line.gif (667 bytes)
Home | Intro | Essays | FAQs | Author | Your Comments? | From My Corpus Callosum

Those Martian Women!

line.gif (667 bytes)

If you haven't already guessed the subject of this essay, take me to your planet. Yes, this discussion is about feminism and feminists, a subject we cannot ignore if we really want to go beyond Gray's Anatomy. Many people would question that assertion, for isn't the Mars&Venus phenomenon just about the personal aspects of patriarchy? The answer is both yes and no. If a John Gray can convince people that male-dominated relationships are the only ones that can work, forget about real justice in both the bedroom and boardroom, as shown through his newest sexist tome, Mars and Venus At the Office. Only through feminism in its many diverse forms will we be able to transform our Mars&Venus society.

Feminism today is a global social justice movement of extraordinary persistence in the face of insidious backlashes in the West and Talibans in the East. As I study feminists and feminism, I realize it is impossible to do justice to this complex movement within a web-based essay. However, I will be able to give you a good sampler of American secular feminism, which can serve as a springboard for your own challenges to Gray's Anatomy. In this essay, I will give a brief profile of American feminism and feminists. I will then describe and critique seven types of secular feminism: liberal, radical, womanist/multicultural, Marxist/socialist, ecofeminist, psychoanalytic, and postmodern. I will conclude by reflecting on the movement's future.

To those who wonder if this essay is a break from Mars&Venus critiques, take heart, for my discussion of each type of feminism will talk about its approach to Gray's Anatomy. Since each strand has valuable insights on the challenges facing heterosexual relationships, I will reflect on the diverse ways these activists tell us, "You don't have to settle for Mars&Venus."

I'd better note that several feminists feel uneasy about a "hyphenated" feminism. Gloria Steinem says, "I'm not sure feminism should require an adjective."(1) Indeed, as one peruses such periodicals as Ms and On the Issues and attends National Women's Studies Association meetings, one sees an eclectic approach to activism. No individual or group is 100% radical or 100% postmodern. The Rebuttal From Uranus uses at least three types of feminism to critique MMWV. Nevertheless, many activists and organizations do have a certain tilt and it would be futile to deny it. Besides, as we advocate alternatives to Gray's Anatomy, we'll need every single tool we can get. In a complex system like patriarchy . . .

Your Silence Will Not Protect You:
A Brief Profile of Feminism and Feminists

Most Americans claim to support equal rights for women and yet, they flinch at the term, feminist and are either indifferent or hostile towards feminism. Why this seeming dichotomy? Some believe that it's because most secular feminists support abortion and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered rights. However, in the 19th century, when most feminists were against abortion, the public hated the "suffs".(2) And when National Organization for Women had a lesbian purge in the early 70's, the culture hardly relaxed its hostility towards "women's libbers". Others think the public doesn't like feminism because feminists are angry. However, that same public applauded when Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) built their political organization on anger.(3) Many pundits think the populace doesn't like feminists because they criticize men. However, that same populace doesn't balk at the offensive portraits that John Gray and groups like The Promise Keepers draw of the male of the species. After running out of all possible reasons for our culture's hostility towards feminism, most people will throw up their hands and claim, "People just don't like the word. We have to invent a new term." However, when feminists in the 50's called themselves "equalitarians", the culture thought they were as old-fashioned as high button shoes.(4)

The tension between America's professed belief in equal rights and its hostility towards feminism often seems like the eternal mystery . . . until one reads this alternative definition from The Journal of Women's History:(5)

"Feminism is an assertion that women as a group have been historically disadvantaged relative to men of their race, class, ethnicity, or sexual identity; and a commitment to changing the structures that systemically privilege men over women."

Now we can see why that F Word stings, for it not just an intellectual belief. It is an an assertion of an often-denied ethical problem and a commitment to social change. Feminism strikes a nerve not only because it implies that we're hypocrites, but because it infers that there is something wrong with believing in Mars&Venus. And it strains the psyche because it challenges us to walk into the unknown. The F Word is threatening precisely because it has the potential to reshape the way we view the world. It challenges each of us not only to look into a mirror . . . and look deeply, but also to do something about what we see in the mirror.

Against this backdrop, the resilience of the women's movement is extraordinary. In virtually all cultures within all historical periods, women have individually resisted male dominance. Mike Najarian even admitted that that many women are skeptical in the Mars&Venus workshops.(6) However, individual defiance cannot solve social problems like patriarchy. Women as a group have only progressed through organized resistance, a momentous challenge even in the best of circumstances. A "Dr" Gray may advise women to talk to their girlfriends during their husbands' cave time; however, I don't think he'd be comfortable if they used that time to do political organizing.(7) As my friend, Martina, once told me:

"One fine day, my boss came into my office ostensibly to talk about professional matters. However, it soon became obvious that his real goal was to find out about my relationships with female colleagues. Barely concealing his paranoia, he asked me, "What were you and Kathy and Alicia laughing about at that happy hour? Why were you having such a wonderful time?" He acted like there was something perverse about women enjoying each other's company. It seemed like he thought we were laughing at the men in the office and were preparing to file discrimination suits. If only it were that simple!"

In a culture that ridicules those who don't put men first, it's remarkable that 25-35% of American women within all races, classes, age brackets, and marital statuses will privately admit to pollsters, "I am a feminist."(8) This statistic surprises those who believe the stereotype that all feminists are lesbians. While many lesbians are feminists, several are also indifferent. A few are blatantly hostile, such as Mars&Venus fan Camille Paglia.(9) Aside from issues of sexual orientation, it's tempting to ponder, "Why do one-quarter of American women embrace this worldview?" As obvious as conventional answers may seem ("she got hurt by men"), they just don't work. The pain of sexist oppression affects virtually all women. Considering the prevalence of depression among females, I'm not so sure feminists are more angry at men and society than their "sisters". The variety of feminist "conversion experiences" shows that it's impossible to determine when a woman will discover Audre Lorde's sage advice: "Your silence will not protect you." (10) Still, the appeal of activism seems to rest in three things: ethics, community, and adventure. Lili Pintea-Reed tells friends, "The reason is very simple: Justice." (11) Historian Verta Taylor found that activists are motivated not only by anger but by the joy of participation, the friendship and love of other women, and pride at maintaining their convictions in the face of strong opposition.(12) A 1950's feminist said it best: "It's as thrilling as a love affair, and lasts longer!!!" (13)

To say that feminism is exciting is not to deny the challenges of working within feminist organizations. Like all modern social movements, it is a messy, volatile conglomeration of groups and individuals bent on making systemic change. And it is always vulnerable to co-optation. Indeed, several activists believe the movement has already sold out to patriarchy, which I will discuss throughout this essay. Many of the challenges within the American women's movement are similar to the problems facing the larger society: racism, classism, ageism, ethnocentrism, ableism, religious tensions, and homophobia. However, I believe feminists are trying harder than most Americans to be part of the solution. Nevertheless, these challenges all pale beside the ultimate obstacle course: How will we get men to "get it"?

Men have always been involved in feminist activism. And they're made a difference. When Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in 1848 that women should fight for the right to vote, she was ridiculed until the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke in her behalf. However, women soon learned that even progressive men have a tendency to "take over". Like all oppressed groups, women realized that in order to redefine oneself, there must be a certain separation from the dominant group. Some feminists maintain that this separatism must be complete. However, a majority want men to work with them for gender justice and are justifiably angry when they show indifference or hostility. As photographer Bettye Lane told me:

"In the 60's, we marched happily with the men against the Vietnam war, for environmental protection, and for civil rights. But when it came to women's rights, we marched alone. Sure, there were always a few good men who joined us, but basically, we marched alone. And it was very unfair. The only time men marched with us was on abortion. And we all knew their support had nothing to do with feminism."(14)

This all-too-common response has prompted the question; "Can a man really become a feminist?" The answer has usually been, "He could become pro-feminist", to which someone will usually retort, "That's a cop-out".(15) Nikki Craft's OH!Brother(16) website exposes the problems that have occurred when men have acted on sympathy rather than commitment. Still, one cannot deny that some men do "get it". These men are very much like their "brothers", but with three differences. They have learned to view patriarchy as a social system instead of a personality problem, they realize how deeply the system chokes the life force out of just about everyone, and they are committed to being part of the solution. Allan Johnson's The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy was a breakthrough in helping women and men having productive feminist conversations. But will it make a dent in the culture? Considering the media's willful indifference towards male feminists, not to mention the ridicule they get from their "brothers", I wouldn't bet my last paycheck on it. Still, my experiences with men in the battered women's movement in addition to the supportive letters I've received from men about this website make me feel confident that we will see more males in the 21st century start taking responsibility for gender injustice.

Considering the complexity of our patriarchal social system, it's hardly surprising that a philosophy that was conceived during the Renaissance(17) would eventually take so many different forms. Western feminism was born during The Enlightenment. As white, middle class early 19th century American women read Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman and saw that Iroquois women had more power in their communities, they began to agitate. American activism can be traced from the "first wave" of liberal feminism in the 19th and 20th centuries to the "second wave" of the 1960's, which saw the birth of radical, Marxist/socialist, and psychoanalytic feminisms. These philosophies help birth the new feminisms of the 70's and 80's: womanism, ecofeminism, and postmodern feminism. No wonder Mars&Venus has struck a chord with the nervous American public! Gray made his millions partly via the backlash. Nevetheless, only through a mature, transformative feminism will we ever be able to attain gender peace.

It's Just About Equality:
Lessons From Liberal Feminism

"We hold these truths self-evident, that all men and women are created equal", wrote 68 women and 34 men on July 20, 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, site of the world's first women's rights conference. The addition of "women" to the famous "all men are created equal" statement in the U.S. Constitution is the linchpin of American liberal feminism. As Enlightenment ideals about the rights of man ignited revolutions in 18th century Europe and North America, several learned women started wondering, "But what about the rights of woman?" When the culture ridiculed them, they started to organize. Armed with the philosophical works of such Britons as Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Taylor, and John Stuart Mill, American activists started a long, arduous journey towards insuring through the law and the courts that women would have equal opportunity and freedom of choice. Completely embracing the Enlightenment philosophy that humans will promote progress if given half a chance, liberal feminists aim to remove all barriers which impede women's leadership within our "public" institutions, from the government to the corporations to the military. Tenacious, optimistic, and often politically savvy, liberal feminists have fought for virtually all of the women's rights laws that exist in this country. They made sure women could vote, hold political office, enter the "prestigious" male-dominated professions, purchase contraceptives, develop their athletic skills, . . . the list goes on and on.

Liberal feminism, also known as mainstream or reformist feminism, holds fast to the gestalt of individualism and resents the stereotypes of Mars&Venus. It encourages women to believe in themselves, to expand their horizons, and to NEVER give up when the going gets tough. Riding on a wave of "New Frontier" and "Great Society" optimism during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, it impacted American culture most strongly during the 60's and 70's, a period known as the "second wave" of feminist activism. Since then, much mainstream feminist energy has been devoted to fighting backlashes, as conservatives made careers of defeating the Equal Rights Amendment and trying to dilute women's hard-earned gains.

Nonetheless, reformist feminism continues to reverberate throughout the culture, as it is the most prevalent form of activism in the United States. Whenever the mass media wants a feminist perspective, they'll almost always call on liberals like Patricia Ireland, Susan Faludi, Gloria Allred, Eleanor Smeal, and of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton, just as they called on their foremothers Alice Paul, Margaret Sanger, Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan in the past. Whenever policy analysts want to hear about "women's issues", they'll call mainstream groups like American Association of University Women (AAUW), National Political Women's Caucus (NWPC), and of course, National Organization For Women (NOW), which even after 33 years of existence is often misnamed National Organization of Women.

The influence of liberal feminism on American women's psyches is incalculable. It has ignited networking groups like Women In Technology, Int'l. It has inspired Orthodox Jewish women to start women's Torah study groups. And it has provoked flippant responses to Mars&Venus. "Giggling her extraterrestrial ass off" as she sees John Gray's "little puppet face" and notes that it has never occurred to him that a Venusian could drive a spaceship, Mary Elizabeth Williams says Mars and Venus magazine is "like a makeup tips column by Michael Jackson--appalling perhaps, but eminently readable."(18) In keeping with the liberal worldview, this critique focuses on Williams' chutzpah and the foibles of John Gray, not the patriarchal society that enabled the Mars&Venus mania.

