1975 Youth Times of India Article "We Never Burned A Bra" by Sheila Michaels

Title

1975 Youth Times of India Article "We Never Burned A Bra" by Sheila Michaels

Subject

Periodical, Manuscript, Women, Inda

Description

1975 Article in the Youth Times of India, "We Never Burned a Bra" written by Sheila Michaels

Source

Sheila Michaels Collection, M373, Historical Manuscripts, Special Collections, The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries

Date

Circa 1975

Rights

Copyright not evaluated

Format

.jpg

Language

En

Type

Text

Original Format

Printed periodical with photographs

Files

Image: A large group of women are locked in arms and chanting  in the streets of a large city<br />
WE’VE NEVER BURNT A BRA<br />
by SHEILA MICHAELS<br />
Sisterhood is the basis of the American Women’s Movement.  It is women helping women, listening, finding trust and support from each other, talking openly about their own lives.  Women are still, everywhere, the single poorest group in any society.  Society rests on the unpaid and underpaid labour of women.  When people see themselves whole, not as “the others”—not certainly as half of humanity—they resist their exploitation.  We must succeed in no longer defining ourselves by the criteria men have set for us, because in fact men define themselves positively—in contrast to these very standards.  We have stopped consenting to our own oppression.  We have built and are building a changing vital, simple movement which cannot be stopped.  We have done it all ourselves as we have learned to share our strength.<br />
	I was surprised to find what Indians have heard about America and the Women’s Movement.  I’m told that “Americans are suffering a total breakdown of their personalities and society, chaos, sexual license, bursting mental hospitals, violence and divorce.”  Surely it must be raining fire back home.  I am told the Women’s Movement wants to destroy all beauty and is destroying the authority of family (Who is the family?  Are men the family?), causing social dislocation in the West and neglecting the care of <br />
16 Youth Times March 7, 1975
Image One: Continuation of the picture on page one of a large group of women locked in arms and chanting in the streets of a large city.<br />
Image Two: A woman wearing a dress with a notepad appears to be interviewing a man wearing glasses.  There is the backside of a woman wearing a headscarf and carrying a large sign.<br />
<br />
children.  American fathers spend an average of 10 minutes a week alone with their children, away from the TV.  The movement intends, on the contrary, to involve men more and bring them closer to their children.  American children suffer a lack of paternal, not maternal interest.<br />
	These misconceptions are certainly the fault of the media.  More magazines can be sold with sensational and often fabricated stories of “bra-burning” and “free sex”, than with articles on Black female hospital attendants and cleaners striking to get their jobs scheduled under national minimum wage legislation.  Or perhaps there are simply people who don’t want what is happening, to be known and fully realized, and those people have the power to make a mockery of the challenges to their control.<br />
[Inserted between text in large font and bold type, “Waitress, Teacher, Seamstress, Maid: The closer to housework, the lower the wage.”]<br />
	The Feminist Movement in America began with a few women in Gainesville, Florida – a sleepy Southern town in the middle of nothing –who had been active in the Black Civil Rights movement, and who got together in 1968 to discuss why that movement which had actually been founded by women, began, as it lost strength, to turn into an instrument for our further oppression.  The Gainesville group began sending letters to friends about their work and later started mimeographing articles drawn from their meetings.  When I returned from summer holidays in 1968, some friends who had tired of my complaints said they’d heard a group for women was forming in New York.  I joined it, which I suppose makes me one of the hundred or so women who can claim to be founders of the New York Women’s Movement.<br />
	We had nothing to go on but the Gainesville reports.  Our Group was too big for discussion and we decided<br />
Youth Times March 7, 1975 <br />
Page 17
we really had to talk about our problems in order to begin to solve them.  We drew our lots for discussion groups at first, but since we could not afford to rent space from the organization in whose offices we met (and we suspected the premises was “bugged”) we split into groups of ten each, by neighbourhood, and met at each others houses, taking notes knitting, nursing babies, chasing mice, drinking coffee.  That group failed, mostly over political dissension, so we founded another.  By this time groups began springing up all over the country, failing, forming again and growing in spite of our difficulties.<br />
