This week would have been Andrea Dworkin’s birthday. This is one of her most powerful speeches.
“FEMINISM: AN AGENDA 1983
I represent the morbid side of the women’s movement. I deal with the shit, the real shit. Robin Morgan calls it ‘atrocity work’. And that’s pretty much what it is.
I deal with what happens to women in the normal course of women’s lives all over the planet: the normal stuff that is abusive, criminal, violating – the point being that it is considered normal by the society at large. It is so systematic that it appears that women are not being abused when these commonplace things happen to women because these abuses are so commonplace.
…. That is why people say, ‘Well, it’s hopeless.’ And from ‘it’s hopeless,’ people say: ‘Well, it’s life.’
The stance of the women’s movement is that it is not ‘just life’. It is politics; it is history; it is power; it is economics; it is institutional modes of social organisation: it is not ‘just life.’ …
The women’s movement is like other political movements in one important way. Every political movement is committed to the belief that there are certain kinds of pain that people should not have to endure. They are unnecessary. They are gratuitous…. They are not biologically inevitable. They are acts of human will. They are acts done by some human beings to other human beings.
Another mode of argument about women’s inferiority – a pervasive mode – has to do with biology. There are lots of ways to address this issue. It is, in a certain sense, the basic issue of women’s rights, of what women’s rights should be: because there is a question as to what rights we women should have. If it were a common supposition that we should enjoy the same rights as men and that our lives had the same worth, we would be living in a very different world. There is not that supposition. There is not that premise. So in trying to discuss what rights women should have, many people refer to biology, and they do so in a myriad of way. For instance, they may find – they go to great lengths to find – various crawling things that behave in certain specified ways and they say: ‘Look at that! Seven million years ago you were related to that.’ This is an abuse of Charles Darwin to which any literate person should object, one should cringe to see such formidable theoretical work in a vile way. But these same people point to primates, fish, they point to anything that moves, anything that is actually alive, anything that they can find. And they tell us that we should infer our rights from whatever they are pointing to. Frequently they point to things that aren’t alive, that are postulated to have been alive at some previous moment in prehistory. One outstanding example is the cichlid, which is my personal favourite. It is a prehistoric fish – or, to be more precise, some men think it was a prehistoric fish…. People who look to other animals (I will concede that we are also animals) to find reasons why women, human women, should be subordinate jump from species to species with alarming dexterity and ignore all information that contradicts their ideological point of view.Now, this is a quite human failing, and that is the point: it is a human failing. One need not postulate that a chimpanzee or an insect has the same failing to locate something human.
The women’s movement is concerned first of all with this virtually metaphysical premise that women are biologically inferior. I don’t know how many times in your own lives you have experienced the sense that you were treated in a certain way because those around you considered you to be biologically inferior to them. I suspect that if you traces backwards, many of the humiliating events of your lives – and I am talking to the women in this room – would have at their base a commitment on the part of the person who created the humiliation that you deserved to be treated in the way in which you were treated because you were a woman. This means that there is some sense in which you are biologically not entitled to the same dignity and the same human respect to which men are entitled. This belief in the biological inferiority of women is, of course, not limited to men. Not only men have this belief. Women are raised to believe this same things about ourselves, and many of us do. This belief is really the underpinning of the sexual system in which we live, whether you as an individual encounter it directly or indirectly. It is also the justification for most of the systematic sexual assault that women’s experience.
