¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Gail Paradise Kelly, a graduate student in the education department at Wisconsin, later professor at SUNY Buffalo, argued that the reason women in the old left had no consciousness of their oppression is that they conceived of revolution only in institutional forms.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Kelly positions the women’s groups of the “old left” the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom and Women Strike for Peace not as proto-women’s liberation organizations, as Amy Swerdlow tried to do years later, but as conservative women’s groups. Tellingly her evidence of lack of consciousness among these groups rests of the identification of those women as “mothers and housewives.” Asking for peace so that “children will have a chance to survive” seems so obviously not a consciousness of one’s own oppression that Kelly doesn’t bother to defend it any further.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Kelly argues that the “influx” into the Left that ultimately gave rise to the New Left came precisely because people ”were upset about their own oppression.” Students, in particular, became the vanguard of the revolution around the corner. Kelly, rejecting the notion that the counterculture would lead to “Leary’s apolitical syndrome of drugs and withdrawal,” argues instead that the position “if one lived the revolution, the revolution would come” represented “a very political and revolutionary step for the left” because she equates the “life style revolution” (a normally contempt-filled synonym for the counterculture) with “cultural revolution.” The hallmark of the cultural revolution is, for Kelly, that recognition of individual oppression, rather than the distanced analysis of the “system” of capitalism, or the military industrial complex, or whatever.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Kelly notes also the precedence of “the militant black movement” as justification for the autonomous women’s liberation movement: “if it was necessary for blacks to deal with their problems separately, then it was not only legitimate but mandatory for women to do the same.” However, Kelly cautions against believing an “individual can be free in the midst of oppression” and instead insists that “radical women in women’s liberation do have a problem translating our changes in lifestyles into changes in institutions and in capitalism.”
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Kelly fears that radical women will “get caught up in our own sub-culture and, as a result, delude ourselves into thinking that change in the way we live is going to drastically affect anyone else.” She insists that “the problems of others more oppressed in reality than ourselves” must be met by moving “beyond our subculture to organizing and speaking.” Women’s liberation, as part of the cultural revolution to come “can serve as a means for revolution only if we go beyond developing a consciousness of individual oppression.” This notion of women’s liberation as a subculture leads to some strikingly familiar fears. Kelly views with ambivalence, women’s liberation a subculture from which revolution will be made, and as a potential trap in which revolution will be stymied.