Not surprisingly, liberal feminism strongly believes in egalitarian relationships but has no programs that help couples work it out. Since its political roots emphasize the "privacy" of the family, it leaves these issues up to individuals, which has led to more people visiting therapists. One of the most striking examples of liberal feminism in heterosexual relationships exists in Nina Atwood's popular Be Your Own Dating Service. Never criticizing "traditional" couples, Atwood proclaims that "equality is the name of the game in modern love" and gives credit to the women's liberation movement. She encourages women to ask men out and share expenses because women's economic dependence and lack of initiation rights keep them subordinate.(19) When women express fears of rejection, Atwood smiles as they realize, "If my initiative turns him off, then he's not the man for me."(20) Atwood continues this marvelous bravura as she shows how to get some "future focus" early in the relationship. Using herself as an example, she urges singles to say, "I'm looking for someone with whom to have a committed relationship with the possibility of marriage. I don't know if that's you or not, but I want you to know that's what I'm looking for. What about you?" When women say, "I'm afraid I'll scare men away", Atwood responds to the tune of, "I'd rather see you scare a few people off than waste your time in a dead-end relationship."(21)

As Atwood continues her "Go Girl, GO!" cheerleading, she reassures men that it's not wimpy to share expenses and that it's even OK to politely ask women at the appropriate time to assume some financial responsibility.(22) But her discussion does a tailspin as she advises men to learn to deal with abuse from women. Atwood claims there are sociopathic women and that if a man gets beaten or sexually harassed, our culture won't believe him if he complains.(23) After such an enthusiastic push for egalitarian dating, why does Atwood subconsciously defend male dominance through the false parallel technique?(24) One strong possibility is that liberal feminism contains no critique of our male supremacist system. From therapists who blame all marital difficulties on "communication problems" to activists who blame the backlash on "tradition", the individualistic ethos of liberal feminism completely blinds it from looking into the eye of patriarchy.

For all its strengths, liberal feminism has a way of letting women down. In the 70's, there was a small boon in men's groups that encouraged them to be sensitive to sexism. However, they tended to turn into therapy where men complained of feeling powerless. Warren Farrell, a board member of a New York NOW chapter in the 70's, wrote anti-feminist books like The Myth of Male Power in the 90's.(25) Within the past decade, liberal feminism has been pushed into a corner by its most extreme practitioners: "power feminists" who believe that if women don't "make it" in our society, it's their own fault. Never mind that "power feminist" Naomi Wolf wasted a golden opportunity to challenge John Gray's credentials, his infamous Yahoo interview, and his advocacy of "quickies" during a joint stint with him on the TV show, Politically Incorrect.(26) An individualistic feminism cannot abolish patriarchy. At best, it can only modernize it.

Many people of good will felt betrayed by liberal feminists during the Clinton sex scandals. In hindsight, their support was a predictable outcome of a reform-minded movement that at some level had sold out to the Democratic Party. The liberals' intense anger at right-wing hypocrisy blinded them from seeing how all of us participate in patriarchy; their fixation on a woman's "choices" kept them from asking, "What's the use of a choice, including a choice of presidential candidates, when all the choices are so crummy?"; and their liberal outlook on "private" relationships debilitated them from analyzing the complex power dynamics in the Clinton/Lewinsky affair.

Liberal feminist limitations have become so painfully obvious that in a sense, groups like AAUW and NOW have become part of the problem. If mainstream feminism wants to really make a difference in American culture again, it has no choice but to shatter the public silence on patriarchy. If history is any guide, that breakthrough will never happen without the prodding of its more radically inclined comrades. Liberal feminists worked on violence against women largely because radical feminists goaded them to do it. They got serious about racism mainly because womanists kept insisting, "Stop acting like you own the movement". Most stood against welfare "reform" in part because socialist feminists said, "All you care about are middle class women."

A mainstream feminism cannot really challenge Gray's Anatomy until it educates the public about "the system". Discussions about "the invisible web" do provoke anxiety, but they can also gain new converts. Susan Hamson's Rebuttal From Uranus started out in a liberal vein, as she emphasized how Gray stereotypes men and women. But as she slowly progressed to discussing how Mars&Venus is all about patriarchy, she found that people didn't run to a "safer" website just because she told the truth. Often, feminists have no choice but to practice realpolitik, which is why many people sympathize with groups like NOW. But if feminism is to be more than an interest group, it must constantly guard its vision and articulate it in everyday life. A feminism which aims for "equal rights" within a patriarchy cannot challenge Gray's Anatomy beyond a critique of his stereotyping. Only a feminism that takes on "the system" can tell us what's REALLY wrong with Mars&Venus.

It's Patriarchy, Stupid!:
Reflections on Radical Feminism

In the late 60's, when America was bitterly divided over the Vietnam war and civil rights, women across the country gathered in small consensus-based groups to ask, "How has society demeaned us as women?" No subject was off-limits. As women talked about how they had been abused by people who professed to love them, they learned they weren't alone. In hearing other women's stories, they realized, "I'm not the only woman who has ever been raped" or "My boyfriend also beat me and when I tried to fight back, he blamed me for being violent." This consciousness raising made women feel like sisters. It enabled them to lead speakouts on man's oppression of woman. It empowered them to start the nation's first battered women's shelters and rape crisis centers. And it emboldened them to write essays like Anne Koedt's The Myth of Vaginal Orgasm. When a scandalized public proclaimed, "How dare you talk about these private issues!", they retorted, "The personal is political!"

These women's liberationists, as they called themselves, were a different breed from liberal and Marxist feminist "politicos". With numerous disappointing experiences in the civil rights and peace movements, they knew that it wasn't good enough to pass laws and "enlighten" the populace. And their horrendous experiences in the misogynistic New Left made them realize, "Men love liberated women, but they hate women's liberation."(27) While politicos were reading Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, liberationists were reading Kate Millett's Sexual Politics. As they invented this new feminism, they drew inspiration from such pioneers as Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872 and fearlessly noted the links between prostitution and patriarchal marriage. With a style that boldly sought to get to the root of women's oppression, what else could they call themselves but radicals.

Radical feminism(28) is the belief that women's oppression is rooted in our patriarchal social system. While it supports most liberal feminist reforms, it also knows that real change must go much deeper than "equal rights". Radical feminists believe our culture sets men and women up as dominant and subordinate "sex classes", regardless of how they feel as individuals. They have no problem admitting that patriarchy is the religion of the planet, as shown by global success of John Gray's bestsellers, not to mention the depressing United Nations statistics on women. Radical feminism is the most woman-centered of feminisms. While acknowledging the devastating impact of racism, classism, ethnocentrism, and homophobia on women's lives, it holds that women are oppressed primarily as women.(29)

The locus of radical activism has traditionally been the consciousness-raising (CR) group. In the early 70's, these consensus-based groups concluded that the linchpin of patriarchy is the institution of heterosexuality and the nuclear family. As long as society eroticizes male dominance&female subordination and thinks women's unpaid family labor is a fair deal, we're not going to have real justice. With such startling insights, no wonder both the FBI and the Socialist Workers Party planted provocateurs in these groups. However, most radicals will admit that other problems also weakened the movement.(30) Intense disputes over power sharing, racism, classism, and in particular, heterosexuality and lesbianism corroded the "sisterhood" and in 1975, the majority of CR groups died.(31)

However, radical feminists continued to make waves in spite of some scholars' assertions that they fled to the woods by embracing cultural separatist feminism, a form of essentialism that believes women are from Venus but also tells Martians, "Stay off our planet."(32) The most famous non-separatists were Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. In the early 80's, they persuaded the Indianapolis city council to allow women victimized by pornography to sue for sex discrimination. But with the help of liberal feminists and civil libertarians who feared censorship, their ordinance was declared unconstitutional.(33) While Dworkin and MacKinnon were fighting pornography, they were also writing highly controversial books which questioned whether heterosexual intercourse could be egalitarian in our society.

