catherine MacKinnon.
In 1980, the star of the porn film Deep Throat, Linda Marchiano (also known as Linda Lovelace), reached out to Andrea and other anti-pornography feminists to seek justice for having been forced into pornography by her ex-husband Chuck Traynor. She appeared on TV shows with feminist Gloria Steinem, stating that, “Everyone going to see Deep Throat is watching me being raped.”
To assist Ms. Marchiano in finding justice, Andrea Dworkin sought the help of fellow feminist Catherine MacKinnon, who was an attorney and Yale law professor.
The two could not find anything in the law to help Marchiano, so they drafted an ordinance that would allow people who had been harmed by pornography to sue those who profited from its sale.
The Minneapolis City Council passed the ordinance on two separate occasions, but the mayor vetoed it both times despite large street protests organized by feminists.
Andrea and Catherine MacKinnon went on to write and lobby for similar legislation in Indianapolis, Indiana; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Bellingham, Washington.
“It was an inventive use of civil law; rather than banning or censoring pornography, it would have enabled victims of the porn industry to claim damages and recognition for the harm it caused.”
Each one of the ordinances passed, but were struck down by the courts for being a potential threat to first amendment rights. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/other/ordinance/HillSilverOrd1.html
In 1986, Andrea filed a libel suit against Larry Flynn’s Hustler magazine for they publishing sexually explicit cartoons about her. But the case was later dismissed.
Following repeated losses in court, the anti-pornography movement was weakened by accusations of supporting censorship.
Andrea and Catherine MacKinnon later published a book together called Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality (1988).
“Pornography is central in creating and maintaining the civil inequality of the sexes. Pornography is a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on sex which differentially harms women. . . .The Ordinance does not take ‘rights’ away from anyone, . . . it takes the power to hurt women away from pornographers.”
—Andrea Dworkin, Pornography and Civil Rights
While fighting against pornography Andrea continued to write and publish books such Right-Wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females (1983), and a novel about prostitution, Ice and Fire (1986).
“Anti-feminism is also operating whenever any political group is ready to sacrifice one group of women, one faction, some women, some kinds of women, to any element of sex-class oppression: to pornography, to rape, to battery, to economic exploitation, to reproductive exploitation, to prostitution. There are women all along the male-defined political spectrum, including both extreme ends of it, ready to sacrifice some women, usually not themselves, to the brothels or the farms. The sacrifice is profoundly anti-feminist; it is also profoundly immoral…”
—Andrea Dworkin, Right Wing Women
In 1986 Andrea testified before the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (also known as the Meese Commission). Her testimony was included in the final report and excerpted in some conservative publications like Phyllis Schlafly’s Pornography’s Victims (1987).
This led some critics to accuse her of collaborating with the Christian Right, an accusation that hurt Andrea.
Not only was Andrea accused of collaborating with Conservatives, she was ridiculed for her physical appearance and demonized as a vicious man-hater.
But those who knew Andrea personally had a very different view of her:
“Andrea’s wicked, dry humour, unwavering integrity and shy vulnerability combined to make her utterly compelling. There was something intoxicating about getting to know a woman who had been vilified as a man-hating misery but who was, in fact, a warm, open-minded intellectual.”
Despite her often brutal treatment by the press, Andrea was a powerful and popular speaker on the lecture circuit. She also continued to write books, and offered her support to feminist anti-pornography organizations in the United Kingdom. She contributed her writing to the U.K. book, Pornography: Women Violence and Civil Liberties.
Because American publishing houses found Andrea’s ideas too radical to promote, many of Andrea’s books were published in the U.K.
Andrea gained wider notoriety and criticism following the publication of her nonfiction work, Intercourse, in 1987. The book is often misinterpreted as claiming all sexual intercourse is rape. But Andrea’s intention was to analyze the act of sexual intercourse within the context of a patriarchal society, in which penetrative sex was often used as a tool for controlling and degrading women.
“A woman has a body that is penetrated in intercourse: permeable, its corporeal solidness a lie. The discourse of male truth—literature, science, philosophy, pornography—calls that penetration violation. This it does with some consistency and some confidence. Violation is a synonym for intercourse. At the same time, the penetration is taken to be a use, not an abuse; a normal use; it is appropriate to enter her, to push into (“violate”) the boundaries of her body. She is human, of course, but by a standard that does not include physical privacy.”
“Men often react to women’s words—speaking and writing—as if they were acts of violence; sometimes men react to women’s words with violence. So we lower our voices. Women whisper. Women apologize. Women shut up. Women trivialize what we know. Women shrink. Women pull back. Most women have experienced enough dominance from men—control, violence, insult, contempt—that no threat seems empty.”
In 1990 Andrea published her second novel, Mercy. Andrea’s two novels had admirers around the globe, but she was such a controversial figure in America she once remarked that her fictional books were “easier to find in English in Nigeria than in the U.S.”
“This Linda girl, with the throat, who tormented her? In the end, it’s always simple. I paid the dollars to go; to the film; to see it; if it was true; what they did to her throat; I figured the boy who did it to me must of got it from there; because, frankly, I know the world A to Z; and no one banged a woman’s throat before these current dark days. …”
—Andrea Dworkin, Mercy
An incredibly prolific writer, Andrea also published a collection of articles and autobiographical essays entitled Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War against Women, during the 1990’s.
She once again collaborated with Catharine MacKinnon and published In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings in 1997. The book contained testimony and transcripts of hearings during the fight for passage of anti-pornography ordinances.
By 1998, with the U.S. publication of Letters from a War Zone: Writings, 1976–1987 (a British edition had appeared ten years earlier), Andrea had become a leading intellectual within the feminist movement.
“Feminists do fight for free speech when it is a real fight for real freedom of real speech…One of the awful consequences of free speech/First Amendment Fundamentalism is that political people, including feminists, have entirely forgotten that access to media is not a democratically distributed right, but something gotten by birth or money.”
—Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone
Andrea’s writing often involved commentary on the Holocaust and hwow it compared to the oppression of women. In her book, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation (2000) Andrea argued that the “everyday violence” women suffered under patriarchy was comparable to what the Jews suffered under the Nazis. She concluded that women should have a country of their own, just as the Jews had the state of Israel.
“Do women need sovereignty—not only over their own bodies as currently understood in the United States …; but control of a boundary further away from their bodies, a defended boundary? Do women need land and an army …; or a feminist government in exile …? Or is it simpler: the bed belongs to the woman; the house belongs to the woman; any land belongs to the woman; if a male intimate is violent he is removed from the place where she has the superior and inviolate claim, arrested, denied parole, and prosecuted. …. Could women “set a high price on our blood”? Could women set any price on our blood? Could women manage self-defense if not retaliation? Would self-defense be enough? Could women execute men who raped or beat or tortured women?…. Could the acts of women in behalf of women … have a code of honor woman-to-woman that weakens the male-dominant demands of nationalism or race-pride or ethnic pride? Could women commit treason to the men of their own group: put women first, even the putative enemy women? Do women have enough militancy and self-respect to see themselves as the central makers of legal codes, ethics, honor codes, and culture?”
–Andrea Dworkin, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation
The last book Andrea published was Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant (2002).
“Do no harm” is the counterpoint to apathy, indifference and passive aggression; it is the fundamental moral imperative. “Do no harm” is the opposite of immoral. One must do something and at the same time do no harm. “Do no harm” remains the hardest ethic.”
—Andrea Dworkin, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
In the mid-1970s Andrea met a gay writer named John Stoltenberg at an antiwar poetry reading. Even though Andrea was a lesbian and Stoltenberg was gay, they fell in love and became life partners. They supported their feminist activism through Andrea’s writing and speaking fees, and Stoltenberg’s income from magazine publishing.
While on vacation in Cape Coral, Florida, in early 1998, Andrea and John formally married. They had no children.
In early 2004, a year before her death, Andrea and Stoltenberg moved to Washington, D.C.
At this time, Andrea’s health was rapidly declining and she was in constant pain from arthritis. She had surgery to help her weakening knees, but she suffered a series of falls after her surgery.
At her memorial Andrea was eulogized as a courageous leader of the modern feminist movement. Gloria Steinem and Catherine MacKinnon were among the many who honored her.
http://www.biography.com/people/andrea-dworkin-38425#early-life Despite her public image as an attention-seeking man-hater, Andrea inspired deep admiration and affection in her friends and political allies.
