Nation: Who's Come a Long Way, Baby?

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For many women trained—and disillusioned—in the radical movements of the '60s, NOW seemed slightly middleaged, middle-class and tame. They formed protest groups in their own, often bizarre styles. Among them are BITCH (for nothing). WITCH (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), Bread and Roses (long a feminist slogan, suggesting that women wanted not only flowers but bread—wages—as well), Redstockings, the Radical Mothers, and Media Women. Often their tactics differ from more conservative groups like NOW, FEW (Federally Employed Women) and Women Inc. of San Francisco. The latter, while it supports the call for equality, opposes abolition of abortion laws and "does not approve of the antiwar movement," as Vice President Mrs. Marjorie Hart put it.

To at least one feminist, however, the lack of a strong, single organization is unfortunate. Says Ti-Grace Atkinson, a top-ranking figure in NOW until she split from them in 1968: "The whole thing is in a mess. We need a revolution in the revolution. We really have to get to the truth, which a lot of women are afraid of doing, and yet I don't want to say anything that could be used against the movement at this time. If we get sloppy, other people will be affected." She has been called an extremist by many in the movement, and she is the first to admit it: "All my friends say I am too uncompromising and unreasonable, but I've been screwed too many times." One of her most extreme causes is her stand against marriage, which she calls slavery. She says: "If" you look at the laws, it is legalized rape, causes unpaid labor, curtails a woman's freedom of movement and requires no assurances of love from a man." Love is another target: "It's tied up with a sense of dependency, and we cling to it. Those individuals who are today defined as women must eradicate their own definition. In a sense, women must commit suicide." Few of the women's groups will go quite that far.

Another area of policy dissent is the lesbian issue. For years, men automatically shrugged off demands for female equality by labeling complainants "nothing but lesbians." The charge is manifestly unfair—a "lavender herring" at best, as Author Susan Brownmiller notes —but women in the movement are supersensitive about the issue. So much so, in fact, that many lesbians have split from the movement to "combat," as Lois Hart wrote to the New York Times, "oppression at the hands of their straight sisters. They bravely talk about liberating themselves from dehumanizing sexual-role definitions, but then employ the same odious treatment in dealing with women who have found a sexual, emotional and spiritual companion in another woman."

Fifty Ways Men Can Help

The movement's diversity is pointed up by the variety of new women's publications. Most are angry and barely afloat financially. A few, such as Aphra, a quarterly located in Springtown, Pa., and Women: A Journal of Liberation, of Baltimore, are of high literary quality. Some, like A Broom of One's Own, of Washington, are largely one-woman efforts. Two angry entries are Off Our Backs and Up from Under—a gymnastic juxtaposition.

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