A new stage has been reached. We are finished with endless discussions on male chauvinism. We have no more time for individual attacks against individual men who are backward or against individual women who do not want to be “emancipated”. These people will reorient themselves and will be drawn into their own struggles.
Now for the first time we know where we are going. We did not develop accidentally. The ideas explicit in this document are the concrete manifestations of the movement of capitalism and the reaction of the masses of women today. It is this reaction that we shall attempt to concretize in this document.
Bebel and the other historians on the woman question have analysed women in other ages, other struggles, other cultures. But it is we who must express women in 1951, what they feel about their lives, what they want and how they plan to get it.
We counterpose this to any external plan of the bourgeoisie, put forth by social workers, magazine writers, psychoanalysts, and any section of women who place themselves not within the struggle of women but above it, and therefore in opposition to it.
We start from the position of women in the home for that is where the majority of women are, that is where the problem of women begins and that is the place to which all working women must return daily.
Capitalism has socialized production. It has brought thousands of people together in the factory and involved them in new social relationships. The home stands in contrast to all other capitalist institutions as the last stronghold of pre-capitalist isolation. Here, existing in the home outside the mainstream of society – the factory – the woman prepares her husband for a social labor process which is denied to her.
The repetitious, monotonous, lonely, unceasing and incomplete work of women in this society is opposed to women as human beings. Working for individuals whom she knows and loves does not compensate for the fragmented and meaningless labor she is forced to perform. Even her imaginative enterprises in the home are limited to certain spheres and are always individual. Contrast the glamorizing of women’s work by women’ s magazines and radio soap operas to what the wife of one worker said in generalizing the position of women under capitalism “What I gotta do for the check!”
Women want the technological advances of modern society in their own surroundings. But a new Bendix washing machine or a GE garbage disposal will no more satisfy the most pressing social needs of women than a new Ford will substitute to the worker for new social relations in production. The modern machine divorces woman from her work but ties her to the monotony of it.
Even those middle class women for whom servants and machines do the physical labor in the home are involved in hollow relationships with their families and society, So little is demanded of all women; less is demanded of the woman who is divorced from physical labor.
The evolution of women from production and men from the home creates a barrier between them and neither is capable of understanding the life of the other.
I’ve been working for about two months now and I really like it. I was getting sick and tired of staying home all the time. Housework gets so monotonous – the same thing day in, day out – no one to talk to but your neighbor, then pretty soon your neighbor begins to get on your nerves. No kidding, I think I would have been ready for a sanitarium if I stayed home another month. I was getting to the point where I couldn’t stand it. You do the same thing, you see the same people, everything is the same. Down here, there is something different to do every minute. Talking to people and getting acquainted. Now when I get home I really enjoy doing my housework. The funny thing about it is that I have much more to talk to my husband about, too. I didn’t used to have a thing to say at the supper table, but now when my husband talks about things that are happening at work, I tell him what I’ve been doing too. We seem to have a lot more fun together.
The most obvious oppression that weighs heavily on most woman is their dependence an their husbands for food and shelter and for whatever money they are to spend as they wish. One housewife placed all her old clothing on a clothes line strung across the living room of her home and put a “used clothing” sign outside. She explained to her neighbor that she was giving away most of the clothing, but she added: “I just have to have same money of my own.”
The man makes all final decisions. Even in those homes where the woman plans and organizes the household affairs, he has the last word.
When a man goes out to work it is generally understood that he is earning a living for himself and his family. He brings home the pay check and among us (I mean the Mexicans) as a rule, this check is turned over to the wife who is supposed to see that this money is used to pay the bills, buy the groceries end so on. It’ s the money of the family. Even if he hands it to me, I never quite feel that it’s mine. I still have to ask him how it should be spent. And what I don’t see is, if my husband needs money, he just gets it, no explanations. He gets his hair cut, cigarettes or what have you. He needs more money? He gets some more. Me, on the other hand, I see a dress I like, I have to think twice before I get it. Usually, I end up by telling him about it, Even if he suggests I get the dress, half the fun of getting the dress is gone. I had to let him know I was getting it. I never had the feeling of the money belonging to me to do with as I please. Who is the boss in this house? He is, though this he will never admit. But nothing can be done without his consent. If, on occasion, as it has happened, I let the children go, he gets angry with me for not having them ask his permission. When he orders something to be done around the yard or house (and I said orders!) he expects it done, no excuses accepted. What am I supposed to be doing around here but to see that he is obeyed. About fifteen minutes before he gets home, we are rustling around trying to get things done so there won’ t be any complaints.
