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The Freedom Movement As A Learning Process: Rediscovering the Family Wage--not "the Family"--as the Problem and the "Social Wage" as an Important Step toward the Solution
--Marisa Figueiredo

It has taken years--helped by the consciousness-raising and study of feminist history we've done in Redstockings and collaborating groups--for me to realize what is confusing, weak, contradictory, anti-feminist or anti-woman, incomplete, or even missing altogether, in so many of both socialist feminist and radical feminist abstract theories about “the family” as the root of women’s oppression or an institution oppressive to women.  It has been true of the Women’s Liberation Movement, too, at least in the United States, that it has taken perhaps tragically long to understand better what  about “the family” is worth keeping for women and what really has been and continues to be systematized against women and should be thrown out or overthrown.       

In recent decades, through consciousness-raising and research, Redstockings has focused on strategy  in the U.S. for winning what we’ve come to see as such needed springboards for women’s liberation as, not only equal pay and universal, publicly supported childcare, but universal health insurance and a shorter work week.  In doing this, the backwardness of our feminist movement in overlooking the strong women’s liberation component of some of these issues has become as apparent as the backwardness of the U.S. itself in achieving gains in all these areas.

In this panel, I will walk us through Redstockings’s own learning process on these issues, as well as what Redstockings have gleaned about the history in this area of the U.S. feminist movement as a whole. I will touch on the thinking—emerging from both consciousness-raising and international comparisons research-- behind our strategy of emphasizing the “Myth of America” as a major obstacle to progress in these areas.  And I will share what we have learned from feminists in other countries about the continuing existence, particularly in the U.S., of a “family wage system” (so much more specific than the abstract spouting about “the family”) that we like to explain as: the male breadwinner’s higher pay system!   That unequal pay for the sexes has been part of a whole wage system very different from the individual wage system we thought existed holds big implications for feminist strategy.  For instance, the higher pay for men, in principle, was supposed to include enough to cover the costs of women’s labor in childbirth and child care.  So throwing out the family wage, with its male supremacist principle of unequal pay, while preserving the just principle of employer compensation for costs of family care, would require a different way of paying for raising new generations of the workforce.  In the new system of equal pay and equal jobs for both sexes, there has to be another plan for supplementing individual wages with the “extra” for the family that the male breadwinner’s wage was supposed to represent.

To illustrate putting theory to activist use, I will share what we have learned about the universal “social wage” principle --and programs--that feminist and labor movements abroad won important strides toward, through struggles of all kinds, including the “birth strike.”


 The 1960s Speak to the 1990s, 2000s, and Beyond: the Gainesville, Florida Women’s Liberation Class
 --Carol Giardina

“Women only;” “free childcare provided;” “consciousness-raising;” “male chauvinism”! Using these phrases, in March 1991, Gainesville Women’s Liberation (GWL), the first women’s liberation group in the south (August 1968), announced the opening of a class: “Women’s Liberation: Where do I Fit In?” The group had first offered the class in 1969.   “This class,” the 1991 flyers for it proudly declared, will “teach the radical ideas and methods that sparked the rebirth of the feminist movement,”  “… basic truths about the oppressive conditions of women and how a radical feminist movement was organized to change these conditions.” 

GWL’s goal was for women to learn from the errors and victories of the movement’s rebirth years to “build now, the kind of movement that can put the male chauvinist establishment on the run again.” The class includes, “the burial of the truths” of the origins of women’s liberation, “consciousness-raising toward a zap action,” and “radical feminist theory.” Participants read original sources from women’s liberation’s rebirth years provided by the Redstockings Women’s Liberation Archives for Action.  Classes conclude by participants planning and carrying out an action based on what they have learned. 

Classes have been offered continuously in Gainesville since 1991. The class helped build National Women’s Liberation and its precursors, the groups whose militancy and organizing for over the counter access to the morning after pill for women of all ages spearheaded the recent court victory. In 1999 Redstockings presented the GWL class in New York City where it is also offered on a continual basis.