	We remained active in all the other causes of our lives; politics, the anti-war movement, child welfare, organizing the poor, school, family, jobs.  Although we were involving women who had never taken part in other social movements, the time we spent in consciousness-raising was often resented by our male colleagues.  They felt the goal of self-determination for women was “trivial, vague and utopian.”  The people we oppress always look happier than the victims of others because they have to be nice to us.  But the movement kept growing and growing.<br />
	One of our problems was that some women, such as I, had been trained all our lives to be passive, so we allotted cards to each women to discard each time she spoke.  No one could talk about her cards had run out and each would had to use all her cards.  The discussion went around our circle and no one could interrupt.  Our groups stayed modest and small and without financing.  But the movement grew beyond our wildest dreams.  We were active in picketing and sitting-in and demonstrations, but they were the cooperative efforts of small groups.  A different member was appointed each month to contact other groups.  All offices were rotated monthly to give full responsibility to all, to teach all to do every kind of necessary job.  All over the country groups began mimeographed papers of the results of their discussions.  No one has been able to collect all of them, but from them came the crucial ideas of the revolutionary Feminist analysis which is the basis of the movement.<br />
[Inserted between text in large font and bold type “With an independent income, I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me.  I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.]<br />
	By the end of 1969 some women in Baltimore, Maryland started a magazine.  A monthly newspaper of articles from the mimeographed papers was coming out of Ames, Iowa.  Some of us began to learn typesetting.  Other courses started.  A tiny Chinese friend wrote me from Lompock, California.  She had to quit her mechanics course when she got too pregnant to reach under the bonnet of the truck someone gave them, but today she earns a nice living with it at home.  We became so big we had to sponsor conferences to draw the groups together.  We rented schools for the weekends and recruited husbands and brothers to run the nurseries.  It was hard finding them, but they became heroes.<br />
	We started having “speak-outs” where women could air their grievances and experiences.  The Speak-Out on Rape left women shaken.  Women were running out, sobbing, throughout.  We began demanding and getting anti-rape squads from the police, national reform of rape laws and police procedures, with special departments headed by policewomen.  We are getting more convictions and a change of national attitude so the victims are no longer treated as the guilty parties.  The movement has changed the status of women in the police and Armed Forces from auxiliary units to full integration of staffs.<br />
	We have grown.  The cooperative day-care centres and food-buying services we started and staffed ourselves, have become models for the nation and we are able to demand that the government sponsor similar ones for other working mothers in the residential neighbourhoods, or at the job site.<br />
	The women’s movement has affected the life of everyone in America.  It is so widespread and varied there is no longer one typical group or programme.  Poor women sit on the train tracks and halt transport in Eastern Canada for better housing for female-headed families.  Both U.S. Congress-persons Bella Abzug, (founder of Women’s Strike for Peace) and Shirley Chisholm, (who has said she encountered more discrimination as a woman than as a black), won as Feminist candidates, pledging to regard all women as their constituents.  Housemaids in New York strike for union recognition and collective bargaining power.  They are all part of the woman’s movement.<br />
	A man I know, who is not sympathetic with the movement, told me he could always spot a Movement Activist.  “First” he said, “I notice the walk.  There’s a bounce and vitality in the step.  Then, there’s a look of contentment, open happiness, and enjoyment of life on their faces.  They’re always smiling for some reason, “ he said, “and when I see them, I want to be free, too, like them.”<br />
18 Youth Times March 7, 1975

Citation

“1975 Youth Times of India Article "We Never Burned A Bra" by Sheila Michaels,” Online Exhibits at Southern Miss, accessed May 25, 2024, https://usmspecialcollections.omeka.net/items/show/487.

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