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Wyker, Cyrana B.
Women in wargasm :
b the politics of women's liberation in the Weather Underground organization
h [electronic resource] /
by Cyrana B. Wyker.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 87 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: In this thesis I examine women's participation in the violent revolutionary organization, Weatherman/Weather Underground. My attempt is to uncover Weatherman's view of women's liberation, their differences to the women's liberation movement and examine the practices implemented. I discuss Weatherman, more generally, in the context and circumstances of their emergence from the Students for a Democratic Society in the late sixties. Influenced by popular revolutionary thinkers Weatherman declared itself and its members revolutionaries dedicated to bringing about a socialist revolution in the United States through strategies of guerilla warfare. Weatherman's insistence on revolutionary violence situated masculinity and machismo within the center of their politics and practice. Weatherman promised its female members liberation through violence and machismo in the fight for a socialist revolution.I explore Weatherman's political position on women's liberation and the result of their politics evident in autonomous women's actions and sexual practices. In addition, I contend that Weatherman's politics more generally, and women's participation in Weatherman was shaped by the cultural hegemony of masculinity, termed by Connell as hegemonic masculinity. Exploration of women's participation in political violence is important to the acknowledgment of women as agents of aggression and the gender fluidity they represent. Weatherwomen's acceptance and adoption of masculinity provides an example of gender fluidity in contexts outside of common homosexual, transgendered, or queer representations. Furthermore, varying perceptions of women's liberation during the late sixties and early seventies has yet to be explored outside of the narrow scope of the autonomous feminist movement.Women who participated in the Weatherman/Weather Underground, their politics of women's liberation and methods in which to accomplish liberation have been ignored by historians of feminism and the New Left. This thesis uncovers the politics of women's liberation in the Weatherman/ Weather Underground, through which I examine the meaning of women's liberation, methods of liberation, and the empowered and limited position of women within the Weatherman/Weather Underground.
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Advisor: Sara Crawley, Ph.D.
x Women's Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Women in Wargasm: The Politics of Womens Liberation in the Weather Underground Organization By Cyrana B. Wyker A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Womens Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Sara Crawley, Ph.D. David Johnson, Ph.D. Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 26, 2009 Keywords: Weatherman, Gender, Hegemony, Revolutionary Violence, Feminism, Cathy Wilkerson, Bernardine Dohrn, Susan Stern Copyright 2009, Cyrana B. Wyker
i Table of Contents Abstract ii Chapter One: Introduction 1 Literature Review 5 Feminist Approaches to Violent Women 11 Importance of the WUO for Feminist Anal ysis of the Use of Violence 14 Methods 15 Chapter Two: White Mother Country Radicals 19 Ideological Factions of the New Left 21 Weatherman 25 Chapter Three: Weathermans Politic on Womens Liberation 34 Womens Liberation Movement 42 Adopting Masculinity and Machismo 53 Hegemonic Masculinity 56 Chapter Four: Weathermans Practice of Womens Liberation 59 Separate Womens Actions 59 Smash Monogamy: Sex in the Weatherman/Underground 67 Hegemony and the Liberatory Potential of Masculinity 75 Chapter Five: Conclusion 78 References 84
ii Women in Wargasm: The Politics of Womens Liberation in the Weather Underground Organization Cyrana Wyker ABSTRACT In this thesis I examine womens participation in the violent revolutionary organization, Weatherman/Weather Underground. My attempt is to uncover Weathermans view of womens liberation, their differences to the womens liberation movement and examine the practices implemented. I discuss Weatherman, more generally, in the context and circumstances of their emergence from the Students for a Democratic Society in the late sixties. Influenced by popular revolutionary thinkers Weatherman declared itself and its members revolutionaries dedicated to bringing about a socialist revolution in the United States through strategies of guerilla warfare. Weathermans insistence on revolutionary violence situated masculinity and machismo within the center of their politics and practice. Weatherman promised its female members liberation through violence and machismo in the fight for a socialist revolution. I explore Weathermans political position on womens liberation and the result of their politics evident in autonomous womens actions and sexual practices. In addition, I contend that Weathermans politics more generally, and womens participation in Weatherman was shaped by the cultural hegemony of masculinity, termed by Connell as hegemonic masculinity.
iii Exploration of womens participation in political violence is important to the acknowledgment of women as agents of aggression and the gender fluidity they represent. Weatherwomens acceptance and adoption of masculinity provides an example of gender fluidity in contexts outside of common homosexual, transgendered, or queer representations. Furthermore, varying perceptions of womens liberation during the late sixties and early seventies has yet to be explored outside of the narrow scope of the autonomous feminist movement. Women who participated in the Weatherman/Weather Underground, their politics of womens liberation and methods in which to accomplish liberation have been ignored by historians of feminism and the New Left. This thesis uncovers the politics of womens liberation in the Weatherman/ Weather Underground, through which I examine the meaning of womens liberation, methods of liberation, and the empowered and limited position of women within the Weatherman/Weather Underground.
1 Chapter One: Introduction In the United States the late sixties and early seventies were times of turbulent social change. Poverty, racism, imperialism and the Vietnam War were grave concerns to many of the youth in America as they positioned themselves within a context for revolutionary social change advocating Black Nationalism, Vietnams National Liberation Front (the Vietcong) and other militias organized against U.S. imperialism. Young Americans, children of the baby boom bred in affluence of the Cold War, were grappling with discontent, anger, and powerlessness concerning social issues. Identifying politically as the New Left, in order to be distinguished from the Old Left which focused primarily on workers, the New Left militantly advocated anti-racism and antiimperialism. Activism during the Vietnam War years provides a kaleidoscope of varying perspectives, experiences, and political strategies as different groups organized around political ideologies. In the late sixties, a group calling themselves Weatherman1 dominated the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization that became popular after its sponsorship of the successful anti-war march on Washington in April of 1965. The march 1 I use Weatherman to denote the entire organization prior to their underground activity. The group referred to themselves as a singular unit. In 1970 Weatherman began clandestine activity in the U.S. and were referred to as the Weather Underground (WUO). I use both these references throughout this thesis to serve the purpose of noting aboveground and underground activities. I use WUO generally to discuss particular politics that transcended aboveground and underground activities. Weatherman/WUOs politic of womens liberation adapted in terms of the visibility and display of machismo with their shift to clandestine activity. However, these politics did not change in analysis or practice.
2 dramatically increased the organizations membership and resulted in the eruption of new chapters on university campuses across the country.2 Structured as an anti-authoritarian, participatory democratic organization comprised of ideological diversity, factional groups developed within the SDS that resulted in the emergence of the action-faction, Weatherman. Weatherman encouraged militant resistance to the Vietnam War, racism, imperialism, and police repression. Their activism escalated to the use of armed propaganda, destruction of symbolic private properties as a political statement and consciousness-raising strategy. Weatherman had no official membership but historians suggest that Weatherman had 300 members prior to going underground after which its membership declined to half.3 Although the Weather Underground was a considerably small faction of the New Left movement half of them were female participants. Weatherman abandoned its illusions of creating a mass youth movement in exchange for clandestine activity in 1970 after the planned national action, called Days of Rage, in Chicago failed to generate masses of youth for a revolutionary movement. Weatherman remained an active organization until it slowly dissipated in the late 1970s. Between 1968 and 1970 political violence against private property became a common expression of social outrage. According to Dan Berger, during the 1969-1970 academic school year 5,000 bombings occurred on university campuses and 70 bombings occurred at off-campus locations. At the height of symbolic bombing activity by radical activists, between September 1969 and May 1970, one bombing or attempted bombing occurred 2Irwin Unger, The Movement: A History of The American New Left 1959 1972 (New York: Harper & Row Publishers: 1974) 87. 3 Jeremy Varon, Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, The Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004) 172.
3 every day.4 Weatherman claimed responsibility for twenty bombings between June 1969 and September 1975. Political violence through bombings, arson, and other destruction of state, corporate, and university property was used as a means of political expression and a strategy to rouse a guerrilla war within the United States.5 Some academic research has contributed to the exploration of revolutionary violence, violence that is intended and interpreted to have a political message or goal, within the United States by way of Weatherman due to their presence within the radical Left movement. This body of scholarship has discussed womens participation in Weatherman within general explorations of the organizations politics and strategy. This thesis explores womens participation in Weatherman at the intersection of their politics of revolution and practice of revolutionary ideology with particular focus on womens liberation. This thesis, by utilizing gender as a site for analysis and theorization, will argue the centrality of masculinity in Weathermans perception of womens liberation. I contend that Weathermans strategy of violence and machismo as a liberatory practice for women was shaped by hegemonic masculinity. And furthermore, resulted in constructs in which womens equality, valuation, and liberation is impossible particularly through ideologies and strategies that require women adopt masculinity as a means of their liberation as women. In effect, Weatherman was unable to offer and implement liberation for women within their model of revolutionary socialist practice. 4 Dan Berger, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (California, AK Press: 2006) 117. 5 Jeremy Varon, Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, The Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004) 3.
4 In this chapter, I provide an introduction to the historiography on Weatherman, the approach applied by feminist scholarship on politically violent women, and the importance of women in the WUO through new interpretative methods. In Chapter Two, I focus on the context in which Weatherman emerged from the Students for a Democratic Society organization of the New Left as an occurrence of organizational defense. I focus on their ideology, politics, and practice that necessitated pro-violent posturing. I explain how Weathermans embrace of Marxism and theories of guerilla warfare made violence a legitimate strategy for liberation and revolution. In Chapter Three, I articulate Weathermans political position of womens oppression and liberation and compare their politics to the womens liberation movement more generally. Weathermans analysis of womens oppression is evident within their description of male chauvinism and supremacy which diverged from feminist conceptions. Weathermans program for womens liberation stemmed from their analysis of male chauvinism and supremacy which fit into their broader strategy for socialist revolution. I contend that Weatherman and the womens liberation movement had irreconcilable differences in their method and practice of womens liberation; and fundamentally, the embrace and valuation of masculinity was the basis of these differences. In Chapter Four, I examine Weathermans activism and sexual practices ostensibly for womens liberation, in particular autonomous womens actions and the smash monogamy campaign. I elaborate on the justification for women-only actions, how women perceived these actions to be liberatory and resistant of their oppression as
5 women, and the ways in which Weathermans internal culture undermined the intent or liberatory potential of these actions. I also examine Weathermans smash monogamy campaign, articulated by women and supported by men, as a program for womens liberation. I argue that Weathermans rigid anti-monogamy practices were exploitative through political manipulation and reinforced womens subordination within the organization and recreated the prescribed domination of women more generally. I discuss women in the WUOs embrace of traditionally masculine behaviors and hegemonic models of masculinity as a manifestation of the Gramscian notion of contradictory consciousness which served to reinforce their subordination as women. In conclusion, I argue that womens performance of masculinity does not grant women power as female-bodied people. In result of the hegemonic power of gender and masculinity in particular, politically motivated performances of masculinity by women are representative of schisms between theory and practice. Literature Review Amongst the historical research available on Weatherman, women are subsumed within examinations of Weatherman collectively with minimal exploration of their unique position. Weatherman asserted that violent and aggressive behavior as political practice challenged male supremacy and chauvinism enacted by individuals and dominant culture. The practice of masculinity enabled women to participate the broader struggle for world-wide socialism which would guarantee womens liberation. Weathermans position on womens oppression and consequential strategy for womens
6 liberation is largely ignored by historians in pursuit of a broader explanation of Weathermans violence. I begin by addressing the existing literature on Weatherman regarding violence and womens participation. In Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity Dan Berger explores the emergence of Weatherman from the SDS and the factions political transformation into the Weather Underground Organization (WUO). Employing interviews and guidance from participant David Gilbert, Berger tells the story of political solidarity with domestic and international national liberation struggles. Through an examination of the social conditions, political ideology and strategy, repressive Federal Bureau of Investigations Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) operations and attacks on the New Left, and the dissipation of the WUO, Berger gives us a comprehensive history of the WUOs existence in the anti-war movement of the Sixties and Seventies. He presents the shift from resistance to violence against the State as a response of urgent priority regarding U.S. involvement in Vietnam and COINTELPROs treatment of the Black Panther Party.6 Berger argues that the bombings were about dramatizing and humanizing revolutionary politics, about exacting a political cost for the state or corporate terror, about challenging institutions responsible for oppression.7 He states that womens experienced sexism in the WUO as a result of the smash monogamy campaign but emphasizes the importance of Weather politics in womens decision to join the Weather collectives.8 He argues that women critiqued male 6 Dan Berger, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (California, AK Press: 2006) 121. 7 Berger, 151. 8 Berger, 291.
7 supremacy within the WUO during criticism-self-criticism sessions and eventually there was a shift in the WUOs position on womens liberation in 1973 as the Weather Underground was experiencing internal disagreement concerning politics and practice.9 He states that the WUO placed new emphasis on women as women began to push the organization into a more feminist direction but further notes that the WUO continued to ignore emphasis on male supremacy and former female members have recalled that there was some solidarity among women but little else in the way of feminist politics.10 Dan Bergers assessment of women within the organization lacks articulation of how male supremacy and male chauvinism was perceived by women and men in the WUO. He neglects to emphasize that male chauvinism, although a critique during criticism-selfcriticism sessions, was directed at women and the methods implemented to combat this inequality such as the mere existence of street-fighting women, autonomous womens actions, and anti-monogamy program fostered further devaluation of women and constrained potential for womens liberation within their political program. In The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground Ron Jacobss account of the Weather Underground begins with the pivotal year 1968. Jacobs argues that debates about nationalism, class analysis, and youth culture within the SDS would allow the Weather faction to emerge. Jacobs tells the story of the Weather Underground through use of New Left Notes and political statements and tracks the WUOs ideological and political shifts from the Revolutionary Youth Movement paper to the Prairie Fire statement and the emergence of the aboveground WUO faction, the Prairie Fire 9 Berger, 291, 172. 10 Berger, 172.
