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As much as Andrea Dworkin and the "sex wars" of the 1980s aren't the worst place to get an idea of feminism, I think the earlier stuff is important too and that it is under-emphasized in comparison to either works of the "sex wars" or more recent works. I want to know if it's just me that gets this impression.

I think it's important to read the earlier stuff too. Very important. Sure, radical feminists were still figuring some things out then, but don't you want to understand how it developed? How they came up with their ideas and theories?

By "earlier stuff," I'd say I'm referring to things written during or before the early 1970s. The second wave didn't really start before the 1960s, but Simone de Beauvoir's 1949 book "The Second Sex" was a major influence on the early radical feminists, so I'd honorarily include it with other early second wave stuff.

Also, I want to say that I have noticed a major difference in the mood, which reflects the momentum of feminism. In the late 1960s, the second wave was coming into its own, consciousness-raising groups were forming all across the USA, there were protests and rallies and speak-outs; hell, some feminists even hexed Wall Street! But by the mid-1970s, momentum was running out. The wave had already peaked. A backlash was growing. The Women's Liberation movement was either dead or dying. So it's no coincidence that there is much more optimism in the works of the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s, things were looking bleak.

Do I have any recommendations? Yes, I do in fact. Here's where I'd start.

  • Notes from the First Year (1968, 32 pages)

  • Toward a Female Liberation Movement (1968, 35 pages)

  • Radical Feminism (anthology; edited by Anne Koedt, Ellen Levine, Anita Rapone; 1973)

If you're interested in whole books, then I'd say go for either the Feminine Mystique, the Second Sex, or one of the two main radical feminist books of 1970, Sexual Politics or the Dialectic of Sex.

As much as Andrea Dworkin and the "sex wars" of the 1980s aren't the worst place to get an idea of feminism, I think the earlier stuff is important too and that it is under-emphasized in comparison to either works of the "sex wars" or more recent works. I want to know if it's just me that gets this impression. I think it's important to read the earlier stuff too. Very important. Sure, radical feminists were still figuring some things out then, but don't you want to understand how it developed? How they came up with their ideas and theories? By "earlier stuff," I'd say I'm referring to things written during or before the early 1970s. The second wave didn't really start before the 1960s, but Simone de Beauvoir's 1949 book "The Second Sex" was a major influence on the early radical feminists, so I'd honorarily include it with other early second wave stuff. Also, I want to say that I have noticed a major difference in the mood, which reflects the momentum of feminism. In the late 1960s, the second wave was coming into its own, consciousness-raising groups were forming all across the USA, there were protests and rallies and speak-outs; hell, some feminists even hexed Wall Street! But by the mid-1970s, momentum was running out. The wave had already peaked. A backlash was growing. The Women's Liberation movement was either dead or dying. So it's no coincidence that there is much more optimism in the works of the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s, things were looking bleak. Do I have any recommendations? Yes, I do in fact. Here's where I'd start. - Notes from the First Year (1968, 32 pages) - Toward a Female Liberation Movement (1968, 35 pages) - Radical Feminism (anthology; edited by Anne Koedt, Ellen Levine, Anita Rapone; 1973) If you're interested in whole books, then I'd say go for either the Feminine Mystique, the Second Sex, or one of the two main radical feminist books of 1970, Sexual Politics or the Dialectic of Sex.

19 comments

You can read Notes from the First Year here: Notes from the First Year | Women's Liberation Print Culture

And here's Toward a Female Liberation Movement: Toward a Female Liberation Movement | Archive.org

Edit: And here you can read, though you have to "borrow" it like a digital library book, Radical Feminism: Radical Feminism | Archive.org

[–] mathlover 8 points Edited

The foundational works that created 2nd wave radical feminism are undervalued almost everywhere that calls itself feminist or gender critical.

Recommended reading, to start with, from our founding mothers of those early days:

Gyn/Ecology - Mary Daly

Sexual Politics - Kate Millett

Going Out of Our Minds - Sonia Johnson (You can find YT videos of her talks, as well. She was a good speaker.)

Sisterhood is Powerful - a collection of early essays, edited by Robin Morgan

Amazon Odyssey - Ti-Grace Atkinson. This is the only book she ever published and is a collection of her essays and talks.

Start with those. Also - Womens Declaration International (WDI) has a series called Radical Feminist Perspectives, which is a live online discusssion of the many many more works of radical feminism. Two or three rad fems well versed in rad fem literature discuss a different book each week. You have to register to listen live (women ONLY - don't try to get men to register) but the recordings are available soon after.

