How Women Can Really Be Liberated
“WOMEN, UNITE! SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL!” This was the slogan of demonstrators at the protest against the Miss America Beauty Pageant in 1969 at Atlantic City. I was there, covering the demonstration for CBS News Radio. The assignment, received only by chance, proved to be a turning point in my life.
I was not a regular reporter. My position then was that of press representative, or publicist, for CBS News. However, protesters refused to talk with male reporters, so I was asked to cover the story, since CBS then had no female reporters based in New York.
I knew only a little about the women’s liberation movement at the time, and much of what I knew sounded extreme. But as I did research, I was surprised to learn that I felt the same way about matters as they did.
True, they were angry. They had complaints. But I think anyone with an open mind would agree that they correctly saw some problems and desired to make things better.
Before going to the Pageant, I interviewed, on CBS Radio, Robin Morgan, one of the organizers of the movement. She explained:
“The whole image of women as presented by the Pageant is a kind of mindless ‘sex object.’ The contestant is there to sort of smile and shut up, and show herself in a bathing suit. . . . We think the whole notion of parading up and down, sort of like a country fair, before judges who judge the meat, is depraved and is a barbarous ritual.”
The more I listened, the more I identified with these women and what they were fighting for. They seemed really sincere; it seemed to me that they were not just thinking of themselves, but were seeking to establish better, more balanced relationships with men.
As Robin explained, men were oppressed too by the cultural definitions of “masculinity” and “femininity”: “Men are oppressed by what we call the Hemingway mystique—that if you beat up women, shoot dumb animals, and if you drink a lot—then you are a real man.”
Did she hate men? I wanted to know.
“I hate the John Wayne stereotype,” she answered. “So in that respect I am a man hater. But no, in general terms, we don’t hate men. I think that we want to learn to love ourselves, and learn to love people.”
This was different from what I had been told that the women’s liberation movement wanted. It was what I wanted. So it was not long before I was fully committed to the movement, and eventually I became a fighter for women’s liberation.
I still believe that both women and men need liberation, and I can truthfully say that I am working harder now than ever to show others the solution to the oppression of humankind.
Not all women are in sympathy with all the goals of women’s liberation. So you might wonder, What kind of woman gets involved in the movement? My own story is illustrative.
ACHIEVING WORLDLY SUCCESS
I was raised in Connecticut, in an affluent suburb of New York city, and went to a private all-girls’ school. Mine was an intellectual family with a literary tradition and a keen appreciation of the world of the mind.
I married at eighteen and had a son. The marriage ended in divorce when I was twenty-three. That left me looking for work, with a son to support.
I was offered jobs as a secretary, which I refused, reasoning that if I ever started as a secretary I would never get beyond it. I would have to start beyond it to get beyond it, job discrimination against women being what it is. I knew I had certain skills, but I was not given the serious consideration I would have been had I been a man. This experience hit me very hard, and opened my eyes to the problems of women in the job market.
Finally, almost by accident, I found someone willing to take a chance on me as a publicity writer for The Reporter magazine, a political journal. This led to the position as publicist at CBS News. Eventually I became manager of CBS News Publicity for the entire national news unit, the first woman to hold that position.
As an executive, I had a secretary and a staff of writers under me. And I knew everybody at CBS, from the president on down. I would see Walter Cronkite almost every day, since I would write stories about him as if he had written them himself. He would look a story over and approve it. Then we would feed it to editors in different cities across the country who would print it as if they had personally gotten an interview with Cronkite or as if he had written the article just for them.
This was a glamour job. I had status. I had money. I had youth and attractiveness. Since I had everything the culture teaches you to want, why, you may then ask, did I become a fighter for women’s liberation?
WHY WOMEN’S LIBERATION?
Although I was able to get a good job, I knew that relatively few women make out as well as men, due to job discrimination against them. So I became a fighter for women’s liberation because a principal purpose of the movement was to correct this situation.
Another reason why women’s liberation developed, and why it appealed to me, had to do with rising living costs and modern-day life styles. This meant that wives had to work to help support the family, and then come home and cook and clean and run the household too. Husbands generally refused to step outside their so-called “masculine” role to help, since they considered such chores “woman’s work.” We felt that this heavy physical burden on women was unfair, and women’s liberation wanted to change it.
