Tag Archives: feminism

August 26, 1970 and the birth of U.S. feminism

August 26 1970

The women’s movement of the 1970s has taken quite a beating by people who draw their history from media & others who want to vilify feminism. Feminism erupted in the late 1960s from every niche of society; women from the Civil Rights Movement, from religious groups, students, working women, Black & Latino women, lesbians. Betty Friedan is attributed with starting the movement with her book “The Feminine Mystique” but many activists had never read her boring book which dealt with white middle class, well-educated women. Feminism was a much broader & deeper social rebellion than her book envisioned.

The movement is misrepresented as white & middle-class, racist, lesbians & spinsters, blue-nosed. That’s not history; that’s how media always portrayed the movement to deter women from identifying with feminism–which is a volatile force for social transformation. Media depiction of feminism is a punk caricature & regrettably the slanders have not been sufficiently countered by feminists of that era.

Feminism & the Vietnam War were my first political awakenings & both began to matter to me when I was a novice in a convent in the early 1960s. My brother was a soldier in the war & I was not allowed to read about it. Here I was a student of history & not allowed to be part of my own times. What rankled me most was the unequal treatment of men & women in the Catholic Church. While we were kept encaged & infantalized, the priests were out gallivanting without the constant supervision we were subjected to. So I made my break & within a year was involved in the antiwar movement. There was no women’s movement yet so I read Catholic writers who identified with the new ideas of feminism; I’d actually never heard of Betty Friedan. When the women’s movement began to emerge, I headed for New York City to be part of it.

I arrived in time to build the first women’s liberation march of August 26, 1970. The demands of that march were: Equal pay; childcare; abortion rights & no forced sterilization. No forced sterilization was essential to distinguish feminism from the eugenics groups who wanted abortion rights for license to control the population of black & brown women. It was a major issue for Black, Latino, & Native American women who were routinely sterilized without their knowledge or consent. At the time, it was reported 30% of the women of Puerto Rico were force sterilized. It remains a problem in population control programs.

It was my personal & political history & I am writing a series of essays to correct the historical record about this magnificent movement which was only on the stage of history briefly before it was derailed into the Democratic Party.

I certainly wasn’t the star of the show but I played a small part by organizing the publicity for the march. One of our jobs was to go out every night with march posters & plastering brushes hidden in pizza boxes to wallpaper the city. We got hauled in by the cops a couple times; we got arrested postering the Playboy Club in Manhattan.

I accidentally came across this audio thingamajig on the internet of me giving a report on the plastering & answering an interviewer. You can see I was still fumbling my way through an understanding of women’s oppression. I’m not a boastful soul but am very proud of my participation in the women’s movement & met some wonderful women. I continued activism primarily around abortion rights on the campus of NYU where I worked as a secretary.

Photo is August 26 1970 Women’s March for Equality down Fifth Avenue in NYC on the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in the US Bill of Rights which gave women the right to vote.

(Photo by John Olsen)



US-NATO war in Afghanistan a war of plunder not women’s liberation

US-Nato forces are on a righteous crusade to rout Islamic misogyny out of Afghanistan by using one fleet to bomb the hell out of the country & another fleet to fly the opium out for processing & distribution. If you see no reason why women’s rights requires drug peddling or mass murder, or how the marines got all mixed up in feminism, you’re not alone & have put your finger on the despicable irrationalities of war propaganda.

Reports coming out of the Pentagon itself expose horrific statistics on rape & sexual assault in the US military beginning in basic training & military academies. Estimates vary between 26,000 to 45,000 on the number of men & women assaulted every year. According to a 2011 Newsweek magazine report (admittedly not the most reliable source), women are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier or officer than killed in combat.

Now the US Department of Education has released a report that one in five women college students will be sexually assaulted on campus, including at the most prestigious universities in the country.

Will US-NATO forces start bombing universities then or even turn their drones on the Pentagon? Will we hear denunciations of Christian theology which likely dominates most of those schools & certainly the Pentagon? Will they send in the marines to free women from the clutches of such ignominy? Or have we had just enough of this crap?

It’s time for a regeneration of feminism–not one that sucks up to politicians but that is independent & political & hopefully shows up fully clothed so that racism & grandstanding for media do not replace political message. (And yes, I’m taking a jab at FEMEN & Slut Walks!)

US out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq!

(Photo of Afghan women from aljazeera)