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WHY WOMEN'S LIBERATION? from Black Maria (1971)

(Editors Note: A statement from the Black Maria Collective on women's liberation. Black Maria was a literary magazine with roots in the CWLU)

  Over the last year we have heard many women express their opinions and doubts on the subject of women's liberation. These are some of the issues raised in rap groups, at speaking engagements, and overheard conversations among women. In our own group we have often struggled to find some of the answers. It's presumptuous to say the following are complete answers or that every woman would answer them in this way (in fact we were not able to come to a consensus on each question in our own group). Our hope is that the following discussions will provide a starting place for deeper thought.

Why do you need a movement? If you really want liberation you can get it.

The society has established standards which prevent individuals from fulfilling their potentials (i.e. a woman should get married and take care of children). A movement helps change the climate of social custom in order that women have the freedom to choose alternatives to the previously rigid customs. Only when large numbers of people demand a change to their oppression are they taken seriously, and after a while demands that seemed silly at first become thought of as perfectly acceptable; to reach this level of tolerance, women must discover their potential and begin to react against the forces obstructing them from their goals.

What does a liberated woman have that an unliberated woman doesn't have?

A sense of her own identity and the realization that her life is her own to control. She is not dependent on other people for her security -emotional and monetary -nor does she believe what social custom has determined is her nature. She rejects the idea of women's natural dependency and passivity as a myth, and is concerned with the fulfillment of her potential as a person.

I don't like women. I get along better with men.

This is one of the most common statements by women about women. And it is one of the first emotions to be totally transformed as a woman begins to question what society and men expect of her. Rap groups, small gatherings where women meet to talk about their lives and feelings, often help us to understand how much we really have in common, what and who all of us are up against. In the long run, we have realized there is nowhere to turn but to each other. Hundreds, thousands of women are finding strength, a real feeling of sisterhood by uniting with other women. We are rediscovering ourselves.

Doesn't women's liberation discriminate against men (or... aren't you being unfair-more strongly stated-aren't you a man hater)?

It seems when the issues of equal jobs and equal pay are discussed this issue is raised. Women are not asking for "token" jobs and pay which another person is better qualified to receive. They are struggling to inch their way into those skills, professions and academic endeavors which they have the aptitude, strength and interest to succeed in. Women are not saying these are rights due only to them but human rights belonging to all. They have a history of struggling against discrimination, not of promoting it.

Aside from the struggle for a decent job and pay commensurate to the work exchanged women are often forced (emotionally and physically) to perform an additional multitude of chores and responsibilities; supervising children, washing clothes and dishes, cooking.... All this takes place after a work day which is as grinding and tiring as any males. This not only exhausts her but tends to shackle her time, keeping her from more stimulating endeavors.

Do mothers in the Women's Liberation Movement neglect their children?

I think that women who are working for equality and who are finding their own lives freer can give more to their children. Many women who are feeling the frustrations and loneliness of being a housewife take it out on the children by being bitchy and overly demanding. It is also a freeing thing for children who now have a mother who can really relate to them, instead of one who is caught up in the game playing that goes on in so many families.

Does wanting to be pretty mean you're a cop-out?

No. A movement should make it possible for women to find support for working towards the realization of important goals, it should not restrict or dictate "correct" ways of dressing or acting or thinking. There is room among people who agree on some points to be different: ways of dressing are not intrinsic to the question of women's freedom as concerns her inner needs. The reaction against a "pretty" looking woman assumes that she is looking that way for the purpose of attracting someone to her, whereas she may only be living up to her own standards of being comfortable.

Don't most women who join women's liberation do so because they're ugly?

The women's movement encourages us to take off our masks, to look honestly at our lives, to take risks, to speak freely about our needs and desires, to offer friendship, affection, and understanding to other women, to struggle for the right of all women, all people, to choose what they will become. Ugliness is not physical.---it is anything social, political, or psychological which limits or denies full human development (beauty).

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