I am going to talk a lot today about sexual assault, but first I want to make a generalisation about the women’s movement and its relationship to knowledge – its purpose, in fact. The women’s movement is not a narrowly political movement. It is not only an electoral movement…. There is no way to change the status of women in any society without dealing with basic metaphysical assumptions about the nature of women: what we are, what we want, what we have the right to, what our bodies are for, and especially to whom our bodies belong. The women’s movement is a movement for knowledge, towards knowledge. I came here to a college to speak to you, and many of you are students here, and you are for a lot of different reasons, personal reasons; but you are also here for social reasons. You are sent to college to learn how to become adults in society, adults of a certain class, adults of a certain type, adults who will fit into a certain place. And the women here are here in part to be taught how to be women. As far as you can go, when you were first taken to kindergarten, that is why you were taken there. And the same thing is true for men. If what they wanted to teach you is not sealed, if it isn’t fixed, if anything is loose and rattling around, this is their last chance to fix it. Most of time they succeed. You get fixed. And yet these institutions are supposed to exist so that you can acquire knowledge. The women’s movement, like other political movements before it, has unearthed a tremendous body of knowledge that has not been let into colleges and universities, into high schools, into grade schools, for political reasons. And for that reason, your relationship to knowledge has to be a questing one: not learning what you are given, but finding out what questions you must ask. The women’s movement in general, with many exceptions, with many failures, with many imperfections, has been dedicated to that process of finding out which questions to ask and asking those questions.
A lot of the questions are considered unspeakable. They are unspeakable questions. And when they are asked, those who ask them are greeted with extraordinary hostility. I am sure you have experienced something similar whenever you have asked a question that somebody didn’t want asked. Everything that you have been taught about the liberal tradition of education, about the value of books, the beauty of art, the meaning of creativity, is lost, means nothing, unless you retain the independence to ask your own questions, always, throughout your lives. And it is easier now than it will be in ten years, and it is easier now than it will be when you are fifty or sixty or seventy. It is one of the most extraordinary things about getting older: everything that people say about becoming more conservative is true. Everything that people say about selling out is true. If you are brave enough now to ask the questions that you think need to be asked, you will never be brave enough. So don’t ever put it off. The women’s movement cannot survive unless you make that commitment. The women’s movement is not a movement that just passes down an ideology: it’s a movement that creates ideology, and that is very different…. So we are dedicated to questions and we try to find answers.
We are also a movement against human suffering. There is no way to be a feminist and to forget that: and if you have forgotten that our purpose is to end the suffering of countless unnamed and invisible women from the crimes committed against them – and yes, we may also end the suffering of the men who are committing the crimes, yes, we probably think we can – then you feminism is hollow and it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count. This is a movement against suffering. So, in between the lines, when you hear people say that this is a movement for freedom, for justice, for equality – and all of that is entirely and deeply true – you must remember that we are trying to eliminate suffering too…. So it is a good measure of your commitment to understand that in the end, in the end, the positives that we are searching for have to be measured against the true condition of women that we know and that we understand…. That means that you are not supposed to feel pain: you might not know what it is you do feel, but you must not feel pain. One of the things the women’s movement does not is to make you feel pain. You eel your own pain, the pain of other women, the pain o sisters whose lives you can barely imagine. You have to have a lot of courage to accept that if you commit yourself, over the long term, not just for three months, not for a year, not for two years, but or a lifetime, to feminism, to the women’s movement, that you are going to live with a lot of pain. In this country that is not a fashionable thing to do. So be prepared for the therapists. And be prepared for the prescriptions…. And underneath that is always the presumption that the rape was delusional, that the battery dd not happen, that the economic hardship is your own unfortunate personal failing. Hold onto the fact that that’s not true: it has never been true.
There have been many ways of defining the essential concerns of feminism. There are many differences of opinion. There are many ideological strains in the women’s movement. There are many different sets of priorities. I am going to discuss mine as an individual feminist who writes books, who travels around the country a lot, who hears from women all over the world. You decide what that means.
I think that women’s fundamental condition is defined literally by the lack of physical integrity of our bodies. I think that our subordinate place in society begins there. I do not think we can talk about women’s condition in strictly economic terms, though I do not want to see any exclusion of economics from any discussion of women’s condition. But I would say that what is fundamental and what must always be considered is the sexual and reproductive integrity of a woman’s body. A woman is an individual and women are a class. The class of women includes women of every race, economic and social condition, in every society on the face of this globe.
It used to be that some feminists would speak at college campuses and would say, ‘You’re too young to know anything, what do you know, what have you ever experienced, wait until you get out there, wait until the bastards start fucking with you, then you’ll see what feminism is about.’ The search for knowledge has revealed that by the time women are the age of most of the women in this room, one in four has been sexually assaulted already. In fact since most of you are over eighteen, I suspect that more than a quarter of you have had this experience of sexual assault.