Within the family arrangement, too, woman’s role has changed. We are not, like some of our grandmothers, raising fifteen children, making our own cloth, milking cows, baking our own bread, and so forth. The average family today has maybe two or three children, and that means that by the time a woman hits her forties, her children do not need her as much anymore. So just at the age that her husband is reaching his career peak, she is at home, often not knowing what to do with herself.
Even with all of this, woman’s lot might have been endurable were it not for the change in sex attitudes in the nineteen sixties. We knew, as women, that a large proportion of men were traditionally unfaithful to their wives. But now men were doing openly and without apology what they had previously done secretly, and they were pressuring women to adopt similar free-wheeling attitudes toward sex. Yet the average woman has a strong distaste for infidelity as a way of life. It goes against her grain. So the open promiscuousness of men led many women directly to women’s liberation.
We were also tired of being viewed as sex objects. Women hate it when their bosses, with power to hire and fire them, try to force them into sexual relationships. This is a widespread problem for women in the working world.
I was fired in 1971, and I felt that it was because I had refused to date my boss at CBS. When I brought the matter to the attention of one of the vice-presidents, instead of being outraged, as I was, he told me: “This is an everyday affair.”
He was right. The proposition was common. My response was not. I filed a $2-million lawsuit, charging discrimination in employment.
All of these, and more, are real problems that women face. They clearly need to be solved. But how? Women began seeking answers.
FORMING THE MOVEMENT
It was Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, that articulated the malaise that women were increasingly feeling due to the way the changes of the modern world had adversely affected their lives. The effect of this book could be likened to a brush fire. Women all across the country began to realize that they were not alone in their discontent.
In 1966 Friedan formed the National Organization for Women, designed to work organizationally for an end to discrimination against women. Soon similar organizations were being formed. The basis of the developing women’s movements was what were called “rap groups.” These groups of eight to ten women each would decide to get together every week to discuss women’s problems. These groups sprang up like mushrooms.
These were exhilarating times for me and for many women just discovering women’s liberation. We spent many hours hashing out what we felt about being women, sharing experiences and developing theories. We found that a lot of resentments that we had submerged began to surface and, as we all shared our unhappy experiences at the hands of men, we got madder and madder. But, at the same time, we drew closer and closer together as women.
This feeling of solidarity, of trust, of love, which we called “sisterhood,” was new to all of us, and beautiful. We had all grown up viewing other women as potential rivals for some male’s attention. Now we began to try to see one another as friends and co-victims who needed to depend on one another.
Often these “rap groups” developed into larger organizations. For example, my “rap group,” composed largely of women in journalism, formed the nucleus of what became New York Media Women. This group made headlines when it stormed the Ladies’ Home Journal demanding changes in story content and personnel policy to upgrade the image of women that the magazine projected.
The women’s liberation movement revolutionized attitudes toward women. In employment, in education, in sports, the discrimination against women has, to a considerable extent, been relieved.
Also, lawsuits had a tremendous impact on job opportunities for women, such as my own against CBS. When I worked at CBS, there was only one woman reporter on the worldwide national news staff. Within a few months of the filing of my lawsuit, they had five female reporters.
Although sizable accomplishments had been made, I soon saw serious problems within the movement itself and these began disturbing me.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
The ideals of women’s liberation seemed to me to be beautiful in theory, yet they were not working in practice. For example, sisterhood—one of our most cherished concepts—broke down as soon as women began to taste power. The theory had not taken into account human selfishness.
I witnessed several bitter power struggles in women’s groups, with women stabbing each other in the back as bloodthirstily as any man I ever saw. In New York Media Women, as in the movement as a whole, many women unmistakably manifested a “hustler’s” mentality—they wanted to be famous and successful, and they used the movement as their personal stepping-stone.
As the idealistic theories proved unrealistic, radical elements began to take the movement off in new and, to me, frightening directions.
For example, we focused heavily on rape as an issue. How can women protect themselves? The solution the movement came up with was karate and judo. I went along with this and trained in karate, because I was determined that I would never be at any man’s mercy.
