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Why Women's Liberation? & What is Women's Liberation?

From Black Maria (1971).

(Note: "Black Maria" was a literary magazine with roots in the CWLU.)

Over the last year we have heard many women express their opinions and doubts on the subject of women's liberation. These are some of the issues raised in rap groups, at speaking engagements, and overheard conversations among women. In our own group we have often struggled to find some of the answers. It's presumptuous to say the following are complete answers or that every woman would answer them in this way (in fact we were not able to come to a consensus on each question in our own group). Our hope is that the following discussions will provide a starting place for deeper thought.

Why do you need a movement? If you really want liberation you can get it.

The society has established standards which prevent individuals from fulfilling their potentials (i.e. a woman should get married and take care of children). A movement helps change the climate of social custom in order that women have the freedom to choose alternatives to the previously rigid customs. Only when large numbers of people demand a change to their oppression are they taken seriously, and after a while demands that seemed silly at first become thought of as perfectly acceptable; to reach this level of tolerance, women must discover their potential and begin to react against the forces obstructing them from their goals.

What does a liberated woman have that an unliberated woman doesn't have?

A sense of her own identity and the realization that her life is her own to control. She is not dependent on other people for her security -emotional and monetary -nor does she believe what social custom has determined is her nature. She rejects the idea of women's natural dependency and passivity as a myth, and is concerned with the fulfillment of her potential as a person.

I don't like women. I get along better with men.

This is one of the most common statements by women about women. And it is one of the first emotions to be totally transformed as a woman begins to question what society and men expect of her. Rap groups, small gatherings where women meet to talk about their lives and feelings, often help us to understand how much we really have in common, what and who all of us are up against. In the long run, we have realized there is nowhere to turn but to each other. Hundreds, thousands of women are finding strength, a real feeling of sisterhood by uniting with other women. We are rediscovering ourselves.

Doesn't women's liberation discriminate against men (or... aren't you being unfair-more strongly stated-aren't you a man hater)?

It seems when the issues of equal jobs and equal pay are discussed this issue is raised. Women are not asking for "token" jobs and pay which another person is better qualified to receive. They are struggling to inch their way into those skills, professions and academic endeavors which they have the aptitude, strength and interest to succeed in. Women are not saying these are rights due only to them but human rights belonging to all. They have a history of struggling against discrimination, not of promoting it.

Aside from the struggle for a decent job and pay commensurate to the work exchanged women are often forced (emotionally and physically) to perform an additional multitude of chores and responsibilities; supervising children, washing clothes and dishes, cooking.... All this takes place after a work day which is as grinding and tiring as any males. This not only exhausts her but tends to shackle her time, keeping her from more stimulating endeavors.

Do mothers in the Women's Liberation Movement neglect their children?

I think that women who are working for equality and who are finding their own lives freer can give more to their children. Many women who are feeling the frustrations and loneliness of being a housewife take it out on the children by being bitchy and overly demanding. It is also a freeing thing for children who now have a mother who can really relate to them, instead of one who is caught up in the game playing that goes on in so many families.

Does wanting to be pretty mean you're a cop-out?

No. A movement should make it possible for women to find support for working towards the realization of important goals, it should not restrict or dictate "correct" ways of dressing or acting or thinking. There is room among people who agree on some points to be different: ways of dressing are not intrinsic to the question of women's freedom as concerns her inner needs. The reaction against a "pretty" looking woman assumes that she is looking that way for the purpose of attracting someone to her, whereas she may only be living up to her own standards of being comfortable.

Don't most women who join women's liberation do so because they're ugly?

The women's movement encourages us to take off our masks, to look honestly at our lives, to take risks, to speak freely about our needs and desires, to offer friendship, affection, and understanding to other women, to struggle for the right of all women, all people, to choose what they will become. Ugliness is not physical.---it is anything social, political, or psychological which limits or denies full human development (beauty).