Incest is the first assault. We never had any idea of how common it was. We have always heard of the incest taboo, but, as I am sure have heard in other contexts, laws are meant to be broken: this one especially. Most incest victims are girls. They are assaulted in a variety od ways, frequently by their fathers, often by step-fathers. We are talking about assault by men who are in intimate situations of power: adults with children, beloved adults. Very little incest is committed by women with children. There is beating of children by women, a lot of it. We must not leave that out. A lot o women are forced to have children they do not want, and there is a lot of battery especially on those children. But there does not seem to be very much sexual abuse.
Incest is terrifically important in understanding the condition of women. It is a crime that is committed against someone, a crime from which many victims never recover…. Horrible things happen from which people never recover. That is true. Probably no woman ever recovers from a rape; probably no woman ever recovers from battery. But this is different, because the child does not have a chance in the world. Her whole system of reality, her whole capacity to form attachments, her whole capacity to understand the meaning of self-respect, is destroyed by someone whom she loves. Incest victims are now organising in this country, and they are organising politically. One of the reasons that they are organising politically and not psychiatrically is because they understand that it is the power of the father in the family that creates the environment that licenses the abuse. They understand that probably better than anyone who hasn’t had the experience understands it. They have seen the mother’s fear of the father; they know their own fear of the father; they have seen the community support for the father; they have seen the psychiatric community’s defence of the father; they have seen the legal system’s refusal to treat the father like a criminal; they have seen the religious leaders’ refusal to take incest as seriously as the grave crime of homosexuality. They understand the world in which women live. Most important, I think, they understand the fear of their mothers, which is not to say that they ever forgive their mothers for what happened to them. This is a society in which it is very hard to forgive your mother, no matter what happens to you. But incest victims are truly at the centre of our political situation. They have been, in my opinion, the bravest among us for speaking out about what happened to them when they were children. And they are organising to get children some protection, some rights: and the women’s movement has to be more serious in understanding that the connection between women and children really is political. The power of the father is what makes women and children is political underclass.
Marital rape is also very important in understanding the condition of women. Now I will tell you a story. I have a godson. It is a surprise to me that I have this godson, but I do. My godson’s father is a civil liberties lawyer…. In many ways we are ideological and political enemies. My godson’s mother, who is my close friend, is an anti-rape feminist. That means that she understands feminism through understanding rape. My godson’s father tells me, and he publishes an article in a newspaper that tells a lot of people, that when a woman is raped by someone she knows it is not so bad. He also says, to me and the public, that in marriage rape is impossible, not because the law says so – although the law frequently does say so – but because we can never know what the woman really wanted. My godson’s father is a very nice man, a very sensitive man. He defends rapists in court – even though his dong so causes his wife unbearable personal pain – because he believes that women consistently accuse men of rape when they only had sex and because he believes that penalties for rape are too severe anyway. It is impossible or him to even consider that being raped by someone you know – like a husband – might be worse than being raped by a stranger; that it can destroy your ability to go on; that it is the rape of your body and also the total destruction of your integrity and your self-esteem, your trust, your deepest privacy. The physical injuries that women suffer in marital rape are no less grave than the physical injuries that women suffer in any other kind of rape. Nevertheless, in the home the right to privacy has guaranteed the husband total access to his wife’s body. Very specific statures have guaranteed him that access, those rights. At the same time we have in this country a climate in which people are terrified of crime on the streets. Women are scared to death of rape…. That is the truth. A woman who is murdered in her home by her husband or lover. It is very hard to find out how many women are actually battered: the estimates based on research are now close to fifty percent of married women – fifty percent of married women have perhaps been battered at some point in a marriage. That’s war. That’s not life, that’s war.