And finally, much of early radical feminism is unacceptable to many women who are gender critical and/or call themselves feminists. Fundamental to the material analysis of the oppression of women, as a class, by the oppressor class men is a recognition that heterosexuality itself is the primary tool of this oppression and that women need to consider this in their personal lives.You find this in the early 2nd wave writings.

I'm surprised you don't mention "The Dialectic of Sex" by Shulamith Firestone. I'd say she was much more important in founding radical feminism than Mary Daly. I'd put Shulamith Firestone and her book right up there with Kate Millett and her Sexual Politics.

Edit:

Fundamental to the material analysis of the oppression of women, as a class, by the oppressor class men is a recognition that heterosexuality itself is the primary tool of this oppression and that women need to consider this in their personal lives.

Not quite. There was very much an assumption of heterosexuality overall in the beginning. The group the Feminists were the main exception to that. The idea that women need to consider their personal relations with men political is definitely there though. But most of those early radicals weren't advocating celibacy or "political lesbianism" and hoped that one day a non-oppressive heterosexuality could be reached. Hell, the whole reason why lesbians embraced framing their lesbianism as political was because there was such a heterosexist attitude.

[–] mathlover 0 points Edited

Not sure how old you are. I read all those books as they came out. The Dialectic of Sex wasn't as widely read as some other books because it is dense difficult reading and had some odd (at the time) ideas about the future of women. So it was discussed but was not as widely influential or politically applied as many others.

And, yeah het women were very much part of the early 2nd wave, including half the women on the list I made. Lesbians stepped up to a lot of leadership roles, which not all het women were happy about. And political lesbianism alienated a lot of het women when they found that not every woman could be a lesbian no matter how much sisterhood and CR groups they absorbed.

I just ordered Kate Millett's book a few weeks ago and should be able to read it soon. Her work is some I'm most interested in reading. Also Mary Daly and I'd like ot get into more of the early eco feminist works, too. I don't think we mean to under-value these works, but some of them, which were best sellers in their day and translated into many languages, and now out of print. And yes we can get free digital copies but personally I feel like less sticks and it doesn't feel as "real" when I read e-books/pdfs. I don't know. I still do it, but I don't feel like I get as much out of it. Anyway so many of them are hard to find, sadly, and I think that contributes to them being "under-valued".

Some of the pamphlets and the essays are short enough that they can be printed out. I've found that helps me

I'd recommend Rape: The first sourcebook for women, by New York Radical Feminists, 1974. Editors Noreen Connell and Cassandra Wilson. New American Library/Plume, NY. It's based on a 1971 conference that was groundbreaking, and includes chapters by Florence Rush (CSA) and Phyllis Chesler (therapist abuse). I don't know if it's online or not.

I particularly like reading these movements in order to watch how ideas develop. There was a lot of out-there thinking in the first part of the second wave with corrections later on, for example being libertarian about child sexuality (Firestone, Dworkin's first book) then hearing about how common CSA/incest was and changing their minds. The early '70s were all about theory, then research started coming out and that shifted the conversation. Then the sex wars (once the easy stuff was dealt with theoretically), then more advanced levels of sexual coercion (prostitution, incest, sexual harassment) went wider, and so on. Then we started getting writing by women who hadn't been part of all this and who had a different starting point (e.g. Naomi Wolf).

There's constant evolution, and yet some issues have been addressed right from the beginning (first wave even) but that's not where the focus went at the time.

You might be interested in reading one of those memoirs/personal accounts of experience with the women's liberation movement. A while ago I started Susan Brownmiller's "In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution." Didn't have enough time to read it then; I plan on returning to it. Also, there's some pretty funny stuff in there. I got to this part where a bunch of feminists stormed the offices of the Ladies Home Journal in 1970. Fascinating and entertaining story there.

[–] Lipsy 5 points Edited

All reading suggestions are gladly accepted at this location. Thank you for this thread!

To be completely self-aware here, I kinda just can't with de Beauvoir.
A little bit because French misogyny is pretty pointedly different from U.S. or even British misogyny (where I'm projecting the differences back in time, which I realize is pretty risky/ambitious in the case of stuff that de Beauvoir wrote seventy years ago)... but tbh mostly because de Beauvoir supported, well, THAT cause that she supported. ((shudders)) eeuuuugghh just why, goddesses, WHY

but pretty much any other 2d wave Feminist literature, I'm in.

