Over time I've stopped being depressed by the lack of feminist
accord. I see feminists as stuck with the very indeterminacy I say I
long for. This is it then, the life part way in, part way out. One can
be recalled to 'woman' anytime--by things as terrible as rape, as
trivial as a rude shout on the street--but one can never stay inside
'woman', because it keeps moving. We constantly find ourselves
beyond its familiar cover.
Gender markers are being hotly reasserted these days--US
defence is called 'standing tough' while the Pope's letter on women
calls motherhood woman's true vocation. Yet this very heat is a sign
of gender's instabilities. We can clutch aspects of the identity we
like, but they often slip away. Modern women experience moments
of free fall. How is it for you, there, out in space near me? Different,
I know. Yet we share--some with more pleasure, some with more
The 'we' problem has no more simple solution than does the divide itself, but
in spite of its false promise of unity the 'we' remains politically important. In
this piece, 'we' includes anyone who calls herself a feminist, anyone who is
actively engaged with the struggles described here.
MARHO Forum, John Jay College, New York, 2 Mar. 1984. For feminist critiques of the new peace activism see Breaching the Peace: A Collection of Radical
Feminist Papers ( London: Only women Press, 1983) and Ann Snitow, 'Holding
the Line at Greenham', in Mother Jones ( Feb / Mar 1985), 30-47.
Lourdes Beneria and Phyllis Mack began the study group, which was initially
funded by the Institute on Women at Rutgers University. Other members
were: Dorothy Dinnerstein, Zala Chandler, Carol Cohn, Adrienne Harris, Ynestra King, Rhoda Linton, Sara Ruddick, and Amy Swerdlow.
Amy Swerdlow, "'Pure Milk, Not Poison: Women Strike for Peace and the
Test Ban Treaty of 1963'", in Rocking the Ship of State, 225-37. (This book grew
from the study group above.)
Bella Abzug and
Mim Kelber, Gender Gap ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984).
According to Kelber, Carter was outraged that the women of the commission
were criticizing his social priorities; they were supposed to be on his side. Most
of the commission resigned when Carter fired Abzug. When he reconstituted
the commission somewhat later, the adjective national had been dropped
from its name and it became the President's Advisory Commission for
Women, with restricted powers and no lobbying function.
'In the United States, we oscillate between participating in, and separating
from, organizations and institutions that remain alienating and stubbornly
male dominant' ( Joan Kelly, "'The Doubled Vision of Feminist Theory'", in
(ed.), Women, History and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 55). Also see Denise Riley, War in the
Nursery: Theories of the Child and Mother ( London: Virago, 1983).