A year after her death, Andrea’s ashes were scattered on the island of
Quotes by Andrea Dworkin :
“I don’t believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we [women] are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.”
“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.”
“Many women, I think, resist feminism because it is an agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society, and all personal relationships.”
“The genius of any slave system is found in the dynamics which isolate slaves from each other, obscure the reality of a common condition, and make united rebellion against the oppressor inconceivable.”
“Being female in this world means having been robbed of the potential for human choice by men who love to hate us. One does does not make choices in freedom. Instead, one conforms in body type and behavior and values to become an object of male sexual desire, which requires an abandonment of a wide-ranging capacity for choice…
Men too make choices. When will they choose not to despise us?”
“Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men; this is the essential truth of pornography.”
“All feminist arguments, however radical in intent or consequence, are with or against assertions or premises implicit in the male system, which is made credible or authentic by the power of men to name. No transcendence of the male system is possible as long as men have the power of naming… As Prometheus stole fire from the gods, so feminists will have to steal the power of naming from men, hopefully to better effect.”
“Men have constructed female sexuality and in so doing have annihilated the chance for sexual intelligence in women. Sexual intelligence cannot live in the shallow, predestined sexuality men have counterfeited for women.”
“Surely the freedom of women must mean more to us than the freedom of pimps.”
“Women, it is said, have a bad attitude toward sex. Women, it not said often enough, have a long-lived resentment against forced-sex and a longing for freedom.”
“Women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture out, we will fall off the edge.”
“The intelligence of women is not out in the world, acting on its own behalf; it is kept small, inside the home, acting on behalf of another. This is true even when the woman works outside the home, because she is segregated into women’s work, and her intelligence does not have the same importance as the lay of her ass.”
“I didn’t believe any words were dirty until I heard the white boys say cunt.”
“Does the sun ask itself, “Am I good? Am I worthwhile? Is there enough of me?” No, it burns and it shines. Does the sun ask itself, “What does the moon think of me? How does Mars feel about me today?” No it burns, it shines. Does the sun ask itself, “Am I as big as other suns in other galaxies?” No, it burns, it shines.”
“Feminism is a political practice of fighting male supremacy in behalf of women as a class, including all the women you don’t like, including all the women you don’t want to be around, including all the women who used to be your best friends whom you don’t want anything to do with anymore. It doesn’t matter who the individual women are. They all have the same vulnerability to rape, to battery, as children to incest. Poorer women have more vulnerability to prostitution, which is basically a form of sexual exploitation that is intolerable in an egalitarian society, which is the society we are fighting for.”
“A political resistance goes on day and night, under cover and over ground, where people can see it and where people can’t. It is passed from generation to generation. It is taught. It is encouraged. It is celebrated. It is smart. It is savvy. It is committed. And someday it will win. It will win.”
The Complete Works Of Andrea Dworkin are now available in pdf, epub and kindle formats.
- Woman Hating
- Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
- Letters From a War Zone
- Life & Death: Unapologetic Writing on the Continuing War Against Women
- Pornography: Men Possessing Women
- Right-wing Women
- Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation
- Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics
- Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality (with Catharine A. MacKinnon)
- In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings (with Catharine A. MacKinnon)
- Mercy: A Novel
- Ice And Fire
- The New Womans Broken Heart
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1974; 1991 Plume
Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses On Sexual Politics
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1976; 1982
The New Womans Broken Heart: Short Stories
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1980 by Frog in the Well Press
Pornography: Men Possessing Women
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1981; 1991 Plume
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1983 Perigee
Ice and Fire
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1986; 1987
by Andrea Dworkin (Foreword by Ariel Levy)
Published 1987; 2006
Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality
by Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin
Letters from a War Zone
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1989; 1993 Lawrence Hill Books
Mercy: A Novel
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1990; 1993
Life and Death
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 1997; 2002
In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings
by Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin
Published 1998 Harvard University Press
Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 2000 Free Press
Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
by Andrea Dworkin
Published 2002; 2007
Second Wave Feminism in the USA
Second Wave Feminism was a revolutionary movement that led to the transformation of sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive freedom, and the law.
Although vilified as a white upper middle class movement, many feminists of the Second Wave initially participated in the Black Civil Rights Movement, Anti Vietnam Movement, Chicano Rights Movement, Asian-American Civil Rights Movement, Gay and Lesbian Movement and various other social justice movements.1
On college campuses, many women became part of the New Left student movement. But when they attempted to incorporate women’s rights into the New Left, they were often ignored or met with condescension from male student leaders. At one New Politics conference, the chairman told a feminist activist, “Cool down, little girl. We have more important things to do here than talk about women’s problems.”2
(Collins, Gail. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2009. 372-73)
Women’s involvement in various social justice movements not only exposed them to the double standard of social justice applied to female human beings, it also helped them to develop the skills and confidence necessary to organize on behalf of their liberation as women.
Many women split off from the movements that marginalized them to form their own Women’s Liberation movement.
(Giardina, Carol. Freedom For Women: Forging the Women’s Liberation Movement, 1953-1970. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2010)
Prior to Second Wave feminism, wives were legally subject to their husbands via “head and master laws,” and aside from a limited right to “proper support”, wives had no legal right to any of their husbands’ earnings or property.6
There were no laws against marital rape, and society treated wife battering as a private matter between a husband (owner) and his wife (property).
Wife battering was a long-accepted part of the culture, and wives were often blamed for the abuse their husbands committed against them. Wife battering was even regarded with humor. A 1970s ad for a Michigan bowling alley stated: “HAVE SOME FUN! BEAT YOUR WIFE TONIGHT!”7
The police told women that they could not intervene unless their husbands and boyfriends severely injured them. Women who left abusive partners were denied welfare because they were still legally married. Judges asked women, “What did you do to provoke him?” Clergy told women to try harder, pray harder. Clinical social workers considered the masochistic tendencies of women and recommended marriage counseling for relationship problems. Physicians and nurses looked the other way and did not ask women how they got their injuries. Friends and family members told women, “Work it out. Figure out what pleases him and stick with it. After all, children need their fathers.”
A 1967 police manual said that “in dealing with family disputes, the power of arrest should be exercised only as a last resort.” The American Bar Association’s 1973 guidelines recommended that “the resolution of conflict such as that which occurs between husband and wife” should be conducted by the police “without reliance upon criminal assault or disorderly conduct statutes.” 8 9
As a direct result of second wave feminist activism, domestic violence shifted from a trivialized or ignored issue to a prominent social concern.
Organizing under the banner “we will not be beaten,” grassroots feminist activists and survivors of domestic violence launched a nationwide campaign to expose domestic violence against women, provide shelter and support, and demand radical change from law, medicine, and society.
Prior to this time, battered women found themselves with little to no social support and no place to go. In 1973 Los Angeles, for example, homeless shelters provided 1000 beds for men, and only 30 beds for women.
The publication of books such as Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear by Erin Pizzey and Battered Wives by Del Martin drew attention to the suffering of women in abusive marriages.
The first large-scale studies on family violence were conducted, such as the 1975 National Family Violence Survey. Psychologists Murray A. Straus of the University of New Hampshire and Richard Gelles of the University of Rhode Island, found that wife battering was an enormous social problem, occurring in as many as 16 percent of American families every year.
Straus and Gelles reported that two million women every year were victims of severe violence such as punching, kicking, hitting with an object, choking, or attacks with a weapon by a husband or boyfriend.
Beginning in 1973, domestic violence shelters and domestic violence hotlines were opened in the United States. Between 1975 and 1978, more than 170 battered women’s shelters opened across the country. In 1978, the US Commission on Civil Rights listed over 300 domestic violence shelters, hotlines, and support groups for abused women.10
By 1983, there were over 700 shelters for battered women across the United States serving 91,000 women and 131,000 children.
By 1986, Battered women’s shelters housed over 310,000 women and children.
As violence against women began to be taken seriously as a crime, there was a shift toward a more law enforcement-oriented approach to domestic violence.
In 1976, Nebraska becomes the first state to abolish the marital rape exemption.
1976, Pennsylvania establishes the first state coalition against domestic violence and become the first state to pass legislation providing for orders of protection for battered women.
1976 Oregon becomes the first state to legislate mandated arrest in domestic violence cases.
1977 White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society opens the first tribal shelter on the Rosebud Reservation of the Sicangu Lakota Nation in South Dakota.
