like living energy

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Consider, women’s liberation did not (only) emerge from civil rights.   Black women did not (just) provide role models. Rather theorizing about blackness was foundational to the production of the core concept of women’s liberation, consciousness.   As Kristen Anderson-Bricker argues in “Triple Jeopardy’: Black Women and the Growth of Feminist Consciousness in SNCC, 1964-1975,” by the mid 1960s, SNCC activists focused on “developing black consciousness” influenced by among other things, “the rising independence of Black people in Africa and other part of the world.”  Maphiri Masekela a South African,  explained in “Black consciousness and the Role of the Black Woman” that black consciousness emerged from the need for blacks “to define themselves.” She described black consciousness as “an attitude of the mind and a way in which black people live, act, and express themselves .[2]  Even as the shifts within SNCC involved questioning the continued role of whites, the ideas of black consciousness influenced white participants. Anderson-Bricker positions the much-discussed emergence of white feminism from SNCC as a reaction to the rise of black consciousness.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Initially this influence was felt in the adoption of the language of “sex” as a form of “caste.”   The language of caste circulated in a complex array of sources during this era.  Myrdal had used the term in 1944 to apply to the Jim Crow South, while SNCC’s increasingly international focus meant the example of apartheid as a form of racialized caste was well known.  Simone de Beauvoir applied the concept to women as well in the Second Sex, which was widely read in the US by, among other women, both Casey Hayden and Mary King, two white women with deep roots in the freedom movement. (Harold Smith article, plus memoirs, plus web corrections to Evans).

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Hayden and King’s Sex and Caste: A Kind of Memo described “parallels” between “women” and “Negroes” in an open letter addressed to “other women in peace and freedom movements.”

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Sex and caste: There seem to be many parallels that can be drawn between treatment of Negroes and treatment of women in our society as a whole.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 This model of theorizing occurred as well in the comparisons of the situation of US blacks with other oppressed groups in the “third world” a phrase SNCC leader Bob Moses used at the May 17 1965 Berkeley teach-in when he declared himself “a member of the third world.” Such comparisons were offered in the best of faith as an expression of solidarity among the oppressed.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Although historians now join the 1965 Memo with the emergence of an autonomous women’s liberation movement, their narratives jump chronologically, skipping over those fuzzy years in the interim where women struggled to fit their liberation into the spaces of existing movements.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 In 1966, Heather Dean, active in the New Left, published The Sexual Caste System: On Passing Student Union for Peace Action. [this is at the Schlesinger Library, but I’ve not read it yet]

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0  

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 1 Cover, No More Fun and Games, Vol 1 (no 1.) Oct. 1968

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 This language of caste found its way into women’s liberation in part through the highly circulated analysis of Hayden and King, but also via Cell 16, a Boston-based group that formed in the Summer of 1968 and published the journal No More Fun And Games (1968-1973).    Roxanne Dunbar, a graduate student in history at UCLA, recalled “my closest friends were exiled South Africans, so I learned about apartheid and African liberation movements.”   Dunbar cites “the summer of 1967, spent in London with exiled South African revolutionaries” as the period that  “transformed [her] consciousness.”  Dunbar returned home, not to pick up her graduate studies, but to put the past to present use, in Boston “because it was there that the nineteenth century feminism movement and antislavery movement was centered, and where at the same time young factory girls has started the labor movement.”

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 In Slavery, a piece written for the first issue of No More Fun And Games (October 1968) Dunbar both analogized between race and sex, and differentiated these forces historically.

Many analogies can be drawn from the history of slavery and the present black liberation which are startling similar, but are not quite the same from the problem solving point of view.  African Slavery lasted only four centuries.  It is an historical problem, delineated by time.  Women have been enslaved universally and eternally.  … No More Fun and Games, Issue: 1, (October, 1968)

While Dunbar is often faulted for conflating women with white women and for creating a hierarchy of oppressions, she clearly indicates that sex and caste “are not quite the same.”  In a subsequent piece she made the distinction even more clearly.

“we can lean much about caste (the basis of the oppression of females) from the study of African slavery in America, because that is one extreme historical manifestation of caste, but we can not make direct analogies, or say which is bad” No More Fun and Games, Issue: 2, (February, 1969), 58

Dunbar’s analysis connected sex to race and class in her desire to overturn all oppressions, racism, sexism, and capitalism, just as her imagined history joined Lowell Mill girls, abolitionists, and suffragists in a singular moment of movement.

“until we structure society in such a way that each being with develop as a whole entity … until we desist in splitting the arc in two [male and female] we shall have some form of caste as odious as our contemporary racism and capitalism”

In Caste and Class Dunbar, who described herself as “daughter of a landless farmer and half-Indian mother,” and her co-author Vernon Grizzard laid out an extensive justification for the application of caste to women’s status, indicating how resistant they realized readers would be:

a caste system establishes a definite place into which certain members of a society have no choice but to fit (because of their race, sex, or other easily identifiable physical characteristics)

White women were aware that the language of caste was imperfect. Betsy Warrior, another member of Cell 16, wrote

“there is not class analysis, study of imperialism, colonialism, racism or cate systems that fully expose the concept of sexism” 

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 While the authors make clear that being a member of a race was not the same as being a member of a sex, they equated each of these memberships with a similar outcome,  caste status.   This very precise delineation of things that are alike but not the same was often lost, leading to an equation of racism and sexism rather than the carefully couched analogies of Dunbar or precisely noted parallels of Hayden and King.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Black women made the problems with analogizing between “women” and “black” quite clear by emphasizing that the outcomes of  belonging to a caste were not the same for all groups.    Writing in The Black Scholar in 1970,  Linda La Rue rejected the idea that white women and all blacks shared a “common oppression.”     Sexism and racism might results from a similar dynamic but the consequences of these systemic problems were not the same for all women.  La Rue asserted that

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 “any attempt to analogize black oppression with the plight of the American white woman has has the validity of comparing the neck of a hanging man with the hands of an amateur mountain climber with rope burns.”

Yet in the face of the  unrelenting argument from the Left, and that meant women aligned with the Left too, that a socialist revolution would overturn not only hierarchies of class, but those secondary oppressions, including sexism,  caste language continued to be used by white women as a way to position sexism as a form of oppressions.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0  

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 [2] 1971 http://www.disa.ukzn.ac.za/webpages/DC/mem19711200.032.009.748b/mem19711200.032.009.748b.pdf

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 [3] Stephen Ward

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 [4] http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/wlm/blkmanif/#double

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0  

[5] Voicheta Nachescu. Becoming the Feminist Subject. Consciousness-raising Groups in Second Wave Feminism

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0  

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 Dunbar, a graduate student in history, never alluded to the historical resonances of women as a caste, the description was used for example by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but these connections were teased out by Jo Freeman in Building The Gilded Cage]

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0  The progress of “out castes,” particularly those of the wrong race and sex, also have been parallel. The language of the Nineteenth Amendment was borrowed directly from that of the Fifteenth.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Again the parallels drawn lead to the temptation to equate the wrongs of race and sex.  Freeman carefully stressed “similarities” and “the common” aspects of sex and race, while carefully noting

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 the race analogy has been challenged many times on the grounds that women do not suffer from the same overt segregation as blacks. This point is well noted.


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