High School Women Ask:

December 1971.

(Note: The CWLU did a lot of organizing among working class high school and community college students. Here are some reflections by high school women.)

Women's Liberation is a movement of people coming together out of a need to learn what it means to be human, to understand what it means for forces around us to keep us from that humanity, and to act together creatively out of a sense of what it means to be free. Let's begin by sharing how we can be ourselves, let's move ahead with ideas of what we want to be:

...some stories and questions about our lives...

Kathy Evans, age 16, gets up at 6:15 to get to school by 7:45. Why does she need so much time?

Among the many things she does, is to smear on foundation to cover up those nasty pimples, when actually exposure to the air would speed up their departure. Then eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, etc. to disguise her own natural beauty, but making her look like those gorgeous covergirls and ad-models. Blush over her own roses, a touch-up on her nails, and she's ready to take down her hair.

As she begins to brush she glances through the pictures in Seventeen magazine with all those perfect-looking girls and beautiful clothes. The advertisements cry out to her, "Buy our product and you'll be beautiful ... The boys will love you and you'll be happy." She sighs thinking of her small allowance.

Kathy struggles into a constricting girdle to flatten her tummy, no matter it pinches and feels hot all day -- she's used to that by now. On with the nylons, $2.50 stockings that can be ruined the first time by a little snag and run. She slips on her skirt, not quite mini, but short enough to be dangerous when sitting or bending over.

By now it is 7:15 so Kathy grabs a piece of toast; not too much because she's on a diet (so what else is new?). No matter she'll be droopy through her morning classes for lack of food.

Finally, our young lady is all dressed and ready to go. She grabs her purse, loaded with extra make-up, nail polish, etc., etc., picks up her books and is out the door, ready to sell her polished surface self to the world.

Why do girls wear makeup?

Why can't we just dig our bodies?

Do we worry about who we are or what we look like?

What is an honest relationship with a guy?

How are friendships between girls and between a girl and a guy different?

You come into school in the morning. After the bell rings the PA comes on and a familiar voice calmly screams at you: "Don't sit at the open windows in the John, because ladies don't do such a thing."

Following announcements you stroll through the hall to your first class. Here you are greeted “good morning" with a warning to shut up and keep your voice down in the hall or else. “After all you are ladies and well-bred ladies don't scream, but are softspoken and gentle."

The day continues and so do the warnings "Speak softly" - "sit like a lady" - "don't wear tight pants to or from school. We don't want people to get the wrong idea about what we teach here"...Sound familiar???????????????????

What exactly is a "lady"?

Sally, age 15, came home exuberant. She had helped her team win at the swim meet with Southwest High, by coming in first in the butterfly competition. But it wasn't just that her team had won, because she loved to swim. It was her way of expressing herself, giving her such a feeling of freedom as her body moved swiftly through the water. Her mind and body were together, smooth and coordinated.

But her world was soon to shatter, because she returned home to over hear a conversation that her mother was having with a neighbor:

"Madge, I don't understand why you let your daughter swim so much. It just isn't good for her. She is becoming a young woman now. All that swimming will develop her muscles and soon she will be unattractive to men.”

Sally was shocked and hurt. She didn't understand but she began to change. She started losing races, swimming wasn't as much fun as it used to be, and gradually she learned to be satisfied with sun bathing alongside the pool.

Why do girls wear makeup?

How do we know what we want to do with our lives?

How many alternatives do we really consider?

What if we tried to follow our dreams?

(this article was written by high school women as they viewed their lives)

What is Women's Liberation?
From Secret Storm (Circa 1975-1976).

(Note: A statement from the Secret Storm Outreach Group on the meaning of women's liberation.)