1977 Minnesota becomes the first state to allow probable cause arrest (without a warrant) in cases of domestic assault.
Second Wave Anti-Rape Activism
Second Wave feminists recognized that sexual violence was an epidemic that had devastating effects on women’s health and freedom.
Prior to the anti-rape activism of the Second Wave, there were no rape crisis centers; there was no national movement against sexual violence; and there were certainly no public speak outs about sexual assault.
When women spoke publicly about rape it became clear that taking a stand against sexual violence was vital to freeing women from the physical, psychological and institutional brutality of sexism.
The Chicago Women Against Rape issued this statement of purpose in 1970:
“Rape violently reflects the sexism in a society where power is unequally distributed between women and men, black and white, poor and rich…In rape, the woman is not a sexual being but a vulnerable piece of public property; the rapist does not violate society’s norms so much as take them to a logical conclusion.”
The anti-rape movement gave survivors a voice. Survivors publicly named those who blamed them for rape: law enforcement officers, prosecutors, their boyfriend, their friends, filmmakers, authors, legal scholars, journalists, sports stars, their family, just about everyone.
They hosted forums and distributed fact sheets exposing the lies and correcting the myths about rape. They fought to shift the blame where it belonged: with the rapist.
Anti-rape activists sought to educate nurses and doctors about how to a help rape victim who came to an emergency room. They sought to educate police about how to interview a rape victim without re-traumatizing her. During this time, many rape survivors were transformed into activists.15
- In early consciousness raising groups, women broke an age-old taboo and began sharing their stories of the sexual abuse committed by husbands and boyfriends, sexual abuse they suffered as children, and their daily fear of harassment and rape.
- In 1971, the New York Radical Feminists organized a Speak Out which gave public voice to the sexual violence that had previously been endured silently as a personal or individual issue.
- These “speak-outs” were used to bring attention to the unacknowledged epidemic of male violence against women.16
In 1971, Oleta Abrams and two friends created Bay Area Women Against Rape and opened the country’s first rape crisis center after Ms. Abrams’ 15-year-old foster daughter was raped and then mistreated by police officers and doctors.
Over 30 years later, the agency receives more than 1,000 emergency calls a year and has become an international model for rape crisis services.
Oleta Abrams created the first 24-hour hot line for victims, and became the first person to accompany rape survivors to court when they testified against their attackers. She was the first victim-witness advocate for the Alameda County district attorney’s office — a position that has been copied nationwide.17
Along with providing direct support to victims of rape, the goal of rape crisis centers was to educate society about the epidemic of rape, to transform society in ways that could decrease rape, and to improve the treatment of rape victims by the justice system and medical professionals. 18
Rape crisis centers around the country began to grow and join forces, becoming state and national coalitions.
The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) was established in 1978, and one of its first conferences was held in Washington in 1982.
The Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs was incorporated in 1979. They had been working together to make legislative change, and to mark what was then Rape Awareness Week (now Sexual Assault Awareness Month).
Second Wave feminists lobbied hard for Rape shield laws, the first of which was passed in 1974. Rape shield laws, which restricted a defense attorney’s ability to cross-examine a rape victim about her sexual history and behavior, went a long way toward mitigating the trauma a rape victim endures when facing her attacker in court.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, almost all jurisdictions in the United States had adopted some form of rape shield law. 19
Second Wave activists also defined and campaigned against workplace sexual harassment, which was signed into law as a violation of women’s rights in 1980.
In 1976, Second Wave feminists in New York launched the first annual march for women against male violence. But it wasn’t until 1977 that Anne Pride introduced the slogan “Take Back the Night” as the title of a memorial she read at an anti-violence rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In 1978, marchers in San Francisco used the “Take Back the Night” slogan during a feminist protest against pornography.
(Bronstein, Carolyn (2011) Battling Pornography: The American Anti-Porn movement 1976-1986. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p165-166)
Over the last 30 years in the United States, Take Back the Night has focused on eliminating sexual violence in all forms, and thousands of colleges, universities, women’s centers, and rape crisis centers have sponsored events all over the country.
The Anti-Pornography Movement
Feminists such as Diana Russell, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Susan Brownmiller, Dorchen Leidholdt, and Robin Morgan, identified pornography as a tool used to oppress women, both in its production (where the abuse and exploitation of women – especially women of color – is rampant) and in its consumption (pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and is a strong force in the promotion of Rape Culture).20
Beginning in the late 1970s, anti-pornography radical feminists formed organizations such as Women Against Pornography that provided educational events, including slide-shows, speeches, and guided tours of the sex industry in Times Square, in order to raise awareness of the content of viciously misognynistic content of pornography.
Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon supported laws which would allow women who have been harmed in the making of pornography to sue pornographers in civil court.
The antipornography civil rights ordinance 21 they drafted was passed twice by the Minneapolis city council in 1983, but vetoed by Mayor Donald Fraser, who claimed the city could not afford potential legal battles over the law’s constitutionality. The ordinance was passed again in 1984 by the Indianapolis city council and signed by Mayor William Hudnut. It was also passed by a voter initiative in Bellingham, Washington, but struck down both times as unconstitutional by the state and federal courts.
In 1986, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts’ rulings in the Indianapolis case.
Many anti-pornography feminists supported the legislative efforts, but others, such as Susan Brownmiller, feared the legislative campaigns would harm the anti-pornography movement by taking energy away from educating the public about pornography’s harms and direct action protests.
Sadly, with the rise of the internet, pornography has ballooned into a global multi-billion dollar industry, and has infected mainstream society. Sexualized violence against women can be viewed easily by anyone – including children – and has contributed to the pornification of female bodies and serves as a powerful means to enforce Rape Culture.22 23 24
Contraception and Abortion
It wasn’t until 1965 that the Supreme Court (in Griswold v. Connecticut) gave married women the right to use birth control. However, millions of unmarried women in 26 states continued to be denied that right (and would be until 1972).
A 1960’s study of low-income women in New York City found that almost one in 10 (8%) had ended a pregnancy through illegal abortion. Of the low-income women who said they had an abortion, eight in 10 (77%) said they induced the abortion themselves. Only 2% said a doctor had been involved in any way.
In 1962 alone, nearly 1,600 women were admitted to Harlem Hospital Center in New York City for complications from septic or incomplete abortions.
In 1968, the University of Southern California Los Angeles County Medical Center, a public facility serving primarily low-income patients, 701 women were admitted with complications from septic abortions.
In New York City in the early 1960s, abortion accounted for one in two childbirth-related deaths among women of color. For white women, one in four childbirth-related deaths resulted from abortion.
In 1972 , The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced abortion, 39 of whom died.
From 1972 to 1974, the death rate due to illegal abortion for women of color was 12 times higher than that among white women.25
1968 The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) was founded.
In 1969 The Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation began operating in Chicago under the code name “Jane.”
In 1975, with Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, the Supreme Court struck down a requirement for written spousal consent before a woman could obtain an abortion.28
Women’s Health Movement
Second Wave activists also started the Women’s Health Movement, which was focused on creating a women-centered health system. Second Wave activists educated themselves about their female bodies, and encouraged other women to do the same. They began giving classes in homes, daycares, and churches on women’s health. They also set up women’s health clinics, and published the reference book Our Bodies, Ourselves.29
In 1969 Boston a group of women who referred to themselves as the “doctor’s group” began meeting to share their experiences dealing with the overwhelmingly male medical establishment. Together they researched topics such as childbirth, birth control, and venereal disease came a and published their findings in 1970 pamphlet called “Women and Their Bodies,” . It was printed by a small alternative press and sold for 35 cents.
The pamphlet sold 350,000 copies.
In 1973 they published a revised and expanded version, retitled Our Bodies, Ourselves . This became a national bestseller for the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective.
The main objective of the health movement was to help women take control of their bodies and healthcare, rather than being passive and dependent o the male medical establishment.30
“Jane” was the name of an abortion referral group in Chicago that helped thousands of women find safe (though still illegal) abortions starting in 1969.
When women called and left their name and number, one of the dozens of women, or “Janes”, who ran the service, would call you back and assist you through the process, which included meeting you at a pickup spot and accompanying you to where the abortion would be performed.
These volunteers, many of whom had had abortions themselves, risked arrest and incarceration by helping women to obtain safe abortions.