8 Organizing Committee at the end of WUOs collective political activities. He argues that the socialist revolution envisioned by the WUO and its support by and of women called for militant aggression. The major shift in the WUOs politics, according to Jacobs, regarded women and feminism.11 He argues that this shift was related to the changing role of women in the organization and to certain trends as the womens movement grew in the early 1970s.12 He states that the trend in which feminists saw the enemy not as men, but as the system of imperialism, now termed socialist feminism, was both embraced and developed by Weather.13 Ultimately, Ron Jacobs argues that the lack of consideration of special exploitation of women by society would lead to Weathers demise.14 However, Ron Jacobs does not confront the meaning of male chauvinism or womens oppression for the Weather Underground. He fails to analyze the politic of womens liberation put forth by WUO and thus, fails to address the methods implemented by the WUO to combat male supremacy and male chauvinism. In Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies Jeremy Varons work on revolutionary violence juxtaposes the Weather Underground with Germanys Red Army faction. His study, drawn from interviews with participants about their experience and analysis of political actions as complex texts, positions revolutionary violence in an international context to reject the notion that revolutionary violence was a U.S. 11 Ron Jacobs, The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground (New York, Verso: 1997) 165. 12 Jacobs, 165. 13 Jacobs, 165-166. 14 Jacobs, 174.
9 phenomenon but rather an international confrontation of imperialism.15 He argues that it is a mistake to view armed struggle as an aberration or as simply a fringe phenomenon it minimizes the broader revolutionary impetus of the late 1960s and threatens to make scapegoats of those who acted on the prevalent rhetoric among radicals encouraging violence.16 Varon reveals the New Lefts escalation to violence and militancy through language and action to demonstrate that the WUO committed actions of violence of which the larger movement had talked about. He argues that the WUO transcended the schism between New Lefts theory and practice.17 This transcendence, in the WUOs view, required strict practices. Varon states that womens strong presence in the group was evidence of how deeply outrage at the Vietnam War and racism cut across gender lines and further asserts that womens experiences in the group were characterized by a developing consciousness of womens oppression, second-tier leadership, and activities to further prove themselves such as separate womens actions.18 He mentions militancy and violence as practices of empowerment for female participants but neglects in-depth discussion on arguably exploitative and discriminatory practices, such as smash monogamy, and women-only actions which I critique later in this thesis. In Personal Politics: The Roots of Womens Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left, Sara Evans discusses womens participation in the Civil Rights and New Left movement. Her emphasis is one of the ways in which these movements provided women with a vocabulary with which to describe their oppression 15 Varon, 5, 16. 16 Varon, 4. 17 Varon, 86. 18 Varon, 58-60.
10 and experience in political organizing. She tracks the development of the Womens Liberation movement through the circumstances and events within these social movements that influenced women to develop an autonomous womens movement.19 Furthering Evans work, in Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975, Alice Echols provides a history of radical feminism in America. This historical account elaborates on the New Left-feminist split with special attention to events that led up to the divergence and an autonomous movement for womens liberation. She highlights the treatment at demonstrations, conferences and actions of the growing number of women turning their attention to a gender analysis by the members of the New Left. These events are discussed in historical accounts of the era but often silenced; Echols provides the perspective of the emerging feminist movement which is lacking in New Left histories.20 Situating radical feminism in its historical context, Echols acknowledges that radical feminism was intellectually influenced by the Left yet responded to the politics of the Left with the attempt to unite women based on gender instead of class or race. Echols demonstrates the fluidity of the radical feminist movement to explain the movement in its context. The exploration of radical feminism neglects varying politics of womens liberation formed by women of the Left. Currently, feminist scholarship has ignored women on the Left and for the most part excluded them from conversations on womens liberation. Indeed, most radical 19 Sara Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots of Womens Liberation in the Civil Rights and the New Left (New York: Vintage Books, 1979). 20 Alice Echols, Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975 (Minneapolis: Regents of the University of Minnesota, 1989).
11 feminist theorists critique violence and aggression and associate these characteristics with systems of domination. Feminist Approaches to Violent Women Feminist scholars imbedded in feminist theories of gender inequality have been reluctant to discuss female agents of aggression. In States of Conflict Ruth Jacobson, Susie Jacobs and Jen Marchbank introduce feminist analyses of gender and violence. They argue that conflict [is] endemic in human societies and most has a gender dimension.21 They provide two formulations on violence. The first is that violence comprises acts of physical coercion or their threat.22 They state that this definition of violence is problematic because it separates acts of violence from the cultural consequences of acts of violence. The second is that violence is a gendered phenomenon with the context of patriarchal social relations and that all such violence should be situated analytically within a sexual violence approach even where no overtly sexual act is involved.23 This definition is problematic because it assumes that all men and only men as a group benefit from violence and that violence is primarily sexual. Jacobson, Jacobs, and Marchbank do not propose a simple solution to either perspective on violence but assert that gender relations are of central importance, and a restriction to women or 21 Susie Jacobs, Ruth Jacobson, Jennifer Marchbank, Introduction: States of Conflict in States of Conflict: Gender, Violence and Resistance (New York, Zed Books Ltd: 2000) 1. 22 Jacobs, et. al., 2. 23 Jacobs, et. al., 2.
12 womens issues often obscures the relevance to men and to concepts of masculinity in any given context.24 An example of the sexual violence approach is the work of feminist activist and theorist Robin Morgan. In Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism Morgan theorizes violence from the crux of a strictly binary framework of male dominance and female subordination. This analytical predisposition frames violence as a product of male consciousness. In this work, Morgan attempts to provide a feminist analysis of terrorism.25 Morgan states that the terrorist is the logical incarnation of patriarchal politics in a technological world the terrorist is the son practicing what the father has practiced.26 All violence whether enacted by the state or insurgent group is a construct of patriarchal politics. She argues that the token female hero is an imposter in a realm created and defined by male consciousness and reinforced by male power.27 She discusses violence as male and womens participation in violence as an adoption of maleness separate from the behavior of most women. Morgans basis for this separation is that women as a group do not mobilize for our own rights through violent means.28 Her explanation of female agents of violence is that the revolutionary woman has bought into the male radical line she has learned that in order to be a real revolutionary, she must disassociate herself from her womanhood, her aspirations, her reality-and most of all, from other women.29 She continues, she may not rise with her 24 Jacobs, et. al., 3. 25 Robin Morgan, The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism (New York: Washington Square Press: 1989) 5. 26 Morgan, 33. 27 Morgan, 59. 28 Morgan, 170. 29 Morgan, 196.
13 people if she wants power, she must learn that power is synonymous with his power-and his means of seizing it If she wants freedom she must learn that this too is synonymous with his definition of it and his struggle for it She has entered the harem of the Demon Lover.30 Morgans explanation of violence and womens participation in violence is problematic because in an unfortunate display of essentialism, she assumes that women as a people have common goals and aspirations and further assumes that women would utilize the same strategies merely on the basis of femaleness. She ignores womens agency in participating in violent acts by categorizing them as male, rather than understanding gender as constructed and therefore, fluid, malleable, and historically and contextually contingent. I contend that, in affirmation of the first perspective on violence, that violence is an act on which gender has been culturally inscribed. Hence, through this project I examine the meaning of violence for women in Weatherman. I reject the essentialist position that all violence is sexual violence because this perspective presupposes and falsely maintains that all agents of violence are of a dominant social status, categorically male, which I contend eschews womens capacity to be agents of aggression. This feminist formulation of violence is not an adequate framework for examining womens relationship with masculinity through a gendered display of aggression or the significance of such gendered display. In terms of the history of the New Left and the history of feminism, there are two divergent streams of scholarship, perhaps influenced by historical factionalism. On the 30 Morgan, 197.
14 one hand, feminist historians that have contributed to the history of the feminist movement focus primarily on the New Left-feminist split, the reasons for it, and the subsequent feminist groups and the analyses they have generated. On the other, New Left historians have focused on the historical roots of the New Left, political aims of the New Left, and the differences in political ideologies of subsequent groups with little attention to womens participation in the New Left and their participation in political violence. My study is situated within these two streams by adding feminist scholarship to New Left history. The WUO women through representations of masculinity and inescapable manifestations of gender difference developed a feminist analysis limited by rigid political ideologies. I focus on the meaning of adopting masculinity as a liberatory practice for women and the empowerment and limitations this practice presents. Importance of WUO for Feminist An alysis of the Use of Violence Feminist researchers that have ignored violent women evade questions that may be troubling for feminists. I beg the question: do feminist researchers neglect violent women in order to ignore that women have the potential to be agents of aggression? In efforts to reject essentialist notions and traditional constructs of femininity, the exploration of violent women is vital to examinations of the relationship between women, masculinity and hegemony. The importance of the WUO as a clandestine organization is not for their extremity but because of their commitment to putting their theories into practice. The groups presence and visibility and womens participation in the group establishes them as a prime subject for research on gender and armed struggle more
15 generally. The WUO emerged with such visibility for three reasons: first, they dominated SDS at its pinnacle of membership and popularity; second, armed propaganda as a strategy made political statement and communications a necessity to the goal of symbolic violence; and third, their politics mandated that specific practices were implemented with severity. Although intensive research has been conducted on the Weather Underground, including personal experience of participants, the Weather Underground can be further explored through a feminist lens that focuses on gender and sexuality to examine the operations of gender ideology and hegemony in the Weather Underground and the relationship of these women to feminist movements. The women of the WUO politically and historically existed on the outskirts of feminism, conditionally within the New Left, and on the periphery of dominant culture. I contend that an examination Weathermans gender politics will contribute to discussions concerning gender and armed struggle in the United States. Methods In congruence with the historical research available I contend that women joined Weatherman because they shared the same political beliefs and sense of urgency as that of their male comrades. To explore the meaning of womens participation I apply feminist content analysis to the treatment of historical events via archival documents and personal recollections as complex texts. Feminist content analysis is defined by Shulamit Reinharz as the study of a set of objects or events systemically by interpreting the
16 theme contained in them.31 Subversive reading and deconstruction of these texts exposes the meaning of womens participation in traditionally masculinized political activity.32 Through the lens of gender theory as an interpretative framework, I am looking for emphasis on masculinity and machismo as a personal strategy of liberation for women and a political strategy more generally. Furthermore, I am looking for manifestations of gender difference in the WUOs politics and practice and the ways in which such manifestations empowered and limited women. In order to avoid the problematic allinclusive feminism throughout this thesis I refer to the WUOs position on the oppression of women and method of liberation as a politic of womens liberation rather than a broad and generous employment of the term feminism to describe their political direction. I will read the following historical documents to analyze the politics and practice of womens liberation in the WUO: The Look is You, Inside the Weather Machine, You Dont Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia, Honky Tonk Women, Weatherman Politics and the Womens Movement, Motor City 9, Womens Militia, The Second Battle of Chicago, Health Education and Welfare: An Enemy of Women, A Strategy to Win, and A Weatherman: You do need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows.33 I explore these texts because they are publications of the New Left or Weatherman in particular and they reference or discuss women in the WUO, womens 31 Shulamit Reinharz, Feminist Methods in Social Research (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) 146. 32 Reinharz, 149. 33 These documents can be found in Weatherman edited by Harold Jacobs, Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques of the Weather Underground 1970-1974 edited by Ayers, Dorhn and Jones or in New Left Notes listed in References section.
17 performance of masculinity, womens liberation or the practice of women-only actions or anti-monogamy. I have not focused on documents that lack reference to womens participation. Unfortunately, I did not have access to Moving Mountain Day and Six Sisters, unpublished documents written by women in the WUO, ut ilized by Dan Berger courtesy of a participants personal files. Dan Berger asserts that these documents attempted to address and establish the centrality of womens liberation and feminism.34 I contend that Bergers lack of analysis of the WUOs perception of and position on womens liberation and the subsequent practices to implement challenges to male supremacy and chauvinism, which I assert are presented in available documents, make Bergers assessment of Moving Mountain Day and Six Sisters as feminist documents unconvincing, hence, my interest in writing a feminist analysis in this project. In addition, I will utilize the memoirs of Susan Stern, With the Weathermen: The Personal Journal of a Revolutionary Woman and Cathy Wilkerson, Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As A Weatherman as primary documents demonstrative of personal experience in the WUO. I have explored these texts because they are currently the only memoirs written by women in the WUO. I have excluded memoirs written by revolutionary women who had some interaction with the WUO such as Jane Alpert and Roxanne Dunbar due to the lack of information concerning the internal dynamics of the WUO. This thesis will assess womens participation in the Weather Underground by asking the following questions: What was the WUOs position on womens liberation? How did they confront sexism as participants in the WUO compared to their womens 34 Berger, 171-172.
18 liberationist counterparts? In what ways was their participation empowering or exploitative? Did the WUOs politic of womens liberation possess the potential for the liberation women? Is a feminist analysis important for radical social movements?
19 Chapter Two: White Mother Country Radicals In this chapter, I discuss the circumstances of which Weatherman emerged as the dominant leadership of the Students for a Democratic Society. In theoretical opposition to the Progressive Labor Party (PL), the Revolutionary Youth Movement faction articulated a position in the debut of You Dont Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way the Wind Blows. The authors then became known as Weatherman and eventually the WUO. In this chapter I will explain the development of the WUOs theory, analysis, and practice. By 1967 the SDS had shifted from politics of peaceful protest to politics of resistance, ceasing the appeal to Americas moral conscience regarding racism and the Vietnam War. Frustrated with the lack of progress from peaceful approaches the Movement became disillusioned with liberalism.35 This frustration combined with the increasing brutality of police forces towards protesters at the Oakland Stop the Draft Week and Pentagon demonstrations in 1967 pushed the SDS to distinguish between moral practice and political practice.36 The actions that demonstrated moral outrage to war and racism were out of hope that the moral righteousness of his/her position would be recognized and would ultimately convince the target of the protest to change for 35 Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York, Bantam Books: 1993) 242. 36 Jacobs, 6.
20 better.37 In contrast, politically motivated actions were actions that sought to impart a revolutionary consciousness on the activist by actively fighting the system.38 At Stop the Draft Week, also known as Bloody Tuesday, demonstrators shut down the induction center for a few hours as they battled nearly two thousand cops throughout the weeks demonstrations. Armed with clubs and Mace, the police charged demonstrators in, according to Todd Gitlin, a kind of scrimmage.39 The police indiscriminately battered bystanders and peaceful protesters. Similarly at the Pentagon demonstration police attacked demonstrators and according to Ron Jacobs, signified the states strategy to attack any demonstrations it did not approve of, no matter what their style or size.40 The New Left had been an action-oriented organization without definitive theoretical framework; however, the escalation of aggression towards demonstrators by the state in combination with their responsive shift from moral to political actions culminated the New Lefts disillusion with liberalism and social reform and furthermore, instigated the search for an alternative social system. Police repression towards and the rise of Black militancy also inspired the New Left. Struggling for theory and method, the SDS sponsored newspaper, New Left Notes ( NLN ), reserved a section, Praxis intended for theoretical development and debate.41 According to Dan Berger, SDS was shifting its analysis the group began to identify the problem as one of the use and control of power in society the structure of society 37 Jacobs, 6. 38 Jacobs, 6. 39 Gitlin, 252-253. 40 Jacobs, 6. 41 Berger, 38.
