Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Guest Post by Anna: A Feminist Literary Canon, Part Six: 1970-1980

Carol Hanisch (birthdate unknown) is best known for coming up with the idea to have a feminist protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant (which first brought feminist concerns to the attention of the mainstream media) and for writing The Personal Is Political, which was published in 1969 and coined the phrase. In this paper she argues that women and other oppressed people should stop blaming themselves for their problems and realize that those problems are often caused by oppression and have political solutions. You can read The Personal Is Political in its entirety here.

Del Martin (1921-2008) is best known as an LGBT rights activist, but she also fought for women’s rights. She was active in the National Organization for Women, and wrote Battered Wives, showing how institutionalized misogyny contributed to domestic violence. In 1970 she wrote If That’s All There Is, an indictment of the sexism in the LGBT rights movement. It can be read in its entirety here.
Adrienne Rich (1929 –2012) was an American poet, and essayist, called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century", and was credited with bringing "the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse.” 
In her 1980 essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, Rich, herself a lesbian, posits that many women are forced into heterosexuality through women's dependence on men for money and status, violence, denial of knowledge about lesbianism, and so forth. She further declares that sexual repression of women has also stifled women’s creativity and economic advancement through rendering them dependent on men. 
Whether one agrees with all this or not, this is an important document in the history of feminism, and its concept has been accepted and embraced in many college classes and by human rights activists. As one example of its scope, the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, held in Brussels, March 4-8, 1976, named compulsory heterosexuality (in the form of discrimination against and persecution of lesbians) as a "crime against women."The essay can be read in its entirety here.
Linda Nochlin (born 1931) Linda Nochlin is an art historian, professor and writer, best known for her 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? 
 In this essay, which has become very influential in the field of art history, she argues that general social expectations against women seriously pursuing art, restrictions on educating women at art academies, and "the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure upon which the profession of art history is based" have worked against women becoming great artists.
She also argues that the idea of a lone great artist is somewhat exaggerated, as many have been supported by the help of assistants, patrons, schooling, etc, and have not simply created works of genius alone and unprovoked. You can read the essay in its entirety here.

Anne Koedt (born 1941) is best known as the author of The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, first published in 1970. In this essay, building on the work of Masters and Virginia Johnson’s Human Sexual Response Koedt advocated new sexual techniques mutually conducive to orgasm and urged women to insist on their own sexual satisfaction. She noted that penis-in-vagina sex (as opposed to oral sex, etc) that does not involve clitoris stimulation often results in women not having orgasms, and encouraged women to consider sex without their pleasure to be as unthinkable as sex without his penis being touched or him having an orgasm, an idea which mainstream society still has not adopted. The essay can be read in its entirety here.
Robin Morgan (born 1941) was a child actor and writer. She edited the 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful, which has been widely credited with helping to start the general women's movement in the US, and was cited by the New York Public Library as "One of the 100 most influential Books of the 20th Century.” It was one of the first widely available anthologies of second-wave feminism. Also in 1970, she wrote Goodbye to All That in reaction to the misogyny of the male-dominated left, in particular a magazine called Rat. The essay gained notoriety in the press for naming sexist liberal men and institutions. It can be read in its entirety here.
Rabbi Rachel Adler (born 1943) is a professor and theologian, ordained as a rabbi in May 2012.In 1971 she published The Jew Who Wasn’t There:Halacha and the Jewish Woman, in which she argued that halacha (Jewish religious law) ignored and oppressed women. This essay was considered by historian Paula Hyman as one of the founding influences of the Jewish feminist movement. It can be read in its entirety here.
Carol P. Christ (born 1944) is a teacher and author. Her speech Why Women Need the Goddess was presented as the keynote address to an audience of over 500 at the "Great Goddess Re-emerging" conference at the University of Santa Cruz in the spring of 1978, and was first published later that year. It has since been widely reprinted. In this speech she argues in favor of the concept of there having been an ancient religion of a supreme Goddess. The speech can be read in its entirety here.
Alice Walker (born 1944) is an author and activist. In 1974 she wrote In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: The Creativity of Black Women in the South in which she argued that black women’s artistic and literary gifts had been suppressed, and that there was a hidden history of oppressed black women artists. This essay can be read in its entirety here:
Her 1975 nonfiction article In Search of Zora Neale Hurston, published in Ms. magazine, helped revive interest in the work of Zora Neale Hurston (a feminist author best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God), who inspired some of Walker's writing and subject matter. In the article told of her journey to central Florida, where Hurston lived, hoping to find anyone who knew her and thus fill in the missing details of her life. When she arrived, Walker realized that few had heard of Hurston or read her works, nor had they properly honored her after she died. Posing as her niece, Walker made her way to Hurston’s weed-covered grave and purchased a headstone with the engraving: “A Genius of the South, 1901 – 1960. Novelist, Folklorist, Anthropologist”. This article is widely available in English but is not available online.
Ezrat Nashim (founded 1971) was a Jewish feminist group. The name refers to the women’s section in a traditional synagogue, but also can mean "women's help."
In 1972 they took the issue of equality for women to the 1972 convention of Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly, presenting a document on 14 March that was titled Jewish Women Call for a Change. The rabbis received the document in their convention packets, but Ezrat Nashim also presented it during a meeting with the rabbis' wives. The document demanded that women be accepted as witnesses before Jewish law, be considered as bound to perform all mitzvot (commandments),, be allowed full participation in religious observances, have equal rights in marriage and be allowed to initiate divorce, be counted in the minyan (religious quorum), and be permitted to assume positions of leadership in the synagogue and within the general Jewish community.
Historian Paula Hyman, who was a member of Ezrat Nashim, wrote that: "We recognized that the subordinate status of women was linked to their exemption from positive time-bound mitzvot, and we therefore accepted increased obligation as the corollary of equality.” Eleven years later, in October 1983, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the main educational institution of the Conservative movement, announced its decision to accept women into the Rabbinical School. Hyman took part in the vote as a member of the JTS faculty. 
Today, women are ordained as rabbis and cantors, and can read from the Torah in front of the congregation and be counted in the minyan, have full participation in religious observances, and be accepted as witnesses before Jewish law, in all types of Judaism except Orthodox Judaism. However, women are still not allowed to initiate divorce in Conservative as well as Orthodox Judaism, and are not considered as bound to perform all mitzvot by the Orthodox. But women have assumed positions of leadership in the synagogue and within the general Jewish community within all types of Judaism.

The Combahee River Collective (founded 1974)was a black feminist lesbian group. Their name commemorated an action at Combahee River planned and led by Harriet Tubman in 1863, which freed more than 750 slaves and is the only military campaign in American history planned and led by a woman.
In 1977 they publishedA Black Feminist Statement, a key document in the history of contemporary black feminism and the development of the concepts of identity as used among political organizers and social theorists. It describes the importance of black feminism, the difficulties in organizing black feminists, the realities of interlocking oppressions, and racism in the mainstream women’s movement. The essay can be read in its entirety here.

By the way, for anyone interested in my earlier series A Literary Canon of Women Writers, parts eleven and twelve, covering the nineteenth century, can be found here organized in chronological order by the author’s date of birth: