September 10, 2016
Julie Burchill: The Swinging Sixties should be renamed the Seedy Sixties
Julie Burchill writes:
I’ve long suspected that the alleged Sexual Revolution of the Sixties was not a bid to advance women’s rights, but rather to turn back the clock and push the brave new young working woman back to being barefoot and pregnant. Even the appearance approved for hippie women – long skirts, long hair – spoke of an earlier era, before girls raised their skirts and bobbed their hair and went out to earn a living. Equally, I believe that the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1970s was as much a reaction to the ‘revolutionary’ sexism of the 1960s as it was to millions of years of reactionary patriarchy.
No need to “suspect” or “believe”.
In 1965, two women of Students for a Democratic Society, Casey Hayden and Mary King, wrote an essay bringing attention to the problem of sexism within SDS. In their essay, the authors cautiously raised the issue of sexism in the student movement (indeed, the subtitle of the essay, “A Kind of Memo,” suggested just how cautious they were), arguing that women engaged in movements for social justice needed to start communicating to both each other, and their fellow male activists about their experiences. Deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Hayden and King went out of their way to be clear that they were in no sense equating the discrimination and oppression they experienced as women with the oppression experienced by African Americans in the United States. Nonetheless, it had become increasingly clear to them that sexism did not stop at the door of the radical meeting house – it was a very real problem in the New Left community, and it had to be dealt with.
Two years later, frustrated by the tepid and insulting response of many men in SDS to their call for gender equality, the women of SDS again penned an essay which attempted to explain why attacking sexism was so important to the overall struggle for social justice…
Worst of all, women who spoke out in support of women’s issues were attacked with a discourse filled with sexist and near-pornographic images. Coming from comrades in the struggle to end the war and create a new society, this was painful indeed. Activist Ellen Willis reflected on this experience:
“It’s hard to convey to people who didn’t go through that experience how radical, how unpopular and difficult it was just to get up and say, “Men oppress women. Men have oppressed me. Men must take responsibility for their actions instead of blaming them on capitalism. And, yes, that means you.” We were laughed at, patronized, called frigid, emotionally disturbed man-haters and—worst insult of all on the left!—apolitical.”
This is why cons who celebrate when the Left appears to “eat itself” are delusional.
It’s happened before.
The Left is stronger than ever.