21 needed a total overhaul.42 The shift in SDSs analysis was influenced by the Black Panther Party and the movement for Black liberation which argued that the roots of the problem were to be found not in individual white racism but in systematic white supremacy the exclusion of Black people from meaningful participation in the political and social realms, accomplished through economic domination and, when necessary, brute force and connected the anti-racist struggle domestically with the war in Vietnam as emanating from the same system of white supremacy and capitalismof imperialism.43 The New Left, originally against corporate liberalism, turned to Marxist ideology and the promise of a socialist utopia as an alternative to U.S. imperialism simultaneously with the Black liberation movement and developed a radical analysis consistent with the cultural context.44 Ideological factions of the St udents for a Democratic Society Weatherman emerged from the SDS as an act of organizational self-defense. The SDS at its inception in the early 1960s had been an action orientated organization that mobilized students around issues of campus reform, civil rights, and peace.45 Deficient of a definitive political framework, the lack of an anti-communist clause in the organizations constitution, the Port Huron Statement forged the New Lefts formative identity as anti-anti-communists as a way to diverge from Cold War narratives of the Old Left. The organization was left subject to manipulation by a Progressive Labor Party 42 Berger, 30. 43 Berger, 32, 34. 44 Unger, 96. 45Gitlin, 83.
22 (PL) regime, a Maoist splinter faction of the Communist Party, that joined the SDS after the 1965 March on Washington to end the Vietnam War to recruit membership for their ranks and simultaneously working to control the organizations political direction.46 As the PL cadre grew within the membership of SDS, according to Dan Berger, at national meetings, and in local chapters where they had a presence, PL members routinely cut off discussion through rhetorical regurgitations of Marxist theory and voted in blocs to exert a bigger power in the organization than their numbers otherwise would have allowed.47 PLs politics differed greatly from the majority of SDS members who had their political awakening during civil rights struggles. The Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) faction emerged within SDS as a response to PL, a temporary alliance between the eventual Weatherman and RYM II (both constituted the original RYM faction). The Revolutionary Youth Movement used classical Marxism innovatively to expand the class analysis to incorporate privileged workers. They argued, it is privilege which divides the masses of the working class and promotes false consciousness of particular interest as opposed to general class interest.48 The most divisive issue was white privilege; the central fact of privilege within the American class structure is nowhere more clearly seen than in the oppression of the black nation within the borders of the U.S.49 The RYM believed fighting white supremacy was top priority and identified the vanguard of struggle in the U.S as the Black Liberation 46 Gitlin, 122, 180, 190; Berger, 27. 47 Berger, 27. 48 Jim Mellen, More on Youth Movement, New Left Notes May 13, 1969. 49 Jim Mellen, More on Youth Movement.
23 movement.50 The RYM, comprised of privileged university students, suggested that students are a part of the working class because the student is merely a worker in training a role in which the class struggle manifests itself around issues like the draft, the ruling class uses of the university, police and other agents of the ruling class for social control.51 The objective of the RYM was to create a white fighting force: Repression at this time is very serious against the political vanguard of the black liberation struggle, the Black Panther Party. And this repression is facilitated by the absence of substantial material support power by the white movement. Unless we recognize the urgency of fighting supremacy by building the material strength of the white movement to be a conscious, organized, mobilized fighting force capable of giving real support to the black liberation struggle, we will be deserting the most advanced leadership of that struggle to the free hand of the ruling-class repression In terms of cadre development, an investigation of and intimacy with the real life situation and struggles of the oppressed section of the working-class youth will give formerly student cadres a clearer identification with and understanding of the interests of the class as a whole.52 The RYM faction of SDS sought to increase militancy of the white movement to aid the Black movement and to impart class consciousness amongst white activists. The PL caucuses of SDS followed rigid Marxism derived from the study of theory rather than practice. The PLs rigid analysis of class struggle categorized black workers as super-exploited members of the working class.53 The PL refused to support liberation struggles, a cause that was important to the New Lefts political identity.54 Prior to the 1969 national convention, ten members developed a resolution to confront 50 Jim Mellen, More on Youth Movement. 51 Jim Mellen, More on Youth Movement. 52 Bill Ayers and Jim Mellen, Hot Town: Summer in the City Or I Aint Gonna Work On Maggies Farm No More, New Left Notes April 4, 1969. 53 Jacobs, 12. 54 Andrew Topkind The Real SDS Stands Up, Hard Times June 30, 1969.
24 PLs well-versed Marxist ideology.55 The caucus was forced by threat of organizational take-over by the PL to define an ideology of revolutionary social change. According to journalist Andrew Topkind, the PL challenged SDS to build a rational Marxist ideology based on a national program; it dares SDS to integrate all the Movement activity in the U.S. into one political schema.56 At the 1969 SDS National Convention in Chicago, squabbles erupted over proceedings which led to the eventual expulsion of PL from the SDS. Among the presented papers, proposals, and resolutions was the widely circulated, You Dont Need A Weatherman to Know Which Way The Wind Blows, a document of theory and program set forth by a portion of the RYM faction. These 11 activists, known as the Action Faction, and eventually Weatherman, dominated the interest of convention attendants. The Weatherman paper written by Bernadine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, John Jacobs, Jim Mellen, Howie Machtinger, Karin Ashley, Gerry Long, Jeff Jones, Steve Tappis, and Terry Robbins, according to Irwin Unger, endorsed aggressive tactics against Establishment institutions, and they now prepared to make this a central point of the SDS program.57 On the second day of the convention, chaos erupted when a speaker from the Black Panther Party promote[d] pussy power as a revolutionary tactic.58 Black Panther, Rufus Chaka Wells stated we believe in the freedom of love, in pussy power. The convention hall erupted with shouts of male chauvinism and another Black Panther attempted to reconcile by stating Wells was only trying to say you sisters 55 Harold Jacobs ed., Weatherman (Ramparts Press: 1970) 5. 56 Topkind, The Real SDS Stands Up. 57 Unger, 164. 58 Topkind, The Real SDS Stands Up.
25 have a strategic position for the revolution prone echoing Stokely Carmichael.59 The response of fight male chauvinism from PL cadre toward Black Panther speakers in combination with their strict Marxism prompted the Panthers to give SDS an ultimatum, allegiance to the Black Panthers or the PL.60 The next day Bernardine Dohrn led a walkout during the convention into an adjoining room where SDS drew up a resolution to expel PL from their ranks. The national leadership, after long deliberation, came back to the convention hall and Dohrn announced the expulsion of PL for being racist and anticommunist.61 Concluding the convention, members of the RYM faction were elected to SDS national committee creating a Weatherman dominated SDS. In the following months the national leadership split over the strategic direction of the SDS; the collective Weatherman was birthed from ideological and programmatic necessity and circumstance. Weatherman Weatherman controlled the National Committee of SDS until they closed the SDS national office in early 1970. The national committee, comprised of RYM II and Weatherman, soon split over analytical and programmatic issues. The RYM II and Weatherman agreed on the issues of imperialism but Weatherman insisted on militant action.62 The Weatherman politics proposed a context of international revolution against U.S. imperialism based on an international Marxist framework. The enemy was U.S. imperialism and the goal of the revolution was the redistribution of wealth to the people 59 Quoted in Unger, 168. 60 Unger 169. 61 Unger 169. 62 Berger, 87.
26 of the world. It is for this reason, that they believed that emphasis on working-class Americans as revolutionary agents was a failure: Any conception of socialist revolution simply in terms of the working people of the United States, failing to recognize the full scope of interests of the most oppressed peoples of the world, is a conception of a fight for a particular privileged interest, and is a very dangerous ideology.63 Weatherman defined the revolution as the implement of worldwide communism after the destruction of U.S. imperialism. Influenced by Che Guevara, they believed that the destruction of the imperialism would be achieved by the overextension of state power. Providing themselves with a revolutionary identity, Weatherman argued that revolutionary struggle within the U.S. would aid national liberation struggles in Vietnam and other countries around the world. They critiqued any framework which limited the ideal of socialism to the U.S. as national chauvinism. Weatherman supported the national liberation struggles of Black nationalists at home and the Vietnamese abroad. Weathermans political position asserted that black people were part of a black colony, oppressed and exploited by U.S. imperialism. Selfdetermination advocated by black nationalists was seen by Weatherman part of the struggle for revolutionary socialism based on the perspective provided by Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party in 1966, that a nationalist must therefore be a socialist. Weatherman defined self-determination in class terms: Self-determination requires being free from white capitalist exploitation in the form of inferior (lower caste) jobs, housing, schools, hospitals, prices. In addition, only what was or became in practice a socialist program for 63 Karin Ashley, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, John Jacobs, Jeff Jones, Gerry Long, Howie Machtinger, Jim Mellen, Terry Robbins, Mark Rudd, Steve Tappis, You Dont Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows New Left Notes June 18, 1969.
27 self-determination one which addressed itself to reversing this exploitation could win the necessary active mass support in the proletarian colony.64 Weatherman connected national liberation struggles, including the struggle for Black liberation within the U.S., as the struggle against U.S. imperialism. Initially neglectful to mention womens oppression, they held the U.S. responsible for racism and white privilege, the exploitation of workers by capitalism, and the Vietnam War. Such exploitations were considered a product of U.S. imperialism and explained by Marxism as a contradiction between the oppressed and the oppressor nation of the United States. The strategy of Weatherman to build the revolution in America against U.S. imperialism was to mobilize the struggle so sharply in so many places that the imperialist cannot possibly deal with it all.65 Inspired by Che Guevara, this strategy advocated increased militancy of the New Left to cripple the effect of imperialism throughout the world by two methods: the Peoples War which proposed mass-based guerilla warfare and the foco theory, the formation of small guerilla groups to execute exemplary actions to inspire the masses. Weatherman took inspiration from Guevara and the example of the Cuban Revolution which demonstrated that a revolution could occur without revolutionary theory.66 Although Guevara did acknowledge the usefulness of theory as a base to develop revolutionary strategy, he determined theory is not a precondition for revolutionary action it will evolve in time along with the practical 64 Ashley, et. al., You Dont Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way the Wind Blows. 65 Ashley, et. al., You Dont Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way the Wind Blows. 66 Hartmut Ramm, The Marxism of Regis Debray: Between Lenin and Guevara (Lawrence, The Regents Press of Kansas:1978) 8.
28 conduct of the revolution.67 The foco theory, popularized in the U.S. by Regis Debray in Revolution in the Revolution? asserted that guerillas would inspire the masses by attacking the enemy and thus, compel them to join the revolutionary army.68 This assessment argued that armed struggle could be beneficial well before the stage of Peoples War.69 Contradictory to processes advocated by the Communist Party which believed that the national bourgeois could be an ally in socialist development, Debray argued that this regime of the national bourgeois cannot form independently and thus, cannot fulfill revolution due to economic weaknesses.70 Debray further states that the national army will continue to serve colonial power thus in order to transform its armed might into a popular revolutionary power, one would have to transform the reactionary consciousness of a majority of its soldiers into a revolutionary consciousness. The proposed strategy of the socialist revolution against imperialism is the insurgent foco groups that form a revolutionary army. Debray and Lenin both advocate for the revolutionary army as a necessary agent of the revolution.71 In Lenins work he argued that the revolutionary army could force the revolution through agitation and propaganda in a police state by raising the consciousness of the masses. Lenin posited that a tight organization of professional revolutionaries could lead the people to the seizure of power Only such a party could be an effective vanguard of the working class.72 Debray substantiates Lenins argument by asserting that the revolutionary army can 67 Ramm, 9. 68 Berger, 46. 69 Berger, 46. 70 Ramm, 11, 12. Rams discussion of Le Castroisme: la longue marche de lAmerique, Les Temps Modernes (Paris), no. 224, January 1965; Published in English in New Left Review September-October 1965. 71 Ramm 15. 72 Ramm 16.
29 create revolutionary conditions. Inspired by the theories of guerilla warfare, Weatherman believed that revolutionary action would raise the consciousness of activists and develop them into the revolutionary army that Debray and Lenin considered a necessity to the socialist revolution. It would also inspire the people as Debray had premised and compel them to organize against imperialism. Weatherman sought to develop the Movement into this revolutionary army and targeted working-class youth in their organizing efforts. Prior to going underground, Weatherman sought to organize working-class youth and youth in general by displaying machismo and toughness to woo young people into joining their ranks for the 1969 National Action in Chicago. Weatherman provoked arguments and fights to appeal to masculinity and machismo. Primarily, the goal was mere shock value and arguably their organizing strategy rested solely on romanticizing violence and the glorification of militancy. To Weatherman, these displays demonstrated their willingness to fight and created situations in which bystanders could be organized into the Movement.73 Termed the exemplary action strategy, these displays were Weathermans effort at organizing. In Detroit the Motor City Weatherman/SDS created the Metro Beach Riot when 30 members distributed leaflets for the National Action and positioned themselves around a red flag. Arguments ensued with bystanders concerning communism, Vietnam, and racism. The Motor City Weatherman/SDS chapter fought the crowd as they attempted to take down the flag. This action was considered an organizing success because it fueled a response from the crowd and gained city-wide attention. 74 73 Jacobs, Weatherman, 138. 74 Motor City SDS, Break on Through to the Other Side New Left Notes August 23, 1969.
