On Thursday, September 3, 9-10 PM, Joy of Resistance proudly presents a Consciousness Raising (CR) session. Five women, ranging in age from 22 through 70, and from family backgrounds as varied as Equadorian, Mexican, Colombian and East European/Jewish, answered, from their own experience, the question “How were you trained into “femininity” and “how to be a woman” in your familiy of origin?”
Recorded live at the studios of WBAI this past July, this presentation is part of JOR’s attempt to bring this critical practice in building the feminist movement, to a new generation.
About Consciousness Raising…
Consciousness-raising is a practice that built the feminist movement in the late 60’s and 70’s, when women formed CR groups throughout the country to share the truth of their lives, and often build actions on what they learned. Consciousnes- raising sessions were also broadcast live on the air on WBAI during this time.
Quoting Carol Hanisch, writing in On the Issues ( http://tinyurl.com/puzspmt ): “It (CR) has its roots in the 1930’s practice in China of “speak pains to recall pains” or speaking bitterness to get to the root of collective problems. This practice was used in Chinese movements including the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. CR also takes off fro an adaptation of the Civil Rights Movement‘s “Tell it like it is,” a practice of Blacks testifying as to their specific experiences with racism, in churches or other organizing spots, to get sharper and deeper on the conditions they faced as well as the aim they should take in making change.
CR is a way to study our own lives as women, to use our experiences as data. We compare and contrast our experiences and draw conclusions so we can get closer to the truth about what is making us feel the way we do and act the way we do.”
The way it works…
According to Allison Guttu, who has led CR groups with the Women of Color Caucus of National Women’s Liberation: “The way it works is that participating women answer one question, each speaking from her own experience as a woman. After all who want to have a chance to speak, we draw conclusions, sum up and investigate what we’ve all testified about. Conclusions are the most important part – the scientific part. Often there will be commonalities between our experiences. We will think about those commonalities and ask “who benefits from this? Who is gaining? Who is suffering?” And in this way we use these conclusions to get a deeper understanding of our oppression as a group and in turn how best to fight this oppression.”
And from the Carol Hanisch article quoted above: “Consciousness-raising as a deliberate program was sparked in a New York Radical Women meeting early in 1968…In the autumn of 1968, Kathie Sarachild (a member of NYRW), wrote up A Program for Feminist Consciousness-Raising (which can be found at Redstockings.org) to distribute at the first national women’s liberation conference at Lake Villa near Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend. It initially received a mixed reception, but before long, even groups that had previously disparaged consciousness-raising as “therapy” or “navel-gazing” began to take it up. Consciousness-Raising swept the country, with groups in every major city and many smaller towns.
Conclusions drawn in these groups were used to write such insightful and influential papers as Pat Mainardi’s The Politics of Housework,Irene Peslikis’ Resistances to Consciousness, Shulamith Firestone’s Women Rap about Sex, Anne Koedt’s The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, Ellen Willis’s Women and the Myth of Consumerism, and my article,The Personal Is Political—to mention only a very few. Such theory did not spring up in isolation. It came from months of weekly meetings where both strong feelings of unity from shared experience and lively, sometime heated, disagreements abounded. Actions—large and small—also resulted from these discussions. For example, I got the idea for the 1968 Miss America Protest in a consciousness-raising group.”
CR is not a thing of the past and is being practiced today by such groups as National Women’s Liberation, Women of Color Caucus (of National Women’s Liberation) and Gainesville Women’s Liberation. Most recently (2012-14) it was used by National Women’s Liberation in their fight to get the Morning After Pill (MAP) available over the counter and without a prescription, as women shared experiences of needing the morning after pill and not being able to easily access it. This led to many of the actions that contributed to the victory of MAP now being accessible without a prescription and over the counter in pharmacies n the U.S.
This program will also include a Feminist News Roundup.