When we were buying furniture, we needed a refrigerator, so we got it. We got everything we really needed, but I wanted an ironer. He didn’t think it was important enough to buy. So I went to work and bought it. Even if it wasn’ t a necessity, I wanted it. My reason for going to work is so that I can get what I want without asking him first or letting him know about it. If I have my money, I go get what I want. I don’t ask him.
The antagonisms between men and women express themselves in the most delicate phase of their life together – in their sexual relationship. (Very often sex becomes a weapon in the hands of the woman but this weapon is turned against her.) Without a solution to the social problems of society there can be no solution to the sexual problem.
The separation between the lives of men and women expresses itself in many different ways. Men and women enjoy their children neither together nor separately. Society has placed the woman in the isolation of the home and as a result has made her incapable of producing a social being. The woman tries to control her children for her whole life generally revolves around them. The child senses and resents this and says: “Mommy, I can’t love you, because you love me too much.” The woman is ruthless in crushing all signs of independence in the child, since independence means loss of control. Most women prefer babies because the baby cannot successfully rebel and is completely dependent upon the mother.
As the child develops, the mother stands as a policeman defending the home from the child. All the child’s activities are seen in terms of the work it will bring her. She in turn tries to pass off her work on the child who instinctively rebels. One pregnant woman was told by her neighbor: “If you have a, girl, she will help you with the dishes; if you have a boy, he will help your husband in the yard, so you better pray for a girl.”
The woman’s most creative work turns against her. She has devoted her life to her child but at each point of his development, be has been further alienated from her, and in the final analysis, the only social relationship that has been built up between them is based on pity and obligation. Today’s children develop in conflict with their parents.
Support of the modern family is no longer completely the man’s burden. Today a woman marries knowing that the man will need her financial help.
It used to be that when you got married, you had a home all ready and you stayed home and took care of it. But nowadays a girl gets married and goes right on working. A man just can’t manage all by himself.
The isolation in the home also drives many working class women to seek a socialized existence in the factory. She wants to be with other men and women.
At home all I do is to sit end mend and watch the budget and wash the same old kitchen sink day in and day out. Almost anyone would rather work than do that all the time. There’s always something happening at work, sort of an excitement to it. When you get home, it makes housework seem like a pretty quiet routine business.
Women show their desire to be independent of their husbands by going to work. The whole family relationship is changed when the woman faces the man as an equal partner.
Since I’ve been working my husband says I am too damn independent and I suppose it’s true. Be says I never have time for him any more and that I always want my own way and I can see it. Working every day I get used to doing what I please; then I go home I keep on doing it.
Nowadays women are independent, so that they know if they can’t get along with a man, they can get along without him and that makes a big difference.
For whatever reasons women work, the responsibility of the home is theirs even while they are working. “Full-time wage earner and part-time housewife” describes the dilemma of the working woman. The woman is compelled to organize her housework. The husband and children must participate in caring for the home.
Nowadays, I have to plan my housework down to the last minute. I usually sit here at work and plan what I have to do for the next few days ahead. If I didn’t do it that way, I never would get anything done. When I was home I used to do things more or less as I went along, but now I have to stick to some sort of schedule.
Before I began working my husband hardly came into the kitchen. When he came home from work he sat down and read the paper. He didn’t give housework a thought. But before I began to work, my husband and I decided that he would have to help out, so now both he and the children work a lot more around the home. They help me with the dishes and the washing and the ironing. I guess if my husband didn’t help me out I wouldn’t be working too long.
