Re-membering the Revolution by Xochitl Alvizo


This post includes information about a conference scheduled for next spring at Boston University: A Revolutionary Moment: Women’s Liberation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Call for Papers is due July 1st – just two days away!

I remember how Mary Daly used to ask me where the feminists were – what were they up to today? I would try to update her on the things I was aware of here in Boston, events at the Women’s Center in Cambridge, conferences by Women, Action, and the Media, the latest publication of Rain and Thunder: A Radical Feminist Journal of Activism and Discussion, and the myriad of things happening within feminist theology with which I was most familiar. Nonetheless, Mary was never satisfied with my responses, “Where is the revolution?” she would ask. At the time, I didn’t quite understand her disappointment. I could tell she wanted me to update her on something big – she wanted to hear of sweeping changes, lots of them. I often thought that the changes were already there, that big things had taken place and were incorporated into the daily life of society. I was always vexed that I couldn’t give her the answer she was looking for – but also, I didn’t know exactly what she was looking for. Then one day she asked me to find her a book that was on one of her shelves – she didn’t know which shelf – so I went searching, and in that search I discovered a world that gave me a glimpse of the revolution Mary wanted and I understood a little bit more  why Mary was dissatisfied with feminism today.

RainandthunderOn the shelves I found journals galore – magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and all kinds of publications that evidenced a mass grassroots movement. Political, spiritual, literary, artistic, academic – you name it and there was a publication about it from the standpoint of women’s liberation. The titles speak for themselves and tell part of the story of Mary’s experience of feminism. Few of these titles are still in publication today, but below is the list, representing only the titles that were on Mary’s shelves. Read them out loud and remember them…

  • MAENAD: a women’s literary journal
  • A Journal of Female Liberation
  • SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
  • QUEST: a feminist quarterly
  • SINISTER WISDOM: A Journal of Words and Pictures for the Lesbian Imagination in All Women
  • Common Lives/Lesbian Lives: a lesbian quarterly
  • AMAZON QUARTERLY
  • Conditions: a magazine of writing by women with an emphasis on writing by lesbians
  • The Lesbian Insighter Insider Inciter
  • SOJOURNER: The New England Women’s Journal of News, Opinions, and the Arts
  • off our backs: a women’s news journal
  • FEMINIST REVOLUTION, published by Redstockings
  • FRONTIERS: a journal of women studies
  • Chrysalis: a magazine of women’s culture
  • HERESIES: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics
  • the second wave: a magazine of the new feminism
  • WomanSpirit
  • Country Women Magazine
  • Woman of Power: a magazine of feminism, spirituality, and politics
  • Women’s Liberation: Major Writings of the Radical Feminists

The Women’s Liberation Movement was clearly a revolutionary time. As recently described in the New York Times’ article following Shulamith Firestone’s death: “the radical edge of the movement profoundly changed American society…”

At the time, women held almost no major elected positions, nearly every prestigious profession was a male preserve, homemaking was women’s highest calling, abortion was virtually illegal, and rape was a stigma to be borne in silence.

The women’s movement exploded with grassroots organizing and action that resulted in very material differences for all, especially for the women, and the few men, who were directly involved. This is the answer Mary had been wanting from me – to hear that women, and ‘men if there are any’ (as she said on occasion), were actively effecting material change for human liberation; change that sparked new life and new creations in people’s lives, in culture, and in society.

revolutioMary was not the only one remembering the revolution though. Deborah Belle, Director of Boston University’s Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, is organizing a conference scheduled for next spring: A Revolutionary Moment: Women’s Liberation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The conference is set for March 28-29, 2014 at Boston University and the deadline for the Call for Papers is just two days away! Please find it here and consider submitting a proposal. Individual 15-minute presentations, complete panels, and also alternative presentations by activists, artists, and non-academics, including art installations, performances, workshops, film screenings, and more are all welcome.

I’m a believer in the revolution. At first I didn’t ‘get it’ the way Mary Daly wanted me to, and in many ways I never will, but I have definitely gotten a glimpse, and I have been more than inspired. Remembering, reflecting, and building on the work that has already been done is a necessary endeavor, and one to which I am committed. I invite you all to be courageous and jump in!

Xochitl Alvizo is a feminist Christian-identified woman and a Ph.D. candidate in Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology. She loves all things feminist. Finding herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, she works to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters.

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Categories: Academy, Activism, American History, civil rights, Feminism, Gender and Power, General, Herstory, Justice, Mary Daly, Media, Sisterhood

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10 replies

  1. Thanks for this! I’ve had an erratic and dualistic and paradoxical kind of day/week and this post reminds me of why it worthwhile to keep trying.

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  2. What a fascinating question! I was a young teenager during that time living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was a center of revolutionary activity, and so I got to witness and participate to some extent in that amazing time. I remember many of those publications (and others!) and that feeling that a new world was right around the corner. I remember the creation of a women’s culture with art, music, painting, dance, literature and more and how new and exhilarating it was. From my perspective, though, I think that there are many women and men still “effecting material change for human liberation,” but it looks different now because that initial excitement and spark of revolution has transformed into harder battles for long term change on many fronts. Some elements are still there but have different names – consciousness-raising groups are now called “women’s circles” in many places. I see much more diversity now – there is a place for more people and many different ways of effecting change, from women who may be uncomfortable marching in a protest but who can invite friends over for tea to discuss their deepest feelings and create individual transformation, to those who are activists and are out front in the fight, to those who quietly inspire and enable the success of women in schools and workplaces, and more. I still believe that 100 years from now our generation of women — from those who began in the 1960s to those just getting started now — will be celebrated and honored for our courage, vision, and ability to keep on going decade after decade to make sure that all women, and men, have the opportunity to live safe, peaceful, free, and equal lives.