Jane operated until 1973 when Roe v. Wade made safe legal abortion the law of the land.31
Roe v. Wade led to feminist health clinics opening across the country. These clinics offered a broad range of reproductive and gynecological services, including abortions.
Women’s health clinics were especially important in poor and minority communities. Many Puerto Rican women in the North and many Black women in the South had been forced to undergo sterilization while giving birth, without informed consent, as a condition for keeping their welfare benefits.
Similar efforts to end forced sterilization and provide respectful health care services for women also took place in Native American communities.
Founded in 1997, the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective 32
represents a broad coalition of organizations that view women’s sexual and reproductive health as the foundation of social justice.
Education and the Workplace
Women were generally excluded from professional programs. One medical school dean unapologetically stated, “Hell yes, we have a quota…We do keep women out, when we can. We don’t want them here — and they don’t want them elsewhere, either, whether or not they’ll admit it.”
In 1960, women accounted for only six percent of American doctors, three percent of lawyers, and less than one percent of engineers. Working women were also routinely paid lower salaries than men for the same job, and barred from opportunities to advance.
In 1964, Representative Howard Smith of Virginia proposed adding a prohibition against sex discrimination to the Civil Rights Act prior to its passage. This was treated as a joke by most of the Congress, but with leadership from Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan, the law passed with the inclusion of prohibition against sex discrimination.
But when the newly established Equal Employment Opportunity Commission refused to enforce the law’s protection of women workers, a group of feminists decided to found an organization that would fight gender discrimination through the courts and legislatures.
In the summer of 1966, they launched the National Organization for Women (NOW), which went on to lobby Congress for pro-equality laws and assist women seeking legal aid as they battled workplace discrimination in the courts.35
NOW did not seek to dismantle the economic and political system, but to open it up for women’s participation in it.
In 1971 Supreme Court case Reed v. Reed declared sex discrimination a violation of the 14th amendment http://womenshistory.about.com/od/laws/a/Reed-v-Reed.htm
In 1974 The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex along with race, color, religion and national origin. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/content/fair-housing-act.html
Spreading The Message Of Womens Liberation
They also gained media attention by staging public protests against sexism – including sexism in the media. These protests ranged from putting stickers saying “Sexist” on misogynist advertisements to holding sit-ins at local media outlets and sabotaging newspaper offices.
1970 Feminists staged a sit-in at the Ladies’ Home Journal offices, demanding changes in the feminine mystique propaganda of women’s magazines. http://womenshistory.about.com/od/feminism/a/ladies_home_journal_sit_in.htm
The 1968 demonstration outside the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, where activists protested the objectification of women attracted widespread media coverage (and launched the myth that feminists burned bras). The “Miss America Protest” by New York Radical Women at the Miss America pageant brought widespread media attention to women’s liberation.http://womenshistory.about.com/od/feminism/a/miss_america_protest.htm
The Women’s Strike for Equality featured demonstrations in cities across the nation. The strike was held on the fiftieth anniversary of women’s suffrage.http://womenshistory.about.com/od/feminism/a/strike_for_equality.htm
On Aug. 26, 1970, 50,000 women marched down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in an undeniable display of the strength of second-wave feminism. They were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote, but they were also protesting the limits and expectations placed on American womanhood, demanding changes to childcare and abortion policies and education and employment opportunities. Many abandoned their usual domestic duties for the day, with spiritual sisters across the country staging sit-ins and takeovers of all-male bars. http://time.com/4459168/womens-equality-day-bella-abzug/
“Consciousness-raising groups” were a powerful way to spread the message that women were not alone in their struggles living under male supremacy. In small groups in local communities, women found solidarity by exploring topics such as marriage, education, sex, child-rearing, and work.
By sharing their stories, women began to understand themselves in relation to patriarchal society. As one said, “[I began to] see myself as part of a larger population of women. My circumstances are not unique, but…can be traced to the social structure.”
M.L. Carden, The New Feminist Movement (New York, 1974)
In their campaigns for the legalization of abortion, Second Wave activists testified before state legislatures and held public “speak-outs” where women shared their experiences of undergoing dangerous illegal abortions. These events “brought abortion out of the closet where it had been hidden in secrecy and shame. It informed the public that most women were having abortions anyway. People spoke from their hearts. It was heart-rending.”
Female Politicians of the Second Wave
During feminism’s Second Wave, an older generation of female politicians, most of whom sought to excel in a man’s world by conforming to male expectations, was replaced by a new group of women who challenged traditional gender roles.
This new group of Congresswomen embraced an agenda that distinguished them from their predecessors.
Representative Martha Griffiths, a central figure in the passage of gender-based civil rights legislation, recalled the deference shown to men by senior women in Congress:
“The error of most women was they were trying to make the men who sat in Congress not disapprove of them. I think they wanted to be liked, they didn’t want to make enemies. So they didn’t try to do things they thought the men would disapprove of. I didn’t give a damn whether the men approved or not.”2
In 1964 Hawaii Representative Patsy Mink became the first Asian-American woman and the first woman of color in Congress; all 72 Congresswomen who preceded her were white.
In 1968 Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn, New York, became the first African-American woman elected to Congress. An unprecedented 17 African Americans were elected in the 93rd Congress (1973–1975), including three more women: Yvonne Burke of California, Cardiss Collins of Illinois, and Barbara Jordan of Texas.
“There is no longer any need for any one to speak for all black women forever,” Burke told the Washington Post shortly before she and Jordan were elected to Congress. “I expect Shirley Chisholm is feeling relieved.”3
The first Hispanic-American woman in Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, was elected to the House nearly two decades later in 1989.
Other women, including Mink, Chisholm, Burke, Bella Abzug of New York, Elizabeth Holtzman of New York, and Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, gained valuable political experience as civil rights advocates or as Vietnam War dissenters.
Though each had her own style of advocacy and her own public persona, these women were connected by the thread of modern feminism—assertively pursuing their agendas. Catherine Dean May of Washington, who served from 1959 to 1971 and whose legislative style was that of an earlier generation of women Members, noted the feminists’ immediate impact on Congress.
“The arrival of personalities like Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug on the congressional scene shook our august body to its foundations,” May recalled. “Shirley and Bella were not what the male members of Congress had come to expect from a female colleague. They got just as demanding and as noisy and as difficult as men did!”6
More explicitly than their predecessors, the women elected during the Second Wave legislated on behalf of the social, political, and economic interests of women.
The Congresswomen of this era tended to perceive themselves, and women in general, as being united by common bonds and life experiences as mothers, primary caregivers, and members of a patriarchal culture.10
These experiences led to interest in legislation to redress long-standing gender-based inequities in areas like health care and reproductive issues, hiring practices and compensation in the workplace, consumer advocacy, access to education, childcare, and welfare programs for single parents.
Shirley Chisholm (D-NY)
Shirley Chisholm was born in 19— to immigrant parents. Her father was a factory worker, and her mother was a seamstress and domestic worker.
While working as a teacher in a nursery school and child-care centre, Shirley attended evening classes at Columbia University, completing an M.A. in education in 1952.
After graduating college, Chisholm served as director of ‘Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center’ from 1953 to 1959.
Her strong leadership skills led her to eventually getting involved politics, in spite of having, as she termed it, a “double handicap” by being both black and a woman.
When Chisholm became associated with the Democratic Party she spoke out against the lack of representation of women, Black men, and the poor in politics.
She joined the ‘Unity Democratic Club’ that allegedly worked for the equal rights of black people, but was removed from the board of directors for speaking against the white leaders.
In 1964 Chisholm successfully ran for the New York State Assembly, proposing over 50 bills and getting 8 of them passed.
In 1966, Shirley Chisholm became a founding member of the National Organization for Women.
In 1968 she ran for the US Congress as a ‘Democratic Candidate’ and defeated Republican candidate James Farmer. This made her the first Black woman in US history elected to Congress. Her campaign slogan was “Fighting Shirley Chisholm — Unbought and Unbossed.”
Once in Congress, Representative Chisholm hired an all-female staff. She also spoke out for civil rights, women’s rights, and economic justice for poor people.
During her first term, Representative Chisholm campaigned for a higher minimum wage and federal funding for day-care facilities. She also secured federal grants for businesses in poor neighborhoods to create jobs in those communities.
In 1970, Representative Chisholm was elected to a second term. She was a brilliant public speaker, and her fame spread throughout the country.