Yes, I run my home differently. I learned to cut a lot of corners and now I just do the things that I have to do, like washing and ironing. Before I began to work, I liked to cook fancy dishes and do a lot of baking, but now my family says that they haven’t tasted a cake or pie of mine for months. And it’s true, I just don’t have time to bake or do things like that.
Managing a home while working is difficult, but caring for the children is the major concern of most working women. Although they are willing and sometimes glad to cut corners on household work, it is with great feelings of resentment and guilt that the working mother leaves her children.
Working means that children must be cared for by others or left to their own devices and the latter alternative in the minds of many working women, particularly those belonging to minority groups, means juvenile delinquency.
I think it’s hard for a woman to work and look after her children the way she would like to. I know with myself I leave the house at seven in the morning and I don’t get home until six o’clock and I have no way of knowing what they are doing; they are by themselves all day long. I tell them what to do. I tell them to be good but when I’m gone I can’t really see what they are doing and it’s easy for boys that age to get into trouble.
Working mothers also wish that they weren’t so abrupt and irritable with their families after a day’s work, with cooking, cleaning and ironing yet to be done when they get home. As more and more women enter the factory, the home seems to become a place in which to eat and sleep while recreational activities occur outside the home. To many single women, the home no longer exists as the real center for family activity and marriage does not seem to offer to these women the personal fulfillment it once represented.
My girl who is working is 26 years old but I don’t know if that girl is going to marry. She doesn’t want to very much. She says she has a good job and no worries why should she take a chance on marriage. Girls these days aren’t like they were – not nearly so anxious to get married. Nowadays they earn their own money and don’t need a man to support them.
Although the woman is involved in new social relationships in the factory, she finds her work there hard and exhausting.
It’s a long grind, working eight hours on this machine. People say, “All you’re doing is putting stock into the machine.” But it is hard, you know you’ve been working and then you go home to begin on the dishes and all the housework. It seems as if some folks never get a break. I could work from now until doomsday and never get anything done – and heaven knows a lot of women do.
The Negro woman, oppressed as a woman, as a worker and as a Negro, bears the heaviest burden of all workers today. One Negro woman says:
‘Domestic’ has long been a term associated with Negro ... Women in general, doing the same labor as a man, receive less in pay solely because they are a woman. The Negro woman receives even less because she is not only a woman, but a Negro woman. The problem magnifies because the Negro man is also underpaid and the combined wages of husband and wife is equal to about the same wage of one partner of another race.
The Negro woman must build a relationship with a husband who does the dirtiest jobs capitalism can create. Her struggles in the home and in the factory are the sharpest of any group of women. The Negro woman struggles the most, and from her oppressed position in American society today, the Negro woman will lead the vanguard struggle for a human existence for women and all workers. She is the closest to the solution implicit in the problems of all working people.
Like the woman’s life in the home, woman’s work in the factory is opposed to her as a human being and as a woman. The insoluble dilemma of the woman under capitalism is expressed by this factory worker:
I really wish that I knew how to do something. I mean, something I like. Nursing maybe. I don’t want to work in a factory on a machine all my life. You know it’s funny I really couldn’t stand staying home, I know that. I would get tired of it. Just staying in the house all day isn’t any life for women. You have to have something that holds your interest. I guess I’d almost have to work or I would go nuts.
Factory women recognize clearly the degrading kind of work they are forced to do in the factory. Yet this work, because it is part of a social existence and provides a social arena for struggle, is still preferable to woman’s life in the home. As always, capitalism is creating it’s own grave-digger. For, as the needs of capitalist society force the women into the factory, she finds herself united with the man against bourgeoise society. Woman’ s struggle against the individual man in the home is transcended by the class struggle against the domination of the machine, against capitalism. The advanced stage that the struggle enters today is a progression from the individual to the social struggle – from the individual to the social solution.
The child expresses the new society and is the concrete embodiment of the inevitability of socialism. In the creative energies which children display, in the free relationships which they attempt to establish between themselves and adults, in the manner in which they organize themselves at every opportunity, children help us to understand the potentialities of all workers.