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    • Yes, I so agree with you Carolyn. I do think good changes are still taking place and that it looks different now – it’s done differently now for the very reasons you mention. Things occur in their own particular and local contexts, communities of people organize locally, and so the forms are many and varied. Even though the movement doesn’t have the catalytic force as when it first began, we are still working toward the vision/s of a more beautiful and just world.

      Molly – so glad the post brightened your day :)

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  3. Thanks for this poignant, powerful post. At least one answer to Mary’s question is right here at FAR. Thanks for creating and sustaining this space for so many diverse feminist voices.

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  4. I read and sometimes contributed to every one of those publications on Mary’s shelves. We had an explosive worldwide network of feminist magazines Xochitl. And very few academics were involved. Feminism kind of holed up in the academy, and that has been problematic, because it has turned into a job category rather than a revolution. We should know by now that we are still in the potential for real continuing revolution, but so many women are trapped within liberal feminism or the misguided idea that men are a part of this. They aren’t, and will never be. I’d say I’m meeting the next group of radical feminists now, they are emerging from the male dominated occupy movement, they are finding all the books, literally, on their mother’s book shelves. I find it absolutely fascinating to engage in conversations with this new group of women in their 20s and early 30s.

    One thing I’ve noticed, is that the failure of the economic system has pushed them forward.

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  5. One young woman who became an Occupy visionary has a boyfriend, and she is adament that he does not live with her. In our talks each week, he is never there. She is heterosexual, but understands that our time together is visionary, and that there is no place for interruption as we continue our talks about the present and the future. In the past, I was always the youngest in the radical feminist groups, but I must say, it is wonderful to see these revolutionary sisters who have emerged out of Occupy. It seems it takes the horrors of leftist male movements to reawaken women every time. It happened when women walked out of SDS in the 60s, when Robin Morgan wrote “Goodbye to All That,” and it continues anew today.

    What is profoundly different, is that this new generation of women has advanced degrees, has access to all second wave books, and they also cite Mary Daly as well as the ultimate reawkening. I think Mary Daly would be very proud of her revolutionary sisters of today. I think she is crying over the groveling and pathetic desire on the part of women to be in patriarchal churches, and to teach Christianity. This would perplex and upset her, because she knew there was no compromise possible. This blog is very conservative to me, very hetero-normative, and often disappointing. There are hints of revolution here, but most of it is normative, liberal, and sometimes boring. I know, I am harsh, but I never thought I would be bored by feminist articles. To see women constantly want to be a part of such womanhating groups as catholics, mormons (male to the core), or even teaching this stuff in universities speaks volumes for what we still can’t manage to do.

    I think the answer to Mary’s question, is that the revolution is being reborn in eco-feminism, in Deep Green Resistance DGR, in the daughters of lesbian couples–I’m meeting a lot of the daughters lately. They weren’t raised in hetero homes, although they identify as heterosexual. I find these conversations the most true, the most powerful, and the most touching.

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  6. And we haven’t been able to do as radical feminists is create millions of jobs on our own terms, create places where all women can work, earn a living, and be outside male control. We seem able to get the PhDs, but we don’t actually create revolutionary self sustaining communities of women, and an economic program to support advanced radical feminism. I believe Carol Christ has mentioned she couldn’t find work teaching the goddess, and had to deal with male theology to earn a paycheck. I can see this issue of earning a living as huge today, and one Mary Daly never addressed. Even Mary could not escape academentia. The revolution continues when women come together, when they have time to be together, when they are free of child rearing, when they don’t have to placate males in their own homes. As long as women continue to marry men, and support and produce male children, I am afraid we won’t have this revolutution. We will have jobs, or cosmetic “freedom” or less boring lives, but we won’t ever have revolution going to church, trying to reform churches, teaching in colleges, and trying to justify liberal methods that simply are paliatives to women, bones thrown to women by patriarchs that know full well, that they will always control women.

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  7. I think one of the reasons Mary Daly couldn’t leave academia is that she recognized the importance of institutionalizing the women’s movement. The first wave of the women’s movement was never able to do that, and as a result, we lost much of what those early feminists learned. I realized this fact while reading a great deal of their literature as I finished up my Ph.D.

    During the second wave, we institutionalized the women’s movement in many forms: Women’s Studies in the academy; rape crisis centers; domestic abuse services; making abortion legal; radically changing how women give birth — giving us back the power of this experience and taking it away from the medical “experts” — changing how women get credit (on their own, not through their husbands or fathers); expanding women’s occupational options (when I was in my 20s, “help wanted” ads were segregated according to gender, and women’s occupations were very narrowly defined); creating a partnership model for heterosexual couples rather than dominance/submission; and beginning the revolution in creating equality for LGBTQ folks which is beginning to bear fruit in the form of marriage equality.

    Our lives as women (and men) would be so much different if it hadn’t been for these changes. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the revolution is over, and it also doesn’t mean that institutionalization doesn’t have its down sides. I experienced this as one of the young radical feminists who helped to create Women’s Studies at the UW-Madison in the mid-1970s. We thought we were creating a wedge into a very patriarchal institution (feudal, in fact) in order to change it radically, but what we learned as the process proceeded is that it was changing (at least some of) us. When I began to hear some of the other UW Women’s Studies profs talk about legitimating Women’s Studies as a discipline, I realized how much the institution could change our purpose. Women’s Studies is still radicalizing young women (and some young men) by allowing them to recognize patriarchy for what it is, and that’s GREAT! And it’s creating a repository for our new feminist knowledge. But it hasn’t been able to change the institution of the academy.

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