I want to direct your attention to an excerpt from “Women Together, Women Alone.” A feminist book I’m currently reading (I briefly mentioned that I had bought two feminist books in my newsletter, The Informer).
In this chapter, the author discusses the issues of motherhood in the 1970s and 80s Women’s Movement. Especially how Consciousness Raising (a term I’ll get into another time), dealt with it.
Some backstory: keep in mind these issues were coming up in reaction to the status quo position women had been in. Women were the nurturers, the housewifes. They didn’t take on outside jobs or careers. Staying home with your children was the only option you had as a women, that is, before the women’s movement came along.
As culture morphed, and the female position in society morphed as well. These issues came up to women who wanted to have a career and kids too.
This excerpt, for me personally, reminded me of the myriad of reasons, emotions, and cultural forces that go into building a movement.
Never underestimate what a movement could be dealing with internally. Never marginalize or generalize their actions so as to fit them in a negative box.
In many cases, the members have to utterly despise the system they came from before they can truly appreciate it. Through despising the “shackles of motherhood,” early feminists came to enjoy its results.
As the author pointed out at one point, motherhood is so powerful, that it will always bounce back. Political theory, media attacks, and movements can’t kill it.
“The Women’s Movement, promoting the notion of choice, encouraged women to choose to do something other than that occupation which had been thrust upon them and for which they had been groomed all their lives. In an effort to embrace a wider variety of roles, old ways of being were cast aside. Women, so long resigned to lives without choice, were eager to tackle other endeavors that made use of more talents than nurturing.
In the early years of any movement, revolution is necessary to achieve new goals.
In this particular revolution, motherhood, as one’s sole occupation, came in for sharp attack. In an effort to flee the bonds of motherhood, motherhood itself had to be devalued. Women whose investments increasingly took them away from the home began to place less and less emphasis on the home environment. They were led to believe, either by themselves or by others, that bearing children was not real success. And it would be a long time before motherhood itself would begin to seem appealing again – a choice in itself. […] Stripped of its associations with housewifery, motherhood is felt by those women who have children to be not a limiting experience, but rather, an enriching one. […] Women, acknowledging the deep pleasure that comes from being a mother, need to find new ways to merge the two experiences of mothering and working, rather than seeing their choices as ‘either/or.'”
Women Together, Women Alone – Anita Shreve (161-163)
Hopefully this has opened your eyes a little bit on the plight of the 70s/80s feminist movement.
The more you know, the more you can make a difference.