What Do Women Want?
It drives many
“second wave” feminists nuts when men and/or mainstream media intone, “Well,
what do you women want, anyway?” This, of course, implies some combination of
the following: (1) women, being confused hysterical creatures don’t really
know what they want, and/or (2) women do know, and it means something bad for
men, and/or (3) women know, but men/mainstream media don’t really give a shit.
The question “what do women want” is really an intimidation technique to
remind women that they are confused twits who can’t make up their minds
without the aid of a man or the advice of a fashion magazine.
Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon published a collection of “Dispatches from
the Women’s Liberation Movement” titled Dear Sisters (Basic Books—see a
review in this issue). It contains many interesting documents written by
activists during the height of the women’s liberation movement of the
mid-1960s and mid-1970s. The following excerpt from Boston’s Bread and Roses
women’s liberation organization highlights how truly inclusive and
revolutionary the movement for women’s liberation was and leaves no doubt that
feminists know what they want.
Declaration of Women’s
WHEN IN THE COURSE
OF HUMAN EVENTS, it becomes necessary for one sex to dissolve the political
bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers
of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of
nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of woman and
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the
these truths to be self-evident: that all women and men are created equal and
made unequal only by socialization:
are endowed by their creators with certain unalienable rights, which can be
stolen from one group by another, but never given away:
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness:
secure these rights governments are instituted between men and women, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed and their unjust powers
from the oppression of the governed:
whenever any form of government becomes destructive to the liberty of a
sufficiently large group of people, be they a race, class, political group, or
sex, it is the right of these people to alter or abolish it, and to institute
new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its
powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety
be enabled to participate in the economy on a basis of equality with men. We
believe that the nature of work in our system is demeaning to human beings,
and we do not want merely to upgrade women into the alienated jobs that men
now hold. However, we refuse to do the low-grade, low-paid, and service work
any more. Such jobs must be shared by men and women, as must housework be
shared, and be recognized as legitimate work that deserves pay. We take it to
be our right:
1. That all persons,
including children, be assured a personal income commensurate with the cost of
living and independent of their family status.
2. That all
employers immediately be required to comply with the law of the land and pay
equal wages for equal work.
3. An end
to sex discrimination by job definition, which evades the law by defining all
desirable jobs in such a way that only men can fill them. Secretarial and
executive tasks should be shared between men and women; responsibility should
be shared between doctor and nurse.
4. That all
employers give priority to the hiring and promotion of women, with
preferential hiring to women of races and classes that have been discriminated
against. No men must be laid off to comply with this demand.
Childcare by men and women, during work hours, provided free by the employer,
and controlled by workers and the community.
6. An end
to discrimination against part-time or temporary workers, who are mostly
female or minors: for example, equal fringe benefits and employment
Maternity leave for both men and women, with guaranteed return and no loss of
pay or seniority.
CONTROL OF OUR BODIES
should be able to control their own bodies, to have children if and when they
want to, and to refrain from having children if they want to. This ultimately
means an end to all laws governing birth control and abortion, with the
exception of legal standards of health and safety. It also means that if
proper health care is to be equally available to all women, we must have free
medical care for all people. We consider these to be our rights:
Abortion, birth control devices, and pregnancy tests to be provided on
demand to women of all ages, under safe conditions, at no cost.
Prenatal, maternity, and postnatal care to be provided to all women at no
cost. Women should be able to determine the manner and place in which they
Drastic increases in government funding of birth control research;
research priorities to be determined by women, since it is their health that
is at stake.
Higher safety standards for drug company research and regulation of their
profits. An end to drug company imperialism in the form of testing unsafe
drugs on third world women, and then charging exorbitant prices for them. No
testing of dangerous drugs on mental patients, prisoners, or others whose
lives are not their own.
Free, available, and complete information about women’s bodies, available
to them as a right in all institutions.
end to the double standard that puts prostitutes in jail and lets their
clients go free.
end to all forms of environmental abuses: particularly an immediate halt to
those which have their most disastrous effects on women and children, such as
Strontium90 and DDT, which poison mothers’ milk.
While we think population control is essential, it must not be substituted
for a sharing of the world’s resources between rich and poor countries.
Therefore, we want an end to the kind of population control, on the national
and international levels, which concentrates on controlling
unit should not be seen as the only economically and socially acceptable unit
of society. Central to the liberation of women is the provision of
alternatives to the present pattern of child-earing and housekeeping, which
results in each mother’s bearing virtually the entire responsibility for her
children and her home. Such alternatives would go far towards eliminating the
untenable choice most women must make between bearing children and developing
independent work. We therefore demand:
community controlled 24 hour child-care centers, staffed equally by paid men
and women, young and old.
Alternative forms of good, reasonably priced housing, including provisions for
cooperative child-care, communal cooking, etc., for all people.
establishment of a personal income for all persons, independent of familial
status commensurate with the cost of living.
should not interfere in personal relationships. In this context we demand the
abolition of all laws regulating marriage and divorce; the abolition of all
laws regulating sexual behavior between consenting persons; the abolition of
all laws regulating living arrangements, for instance, laws against
cohabitation; and an end to the legal concept of illegitimacy. Children should
have a choice of living arrangements with relatives, non-related adults, other
children, and any combination of these possibilities. This means civil
liberties for minors: they must not be legally penalized or prosecuted by
their parents for choosing to live with other people, exercising their
sexuality, or doing other things that offend their parents’ sense of
propriety. Any number of adults should be able to make legal contracts between
themselves, other than marriage ceremonies, that will concern mutual
responsibilities for each other and for children.
educational system and the media in our country perpetuate undemocratic myths
about the nature of women, working people, and black, brown, red and yellow
people. They also deny these groups any knowledge of their own history. The
media and educational system must be redesigned by the people whom they
oppress, to express the past and to meet their needs for development in an
atmosphere free from psychological oppression. With respect to women, these
things are necessary:
1. An end
to sexual tracking at all levels of the educational system. By this we mean
not only courses specifically designed for each sex, but also the subtler
forms of tracking, such as encouraging boys to be smart and girls to be
2. That all
courses be thoroughly revamped by women to end the perpetuation of male
3. That the
facts about sex inequality be added as a topic to all school curricula, and
that new courses be developed by women in their culture and history.
vocational counseling in high schools and colleges be totally redesigned so as
not to channel women into low status, low potential occupations.
trade schools, vocational schools, colleges, and graduate schools admit
one-half women, with preferential treatment of women from races and classes
that have been discriminated against.
6. An end
to advertising that exploits women’s bodies to sell products.
7. An end
to sex-role stereotyping in the media.
— Bread and Roses,