The Womens’ Liberation Movement

“Don’t get angry. It’s not becoming, it makes you unpleasant, people won’t like you. It’s bad; if you do it you’re bad.” This is how I was trained. Of course I still got angry; I just tried to ignore it.

Then one evening in the summer of 1970, I was babysitting for another couple in our babysitting coop. After I got their kids to bed, I browsed through the magazines on their coffee table. In the August Ladies’ Home Journal, I found an unusual, 8-page section called “The New Feminism,” that had been included as a result of an 11-hour sit-in in the magazine’s editorial offices by Women’s Liberation activists. [1]Reading the pieces, I felt hit over the head.[2] I remember I wept great gulps of relief to hear other women voice dilemmas I felt trapped in, but had known no way to think about; sobs of releasing unacceptable feelings I had been holding in forever.

I joined a Women’s Liberation consciousness-raising group, to have other women to talk to about all this. We were all just starting to let out our anger, and as I look back, I think we were sadly unskillful in dealing with it: all we knew to do was vent. Unfortunately, we identified with the anger; it became important as a way of understanding who we were.

We got carried away by the passion of discovering our anger. We dumped our anger on men, blaming them as responsible. We had no compassion for how they too are caught in an oppressive system, how believing they must oppress ends up hurting them too. We had no compassion for what we were doing to them by blaming. We took no responsibility for how our hate hurt them. We were in love with our anger; it beglamoured us, like some fairy curse.

Some women were certainly more sane about Liberation, but the drama of our protests made great fodder for the press, for manipulating people with reactionary fear and hate. “Women’s Libber” became an epithet as powerful and ugly as “nigger.” Backlash prevented compassion for our protest.

What had started out as a movement to heal our culture … ended up dividing it with disinformation and fear.

[1] The Women’s Liberation Writing Collective, “New Feminism” in Ladies’ Home Journal, ed. Carter (New York: Meredith Corporation, 8/1/1970), 63-71.

[2] See especially this image of the article referenced on that page.