30 The organizing efforts proved ineffective. The National Action in Chicago, dubbed Days of Rage, only brought a few hundred Movement people to Chicago for the four day event. Three days before the scheduled demonstrations Weatherman blew up the Haymarket Square statue commemorating the death of police officers during the Haymarket Riots of labor unions in 1886.75 Days of Rage was anticipated by Weatherman to demonstrate militant youths willingness to fight the system. In advertising for the National Action Weatherman leadership underscores this ideal: We know now that the failure of the white mother country movement to expand beyond the limits of bourgeois student consciousness came at least partly from the class base of our movement, and therefore from our own liberalism.76 According to Dan Berger, The action represented a conscious departure from previous mass demonstration where people fought police only in self-defense, if at all. At the Days of Rage, many in the ranks wore helmets and steel-toed boots. They carried makeshift weapons rocks, lead pipes, baseball bats for use against property and police.77 Consistent with exemplary action strategy Weatherman brought people to Chicago to engage in battle with the Chicago police, an action that they hoped would develop the revolutionary army. Weatherman leadership stated we put forth a struggle scenario of the action Because we know that revolutionaries are created in struggle and not through protest or persuasion, we say clearly that this is an action not to register a complaint but to create a solution.78 Weatherman declared Days of Rage a victory, regardless of meager numbers and 75 Berger, 108. 76 Kathy Boudin, Bernardine Dohrn, and Terry Robbins, Bringing the War Back Home: Less Talk, More National Action New Left Notes August 23, 1969. 77 Berger, 109. 78 Boudin, Dohrn, and Robbins Bringing the War Back Home: Less Talk, More National Action.
31 criticized their critics and opponents. Two months later, Black Panther Fred Hampton was shot while asleep in his apartment by the Chicago police.79 Their failure to organize working-class youth and radicalize the broader Left in conjunction with the death of a black revolutionary leader convinced Weatherman that clandestine activity was a necessity.80 They would make one last attempt in Flint, Michigan to mobilize their constituency. Weathermans program was to create an anti-imperialist army to attack the state in support of liberation struggles in the U.S. and abroad. The National War Council in Flint, Michigan was to represent the birth of the new SDS in December 1969.81 Weathermans program for the council posited violence as a political strategy and sought to bring together youth in efforts to development a revolutionary fighting force. However, the mounting indictments of Weatherman leaders and constant police surveillance became a prime motivating factor to increase aggression. The National War Council was a display of glorified violence as the Weather Bureau discussed killing white children to end racism, admired Charles Mansons slaughter, and asserted assassinations, bombings, and any other act of violence as a legitimate political strategy.82 Weatherman announced their plans to go underground and further Council discussion revolved around possible targets, methods, and preparations. The War Council, as it occurred was in preparation for violence. Historian Jeremy Varon argues that it was an attempt to develop their own capacities for aggression and the ritualized atmosphere of Flint seemed designed to 79 Berger, 119. 80 Berger, 119, 121. 81 National War Council Fire December 6, 1969. 82 Stormy Weather San Francisco Good Times January 8, 1970.
32 help the Weathermen make that transition.83 The National War Council at Flint Michigan demonstrates the pinnacle of extremity in Weathermans frenzy. A few months later an accidental detonation of explosives killed three Weatherpeople in a New York City townhouse. The townhouse explosion occurred March 6, 1970 on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village. The home that belonged to the father of Cathy Wilkerson collapsed and consumed three bodies explosives accidently detonated. Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin escaped the building as the splintered wood floor and debris flew up around them and the solid floor gave way.84 The explosion claimed the lives of Ted Gold, Terry Robbins, and Diana Oughton. The explosives were intended to be used on human targets; Weatherman reevaluated.85 Dramatically affected Weatherman shifted their political direction. Upon the tragedy of losing lovers and comrades, Weatherman critiqued its own methods and determined that armed propaganda the symbolic bombing of property was morally and politically appropriate but made a commitment to ensure the safety of human life.86 After the explosion, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover launched a massive initiative to apprehend known Weatherpeople; making them officially the Weather Underground. The WUO established themselves as a revolutionary organization in an effort to denounce their white privilege, aid the Black liberation struggle in the U.S.by diverting state repression, and align themselves with the international working class. Through 83 Varon, 162-163. 84 Cathy Wilkerson, Flying Close To The Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman (New York: Seven Stories Press: 2007) 345-346. 85 Berger, 129. 86 Berger, 130.
33 romanticized revolutionary violence, the WUO sought to create a revolution. Implicit in their representation of machismo, womens liberation was situated within the Weathermans political program and transcended into the WUOs clandestine activities. Unconventional political activity for women, such as acts of aggression and militancy, was central to WUOs politic on womens liberation. Women in the WUO advocated violence and aggression, displayed themselves as revolutionary fighters, and emerged as a feminist aberration by creating a politic of womens liberation that valued masculinity and traditionally perceived male behavior.
34 Chapter Three: Weathermans Politic of Womens Liberation In chapter three, I discuss Weathermans political position on womens liberation and compare it to the Womens Liberation Movement generally. I argue that Weathermans political position on womens liberation was dependent on gender performance. Weathermans negligence of womens oppression adapted to include women within a broader framework for social change and revolution. After their domination of SDS, Weatherman did not conceive of a special oppression apart from capitalism and imperialism. Abandoning aboveground political activity, the WUOs politics mandated that womens oppression be considered part of the struggle for world-wide socialism. As a result of the socio-political context of rising militancy of leftist organizations including the struggles for national liberation and government repression of these efforts, domestically and abroad, the WUO placed the woman question within their existent Marxist framework which resulted in a specific and rigid agenda for womens liberation in response to womens position in American culture. Weatherman addressed cultural definitions of womanhood, womens prescribed position in the American family and its relationship to the state to determine that women will be liberated from their oppression by embracing violence and aggression in pursuit of a socialist revolution in which womens liberation can be actualized.
35 In the WUOs collective writings and those produced by women in the organization male chauvinism and male supremacy are defined as practices that occur through social interaction. Neither concept is discussed as a product of patriarchal arrangement or systematic male privilege. Male chauvinism is defined by the WUO collectively as the view of women as sexual objects and described as a system of domination but system that was a manifestation of U.S. imperialism and American life.87 In an article written by Bernardine Dohrn and Naomi Jaffe for New Left Notes in 1968, the eventual Weather members described womens oppression as a product the cultural definition of womanhood. In The Look is You, they acknowledged that women were unfree within the Movement and in personal relationships, as in the society at large. Jaffe and Dohrn state that the passive-receptive woman role, a product of the structure and development of American society, increasingly defines the culture of that society.88 American imperialism and the capitalist system oppress women through presubscribed methods of self-definition which limit women to defining themselves as passive decorative sex-objects. This viewpoint became the WUOs narrow assessment of womens oppression. In this view, male chauvinism, commonly attributed to men, could be enacted by women. Initially, Weatherman had no assessment of womens oppression. Their analytical debut, You Dont Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, did not include any analysis of womens oppression but merely recognition of their lack of analysis. The resolution stated: SDS has not dealt in any adequate way with the woman 87 A Weatherwoman, Inside the Weather Machine, Rat February 6, 1970. 88 Bernardine Dohrn and Naomi Jaffe, The Look Is You, New Left Notes March 18, 1968.
36 question nor has the need to fight male supremacy been given any programmatic direction with the RYM. As a result, we have a very limited understanding of the tie-up between imperialism and the women question 89 The WUOs initial statement concerning the analytical and programmatic gap underscores the need to incorporate womens liberation with the struggle for a socialist revolution without thorough consideration of womens oppression. Cathy Wilkerson attempted to provide an analysis of womens oppression. She responded in New Left Notes with an article titled Toward A Revolutionary Womens Militia and presented a similar perspective to that of Jaffe and Dorhn. Wilkerson defined the cause of womens oppression as capitalism and bourgeois family roles that define womens identity through passivity and submission. Wilkerson provided an explanation of how women relate to imperialism and suggested methods of organizing women. Wilkerson asserts that capitalism exploits women through the traditional role of wife and mother in two ways: women feel more immediately the need to maintain stability so as to keep stomachs full, children clothed; they feel the threat to the stability of their position even more acutely and secondly, having been taught to feel passive and defenseless, especially in physical ways, they are more threatened by the spectre of black struggles as defined by the mass media, the ruling class through the PTA, womens magazines, etc.90 She further theorizes that womens family roles as wives and mother force them to rely much more than men on social services [and] these public services are less and less able to meet the material needs of the people, women are most 89 Ashley, et. al., You Dont Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows. 90 Cathy Wilkerson, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia, New Left Notes, July, 5, 1969.
37 affected.91 In Wilkersons view, imperialism affects women not in a different way from or additional way than men, but in a sharper, more extreme, way than men.92 Emphasis on womens position in the family and passivity comprised Weathermans analysis and consequential program for womens liberation without question of why these positions and behaviors are prescribed to female people. Weatherman attempted to utilize womens oppression to organize women into their ranks. Wilkerson asserted: Male supremacy as an ideology is one of the most important ways that the Man defines individuals and societies in such a way that it makes it difficult to understand how socialism and communism could work, let alone how the forces of people struggling to win these ends could ever be successful.93 Organizing efforts most often emphasized how white women benefit from the capitalist system which solidified their alliance to oppressors rather than analyzing womens personal experience in relation to men. They asserted that women are beneficiaries and victims of imperialism in which their traditional role as women provides them with a certain amount of power and security.94 Wilkerson asserts that the bourgeois family definitions of women and female passivity serve to align women against their ultimate interests to the system of U.S. imperialism. Wilkerson further elaborates on how male supremacy serves imperialism: It is a crucial force in promoting bourgeois individualism though false separation of men from women, preventing collective practice. All of this discourages people from allying with the struggles of the international 91 Wilkerson, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia. 92 Wilkerson, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia. 93 Wilkerson, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia. 94 Dohrn and Jaffe, The Look Is You.
38 proletariat and encourages them to ally with the ruling class to try to maintain as much stability and access as possible.95 The method used to organize women for the socialist revolution suggested that womens prescribed cultural definition constituted womens allegiance to, what the WUO perceived to be the cause of all oppression, U.S. imperialism. From this position, the WUO theorized womens oppression in terms of womens privileges rather than their marginalization as female-bodied people. This perspective posed an agenda for womens liberation that required women give up their privileges awarded through traditional cultural definition of womanhood. The rejection of traditional constructs of womanhood required a position on male chauvinism and male supremacy that was packaged within the broader needs and goals of the WUO as a political organization. Employing the foco theory for political direction, violence and aggression were essential characteristics needed to execute exemplary actions. The WUOs program of womens liberation satisfied the political direction of the collective by advocating a disposition of aggression for women; therefore, violence and aggression were imperative ingredients of the solution to the woman question because these characteristics were also important in building a revolution in the U.S. The WUOs perception of womens oppression fashioned the rejection of traditional femininity as liberatory strategy. Their assault on male chauvinism and supremacy was to break down the practice in order to destroy the material basis for that allegiance.96 The targeted practice in need of elimination is that of femininity and traditional feminine roles. This analysis and method absolved male privilege and held women directly responsible for 95 Wilkerson, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia. 96 Wilkerson, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia.
39 performing their liberation. Men in the organization supported this conception of womens liberation because it reinforced women as fighters for the revolution alongside men; and furthermore, the WUOs conception of male supremacy did not critique their position or privileges as male-bodied people. Women were responsible for their own liberation. Women in the WUO challenged all women to shed traditional femininity and suggested that women adopt traditionally masculine attributes: women will never be able to undertake a full revolutionary role unless they break out of their womans role.97 The task for women as fighters in the revolution was to create new forms of organization in which women will be able to take on new and independent roles.98 This positioned women as the agents of change in male-female relationships; they were accountable for assuming masculinity and hence, altering their status in these relationships and group interaction. They posit women need to break out through the pigs alternative and definitions of women to become revolutionary women aggressive, tough, fighting women that take on male strengths because they are necessary to building a revolution.99 The WUO held the belief that once women developed themselves as revolutionary fighters through militancy, confrontation and exemplary action, they will have achieved egalitarian relationships with their male comrades within the collective. Thus, it was necessary to their agenda of womens liberation for women to demonstrate aggression and prove to themselves, as 97 Ashley, et. al., You Dont Need A Weatherman to Know Which Way The Wind Blows. 98 Ashely, et. al.,You Dont Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows. 99 Authors Unknown, Honky Tonk Women, pamphlet from the National War Council, 1969.
40 well as to their male comrades, that they are capable militants. In their idealistic view, masculinized women were liberated as women.100 In comparison to the Black Panther Party (BPP), the Weather Undergrounds perception of equality on the basis of masculinity is similar to the experience of the Black Panther women although there is no evidence to suggest that the Black Panther women performed tasks to directly challenge their position as women. According to historian, Tracye A. Matthews, traditional constructs of femininity had not been prescribed to Black women by dominant culture although some Black Nationalist organizations applied their own constructs.101 Matthews posits once these black women, involved in militant organizing efforts, stepped outside of traditionally assigned to women or African Americans, their treatment more closely resembled the experiences of their black male comrades.102 And furthermore, their involvement represented a challenge to the black community to view [community] issues as indeed black womens issues.103 Matthews concludes that the Black Panthers theory and practice of gender ideology was, at times, contradictory; however, the BPP was progressive compared to other organizations regarding womens position in the organization. Central to their treatment of womens position was their response to the thesis of black matriarchy and the representation of the black family structure. In response to these stereotypes the BPP experimented with 100 Honky Tonk Women. 101 Tracye A. Matthews, No One Ever Asks What a Mans Role in the Revolution is: Gender Politics and Leadership in the Black panther Party, 1966-71 in Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement (New York: New York University Press, 2001) 244. 102 Matthews, 245. 103 Matthews, 237.
41 communal sexual relationships and living which, similar to the WUOs practices, often reinforced male-dominance.104 Participant David Gilbert reflects that the WUO constantly extolled the role of women fighters in the nat[ional] liberation struggles, as well as their efforts toward womens lib[eration] but pretty much the only way we saw fighting sexism was promoting women as fighters.105 Gilberts personal critique of this perspective is that WUOs glorification of violence promoted male supremacy and contributed to the very unfortunate split between a predominantly white womens movement that did not ally strongly enough with the Third World and an anti-imperialist Left, which was still very sexist.106 Armed struggle as liberatory for women was validated by the image of the female Vietnamese. The WUO posited that these revolutionary women are liberating themselves by fighting in a national struggle alongside male comrades.107 It is important to note that the WUO collectively did not address the contextual differences between Vietnams socio-political context and that of the U.S. in regards to womens position within these struggles. However, regardless of their neglect of critical examination, women in the WUO constantly and consistently invoked the image of the female guerilla in their propaganda and actions, such as the graffiti slogan Vietnamese Women Carry Guns, to convey womens participation with men in making the revolution. Often, this image was invoked to discredit autonomous womens movement as a separatist failure. 104 Matthews, 241. I discuss the WUOs alternative sexual practices in Chapter four of this thesis. 105 Personal Correspondence with David Gilbert, September, 14, 2008. 106 Personal Correspondence with David Gilbert, September, 14, 2008. 107 Honky Tonk Women.
