I was active in the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I attended 3 separate consciousness-raising groups and read almost all of the early books and literature. I rewrote and edited the first major anthology: Women in a Sexist Society. Although I identified myself as a radical feminist, I always had serious misgivings about the direction of the early movement. I explore them in my journal entry from October 1971. I have not edited this snapshot of a particular point in time. At the time I was a happily married woman working as Editing Supervisor at Basic Books, which pubished social science and psychiatric books. I was a year away from becoming pregnant.
Are men necessarily the enemies? Adopting that logic, couldn't women be categorized as the enemies? Must there be an enemy? Must the movement have a scapegoat? There is a danger of generalizing for all women from a few women's (typical, atypical) experience with men. Perhaps most men are baffled rather than hostile. They have been socialized to believe the myths, so they do believe them. Why does the movement assume that their motives are vicious?
Perhaps the myths are harsher than the realities. Individual women are treated better and respected more than social mythology about women dictates. The movement shouldn't present what seems to be a fatal choice: true autonomy or loving, intimate relationships with men. If all men are despaired of, shouldn't most women be despaired of? Have women tried hard enough to explain themselves? Or would they rather renounce men than fight through to an accommodation?
The movement stresses relationships with women because they are easier (at least for many women). There is no need to confront the enemy directly. Women often have bravely attacked men in coffee klatches, but they then have gone along with their own men, having worked out some of their hostilities with other women. I don't understand; because of my five brothers, I have never had any trouble confronting men. (At that time, NY feminism was rather obsessed with lesbianism. Happily married heterosexual women felt rather defensive about their lives.)
At times Women's Liberation is vulgarly careerist. There is very little speculation on changing the nature of work. There is no recognition that traditional women's jobs, not men's jobs, may be the desirable jobs of the future. Dominant economic values are accepted. A job's value is measured by its pay or its status. There is total denial that raising young children is a uniquely demanding job, calling forth an infinite range of talents and imagination.
Feminists sometimes lack a strong grasp on job alternatives. I am frustrated with so much loose talk about expressing creativity in jobs. Don't women recognize what most workers do, not only blue and white collar workers, but professional and managerial ones as well? Creativity is the value much stressed by woman's magazines. Be a creative homemaker. There is no recognition that post-revolution many, if not most, women might have less creative jobs than they have now. Volunteers are often allowed more autonomy and outlet for imaginative change than regular staff would be permitted.
The emphasis could have been completely different. Feminists need not have accepted the male value that your job is everything, completely determining your social use and people's opinion of you. Alternatives include--more leisure, 25-hour week for everyone, change hierarchical nature of work, decentralize it, recognize that much work is unnecessary. In a more rational society that won't need 100 brands of detergents, toothpastes, and feminine hygiene deodorants. Many jobs now are completely unproductive. Most jobs are not inherently creative. What is a creative job anyway? The solution may be to give people more time, real time, to be creative off the job.
My close friend said almost any job is preferable to staying home with the kids. That is a preposterous statement, particularly from a so-called radical who pays lip service to human values. That is not to say that childrearing as it is now arranged is perfect. We might benefit from more stress on communal childraising, not necessarily so parents can get a "job," but because it may be a better way to raise children from both parents' and children's point of view. I am the oldest of six; growing up in a large family was a positive experience. My parents seemed to have less need to control our direction in life than the parents of my friends with fewer siblings.
The nature of work must change in our society. Women should be at the forefront of the battle for change. Autonomy and self-sufficiency cannot be pictured as depending on capitalist recognition of worth. Rather the economy should be made to value and reward the kinds of work that women do. Men have problems with women's lib on this point. They can't seem to believe that women would want to have equality in men's world. How many men would trade roles if only the objective nature of what they had to do was the consideration and not society's evaluation of it?
Perhaps the major emphasis must be on changing society's evaluation of women. Otherwise, when women enter or take over traditionally men's fields, they would only decline in relative prestige. It can't be difficult or challenging job if mere women can do it. Emphasis should not be on merely putting women in out-of-home jobs. The nature of reward for jobs should change. Money must cease to be the major incentive. The gap between low salaries and high salaries needs to be dramatically smaller. If raising young children had prestige of being a pediatrician or a child psychologist, for example, and it need not be done in social isolation, might not women and men feel differently about it?