I have been reading a book titled In Our Time: A Memoir Of A Revolution, written by Susan Brownmiller. As I have read this book, I find myself inspired by their activism and the explosive energy of their movement. I also find myself disagreeing with some of their political views and thinking that some of their focus was/is in the wrong areas and that these activists have ignored the major needs of women. Women's Liberation and Feminism are not the same thing, I recognize this. As I learn more about these movements through my research, this book, and the information I'm given by my instructors, I find that I have more to think about.
Brownmiller's prologue and her first chapter, entitled The Founders, was both interesting and educational. I enjoyed how she provided character sketches and her warm, intimate style. The way that she transitions from this seemingly personal introduction into the nuts and bolts of the movement makes it feel as though you're sitting in conversation with her. She raises several very interesting and valid points, suggesting that the needs and the social status of women has been ignored for far too long. In the lingering after effects of these movements, I think that we've reverted back to that same state of ignoring women.
I find myself asking, where has the Women's Liberation movement served to liberate us? It seems to me at this point in time to have given us a state of confusion. This state of confusion is questions of our status in society, the validity of our needs and experiences, and what our roles are in society. The blank response from the government makes sense, because the government can not really influence social issues. These issues... they're social, not legal. Women's Liberation and Feminism did act to present solutions to some of the legal issues that were an outgrowth of these confusing and painful problems that we women face. I can't help but ask, however, are we truly better off then we were at the beginning of the Women's Liberation movement?
I can't help but wonder, if the Women's Liberation movement acted to raise the consciousness of the nation and the world to the needs of women, then why are we still blamed when we're victimized? Why are we still treated as though we're second-class humans (or worse, depending on where you are in the world)? This is but a small part of the problems that still haunt us, and in many respects the highly militant activism of various groups in Women's Liberation seems to have presented additional blockages. Now, when women gather to discuss women's issues, we find ourselves quick to shoot down our activism or our anger at various issues because we don't want to make waves and there by make things worse for ourselves. The fear of being labeled a feminist is so great that we police ourselves for any slight deviation from the role that we're expected to have.
This fear has killed the activist spirit of the Women's Liberation movement. And it was fermenting within the movement, from what I can see thus far in Brownmiller's book. They didn't focus on the fundamental issues, the core perspectives at the base of these surface issues. These women worked to ban pornography, not to challenge the attitudes behind it. Where did these women challenge the social view that nudity was forbidden and that the human body was some how impure, the woman's especially? Where did these women challenge the cultural attitudes that said it was alright to degrade women and to hold them down because they were some how flawed for being born female? The attack on pornography could have been a start to that, possibly even the attacks on advertising that encourage this attitude. But the focus shifted and became heavily suggestive of the superiority of women.
The abortion issue looks like the culminating point for this. As I've been reading about it in this book, I find the wide range of views all unified by one thing. That single unifying point is that women are superior because we can give birth. The sexual physiology of women is the most visible aspect of their feminity, but this is just ridiculous. They claim to be experts, but how can they be if the ignorance of their bodies is encouraged? How can they claim to know the value of their sexuality if they continue to insist that there's something wrong with the acts of sexuality? It troubles me to see this under current in a movement that I once thought had resulted in the abilities that I now have to attend college and be successful in the workplace. Where Brownmiller's work would have been inspiring, I find that it doesn't so much fill me with a sense of wonder for their successes, so much as it fills me with anger. The glaring points where the feminists ignored the vital issues and continued their pet projects, the points where the Women's Liberation movement backed off of some major issues after making some form of minor success, and how there is a high handed air of superiority by virtue of their sex angers me.
This post originally published on Livejournal on 3/5/2006. Text presented exactly as it was on LJ.