Socialist Feminist Conference Summer 1975 (1975)
(Editors Note: This is an announcement for the Socialist Feminist Conference that was held in Yellow Springs OH in July 1975. The Conference raised hopes that socialist feminism would grow and prosper.)
We believe that the time is right for a national conference on socialist feminism. Gains made in the past decade have held out to American women the promise of real improvements in their lives, in increased job opportunities, more effective anti-discrimination laws and a dawning cultural awareness of the nature of sexism. In 1974, we saw more labor militancy among unorganized workers than in decades, with women often providing leadership as well as forming the majority of the rank and file. In the face of these rising expectations, women have been particularly hard hit by soaring unemployment and the continuing economic crisis. In addition, recent highly organized attempts to stop passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and outlaw abortion seem to symbolize a dangerous opposition to the goals of the women's movement. FBI harassment of lesbian and feminist activists in the past year make it clear to us that a unified women's movement, with a socialist feminist analysis of patriarchal oppression, is essential.
The strengths of the women's movement are clear. As one of the most powerful forces for social change in this country today, we grow by leaps and bounds. More women identify as feminists and are organizing as such on their jobs and in their communities. In moving beyond individual solutions, feminists are creating new cooperative lifestyles and a women's culture which can challenge capitalism at its roots. The rise of feminist consciousness and the need to gain rights for women who work led to the formation of the Coalition of Labor Union Women by segments of the labor movement. Groups like the Third World Women's Alliance, the National Black Feminist Organization and the Black Women's United Front have more recently affirmed the importance of building a broad based women's movement.
While our numbers swell, our practice has yet to reach out to these emerging forces of women. We have yet to effectively integrate our understanding of the common oppressions of race, class, sex and lesbianism with our daily practice. If our movement is to realize its potential, it is time to organize for power. We need to turn our analysis to action, choose priorities for our struggle and come together to win.
Across the country women are discussing these issues. Many are building socialist feminist unions, study groups and organizing collectives. In fusing and building on the politics of both feminism and socialism, we are developing theories which make sense, and strategies which are effective. We want to nurture this collective process. That's why we're organizing this conference.
WHO IS ORGANIZING THE CONFERENCE?
The conference is being organized by a planning committee, supported by and made up of representatives from the following socialist feminist unions and collectives: Berkeley/Oakland Women's Union, Boston Area Socialist Feminist Organization, Chicago Women's Liberation Union, Lexington Socialist Feminist Union, New American Movement Women's Caucus (represented by the C.P. Gilman Chapter of Durham, NC, and the Dayton Socialist Feminist Group), New York City Women's Union, Radical Women (Seattle), Twin Cities Women's Union (Minneapolis/St. Paul), and Valley Women's Union (Northampton, MA). As fairly large, experienced women's organizations, these groups have been meeting since November, 1974, to plan and organize the conference collectively. It is scheduled for July 4, 5 and 6 at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CONFERENCE?
The conference will facilitate communication among the growing numbers of socialist feminist and activist women and seriously examine major questions of theory, strategy and practice. With a variety of practice, the women's movement has yet to develop long range strategies for building a mass revolutionary movement which offers realizable alternatives to capitalism. We believe that socialist feminists with a developing analysis and a history of activism are cutting new strategic directions within the women's movement and the left. The conference will be a place to share our organizing experiences, broaden our perspectives and assert socialist feminism as a strategy for revolution.
We see it as a working conference, which can help socialist feminists join with other activist women to spur the women's movement on in realizing its potential. We don't believe that the time is right for setting up any kind of national organization, although we do want to develop regional and national communication networks. Neither is the conference planned as an introductory debate on the merits of either feminism or socialism.
In order to provide a beginning point for discussion, the planning committee has agreed on three principles of unity for the conference which follow:
1. We recognize the need for and support the existence of the autonomous women's movement throughout the revolutionary process;
11. We agree that all oppression, whether based on race, class, sex or lesbianism, is inter-related and the fights for liberation from oppression must be simultaneous and cooperative; and
Ill. We agree that socialist feminism is a strategy for revolution.
WHO IS THE CONFERENCE FOR?
The conference is open to any woman who is in general sympathy with the three points of unity and the goals of socialist feminism. Women who are actively working on issues of concern to women in their communities, at their work places, in alternative institutions or in feminist and non-sectarian left organizations are especially encouraged to attend. We expect 600 -800 women to attend.
HOW IS THE CONFERENCE ORGANIZED?
The projected format for the conference is designed to provide equal time on theory, strategy and practice, while recognizing that it is unproductive to discuss one without relating it to the others. The planning committee has made special efforts to plan a humane schedule and an environment to reflect women's culture. Music, dance, drama, art and films will accompany political presentations and discussions. Large meetings of the whole have been minimized and interspersed with extended workshop times and small group discussions.
Most of the collective work of the weekend will go on in strategic workshops. We have planned these around the three primary areas in which activist women have been organizing and applying strategies: 1. Work Place Organizing; 11. Community Organizing; and 111. Building a Socialist Feminist Movement. After an initial session, each of these will be subdivided into four or five smaller groups which will then meet three more times during the conference. In this way each conference participant will have the opportunity to meet with the same group of women throughout the weekend, developing strategies for organizing.
We need diversity as well as intensive work. For this reason we've planned for numerous small workshops which will offer time to share skills, exchange information and ideas, and provide practical examples of various organizing techniques. Topics for small workshops will include: Art and Revolution, Feminist Therapy, Women and Radio, Wages for Housework, Health Advocacy, and others.
We on the planning committee believe that this conference is going to be one of the most exciting, creative an productive feminist gatherings held in years. We've got major questions to discuss, programmatic successes an failures to share, songs to sing, fun to have, plays to watch and skills to learn. That's why we've planned this conference. Come share with us, celebrate our victories and plan with us for a better tomorrow. Come to the conference!