I remember a group of us holding a planning session to discuss going out and maiming or even killing men that were known to have raped or beaten up women. We were serious. But would it have been morally right? To me it was not right—it violated everything I wanted to be as a person. It seemed that the movement was losing its moral thrust. It was willing to enforce change, regardless of the means. Another dominant theme of the movement disgusted me more than violence—that was lesbianism. I discovered, in time, that many of the women I had admired and who were taking over leadership of the movement were lesbians. Actually, the movement itself served to encourage women to become lesbians. Of course, that was not the original purpose of the movement, but this is what resulted.
The goal of women’s liberation had originally been to build better relationships between men and women, based on mutual respect. We had really believed that as soon as men knew of our grievances, they would acknowledge their validity and change. Instead, men were reacting to women’s liberation with hostility, mockery, and an entrenchment of attitudes.
Thus many women were finding that liberation meant losing their man. Many men simply walked out and found more “feminine” women. In turn, the women they left behind often gave up trying to relate to men. So when their men walked out on them, they too walked out—to another woman.
To me, however, lesbianism was perversion and a revolting practice. I was not going to fight for a woman’s right to be a lesbian.
EFFECT ON THE FAMILY
As a mother, I became disturbed over another developing aspect of the movement—the view of children and the family. Divorce was encouraged. Women who married and became pregnant were looked down upon as old-fashioned and bourgeois. Voluntary sterilization was considered a “liberated” action, all-women communes became the encouraged life style, and test-tube babies the dream of the future.
Encouraged by such views, many women began running away from their families. Recently I read some statistics by Tracers Company of America, experts on finding missing persons. In the early nineteen sixties the ratio of husbands to wives deserting their families was 300 to one. By the late sixties, it had become 100 to one. Today it is one to one! Now women are doing the very thing for which they had hated men.
But I loved and enjoyed my son. A chronic source of grief to me was the fact that my job necessitated my being away from him so much. I worried about how he would turn out if a series of baby-sitters raised him, and I wished I had another choice. The women’s liberation movement simply was not answering the basic questions: What happens to the children if both parents work? And, deeper, what happens to them if both parents refuse to be parents anymore because parenthood interferes with their personal pursuit of happiness?
I was confused and disillusioned. Women’s liberation did not have the answers. But what particularly saddened me was that I had fought so hard to involve other women in a movement that was having such bad effects on their relationships both with men and with their families.
Still, liberation was clearly needed. We women had correctly identified real problems that contribute toward making life miserable for millions. What, then, were the solutions? I did not give up looking.
AN UNEXPECTED SOURCE
A friend suggested that the Bible had the answers. I was skeptical to the extreme. To a women’s liberationist the Bible is just a book written by a bunch of men—reflecting men’s negative attitudes toward women. But I decided at least to investigate. I knew how so many had misrepresented what women’s liberation was all about. Therefore I realized that it would be unfair to pass judgment upon the Bible without first studying it.
I had never before read the Bible. So one day I picked up a copy and happened to open it to Isaiah chapter 54 fifty-four, where I began reading: “‘For your Grand Maker is your husbandly owner, Jehovah of armies being his name . . . For Jehovah called you as if you were a wife left entirely and hurt in spirit, and as a wife of the time of youth who was then rejected,’ your God has said.” How could this God Jehovah know about such womanly feelings? I wondered. The delicacy of the image moved me to want to find out more about what kind of God this is.
The person who directed me to the Bible, although not being one of Jehovah’s witnesses, said that they were the only ones who taught the Bible straight. So in May of 1971 I contacted a local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and arranged for a Witness to study with me. The answers given gradually began making sense.
The Bible’s emphasis on love and the need to consider the worth of fellow humans really appealed to me. For example, these scriptures are only a sampling of many that impressed me:
“Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” Do “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.” “In showing honor to one another take the lead.”—Eph. 4:32; Phil. 2:3; Rom. 12:10.
Nothing is said about this advice applying only to women; no, this is how people, male and female, should consider and treat one another. I was all for that!
I had become disgusted with the world’s view that men “had” to fly from flower to flower like bumblebees—immorality supposedly being natural for them. Now I discovered that the Bible says, ‘No! Do not do that! Marriage is to be kept honorable!’ Further, Romans chapter one condemns homosexual conduct, terming it “obscene.” What a relief!
HUSBANDS AND WIVES
“But,” many women are sure to ask, “what about the scripture that says, ‘Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife’”? (Eph. 5:22, 23) When I first read it, this was distasteful to me too. I wondered, How could having a husband as her head be anything but enslaving to his wife? However, the person with whom I was studying urged me to consider the full picture and not to judge the principle stated in this scripture by what I had seen among men in the world.
