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The Women's Liberation Front
by Jo Freeman

Published in Moderator, November 1968.

Before reading this article, turn to the first page of this magazine and read the masthead. There you'll find that subscriptions to Moderator are "Free to all qualified male students. $3 per year to all others." Overt discrimination against women? Probably, but more realistically, Moderator is just a little less hypocritical than its contemporaries. Even if they decided to remove the word "male" very few women would receive this magazine free.
Because women aren't qualified.
Moderator is sent to campus leaders, particularly those students who might potentially work for the large corporations which advertise in its pages. Women are rarely found among the ranks of campus leaders end even more rarely work for corporations in a managerial capacity.
Today's coed finishes four years of higher education in the belief that, if she so chooses, she can get just as good a job and rise just as high in her profession as a man of similar abilities. Very few women even get off the ground.
It starts with finding a job. Check any Help Wanted section of a major newspaper. Want-ads cannot be segregated by race under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but they are still segregated by sex. Few women bother to look at the "male" section to discover that most of the good jobs are listed there. They also don't notice that the dually listed jobs offer salaries to women about 20 percent below those to men. Only 25 states require equal pay for equal work and companies frequently circumvent those laws by giving the women's job a lesser title.
These barriers, and more subtle ones continue to continue to harass women throughout their working lives. When a male grad applies to a company he is put into management training and is reasonably confident that he will enter management soon in his career. When the typical women grad applies she is given a typing test and told she should rise through the clerical ranks.
She doesn't go far. The higher one looks in any company or occupation the fewer women one finds. Those that do make it freely admit that they have to work twice as hard and make many more sacrifices than a male co-worker -- and still receive less pay.
The life of a working women is well described with a few statistics from Department of Labor publications:
Although seventy percent or all women with college degrees work, only two percent are executives. Forty percent teach and over twenty percent are employed in clerical sales or factory jobs. The median income of working women with degrees is 51 percent that of men and the median income of women in professional, technical and managerial capacities is sixty percent that of men.


The increasing concentration of all working women in the low-pay, low-status occupations is reflected in the gap between the incomes of women and men. In 1965, the median income of year-round, full-time workers was: white men, $6,704; nonwhite men, $4,277 white women, $3,991; nonwhite women, $2,816.
Read that lost sentence again, carefully. The median income, of white women is lower than that of nonwhite men. Sex is as great a deterrent as race to achieving one's share of the world's goods. Black women are doubly cursed and have the lowest income of all. Yet the median education of both groups is higher then that of their male counterparts.
These facts have always been shrouded by the belief that "things are getting better." But in reality the gap between the incomes of women and men has widened at the rate half a percent a year for the last 15 years.
According to Mary Keyserling, Director of the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor,

occupationally women are relatively more disadvantaged today than they were 25 years ago. In 1940 they held 45 percent of all professional and technical positions. Currently they hold only 37 percent. This deterioration has occurred despite the increase in women's share of total employment over the some period and the rising number of women who enroll in and graduate from institutions of higher education.

