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Consciousness

like living energy

 Repressed feelings, like living energy, struggle against the force of repression to rise to consciousness.
“A Historical and Critical Essay for Black Women” by Patricia Haden, Donna Middleton, and Patricia Robinson,
June 1969

Pick your own metaphor. Close your eyes.  Visualize sliding, twisting, through and in between places and spaces and times because consciousness, “the living energy” of women’s liberation, defies attempts to anchor it via text to a page.

As women grasped at language powerful enough to justify their oppression to a disbelieving audience, one they envisioned hearing their pleas as “strange to some, petty to others, laughable to most,  they invoked many analogies. Race and sex, as in sex-caste, appeared, and then a more Marxist inflected idea of sex-class.  However ultimately consciousness became the signifier of women’s liberation.

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Katie King’s early and prescient explication of  “magical sign[s] through which identity is constructed” emphasizes that these signifiers are both unstable and always interested in competing originary accounts of women’s liberation.

Stories of consciousness and women’s liberation invariably begin in 1968 and revolve around consciousness-raising.  Possible starting points include the August conference held in Sandy Springs, MD or  the gathering that occurred over Thanksgiving Weekend  in Lake Villa, Illinois.  Instead place of linear paths, I offer circuitousness following the sparks that flew around in the 60s.

 From the civil right movements, although as Kimberly Springer notes, the necessity of a racial consciousness was not limited to women, the oft-cited 1965 “kind of memo” by white workers in “the peace and freedom movements,” provides one starting point.

Mary King and Casey Hayden describe a kind of talking that could be characterized as consciousness raising.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 We talked a lot, to each other and to some of you, our own and other women’s problems and trying to live in our personal lives and in our work Is independent and creative people.

Hayden and King position this talk as powerful for the analysis it generated

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 In these conversations we found what seems to be recurrent ideas or themes

Talk could also function as a potential source of strategy for activism.  The key insight of CR, that the personal is political appears here in the 1965 paper

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 “Basic human problems (which are now seen as private troubles) [would be seen] as public problems”

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 What are the historical consequences of launching accounts of consciousness-raising in 1965 in the Civil Rights movements?  Sara Evan’s Personal Politics situates the “flowering of women’s consciousness” in this moment, but then jumps to “the northern, white left” (100).  What if we slowed down to linger a little longer with black women?[1]

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16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 [1] Ruth Rosen also notes that the Memo as predecessor to CR, but also moves along to the white new left.

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Source: http://politicsofwomensculture.michellemoravec.com/about-2/book-pre-fall-2016/consciousness/