42 The WUO asserted that womens issues cannot be considered or dealt with separately from an understanding and strategy of the way the major contradiction affect the whole proletariat of the mother country.108 The image of the Vietnamese female guerilla fighting against U.S, imperialists served as testament to the ability and promise of co-ed struggle for socialist revolution. Womens Liberation Movement In this section, I will discuss womens relationship with the New Left, divisions within the womens liberation movement, feminist critiques of the WUO, and differences between the womens liberation movement and the WUO. The Womens Liberation Movement and the New Left have had a turbulent history. White womens participation was limited within civil rights movement and in the New Left to traditionally female responsibilities such as cleaning and typing while male participants held leadership positions and made decisions.109 Prompted by the failure of efforts to raise the issue of womens oppression within the New Left, women began to meet in separate groups to discuss their personal experience. As new meaning was created through consciousness-raising strategy the autonomous womens movement began to develop at an increasing momentum. The sex/gender system was theorized by a majority of womens liberation groups as the primary system that oppressed women which implies one particular assessment of womens oppression: women are oppressed 108 Wilkerson, Toward a Revolutionary Womens Militia. 109 Evans 76, 160-162.
43 as a class.110 Most all womens liberationist groups had varying analytical angles and methods. However, all delve into womens limited social status in institutions such as marriage and family and the implicitly devalued traditional definitions of womanhood. Thus, they argued, the sex/gender system is a system of patriarchal arrangement that subordinates women. Women suffered discrimination within Leftist movements. Often their critiques of womens status within the Movement and their requests for equality and egalitarianism were ridiculed and dismissed. At the 1964 Students for Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) meeting in Mississippi Casey Hayden and Mary King presented a position paper on sexual inequality.111 The position paper was met with Stokely Carmichaels famous statement, the position of women in SNCC is prone.112 Later, Carmichael stated that the issue of sexual inequality was raised to stop the movement from going towards nationalism, because they [white women] thought that they were going to be put out of the movement.113 By 1965 civil rights organizations such as SNCC were shifting in ideology and strategy. A faction of SNCC, the structure faction argued that SNCC should be a black-dominated organization. Frustration and anger at the slow process of social change in the United States and the demand for independence from African nations created impatience with non-violence and a turn towards Black Nationalism by many civil rights activists.114 Many white women who participated in civil rights movements continued their organizing activities in the growing SDS 110 Redstockings, Redstockings Manifesto, 1969 republished in Feminist Theory: A Reader ed. Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances Bartkowski (New York: McGraw-H ill, 2005) 220-221. 111 Echols, 31. 112 Echols, 31. 113 Echols, 310, footnote 41. 114 Evans, 94-98.
44 organization. Casey Hayden and Mary King, according to Sara Evans, set the precedent of contrasting the movements egalitarian ideas with the replication of sex roles within it.115 Widespread circulation of Casey Hayden and Mary Kings position paper SexCaste: a kind of memo prompted the women to hold a workshop on women at the SDS conference in 1965.116 The SDS was undergoing rapid organizational change. The SDS experienced immediate membership growth after the 1965 March on Washington and began to abandon expressive politics in search of strategic methods.117 The SDSs relationship to the civil rights movement and eagerness to demonstrate solidarity with emerging Black nationalists fostered the development of radical analysis that positioned peoples and liberation struggles against U.S. imperialism. Emphasis on oppression ideologically influenced women to examine their own situation as women.118 At the 1967 National Convention in Ann Arbor a statement written by Jane Addams, Elizabeth Sutherland, Susan Cloak, and Jean Peak during the Womens Liberation Workshop was presented at the National Convention.119 The Liberation of Women stated: As we analyze the position of women in capitalist society and especially in the United States we find that women are in a colonial relationship to men and we recognize ourselves as part of the third world.120 Their analysis of womens role and demand that men confront male chauvinism was met with an uproar. Part of the program suggested by the resolution was to eliminate womens traditional roles within the family and household. The SDS voted and passed 115 Evans, 99. 116 Evans, 155. 117 Echols, 42. 118 Echols, 42. 119 Echols, 44. 120 Liberation of Women, New Left Notes v. 2, #26, July 10, 1967.
45 the programmatic section of the resolution but the analytic section that asserted women were a part of the Third World was omitted.121 The resolutions analytical and programmatic inconsistencies were indicative of divisions within the emerging womens liberation movement. According to David Barber, the analytical section represents the perspective of radical feminists. It theorizes that women are colonized and thus, the separation from their colonizers is a viable solution. The resolutions program section provides a solution derivative of a different analysis. The program section addresses womens oppression within the family, thus, the family unit is the root of womens oppression.122 The contradictions in analysis and program represent the schism of factions which historians have referred to as radical feminists and politicos. The radical feminists perceived womens liberation to be the revolutionary struggle. Politico women perceived womens liberation to be part of the struggle for the revolution and continued to use traditional theoretical frameworks to theorize womens oppression. According to Judith Hole and Ellen Levine, the distinction between politicos and feminists is accurate and deserved. Feminists tend to be the political group that makes this distinction.123 Feminists argue that denying feminism as political in its own right, politicos subsume feminism under the socialist rubric, thus virtually denying the distinction between politicos and feminists.124 Both sections of the resolution were published in New Left Notes alongside a cartoon image of a woman in a short polka dot dress, matching underpants, and stockings carrying a poster with the slogan: We want our Rights & We 121 David Barber, A Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why It Failed (Jackson, University Press of Mississippi: 2008) 115. 122 Barber, 116. 123 Judith Hole and Ellen Levine, Rebirth of Feminism (New York: Quadrangle: 1971) 122. 124 Hole and Levine 122.
46 want them Now! It was clear that the larger Left did not take womens liberation seriously. In the summer of 1967 the events at the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP) propelled radical women to meet in separate groups throughout the country. The Resolution Committee of the conference rejected the resolution prepared by radical women. In reaction to the refusal Jo Freeman and Shulamith Firestone drafted a report that demanded 51 percent of voting power for women and presented the demand to the Chair of the conference, William Pepper. He agreed to permit discussion, however, when the women got up to the platform Pepper patted Firestone on the head, referred to her as little girl and dismissed womens problems.125 Outraged by their treatment, women began meeting to discuss womens liberation independently from the Left. Womens liberation groups split from the Left to create a movement to raise the consciousness of all women. The womens movement consisted of multiple groups with varying politics that centered around consciousness-raising. However, the consciousnessraising strategy of the Womens Liberation Movement was non-violent and gained currency through discussion of womens experience. The Redstockings Manifesto provides a model theory and practice of the womens movement: We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience, as the basis for an analysis of our common situation Our chief task at present is to develop female class consciousness through sharing experience and publicly exposing the sexist foundation of all our institutions. Consciousness-raising is not therapy, which implies the existence of individual solution and falsely assumes that the male-female relationship is purely personal, but the only method by which we can 125 Barber, 118, Echols, 45-49, Evans 199.
47 ensure that our program for liberation is based on the concrete realities of our lives.126 The womens movement was forming an analysis on the sex/gender system as the primary system of oppression, did not have a tangible enemy to wage war against, and was perceived by the WUO to be theory-oriented rather than action-oriented associated with the New Left. Women in the WUO accepted the Marxist analysis of the larger left and sought to create revolutionary change guided by such frameworks. Their assessment and treatment of the woman question labels them as politicos to feminist scholars. The 1968 demonstration at the Miss America pageant exemplifies the division between radical feminists and politicos. The New York Radical Women, a group whose members constituted both sides of the divide, planned the demonstration. The radical feminist faction at the demonstration considered the street theatre tactic of crowning a sheep an attack on women rather than an attack on male chauvinism. Division on the purpose and outcome of the demonstration caused the group to splinter. The politico faction of women organized into a group to address imperialism. The Womens International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH) advocated the Lefts analysis of imperialism and colonialism. WITCH dressed as witches and cast spells on corporations on Wall Street in street theatre fashion. They intended their actions to develop a space for dialogue and consciousness-raising on womens oppression within a framework valued to the male Left. 127 Radical Feminists charged that the witch costume and theatrical antics 126 Redstockings, Redstockings Manifesto in Feminist Theory: A Reader 221. 127 Barber, 132, Echols, 98.
48 were reinforcing sex stereotypes of women.128 Many early womens groups experienced similar division based on the issue of womens liberation. In addition to differing analysis of womens oppression, race was a major divisive factor of politicos and feminists. Radical feminists sought a space to discuss womens oppression as women which presented a universal category of woman synonymous with whiteness.129 According to David Barber, some white radical feminists sought to avoid tangling up what they saw as a clear-cut issue of womens subordination with black womens view of their relationship to the liberation struggle.130 Women of Color were sometimes reportedly excluded from consciousness-raising sessions and the discussion of consciousness raising groups, although this varied by locality. However, these experiences vary upon locality. Elizabeth Martinez accounts that her first and only New York Radical Women (NYRW) meeting on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.s assassination, the women present decided not to discuss his death until after their session. Martinez states, It was a night to realize that if the struggle against sexism did not see itself as profoundly entwined with that fight against racism, I was gone.131 David Barber further argues that radical feminists relationship to anti-racism and imperialism was shaped by their relationship to the male Left which styled itself as the white anti-racist and anti-imperialist organization.132 Womens liberation groups formed themselves in rejection of the male Left, and as a result of the treatment they received this rejection 128 Echols, 98. 129 Barber, 130. 130 Barber, 127. 131 Elizabeth Martinez, History Makes Us, We make History in DuPlessis and Snitow, Feminist Memoir Project 118; quoted in Barber, 124. 132 Barber, 128.
49 manifested an ignorance of entanglement of gender, race, and imperialism as systems of oppression. In the context of the late 1960s, this divide is more of a matter of priority than mutual exclusivity. However, politicos and feminists did have different analyses and strategies for womens liberation. Weatherman was critiqued by the womens movement not for its emphasis on violence but its theory and method. The Bread and Roses collective challenged, Who terms, whose revolution, for what? Feminists charged that WUO had misunderstood womens oppression. They legitimatized their charge by calling attention to the ways in which women in the WUO proved themselves through machismo and aggression, male chauvinist standards defined by men.133 It is alleged that a woman was kicked out of her WUO collective on the basis of male chauvinism because she wasnt militant enough.134 The most notorious criticism of the WUO came from Robin Morgan in her article Goodbye to All that in which she states: Goodbye to the WeatherVain, with the Stanley Kowalski Image and theory of Free sexuality but practice of sex on demand for males the Weather Sisters who, and they know better they know, reject their own radical feminism for that last desperate grab at male approval that we all know so well, for claiming that the machismo style and the gratuitous violence is their own style by free choice and for believing that this is the way for a woman to make her revolution Goodbye to all that shit that sets women apart from women; shit that covers the face of any Manson Slave which is the face of Sharon Tate In the dark we are all the same [italics hers] and you better believe it: were in the dark, baby. (Remember the old joke: Know what they call a black man with a Ph.D.? A nigger. Variation: Know what they call a Weatherwoman? A heavy cunt. Know what they call a Hip Revolutionary Woman: A groovy cunt. Know what they call radical militant feminist? A crazy cunt. Amerika [sic] is a land of free choicetake your pick of titles. Left Out, my Sister dont 133 The Bread and Roses Collective, Weatherman Politics and the Womens Movement Women Winter 1970. 134 The Bread and Roses Collective, Weatherman Politics and the Womens Movement.
50 you see?) Goodbye to the illusion of strength when you run hand and hand with your oppressors; goodbye to the dream that being in the leadership collective will get you anything but gonorrhea.135 Morgans article demonstrates the hostility of womens liberationists towards women of the WUO. Women in the WUO agreed that they adopted machismo; however they did not embrace machismo at the mandate of male members. Women played a significant role in creating the WUOs macho environment; they attack[ed] the womens movement, exhibited macho tendencies, and participated in creating the male chauvinist environment they challenged.136 The WUO challenged the womens movement; it set itself up against the womens movement as the only legitimate revolutionary course for women, and set anti-imperialism up against feminism The Weather ideology did push the womens movement on the crucial issues of racism and national oppression, but since its politics could only do that at the expense of feminism and the development of feminist theory, it weakened more that it strengthened the womens movement.137 The crucial critique of the womens movement by the WUO, posited as the failure of the womens movement to grasp anti-imperialism, was fundamentally a critique of feminist method which cultivated non-violent consciousness-raising of all women. Although a valid critique of the liberal womens rights movement, Weatherman misunderstood the goals and theoretical progress of the radical womens liberation movement. They asserted that white women were fighting for equality with white men and that these improvements are taken from the people of the world within an advanced industrial 135 Robin Morgan, Goodbye to All That quoted in Harold Jacobs Weatherman, 304-305; Also see Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Womens Liberation Movement, ed. id. (New York, Vantage Books: 1970). 136 Berger, 292 137 Naomi Jaffe, Criticisms of Prairie Fire, June 1977, unpublished article. Quoted in Berger, 292.
51 society.138 The WUOs critique of the womens liberationist movement ignores the efforts of the radical feminism to develop theory about womens relation to men in a male dominating culture and the attempts to create female self-definition and value. Weatherman asserted that womens liberation came from a struggle for social revolution alongside men and consistently asserted that liberation derives from violence; political power grows out of a barrel of a gun, and the struggle to gain and use political power against the state is the struggle for our liberation.139 The womens liberation movement was critiqued and thought to be counterrevolutionary by Weatherman simply because they did not embrace violence. They stated: various political tendencies toward separatist womens movements do not recognize this reality.140 Weathermans political identity teetered on their ability to become revolutionaries through armed struggle. Central to this identification, violence is imperative to all liberation. In addition to different methods, each identified a different source of womens oppression. Weatherman asserted that imperialism and capitalism were the cause of all oppression; and furthermore, charged that the womens liberationists program was a failure because it did not attack the root of womens oppression. They claimed that the womens movement accept[ed] the pigs definition of what is male [and] ignored the need to formulate and criticize theory and strategy, the need to fight for our freedom.141 Reference to the states control of gender definition exemplifies the WUOs misdirection and deficient analysis. Ironically, women in the WUO accepted the dominant cultures 138 Honky Tonk Women. 139 Honky Tonk Women. The quote Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun did not originate with Weatherman. The origin of this slogan is purportedly attributed to Mao Tse-Tung, a communist leader of China. 140 Honky Tonk Women. 141 Honky Tonk Women.