Only tangentially related, but, I placed a pre-order for Holly Lawford-Smith's "Gender Critical Feminism" book from the U.K. branch of Oxford Univ Press all the way back in April. They mailed a backorder notice on May 12th... which arrived in my mailbox two days ago. wUt

Blaaaaa... Want. I hope the book at least gets here before OUP prints it in the States (they told me this would be in mid-October).

Can you expand on French misogyny vs US/UK? I spend a non trivial chunk of time in France and Belgium, although in a very specific bubble, and I see some pretty big differences between the behaviour I see there vs in the US (in particular) but that’s very specific to the 2010s/2020s. Would be very interested in hearing your observations/thoughts, particularly if you’re talking about earlier - presumably the origins for what I see now.

definitely not talking about earlier (other than by what I've gathered secondhand).

Given your background it should really be me asking you this question!
But I'll at least say the two biggest differences that have smacked me in the face are...
.../1/ what seems like a society-wide dismissal of any notion that it's actually immoral or a betrayal for men (especially powerful or famous men) to cheat on their Wives,
and
.../2/ this strangely ingenuous, wholesale acceptance—as though literally everybody were born yesterday (at the end of the day!)—of the excuse that sexual harassment that's enabled by a power differential is "just flirting". The sort of thing Harvey Weinstein would say, and that I'm sure he did say on many occasions.

It also seems like there's a lot more tolerance given for inappropriate touching, especially among younger people/school students in particular—but that's more of a thing about the whole European subcontinent than specifically about France, and tbh it probably flows just as much from the ridiculous touch-phobia that Americans have in general as it does from any overly lax permissiveness (and/or obliviousness to harassment) among Europeans.

Do these agree with your experiences? What else have you seen?

Very much agree on the first. On the second, that’s what I was thinking of. It’s weird. Men in France/Belgium are more likely to be flirtatious at work, in ways that would sometimes get them fired right quick in the US. I’ve even occasionally gone to work dinners where only the man gets the menu with the prices, which is deeply and weirdly gendered. But on the flip side, they are far more accepting of women working in the field. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten “but why are YOU studying THIS?” And the subtext is absolutely “why is a GIRL studying MENZ STUFF?” But almost never from continental Europeans. It’s almost all Americans, and some Brits.

They’re also way less puzzled by working mothers than a lot of American men. I was in a meeting once with an American colleague who’d had a baby three months earlier. (To be fair, I was a bit horrified she only got three months of mat leave, which she explained was a tremendous leave for an American, but I wasn’t about to say anything.) Another American asked “who’s taking care of your baby?” And a Euro coworker jumped in and said “my wife and I had a baby last year, nobody asked me that question afterward.” Very impressive.

So on balance I’m not sure what to think of this. I sometimes think it’s better - being able to accept women in the field without re-casting them as men who happen to wear skirts sometimes is a good thing. If women can only succeed by dressing, acting, and speaking as men … that’s not a huge win. On the other hand, I do like the almost Puritanical approach to romance/flirting in the office typical of Americans. It is at best a minefield and at worst harassment to get involved with a coworker.

Oh. Yeah. De Beauvoir was one of those French intellectuals who signed something (a manifesto?) calling for the lowering (or was it abolition) of age of consent laws. And I believe she "seduced" some of her students (granted, not children but students of like 17, but still) -- for her lover I think. Yeah. She's not great.

Unfortunately even some of our radical feminists were convinced for a while that children's sexual liberation was important too. (If you read the Dialectic of Sex, it's in there.) Granted, the "experts" and "sexologists" of the time were saying that childhood sexuality was good and that there was nothing wrong with a little "cross-generational" sex (some even said incest wasn't that bad). But I'm willing to give them (the feminists, not those "experts") the benefit of the doubt, because I don't believe they were approaching this in bad faith. But Simone de Beauvoir? Yeah, no. I don't give her the benefit of the doubt.

even some of our radical feminists were convinced for a while that children's sexual liberation was important too. (If you read the Dialectic of Sex, it's in there.)

Andrea Dworkin, too, in her first book (Woman Hating, 1974). Even though Florence Rush had spoken out against incest/CSA at the 1971 NYC conference. The book from the conference with her chapter didn't come out until 1974, though, her book didn't come out until 1980, and other research didn't appear until the late 1970s either.

As far as de Beauvoir, there's a new biography out (which I haven't read) which may paint her as someone who regretted her earlier bad behaviour. At least that's what I gathered from the review I came across. So maybe she's rehabilitatable.

Agree. Great stuff, all that. Thanks for the post. I'm trying to re-read some of the books I missed from the era, via recommendations from some women on here.