Dworkin's provocative Intercourse was a watershed in American feminist relations. Those who admired the book had to contend not only with the media's false accusations that she said "all sex is rape" but with activists, myself included, who never missed a chance to say, "Women like Andrea give feminism a bad name."

Not so ironically, John Gray turned out to be Dworkin's best "friend", as Mars and Venus in the Bedroom and "that @#$%^ Yahoo interview" compelled a few feminists, myself included, to reassess the radical analysis. As he declared that "sex was always for the man", one had to admit, "OK, Andrea, you have a point".(34) As he tried to coerce women into submitting to men's quickies (or fucking, to use blunt radical terms) by strongly implying they don't have to enjoy it, one could understand Catherine MacKinnon's claim that women's consent is not meaningful in our society.(35) And as he told women that men need quickies/fucking so that they can "recharge their sex lives", one could agree with Marilyn Frye's assertion that our culture thinks sex has occurred only if the man has an intercourse-induced orgasm.(36) But the final vindication came when a woman on a now-defunct Gray listserv said Mars and Venus in the Bedroom made her feel like a cheap two-bit whore.(37) As "Dr" Gray insinuated that women must become their husbands' prostitutes to keep them faithful, it was impossible to avoid thinking of Kathleen Barry's devastating The Prostitution of Sexuality. As long as men like John Gray exist, we'll need feminists like Dworkin, MacKinnon, Frye, and Barry, especially since they provide some of the best tools in the business for understanding why Mars&Venus is so damned oppressive.

Nevertheless, a movement cannot exist solely on opposition. Andrea Dworkin deliberately avoided a "happy ending" in Intercourse probably for the same reasons that drivers' education teachers show scare films. Both want us to understand at a gut level that nobody is completely safe in this society.(38) Still, a movement must provide a sense of hope. Can radical feminism do it? Or rather, is radical feminism still alive enough to do it?

Contrary to rumors, "radfem" in the 90's is not dead. Radicals are far less numerous than their liberal cohorts but they've made an undeniable impact on American society. They made the world treat rape in Bosnia as a war crime. They persuaded the medical community to admit that it's wrong to do "generic" research on white, middle class males only. They challenged those who opposed gay/lesbian sex to start taking homophobic hate crimes seriously.(39) And these feminists who "brainwashed women" even forced John Gray to admit "women should have great sex", although for male-oriented reasons.(40) Although financially leaner than liberal groups, such radical organizations as Women Against Pornography, Men Against Pornography, International Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Sisterhood Is Global Institute, and the Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering (FINRRAGE) are still alive and kicking.

Indeed, if the media had really wanted to find feminists who didn't stand by their man during the Clinton scandals, they could have easily interviewed the radicals--some in their 20s--who wrote pungent, sophisticated critiques on the World Wide Web. And if the Women's Studies community really wants to give students a feminist education, it cannot afford to view "radfem" as an outdated anachronism, especially after reading Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed, Diane Bell and Renate Klein's bold, witty, and incisive anthology of contemporary radical activism around the world.

Until our culture starts owning up to patriarchy, radicals will be the feminists people love to hate. And yet, contemporary radical feminism is starting to provide hope for a heterosexuality that transforms Gray's Anatomy. Men Against Pornography has organized speakouts whereby men tell how they kicked the habit.(41) Allan Johnson is getting rave reviews for his campus lectures on "Sleeping With the Enemy: Loving As Equals In a Patriarchy."(42) And sociologists Doris Ewing and Steven Schacht are dialoguing about ways for women and men to work together to fight the system.(43) I can see radicals building an organized coalition which will challenge the relationships industry, break the silence on patriarchy in the same way they broke the silence on rape and wife-beating one generation ago, and show alternatives to Gray's Anatomy. But after doing so much thankless high-risk activism, can they muster the energy for one more fight?

As we shall see, one stumbling block to building this coalition is that many feminists think radfem overstresses the oppression of women while under-emphasizing on the connections "between the isms". Still, as the Mars&Venus cult transcends race, class, and nationality, the lack of a feminist relationships movement could undermine many hard-earned gains. John Gray knows quite well that the personal is political. If he can scare away enough people from building egalitarian relationships, he doesn't have to lobby the legislature to prevent the passage of a fair pay or anti-pornography law. Radicals make movements move. If feminists ever build an organization that proclaims, "Don't Settle for Mars&Venus", don't be surprised if the radicals made them do it

Race Matters, Too:
Wisdom From Womanism
and Multicultural Feminism

Where could they go? Outraged by misogyny in the Black Liberation and civil rights movements, frustrated by racism within liberal and radical feminist groups, and irritated with social scientists' silly assertions that black families are "matriarchal", African-American activists had no choice in the 80's but to create a new feminism. As the media declared that the women's movement is dead, black feminists invented womanism, derived from "womanish", a phrase black mothers used to affectionately describe audacious, mature daughters. Paraphrasing Alice Walker's famous words, a womanist appreciates and prefers women's culture, is committed to the survival and wholeness of a whole people--both male and female, and is not a separatist, except periodically, for reasons of health.(44) Womanism possesses an audacity borne of desperate realities, of the heritage of abolitionist Sojourner Truth and civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell. It refuses to prioritize racism, classism, and sexism, especially since they are so tightly interlocked, and emphasizes that black women do not have the same experience of patriarchy as white women. "Feminism is to womanism as lavender is to the color purple," muses Walker.

Womanism has had considerable impact on American feminism within the past decade. More African-Americans are leading mainstream feminist institutions, as Marcia Anne Gillespie is editor of Ms and Augustine Pounds presides over the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund. Contemporary scholarship is more committed to including race and class in its analysis of patriarchy. And activists are taking systemic racism more seriously, as shown by the popular screening of The Way Home at the 1999 National Women's Studies Association (NWSA) convention. This awareness isn't limited to the African-American experience.