Children’s play is work – work which constantly challenges the child as an individual and as a social being. It is the new mode of labor – cooperative, creative, planned by the children themselves, developing a natural and spontaneous leadership, and obliterating all division between manual and mental labor. Children express in play what the worker is denied in production. Free and spontaneous play makes it possible for the child to organize himself, to associate and work with other children in his own way. The activity of a child shows us not only what he wants but what we all want.
Yet children live on the fringe of society, developing deep feelings of hostility and aggression toward the adult world. Lacking integration into the heart of capitalist society – production – the child feels that he is an appendage to society, not a dynamic part of it. His mother and father and teacher embody for him the tyranny of an alien world, the tyranny of a bureaucratic plan; yet the adults are tyrannized in turn by the same oppressive forces which do not allow the child to develop naturally.
Children in a socialist society must not be made to feel necessary (as the bourgeoises, progressive educators attempt to do); they must be necessary. There will be a pleasure and a satisfaction in living and working with a developing human being in a socialist society which every adult will need in order for him to completely mature.
As the child develops into a youth, he seeks to further integrate himself into adult society. He wants to play a role in production. As a child he knew that he was not complete (all human beings knows this) and in his play he expressed his incompleteness and his development. For the youth, his play – his sports and hobbies – must be transformed into productive and creative work in society.
The bourgeoisie are acutely aware of the struggle of the children and the youth against capitalist society. They try to satisfy these groups by attempting to force them to live in the future, to contain their energies and their desires until the day when they become adults – when they go to work for capitalism, either in the home or in the factory.
The progressive educators among the bourgeoisie try to soften the blow. The teacher is asked to arrange a cooperative attitude among the children, just as the industrial relations manager tries to manipulate the workers in the factory. Progressive education creates an artificial world for the child. It’s insoluble dilemma is it’s attempt to make the child adjust to society and to himself. This he cannot do and continue to live with himself.
Progressive education is the plan of the bureaucracy to plan away the child’s oppression by isolating the child in a world of children, where he has little opportunity to challenge himself and the adults, who matter a great deal to him, for it is only through a constant and changing relationship, not only with other children but with adults, that the child develops. It is only in a socialist society that the child will have the opportunity to establish what is needed – a new relationship with adults, a relationship into which both will enter as freely associated individuals not competing with each other, not hostile to each other, but complementing each other.
We have shown that woman’s place in the home is merely an extension of man’s place in the factory. It is clear that woman’s life in the home is totally opposed to her as a human being and as a woman.
Today women know they can no longer stay in the home as it is now constituted; nor can they allow men to leave the home as freely as they have in the past. Women do not want to leave the home entirely but have men enter it for the first time. Women do not want to he free of their children but for the first time free with them.
Women are striving to unite what has been so long divided – the home and the factory. They want not to be as oppressed as men, but free with them. The unity of home and factory is in reality the unification of men and women, the plan of freely associated men and women as opposed to the more systematic exploitation of woman and the exclusion of men from the home.
The lack of socialization in the home has prevented women from forming the concrete organizations found among the workers and other exploited sections. Nevertheless, the solution will come from woman for the universality of the individual experience in the home has at this stage forced the problems of women and the solution implicit in these problems into the consciousness of the working class.
The schedule for the woman’s panel is as follows – From 11:15 to 11:45 the main speaker, Simpson, will hold the floor. Then there will be discussion from 11:45 to 12:30. We will have a break for lunch and discussion will resume at 1:30, to 2:00. I’d last like to say one word about the Los Angeles women: Simpson, Jane and Nanette have written a document on the woman question which is available. They started developing this orientation and this line in L.A. when we were still in the old organization. One of the reasons I think it started there was because of the actions of one of the leaders of that organization who was very verbose on the woman question, but in a very limited way. She thought that it was a struggle between men and women and it stopped there. Our people got very sick and tired of all the talking and began discussing with women, proletarian women around them and began developing a line. They held a panel in L.A, which was very successful. It was presented six times. What you will hear today is more or less a result of all of this discussing with women outside of the organization and a development of an orientation. There is no resolution, “We’re just beginning the discussion of the woman question here. Now I give you Simpson:
We have just left the radical movement in order to became revolutionists in the real sense of the word. Now the radical movement has had a program on everything. It has never had a total conception because it has never had a conception of total crisis and a total conception to meet that social crisis. We’re the first group of revolutionists to go to all sections of society. Every grouping in society is for us a sounding board for our ideas and the place where we can learn the ideas of others.
