Some Relationship Counseling for Feminism and the Left

I remember when Robin Morgan launched her diatribe against the Left and the Counter Culture in 1970.  I was part of Weather, living in Berkeley where the left and feminist seemed to be on the same side in their analysis of social structures and oppressions.

In retrospect Morgan’s diatribe comes off as both highly privileged and aimed at devastating a unified progressive front that was aimed at furthering the rights of all people including women.

Oppression and privilege are rarely absolutes, yet Morgan used the idea of one dimensional absolutes of oppression to separate feminism from other issues of oppression including class and race.

Hillary Rosen spoke the truth when she said Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life.  Neither has Mitt.  The rich and privileged do not work, not the same way the lumper loading a truck or the primary school teacher does.

From Truth Out:

By Harriet Fraad
Thursday, 19 April 2012

First marriages, sometimes cynically called “starter marriages” often don’t work. Second and third marriages work out even less. Americans marry and also divorce more than any other people on earth. I believe that a prime reason for our remarkable remarriage rate is Americans’ loneliness in our time of disconnection from each other.

According to Cacioppo and Patrick’s brilliant book, “Loneliness,” our basic sense of self is built on three legs of support. Each leg is a way of connecting to others. One basic support is personal, individual, intimate connection to a person who puts us at the center of her or his emotional life. The second is a relational connection to a wider circle of friends and/or family whom we trust and with whom we share personal bonds. The third leg of support is collective connection to a wider group. This can be a political group, a work-related group, a religious group, a sports group or any other social group with which we identify and with whom we are active. Americans have lost two of the three legs that hold up our sense of self. We have become isolated and separate from relational and collective supports.

Countless studies agree that Americans are disconnected from one another. The most thorough is Robert Putnam’s book, “Bowling Alone.” In one dramatic example, Putnam points out that in spite of the increase in the US population since 1970, there are fewer members in active groups in America now than were in bowling leagues alone in 1970. One out of four Americans has no one to talk to even in a crisis. Americans may marry more than other people because they have lost two of the three basic constructs for a human self. A vast number of Americans has neither a circle of friends nor trusted family members nor collective connection to and membership in a wider social group. People may look to marriage to support them on every level.


The founding mothers of what was called the women’s liberation movement were socialist activists. Most of us believed that since we, as women, were at the bottom of economic and political hierarchies, if we demanded economic and political equality for women, we would bring everyone with us to create an America with equal opportunity for all. Although the early women’s liberation movement was a mass movement of distinct and differing groups, all of the feminist foremothers were leftists. We were multiracial and multi-ethnic. The first significant publication of the women’s liberation movement in 1968 was “Notes from the Second Year: Women’s Liberation” edited by Shulamith Firestone and Anna Koedt. The first anthology of women’s liberation statements, “Sisterhood Is Powerful,” was edited by Robin Morgan and published in 1970. Both were written within an avowedly left, class-conscious perspective. Both included multi-ethnic and African American women’s liberation pieces. In addition, there were groups of minority women who had their own feminist groups. The Third World Women’s Alliance was formed in New York City in 1968. Their revolutionary statement is published in “Dear Sisters,” a collection of writings from the women’s liberation movement. The women’s liberation movement lost its class focus and left-connectedness. One reason for this loss was our naiveté.

The naiveté of many of our hopes came in part from the times we lived in. The 1960s were a time of promise, prosperity and optimism. Unemployment was about 3 percent. Job opportunities for white men were omnipresent. White men were paid a family wage whether they had a family or not. Jobs for women and people of color were available, albeit at lower wages and in fewer sectors. Men of all races earned more than women did. Education guaranteed a job, even though a lesser one for women or people of color. There was a mass and largely successful civil rights movement and a powerful mass movement to stop the war in Vietnam. There was a sense of hope. The United States and the US dollar were the kings of the world. In prosperous 1960s and early 1970s America, women were paid fifty-nine cents for every dollar of men’s pay, even when women supported their families alone or worked side by side with men on the same job. That was the historical context of early feminism.

The early women’s liberation movement was unsophisticated. We, like most of the new left at the time, were class conscious, but we were neither immersed nor much interested in leftist history or theory. Early feminists formed our agenda through a radical technique called consciousness raising. We talked together about the struggles in our own lives and found a platform built upon our personal experiences. That was a powerful and effective method. However, if we had been more knowledgeable of and grounded within foiled attempts at gender justice or class equality, we may have done better. Had we seriously studied the way wealth and power operate, we would have had a far greater appreciation of the resources, resilience and manipulation that threatened our dreams. Perhaps, we would have been better able to forge common cause with the left had we anticipated right-wing determination to expunge the demand for class justice from our new feminist agenda.

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