Women's share of the educational pie is also decreasing. In 1965 women earned one out of three B.A.s and M.A.s and one in ten Ph.D.s. In 1930 the figures were two out of fiveand one in seven respectively.
These statistics illustrate but don't explain the fact that with 51 percent of the population women are the country's largest "minority group." The explanation does not lie in "nature," that scapegoat which has been used for eons to justify the subjugation of all minority groups.
Rather the answer lies among the hazy myths about women and the traditional beliefs on proper sex-roles, those invisible bonds that are greater then chains because they are not understood to exist.
Sex roles differ with each culture but all cultures carefully shape children from birth to fit accepted concepts of masculine and feminine behavior and to believe that these concepts have some eternal validity. In our society these roles are reflected in our movies, our fictions, our advertising and our opinions; they stereotype women and men as badly as they do any ethnic minority.
Our culture is dominated by the values of the white male. The individual worth of each human being is defined by the standards of this group. Women, like blacks, don't measure up. So they are relegated into that great underclass whose main function is to free the white male from menial concerns.
Women are taught to play a subservient and passive role in order to be considered "feminine." They are supposed to be dependent, men are supposed to be independent. Woman is the supporter, man the provider. Girls are encouraged to develop domestic concerns while young boys learn to orient themselves outward. To be "feminine" is to be weak, gentle, submissive, emotional, intuitive, and above all, sexual.
Allowed no identity of their own, women are told they must live their lives vicariously and attain their fulfillment through caring for a man and raising his children. Historically, this role may once have had value, but with the pill and advancing technology there in no longer any excuse for confining women to secondary roles. Yet they are held there by social attitudes as oppressive as any tangible restraint. Women who try to break out of the stereotype, who do not conform to the myths or play the roles defined for them, are ridiculed as unfeminine, castrating, frustrated and frigid.
Other women join in this mockery and thus contribute to their own oppression. Men put women down because it justifies their position. Women do it because like all minority groups they have internalized the opinion and image of themselves perpetrated by those in authority. Women ore often worse male chauvinists then are men.
By the time most girls enter college their future in already determined. A coed may believe that "if she so chooses" she can get a good job, but she rarely chooses. She has been conditioned from birth to fit her life around home and family and she gears her education to this purpose.
Higher education for men legitimates their right to control and manage this society. For women, it is a waiting period in which they find a husband and prepare themselves sufficiently to "keep up with him." Her goal is an "Mrs." not an "A.B.", and a failure to get the latter is looked on with less pity than a failure to get the former.
If a woman should obtain both she must choose between home or career. A man accepts both as only natural but for a women to do both requires almost superhuman effort. Those that do succeed, do so by picking careers, such as social work and teaching, which can fit around home and husband and in which the predominance of women workers relieves them from the pressures to work twice as hard as their colleagues.
The employment and life styles of women have become self- fulling prophecies. Women are assumed to prefer the styles they have been taught to prefer. Businesses do not recruit women into management because they assume women are not interested, because they find the thought of a women threatening to the male ego, and because they are unwilling to adjust their employment patterns.
Our male values and standards require a women to succeed "in a man's world" but do not provide such minimal compensations as day-care centers or tax relief to hire babysitters. Time off for vacations, sick-leave or the draft is allowed for without loss of job or seniority but pregnancy or child care needs will often cost a woman both. Behind those problems is a family structure in which the responsibilities and pleasures of home and work are not shared equitably.
As people have become more aware of minority group problems in the last few years many woman have become conscious of their own status as a minority group. With this awareness a new feminist movement has begun to rise. But unlike previous movements, its major thrust is not to prove that women are as good as men, almost. It is concerned with equality, but does not feel equality lies in meeting the standards set by white male values.
In 1966 the National Organization for Women, headed by Betty Friedan, was formed with the slogan "full equality for women in truly equal partnership with men." Its membership is primarily career women, women whose families have grown and no longer occupy all their time, and a few sympathetic men.
A year later younger women in Chicago who had been involved in different social action projects began meeting to analyze their perpetual secondary roles in "the Movement." From their initial groupings came the "women's liberation movement" which in ten months has spread to 800 members, in thirty chapters in twelve cities.
Only four chapters are campus based. Students, a privileged class living under a semblance of equality, have proved difficult to organize until they are stripped of their illusions by career or married life. The WLM members are primarily college graduates; young, white and middle-class.
They are concerned not just with women's rights but with women's liberation, which requires a much more thorough restructuring of society, than simply integrating women into male-defined roles. Their publication, the Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement (mailed from 5336, S. Greenwood, Chicago), displays a feminism with a strong political orientation.
The WLM's most distinctive aspect is that it bars men from membership and meetings, and generally ignores them. Like the Black Power Movement, from which it draws many ideas, it feels women must run things for themselves. With a few exceptions, the women are not separatists, but they do see men as agents of an exploitative society and feel women must organize for their own liberation.
Men will not liberate women, women must free themselves. The have waited too long as it is. Now the movement is growing, organizing, and becoming more militant. The largest minority group is getting angry. They are tired of working for everyone's liberation except their own.