Indeed, womanism is now under the umbrella, multicultural feminism. Surveying the women's movement, one sees Anita Perez Ferguson presiding over The National Women's Political Caucus and Vivien Ng having led NWSA shortly after a bitter confrontation on racism at the 1990 Convention which almost killed the organization. Indeed, women of color currently constitute 30% of NOW's leadership.(45) One also sees more feminist groups like MANA, a national Latina organization, and The Indigenous Women's Network.

Still, has the women's movement really become multicultural? When I see white feminists idolize womanists bell hooks and the late Audre Lorde, rave about Gloria Anzaldúa and Maxine Hong Kingston, and give rousing ovations to Winona LaDuke of the Mississippi Band Anishinabeg, I wonder, "Are they really more progressive than moderates who worship Colin Powell, "English only" conservatives who love that Latin beat, and New Age liberals who "don't have time" to fight environmental racism?

Don't get me wrong. Most feminists are sincere about building a "rainbow coalition". But racism is so systemic that it will take more than good intentions to end it. When the media wants a feminist perspective, it calls NOW, not The Indigenous Women's Network. When European- and Asian-American feminists lobby Congress, guess who's more likely to get a hearing. When African-American men accuse womanists of "diminishing their manhood", the only men of any race who demand repentance are those few "traitors" who get ignored by the culture. Against such a backdrop, is it any wonder that the Mars&Venus mania would find its way into Oprah Winfrey's psyche? Her devotion to "Dr" Gray is all the more devastating since she starred in the film version of Alice Walker's The Color Purple towards the beginning of her career.

The symbiotic relationship of John Gray and Oprah Winfrey provides a fascinating look at America's sex/race caste system. Apparently, Winfrey doesn't mind that Barbara deAngelis' ex-husband said in MMWV that "minorities were given more rights", (46) which shows that intermarriage alone will not cure racism. If anything unites feminists and womanists, it's deep bitterness over Oprah's girlish support of America's favorite charlatan. Many have individually written protest letters, but as this problem is systemic, it'll take an organized approach to even begin to make a dent. What is holding them back?

Multicultural feminists have a way of getting under the skin. To male racial justice activists, they say, "Prove that you've not just aiming for the white man's goodies." To white feminists, they say, "Prove that you're not just fighting for a place in the sun." To the Promise Keepers, they say, "Stop using the race card to keep women down!" And to women of color, feminists included, who put racism above sexism, they say, "Stop trivializing sexism because this is where you don't share your oppression with a man."(47) Someday, activists could build a group which would "knock the socks off" future Oprah Winfreys and John Grays. If it actually happens, we'll know that finally, activists of all races have decided to not only let multicultural feminism get under the skin but stay under the skin.

Don't Forget Class:
Musings on Marxist
and Socialist Feminism

As the second wave of activism hit its crest, women and men who challenged both sexism and capitalism realized they would have to create their own feminism. They weren't terribly eager to become bourgeois liberal feminists, for they didn't consider it progressive for women to run multinational corporations while their working class "sisters" did the family dirtywork. While they admitted our society is male supremacist and had experienced much sexism in left-wing communities, some thought the radical feminist analysis of patriarchy was too psychological and lacked a sense of history.(48) As Marxism centers on the material, they wanted a feminism which showed how economic systems impact gender relations. And so, they challenged both feminism and the left by inventing Marxist and socialist feminisms. 70's versions of "marxfem" focused on how gender oppression is a variation of class oppression, which made activists realize that "In the unhappy marriage of Marxism and feminism, the two became one and Marxism was the one."(49) Thus, in the 80's, socialist feminists lightened up on Marxism and incorporated insights from radical feminism, womanism, and psychoanalytic feminism and added concepts from ecofeminism and postmodern feminism in the 90's. Amidst this synthesis, they never forgot the intricate dance between class and gender and made a compelling case that patriarchy and contemporary capitalism reinforce each other.

The challenges of Marxist and socialist feminisms are obvious. While post-glasnost Eastern Europe is undeniably patriarchal, it was never egalitarian in communist times either. While Scandinavian social democracies are among the most gender-progressive in the world, those cultures are still male dominant, for the European center of the Mars&Venus empire is in Stockholm. As for capitalism being patriarchal, George Gilder, one of Reagan's top advisors, argues in Wealth and Poverty that aggressive modern capitalism rests on male supremacy. And yet, how many of us really believe socialism is workable?

For all their controversies, we have to ask, "What have these feminisms done for women, especially in a "free market" culture that pretends classism doesn't exist?" The answer is, "More than we realize and usually without getting credit". Anti-capitalist feminists have worked tirelessly to help all women attain economic independence. They were the first to assert that housework and childcare should be considered economic activity.(50) As a result, corporate wives have a better chance of getting equitable divorce settlements.(51) They were also among the first to note that "PatCap" undercompensates women in high-skill pink collar professions. That insight has been mainstreamed into the Committee for Pay Equity.(52)

It's rather ironic that in ultra-capitalistic America, some of the most popular feminists have leaned towards socialism, if not ultra-purist Marxism. Gloria Steinem has strong ties to the Democratic Socialists of America and the Coalition of Labor Union Women.(53) Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who said in 1912 that we live in an andocentric world, wrote popular poetry, science fiction, and short stories. One can only wonder how the author of The Yellow Wallpaper, an 1899 classic short story about a woman's nervous breakdown, would respond to "Dr" Gray's caves and wells. Socialist inclined feminists can appeal to Americans because they care about the secretary and childcare worker as much as the glass-ceiling cracker and skillfully use "pop" culture to make their points. Former Time columnist Barbara Ehrenreich asserted that the mainstream women's movement didn't support Paula Jones in the Clinton sex scandals because of classism.(54) Even a Marxist like Lydia Sargent often works in a "pop" style, as her satires on self-help books show how "Dr" Gray exemplifies the PatCap penchant to exploit women's desperation for profit.(55)

In the early 90's, many pundits thought Marxism and socialism were passe. However, socialism is making a mini comeback as the Russian catastrophe, the Asian depression and problems with both welfare and its "reform" exposes the fault lines of capitalism. Indeed, Clara Fraser thinks we're going to have a humane socialist feminist revolution someday.(56) One doesn't have to share her view to admit that Americans willl have to modify capitalism if they want to ease the oppressive time-bind between work and family. We must build an economy where ALL jobs are designed with the view that all workers have family responsibilities. We must have a 30-hour workweek. If America ever comes close to fulfilling that dream, you can bet it happened because Marxist and socialist feminists led the way.