Now the radical movement, contrary to popular belief, has always had a position on the woman question. It was a wrong position, but they had a position. Their position consisted of two main categories. They were very interested in the history of women.. They were interested in their history under feudalism and under primitive communism. They were interested in the biological development of women, what constituted women, not as people, but as human animals. They were interested in another sense, too. They were interested in the woman question as a moral question, as a question of whether or not women have sexual emancipation. They had a basic solution to all this that runs like a thread, not only in their conception of the woman question, but through every other conception that they have ever put forth, and that is that kindness solves all evil. We’ll go into that a little later.
It’s extremely interesting that we find today far more discussions on the woman question than at any other time. They are going on everywhere. Over the radio, in soap operas, among psycho-analysts, in popular magazines; everyone is discussing the woman question. They discuss it well, they discuss it badly, but they discuss it. And that is extremely important for us. Now the psycho-analysts are going to solve the woman question by psycho-analyzing – that is pretty obvious. The social worker is going to arrange a cooperative attitude between the husband and wife. And between the children and parents, too, of course. Just as the industrial relations manager in the factory is going to arrange a cooperative attitude between the employer and the employee.
But there is one section of the opposition to the program for women that has become obvious to us only in the last period and. particularly as a result of our experiences with the radical movement. That is a group of women, in particular, who place themselves above the struggle of women, who conceive of their position in society as an individual question and who have a particular attitude toward men and toward women, as a result of a total conception of society in general.
These women are mainly petty-bourgeois women, They have careers. They do everything. They generally refuse to be confined to any of the things that women are naturally confined to in this society. Raising a, family, for instance. Having to stay at hone. Being dependent upon the man financially, (which in many cases is necessary). They completely and absolutely disassociate themselves from whatever women are doing or saying. They have an attitude toward men. They don’t like them, and they imitate them to the “t”. We’ve seen that in the organization of the past; we’ve seen that in the outside world as well.
Now it is extremely interesting that in the radical movement it is precisely these women who most clearly express the incorrect position on the woman question. But in a certain sense it is pretty obvious why. There is no section of society today that can harness women except a section of women themselves. Women have no respect for anyone else.
Now in our conception we start with women in the home. We do so because that is precisely where women are and if they are not there – if they are in a factory, they still have to return home daily. That is where the basis of the woman question begins.
We start from the position that the struggle of the woman in the home is not a conflict which has nothing to do with the class struggle; that her position in the home is an extension of what the position of the man is in the factory; that her entire life and existence is dependent upon what happens to him there; that the home is not the center of society, although the bourgeoisie tries to say it is, but that the factory is and that she is excluded from this center of society.
She is excluded from production and as a result is excluded from the socialization which has been one of the greatest accomplishments of modern capitalism. She is placed in the home and in a sense exposed to as feudal an existence as anyone can reach under this society. She is isolated in the sense that she doesn’t work with people and any social relationships that she establishes must be outside of her work area. They must be established outside with other women in the neighborhood perhaps, but not in her work.
She is tied to a monotonous and repetitious job which for her is never ended and which (this is less important, of course,) is never appreciated. She finds that in the home the slave-driver is her husband who has just come home from being slave-driven. She finds that she must fight with him in order to gain some sense of her own personality, her own individuality, and in order for the first time to raise off her knees and to get some self-respect.