…. You had a vigil here. Forty-three percent of all rapes committed in this country are pair or gang rapes. Forty-three percent. Twenty-seven percent are three or more men; sixteen percent are two men. Gang rape is common, and it is almost never successfully prosecuted because the men are witnesses for each other: they all tell the same story. They all say the victim came with them willingly or took money. It doesn’t matter what happened to the woman. There will not be a prosecution at all for that rape. the implications of this are staggering because it means that any group of men can rape any individual woman, and that is in fact the case.
…. So maybe a teenager walking down a street. She is gang-raped: male predators follow her, seek her out, force her…. That is the most recognition that gang rape has had until feminists began to analyse rape.
In talking about rape, we often talk about strangers who rape women, because that is the stereotype of rape, and also because strangers do rape women, though in less than half the rapes committed. Most women will be raped by somebody they know…. In my view, rape is simply a matter of access. There is no qualitative distinction about men here. The group of men that we know are worse to us than the group of men that we don’t know because they have the most access to us. Rape is a question of access. Men will women to whom they have access. The stranger in rape is used in a very important political way, especially in organising women on the right: the stranger is used as a scapegoat….
The use of rape associated with a stranger is a basic component of racism. Women’s fears of rape are legitimate. These fears are manipulated to serve the ends of racism.
We now see the same scapegoat strategy being used against homosexual men, who are accused of child molestation when most child molestation is of little girls. It is not that homosexual men do not rape. They do…. Men in all classes and of al races and ethnicities rape, which is not to say that all men rape. It is to say that all men benefit from rape, because all men benefit from the fact that women are not free in this society; that women cower; that women are afraid; that women cannot assert the rights that we have, limited as those rights are, because of the ubiquitous presence of rape.
When feminists began paying attention to rape, our intrusion into this area of ale thought and male study and male activity was not much appreciated. We were told that we were making things worse for certain groups of me, especially for black men. Before the feminist movement, rape was treated by politically progressive people as a complete figment of a woman’s imagination or as a vengeful, reactionary, racist effort to destroy somebody else or as an act of personal vengeance. The distinction I am making here is very important because rape is real. The selective use of an identity of the rapist has been false. That is a staggeringly dangerous piece of information, because when we look especially at white male anger with feminists or dealing with rape at all, we find that suddenly for the first time in history of this country white men were included in the category of potential rapists. Somebody was onto their game at last. They did not like it. It is precisely the white liberals who have been saying that they have been fighting universally fraudulent claims against black men all these years who were most stubborn in refusing to understand that rape was real and that rape was committed by all kinds and classes of men, including them. They were perpetuating the racist stereotyping by reusing to acknowledge that all kinds of men do rape, thus leaving black men as the rapists in the pubic mind.
We frequently find ourselves in these dangerous and difficult situations because we are challenging not only power – and power is serious, power is important – but notions of reality with which people have become comfortable even though they protest them. It is not true that because people protest a condition they really want to see it eliminated it. It is an ugly but basic fact of life that too frequently protest is a form of attachment to a condition, and when you eliminate the condition, you eliminate the function that the person has created for himself. The ultimate goal of feminism is to make feminism unnecessary. And that makes feminism different from other political movements in this country.
Connected with forced sex is forced pregnancy. As a radical feminist, one is consistently accused of many things: hating men, for instance, but also not knowing anything. People say, well, if you only knew this you wouldn’t think that. I think that I must be the only woman alive who at over the age of thirty has been taken aside by people, kindly people, so that they could explain to me how the sperm unites with the egg so that I could understand the basis of sexuality and reproduction and why this system in which we now live is essential or our continual survival…. When people keep telling that you don’t understand something, you have to try to understand it. So I tried to understand it, and it led to an astonishing conclusion: because when the sperm and egg unite there is a possibility of fertilisation and a baby can be born, it doesn’t matter whether the sex act was voluntary or involuntary. The pregnancy does not depend on the consent of the woman to sex; it only depends on the act taking place, the act of intercourse. Then look at what we know about women and forced sex. We know that possibly fifty percent of married women are or have been battered. We know that rape is endemic, that incest is endemic. We know that women get pregnant a lot, all the time. We know that women are blamed for their pregnancies when they want to terminate them: we know that women are held responsible for sex all the time whether they were responsible or not. We know all the responsibility for the child will ultimately rest on the woman. She will feed it, she will clothe it, she will decide through her behaviour whether the child lives or dies. She is the one who will be responsible for the child’s life.
