The most radical feminism
Radical feminism was a comparatively new arrival in Australia and many women in the Women's Liberation Movement were not radical feminists - they were just women liberationists. But radical feminist ideology quickly became dominant. At the same time, the movement moved away from directly political activity. The idea of вЂ‹вЂ‹self help projects - halfway houses, rape crisis centres and so on - inspired many women who wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of helping those poor women out there.
With the ALP re-elected (for presumably 3 years) in May 1974, and then IWY in 1975, government grants helped realise many feminist dreams. Projects of all sorts nourished: novels, non-sexist children's school books, historical research, women's refuges and health centres. Nobody was too worried about theory when things seemed to be working out so well in practice.
Suddenly, November 11, 1975 and the world would never look the same again. For the first time, many women's liberationists realised that the political situation had to be dealt with, and the WLM couldn't do it on its own.
The political scene darkened during 1976. IWY was over and many grants dried up. Fraser made cuts in many areas affecting women and the women's movement. At the same time problems began to surface in the halfway houses and health centres. Rosters broke down, personal conflicts broke up collective projects, and government funding was questioned.
Today the WLM has entered a slump. And although there has been some re-evaluation, the tragedy has been the continued dominance of radical feminism.
A glance at Women's Liberation publications over the past year shows how widespread is the malaise. Vashti's Voice thinks that В«the WLM has arrived at an impasse in activity and interest В»and thatВ« there has been a drought period this year in political discussion and thinking around directions for the WLM В». Anne Summers, a Sydney WL activist, comments after looking at the state of the movement around Australia, that В«many activists are disillusioned and self critical.В»
The problem is not lack of activity in itself. For those who want it, there is endless activity in staffing 24 women's refuges. 3 working women's centres, 5 rape crisis centres and at least 6 women's health centres around the country. Quite aside from at least 14 newspapers and magazines, and many other projects.
WL activists seem to think that where these projects fall down is on politicisation. Women use services, but don't understand the ideas behind a rape crisis centre or a women's refuge. For instance, in the Melbourne Women's Centre, В«there were women seeking abortions and crisis accommodation, but there wasn't one call to find out what WL is on about ... We are not winning women on politics. В»
The general feeling is that the WLM has been co-opted by concentrating on reforms and band-aids.
And yet no one wants to admit that those who criticised self-help strategies when they were first starting off were right. Radical feminists argue now that although self - help didn't work out as a strategy it wasn't a mistake.
In other words, to be a real women's liberationist these days, you've got to be more feminist than ever before. Instead of reforms, you've got to В«further revolutionary goals. В»
Behind all this rhetoric is the social reality, the change that has occurred in Australian society in the last few years. Party due to the efforts of the WLM itself, WL ideas have become very widely accepted. Not by everybody of course, but they are no longer outside the mainstream of society, spurned by all В«descent peopleВ» as extremes.
Anne Summers describes the widespread influences at government level, in the churches, and in the conservative organizations such as the NCC. Women in unions, professional organizations, political parties, the media, and in the suburbs are organising themselves.
The change hasn't just been at the top level. Women in all walks of life have been affected, and the majority of ordinary women, in my opinion no longer laugh at WL ideas but take them seriously.
Of course, few accept the ideology behind WL demands, but there is no doubt that there has been a change in attitude to women as a social group. The society we are dealing with today is not the same as when the WLM just began.
Radical feminists usually recognize this.
Of course it is true that the new general awareness is not revolutionary (whether 'Feminist' or socialist). But what the radical feminists don't realise is the opportunities the penetration of WL ideas provides. Instead of going out into the real world and trying to build on this base, they retreat into vague theorising. The doo...