It's All So Interconnected:
Echoes of Ecofeminism

During the initial years of the Reagan administration, when Americans were barraged with reports that women were tired of "equality", two to four thousand women led demonstrations of mourning, rage, empowerment, and defiance in the national's capital. The Women's Pentagon Action of 1980 and 1981 demanded an end to male violence, oppression, and warfare. Patriarchy was not only killing relationships between women and men; it was killing our ecosystem. As America defeated the ERA, a new strand of feminism was born, one that echoed Françoise d'Eaubonne's prophesy, "Le féminisme ou la mort!"

Ecofeminism opposes all forms of dominance--men over women, whites over people of color, rich over poor, heterosexual over lesbian/gay, humans over animals and nature--and shows how these hierarchies are linked. Its insights come from radical feminists like Susan Griffin and Mary Daly, who noted that patriarchy links "irrational" woman to "uncontrollable" nature and is obsessed with controlling their "wildness". Bolstered by archaeological findings which hinted that the world's first societies were egalitarian and goddess-worshipping, ecofeminism promotes feminist spirituality, which believes the nurturing traits associated with women must become the world's premier values. In ecofeminism, Mars means death; Venus means life.

Ecofeminism in its many varieties(57) has had considerable impact on progressive politics and theology. It has provided the philosophical foundations for the Green parties. It has compelled Baptist theologian Jann Aldredge-Clanton to declare that the church is inconsistent when it says women are created in God's image but never prays to God Our Mother.(58) And it has provided a perfect foil for Renee Louise's "Beam Me Up, Amazon!" rebuttal of Mars&Venus.(59) John Gray certainly makes for a juicy ecofeminist critique, as his multinational corporation not only kills trees to produce patriarchal pulp but advises men to use complete sentences and women to make inarticulate noises during their "lovemaking".(60)

Still, ecofeminism hasn't really changed feminism nor has it transformed the American left. While feminism has an anthropocentric (human-centered) worldview, ecofeminism has a biocentric worldview, which has radical implications regarding animal rights. Most feminist groups aren't insisting on vegetarian diets. While feminism is a key value of the U.S. Greens, Greta Gaard's riveting history of the party gives much evidence of deep sexism. Indeed, when the Greens courted consumer rights activist Ralph Nader as their candidate in the 1996 presidential elections, they dropped their commitment to feminist-inspired consensus decision making like a hot potato. Nader was hardly chosen by the members and never even joined the party. He refused to get involved in "gonadal politics" (abortion and lesbian/gay rights) and his selection of popular ecofeminist Winona LaDuke as a running mate hardly quelled the bitter aftertaste.(61)

How could ecofeminism have lost so much clout in a party whose basic values were founded on it? An obvious answer is that it demands such profound paradigm shifts in American society. Also, it is very easy for powers-that-be to manipulate its connectivity. When I was involved in a local Green group, men would respond to my criticisms of their sexist remarks by saying that they were feminists because they were "saving the earth". In other words, they didn't have to use inclusive language if they were saving whales. Whenever women would passionately object to their sexism, they would accuse them of hypocrisy because "feminism is about cooperation."(62) These insidious defenses of patriarchy contributed handily to the demise of our small, but initially enthusiastic group.

Spiritual ecofeminism's affirmation of "the feminine" backed Riane Eisler into a corner during her "dialogue" with John Gray. While she didn't cave in, she was much too polite and NEVER challenged his views on male-dominated sex.(63) If only we could have put Kitty MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin in a room with America's favorite misogynist! However, I think social ecofeminist Janet Biehl also could have done the job. Indeed, Biehl later renounced ecofeminism, which makes one wonder, "Should we give up on it, too?"(64) My answer is no. Even those who disagree with its biocentric worldview will have to admit ecofeminism at its best offers much wisdom and hope. As Eisler reminds us in The Chalice and the Blade, eco-patriarchy has never been a complete triumph. A minority has always challenged it and made some difference. Just look at what happened to the Mars&Venus books. While John Gray is an American institution, his books no longer top the NYT Bestseller lists. This happened largely through the activism and common sense of "ordinary" people. As we develop alternatives to Gray's Anatomy, the ecofeminist worldview can renew our energy and remind us that "in the end, the choice of what kind of world we live in is up to every one of us."(65)

So Deep In the Psyche:
Promptings From Psychoanalytic Feminism

Outer freedom doesn't automatically promote inner freedom. As Gloria Steinem's best-selling Revolution from Within argued that we need psychological change as much as social change, it recalled a feminism that had nurtured activists from the triumphs of the 60's to the backlashes of the 90's. In contrast to socially inclined liberal, radical, socialist, multicultural, and ecological feminism, psychoanalytic feminism concentrates on the subconscious processes which perpetuate patriarchy. To some, psychoanalytic feminism is an oxymoron. Still, while the history of psychology does reek of male supremacism, a few have always bucked tradition. Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, and Clara Thomson consistently challenged Freudians and Jungians before the 70's and provided a good foundation on which to build a feminist psycyhology.

Psychoanalytic feminists tend to fall into two categories: those who study psychosexual development and those who study psychomoral development.(66) Reinterpreting Freudian theories of psychosexual development, Dorothy Dinnerstein and Nancy Chodorow theorized in the 70's and 80's that patriarchy comes from too much mothering and too little nurturant fathering. Their solution to the problem was shared parenting. While Diane Ehrensaft's study of children co-reared by feminist parents supports that view,(67) the theory's limitations are pretty obvious. Psychology has always overstated mothers' power in a patriarchy. As sexist divorced fathers increasingly win custody of their children, even Dinnerstein and Chodorow now admit their theory is limited. However, the controversies engendered by those two academics are nothing compared to the fireworks generated in the 80's by Carol Gilligan of Harvard, a gender/cultural feminist who concentrates on psychomoral development.

Gilligan's In a Different Voice hypothesized that men and women live in different cultures and develop different modes of moral reasoning. As men have an ethic of "justice", with its demand for autonomy and laws, women have an ethic of "care", with its emphasis on empathy and supportive relationships. While Gilligan's work was refreshing in its insistence that society start viewing "women's ethics" as normal ethics, it has become a primary weapon of the backlash. We cannot blame Gilligan for the Mars&Venus mania. Still nobody can doubt that In a Different Voice made Gray's job a lot easier. Gilligan has criticized abuses of her work.(68) But the damage is beyond repair, as columnist Katha Pollitt satirized feminists who got "marooned on Gilligan's island."(69)

It's awfully tempting to throw in the towel on feminist psychology. However, I refuse to give patriarchy such an easy victory, especially since "difference feminism" cum Mars&Venus is infiltrating the workplace.(70) There is a feminist psychology that avoids the pitfalls of Chodorow and Gilligan. Feminist psychotherapy respects "women's ethics" without fudging on the social problem of patriarchy. It rejects authoritarianism and would lambast Gray's manipulative counseling techniques. In The Invisible Web: Gender Patterns in Family Relationships, Marianne Walters, Betty Carter, Peggy Papp, and Olga Silverstein do a fine job of demonstrating the differences between feminist family therapy and the more "traditional" brand. However, feminist therapy has its skeptics. They contend that all therapists can be manipulative and that they should encourage activism for its political value, not its "healing" qualities. Feminists wince at the myth that you can only "heal" society after you've "healed" yourself. Therapists aren't completely "healed"; why should we expect it from activists? Still, it is a treat to get first-rate feminist therapy before confronting a conservative Congressman. It goes beyond "healing my wounds"; it helps me become a stronger activist.