It was shown to me that Christian husbands, too, have a head to whom they are in subjection and that they are under orders to treat their wives just as Jesus had treated his earthly followers. (1 Cor. 11:3) Ephesians chapter 5 says about this: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” I thought to myself: If husbands really did this, if they loved their wives so much that they would willingly die for them, there never would have been a women’s liberation movement!
Also, I was shown where the Bible commands husbands to assign honor to their wives. (1 Pet. 3:7) Now this idea of headship began to be a little more acceptable to me.
But, I still wondered, if this was what God, the inventor of marriage, wanted husbands to be like, how did everything get so mixed up? I learned in my study that when man sinned in the garden of Eden, he brought on himself a host of problems, including sickness and death. But, in reading the Bible account, I was appalled at the punishment Eve received: “Your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.”—Gen. 3:16.
What a repugnant thought! Did this mean that in order to accept the Bible I would have to accept domination as woman’s lot? No, as I studied deeper I learned that God has in mind very soon to begin the restoration of man and woman to their original perfect state. Sin, sickness and death will be removed forever. (Rev. 21:3, 4) Did this mean, then, that this domination by sinful men would end also?
Yes. I joyfully learned that while the loving headship principle will remain, the selfish domineering by men will cease. Viewed in this context, would not having a husbandly head as loving as Christ be pleasant?
Not only that, I learned that I did not have to wait for Jehovah God to transform the earth into Paradise. Christian men, true Christians, are supposed to be striving to live up to God’s righteous standards right now. Were they?
I was urged to attend the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses regularly and to associate with them and their families, and see for myself. I was amazed. They really practice what the Bible teaches. Then I began to see why.
Each one of them believes the Bible to be true—that the Creator of the universe actually inspired humans to write it. So the Witnesses sincerely try, to the best of their abilities, to live by God’s Word. As a result they do treat others kindly and with compassion, and husbands do work at loving and honoring their wives.
Moreover, I saw that when they pray to God, ‘Our Father in heaven, let your kingdom come,’ they really believe that God’s government will rule the earth. They really believe the Bible when it says: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
LIBERATION WORTH FIGHTING FOR
I could see that Jehovah’s witnesses believe that the smashing of this system by God is near and that soon now deserving humankind will be preserved into a righteous new order. As I thought about it, this became reasonable to me too. For surely the Creator must be appalled by the gross selfishness and immorality that pervades every part of this world! And I was convinced that humans by themselves cannot correct this situation.
As I continued to study the Bible, I became more convinced that what God will accomplish will be far beyond what we in women’s liberation could ever have hoped to achieve. For under God’s kingdom not only will women’s problems be solved, but the Creator will see that all humankind is liberated from every form of oppression, including even sickness and death. This is what he has promised in his Word, and there is every reason to believe that he will keep his promise.
So I am still a fighter for the liberation of both women and men, but in a different way. Instead of spending many hours each week in “rap sessions” or fighting legally to improve women’s rights, I use my time showing people that their only real hope for happy living is in applying in their lives the fine principles of God’s Word. This is the only way that will lead to true liberation in the paradise “new earth” under God’s righteous Kingdom rule. (2 Pet. 3:13)—Contributed.
[Blurb on page 388]
‘A reason why women’s liberation developed had to do with rising living costs and modern-day life styles.’
[Blurb on page 389]
“The open promiscuousness of men led many women directly to women’s liberation.”
[Blurb on page 390]
“Sisterhood—one of our most cherished concepts—broke down as soon as women began to taste power.”
[Blurb on page 391]
“I was not going to fight for a woman’s right to be a lesbian.”
[Blurb on page 392]
“The Bible’s emphasis on love and the need to consider the worth of fellow humans really appealed to me.”
[Blurb on page 393]
“I was shown where the Bible commands husbands to assign honor to their wives.”
[Box on page 387]
● For centuries women have been oppressed and mistreated by men of many nations. Now more and more women are demanding freedom and equality.
● Does the Bible approve of these women’s liberation movements?
● Read how one fighter for women’s rights discovered the only really successful way of achieving the needed liberation for women.