A Revolutionary Moment -- Then, and Now?

By Christine Riddiough


Feminist.jpegMore than 600 people gathered at Boston University at the end of March for a conference on “A Revolutionary Moment: The Women’s Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hosted by the university’s Women’s and Gender Studies program, the conference was exhilarating and exciting. It provided an opportunity to discuss the many issues that face feminists today and to reflect on the work that was done decades ago.

Many of the conference panels focussed on radical and socialist feminism, a part of the history of the women’s movement that has generally been neglected both by scholars and the popular media. Representatives from socialist feminist organizations like the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, Bread and Roses in Boston and the Combahee River Collective discussed the organizing efforts and achievements of their organizations. Many people there had been involved in the New American Movement (one of DSA’s predecessor organizations), including filmmaker Julia Reichert.

In her opening keynote, Sara Evans, author of Personal Politics and University of Minnesota professor, described the origins of the women’s liberation movement in the New Left, anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. She noted that historians of the 1980s and 1990s are caught up in theorizing about the feminism of the ‘60s and ‘70s and describe it as a mainly white women’s movement that was superseded at the end of the century by an ‘“intersectional” wave of feminism in the ‘80s and later. She stated, however, that the women’s liberation movement was multi-racial from the outset. Its name owes much to the Vietnamese and was part of a worldwide eruption of women’s activism. Radical women thought that revolution was possible and imminent. This vision led to a willingness to experiment and to rethink root issues like the idea of gender. 

Linda Gordon, professor at New York University and former editor of Radical America, in her closing keynote described the many progressive feminisms, from the 1930s to the present. In the 1930s the Communist Party was the only predominantly white group to critique racism and sexism. In the 1960s the women’s movement grew out of the New Left with a shared utopian courage to dream of something completely different. Gordon described women’s liberation as the largest social movement in the history of the U.S. She added that women’s liberation added two perspectives to radical thinking that are important in the current political debate: 

  • First, gender is not a characteristic of individual people but is rather the overall system that we live in. Thinking about gender in this way has implications for our overall political analysis.

  • Second, the idea that the personal is political was a key concept for women’s liberation. It implies that power invades all aspects of our lives. 

Gordon concluded that women’s liberation is not fundamentally about equality but about transformation.

These presentations raised important questions for us as socialist feminists, as did the conference overall. The attendees were a mix of academics and activists who tended to come at the issues from different perspectives. What are the roles of academics and activists vis-à-vis feminism today? How can they communicate more effectively? This is one of the first gatherings that I’ve been to that included both groups. Many of the older academics were and remain, in fact, activists, but many of the younger academics are coming to the topic from a purely academic point of view. 

How can those of us who became activists in the 1960s and 1970s work more effectively with younger women? For many of us attending the conference who had been involved 40 years ago, the conference was a chance to reconnect with old friends and comrades. But there were instances where some of the younger women felt excluded. How can we bridge that gap?

The conference focused on the interaction of the New Left, civil rights and women’s liberation, but what about addressing other connections/intersections such as the connection to liberal feminism, often represented by NOW, and the relationship to the LGBTQ movement?

Papers from the conference will be available in the near future at the conference website: http://www.bu.edu/wgs/conference2014/.

Additional reports on the conference are available:

Christine.jpgChristine R. Riddiough serves as a vice chair of DSA.

 

 

 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.

Grassroots Fundraising: Paying for the Revolution (9pm Eastern)

June 23, 2017
· 46 rsvps

Are you new to socialist organizing? Or after many years do you still struggle, raising money from members when you need it but without a steady flow of income or budget to plan ahead? Are you afraid to tackle fundraising because it seems so daunting or you are uncomfortable asking people for money?

In this webinar, you will learn why fundraising is organizing, and how to do it – face to face, through fundraising events, and other ideas.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. Participation requires that you register at least 21 hours in advance -- by midnight Thursday for Friday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5 pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 68 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 8 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.