Since psychology focuses on the individual and family of origin, psychoanalytic feminism will always be vulnerable to sell-outs, especially since it's now delving into men's issues. However, I think feminism will always need a complementary "psychic" perspective. I hope that someday, feminist therapists will systematically take on the relationships industry. We need a full-time watchdog group that will make future "Dr" Grays and Dr. Lauras squirm because experts are constantly exposing them. In our postmodern culture, feminist psychology must be handled with great care. And yet, what better way to transcend patriarchal "either/or" phoniness than to affirm the feminist "both/and" of working on a revolution from within while we continue to agitate for revolution in society.

It's All In the Discourse:
Postings From Postmodern Feminism

As French postmodernism engulfed American academia in the 70's and 80's, Women's Studies professors stayed au courant by reading such French theorists as Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva. It all seemed so exciting, especially since postmodernism's claim to fame was deconstructionist theory, which had so much potential to expose how language constructs our sense of reality. Indeed, what better proof of its validity than the genetic symbols for male and female, which come not from modern "objective" science, but from the ancient "subjective" astrological symbols for Mars and Venus!(71)

Postmodern feminism, also known by the terms, French feminism and poststructuralist feminism, is one of the most prominent forms of theory in the Women's Studies curriculum. Postmodern feminists, like so many other activists around the world, have taken some cues from Simone deBeauvoir, who asked in 1949: "Why is woman the other? Why is she the second sex?" However, they turn her question on its head by retorting, "What is so wrong with being second? Doesn't it enable women to criticize the norms of patriarchy? Doesn't it allow for diversity?" Woman's "otherness" is much more than an oppressed condition. It is a way of being, thinking, and speaking which displays enormous untapped potential for plurality and expansiveness, for showing the world that there are many truths . . . and many ways to be a woman.(72)

Postmodern feminists tend to fall within either the difference camp, which celebrates the potential of woman's indefinable womanliness, or the anti-difference camp, which rejects "either/or" terms to the point of refusing to ontologically define "man" and "woman". Writer and cultural critic Helene Cixous objects to Western patriarchal thinking because it is cast in binary hierarchical opposition, as in reason/emotion, active/passive, Mars/Venus. She urges women to develop a feminine writing (écriture feminine) which will uproot male supremacism. Psychoanalyst/philosopher Luce Irigaray encourages women to abandon the "phallic feminine" (woman as man sees her) and embrace the indefinable "feminine feminine". However, philosopher/psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva maintains that the concept "woman" makes no sense at the ontological level. She believes that the liberated person of either sex can move freely between feminine and masculine, chaos and order, revolution and status quo.(73)

Postmodern feminism is an enigma. On the one hand, it has expanded feminism. It has enabled theorists to critique oppressive standards of female beauty without getting legalistic. It has helped American activists get less defensive when non-Western feminists criticize their ethnocentrism. It has compelled secular scholars to take feminists within Orthodox Judaism, evangelical Christianity, and Islam seriously. And it has made a serious case that women are disadvantaged because society's discourse is masculine-coded. As Joe Staples remarked in his comparison of the 17th century Joseph Swetnam/Ester Sowerman debate in England to the 20th century John Gray/Susan Hamson argument in America, very little has changed about the way we talk about gender.(74)

However, pomofem has also constricted feminism. Its obtuse theorizing and experimentation with language may be a challenging academic exercise; but is it really helping activism?(75) Postmodernism's claim that "there are many truths but they change over time and are dependent upon the culture in which they are expressed and ultimately judged" could spell disaster for all human rights activism. Most ominously, Kristeva's theory that "on a deeper level, a woman cannot 'be'; it is something which does not even belong in the order of being" could undercut all feminism. However, Kristeva did admit that "we must use 'we are women' as a slogan or advertisement for our demands." (76)

Many pomofem theories that look good on paper often end up supporting the "same old same old". Its assertion that labels are oppressive and "phallologocentric" allows non-feminists to benefit from "the labelled" without paying a price. It's belief that words point not to a concrete reality but to other words that we use to construct reality pave the way for patriarchalist media darlings like "post feminist" Camille Paglia and "conservative feminist" Christine Hoff Sommers. It's assertion that we must explore differences between women has not facilitated a solid political "unity in diversity". And its encouragement for women to explore their multifaceted sexuality has hardly broken down our culture's "big dick" mentality. Au contraire! One can only wonder how Cixous and Irigaray would react to lesbian S&M and feminist pornography. Yes, feminist pornography.(77) Irigaray would probably respond with a "Why should we expect real change when our discourse is still masculine?" And if anyone dared to admit, "I don't know what masculine discourse means", she would insouciantly retort, "Of course not, since there is no other."(78)

It may comfort American activists to learn that the French are as baffled by "French feminism" as anyone else. As Christine Delphy claims that "French feminism" is not feminism in France, one wonders, "Why should it be feminism in America?" Delphy makes a strong case that "French feminism" is insidious backlash, especially when Kristeva rejects most feminism.(79)

It appears that the powers-that-be have co-opted postmodernism, as those who complain about sexist language are accused of being the "politically correct language police". Many Women's Studies departments are in a fierce battle with "mixed bag" Men's Studies and Gender Studies, both of which have the blessing of "post feminist" postmodern theory.(80) Concerning the pomofem penchant for co-opting sexist language, it's fun to hear women say, "When my brother-in-law called me a bitch, I smiled and said thank you." However, when will activists invent new phrases that describe the Gray Area between consensual intercourse and rape? Pun intended!

