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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 21, September 6, 1976.


Three art students from the Women in Society course at Victoria University last year combined to carry out the research which this article is based on.[1] It is an introductory survey only, which we hope will provide the starting point for much more detailed investigations into the women's movement in New Zealand. We feel that this area is a very important oen as there tends to be much confusion as to exactly what the women's movement is; what are its aspirations, and exactly to what extent can it be called a united movement. We believe that in order for any movement to be effective it must constantly question its direction, and also examine the extent to unity there is within it.

With these questions in mind, we decided to direct our research to discover firstly, who were the effective, power holders within the women's movement? What was the class position of these leaders Who were they trying to influence and why?

Secondly we wanted to find out to what extend a radical feminist (as opposed to purely pro-women) [2] consciousness existed amongst its members.

In line with these aims we included in our study only organisations set up primarily by women with our explicit concern for female roles and status.

It is important to stress that we did not only look at feminist women's groups, but also at other groups whose orientation was towards helping women, though not with feminist aims in mind. Within those which qualified we chose seventeen (national bodies, were possible) but a few locally-based groups as well [4]. We then attempted to divide them into three categories - conservative, liberal and radical. Conservative groups we defined as those who saw their primary functions being to help women cope with home and family life, and to carry out voluntary welfare work. Liberal groups were those whose efforts were concentrated on reformist activities which they believed were able to be realised in society as it is now. Radical groups we defined as those who had either socialist/feminist aims. i.e. those who believe that women's liberation is an important part of a socialist revolution, and that one cannot occur without the other. Also there were the purely feminist radical groups who saw that the patriarchal nature of our society was the main enemy - i.e. men were the main problem, and that patriarchy needs to be overthrown before true women's liberation can be achieved.

Our views, at the time of writing, were that feminism must be radical in order to work for major changes in traditional female stereotyping, in order to bring about the equal opportunity and participation of women in every area of life More specifically that this must involve such things as women's self control over their reproductive system (though there was disagreement that this should include abortion), the availability of comprehensive child care facilities, the breakdown of the current sexual division of labour [5], and significant modifications to the isolated nuclear family unit of today. We also believed that the vision the radical feminist must reject capitalism itself for the true liberation of all women involves much more than their equal participation with men in an economic system which would continue to oppress them. Even though we obviously had our own interpretation of what the women's movement ought to be, we at tempted to be as objective as possible in asking our questions of the various women's groups

Drawing of a woman in an apron reading a news paper