Classic Quote: Carol Hanisch

This is part of one of the most important theories we are beginning to articulate. We call it “the pro-woman line.” What it says basically is that women are really neat people. The bad things that are said about us as women are either myths (women are stupid), tactics women use to struggle individually (women are bitches), or are actually things that we want to carry into the new society and want men to share too (women are sensitive, emotional). Women as oppressed people act out of necessity (act dumb in the presence of men), not out of choice. Women have developed great shuffling techniques for their own survival (look pretty and giggle to get or keep a job or man) which should be used when necessary until such time as the power of unity can take its place. Women are smart not to struggle alone (as are blacks and workers). It is no worse to be in the home than in the rat race of the job world. They are both bad. Women, like blacks, workers, must stop blaming ourselves for our “failures.”

Source: The Personal is Political by Carol Hanisch, February, 1969

Hat-tip: Maia, in a comment on a somewhat heated thread at Feministe.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism


7 replies

  1. Yes, a terrific quote. Thanks for highlighting it.

  2. Ouch. There’s some harsh privilege showing in that thread.
    The quote is just right, though. People don’t make choices in a vacuum, and deriding people for making the choices they have made to survive (because of course, the critic knows so much better than the person living that life/sarcasm) isn’t the way to social justice.

  3. Moving away from that ThreadOfDoom, I noticed a well-played TV example of one of those situations where a judgemental anti-abortion advocate finds ways to justify why she needs to terminate a pregnancy because it’s a special case (leaving character details deliberately obscure to keep this spoiler-free).
    She did in fact have a perfectly understandable reason for not wanting to continue with that pregnancy, and most people watching the show would have been sympathetic to it – even most anti-abortion activists – because she’s shown as a good mother to her existing children, she still wants more children too, but this child was conceived with a truly evil man whose character she fears the child will inherit. She and most others can say with sympathy that she has a good reason to fear continuing with that pregnancy and to want to take action to end it.
    Where they fail to take the next step is to realise that women who they don’t know, and whose circumstances they don’t know, are also likely to have good reasons to be fearful or anxious about continuing with a pregnancy, and to want to take action to end it too, and that it’s not actually up to anybody else to judge whether those reasons are “good enough”. Trusting women’s personal judgement on the question of abortion is still a step too far for many.

  4. Link broken, Helen.

  5. Tigtog, in a less well-played TV version of this issue, the usually excellent West Wing made me very cross in the final series, when a smug Jimmy Smitts mansplained to a women’s rights advocate that she was herself really in favour of restricted access to abortion, because she agreed that she wouldn’t support an abortion based on a hypothetical IQ test. The writers obviously didn’t think it was necessary to find out what a real activist faced with Jimmy’s argument would say, which is “it’s none of my business why this hypothetical woman has chosen to have an abortion, and it’s not yours or the state’s either”. Been waiting to get that off my chest since 2007.

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