Now, it is true that the isolation I have mentioned before is not very conducive to bringing about these mass organizations that we find among workers, among Negroes and even among the youth. But the women are organized, nevertheless. They are organized in two senses. First, today the experience in the home of women and the reaction of women to the home is no longer an individual reaction. It is too universal for that. Divorce today is not one woman rebelling against society; it is all women breaking up the home as it is now constituted.
Secondly, they are organized in another manner – in the same manner as youth and in the same manner that workers are organized. They are organized in coffee klatsches in the morning and in beer parties in the afternoon. And the one thing that women discuss is the woman question. It is extremely difficult to get them to discuss anything else, as a matter of fact. That is what they are concerned with, that’s what they talk about and that’s where they find their solution. That’s where they judge other women’s behavior, either accept them or condemn then, and in these cases, incidentally, it is not a question of condemning men. If, for instance, one woman has a bad relationship with her husband and, doesn’t separate, they do not attack the man. They attack the woman and say it’s her fault, it’s her job to do something about it. He’s not to blame, he’s a fool, it’s not our business. It’s her job to solve the problem and they judge women back and forth that way in this type of organization.
Now the relationship of the woman with her children is extremely indicative of her relationship to society as a whole. She looks at the child in the same way she looks at the kitchen sink. It is work which has a meaning for her because her life revolves about the child, but still leaves her incapable of forming any real social ties with the child which mean anything to her and mean anything to the child. She puts a great deal into that child, not in the sense that the bourgeois propagandists talk about, but in the sense that her whole life and existence generally revolve around the child, and more important than anything else to her is establishing with him a good relationship which the whole surroundings of the home and her whole relationship with society prohibits.
We find that the woman’s most creative work in the home, in opposition to any work that she must perform on dishes or washing the floor is dealing with human beings. Yet this creative work turns against her and generally after years and years of imposed sacrifice, the child has nothing but pity and a sense of obligation left for his mother.
Now we find that the youth have a reaction, particularly to the home as it is now constituted – in two senses. They disassociate themselves from the discipline which the mother and the father are forced to impose upon them, and secondly, they go out of the home because they find no relationship there for them, and they oppose the relationship that generally exists between their parents. They don’t want that, and they don’t want to be involved in that. They are free new people and reject it all.
Now it’s pretty obvious from this why women would want to go out to work. There are a lot of women in factories. You can talk a lot, you can discuss a lot, most of all, you can work with other people and really lead a social existence. You can really find out what other people are thinking on a larger scale, work with them, and cooperate with them.
As soon as the woman does go out to work, at complete change takes place in her relationship with society, with her husband, and with her child. With her husband, he’s been left out of the vote, he comes home and takes his slippers and pipe, eats dinner, and goes to sleep. When she works that isn’t true. He has got to participate in either washing the dishes or he must have a chore in the home – he must enter the home end participate in the work of the home.
With the child it isn’t as good a relationship that is established there, because the one thing that the woman fully regrets in going to work is leaving the child. She doesn’ t care very much about leaving the house, but it’s leaving the child and the stability of the relationship which she wants to give him that she feels very guilty about. And she is very worried that as a result he will get into bad bands and into juvenile delinquency. Incidentally, that’s one of the greatest discussions among women in the plant who have children. What they discuss is: how do you manage with your child, do they have good friends, and who takes care of him, and how do you make arrangements with him, etc. Women have devised the most wonderful plans of caring for the children while the child is at home and they at the factory – systems of calling up the children, of the children visiting certain people at certain times, of having the children sleep in the afternoon so that the mother can visit with them in the evening, and all sorts of devices so that they can break the separation down, and develop a relationship with their children, even though they are alienated from their children, separated from them a good part of the day.
Now it is extremely significant in our document that the one thing that we really lack is a discussion on the Negro woman, We haven’t, not until the last couple of weeks, anyway, been able to really approach Negro women to get in contact with them and to get their ideas most clearly, but from what we already have, I would just like to say this: The Negro woman, when she goes out to work, is a woman, a Negro, and a worker. She doesn’t separate these things, she unites them, She doesn’t say – I am a Negro, therefore I most go to the N.A.A.C.P.; or a woman, therefore I must join the women’ s organizations, the women’s auxiliaries of the trade unions; and I am a worker, therefore I must join the trade union. She does none of these things. In each point in her struggle she unites all of the questions, and fights for them at each time. In the church, in the trade union, in the home. she is not a Negro, a woman, or a worker, she is a Negro woman worker.