In 1971, she was not only one of the four founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus, she also co-founded the ‘Congressional Black Caucus’. https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/shirley-anita-chisholm/
In 1972, Representative Chisholm made a historic run for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. Despite not having the money to mount a serious challenge, the Congresswoman earned 152 delegates and won the primaries in three states.
This made her not only the first Black Congresswoman, but also the first Black woman to run for presidency. The fierce and fearless Congresswoman also survived three assassination attempts during her presidential campaign.
Shirley Chisholm’s run for the Presidency divided the Congressional Black Congress she had helped to found. Many of her male colleagues felt she had not consulted enough with them, or that she had betrayed the group’s interests by trying to create a coalition of women, Hispanics, white liberals, and welfare recipients.12
Chisholm made note of the fact that sexism cut across racial lines: “Black male politicians are no different from white male politicians. This ‘woman thing’ is so deep. I’ve found it out in this campaign if I never knew it before.”13
Throughout her term in Congress, Representative Chisholm passed a minimum wage bill for domestic workers, provided increased opportunities for people living in poor neighborhoods, spoke against the US military draft, and opposed US’ involvement in the Vietnam War.
Representative Chisholm retired from Congress in 1982 to resume her teaching career, but continued to remain active in politics.
From 1983 to 1987, she was named to the Purington Chair at ‘Mt. Holyoke College’ in Massachusetts, where she taught politics and women’s studies.
During this time, she also campaigned for presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, was a visiting scholar at ‘Spelman College’ and co-founded the ‘National Political Congress of Black Women’.
In 1993, Shirley Chisholm was inducted into the ‘National Women’s Hall of Fame’, an American institution honoring outstanding contributions to the country in various fields.
Famous Quotes by Shirely Chisholm:
“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.”
“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.”
“At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.”
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (D-CA)
was the first black woman from California (and one of only three black women ever) elected to the House of Congress, and the first woman chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). She was also the first Congresswoman to give birth and be granted maternity leave while serving in Congress.
Prior to being elected to Congress, Yvonne Brathwaite organized a legal defense team for Watts rioters in 1965 and was named by Governor Edmond Brown of California to the McCone Commission, which investigated the conditions that led to the riot.
Representative Burke joined the Congressional Women’s Caucus when it was founded in 1977, and was part of a successful effort to extend the time limit for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment .16 That same year, she introduced the Displaced Homemakers Act, which authorized the creation of job training centers for women entering the labor market after an absence of many years.
In 1977, she vigorously spoke out against the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortions.
“The basic premise which we cannot overlook is that if the Government will not pay for an indigent woman’s abortion, she cannot afford to go elsewhere,” Burke wrote in a New York Times op–ed piece.18
In 1978, Burke introduced a bill to prohibit pregnancy–related discrimination in the workplace, particularly employer policies that kept women out of their jobs for long periods before and after childbirth.19
Barbara Jordan (D-TX)
Born in Houston, Texas, in 1936, Barbara Jordan was a lawyer and educator who was a congresswoman from 1972 to 1978—the first African-American congresswoman to come from the deep South and the first woman ever elected to the Texas Senate (1966).
Barbara Jordan pushed through bills establishing the state’s first minimum wage law, antidiscrimination clauses in business contracts, and the Texas Fair Employment Practices Commission.
On March 28, 1972, Jordan’s peers elected her president pro tempore of the Texas senate, making her the first black woman in America to preside over a legislative body.
Jordan encouraged her colleagues in Congress to extend the federal civil rights protection to more Americans. In 1975, when Congress voted to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Jordan sponsored legislation that broadened the act to include Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
In 1976 Barbara Jordan became the first African American to give a keynote address to the Democratic National Convention.
Bella Abzug (D-NY)
Abzug worked as a lawyer for twenty five years, specializing in labor and tenants’ rights, and civil rights cases. During the McCarthy era she was one of the few attorneys willing to fight against the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Bella Abzug was also lead counsel in the defense of Willie McGee from 1948-1951. Mr. McGee was a black man sentenced to death for raping a white woman in 1940’s Mississippi. In shaping McGee’s defense, Bella Abzug made her first trip down South, wrote her first Supreme Court petition, and faced her first death threat. Bella Abzug’s legal argument zeroed in on the taboo of interracial sexual relations at the heart of Southern rape cases. (Sadly, Bella lost the case and Willie McGee was executed).
While in Congress, she co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus along with Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm, working to secure more elected positions for women in politics.
She championed passage of the Equal Rights Amendment; wrote the first law banning discrimination against women seeking credit; and introduced legislation calling for comprehensive child care, Social Security for homemakers, and abortion rights. Bella also focused on veterans issues, lesbian and gay rights, and aid to cities.
She proposed legislation for money to be diverted from the Defense Department to pay for health insurance for all Americans. She also wanted this money used to establish centers to care for young children while their mothers worked.
She introduced the first federal gay-rights bill, along with future New York City mayor Ed Koch.
She continued to fight for women’s rights until her death in 1998.
Pat Schroeder (D-CO)
One of only 14 women in the House of Representatives, Schroeder confronted a male–dominated institution that frowned not only on her feminist agenda but on her mere presence. She likened the atmosphere there to that of “an over–aged frat house.”8 One male colleague remarked, “This is about Chivas Regal, thousand–dollar bills, Lear jets and beautiful women. Why are you here?”9 Another asked how she could be a mother of two small children and a Member of Congress at the same time. She replied, “I have a brain and a uterus and I use both.”10 Still another male colleague sneered, “I hope you aren’t going to be a skinny Bella Abzug!”11
Known to keep diapers in her bag while on the floor of the House and crayons on her office coffee table, she bristled when criticized about her choice to undertake two careers. “One of the problems with being a working mother, whether you’re a Congresswoman or a stenographer or whatever, is that everybody feels perfectly free to come and tell you what they think: ‘I think what you’re doing to your children is terrible.’ ‘I think you should be home.’ They don’t do that to men.”12
Schroeder’s main focus was on women’s health care, child rearing, expansion of Social Security benefits, and gender equity in the workplace. She was a vocal pro–choice advocate and a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1977, Schroeder cofounded the Congressional Women’s Caucus, subsequently co–chairing it for 10 years. She helped pass the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which mandated that employers could not dismiss women employees simply because they were pregnant or deny them disability and maternity benefits.
In 1993, Schroeder scored her biggest legislative successes with the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act. For nearly a decade, she had toiled on the Family and Medical Leave Act, which in its final form provided job protection of up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for the care of a newborn, sick child, or parent.
Dimensions and Divisions of the Second Wave
The Second Wave was highly diverse and lively with conflict. The movement was often divided between lesbian and straight, black and white, professional-class and working-class, conservative and radical.
Audre Lorde, renowned poet and writer, once wrote, “I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.”
Black women were marginalized and discriminated against in both the Black Liberation and Women’s Liberation movements. Black women often found it difficult to build solidarity with white women and black men who continued to act more like oppressors than partners. Far too often, “black” was taken to mean black men and “woman” was taken to mean white women. This resulted in the existence and needs of black women being erased.
In 1973, this led to the formation of the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO), which targeted such issues as child care, police repression, welfare, and healthcare.
The 1973 Statement of Purpose for the NBFO declared the organization was formed, “to address ourselves to the particular and specific needs of the larger, but almost cast-aside half of the black race in Amerikkka, the black woman.”
The formation of the NBFO was officially announced on August 15, 1973. Margaret Sloan, chair of the organization, invited black women to join NBFO on August 15th and received over 400 inquiries by the next day. The first conference was held in December of 1973, and by February of 1974 their membership had increased from 30 to over 2,000 members, with 10 chapters around the country.
The groundbreaking anthology, All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But some of us are Brave , published in 1982, and edited by Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, expressed the historic (and continuing) need for the development of the Black Feminist Movement.
In a 1974 essay lesbian feminist Anita Cornwell wrote about how she had joined the women’s movement believing her race would not affect how she was treated. Six months after she joined, however, she said she “faced the truth” that “racism does exist in the Movement […] [i]t was there, however, and is still there.”
The Combahee River Collective was formed by a group of black lesbian feminists in 1975 who were dissatisfied with the National Black Feminist Organization’s failure to address sexuality or to analyze economic oppression.