52 definition and valuation of maleness through ideological manifestations of masculinity and violence as legitimate ways of resistance. The womens liberation movement, in Weathermans view, accepted the chauvinism of men as unchangeable and thus their strategy is to weaken men and revolutionary male leadership so that women (in the weakness they have accepted as unchangeable) can be equal or superior.142 Weatherman inverted the purpose of male chauvinism by implying that it is derivative of womens weakness rather than a system of mens superiority in the social world. It is therefore, womens responsibility to become stronger and aggressive alongside men to convince men of womens equal capabilities. The focus on women and womens value was viewed by women in the WUO as an assault on men and male leadership, an assault that implied women accepted their own weaknesses and sought to subordinate men. In Mothering on the Lam: Politics, Gender Fantasies and Maternal Thinking in Women Associated with Armed, Clandestine Organizations in the United States, Gilda Zwerman explores revolutionary womens experience with violence in contrast to the pacifist mother model. Employing interviews with female participants in revolutionary violence more generally, she asserts that women understood their subordination to be a self-imposed consequence of their own personal weaknesses and fears as revolutionaries, which they would hopefully, eventually overcome.143 Women in the WUO held the same belief of womens oppression as a product of their own weaknesses. 142 Honky Tonk Women. 143 Gilda Zwerman Mothering on the Lam: Politics, Gender Fantasies and Maternal Thinking in Women Associated with Armed, Clandestine Organizations in the United States, Feminist Review, No. 47, (Summer 1994), 33-56, 47.
53 The irreconcilable differences between the Weatherman and the Womens liberation movement were contingent upon different analysis of, and methods for, womens liberation and furthermore, violence was an integral part of these differences. Adopting Masculinity and Machismo Gender is ultimately a culturally intelligible performance.144 Previous social divisions between men and women have been constituted as natural, essential, innate differences presupposing that maleness results in masculinity thus, the definitive of the category man and the opposite of femaleness/woman. Contemporary gender theory has established sex, sex category, and gender as distinctive sites of theorization. West and Zimmerman posit that sex is constituted by socially agreed upon biological criteria through which the application of gender and categorization is established and sustained by the socially required identificatory displays that proclaims ones membership in one or the other category.145 Gender is thus, the activity of managing situated conduct in light of normative conceptions of attitudes and activities appropriate for ones sex category.146 The notion that gender is culturally pervasive and naturalized does not suggest that gender exists without a relationship of domination and submission. Gender, as a naturalized system instituted through repetition and performance holds different consequences for male-bodied and female-bodied people. According to Judith Butler, 144 Judith Butler Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions in The Judith Butler Reade r ed. Sara Salih and Judith Butler (Malden, Blackwell Publishing: 2004) 145 Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman Doing Gender in Gender: A Sociological Reader (New York, Routledge: 2002) 43. 146 West and Zimmerman, 43.
54 gender is the apparatus by which the production and normalization of masculinity and femininity take place.147 Butler establishes that gender is a social norm in the Foucaultian sense; it is a form of social power that produces the intelligible field of subjects, and an apparatus by which the gender binary is instituted as a norm that appears independent of the practices that it governs, its ideality is the reinstituted effect of those very practices.148 Gender is a system of social standards and activities, a performance of presumed naturalness. Marilyn Frye asserts that sex announcing behavior is compulsory and inescapable and furthermore, the meaning and import of this behavior is profoundly different for women and men.149 Hence, I contend that womens performance of masculinity is an instance of gender subversion and maintain that male participation in the WUO is an example of the causal unity150 between sex and gender. Gender situates behaviors, preferences, activities into an oppositional system of male/female, masculine/feminine that systematically privileges one packaged category in relation to another masculinity is valued over femininity. Gender constitutes a system of oppression for all but particularly for women through prescribed subordination to men and restricted access to privileges awarded to male-bodied people; it is a system of interrelated barriers and forces which reduce, immobilize and mold people who belong to a certain group, and effect their subordination to another group.151 Raewyn Connell asserts that masculinity is a cultural hegemony that is constructed in relation to women and to subordinated masculinities. Dominant models of masculinity include, according 147 Judith Butler, Undoing Gender (New York, Routledge: 2004), 42. 148 Butler Undoing Gender 48. 149Marilyn Frye, Sexism in The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (New York: The Crossing Press, 1983) 29. 150 Judith Butler Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions, 50. 151 Frye, Sexism, 33.
55 to Connell, an acceptance and acquiescence to violence, whereby power, authority, aggression are not thematized in femininity at large as they are in masculinity.152 Masculinity and machismo were integral parts of the WUOs politics and agenda for womens liberation. Considered the only legitimate political strategy, masculinity and machismo became liberatory practices for women through which they challenged male supremacy and chauvinism. The WUO mandated that women adopt traditionally masculine behaviors to liberate themselves through an active rejection of femininity. Women in the WUO enacted violence to assume masculinity and the status awarded to masculinized male-bodied people. However, women do not obtain power as women by performing masculinity. Male-bodied people benefit from vicarious masculinity by association with the male body.153 In referencing sport and athleticism, Crawley, Foley, and Sheham define vicarious masculinity as status as men via the athletic successes of other men It is possible for men to obtain vicarious masculinity from association with those relatively few elite male athletes simply because of accountability to the male body.154 Women, without ability to claim membership in the category of maleness attributed to male-bodied people, can perform masculinity but cannot obtain the status privileged to men through masculinity. The WUOs assessment of womens liberation justified the manifestation of domination and submission in the binary gender system and further, valued masculinity in relation to femininity. Their participation in revolutionary violence would impart a 152 R.W. Connell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics (Stanford, Stanford University Press: 1987) 186, 187. Bob (R.W.) Connell has transitioned to Raewyn subsequent to the publication of the works used in this thesis. Out of respect for her chosen gender change, I will refer to her as Raewyn. 153 Sara Crawley, et al. Gendering Bodies (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) 133. 154 Sara Crawley, et al. Gendering Bodies (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) 133.
56 liberated consciousness through masculinity and serve the struggle for world-wide socialism which, in WUOs view, would socially and politically guarantee womens liberation. I contend that womens exemplary masculinity, the display of masculinity for political aim and reclamation of power, constituted gender subversion. However, due to the hegemonic form of masculinity and its specific association with the male body (i.e. vicarious masculinity) it is impossible for women to assume power or liberation from performing masculinity. Hegemonic Masculinity Weathermans foremost distinguishable collective characteristic was machismo. Male and female members glorified violence and aggression as politically viable expressions and strategy in general and in particular as a strategy for womens liberation. Although female-bodied performance masculinity demonstrates gender subversion, Weathermans analysis and practice of womens liberation also reinforced cultural constructs of the category woman that create womens subordination. I contend that Weathermans analysis of womens oppression and their subsequent practice of womens liberation was shaped by hegemonic masculinity thereby, hindering potential for womens liberation within their program. According to Antonio Gramsci, a cultural hegemony functions through the creation and perpetuation of legitimating symbols and by winning the consent of subordinate groups to the existing social order.155 A cultural hegemony is established when a world view appeals to multiple social groups and maintains perceived benefits or 155 Jackson Lears, 569.
57 privileges for these groups, however, the emerging hegemonic culture is not merely an ideological mystification but serves the interests of ruling groups at the expense of subordinate ones.156 Gender, constituted by duality, creates and legitimates masculinity and femininity, institutes masculinity and femininity as the only culturally intelligible symbols, and always implies domination. Connell theorizes that masculinity is, in accordance with Gramsci, a cultural hegemony. Connell asserts that hegemonic masculinity means a social ascendancy achieved in a play into the organization of private life and cultural processes.157 The definition of hegemonic masculinity then comprised of two parts. First, hegemonic masculinity is the cultural (thus, public) presentation of masculinity; it is a fantastical creation and does portray the lives or personalities of individual men.158 Hegemonic masculinity is not obtained by force or interpersonal political struggle but rather maintains masculinity as a hegemonic form through ideological manifestations within culture, i.e. institutions, religions, and public discourse.159 Thus, hegemonic masculinity is discursive domination. However, this domination does not entail the elimination of alternatives but rather further maintains its power through the subordination of those alternatives to models of hegemonic masculinity.160 Connell argues, the public face of hegemonic masculinity is not necessarily what powerful men are, but what sustains their power and what large numbers 156 Jackson Lears, 571. 157 Bob Connell Hegemonic Masculinity in Gender A Sociological Reader (New York, Routledge: 2002) 60. 158 Connell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics 184; Hegemonic Masculinity, 61. 159 Connell, Hegemonic Masculinity, 61. 160 Connell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics 184; Connell, Hegemonic Masculinity, 60.
58 of men are motivated to support.161 Masculinity as a hegemonic force enlists support and consent from most people and from men in particular because most men benefit from the subordination of women and hegemonic masculinity is the cultural expression of this ascendancy.162 For Weatherman in general, traditional markers of masculinity aggression, strength, willingness to risk life, fearlessness, and violence defined what it meant to be a revolutionary. These characteristics were valued in relation to purportedly feminine characteristics of non-violence, passivity, sensitivity, etc. Violence and aggression constituted forms of political behavior by women that were culturally intelligible and valued because these behaviors are gendered masculine by dominant culture. I contend that womens participation in the WUO constitute what Connell terms a subordinated masculinity which does not position female-bodies as hegemonic beneficiaries. As a result, in the following chapter I question whether womens exemplary masculinity can be read as liberatory for women. 161 Connell, Hegemonic Masculinity, 61 162 Connell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics 185; Hegemonic Masculinity 61.
59 Chapter Four: Weathermans Practice of Womens Liberation In previous chapters I have elaborated on Weathermans position on womens liberation and argued that their perception of womens liberation centralized and valued masculinity, specifically violence and aggression, as liberatory practice. I contend Weathermans analysis of womens oppression and their promise of womens liberation through violence consequentially rendered women accountable for liberating themselves in ways that simultaneously empowered and restricted women within the organization. In chapter four, I discuss Weathermans practice of their politic of womens liberation through autonomous womens actions and the implementation of the smash monogamy campaign. I argue that womens participation was complex, challenging and reinforcing, gender as a hegemonic system of dominance and submission. Separate Womens Actions Initially, autonomous womens actions took form in jailbreaks. Jailbreaks were an attempt to organize high school and community college students and consisted of a group of women storming into a classroom, guarding the doors and classroom telephone to prevent students from leaving or calling security, distributing leaflets, and spray painting slogans while one member would give a speech that urged students to join
60 outlaw life.163 In August 1969, the women of the Detroit SDS conducted a jailbreak at McComb Community College. Nine women, referred to as the Motor City Nine, interrupted a classroom, barricaded the doors, and lectured the students on the War, racism, and male chauvinism. When male students got up to leave the room, the women responded by attacking the men with karate and prevented them from leaving the room.164 The women were arrested yet praised by the militant Left because: They under[stood] that the road to womens liberation is not through personal discussions about the oppression of women; nor is it through an appeal to the public conscience through demonstrations or guerrilla theater about the issues of female liberation. It will only come when women act, not only around issues of womens liberation, but when they act on other issues such as the war and racism. Womens liberation will come when women exercise real power as it is done in Vietnam and in the McComb College classroom.165 The jailbreak actions were encouraged by many Weatherman-dominated SDS chapters. A similar jailbreak occurred in Pittsburgh when seventy-five women comprised a womens militia to attack the city; the women came to the city as an exemplary fighting force, fighting on the side of the black liberation struggle and the Vietnamese struggle, demanding that white kids in Pittsburgh decide which side theyre on.166 On Thursday, September 4th, they descended on the predominantly white South Hills High School and covered the walls and sidewalks with graffiti slogans such as Vietnamese Women Carry Guns. They disrupted the halls and passed out leaflets for the National Action in Chicago. The women resisted arrest and fought back, protecting their sisters and the 163 Susan Stern, With the Weathermen: The Personal Journal of a Revolutionary Woman (New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press: 2007) 113. 164 The Motor City 9 New Left Notes August 23, 1969. 165 The Motor City 9. 166 Womens Militia New Left Notes September 12, 1969.
61 Viet Cong flag They fought liberating every sister that the pigs tried to arrest.167 The action in Pittsburgh, like the action in Detroit, resembled an attack on male supremacy because it challenged the passive, non-political role which women are forced into, a role which only helps to maintain imperialism.168 The actions had been planned and executed by women-only groups to foster womens revolutionary development; thus, their mere existence and willingness to be aggressive and confrontational was an attack on male supremacy.169 This strategy to attack male supremacy was legitimized by Regis Debrays foco theory which emphasizes action above all other political methods.170 Therefore, an actions success is gauged by its shock value and disruptive impact which, in this view, validated jailbreaks and other acts of aggression by women as attacks on male supremacy even if the action failed to offer an analysis of womens oppression or demonstrate comprehensive strategy for womens liberation. The jailbreaks were conducted as practice for womens militias for the upcoming National Action in Chicago. At the Days of Rage, the womens action was scheduled to destroy the Chicago Armed Forces Induction Center. A contingency of an estimated 70 women listened to a speech given by Weather leader Bernardine Dohrn; she stated, People are determined to fight here We are here to tell the people that this is not a womens movement of self-indulgence This is not a movement to make us feel good.171 The women began their march to the Induction Center. When met with a police line, women charged and fought police. Only twelve out of seventy were arrested and 167 Womens Militia. 168 Womens Militia. 169 Womens Militia. 170 Berger, 101. 171 Tom Thomas The Second Battle of Chicago, 1969 in Weatherman 205.