During the past few years, there's been plenty of talk about Women's Liberation. Although many people know and agree with the ideas of Women's Liberation, there still seems to be some distorted impressions of what it's all about. One of which is that all women should hate men. Actually, many women in our organization are married with children. Others enjoy meaningful relationships with men and choose not to live the married lifestyle. Nevertheless, we all struggle with men over their ideas that women's abilities should be limited. Some men feel threatened by women's liberation because it represents opposition to the traditional training they have undergone throughout their lives. Another distorted impression is that women's liberation would mean an end to their relationship with their boyfriend or for the married woman, divorce. The truth is that women's liberation is basically a "woman awareness program"; educating women about themselves. Though this learning process, women begin to set aside their doubts and place higher value on themselves, their thoughts and emotions.

Education means realization which is sometimes a painful experience. For many, this would inevitably mean a process of changes. Any basically good relationship will survive these changes and be strengthened by them - not destroyed. Becoming more aware of yourself is the first step to understanding yourself. Understanding enables you to deal with yourself and others more effectively which means living a happier more fulfilled life.


Most men in this country are paid just enough to survive, and most women are paid less; simply because they are women. Forty-two percent of all women are employed and that percentage is steadily increasing. Employees still seem to think " a woman seeking employment needs a little extra money"; or if you're single, " it's just a matter of time before you get married and leave." For those already married, no employee wants to hire a "soon to be pregnant woman . Employees use that type of reasoning to justify the low pay for the majority of people they employ - women. The more proverbial second rate (women) they hire, the more profits they pocket. The women's liberation movement says women should be given equal job opportunities and equal pay for equal work.


A Woman's Place Is In The Home

Idealistic thoughts of what the wife and/or mother role should be help us imagine our marriage being" different from everyone else". A fantasy starring " Pollyanna and Prince Charming ".

Although no woman is forced to take on the responsibilities of family life, no woman needs to be exploited. We have been trained since childhood that every woman must marry and bear a child to fulfill her "purpose" as a woman. Women's liberation means you decide what will fulfill your life as a woman.

Those of us who choose the family lifestyle can still live a full life if the responsibilities are shared by our husbands. Due to the numerous duties of a marriage, such as: maid, cook, waitress, seamstress, carpenter, painter, plumber, economic advisor and for those unemployed - providing twenty four hour child care, are usually considered "women's work". Many women give up outside activity and friends for these nonpaid aspects to marriage. In essence, these women are being denied a full life by becoming involved in what they have always believed would give them a full life - the institution of marriage.

The institution of marriage will remain a prison for many women until their needs as women are met. Only then will they enjoy the relationship of a friend and lover with their husband and a teacher of their children.

Women's liberation means we must realize our needs as women, mentally and emotionally, as well as physically and demand our needs be taken seriously.



In our struggle to help control our reproductive lives, we won the right to abortion. The women's movement is not anti-life; we want to protect life, the quality of our lives and of our children's. Women must be able to make free and informed decisions regarding their bodies. If the right of abortion was denied us, quality medical care would not be available, thus, women would continue to have illegal abortions which were dangerous and at times, resulted in death. A majority of American people feel that a decision for an abortion is a personal one. Women now have the right to make that decision with quality information and medical care available .


Women seeking a divorce come up against more than just huge lawyers fees. They face possible loss of their children, usually no financial security, and their identity changes in the eyes of society. Having been unemployed for various reasons for a certain number of years and now in desperate need of a job, many women face discrimination in this area. Credit is difficult to obtain as well as decent childcare for your children. Alimony is usually insufficient.

People now involved in the women's movement are extending aid to women instructing them in the different avenues of assistance available, information regarding places for childcare, and a legal clinic to help people obtain their own divorce without a lawyer and large fees

Changing women's position in society is going to require a changes in expectation, jobs, childcare, and education. We are struggling for changes in ourselves, other individuals, institutions and policies that set up our lives in sexist patterns.

We believe in democracy. By that we do not mean just voting in elections, but responsible participation of all the people affected by any decision. We also believe men and women should work together for these changes, building a new society in which all people will have the opportunity to develop their full potential.

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