Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 8. 19th April 1973
Directions for Feminism: Revolution in the Head not the Street
Directions for Feminism: Revolution in the Head not the Street
What woman would not welcome a five minute menstruation period! For many feminists in the United States this is a reality. With a blood sucking gadget the fluid can be removed in a few minutes. A secondary characteristic is that the device can bring on a miscarriage. Some of the American National Organisation for Women (Now) groups have their own clinics where women can test themselves for pregnancy and where this device is available for abortion.
Wellington feminist, Alison Laurie, who has recently returned from overseas, revealed this and other fresh information to the Victoria University Feminist Organisation when she was guest speaker at its AGM last week Alison has spent the last nine years studying feminist and gay liberation groups in Scandanavia and the United States.
Denmark not so Permissive
Gay and feminist legislation in these countries's not always as liberal as it might seem, but it at least is far in advance of New Zealand and the groups have made some important innovations.
A woman applying for abortion in Denmark will be housed in a mother care centre in the country and her case summed up. Unless it is proved the pregnancy will he psychologically or physically harmful to the mother to be, an abortion is not granted. But at least the stale covers the Cost of housing and providing for the woman throughout her term.
Marriage laws in Denmark are being reviewed with the possibility of including a marriage contract between members of the same sex and between groups of people. In both Denmark and Germany a couple may choose whether it wants to take the man's or the woman's surname or invent a new one.
Alimony in Denmark is rare and the support of children in a divorce is shared equally where economically possible. The notion of calling a child illegitimate just because the child's father could not be identified is ridiculous. A child is legitimate as long as it knows its mother, Alison Laurie argued, "The question of illegitimacy could only arise in a patriarchal society". In this respect Denmark is similar to New Zealand, where attitudes have been influenced by the initial setting of middle class English immigrants, with their fixed roles.
Methods being used in the Stales to squash this role thing include private radio stations running both feminist and gay programmes. If includes universities running women's studies and gay liberation courses which count as full majors. There is a stress on the sharing of the bread winning/household duties. Five couples, that is, ten people might share five jobs between them so that activities and responsibilities could be rotated. It is also interesting to note that in the husband and wife relationship, the wife works for two weeks then the husband works for two weeks so that caring for the house and working are shared.
Feminist bookshops and centres are a feature of many cities in the States and in Denmark. These places provide room for meetings, workshops, creches, bars, cafeterias and a crashpad for women with nowhere to stay. An interesting feature of overseas feminists is the YWCA. It is fully involved in the Women's Liberation Movement and has the amenities to provide a wide range of services for women.
Exclusion of Men
Speaking about university women's liberation groups Alison Laurie said that as long as they continued to hold their meetings in the university buildings, they would be handicapped. At present, for example, there is one factory worker and no Maoris, Polynesians or Asians belonging to the VUW group. This is a problem common to most women's liberation groups. The solution to this problem of course is to have a Women's Liberation House where women from all walks of life can meet.
Another common problem is the decision to include or exclude men at meetings. Alison is definitely against including men because she thinks many women become reticent in front of men and address their comments to the men in the room as if asking for approval. Besides, men often become committee members and it is not desirable to have men liberating women. In Denmark there is a men's liberation group working separately.
"Gays" and "Straights"
Alison placed emphasis on the relationship between the gay liberation movement and women's liberation. She contended that both these groups often fail when they become concerned with side issues only. For instance when the suffragettes achieved the vote their movement folded, yet it was only one facet of the whole.
Friction often arises in the gay groups between the men and the women because the lesbians found themselves helping the men push for acceptance in the society where women still had additional problems. Because of this many lesbians have found they are more closely allied with women's lib. than gay lib. However, even these two groups, women's lib and lesbians lack awareness of the opposite movements. So called "straight" women are either afraid that lesbians will make a pass at them, or if the lesbians do not, then the women feel unattractive. Either way the lesbians are turned into sex objects.
Dishwashing or Marching?
The first thing in women's liberation is a revolution in one's head, not in the street. Secondly, the movement needs to relate to gay lib, to other racial groups and to the working class woman and housewife. The important thing Alison stressed is that a woman should relate first to herself and then to her sisters. A meeting of women discussing dishwashing was more important than marching for a big political label which promised things. Before joining any movement which professed feminist sympathies, Alison said she would check to see the group acted out what it professed. So often they consist of men in the lead positions with women supporting the men, doing things that they think are important.
An ideal society, according to Alison Laurie, is one which does not define people because of their genital organs, into roles or labels of any kind. In her ideal society, people would love one another as people, regardless of sex, colour or religion. Alison sees people living together in any number and any mixture or concentration of sexes. Society should allow a person to act as a human without being labelled. There should be no status derived from what a person is: "People would not force their own trip onto others".
By Daphne Brasell