MIA: Subject Archive: Women and Marxism: Shulamith Firestone


Shulamith Firestone 1968

Women and the Radical Movement

This document was first published in The New York Radical Women, 1968 and obtained by the Herstory Project from the Women’s Studies Resources | Duke Special Collections Library - A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.

Within the last year many radical women’s groups have sprung up throughout the country. This was caused by the fact that movement women found themselves playing secondary roles on every level...be it in terms of leadership, or simply in terms of being listened to. They found themselves (and others) afraid to speak up because of self-doubts when in the presence of men. Their roles ended up concentrating on food-making, typing, mimeographing, general assistance work, and as a sexual supply for their male comrades after hours.

As these problems began being discussed, it became clear that what had at first been assailed so be a personal problem was in fact a social and political one. We found strong parallels between the liberation of women and the black power struggle, being oppressed by similar psychological/economic dynamic so And the deeper we analyzed the problem, and realized that all women suffer from this kind of oppression, the more we realized that the problem was not just isolated to movement women.

It became necessary to go to the root of the problem, rather than to become engaged in solving secondary problems arising out of that condition. Thus, rather than storming the Pentagon as women, or protest the Democratic Convention as women, we must begin to expose and eliminate the causes of our oppression as women. Our job is not only to improve the conditions of the movement any more that it is to only improve the condition of professional. working woman. Both are reformist if thought of only as ends in themselves; and it ignores the broader concept that one cannot achieve equality for sore members of one’s group while the rest are not free.

In choosing to fight for women’s liberation it is not enough, either, to explain it only in general terms of “the system.” For the system oppresses many groups in many ways. Women must learn that the specific methods used to keep her oppressed is to convince her that she is at all times secondary to man, and that her life is defined in terms of him. We cannot speak of liberating ourselves until we free ourselves from this myth and accept ourselves as primary.

In our role as radical women we are confronted with the problem of assuring a female revolution within the general revolution. And we must begin to distinguish the real from the apparent freedom.

Radical men may advocate certain freedoms for women when they overlap their own interest, but these are not true freedoms unless they spring out of the concept of male and female equality and confront the issue of male supremacy.

For example, man may want women to fight in the revolution because they need every able bodied person they can get. And they may need women to join the work force under a socialist economic system because they cannot afford, like capitalism, to have an unemployed (surplus) labor force not contributing work, being supported by the state. And man may therefore advocate state nurseries so that mothers are not kept from work.

There was a wistful note at the end of Bill’s interview on WBAI. He said something to the effect that, who knows, perhaps some day women will really get angry. I thought about that. Because some of us, still very few, are getting angry. And we are getting angry now. I hope Bill will not have to wait for his Utopia quite do long as he thinks. I hope that it will be very soon when we approach him, en masse, strong, organized, conscious, and say:

We sincerely thank you, Bill Baird, for your great sacrifice. You and people like you have helped us immensely in our struggle to become aware. And now, sooner that you predicted, your wish has come true. We are angry at last. So angry that we no longer need you to fight our fight.

Smulamith Firestone

 

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