I am not going to talk about reproductive rights now; I want to talk about abortion, only abortion. Killing is central to it: the killing that takes place in forced sex. The killing is in sex that is forced, and every single synonym for sex in this society says so. All the words. Killing me softly; violation: all the words that have to do with sex are hostile words, dangerous words, so-called dirty words. the word vagina means sheath. All the pornographic imagery has to do with hostility: and these are weapons, knives,the use of the penis as a weapon. We didn’t do this; feminists didn’t do this. We are not responsible for creating it, but we are making people face it. So the practical reality is that as long as sex is forced on women, women must have the right to abortion, absolutely, no matter what it means, no matter what you think it means.
Abortion is also ideologically central to understanding women’s condition. What abortion means to women is the absolute right to control the reproductive functions of our own bodies. There are other reproductive rights we need: not to be sterilised against our will as is happening systematically in some populations because of race and class (sex being the precondition). But abortion is the symbol of a woman’s life: and that is because when abortion was criminal in this country, women died in huge numbers, and women died horrible, horrible deaths. Death by criminal abortion was death by torture. Death by putrefaction. Gangrenous death. Drawn-out-bleeding-to-death. That is what it was like and that is why the women that lived through it will never give up on the struggle or the total decriminalisation of abortion, free funding, the absolute availability of safe abortion for all women. Which brings us to money. Now women with money get abortions when they want them and women without money do not. Women as a class are poor…. They really matter…. One of the reasons that women are kept in a state of economic degradation – because that’s what it is for most women – is because that is the best way to keep women sexually available. We can also talk about the way capitalism is organised, the way multinationals work, the way cheap labour is exploited by exploiting all kinds of people on the basis of race and class; but the fact o the matter is that when women are economically dependent, women are sexually available. Women have got to sell sex – at home, at work; and some women only have sex to sell because they are kept illiterate and untrained and because women are paid so little for ‘honest’ work anyhow. Systematic economic debasement turns every woman into a woman who can be brought, a woman who will be brought, and it is better to be a woman who has a high market value.
Instead of having a direct relationship to real work, and being able to go out and earn money (and having the same economic and political responsibilities for the economic system and its exploitation of workers in general that men have) women work or pittances and barter sex. Equality across sex means equal blessings and equal responsibilities for the economic system. Equal pay for equal work would mean, too, that women would begin to break away sexually from men in a whole host of ways. This has nothing to do with being straight or being gay. It has nothing to do with any of the propaganda against the women’s movement that says we hate men, want to destroy them, castrate them – I can’t even think of all the things we are supposed to want to do them once we can do whatever we want. Every woman lives with a knife in her kitchen; every woman can do what she wants right now…. It really means that you have to take some responsibility for your life, and a lot of women’s problems are tied up with the enforced dependence on men that we are forced to develop. Some of that is expressed in sexual neediness; some of it is expressed in self-denigration. And even if none of that applies, the fact of the matter is that if you want to be an economically solvent woman in this society, you had damn well better be attached to a man – if not in your home, then in the workplace. Somewhere. If you don’t have that connection somewhere you are in a lot of trouble.
The economic exploitation of women as a class means that we have to sell sex and that makes us, not irrationally viewed as prostitutes by men whether they call us prostitutes or not. A lot of the laws that deal with are based on the assumptions that a woman will sell herself to anyone for anything. If you have a group of people who are poor enough, the likelihood is that they will, and many women are poor enough. When you have endemic sexual harassment in the workplace, it is based on the presumption that the woman is there as a sexual being and is by her nature some kind of prostitute – she will give sex for money or she will give sex for employment. That is part of what she is for. That is part of what she is for.
