Volume , Number 0
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What Do Women Want?
Medical Industrial Complex
Slippin' & Slidin'
Gay And Lesbian Community Notes
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What Do Women Want?
It drives many “second wave” feminists nuts when men and/or mainstream media intone, “Well, what do you women want, anyway?” This, of course, implies some combination of the following: (1) women, being confused hysterical creatures don't really know what they want, and/or (2) women do know, and it means something bad for men, and/or (3) women know, but men/mainstream media don't really give a shit. The question “what do women want” is really an intimidation technique to remind women that they are confused twits who can't make up their minds without the aid of a man or the advice of a fashion magazine.
Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon published a collection of “Dispatches from
the Women's Liberation Movement” titled Dear Sisters (Basic Books—see a
review in this issue). It contains many interesting documents written by
activists during the height of the women's liberation movement of the
mid-1960s and mid-1970s. The following excerpt from Boston's Bread and Roses
women's liberation organization highlights how truly inclusive and
revolutionary the movement for women's liberation was and leaves no doubt that
feminists know what they want.
Declaration of Women's Independence
WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS, it becomes necessary for one sex to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of woman and mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all women and men are created equal and made unequal only by socialization:
—that they are endowed by their creators with certain unalienable rights, which can be stolen from one group by another, but never given away:
—that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness:
—that to secure these rights governments are instituted between men and women, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed and their unjust powers from the oppression of the governed:
—that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to the liberty of a sufficiently large group of people, be they a race, class, political group, or sex, it is the right of these people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Women must be enabled to participate in the economy on a basis of equality with men. We believe that the nature of work in our system is demeaning to human beings, and we do not want merely to upgrade women into the alienated jobs that men now hold. However, we refuse to do the low-grade, low-paid, and service work any more. Such jobs must be shared by men and women, as must housework be shared, and be recognized as legitimate work that deserves pay. We take it to be our right:
1. That all persons, including children, be assured a personal income commensurate with the cost of living and independent of their family status.
2. That all employers immediately be required to comply with the law of the land and pay equal wages for equal work.
3. An end to sex discrimination by job definition, which evades the law by defining all desirable jobs in such a way that only men can fill them. Secretarial and executive tasks should be shared between men and women; responsibility should be shared between doctor and nurse.
4. That all employers give priority to the hiring and promotion of women, with preferential hiring to women of races and classes that have been discriminated against. No men must be laid off to comply with this demand.
5. Childcare by men and women, during work hours, provided free by the employer, and controlled by workers and the community.
6. An end to discrimination against part-time or temporary workers, who are mostly female or minors: for example, equal fringe benefits and employment opportunities.
7. Maternity leave for both men and women, with guaranteed return and no loss of pay or seniority.
CONTROL OF OUR BODIES
Women should be able to control their own bodies, to have children if and when they want to, and to refrain from having children if they want to. This ultimately means an end to all laws governing birth control and abortion, with the exception of legal standards of health and safety. It also means that if proper health care is to be equally available to all women, we must have free medical care for all people. We consider these to be our rights:
1. Abortion, birth control devices, and pregnancy tests to be provided on demand to women of all ages, under safe conditions, at no cost.
2. Prenatal, maternity, and postnatal care to be provided to all women at no cost. Women should be able to determine the manner and place in which they give birth.
3. Drastic increases in government funding of birth control research; research priorities to be determined by women, since it is their health that is at stake.
4. Higher safety standards for drug company research and regulation of their profits. An end to drug company imperialism in the form of testing unsafe drugs on third world women, and then charging exorbitant prices for them. No testing of dangerous drugs on mental patients, prisoners, or others whose lives are not their own.
5. Free, available, and complete information about women's bodies, available to them as a right in all institutions.
6. An end to the double standard that puts prostitutes in jail and lets their clients go free.
7. An end to all forms of environmental abuses: particularly an immediate halt to those which have their most disastrous effects on women and children, such as Strontium90 and DDT, which poison mothers' milk.
8. While we think population control is essential, it must not be substituted for a sharing of the world's resources between rich and poor countries. Therefore, we want an end to the kind of population control, on the national and international levels, which concentrates on controlling
The family unit should not be seen as the only economically and socially acceptable unit of society. Central to the liberation of women is the provision of alternatives to the present pattern of child-earing and housekeeping, which results in each mother's bearing virtually the entire responsibility for her children and her home. Such alternatives would go far towards eliminating the untenable choice most women must make between bearing children and developing independent work. We therefore demand:
1. Free, community controlled 24 hour child-care centers, staffed equally by paid men and women, young and old.
2. Alternative forms of good, reasonably priced housing, including provisions for cooperative child-care, communal cooking, etc., for all people.
3. The establishment of a personal income for all persons, independent of familial status commensurate with the cost of living.
should not interfere in personal relationships. In this context we demand the
abolition of all laws regulating marriage and divorce; the abolition of all
laws regulating sexual behavior between consenting persons; the abolition of
all laws regulating living arrangements, for instance, laws against
cohabitation; and an end to the legal concept of illegitimacy. Children should
have a choice of living arrangements with relatives, non-related adults, other
children, and any combination of these possibilities. This means civil
liberties for minors: they must not be legally penalized or prosecuted by
their parents for choosing to live with other people, exercising their
sexuality, or doing other things that offend their parents' sense of
propriety. Any number of adults should be able to make legal contracts between
themselves, other than marriage ceremonies, that will concern mutual
responsibilities for each other and for children.
The educational system and the media in our country perpetuate undemocratic myths about the nature of women, working people, and black, brown, red and yellow people. They also deny these groups any knowledge of their own history. The media and educational system must be redesigned by the people whom they oppress, to express the past and to meet their needs for development in an atmosphere free from psychological oppression. With respect to women, these things are necessary:
1. An end to sexual tracking at all levels of the educational system. By this we mean not only courses specifically designed for each sex, but also the subtler forms of tracking, such as encouraging boys to be smart and girls to be ladylike.
2. That all courses be thoroughly revamped by women to end the perpetuation of male supremacist myths.
3. That the facts about sex inequality be added as a topic to all school curricula, and that new courses be developed by women in their culture and history.
4. That vocational counseling in high schools and colleges be totally redesigned so as not to channel women into low status, low potential occupations.
5. That trade schools, vocational schools, colleges, and graduate schools admit one-half women, with preferential treatment of women from races and classes that have been discriminated against.
6. An end to advertising that exploits women's bodies to sell products.
7. An end to sex-role stereotyping in the media.
--- Bread and Roses, Boston 1970