In a 1977 statement, the collective expressed the goal of their intersectional politics based on an analysis of their own life experiences:
[W]e are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. […] We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. (CRC, 272-3, 275)
Demita Frazier, Beverly Smith, and Barbara Smith were the primary authors of the Combahee River Collective Statement.
Five years later in 1982, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press (founded by Audre Lorde) published Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, co-edited by Combahee River Collective co-founder Barbara Smith.
Black Feminists also often refer to themselves as Womanists. Since I cannot possibly improve on Alice Walker’s definition (it was she who coined the term) I will quote it here in its entirety:
- From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one. Interested in grown up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown.” Responsible. In charge. Serious.
- Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally a universalist, as in: “Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige and black?” Ans. “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.” Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
- Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless.
- Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.
Alice Walker from In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose Copyright 1983.
Prominent Second Wave Black Feminists/Womanists:
Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and one of the founding members of NOW, was determined to make the women’s movement a “respectable” part of mainstream society and condemned what she described as the “bra-burning, anti-man, politics-of-orgasm” school of feminism. She also referred to lesbians within the movement as a “Lavender Menace” that could undermine the credibility of the women’s movement.
As a response to lesbophobic attacks within the women’s movement, Lesbian feminism was born.
Groups such as The Radicalesbians wrote political texts including “The Woman Identified Woman,” an article which reclaimed the term “Lavender Menace” to decry the bigotry faced by lesbians within the women’s liberation movement.
On May 1, 1970, at the “Second Congress to Unite Women,” lesbian activists such as The Radicalesbians attempted to rush the stage to proclaim the relevance of lesbian issues, and to distribute copies of “The Woman Identified Woman.”
Although the lights were turned down before the stage was rushed, this action led to pro-lesbian resolutions being passed at the conference’s final assembly. (ref)
Lesbian Feminists reject heternormativity: the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that society should be structured to serve heterosexual needs.
Sheila Jeffreys, in Unpacking Queer Politics, wrote
“Lesbian feminism emerged as a result of two developments: Lesbians within the WLM [Women’s Liberation Movement] began to create a new, distinctively feminist lesbian politics, and lesbians in the GLF [Gay Liberation Front] left to join up with their sisters.”
Lesbian feminists called for female and lesbian separatism, arguing that “Only women can give each other a new sense of self.” (“The Woman Identified Woman,” 235)
Lesbian Feminists not only challenged heteronormativity , they also examined heterosexuality’s roots in institutions such as patriarchy, capitalism, and colonialism.
In the spring of 1971, a group of women in Washington, DC formed a communal living collective called The Furies. Theirs was an important experiment in lesbians of various social and economic backgrounds living together, working together, and living out their political and social beliefs on a day to day basis.
From January 1972 until mid-1973, the collective published its monthly newspaper, The Furies, which was distributed nationally.
In “Notes for the Cell Meeting, January, 1972,” Charlotte Bunch described the intentions of the collective: to develop “a basic ideology that interprets the world, historical forces, objective conditions, future, etc.—very clearly and in such a way as to give women the basis for making a revolution.”
Julie R. Enszer wrote that the “work and words” of the Furies had a “profound effect on lesbian-feminism,” even though the “publication and as a political formation lasted only two years.”
Members of the Furies collective included Charlotte Bunch, Sharon Deevey, Rita Mae Brown, Nancy Myron, Jennifer Woodul, Joan Biren, Helaine Harris, Susan Hathaway, and Ginny Berson.
The Furies published a newspaper, called The Furies: Lesbian/Feminist Monthly.
The first issue came out in January 1972, outlining their commitment to “the growing movement to destroy sexism” and to “building an ideology which is the basis of action.”
They describe their collective as “lesbians in revolt”. http://lostwomynsspace.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-furies-collective.html
Poet and essayist Adrienne Rich wrote of the importance of including lesbianism in feminist theory: “Feminist theory can no longer afford merely to voice a toleration of ‘lesbianism’ as an ‘alternative life-style,’ or make token allusions to lesbians. A feminist critique of compulsory heterosexual orientation for women is long overdue… Feminist research and theory that contributes to lesbian invisibility or marginality is actually working against the liberation and empowerment of women as a group.”
Sheila Jeffreys created a list titled the “Seven Key Themes of Lesbian Feminism”:
- An emphasis on women’s love for one another
- Separatist organizations
- Community and Ideas
- Idea that lesbianism is about choice and resistance
- Idea that the personal is political
- A rejection of social hierarchy
- A critique of male-supremacy (which eroticizes inequality)
Lesbianism separatist feminism is a strategy that allows women to invest their energies in other women, to create new spaces and ideas about women’s relationships, and to limit oppressive dealings with men (Hoagland, Penelope).
In her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, ” Adrienne Rich writes that as early as 1656, the New Haven Colony executed women for lesbianism, and widespread gynocide included “burning and torturing millions of widows and spinsters during the witch persecutions of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries in Europe, and the practice of suttee on widows in India.”
Marilyn Frye in her Notes on Separatism and Power points out that when women attempt to choose separation from men, such as creating women-only refuges, spaces, or movements, their actions are treated as hateful, controversial, or hysterical.
Lesbian Feminists are credited with producing terms such as “Womyn,” “Wimin,” and “Womin,” in attempts to distinguish themselves from masculine or “phallocentric”, language.
Prominent Second Wave Lesbian Feminists:
Rita Mae Brown
Adrienne Rich – “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”
Marilyn Frye – Notes on Separatism and Power
Mary Daly – Gyn/Ecology
Sheila Jeffreys – Unpacking Queer Politics
Dubois, Ellen. “Feminism Old Wave and New Wave”. The Feminist Ezine. http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/modern/Old_and_New_Wave-Feminism.html
The feminists of the National Organization for Women did not seek to completely dismantle and transform society. Their main objective was to open up women’s equal participation in politics and society.
However, the more radical “women’s liberation” movement , such as the feminist group New York Radical Women sought to overthrow the “white capitalist patriarchy” that affected every aspect of women’s lives, including their personal lives.
Radical feminism focuses on the social dominance and control of women by men. They identify this dominance (patriarchy), as a hierarchical division of rights, privileges, and power based on biological sex.
Radical feminists aim to dismantle patriarchy, rather than making adjustments to the system through legal changes.
Radical feminism grew out of the anti-war and New Left political movements of the 1960s. Women split off from these movements into specifically feminist groups, bringing with them their radical ideals and methods.
It was Radical feminists who used consciousness raising groups to raise women’s awareness of patriarchal oppression.
Prominent Second Wave Radical feminists:
Corrine Grad Coleman
Groups that were part of the radical wing of feminism include Redstockings. New York Radical Women (NYRW), the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (CWLU), Ann Arbor Feminist House, The Feminists, WITCH, Seattle Radical Women, Cell 16.
It was radical feminists who organized the demonstrations against the Miss America pageant in 1968.
As radical feminism evolved, some moved on to a radical political lesbianism.
Key issues for radical feminists include:
Critically examining traditional gender roles both in private relationships and in public life.
Understanding pornography as an industry based on the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable women that contributes to rape culture
Understanding rape as a violent expression of male sexual entitlement , not a response to uncontrollable sexual desire.
Understanding prostitution as a feature of patriarchy, where economically and socially vulnerable women are sexually abused for money by men.
Critically examining motherhood, marriage, the nuclear family and the patriarchal assumptions that underlie these institutions.
Critically examining how government and religion are based historically on patriarchal power.
Along with consciousness-raising groups, radical feminists organized public protests, and art and cultural events.
They also provided direct services to women in need of abortions, women who’d been raped, and battered women.
Radical feminists promoted awareness that “the personal is political” — that women’s political inequality had profound effects on their relationships, sexuality, birth control, abortion, self-expression, body image, and obligations in marriage, housework and childcare.
Infiltration by the FBI
The FBI viewed the women’s movement as “part of the enemy, a challenge to American values,” as well as potentially violent and linked to other “extremist” movements.
It paid hundreds of female informants across the country to infiltrate the women’s movement.
While this infiltration intensified paranoia and eroded trust among activists, it did not change the course of the movement as it continued to fight for equal rights.
FEMINIST WRITERS OF THE SECOND WAVE
In 1949, French author and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir wrote her book, The Second Sex. In her book, she described how the gender hierarchy worked through sexist stereotyping, which kept women at a sub-human, subservient place in relation to men.
She also went on to state that this was true in other areas, such as race, class, and religion, but was prevalent in the way men stereotyped women.
