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

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Rat, one of the movement's few biweekly newspapers, started out life in Manhattan as a male-dominated, far-left publication, then degenerated into a mere politics-cum-pornography style. Women staffers asked permission to put out an issue, then took over completely. Rat staffers, like many other women in the movement, are bitterly resentful of the image of Women's Liberation they feel has been created by the press and TV. Some refuse to talk to major publications; others consent to interviews but only in pairs or groups. At least one major newspaper, however, has offered a hand: the Miami Herald ran a story recently headed "Fifty Ways Men Can Start Helping Women." Among those methods: "Let a woman take the initiative in dating and sex if she wants to; don't joke about Women's Liberation —it is a serious thing."

So far, the movement has not produced much humor. But the April issue of Off Our Backs offered readers a Playboy-type centerfold showing a bearded Mr. April fetchingly posed nude on a shaggy fur rug. In Berkeley, when an organization called Women for the Free Future burned a diploma to symbolize their claim that the university failed to teach women anything relevant to their situation in society, they also incinerated a Barbie doll, a book by Norman Mailer (regarded as an arch-male chauvinist by the movement), birth-control pills, the Bible, and Good Housekeeping's list of the Ten Most Admired Women (because they were identified by their husbands' names only). WITCH last year staged a protest in New York against a bridal-goods show because it exploited women. And Los Angeles activists chuckle wryly at this line: If God had wanted women to stay in the kitchen, he would have given them aluminum hands.

Liberation and Language

The proliferation of Women's Lib-oriented journals has served to standardize the movement's special jargon. In California, Varda Murrell is writing a Dictionary of Sexism attacking English as "Manglish." With perfect seriousness she advocates, for example, substituting "girlcott" for "boycott." Others are also playing the game. Unliberated honorifics like "Mrs." and "Miss" are replaced by the noncommittal "Ms." Idiotically, there is a move to replace "history" with "herstory." A favorite pejorative is "sexism"—the expression of conscious or unconscious male-chauvinist attitudes. Sexism was the sin of one professor who admitted at a San Francisco meeting of the staid Modern Language Association that, all things considered, he would look at a girl's legs when considering her for a teaching post. "You bastard, you bastard!" one girl screamed (s.o.b. is out in the best feminist lexicons).

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