There are differences between marriage and prostitution. Like prostitution, marriage is an institution that is extremely oppressive and dangerous for women…. There is a whole continuum of rights that don’t have once you become a married woman in most places…. You must have sex with your husband when he wants. That is his legal right and your legal obligation. One of the differences between marriage and prostitution is that in marriage you only have to deal with one man. A lot of women prefer marriage to prostitution for that reason. It is safer, a better deal. That is one of the major reasons that right-wing women defend the sanctity and insularity of the home. They don’t want to be out on the streets selling their asses…. They’re not stupid. They’re smart. They understand the system that they live in, and they understand what it is they have to trade for shelter and decent health and a little security. And then, like all good gamblers, they take their chances. Like all women, they take their chances.
Briefly, about prostitution: it is very much in our interest as women to see that prostitution is decimalised. The criminalisation of prostitution leaves poor women open to the most extraordinary kind of abuse and exploitation – by pimps, by pornographers, by professional buyers and sellers of women. It is also very important to us as women that prostitution not be legalised. In other words, there should be no laws against prostitution and there should be no laws regulating prostitution. In countries where prostitution is legalised, women are frequently kept prisoners in brothels…. People there live to be a very old age, except for the prostitutes, who die very young. There is virtually no junkie problem, except among the prostitutes. The use heroin, they use morphine, they smoke opium. Women who are in systems where prostitution is legalised never escape prostitution, and one of the reasons that they don’t escape is that the police don’t let them. So it is against the interests of women, any woman, in the position where they must be prostitutes for the rest of their lives. Then, there is the question of what prostitution does to the woman herself, the individual person. It is a question, I think, that we all have to ask ourselves, because we all make deals. The woman who is a professional prostitute is in a particular abject situation. Current studies have shown that in some cities up to seventy percent of the women who are working in prostitution have been incest victims. Women become prostitutes often because they run away from home at a very early age. They run away because they are being abused. They are particularly vulnerable to the pimps because they have not learned any system of self-protection or any form of self-respect; and also because what they are coming from in their minds has to be worse than what they are going toward. We have to change their situation.
Pornography is very closely related to prostitution, certainly for the women who are in it. For the women who are in it, very often pornography is a step up. Anything indoors is a step up. It’s cold out there.
Pornography is many things. It is an industry…. It is larger than the conventional film and record industries combined. Think of what that means about the consumption o pornography and how that consumption relates to men, the vast numbers of men, who are committing the sexual assaults I am talking about. The content of pornography is almost always the same. It has a universal quality. Either the woman wants to be raped and wants to be hurt and really likes it or she doesn’t, in which case all of these things are still done to her and discovers, lo and behold, that she loved it all along, and really her life was so empty before all these things happened to her. Pornography is hate propaganda against women. It not only encourages acts of violence against us but it says that we love them. Pornography is an extremely vital and vigorous and effective belief system It is also behavioural training. people say, ‘Oh, well, pornography – that’s for masturbation, nobody can get hurt that way.’….. They don’t just learn about salivating; they salivate. They do it because they learned it. Period. Now think about pornography. The dehumanisation is a basis part of the content of all pornography without exception….
Nothing in this system is unrelated to anything else, and there is a relationship between rape and pornography. Pornography celebrates rape. We have a tremendous amount of information on the use of pornography in rapes that no authority would consider important. We have a tremendous amount of information from incest victims that their fathers used pornography. So let me just talk to you briefly about how the women’s movement gets its information, and why we are almost always right. In the last ten there has been a pattern. Feminists have said that something happens or is true and then ten thousand authorities have said ‘that’s bullshit.’ And then somebody started doing studies, and three years later they say, ‘well, well, rape is endemic.’…..
The same thing happened with battery. Women love to be beaten: that is what authorities think and say. Battered wives begin speaking. Women begin to emerge rom situation in which they have been held captive and terrorised for ten years, twelve years, fifteen years. ‘Oh, what crap,’ the authorities say….It wasn’t news to us. We have a terrific trick. We listen to the women. It is an unbelievably top secret method that we don’t let anybody else know about. It is how we found out about incest. When women started talking about having been incestuously abused three or four or five years ago everyone said it did not happen. We now know the figure is too low, and we’re right. They’ll find out that we’re right.
