Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Women's Movement

So, we (Bob, Duncan, Dave and I) were talking after class about Utah's comments to Amy Goodman about the women's movement being the most important development of the 20th century (or something like that). I wondered what you all made of that. Do you agree?



  1. I don't know whether or not the women's movement has the power Utah saw in it. It hasn't stopped militarism yet. Few American women seem interested in political activism--or even personally breaking free of the prison of gender or the ideologies that serve the patriarchy.

    On the other hand I found Utah's words heart-warming. That women didn't send kids to war (but how many really do?). That he had the awareness and strength to rethink what he'd been taught about masculinity when it led to the horrors of war.

    We could live in that world, the one of his compassionate imagination. We're already living in a world of racial and gender relations unthinkable a century ago. But then, Weimar Berlin was a haven for the LGBT community of the time, and we all know how that turned out.

  2. "Compassionate imagination" is a good phrase - heaven knows that it requires a massive leap of imagination to picture the kind of change Utah wants. But that's always been the case - the IWW literally wanted to put every worker on earth into "one big union" and get rid of coercive institutions. Think of the power structures standing in the way - but is that really any more daunting than the power structure that defended slavery, or monarchy?
    Women's movement comments are intriguing. My take is, from a political democracy standpoint, women's suffrage is easily the largest single expansion of democracy in American history, literally doubling the electorate at a stroke. Much progress in social and economic equity, too, although a long way to go. Militarism is interesting - plenty of documentation of wives, mothers, sisters encouraging their male relatives to do the honorable thing and fight, e.g. in Civil War, but I think Utah's right; for every woman who did what I mention, there were a thousand more cursing the politicians who'd gotten us in the mess and begging their men not to go.
    Good point re Weimar - "progress"is not linear, it must be fought for, and if we don't, we can go backwards.

  3. Isn't the IWW's vision self-contradictory in that unions must be coercive institutions themselves to be effective? Against scabs, and I suppose against the employers too. And the White reading suggests they've not always been above abusing their position to enforce ethnic discrimination and so on.

    I guess someone with enough idealism can believe in a world where no worker would be a scab, but that's a much bigger leap than replacing one coercive institution (like slavery) with another (like a government that prohibits slavery). I think that cultural forces to promote ethical behavior can be very effective, for good or for ill, and that's the problem: Let's all work toward the good of society! Let's commit genocide! How could a society that believed in non-coercion enforce it?

    I agree that the women's movement has been hugely momentous, and beneficial. But I think that the 1000:1 pro-peace to pro-war women is quite an exaggeration. The ratio of women to men in the military is significant and growing (fairly near parity in civilian positions). I don't know what that means, but I don't think it should be dismissed. Possibly part of it could be the issue Utah pointed to, "young men with guns"--they're glamorized in our society, admired above any ideals presented to girls as "this is what you can be when you grow up". But plenty of women have their own tendencies toward aggression, coercion, or militaristic ideals.

    I think liberating women decreases a society's militarism in general: due directly to their reduced likelihood of militarism, indirectly due to fewer young males, but it also adds womanpower to a nation's possible military resources. (I wonder how that impacts military culture.)

    Re: fighting for progress, always the biggest question on my mind is how to not just fight, but how to be effective. Oh, and why cultural backlashes happen and how to prevent them.