62 charged with mob action, battery, and resisting arrest. The womens action was considered a military defeat by men in the organization but they acknowledged the action as an advance due to the willingness of women to arm themselves and fight. The National Actions womens militia satisfied the requirements of exemplary action by establishing a presence of a white fighting force and by raising the level of struggle.172 Once underground, women in the WUO formed a Womens Brigade, the Proud Eagle Tribe, and executed the bombing of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard on October 15, 1970. According to Dan Berger, the Weatherwomen chose an institution tied to the war in Vietnam as their target in order to counter the notion current among some feminists that Vietnam was not a womens issue.173 In the communiqu associated with the bombing, the women positioned themselves as leaders of a womens movement that attacks American imperialism.174 The Proud Eagle Tribe carried out one other bombing in March 1974 on International Womens Day. The San Francisco Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) was targeted by women in the organization because it was perceived to be an enemy of women.175 In the communiqu women in the WUO assert: HEW directly affects the lives of millions of women and their families. HEW decides who eats how much. HEW is the modern faceless tyrant: it is the overseer, the boss, the landlord, the judge, the official rapist. HEW blames women for poverty and then penalizes them. It is a degrading, violent, aggressive system of control over women its programs amount 172 Tom Thomas, The Second Battle of Chicago, in Weatherman, 213. 173 Berger, 143. 174 Berger, 143. 175 Womens Brigade, Communiqu Health Education and Welfare: An Enemy of Women, San Francisco, March 6, 1974 in Sing a Battle Song Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and Jeff Jones ed. (New York, Seven Stories Press: 2006) 214-218.
63 to government-enforced malnutrition HEW runs these programs in a patronizing way that tries to create the myth that women are failures lazy, immoral and stupid It is their justification for keeping women as domestic slaves, under the control of men and marriage, poor and without power.176 These appear to be the only two bombings carried out by the Proud Eagle Tribe while the WUO was a clandestine organization. David Gilbert recounts of the Proud Eagle Tribe: I dont think it functioned continuously as a separate unit, or had enough influence within the org[anization].177 His statement makes evident that autonomous womens actions decreased with the organizations shift underground. Women in the WUO justified separate womens actions: it enables us to fight together against our oppression, breaking out and overcoming it together through struggle the relationships that we build between us after our self-hatred and competition are broken down reflect the transformation that happens as we become revolutionaries.178 Separate womens actions were legitimized as an attack on male chauvinism for two reasons: the first, these actions gave women the opportunity to develop a revolutionary consciousness and prove themselves as revolutionary leaders in that context and the second, because such actions developed camaraderie amongst women by putting them into situations in which they would have to rely on one another for support and protection. Thus, women fighting the cops in the Detroit and Pittsburgh jailbreaks and in affinity groups at riots and demonstrations qualified as an attack on male chauvinism because women were becoming aggressive and working together antithetical 176 Communique Health, Education and Welfare: An Enemy of Women San Francisco, March 6, 1974, 215. 177 Personal Correspondence with David Gilbert, September 14, 2008. 178 Honky Tonk Women.
64 to constructs of traditional femininity. The WUO asserted that the purpose and necessity of all-womens actions was for women to overcome hatred and fear of each other. Competition between women would be overcome by women fighting alongside one another to rid themselves of pieces of Amerika [sic].179 Consistent with the WUOs emphasis on violence as transformative practice, the Pittsburgh Women concluded that their jailbreak action built self-confidence and transformed them into new women, into revolutionaries prepared to make a revolution.180 Autonomous womens actions or affinity groups were supported by women in the organization and sources suggest that women often experience sisterhood within dangerous situations. Susan Stern recalls one such moment after the Avenue Riots in Seattle: The major thing that came out of the Ave Riots was a heavy corps of street-fighting women. The nights of rioting and fighting together had made bonds among the women that years of talking had not done The rush of women, long repressed, was suddenly and daringly undammed. Nothing but action, running in the streets, actually fighting with the pigs could have released such a pent-up force. We were tasting the macho strength that characterizes men, but we felt it keenly as women. Eyes glowing we looked at each other warmly. Like sweet perfume in the air we breathed in our first scent of sister-love. It was a precious, dazzling moment, and it turned the tide for the dozen women sitting in that room I sense my power not individually as a women, but for the first time, as part of a group of women.181 Sterns sentiment of sisterhood experienced through violence and risk resembles the empowerment associated with consciousness-raising of the womens liberation movement. The WUO more generally, and the women in the organization in particular, 179 Honky Tonk Women. 180 A Weatherwoman, Inside the Weather Machine. 181 Stern, 86.
65 perceived masculinity as a strategy for womens liberation. The WUO rejected the nonviolent method of the womens liberation movement and therefore, experienced their empowerment through aggression and violence. After the jailbreak conducted in Pittsburgh the women decided to start a womens collective. However, the collective was dismantled by the Weather Bureau because it was suspected as an attempt to usurp power.182 Details of the dismantling are not recorded in historical documents or described by historians. However, the dismantling of the early womens collective is representative of the authoritarianism and rigid political direction of the WUO. According to Dan Bergers research, strong women within the organization were often silenced and had to stifle their feminist politics.183 However, what constituted feminist politics to individual women in the WUO is unknown and based on the WUOs position on womens liberation, arguably divergent to ideas or beliefs commonly attributed to the term feminism. Empowerment experienced through violence was undermined by the internal culture of the organization. The WUOs enforced obedience to their ideology and politic created an internal culture of competition based on militancy and aggression. According to the research of Jeremy Varon, separate womens cadres were established for women to prove themselves; however, they were driven by a coerced machismo and encouraged neither true autonomy nor solidarity among the women.184 Severe practice of criticismself-criticism reinforced competition amongst women on the basis of militancy and aggression. Adopted from Maoism, criticism-self-criticism was implemented throughout 182 Berger, 292. 183 Berger, 293. 184 Varon, 60.
66 the entire organization. The practice entailed the collective selection of one individual to critique during a session which often lasted several hours. Criticisms presented by the group was thought to prevent the individual from critiquing themselves in order to stifle the critiques presented by group members concerning their politics or personality. Practiced to develop individuals into revolutionary leaders, criticism-self-criticism was not a reflective practice but rather a practice that targeted individualism and fostered severe mental and emotional abuse. The internal culture generally positioned all members in competition with each other based on militancy, aggression, and obedience to their political agenda. I contend that women in particular experienced this competition as a substitute for competition based on ideals of femininity. Criticism-self-criticism sessions were used to stunt outspoken or charismatic women within the organization. Susan Stern, a charismatic personality in her Seattle collective, underwent many criticism sessions, one particularly harsh lead by Mark Rudd when several of the collectives members praised her for her abilities as an organizer, speaker, and fighter. Stern would suffer through the groups vengeance for five hours as she was charged by the collective as being individualistic, egotistical, self-centered, power-hungry, manipulative, monogamous, dope-crazed, sexually perverted, dishonest, counter-revolutionary and arrogant.185 Women were expected to play contradictory roles. On one hand, women were judged by their militancy, willingness to take risk, and machismo attitude; on the other hand, women were punished through criticism sessions for performing this standard of behavior when leadership sensed that their control and power was threatened. Men were subjected to criticism-self-criticism as well; however, 185 Stern, 174.
67 there are no referenced instances of men being selected as targets for criticism-selfcriticism on the basis of charisma, popularity, or growing influence within their collectives. The WUOs contradictory standards for women situated womens liberation within rigid and narrow boundaries. Their strict definition of revolutionary as macho and tough emphasized womens weaknesses rather than strengths186 and maintained an internal culture contradictory to the groups pronounced intent. The organizations rigid authoritarianism in general undermined the empowerment experienced by women through all-women actions. Smash Monogamy: Sex in the Weatherman/Underground The women in the WUO advocated anti-monogamy as a strategy for womens liberation. Non-monogamous practice did not originate, nor was unique to the WUO; anti-monogamy positions were advocated by some radical feminist and socialist feminist groups. For the WUO, monogamy was perceived as a manifestation of bourgeois lifestyle in which men dominate women. Furthermore, monogamy constituted the basis of male supremacy.187 Collectively, they asserted that: Men believe that we are stupid, inferior to them, and that the only way they can be strong is to dominate and posses a woman. Their strength comes from making and keeping us weak by defining what we should look like, how we should act, and what we should think and feel. We are made into half-people, dependent and passive by definition. We let one man define our lives for us in monogamous relationships that chain us to 186 In Dan Bergers work, he describes Naomi Jaffes experience in Weatherman. She stated that her own strengths were not appreciated and recounts her exclusion from a study group on Marxs Capital although she had been the only member to have previously read the book, 292. 187 Ayers, A Strategy to Win.
68 the limits he sets and reinforce our passivity, isolation from reality, and free of fighting for our freedom Imperialist Amerika [sic] teaches its children that this is love, and that this is how we must live.188 Non-monogamy as a solution to this relationship of domination was developed by women in the organization. The Smash Monogamy campaign sought to eliminate monogamy within the collective because it cultivated womens oppression. Through the practice of non-monogamy women could develop into independent people and thus, revolutionaries. Weatherman asserted that new relationships must be established: The basis of all relationships men and women both must be the war we are making against the state. That is the reason our old imperialist values must break down so that we can become better revolutionaries, better able to make war and destroy the pig. That is the reason monogamous relationships must be broken up so that the people involved, but especially the women, can become whole people, self-reliant and independent, able to carry out whatever is necessary for the revolution.189 Smash monogamy served two purposes in Weatherman: one, as a means to develop women into revolutionary fighters and two, to discourage emotional attachments between individual members and establish that each individuals primary loyalty was to the organization.190 Furthermore, emotional bonds between members would limit their willingness to take risks. In their view, smash monogamy was a political program to make individuals accountable to the collective and rid them of bourgeois hang-ups.191 Men in the organization supported and embraced the anti-monogamy program. By ending monogamous relationships women became accountable for their own liberation and revolutionary development. According to Bill Ayers in A Strategy To Win 188 Honky Tonk Women. 189 Honky Tonk Women. 190 Personal Correspondence with David Gilbert, September 14, 2008. 191 Ayers, A Strategy to Win.
69 resistance to the prohibition of monogamy comes from men who are involved in a classical pattern of male chauvinism, of finding a woman who they can control, trying to teach that person, build that person up, take credit for building them up, begin feeling a lot of contempt for them, a lot of competition with them, and maintaining that relationship to maintain their dominance.192 Stated as a critique of traditional masculinity, this perspective of womens development assumes men dominate only in interpersonal relationships and furthermore, absolves men of acknowledgment of male privilege. The organization justified its anti-monogamy program because in practice, when people are operating in collectives and those relationships break down, the women begin to get strong, begin to assert themselves, begin to come out as leaders not as political people who work through another individual.193 Womens capability to be militant was attributed to the independence experienced by non-monogamy. The Motor City 9 women were praised for understanding the necessity of breaking down monogamous relationships. The WUO viewed their success as revolutionaries were due to this understanding, Ayers states: they got through it and understood the need to take the initiative in changing those relationships, and they did.194 Again, Ayers perspective on monogamy allows potential for a critique of traditional men but his emphasis on women initiating the process demonstrates the responsibility of women within Weatherman to deal with male chauvinism to a degree in which they were solely accountable. At the Days of Rage National Action during a criticism session the male chauvinist women were criticized by men for their bourgeois 192 Ayers, A Strategy to Win. 193 Ayers, A Strategy to Win. 194 Ayers, A Strategy to Win.
70 monogamous relationships and how they hold back both men and women, in the fighting situation as well as in general political development. 195 Women in the WUO envisioned the practice of non-monogamy as the development of egalitarian relationships between men and women. In addition, same-sex experimentation amongst women was perceived as practice at sexual equality with men. An anonymous woman states: Women sleeping with other women, developing full sexual and political relationships with each other, indicates that we are beginning to really destroy the bourgeois values we have believed in for such a long time, and apply revolutionary values to every facet of our lives. As we break down these pig attitudes toward each other, and being to discover what revolutionary love is, we learn how to build satisfying relationships with men too.196 Ironically, same-sex activity between women was perceived to be a way for women to grapple with viewing themselves as sexual objects. This activity was implemented to promote casual sex as a revolutionary act. The women in the organization believed smash monogamy practice to be most liberating.197 The extent to which this practice challenged heterosexuality in the group is unknown primarily due to inconsistency. Some sources suggest that both women and men were encouraged to engage in same-sex activity and that the sexual experimentation of the group allowed gays and lesbians comfortable participation in the group.198 However, others suggest that the WUOs anti-monogamy practice was specifically aimed at women. According to Dan Berger, men were often criticized for not having sex with 195 Shinya Ono, A Weatherman: You Do Need A Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, Leviathan December 1969. 196 Honky Tonk Women. 197 Honky Tonk Women. 198 Personal Correspondence with David Gilbert, September 14, 2008.
71 all the available women in the organization.199 For women, engagement in same-sex activity was perceived to be a method of liberation. However, this system also forced women to prove their rejection of bourgeois monogamy (perceived as one man and one woman) in order to develop into egalitarian, heterosexual relationships. Sexual experimentation within the WUO fit into a broader cultural context of a larger movement for sexual freedoms and elimination of sexual repression (although with different intent) but not unlike the sexual liberation movement, the WUO reinforced sexual stereotypes that exploited women. According to David Gilbert, anti-monogamy dovetailed with the broader trend of free love and furthermore given the inadequate struggle against sexism, the main function of free love was to make women more sexually available to men.200 I contend that Weathermans alternative sexual system represented androcentric motivations on behalf of women and men. Weathermans anti-monogamy practice implicitly and at times, explicitly exploited women in the organization. The anti-monogamy program was implemented through criticism-self-criticism of monogamous couples, rotation of sexual partners, group sex or Wargasms, and casual sex to prove political allegiance to the collective.201 Although no consistent implementation was established, each collective operated on its own and with the direction of the central committee, individuals showing obedience and militant anti-monogamy were sent to other locations to discipline collectives by conducting criticism-self-criticism sessions to break down monogamous relationships. Members were expected to rotate partners, and according to historian Jeremy Varon, 199 Berger, 105. In reference to Weatherman Michael Novick a homosexual seeking support to come out. 200 Personal Correspondence with David Gilbert, September 14, 2008. 201 Personal Correspondence with David Gilbert, September 14, 2008.
