Wed Jun 13, 2012, 09:34 AM
seabeyond (90,529 posts)
Sex and Caste:A Kind of Memo from Casey Hayden and Mary King to other women in the peace and freedom
(Editors Note: Casey Hayden and Mary King circulated this paper on women in the civil rights movement based on their experiences as Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee volunteers. It is widely regarded as one of the first documents of the emerging women's liberation movement.)
Sex and caste: There seem to be many parallels that can be drawn between treatment of Negroes and treatment of women in our society as a whole. But in particular, women we've talked to who work in the movement seem to be caught up in a common-law caste system that operates, sometimes subtly, forcing them to work around or outside hierarchical structures of power which may exclude them. Women seem to be placed in the same position of assumed subordination in personal situations too. It is a caste system which, at its worst, uses and exploits women.
This is complicated by several facts, among them:
3) There are biological differences (even though those biological differences are usually discussed or accepted without taking present and future technology into account so we probably can't be sure what these differences mean). Many people who are very hip to the implications of the racial caste system, even people in the movement, don't seem to be able to see the sexual caste system and if the question is raised they respond with: "That's the way it's supposed to be. There are biological differences." Or with other statements which recall a white segregationist confronted with integration.
Women and problems of work: The caste system perspective dictates the roles assigned to women in the movement, and certainly even more to women outside the movement. Within the movement, questions arise in situations ranging from relationships of women organizers to men in the community, to who cleans the freedom house, to who holds leadership positions, to who does secretarial work, and who acts as spokesman for groups. Other problems arise between women with varying degrees of awareness of themselves as being as capable as men but held back from full participation, or between women who see themselves as needing more control of their work than other women demand. And there are problems with relationships between white women and black women.
Women and personal relations with men: Having learned from the movement to think radically about the personal worth and abilities of people whose role in society had gone unchallenged before, a lot of women in the movement have begun trying to apply those lessons to their own relations with men. Each of us probably has her own story of the various results, and of the internal struggle occasioned by trying to break out of very deeply learned fears, needs, and self?perceptions, and of what happens when we try to replace them with concepts of people and freedom learned from the movement and organizing.
Men's reactions to the questions raised here: A very few men seem to feel, when they hear conversations involving these problems, that they have a right to be present and participate in them, since they are so deeply involved. At the same time, very few men can respond non-defensively, since the whole idea is either beyond their comprehension or threatens and exposes them. The usual response is laughter. That inability to see the whole issue as serious, as the straitjacketing of both sexes, and as societally determined often shapes our own response so that we learn to think in their terms about ourselves and to feel silly rather than trust our inner feelings. The problems we're listing here, and what others have said about them, are therefore largely drawn from conversations among women only and that difficulty in establishing dialogue with men is a recurring theme among people we've talked to.
"If ye love...the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
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Sex and Caste:A Kind of Memo from Casey Hayden and Mary King to other women in the peace and freedom (Original post)
Response to seabeyond (Original post)
Wed Jun 13, 2012, 11:06 AM
redqueen (104,018 posts)
1. The first half of the last paragraph makes me want to scream.
How can we successfully deal with war, poverty, etc when half the thoughtful voices are silenced before they even get a chance to fully develop?
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends" - Martin Luther King Jr. * What you allow is what will continue. * http://www.hustlingtheleft.com/ http://www.everydaysexism.com/ http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/ http://manboobz.com/ http://skeptifem.blogspot.com/p/sex-industry-harm.html http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4051