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Outlaw Women

Written by atuuschaaw Tuesday, 07 February 2006

The International Women's Day was established to commemorate the struggles and accomplishments of women activists who have fought for more just and equal social structures throughout the world. These dedicated individuals are true outlaw women.

With the death of Betty Friedan on February 4, 2006, Wendy Wasserstein on January 30, 2006, and Coretta Scott King also on January 30, 2006, just before the mark of International Women's Day (IWD), I thought it appropriate to expand on the importance of women's roles in structuring a more just society. The IWD, which is celebrated each year slips by quietly without much fanfare I'm afraid. And it's sad to say that in our media, there isn't near enough literature on the accomplishments of women, not to mention the sacrifices they have endured in the name of justice. We need to take a long, hard look at the importance of the roles women have played in the social issues which have plagued human beings throughout history as well as in our present social dilema. Some of you may be very surprised at the level of dedication and solidarity shown by the women who have involved themselves in building a better world, and hopefully some of you will have the ability to draw strength from their bravery, honesty, and stick-to-itiveness. Throughout history, women have shown they harbor large amounts of all three of these characterizations.

International Women's Day is marked on the 8th day of March every year. It is a day in which the world celebrates not only the unbelievable struggles of women through our history, but also their economic, political, and social achievements as well. The movement for women's rights arose out of women's sense of alliance with one another and their shared discontents. Women were involved in and welcomed into the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. The campaign against slavery saw some prominent women emerge into the political light. Women such as Lucretia Mott, who was the first to sign the women's Declaration of Sentiments. Women such as Anglelina Grimké who delivered the famous speech on slavery at Pennsylvania Hall. And women such as Abby Kelley Foster who devoted her life in the fight for justice. At her funeral Samuel May delivered a eulogy and spoke of Abby's legend

Few Americans can be named...who did so much for the abolition of American slavery as did the woman whose worn-out frame lies before us. She was one of the few whose words startled and aroused the land; who compelled attention; who made the guilty tremble; who forced sleeping consciences to awake; and forbade that they should sleep again until slavery ceased. We all have heard of self-sacrifice. In Mrs.Foster we saw it. From the hour when she left her chosen work of teaching, and through all her life, a period of fifty years, she laid herself a willing offer upon the altar of humanity and truth, of her country's and of mankind's highest and enduring welfare. She took on herself the sorrows, pains, heart-anguish, stripes and wounds of her suffering sisters and brothers."

The National Women's Loyal League was formed by Susan B. Anthony, who traveled extensively across the country lecturing for the women's right to vote, their right to own property, anti-slavery issues, and women labor organizations. Along with Susan Anthony was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who also was instrumental in the fight for women's rights and she was the primary architect for the women's suffrage movement. And out of the era of slavery and the Civil War, we have the only woman recipient of the nation's highest military decoration, The Congressional Medal of Honor. Mary Walker, whose life as a feminist, abolitionist, prohibitionist, spy, prisoner of war, and as a surgeon is absolutely remarkable to say the least.

It is important to look at the history behind the IWD in order to grasp the growth of the movement because there were so many issues which were intertwined and instrumental leading up to the observance of IWD. On March 8, 1857, women working in the clothing and textile factories in New York City, staged a protest against the inhumane working conditions they were enduring and the low wages they were being paid. The women were met by police who attacked and dispersed them. However, in order to gain some level of basic human rights and for protection, the women formed their first labor union two years later.

It is reported, prior to their infamous strike in the early 1900s, that Samuel Gompers and a few other men, who led Local 25, made some very uninspiring speeches to the women in the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. In response to the speeches by the officials of Local 25,

Clara Lemlich asked to be heard. Speaking in Yiddish, she declared, I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. What we are here for is to decide whether we shall or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared now. Her statement made the crowd roar their approval and the chairman of the meeting rang out, Do you mean faith? Will you take the old Jewish oath? Everyone threw up their hands in approval and in Yiddish, they all took the oath, If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise! The battlecry of the women garment workers was, We'd rather starve quick than starve slow.

The first observance of IWD in the U.S. was on the 28th day of February in 1909. Another relevant issue which the IWD commemorates is the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. Backed by the Socialist Party of America and the Socialist International, the IWD was established and spread throughout a large part of Europe and the demonstrations of the IWD in Russia is said to be the initial stage of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The IWD has roots in the peace movements as far back as World War I and also in the movement for Women's Suffrage. Many have heard about Franklin Roosevelt and his advocacy of the New Deal as a means to recover from the depression, but few have heard of the importance of his wife Eleanor Roosevelt and her involvment in the women's movement. However, the prevalence of the movement dwindled after the depression era but was renewed by the feminist movement of the 60's, and women's continued efforts to gain equality and respect in not only the workplace but within the entire social structure of the people. The feminism of the 60's is often called second-wave feminism.

In the social turmoils of the civil rights movement of the 60's, the emergence of a stronger solidarity among women was seen. When the Bitch Manifesto was published in 1968, a new era began and women's voices began to be heard once more in unison and the fight for equality, justice, and respect was back in society's face! The strength of the feminists in the 60's shook the predominately male structures in place and shocked a public which had turned a blind eye to the injustices wrought on women throughout history.

And Bitches must form together in a movement to deal with their problems in a political manner. They must organize for their own liberation as all women must organize for theirs. We must be strong, we must be militant, we must be dangerous. We must realize that Bitch is Beautiful and that we have nothing to lose. Nothing whatsoever.

When Joreen Freeman published her manifesto, it raised many eyebrows but not near as much as the extremely anti-male militant publication of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men). Now Valerie Solanas really got people's attention (especially the male of our species), and Valerie is best known for the shooting of Andy Warhol! Valerie scared the hell out of the testosterone poisoned male order who had been taught and believed nothing existed outside of Masculism.

To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he's a machine, a walking dildo.

Valerie Solanas, Authoress of the SCUM Manifesto

The women's movement of the 60's was an awakening for everyone and the feminist movement changed the face of society forever. Today the women's movement not only continues to fight for equal rights, but has moved into other controversial territories such as reproductive rights, military enrollment, clergy, affirmative action, pornography, sexual harassment, and even surrogate motherhood. All important and controversial issues which much be addressed and debated. Many within the feminist movement today proudly call themselves third-wave feminists who concentrate on expanding the common definitions of gender and sexuality. The fight continues today as women's salaries all too often remain lower than those of their male counterparts, and barriers against women's rights are continually being challenged. The remaining injustices are being tackled daily in the courts and conference rooms, the homes and organizations, workplaces and playing fields of America.

There are many organizations of feminist activists who continue to work on eliminating discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, and the justice systems here in the U.S. The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest organization here in the states and they have been instrumental in bringing about change in ending all forms of violence against women, eradicating racism, sexism and homophobia, and they continue to promote equality and justice within our socieity. The Association for Women's Rights in Development is an international organization devoted to connecting, informing, and mobilizing people and organizations in the fight for gender equality, sustainable development, and women's human rights.

Hopefully this March 8th, we don't let the International Women's Day slip away once more without giving it the full recognition it deserves. Perhaps we will share a little of the history of the women activists of the past who have been so instrumental in bringing about so many important aspects of social justice. And maybe we can recognize our current women activists who sacrifice daily so that all of us, regardless of our gender, can live in a more just and equal society. Though Friedan, Wasserstein, and King are no longer around to be icons of the women's struggle, the feminists will continue to move forward through the work of younger women. Women who may not ascribe to the exact ideals or work of their predecessors, but who are just as dedicated to the spirit of the movement, which hasn't really changed. Coretta Scott King once said, Struggle is a neverending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.

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