Women's Strike 1970
Women’s Strike 1970: A Unique Perspective by Carolyn L. Baker, M.Ed.
Guest Writer, Los Angeles Free Press.
It was fifty years ago this August when this article appeared https://losangelesfreepress.com/womens-strike-1970/ and Joyce Duvall described how about 1000 women went on strike in downtown Los Angeles for Women’s Liberation. Marchers included members of National Organization of Women (NOW), Radical Feminists, and Gay Liberation groups. A counter-demonstration by members of Happiness of Women (HOW) discredited their demands.
The article quotes Robin Tyler of NOW, with reference to the counter-protestors, as saying “Had we been blacks today picketing for equal rights, those HOW women would have been called the worst bigots, but because we are women picketing for equal rights, those same bigots are hailed as heroines.” Ironically, Tyler’s remark, from her white frame of “we” displays her own bigotry, suggesting that all the women marching were white. And quite possibly they were, as the liberty of women of color - then - was of little matter to the Women’s Liberation Movement.
Seven years later, at the Congress-mandated U.S. Conference on Women in Houston, Texas, Margaret Prescod attempted to raise a resolution opposing the forced sterilization of black, Native American, and Puerto Rican women. Promptly, her microphone was cut off. It’s true, women of color had to put their concerns and issues on the sideline for the white-women majority. Still, “We did ask that we not be segregated into minority women, over on our own,” said Carmen Delgado Votaw, Co-Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Women, voicing a similar position that diverse voices were wanting to be heard. However, “We wanted to be part of the mainstream of women. We wanted to be included in every part of the plan that affected us.” But even then, it was not the reality.
The reality was that white feminists showed had little to no interest in the concerns of women of color and, yet, they expected them to support their white feminist’s agenda. Back then, the notion was, quite simply, that “solidarity is for white women” … only.
In that same week, the National Women’s Conference, a group led by Phyllis Schlafly and Lottie Beth Hobbs, held a protest rally across town against this federally-funded feminism. Although in apparent opposition to each other, the Women’s Rights and the Pro-life/Pro-family Movements both, as white, middle-class women looked the same. And neither group fostered an equal sharing of power for women of color or had an understanding of how intersecting aspects of non-white women’s identities compounded discrimination against them.
Nevertheless,the article closes with Duvall stating, “Remember, Women’s Liberation works for all women. Free ourselves; free our sisters!“ And a fact check through history shows that every wave of the feminist movements - from the suffragettes; to the second wave during the 1960s and 1970s, and on into the third wave in the 1990 – Women’s Liberation did not work for all women. Rather, the feminist movement was created by white women, for white women.
But now, nearly fifty years after the Los Angeles Women’s Strike of 1970, with the very sudden, and very surprising, recognition of the rightful place of inclusivity, white women can clearly see the racial divide created by the feminist movements. It is not the responsibility of women of color to fix a system they did not create and one from which they do not benefit. It is the role of white women to confront this frame of whiteness within the Women’s Liberation Movement. The repair begins with acknowledging the trauma of inter-generational racism and the harm white women, on average, have caused women of color. From there, the onus is on white women, as individuals, to be allies in actively helping address the concerns of women of color, to the degree it is requested. Finally, fifty years later, there is a march for radical feminism, one that values and uplifts all women.
[Ed.’s Note: Carolyn L. Baker, M.Ed. grew up in a segregated suburb in Southern California but came of age in the counterculture of the1960s. Quite naturally, she went on to work in community-based nonprofit organizations for the next 30 years, including serving in Skid Row. Still later, as a white woman in the midst of a world of racial trauma, she learned of the murder of Emmett Till.
Her book An Unintentional Accomplice: A Personal Perspective on White Responsibility follows Baker’s painful awakening to the realities of her own complicity in racism. It is a personal narrative that invites readers to explore the complexities of race in America, suggests ways to navigate the guilt that can arise in the face of these realities, and offers relevant ways to build a more humane society. Published by 2Leaf Press and distributed by University of Chicago Press. Ebook and paperback editions @ https://bit.ly/2At1tee
There is more info about Carolyn, including her upcoming radio interviews @ www.anunintentionalaccomplice.com]