72 some male leaders essentially shuttled particular women between collectives in order to sleep with them.202 Weatherman connected monogamy with imperialist values and therefore, set forth severe methods to ensure monogamous relationships were stifled. For men, the non-monogamy practice did not require them to be sexually accessible. Hence, the practice reinforced sexism in its execution. It required women to prove themselves worthy as revolutionaries through sex and accessibility. For women, the anti-monogamy program positioned female bodies as battlegrounds to prove loyalty to the collective. Women were coerced into sex by and with male leaders with the promise of reward. Susan Sterns collective in Seattle received a visit from Weather leader Mark Rudd, who disappeared with one woman upon arrival, Mark Rudd entered into the shared room of Stern and another woman and coerced the female member to have sex with him. According to Susan Stern, she heard the muffled sobs of her roommate met with Weatherman propaganda regarding commitment to the collective: You have to put the demand of your collective above your love. Nothing comes before the collective As she pleaded with him (according to Susan Stern this plea included the word No) Rudd promised her command of the collective.203 Susan Stern notes: It was interesting to note whom Rudd, and J.J. when he came, slept with, because it was all part of positioning for power. Both Rudd and J.J. slept with both Carol and Georgia, for they were the chosen Bureau Leadership. They slept first with one and then with the other. They traded them off, putting them in competition for Bureau approval, and for position as primary leadership.204 202 Varon, 58. 203 Stern, 176. 204 Stern, 198.
73 Sex in Weatherman was manipulative. The anti-monogamy program created opportunity for women to be sexually exploited; it restricted womens control of their bodies. Sex, coerced or consented, solidified their obedience to male leadership and earned women leadership positions in their collectives. The alternative sexual practices of the WUO at times occurred in order to prove political solidarity to the collective. After forming a romantic relationship with leader Terry Robbins, Cathy Wilkerson moved to his New York Collective. Her arrival at the New York collective was commemorated by sex with another woman, she recounts: After a brief time with the whole group, Terry informed us that I and the other woman, Martine, needed to get to know each other, and they would leave us alone for a couple of hours I began to realize that we were expected to have sex as a way of forging our ultimate loyalty to each other and to the group.205 Wilkerson claims that this was less intimidating than the group sex which she rationalized: I knew that combat groups that depended on each other for their survival regularly ritualized their intimacy to recognize and seal their mutual dependence.206 Wilkersons narration of the act itself implies the disempowerment of this practice for women: We blundered through the physical act itself, confused that the stimulation of risk-taking did not genuinely transfer to sex. Inevitably, there was no sense of discovery, or power. Quite the opposite When the others returned we both put on those protective masks that we had learned to use so well in previous months, insisting that we were the best of comrades .The fact that I have only a vague memory of the encounter is testament to its emotionally numbing impact.207 205 Wilkerson, 328. 206 Wilkerson, 329 207 Wilkerson, 329.
74 Wilkersons account of this activity demonstrates the failure of the WUOs sexual practices to empower, much less, liberate women. Michel Foucault asserts that power is force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization.208 Sex and sexuality, according to Foucault, are sites of power relations.209 The deployment of sexuality operates according to contingent techniques of power and engenders continual extension of areas and forms of control.210 The WUOs use of sex and sexuality as political control of women exemplifies unequal power relations. These practices resemble a paradox; they were unable to provide liberatory potential for women and more generally, were enforced upon all members and reduced all activity to an effect of obedience.211 As Foucault theorizes: where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power.212 Power relations are implicit in sex and sexuality; the use of alternative sexual practices to challenge existing power dynamics between men and women further continued to manifest dominant cultural constructs and values. Feminist theorist Catherine MacKinnon asserts a feminist theory of sexuality in which sexuality is a pervasive dimension throughout the whole of social life, a dimension along which gender pervasively occurs and through which gender is constituted.213 MacKinnon argues that gender identity is fused with sexuality which equals the sexuality of (male) dominance 208 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Vol. 1 (New York, Vintage Books, 1990) 92. 209 Foucault, 103. 210 Foucault, 106 211 Foucault, 85. 212 Foucault, 95. 213 Catherine MacKinnon, Sexuality in Feminist Theory: A Reader Ed. Wendy K. Kolmar and Frances Bartkowski (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005) 477.
75 and (female) submission.214 She poses the question to Foucault: of what is sexuality socially constructed? And further asserts that power, meaning power imbedded in gender, constitutes sexuality.215 In this view, gender as a hegemonic power comprises sexuality, and thus, the alternative sexual practices of the WUO, whether heterosexual or same-sex activities as practice for egalitarian heterosexual relationships, did not have liberatory potential because sex and sexuality continued to be culturally defined by power relations prescribed to particular bodies. The smash monogamy campaign, developed as a strategy for womens liberation, was implemented in the crudest of ways. All aspects of the anti-monogamy program were reinforced through criticism-self-criticism and punishable by the collectives members all competing for the Weather Bureaus recognition and reward. The anti-monogamy campaign reinforced women as sexual conquests accessible to male members and did not liberate women from domination in heterosexual relationships. Weathermans analysis of womens oppression and their method for womens liberation was narrowly defined; consequently, their practice greatly undermined the potential for womens liberation that their methods may have offered. Hegemony and the Liberatory Potential of Masculinity Womens performance of masculinity not does grant power or equality to femalebodied people. The inability of women to gain equal status with men by assuming masculinity is indicative of the hegemonic power of masculinity which grants status to 214 MacKinnon, 478. 215 Mackinnon, 478.
76 particular male-bodied identities. Furthermore, political strategies for womens liberation that validate masculinity are products this hegemony. Gramsci posits that a cultural hegemony functions to some extent with consent. This notion of consent is ambiguous; it is a contradictory relationship between ones thoughts and ones actions: Two theoretical consciousnesses (or one contradictory consciousness): one which is implicit in his [or her] activity and which in reality unties him with all his fellow-workers in the practical transformation of the real world; and one, superficially explicit or verbal, which he has inherited form the past and uncritically absorbed. But this verbal conception is not without consequences. It holds together a specific social group, it influences moral conduct and the direction of will, with varying efficacity but often powerfully enough to produce a situation in which the contradictory state of consciousness does not permit of any action, any decision or any choice, and produce as condition of moral and political passivity.216 A contradictory consciousness, and its relationship to Gramscian consent, explains the meaning of womens participation in Weatherman. Their inadequate analysis or practice for womens liberation challenged and reinforced a hegemonic gender system which implies womens oppression. The embrace of violence and machismo maintained masculinity as the legitimating performance. Performing masculinity was a mandatory political expression and in particular, a response to womens oppression. Uncritical of male privilege, they absorbed gender discourse and therefore, their politics and practices reinforced womens subordinate status as women. Visible in autonomous womens actions women were valued on the basis of aggression. Autonomous womens actions allowed women to assume leadership roles and experience empowerment; however, these actions demonstrate a necessity for 216 Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks ed. and trans. Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York, 1971) 326-327, 333 quoted in Jackson Lears, 569.
77 women to prove themselves as capable. In addition, the Smash Monogamy campaign intended to challenge male-dominated heterosexual relationships served to reinforce womens sexual accessibility to men and more generally, created manipulative sexual situations. Both strategies for womens liberation are products of hegemonic masculinity and represent simultaneous resistance to and reconstruction of dominant gender ideology. Although the women in the WUO subverted traditional femininity prescribed to their female bodies, attempts to liberate themselves through masculinity proved to be an ineffective strategy for womens liberation. Weathermans programs for womens liberation, separate womens actions and smash monogamy, served to reinforce traditional expectations of women in exploitative ways. Ultimately, the WUO failed to provide a politic and program for womens liberation and demonstrate a socialist practice wherein women are equal.
78 Chapter Five: Conclusion In conclusion, this thesis explores the WUOs politic of womens liberation and the unique meaning of womens participation in revolutionary violence. In chapter one, I provide the current historiography on the WUO, feminist approaches to politically violent women, and the importance of examining women in the WUO through the lens of gender theory. I argue that the historical works which have explored the WUO have neglected to include their political position on womens liberation and the strategies in result of this position. Furthermore, I contend that feminist scholars have neglected research on violent women in order to evade acknowledging that women can potentially be agents of violence, although these women are a testament to the fluidity of gender and the discursive power of the gender system. In chapter two, I focus on Weathermans emergence from the Students for a Democratic Society. I explain the influence of theories of guerilla warfare on Weathermans political practice. Inspired by Guevara, Marx, and Lenin, Weatherman created a revolutionary identity and sought to create revolutionary conditions within the United States. The absence of theory and analysis was not a deterrent for SDS; they believed exemplary actions executed by foco groups would inspire the masses to armed struggle for revolution (although they failed as a group to incite such mass uprising). Exemplary actions included violent acts of aggression against state institutions, and in
79 particular, the display of masculinity and macho posturing. Violence was perceived as a legitimate political strategy against U.S. imperialism and subsequently, for womens liberation. In chapter three, I articulate Weathermans position on womens oppression and liberation and compare it to the womens liberation movement more generally. I argue that womens oppression was situated within a broader framework that identified U.S. imperialism as the root of all oppression. Women in the WUO posited that their oppression as women was a result of bourgeois family roles and cultural definition of woman as passive, sexual objects. Although similar to the critiques presented by the womens liberation movement, women in the Weatherman posited a different solution. They asserted that masculinity was a liberatory practice for women. I apply gender performance theories to acknowledge that womens participation in violence is an instance of gender subversion. However, I apply Raewyn Connell and Antonio Gramsci to argue that gender is a cultural hegemony wherein female-bodied people are not awarded power through representations of masculinity. Thereby, women can perform masculinity. However, hegemony operates because people consent. Women therefore can create a subordinate masculinity but women are not awarded power or privilege available via hegemonic masculinity. In chapter four, I examine Weathermans practice of womens liberation. They executed women-only actions to provide women with the opportunity to prove their aggression and build solidarity with other women. However, the mere necessity for women to prove themselves is indicative of womens gender difference within the
80 organization. In addition, I examine Weathermans sexual practices. The Smash Monogamy campaign was intended as a means for womens liberation from their subordinate position in heterosexual relationships. Supported by men in the organization, their non-monogamy practice was intended to allow women to develop into revolutionary fighters, responsible to the collective and accountable for their own liberation. Gender difference manifested in the exploitative ways these practices were implemented. I apply the Gramscian notion of contradictory consciousness and consent to argue that womens participation in Weatherman was shaped by hegemonic masculinity. Their politics and practices challenged and reconstructed dominant gender ideology in which womens subordination is inevitable. The historiography on the Weather Underground has neglected to assert analyses of womens involvement with the organization. Historian Dan Berger has posited that womens involvement forced the organization to deal with feminism; and in similarity to his claim, Ron Jacobs has asserted that the organization dissolved due to the organizations inability to adequately deal with feminism. My research has demonstrated that the Weather Underground did have a position on womens liberation and furthermore, that women within the organization participated in the creation and practice of the groups politics. Therefore, it is a misrepresentation of the organization in general and women in the organization in particular, for Jacobs and Berger to make these claims regarding feminism and the womens liberation movement. The Weather Underground did maintain a faulty perception of womens liberation due to their inability to recognize and address the issue of male privilege. The women in the organization maintained a
81 political position and practice that reinforced masculinity as the legitimate personhood and thereby, recreated constructs that subordinate women. The group did not disband due to internal conflict regarding womens position in the organization. More specifically and accurately, the organization failed to be a viable political entity due to their emphasis on masculinity and machismo. The politic and practice put forth and implemented by the organization mandated extremity and abuse; intertwined with these manifestations was gender ideology. The organization attempted to use their entitlement to work against race and class privilege, however, utilizing violence and aggression assumes an authority awarded by positions of entitlement and womens use of masculinity reinstitutes entitlement awarded to male-bodied people by hegemonic masculinity. The adoption of masculinity by the Weather Underground implicates the necessity of the application of gender theory in combination with historical research. Without such considerations the organization is grossly misrepresented. Feminist scholarship has neglected womens activism on the Left from the history of feminist movements and feminist thought. The women in the WUO developed a politic of womens liberation that fit within their analysis of U.S. imperialism. They asserted womens oppression and privilege was relative to issues of race and class in American culture. Currently, feminist theory and womens studies curriculum has established the importance of intersectionality, multiple intersecting systems of oppression and marginalization, and positioned explorations of womens reality within these intersections. It is detrimental to feminist scholarship, theory, and practice to ignore
82 Leftist women that have attempted to address, however insufficient or lacking, these issues. Leftist women of the Sixties, existing in a historically contingent space, are associated with the militancy and violence of the male Left. I contend that as a result of historical factionalism between the New Left and the womens liberation movement the activism of these women has been attributed to male violence and consciousness, for example, the work of Robin Morgan. Feminist scholars have not utilized the rich territory presented by these womens politics and practice in an unfortunate adherence to essentialist frameworks that reject womens agency in political violence. The women in the WUOs politics and practices were shaped by hegemonic masculinity which impaired potential for womens liberation but these politics were their own. Although feminists may not appreciate their existence, they were undeniably an aberration, a gender subversion, which demonstrates gender as socially constructed and historically and culturally contingent. Research in the area of gender and armed struggle in general would serve feminist scholars as fertile ground concerning issues of resistance to and acceptance of dominant ideologies. Feminist scholarship needs to expand the boundaries and definitions of feminism and feminist activism to include all women that have fought for social change. The contemporary feminist movement is broad and expanding; the development of coalitions is challenging, however, we cannot hope for social change, revolution, or liberation without space for plurality. Explorations of women at these intersections, outside the historically imposed boundaries of feminism, their successes and failures,
83 contain pertinent knowledge of political theory and practice and the space in which these meet. Particularly concerning feminist theory, these theoretical spaces would cultivate fresh ideas detached from linear frameworks of patriarchy and male domination. Furthermore, I contend that further feminist study of womens political violence, particularly the Weather Underground, will broaden bodies of scholarship that emphasizes the social construction of gender and the affects of gender as a social system on womens experiences and reality. For gender theory, this opens a vast arena of possibilities. Commonly, gender theorists have made examples of trans-identities or lesbian and gay subcultures to demonstrate gender as a performance. I contend that examinations of gender subversion that focus on a variety of identifications would benefit the field of gender studies. The theorization of gender as a cultural hegemony and therein, the manifestation of gender ideology in political and performative practice complicates notions of resistance and internalization, however, provides a realm in which to discuss power negotiations and the implied meaning of such negotiations. Weathermans embrace of masculinity and violence represented an ideological manifestation in political practice. Furthermore, their extreme commitment to transcending the gap between theory and practice make them a fascinating subject for studies on the schisms between ones political intent and the effects of ones actions.
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