Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
May 15, 1969, Vol. XIV, No. 31
Radical Women: ‘We’d Rather Do It Ourselves’
by Marlene Nadle
The feminine mystique has come to the Movement. The frustrated suburban housewife is not alone. The woman stifled in the home is being joined by the woman stifled in the revolution.
Radical women are discontented in the middle of building seizures, despairing while sputtering rhetoric, and dissatisfied while contemplating the overthrow of capitalism. Superficially the symbols of the committed and involved woman, they are beginning to realize they are little more than leaflet laureates, mistresses to mimeograph machines, invisible women in a movement run by men.
In SDS, an organization devoted to the premise that people should make the decisions that affect their own lives, the women are complaining because they are excluded from decision-making. In bitter tones they describe meetings where women are too intimidated to speak or not listened to if they dare. They drag out grisly tales of national conventions where the men walked out in boredom and indifference when a resolution on women was introduced. They search in vain for the female Mark Rudd or Carl Oglesby. They take body counts of the women on steering committees or in power positions at national meetings. Like all minority groups they complain of tokenism, but call it heroine-ism when one woman makes it against all odds.
In black militant groups, the women make the same kinds of complaints but add one more. Now that black manhood is asserting itself, the sisters are being told to step back. Discrimination has come home to roost. Black women are getting it because of their sex uptown as well as because of their race downtown.
Black women and their militant men recently had a telephone duel on WBAI. The women were not unsympathetic about the need to move away from the matriarchy. Yet they couldn’t seem to make the brothers understand that their manhood didn’t depend on the women becoming Auntie Thomases, yes-saying everything the black man decides. The brothers who called to rebut all seemed plugged into the 19th century, coming close to “a woman’s place is in the home”-type statements. One or two even cited the white woman as the model to follow and said the reason the white man was so successful was that his woman stood quietly behind and supported him. As if black men didn’t have enough troubles, now some seem to want to take on the white man’s burden and put a frustrated bitch on their back.
Yet even a man as much of his time as Eldridge Cleaver dismisses female wails of inequality by saying they all have pussy power. But pussy power is not enough! Radical women are beginning to shape women’s liberation groups in both the white and black ranks. From neon-edged 125th Street to ivy-covered Sarah Lawrence, females are huddling to figure out what to do about the men in the Movement and their roles in society…
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