What's So Scary about Feminism? ; 'Consciousness Raising' Just Means Honest Discussion about Our Behavior and Our Choices

By Bruno, Debra | The Christian Science Monitor, March 9, 2006 | Go to article overview
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What's So Scary about Feminism? ; 'Consciousness Raising' Just Means Honest Discussion about Our Behavior and Our Choices


Bruno, Debra, The Christian Science Monitor


The other day at work, some colleagues and I were discussing a chain restaurant known for its scantily clad waitresses. I was taken aback for a moment. "They have the best sports bar in my area," one person said. "I hear they have great Buffalo wings," said another.

It was a moment of disconnect. "But how can anyone go to places like that?" I asked. "What about the objectification of women's bodies?"

The what of the who?

My colleagues, many of them young enough to be my offspring, gave me puzzled, bemused looks.

"This is one of those feminist things, isn't it?" someone asked.

"Yes, I'm a feminist. Yes, I did consciousness raising," I said.

"What's consciousness raising?"

It was my turn to be startled. Hasn't everyone at least heard about consciousness raising? A quick survey of the people in my office revealed that no one, male or female, under the age of 30 had even heard of what in my day was so common we called it "CR."

One colleague, smart and Harvard educated, said, "Are you talking about feminism, or are you talking about the reeducation the North Koreans did?"

I tried to explain. I felt as if I was talking about butter- churning or cloth diapers. How could I describe these little groups of women who met once a week in the 1960s and 1970s, just to talk about their lives, their assumptions, their feelings as women? In my CR group, I remember one woman announced, with some chagrin, that she had thrown out all her clothes and bought a completely new wardrobe for college. We all agreed that she might have overdone her need to please.

Did CR change my life? Yes, no doubt. But then again, nearly everything changed my life when I was young.

My group met in the spring of 1976. Since I was a student living on the campus of a public college, some of the topics we discussed didn't really resonate with me. I had no spouse or boyfriend to pick up after. I couldn't contribute much about raising children or about my career choices or about putting anyone but myself first.

But, still - in its essence, CR did exactly what it was intended to do - it raised my slumbering consciousness about all sorts of things: the kinds of clothes women choose to wear, how we see our bodies, what we seek in our lives, and how much we care about how others see us.

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