York--You could not miss the strong feminist dimension to the anti-Republican
National Convention demonstrations here in August-September.
In addition to a March for Women’s Lives on Aug. 28 and a rally by the
National Organization for Women on Sept. 1, women were flamboyant and vociferous
at many other rallies and marches, protesting both Bush’s assaults on
women’s rights and his war-mongering.
it remains to be seen whether all the woman-power we saw in the streets will go
beyond trying to elect Kerry or marching against the war in Iraq--and the next
war. What remains to be worked out is how actually to overcome existing
social-economic thought relations, as part of the process of women’s
SPONSORS AND MARCHERS
25,000-strong March for Women’s Lives was the largest reproductive rights
demonstration here in many years. Like last April’s million-woman march on
Washington that put feminism back on the political map, New York’s march,
organized by NARAL and Planned Parenthood, had diverse sponsors and
participants, including minority and community groups.
In addition to trying to save the right to abortion, they demanded health
care and lesbian and poor women’s rights.
future direction may these groups have in common? We can’t know from the speakers at the rally, who limited
their talks to single issues.
National Organization for Women (NOW) participated in many actions--"to
denounce the radical Right’s attack on our nation" and "to show
solidarity with peace, anti-poverty, lesbian rights and workers’ rights."
But at its rally and elsewhere, NOW focused on getting out the vote for Kerry.
NOW actually used the word "revolution" to describe women’s
involvement in Kerry’s campaign. NARAL
actually has a poster in the subway contrasting Bush to good Republicans who
support legal abortion: our reactionary governor, mayor and former mayor.
the women's movement puts all its efforts into the election, it can hobble real
change, which requires a social-economic revolution to break with capitalism and
its anti-human processes. If our thinking doesn't venture beyond trying to win
reforms, the idea of freedom can become lost.
OF WOMEN'S LIBERATION
fear the women’s movement will hit dead ends if it does not engender deeper
reflection and discussion on the process of women’s liberation. It is one
thing to vote for Kerry in order to save legal abortion, but quite another to
devote all our energy to defeating just one of capitalism’s spokespersons, and
that only temporarily. In 1992,
after Clinton defeated the first President Bush and "saved" abortion,
many feminist groups, such as Women’s Action Coalition in New York, collapsed.
If Kerry wins, will we make the same mistake of thinking we have secured
women’s rights, when we have merely "won" a little breathing space
on one issue?
the week of anti-Bush events, the most conspicuous group was Code Pink, a
feminist-pacifist organization that originated in California. Taking its name
from Bush’s terrorism alert code, the group’s pink motif greatly enlivened
our streets, and some members even managed to get inside and disrupt the
convention. Code Pink concluded from the protests that "the peace and
justice movement in the United States is not only alive and well, it is bursting
with energy, boldness and creativity."
liked Code Pink for its audacity and because its members immediately went from
New York to Florida, where they are registering voters and trying to ensure that
this year’s election is not manipulated nor stolen, in light of recent
attempts to suppress the African-American vote again.
it may be more radical than the older national groups, Code Pink also fails to
address barriers to women’s liberation. Its statement implies that large and
creative demonstrations in and of themselves mean the movement is
there is no reason to believe that the recent protests have put us in a position
to stop sexism, war and injustice from worsening, let alone to transform social
and economic relations. We need to beware of turning protests into an end in
themselves, of losing sight of the goal of transcending this society, so that
women’s liberation can be what Marx called the "absolute movement of
Published by News and Letters Committees