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Posted in: Feminism

Published on Aug 31, 2018 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Tablet Magazine

The Radical Feminist Movement

In the final of four excerpts from Phyllis Chesler’s ‘A Politically Incorrect Feminist,’ destroying feminism’s own best minds


In the mid-1960s, young African, Hispanic, Native, and Caucasian American activists became a driving force for civil rights, free speech, and academic freedom. In manifestos, conferences, and teach-ins, young Americans also opposed the Vietnam War, capitalism, and racism; some eventually became willing to use violence. The mainly male leaders fought about socialism versus communism, totalitarianism versus democratic socialism, and whether Soviet Russia or the United States was more to blame for the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. However, the quarrelsome male socialists, Black Power, Native, and Latino activists shut most women out of significant roles in these debates. In 1965 and 1966, many male movement leaders expected women to make them coffee, do the typing and mimeographing, and provide sex.

As feminist ideas gained currency, women on the left refused to be treated in this way. They began drafting manifestos of their own, which were treated with contempt. Some men also humiliated the women. When Marilyn Webb, a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), tried to speak about women’s liberation, the men yelled: “Take her off the stage and fuck her.”

SDS morphed into the Weather Underground. Bill Ayers, Kathy Boudin, Bernardine Dohrn, and Mark Rudd, among many others, began a program of bombing commercial and government buildings and robbing banks. They held up a Brink’s armored car and killed a police officer. Some blew themselves up by accident. Survivors went underground.

The FBI spied on the Weather Underground as well as on Martin Luther King’s nonviolent civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, and SDS. Weirdly, the FBI also infiltrated nonviolent feminist groups and collectives; informers and agents provocateurs filed reports that many of us later obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

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