Women and the Politics of Empowerment

By Ann Bookman; Sandra Morgen | Go to book overview

feminist scholarship is seeking. To recognize this structure of leadership, and to expand the term leadership to encompass it is to make the invisible visible. It valorizes some of the important ways in which women have exerted leadership and moves beyond equating oratory with leadership.

I have tried to show here that looking at grassroots leadership through women's eyes leads us to a fairly fundamental re-vision of political conduct, one that redefines both the categories for studying political structures and the dynamics of activism. This is central for feminists and anyone else who would understand and further grassroots and transformative politics.

Analytically, it is important to recognize that centers and speakers are functions or dimensions of leadership, and hence separate issues from who carries them out. Experience at Duke University Medical Center raises, but does not answer the question, can one person be both a spokesperson and a centerperson? Do these functions necessarily pull an individual in opposite directions? Also -- a thornier issue -- are these roles necessarily gender-linked as spokesman and centerwoman? One ought not assume that either role must be gender-specific or that these roles require different people. After all, neither organizers nor analysts know very much about the structure and dynamics of informal work organization or about the dynamics of grassroots political activism. I would suggest that part of the remedy lies in applying feminist perspectives to the analysis of male shopfloor culture and grassroots leadership. Such an endeavor, or even a re-analysis of the literature on male work culture, might reveal centermen and a form of resistance similar to that found among Duke Hospital women. A feminist perspective that looks at links between work, family, and political action, may be valuable for understanding the dynamics of men's activism as well as that of women.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Research for this paper was supported by a National Sciences Foundation grant and a National Institutes of Mental Health postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for the Study of the Family and the State at Duke University. For a more extended discussion of hospital worker organizing, see my book Caring by the Hour: Women, Work and Organizing at Duke Medical Center ( Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987).


NOTES
1.
P. Giddings, When and Where I Enter ( New York: Bantam, 1985); bell hooks, Ain't I a Woman ( Boston: South End Press, 1981); B. Neugarten, "Interpretive Social Science and Research on Aging", in A. S. Rossi, ed., Gender and the Life Course ( Chicago: Aldine), 291-300; P. Rabinow and M. Sullivan, eds., Interpretive Social Science: A Reader ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979); T. Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture ( New York: Doubleday, 1969); J. Ladner, ed., The Death of WhiteSociology

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