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

Aims/Activities and Attitudes

Aims/Activities and Attitudes

Drawing of a venus symbol chained to a ball

Within this limited framework, there is nevertheless considerable diversity of outlook amongst the groups we interviewed. Seven of the seventeen, and all the largest, have openly conservative aims. Their primary functions are to help women cope with home and family life, [9] and to carry out voluntary welfare work.[10]. In no way do they threaten current norms and values, since their activities stem from the view that women are mothers by nature and the health of society depends on the strength of the family unit. Some admit to being 'madly anti-lib." [11] and all, in fact are working to preserve traditional female roles, their efforts can only damage the feminist cause.

Another seven groups came under our liberal classification.

Many are completely issue-oriented, without any long-term goals around which to organise their activities. The specific call for the suffrage diverted female discontent in the 19th century and prevented the development of a generalised feminist ideology. In the same way today, exclusive concentration on equal pay, abortion law reform or the politisation of women is masking the need for an all-embracing change in structures and attitudes to facilitate the total liberation of women.

Lacking an overall theoretical framework liberal groups adopt short-term solutions to women's problems too, without considering their full implications. The widespread support initially given the proposed housewives' wage is one notable example. Only now is there growing realisation that its main effect would be to reinforce women's role in the home, diverting attention from needs like childcare. Such vacillation completely undermines the development of a united womanhood held together by a central ideology.

The inconsistency between the aims and activities of the groups acts as a further impediment to the feminist cause. Most glaring perhaps is the contradiction between their theoretical stand for equality of the sexes on the one hand and their practical support for the family unit in its present form on the other [12].

Attempts to extend women's position in society without challenging the basic structures of her oppression can only fail. Women may win a few concessions, but they will still be seen primarily as woves and mothers and all other activities as secondary to that role.

3 groups only remain to fulfil most of our criteria for radical feminism, the three with the smallest memberships. [13]. Unlike the [unclear: conservative] and liberal organisations, they see the true liberation of women as impossible under capitalist society.

W.F. and She, however, emphasize the patriarchal nature of capitalism, defining men as the primary enemy and problem to be overcome. In line with this, She at least is working for a "woman-created, woman-defined, woman-dominated society" as the alternative.

W.W.A., on the other hand, emphasises (more correctly we believe) the economic foundation of capitalism which exploits both men and women, as well as the sexist discrimination which occurs at all levels. Raising women's consciousness and fighting for equality remain important objectives of the group. But since society itself, and not man, is the root of women's oppression, their long-term vision is socialism rather than matriarchy.

Both groups find it difficult to translate their ideals into effective radical activity. They are forced to operate within a system which they oppose, and thus realistically support reform measures introduced by liberal groups. But the tension "between desiring short term practical changes and having an overall long-term ideology" [14] is not easily resolved.