It would be 20 years before her work would become an inspiration for the women’s liberation movement.
In 1970, the first Women’s Studies department began at San Diego State University, followed shortly by a Women’s Studies program at Cornell.
Also in 1970, Kate Millett’s book Sexual Politics was published along with “Sisterhood is Powerful”, an anthology edited by Robin Morgan which gathered many prominent feminists’ essays into one volume.
In 1971, Gloria Steinem’s Ms. Magazine was founded, bringing feminism to a national audience. The magazine brought attention to widespread cultural misogyny, and published inspirational stories of women who succeeded despite the odds. The magazine also publicized grassroots activism around the country.
Significant books by Second Wave Feminists:
- Mary Daly The Church and the Second Sex: Towards a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation.
Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation 1973.
- Gyn/Ecology: the Metaethics of Radical Feminism.
- Ursula K. Le Guin The Left Hand of Darkness 1969
Kate Millet Sexual Politics 1970
Germaine Greer The Female Eunuch 1970
Robin Morgan, ed. Sisterhood Is Powerful 1970
Toni Cade Bambara The Black Woman: An Anthology 1970
Shulamith Firestone The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution 1970
Boston Women’s Health Collective Our Bodies Our Selves 1971
Woman Hating 1974
Pornography: Men Possessing Women 1981
Right-wing Women 1983
Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics 1976
Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality (with Catharine A. MacKinnon) 1988
Letters From a War Zone 1989
Susan Brownmiller Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape 1975
Joanna Russ The Female Man 1975
Marge Piercy Woman on the Edge of Time 1976
Adrienne Rich Of Woman Born 1976.
Florynce Kennedy Color Me Flo 1976
Michele Wallace Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman 1978
Angela Y. Davis Women, Race, and Class 1981
bell hooks Ain’t I a Woman? 1981
Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center 1984
Marilyn Frye Some Reflections on Separatism and Power 1981
Combahee River Collective co-founder Barbara Smith, ed. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology 1982
Alice Walker In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens 1983
Audre Lorde Sister Outsider 1984
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide constitutional protection for women’s rights, easily passed Congress in 1972 and was ratified by 30 states by the end of 1973. Still, due to an aggressive anti-feminist backlash, the ERA was unable to gain the 8 additional ratifications necessary by the 1982 deadline.
By 1980, Second Wave feminism had made revolutionary gains, but these radical gains soon gave way to a powerful backlash that continues to this day.
Women’s access to education, their increased participation in politics and the workplace, their access to abortion and birth control, the existence of resources to aid domestic violence and rape victims, and the legal protection of women’s rights —all won during the Second Wave of feminism – are taken for granted today. And the movement that gave rise to those gains is often demonized.
There were many factors that powered the backlash against feminism: The volatile political climate surrounding the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ; the anti-choice groups organized to undermine the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision ; the election of Ronald Reagan and the promotion of neoliberal economic policies; and the rise of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority organization.
MEDIA & THE BACKLASH
Today women remain grossly underrepresented among media decision-makers, especially in the while male dominated tech industry. The history of Second Wave feminism has been erased and distorted in much the same way the Suffrage movement was erased following the passage of the 19th Amendment. http://image.slidesharecdn.com/first-wavefeminism-130723163523-phpapp01/95/first-wave-feminism-13-638.jpg?cb=1380806290
Susan Faludi‘s book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women in 1991 pointed out the various forms of backlash against feminism that started in the 1980s.
Faludi saw the backlash as a recurring historical trend. She demonstrated that whenever women made progress towards equal rights, the media of the time would highlight supposed harm to women. And every time, at least some of the gains women made were reversed.
Faludi documented many ways in which 1980’s media, including advertisers, newspapers, movies and television, blamed feminism for the problems of American women and families, rather than widespread factory closings, the destruction of unions, falling wages, or the fact that the United States was alone among industrialized nations in not providing a system of quality affordable child care. http://susanfaludi.com/backlash.html
The media has continued this backlash by successfully portraying feminism as a white middle class movement of the past, rather than a diverse and still evolving force for social change around the world.
White male control of social media, including many supposedly “feminist” sites, has watered down feminism to the point where it has no meaningful ability to create change or support women’s liberation.
The increasing pornification of female bodies, which has spread from ubiquitous internet porn into mainstream culture, has been touted as “empowering” for women, while labiaplasty, and breast implants increase among young women to make their bodies better conform to those of porn stars. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/02/gail-dines-pornography
Continuing opposition to women’s reproductive rights and decision-making authority regarding birth control and abortion has resulted in the erosion of women’s access to safe legal abortion – and even birth control – in many states across the country. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/20/opinion/sunday/the-reproductive-rights-rollback-of-2015.html?_r=0
Third Wave Feminism/Neoliberal Backlash
This magnificent video by Gail Dines does a wonderful job of explaining how Neoliberal Third Wave “feminism” is actually a backlash against feminism:
“Neoliberalism & the defanging of feminism” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDcTt0emXhE
Third Wave feminism is often referred to as “Choice” feminism, because it’s based on the idea that whatever choice a woman makes “freely” is a “feminist” choice. This philosophy completely erases the reality of structural oppression, which impedes every woman’s ability to “choose” without misogynistic influence or coercion.
To quote Meghan Murphy:
“Feminism hasn’t escaped a neoliberal, consumerist culture that offers self-help books and positive mantras as a solution to social problems and presents individual “choice” as the epitome of freedom. What was once a class struggle – a fight for women’s collective rights and towards an end to the oppressive system of patriarchy – and certainly a political one, became a hashtag, a selfie, a backdrop, a selling-point, a buzzword. Anyone could say, “Yes! I’m a feminist!” and be applauded, without really understanding what that should mean.”
“It’s no coincidence that a term directly associated with women has become depoliticised, coopted, and associated with personal empowerment. Women have always been the target of the self-help industry and “empowerment” is a vague enough term that it could be (and has) been embraced by industries that couldn’t care less about fighting systemic oppression, in part because they profit directly from said oppression.”
Women must wake up to the insidious attack on our rights or have to re-fight so many of the battles we won during feminism’s Second Wave. We still have a very long way to go.
Gender Critical Feminism is a term used by those in the feminist community who consider gender a harmful social construct that is confused with -but distinct from -biological sex.
The World Health Organization defines gender as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women”.WHO: gender equity, human rights
The “roles, behaviours, and attributes” ascribed to women are seen by gender critical feminists as a form of oppression that enforces women’s subordination to men. They also believe the “roles, behaviors, and attributes” ascribed to men serve to maintain men’s dominance over women.1 ; 2 ;3;4;5;
Gender critical feminists believe the definition of “man” and the definition of “woman” should be based solely on biology, rather than on “masculine” or “feminine” personality traits or an innate sense of gender identity.
They recognize those with XX-chromosomes, ovaries designed to produce large egg cells, female genitalia, and a relatively high level of estrogen and progesterone as biologically female. They define “woman” as an adult human female.
They recognize those with XY-chromosomes, testes designed to produce small sperm cells, male genitalia, and a relatively high level of testosterone as biologically male. They define “man” as an adult human male.11;12;13;14
Intersex people, who represent 0.018% to 1.7% of the entire population are those whose chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and genitals do not conform to the biological binary of female or male bodies. Gender critical feminists recognize intersex people as a distinct group of people with an empirically diagnosable medical condition.15 16
Conflicts between Trans-Inclusive feminism and Gender Critical feminism.
Those who describe themselves as “trans-inclusive” feminists argue that biological sex classifications are “problematic” and that sex is not solely a matter of biology.17
Trans-inclusive feminists believe that whether or not one is a man or a woman (or neither or both) should be based, not on biology, but on one’s Gender Identity, which they describe as “One’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.”
Trans-inclusive feminists believe that any biological male who identifies as a woman due to an “innermost concept” of womanhood is, in fact, a woman.
According to trans-inclusive feminists, a male does not have to medically transition to be a woman, but need only declare that his “inner sense of identity” is female.18
Trans-inclusive feminists believe males who express an “innate sense of being female” should have the right to access female restrooms, locker rooms, shower rooms, domestic violence shelters, and homeless shelters.19
Trans-inclusive feminists believe transwomen should share prison cells with biological women, regardless of the crime they’ve committed.20
They also believe trans women should be allowed to compete against biological women on sports teams and in the Olympics, without undergoing surgery and with testosterone levels up to 10 times higher than is normal for women.21;22;23
The Oxford English Dictionary defines cisgender as “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.”