Redstockings Carol Giardina, who cofounded GWL in 1968 with Judith Brown and came up with the 1991 class, will discuss the class as it brings out the ongoing relevance of concepts from early WLM such as “the personal is political,” the “pro-woman line” and “consciousness-raising,” and “speak-outs.”

Consciousness-Raising and History for Women's Liberation Organizing and Activism
-- Kathie Sarachild

"We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience, as the basis for an analysis of our common situation," proclaimed the Redstockings Manifesto in 1969, asserting the primacy in our program of the then-highly contested “consciousness-raising organizing" strategy for developing and spreading radical feminist theory and building a collective power base of women.  “We question every generalization and accept none that are not confirmed by our experience,” the Manifesto went on.  “Consciousness-raising is not 'therapy,' which implies the existence of individual solutions and falsely assumes that the male-female relationship is purely personal, but the only method by which we can ensure that our program for liberation is based on the concrete realities of our lives.”

The Manifesto said little about history --never actually using the term.  In its opening and closing there are germs of women's liberation history, with nods to women’s “centuries of individual and preliminary political struggle,” But that's about it.

So what happened to inspire in us such an acute new interest in at least a certain kind of history, history for a more practical kind of purpose than previously conceived?  Lots of things, among them the jolting swing from amazingly rapid successes in some areas of the movement, including the prairie fire spread of the radical women's liberation groups, to the experience of just as startling reverses, for instance, the rapid undermining of the radicalism of so many of the pioneering groups and often their disintegration at the very height of their impact and success. The kernel of this example, though, and of  everything else that happened for a reorganized Redstockings to add "history for activist use" to “consciousness-raising” as a tenet of our program, is that we and millions of other women, as a result of our participation in the feminist uprising, and in some cases, efforts to plan and guide the uprising, for the first time had liberation movement experience to try to understand, not just individual, personal experience.

The result, for those of us bent on carrying on Redstockings, was a liberating demystification of history, what we came to see as a radicalization of our view of history.   History became simply experience, not a source of prestige dictating to us, but  a rich vein of experience to draw from, when and where it seemed useful, according to the light of  present day experience and the present day, collective interests of human females.  These were essentially the same criteria with which consciousness-raising attempted to reach effective conclusions.

This talk will  explore some ingredients and results of combining consciousness-raising with history and other research for activist use, with a particular focus on how groups have combined these to address the long-burning questions in feminist—and all radical organizations --of leadership and organizing structure.

 Speakouts, Sit-Ins and Flashmobs: Winning the Morning-After-Pill Over-the-Counter for all Women Based on Radical Feminist Lessons Old and New
 --Annie Tummino

On April 5th, 2013, a federal judge ruled in Tummino v. Hamburg that the Morning-After Pill be made available "without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within thirty days."
Less well known is the bold ten year campaign waged by the lawsuit’s nine female plaintiffs. Using original sources from the Redstockings Women’s Liberation Archives for Action, these women put history to activist use. All are members of National Women's Liberation (NWL), a group with roots in 1960s women’s liberation.  
The principle "women are the real experts on our own lives" from Redstockings 1969 disruption of a New York State legislative hearing on abortion law reform, guided their testimony at Food and Drug Administration hearings about needing immediate access to this pill. Based on the first public speak-out for abortion organized in 1969 by Redstockings, NWL held street corner speak-outs and recalled their experiences of unprotected sex. To go the root of the problem, they did consciousness-raising using radical feminist Kathie Sarachild’s 1968 Program for Feminist Consciousness-raising. The young NWL plaintiffs stuck uncompromisingly to fighting for NO restrictions, refusing to be divided based on age. This strategy drew on the radical feminist slogan “go for what you really want.”
Annie Tummino, lead plaintiff, will explain NWL’s application of the Redstockings principle of “history for activist use” in the MAP campaign.


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