So the relationship between rape and pornography is not really a matter of speculation. The studies are being done, some have been done, we can discuss them if you want to discuss them; but I am telling you that we have the stories of women who say that pornography was centrally involved in the rape. We know that it is true. pornography is how-to material. There are rapists who use it that way. There are batterers who use it that way…. There are loving, battering husbands who use it that way, and it will be established beyond any doubt that it is used that way by masses of men….
It is a total non sequitur to me, but some people feel that we are left with questions about freedom of speech. Some people think that questions about freedom of speech are a logical political response to what I have just said about harm. They do not mean the freedom of speech of the victims; they mean the freedom of speech of the pornographers…. I say it begins with the incest victims; I say that’s where it begins. It begins with that child who is captive in that home who cannot say no…. About six weeks before that gang rape, Hustler had precisely, precisely, the same gang rape…. We now have as part of our social fabric and virtual pubic policy the pubic celebration of rape. People go to films to celebrate rape. People say that the fact that Linda Marchiano, who was known as Linda Lovelace, was beaten and raped and forced to make Deep Throat doesn’t matter. Deep Throat is more important. Deep Throat is speech…. The fact that someone was held in captivity and terrorised in order to make the films is nor supposed to diminish the importance of the film to our freedom. Maybe free speech begins with Linda Marchiano.
…. Now it protects a different kind of power, a more vulgar power. It is not an aristocratic power. It is the pure power of money. It is the pimp’s power. That is what it does now. It does not empower women. It does nothing or us when we write our books, when we sing our songs. It was never intended to, and if we’re concerned about freedom of speech, what we have to do is to find a way to get it.
…. They defend your right or my right to be heard in those places. They defend the right of the owners to decide what will or will not be said. We have a political approach to civil liberties in this country – not a liberal, sentimental, nonsensical approach…. There are not common rights we can all exercise.
We want to think of ourselves as individuals….
Many women rebel against feminism because many women think we are the ones insisting that their full human uniqueness cannot be expressed because they are women. We are the bringers of the terrible message. We found out by being women in the world. We want to change it. That is not a condition imposed by a political movement. This is a condition imposed by male supremacy. That is what we want to change, so that each individual can be herself, need not conform to a definition of her function and a definition of her body and a definition of her worth that has nothing whatsoever to do with her personally. Sometimes, though, the political movement against male supremacy is confused with male supremacy itself, as if we’re the ones who are telling you, ‘because you are women, you’re going to have to do this and this and this.’ We’re reporters. We’re telling you that because you’re women you live in this world I’m describing, and that the only way to do anything about it is take some political responsibility for its existence and to work collectively together, which never means the abandonment of your integrity as individuals. It also never means the abandonment of common sense or common decency. If it does, there is something wrong with the way you are going about organising against what it is that’s upsetting you and making you angry and exploiting you and hurting you.
There is nothing that feminists want more than to become irrelevant. We want the end of the exploitation of women; but as long as there is rape – as long as there is rape – there is not going to be any peace or justice or equality or freedom. You are not going to become what you want to become or who you want to become. You are not going to live in the world you want to live in. And so you have to organise an agenda. I don’t have an agenda. My agenda is everything I can think of, everything I think of doing, all the time: movement, movement, physical and intellectual and political confrontations with power. You have to write the picket signs, march, scream, yell, write the fucking letters. It’s your responsibility to yourselves and to other women.
There is one thing that is not practical, and it’s the thing I believe in most, and that is the importance of vision in the midst of what has to be done, never forgetting for one minute the world that you really want to live in and how you want to live in it and what it means to you and how much you care about it – what you want or yourselves and what you want or the people that you love. Everywhere in this country now people are told to be complacent because change is impossible. Change is not impossible. It is not impossible. Many things have to be changed in the world. It is now time to change the condition of women, finally and absolutely and for all time. That is my agenda, and I thank you for listening.”