In the document that we have just written we have discussed children. It isn’t accidental that children should enter into the discussion on the woman question. This question involves the social relationships of all the family, so children must of necessity be part of it. It is also interesting that we bring up the children question for another reason. The woman is mainly responsible for what happens outside of the factory, and if is her task to attempt a solution to the social relationships outside of the factory.
Despite the conflicts that exist between children and their parents in this society, and the inhibiting influence of these conflicts, and the bad relationships that of necessity must be established, children show, in their relations to each other (not necessarily in their relations to adults), a new mode of labor, the same mode of labor that we speak of for all society. Children’s play is cooperative; they get together and play “You do this, and when you come over to me you say this, and you should say that.” It’s creative; they do as they please, and they come out with the most creative things that adults have ever seen. As a matter of fact, most adults have not seen most things that children come out with. It’s planned, and very well planned, by themselves, in a free manner, in a manner that adults are not accustomed to, When adults come in they immediately interfere and interrupt. The leadership of children in their play is children, and it could be no other leadership, and they pick and choose their leadership, not by election, but by a natural system of leadership, by choosing. Now it’s precisely because of the free activity that children manifest, that as soon as they come in conflict with adults (and the relationship between children and adults now becoming their class struggle), the play and the whole creative apparatus is immediately overthrown. At each point when the adult comes in, and starts to plan, and says: “Now we should have this sort of activity, and this sort of thing should go on”, immediately it disrupts the whole activity and creativity of the child.
Now the social workers, knowing this very well, have a plan. They are going to plan the relationships between children and adults. Cooperation, they must cooperate. They must cooperate like the worker cooperates with the boss, (bosses should, that is), and like the woman must cooperate with her husband. The child must cooperate with the parents, the youth must cooperate with the parents, and so on down the line. Just as the industrial relations manager in the factory does it to the worker, the social worker does it to the woman, so the progressive educator does it to the children. The progressive educator has another contribution to make, since only the child’s activity is really free, outside of the work of adults. The progressive educator tries to keep it exactly that way, outside of the world of adults. He sees absolutely no possibility of establishing, not possibility but inevitability, of establishing a relationship which is a cooperative relationship, a human relationship and not a conflict and a struggle. We must not isolate children, but for the first time integrate them into society and find in their play and in their relationship with adults, a new development, for themselves and for adults as well.
As the child grows older, it’s quite obvious that he must be integrated in a new sense, not in the sense of his creative play being recognized and expanded, but that he must also be integrated into production. And education can no longer be separated and isolated from the real world. He can’t live in an ivory tower of public school or high school while his mother and father are working in a factory. they have nothing in common between the two of them, and his education as was said before must of necessity be integrated with production, become part of society.
Now it’s interesting to note that it is clear to all, except radical groups, what women are doing today. Everybody knows about it, except people like our old organizations. Either the people who know about it are horrified, or glad about it, but they know about it. The radical movement doesn’t know. They are still in the peculiar stage of thinking that women don’t know that they are oppressed. We finished with that two years ago and we are able to go on as a result.
Now it is interesting to note what women are doing today, aside from what they say: their actions are very explicit. They take no nonsense. They don’t give unless they get. By that I mean, that unless the man is willing to establish a relationship with them which is different, they will not go out to help him when there is a financial crisis in the family. They say: “If you don’ t help me with my job, I won’t help you with yours.” They get divorced very easily, and discuss divorce in a manner in which it has never been discussed before, as an everyday occurrence, and as a development for themselves. Every once in a while the women in my neighborhood would say, “If I get divorced”, and sometimes they would slip and say, “When I get divorced.”