Postmodern feminism seems like a hoax---until one reads Annie Potts' brilliant The Science/Fiction of Sex: John Gray's Mars and Venus in the Bedroom. With elegant clarity, Potts exposes the ide(sex)ology of Gray's anatomy by showing how he uses language. Before I read Potts' article, I thought I had found all the sexism in his books, until she noted that Gray thinks intercourse "strengthens" men and "soothes" women. Potts is as astute about patriarchal power relations as any radical feminist and keeps everything in historical perspective, as she shows how little has changed since Van de Velde's 1920's Ideal Marriage.(81) It's tempting to think Potts is the exception which proves the rule--until one learns that the first feminist to consistently take on John Gray was self-described "pomo nut" Susan Hamson. However, sceptics maintain that Potts and Hamson are not deconstructing him in the style of Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida, those pomo fathers who were anything but feminist.(82)

Many activists inside and outside academia--or academentia, to use Mary Daly's great witticism--think postmodern feminism is an absurd oxymoron that has severely weakened the movement. Indeed, I see a tendency nowadays to reduce feminism to a "nonjudgmental" self-help group that lambasts anyone who criticizes an individual's patriarchy-affirming choices because "there are many truths". However, I think it's unfair to scapegoat pomo and have no problem with feminists who use their own brand of deconstuctionist theory to expose misogynists. It is delicious to see a postmodern feminist take on our culture's premier self-help charlatan over the Internet.(83) When Hamson started her web critique of MMWV, many university friends thought she was wasting her time. Nowadays, she's laughing all the way to the academy, if not the bank! This may be surprising, until one learns a few lessons from history.

When Ester Sowernam challenged Earl Sweetnam in 1610, she used the Bible to counter his misogynistic arguments. When Mary Wollstonecraft wrote Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, she used the male-centered principles of Enlightenment individualism to demand affirmation of woman's humanity. From 600 BCE to the heady victories of American Second Wave Activism and its devastating backlash, women have challenged all sorts of patriarchal definitions stubbornly and persistently, like drops of water wearing out solid rock.(84) And they will keep doing it until humankind renounces this male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered system. Yes, postmodernism is a challenge to feminism, but no more so than Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and secular modernism. We need a sense of déjà vu here. Postmodernism can only kill feminism if we let it. After 200 years of survival, not to mention several centuries of preparation in a hostile environment, feminism is here to stay.

Moving Towards the Millenium

A second wave activist whose daughter is indifferent towards feminism once asked me, "Kathleen, is the movement stuck? Will it keep moving after the year 2000? It's not dead but . . ." My reply was complex. If feminism were completely stagnant, I wouldn't be juggling so much new material for my next essay, From Gender Vertigo to Gender Peace, a report on the state of the egalitarian-leaning couple. I also wouldn't feel so compelled to add a Feminist Links addendum, which points to excellent resources on the web.

Nonetheless, the backlash has taken a huge toll on activism. Individuals and organizations have been forced to make painful sacrifices to survive. American women who support feminism are not a fringe minority; they're 25-35% of the female population. And yet, they're often forced to live a closeted existence. To come "out" could mean professional punishment, not to mention social ostracism. In such a repressive climate, how could we ever nurture a renewed activism? Personally, I don't think a revival can occur unless we do four new things.

First, activists need to systematically stand up to the trashing of feminism. They need to build an education and anti-abuse organization partially modeled on the Jewish anti-defamation leagues. The lack of an anti-abuse group could spell disaster for the future of feminism. Second, all feminists, including the mainstream ones, must take the risk of educating the public about our patriarchal social system. Faludi's Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man was a disappointment. Third, feminists must expect men to take equal responsibility for patriarchy. A daunting challenge, but bell hooks' comment is dead-on: "Until men share equal responsibility for struggling to end sexism, feminist movement will reflect the very sexist contradiction we wish to eradicate."(85) Fourth, feminists need to systematically challenge the relationships industry and build an egalitarian relationships movement. Until activists build their own groups, don't be surprised if sexist charlatans like John Gray keep filling the void. In my final essay, Tranforming Our Mars&Venus Society, I will give ideas on how individuals can lay the groundwork for such organization(s).

These ideas may sound utopian during this winter of activism. However, feminists love to quip that "only by attempting the absurd can we achieve the impossible." When Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, the women's suffrage movement was stagnant. And yet, six years later, militant suffrage marches sent shock waves through the American public. When women finally won the vote in 1920, "post-feminism" was the rage. And yet, activists continued to roll up their sleeves as they went to jail for smuggling contraceptives and agitated for America to legalize birth control. Most pundits mistakenly think feminism was reborn when Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963. However, the triumphs of the 60's would have never happened without so much excellent underground work in the 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's. It is impossible to predict when a feminist breakthrough will occur. Who in the early 90's could have predicted Anita Hill's effect on the world's view of sexual harassment? That shift would have never happened without decades of preparation.

As we link feminism to the Mars&Venus mania, I wouldn't be surprised if several people reading this essay are thinking, "Perhaps I am a feminist" or even, "I never knew it could be so interesting." To those "in process", I urge you to get on one of the buses and take the journey. You've probably been doing some activism already. As far as I'm concerned, showing the Human Resources department the web critiques of John Gray in an effort to block a Mars and Venus at the Office workshop is activism. As feminism moves towards the millenium, it's awfully tempting to think, "Perhaps we need to move to Jupiter, the pinnacle of planets, in the same way European anti-royalists had to move to America in the 1700s. Only in a "New World" can we ever build a new society." But let's wait until 2999 to decide about that one. As long as men like John Gray stay on planet Earth, feminists know exactly where they're needed. And if by any chance a John Gray decides to escape to another planet, don't be surprised if Those Martian Women or rather, Those Jupiterian Women and Men look through their telescopes and get on their spaceships. As long as patriarchy exists, so will feminism. So get on that bus--or that spaceship--and join the fun!

And don't forget to use the Feminist Links addendum as bread for the journey.


Kathleen Trigiani
November 1999





Photo at top: Carrying the Torch into Houston,
The First National Women's Conference,
Houston, Texas, November 18, 1977.
Left to right: Billie Jean King,
Susan B. Anthony (grandniece of the famous activist),
Bella Abzug, Sylvia Ortiz, Peggy Kokernot,
Michelle Cearcy, and Betty Friedan.
Copyright © 1978 Diana Mara Henry. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with written permission from Diana Mara Henry.

Illustration at bottom: Cover Panel of
An Illustrated Timeline of the Woman Suffrage Movement,
Copyright © 1994 National Women's History Project. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with written permission from The National Women's History Project.

Home | Intro | Essays | FAQs | Author | Your Comments? | From My Corpus Callosum

Crown Him Patriarch
Those Martian Women!--Endnotes

Feminist Links
From Gender Vertigo to Gender Peace
Transforming Our Mars&Venus Society

Copyright © 1999 Kathleen Trigiani. All rights reserved.