Gender critical feminists object to the idea that their “self-identity” “conforms” with the feminine gender role they were assigned at birth. They reject their assigned gender traits and roles as a form of oppression, and do not “self-identify” with them at all.
“to be cisgendered has no meaning to someone who does not experience themselves as gendered in any way other than by the gaze of others.” 24
“I have never felt that happy consistency between my female body, the self I know myself to be…I am not cis. I am not trans. I am trying to live as a woman in a patriarchal world, and frankly that sucks enough on its own without being told the female body my culture punishes me for is a privilege in itself.”25
“If “cisgender” were a description of a medical condition, characterised by an absence of sex dysphoria, then I would accept that I am cis. But if cisgender is a gender identity, which it appears to be, then I am not cis, because I do not have a gender identity. I am a woman. But it’s not because deep down, I feel like one. Because deep down, I just feel like a person.”26
“Such a framing invisibilizes female and feminine oppression by falsely situating men-born-men and women-born-women as gendered equals relative to trans-identified people. Though possibly unintentional, “cis” now functions as a significant barrier to feminism’s ability to articulate the oppression caused by the socially constructed gender differentiation that enables male/masculine supremacy.”27
According to trans-inclusive feminists, being cisgendered means that biological women and girls have “cisgender privilege” which is defined as the “set of unearned advantages that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity”.28
Gender critical feminists do not believe that both being biologically female and knowing you are biologically female makes you a member of a privileged class. Nor do they believe males who identify as female are more oppressed than actual females.
When told they have cisgender privilege, gender critical feminists tend to bring attention to these facts regarding biological women and girls:
68,000 women die every year from unsafe, illegal abortions. The main causes of death from unsafe abortion are hemorrhage, infection, sepsis, genital trauma, and necrotic bowel. Of those who survive, 5 million will suffer permanent life-long health complications, including poor wound healing, infertility, urinary and stool incontinence from fistulas, and bowel resections. 29
Every day 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 30
“In low- and middle- income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are leading killers of adolescent girls (ages 15-19).”31
222 million women around the world do not have access to safe effective contraceptive methods.32
250 million girls worldwide are married before age 15. Girls who marry before age 18 are less likely to get an education and more likely to be physically and sexually abused by their husbands. 33
Globally, more than 125 million women and girls have been victims of female genital mutilation.34
75% of single parent households are headed by women, and these women are much more likely to be poor than single parent households headed by men.35
One in four girls say they are uncomfortable using school latrines, and are at greater risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation in school.38
Women and girls account for 70 per cent of human trafficking victims. 41
Almost four women are murdered by a current or former male partner every single day in the USA alone.42
Given the various forms of discrimination and violence faced by biological women, it is hard for gender critical feminists to accept that women are more privileged than males who claim to have “an innate sense of being female”.
Gender critical feminists do not deny that transgender people are victims of discrimination and violence, but they reject the idea that biological women are “privileged” in comparison to trans women.
They also reject the idea that trans women experience the same type of discrimination faced by biological women. They believe transwomen, being feminized males, experience homophobic violence and discrimination, not misogyny.
Due to their insistence on basing the definition of “man” or “woman” on biology rather than on “an innate sense of being a man or a woman” gender critical feminists are accused of being “transphobic”, which means “Dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.”45
They are also frequently condemned as a hate group 46 and referred to as “TERFs” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) even though not all gender critical feminists consider themselves Radical feminists and most reject the “TERF” label.
Because gender critical feminists refuse to agree that “transwomen are women” and believe that transwomen, being male, should not be treated as if they were female under the law, they are accused of denying transwomen housing, education, and “accommodation equality, as well as local, state, national and United Nations protections.” They are also accused of “literally killing” transwomen.
Gender critical feminists believe that safe accommodations should be provided for trangender people, but not at the expense of women’s and girl’s safety.47
They believe biological women are entitled to their own safe spaces due to the epidemic levels of male violence committed against women and girls.
Despite claims that “transwomen are women” gender critical feminists note that laws based on gender identity allow any predatory male to claim a female identity and gain access to vulnerable women in shelters, locker rooms, restrooms, and prisons.
Lesbian feminist Janice Raymond is frequently accused of having “blood on her hands” for single-handedly denying government funding and insurance coverage for transgender surgery/hormone treatment.
According to The Terfs.com “It was only after the NCHCT [National Center for Health Care Technology] published Raymond’s bigotry in 1980 that the US government reversed course in 1981 and took up Raymond’s views and rhetoric.”48
But the US state and federal government had never funded sex change procedures, so the accusation makes no sense. 49
Still, trans activists claim a single sentence by Janice Raymond included in the 15 page NCHCT report (“transsexual surgery is controversial in our society”) caused the US state and federal government, under the Reagan administration, to reject government funding for sex change procedures.
Since The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 most insurance companies in every state must provide coverage for transition-related care.50
Since 2014, Medicare also covers transition related care.51
(Although at the time of this writing, government funding for abortion procedures is forbidden by the Hyde Amendment).
Gender critical feminists find it more than a little curious that a lesbian feminist is accused of having “blood on her hands” due to the historical lack of insurance coverage for transsexual surgeries, while the male lawmakers and insurance company executives who created and enforced those policies go largely unmentioned. 52
Gender critical feminists are also accused of denying the very existence of transgender people, because they reject the idea that men can menstruate or get pregnant. They also reject the idea that issues of reproductive freedom (abortion, contraception, maternal health care) are gender-neutral issues. Due to female biology being an axis of oppression, gender critical feminists view issues of reproductive freedom as specifically Women’s Rights issues.
Along with allegedly denying the existence of transgender people, gender critical feminists are accused of being responsible for the high murder rate of transgender people even though transgender people are overwhelmingly murdered by men, and have high rates of involvement in the extremely dangerous sex trade. 53; 54
44% of black transgender people and 33% of latino transgender people have experience in the sex trade. People involved in the sex trade are 18 times more likely to be murdered than others of their same race and class. 55
“Transgender people of color with sex trade experience reported far higher levels of poverty, mistreatment, and negative health outcomes than their white counterparts.”56
Despite this, trans activists rarely blame male sex buyers (or males in general) for the violence committed against trans women. Instead, gender critical feminists, aka TERFs , are blamed.
“We believe that it is violence when Germaine Greer announces “I don’t believe in transphobia”, or when Rupert Read describes trans women as “a sort of ‘opt-in’ version of what it is to be a woman”. These are violent acts both in themselves and in their perpetuation of a culture in which physical and sexual violence against trans people and sex workers is both extremely high.”57
“And yes radfems, you are the oppressors. Passive-aggressive oppressors with four decades of blood on your hands. I don’t see radfems getting shot at, stabbed, involved in videotaped beatdowns or brutally killed year after depressing year …”58
TERFs are popularly described as a hate group comparable to White Nationalists and the Westboro Baptist Church .60
Perhaps as a result of this, there are a tremendous amount of rape and murder threats made against gender critical feminists online. Misogynists often use the TERF label to commit misogynistic online abuse. 61
Being labeled a TERF has also gotten people fired from their jobs, denied tenure, banned from public speaking engagements, lost funding for social programs, and denied publishing contracts. Many of those labeled “TERFs” have also had their personal details hacked into and publicly exposed.62
Despite censorship, threats, and harassment, gender critical feminists continue to write and speak out against the degrading gender stereotypes, rape culture, and erasure of female biology that is promoted by current trans-inclusive feminism and transgender activism. They are by far the bravest group of feminists out there.
This piece is written in response to Amnesty International, a recent piece published on The Wireless, a courageous woman in Stanford, and for women everywhere.
In recent weeks many of us read the courageous, devastating letter a Standford woman wrote and read in court to the rapist who attacked her.
Shortly after the statement was released online, Ruth Syles reported that Turner had actually sent pictures of this woman to members of his swim team through a group chat app on his phone, during his attack. Olivia Messer reported that Stanford had a rape every two weeks before Brock Turner was caught; Siobhan Fenton wrote how more than half of university sportsmen admit to raping or sexually assaulting women. Mary Rose Somaribba wrote about the evident connection between Turner’s actions and boys’ widespread exposure to gonzo pornography.
Boys first view online porn at eleven years old, on average –…
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