It’s something that people do nowadays. It’s sort of a fad. And they look upon divorce also as a solution to the question of the morals that they plan to have without being married. I heard many women say today that they don’t plan to get married ever again after they get divorced, because people are going to think that they are doing things anyway, and they may as well have a good time. What they think amounts to a complete abolition of bourgeoisie morals, ideas and relations with men. I feel, although there’s no real proof that we have of this, that the relationship that is established between men and women after they are divorced. is on a much higher and freer level than it was in the first marriage. Of course that will have to be studied, and we will have to talk to a lot of women before we can say that is definite.
Now, in contrast to what women are doing, going into the factory in large numbers, breaking up the home, there is an opposition to them, a counter revolution to their activity. It is precisely three main groups that are putting out different programs for women in opposition to their own activity. There is the exceptional woman that we have mentioned before. Her program is planning for the masses of women and her being integrated into the male world and accepting all the morals and attitudes of men, isolating herself from women, and in planning the housework, isolating both men and women from the home, allowing the women to be free of the home in order to be more systematically exploited in the factory.
There is the American bourgeosie. They have a program. They say that women should stay home unless the government needs them. “Stay home. You are the backbone of society.” They tell women that day in, day out, from Helen Trent to Life with Father, from True Confessions to True Story; in every appeal they ever make, they say: “Please, please be happy. Look what you have: you have a washing machine, a garbage disposal, your husband has a new Ford, you have children who are well dressed, they are the best educated children in the world, you have great, tremendous stores in which to shop, with beautiful new factories made of steel. You have everything that a woman can want. Why aren’t you happy? You’ve got to get into your heads that if you go out of the home, you are going, to go exactly where the Russian women are going, to exploitation in the factory. Therefore you have no alternative but to stay home.” Women listen to this, and very often, when they decide to go out to work, they go with great feelings of guilt. But they go nevertheless. They find new social relationships wherever they go.
Now the Russian bourgeoisie has already “solved” it’s problem. There is no home in the real sense of the word in Russia. The woman works and the man works. I don’t know what the situation is with the youth in Russia, I assume that there is a lot of planning in nursery schools and I am sure that they go through about twelve hours a day, and the mother is allowed to see them for about one hour a day. All the laws that have been passed in Russia, opposing divorce, etc., are mainly aimed, as far as I can see, at separating women from men, just where there is the greatest chance for their unification, in the factory, where they both are. There has to be a division made between them: woman has to be, so to speak, put in her place, and every once in a while be burdened down with nine or ten children so she knows that this is her place and she must come back to it.
It is very clear that as soon as women leave the home and go into industry they are breaking down every bourgeoisie conception that women have been told for at least the last hundred years, They are for the first time facing a unity between the home and the factory, a unity which has been made as a result of separation over many long years. The unity between the home and the factory represents to them the unification for the first time of men and women.
Women know better than anyone else that they are completely capable of establishing any relationship they wish if they are let alone to do it and if they are able to establish a milieu in which to do it; that is, a milieu which for the first time will not have man at one extreme in society and woman at the other, meeting for two hours at night to discuss the happenings of the day,
Now women know something else as well. They are very dissatisfied with the relationship with their children. They know that their children are going to turn against them when they grow older and they don’t want it. They see clearly that something else has to be established. They talk about it all the time. “What should I do with him? He does this to me. He doesn’t respect me.” That’s generally the way it’s put. “He doesn’t respect me.” In other words: “I have absolutely no relationship with him and what shall I do?” And they know also that it is they who must establish a new relationship between the father, the mother and the child. That is between parents in general and children in general and men and women in general, That is their responsibility and they feel completely capable of carrying it out.
This is the opening of the discussion. We wrote a document as has been mentioned and we’re going to take that and circulate it around to the women that we know and, believe me in Los Angeles, we know a lot of women who are working with us on the women question. I think that with this as a basis we can begin to go to women and understand that they are not backward and the fact that they have rejected the radical movement is not a backwardness, but a sign of a revolutionary personality that the old radical movements could not reach, but that we shall reach with our new stage and development.
Last updated on 29.12.2002