I'm in a new Consciousness Raising group. Yes, it's a new twist on an old feminist tradition. The new twist is "What the fuck is going on?
What are CR groups? They are a feminist tradition from the women's movement. Feminists started consciousness raising groups in the 1960s and participated in them throughout the 1970s, and they were groundbreaking, because women had never really formally met with each other to discuss being female.
CR groups were a planned phenomenon, a series of meetings, inspired by the powerful personal testimonies during the Civil Rights Movement (African Americans gave testimony in churches detailing the experiences of their lives.) As the women's liberation movement was forming the idea to meet and talk with other women, privately in women's homes, was met with excitement.
Consciousness Raising groups members changed our nation and as I reflect on their power I am reminded of the feminist and founder of the National Black Women's Health Project, Byllye Avery who said to me "I often wonder what life would be like if we hadn't stopped."
Yes, feminists stopped attending their CR groups for the most part and they died out as the monumental changes that the women's movement created were absorbed into the society. I have heard of some groups that are still ongoing, but they are rare.
During the Women's Liberation Movement CR groups were in every city, town, and neighborhood. These local groups formed a strong underpinning to the national women's movement. Before we acted politically in public we formed our politics among each other.
Avery continued to say that if we had kept these groups alive, which were also building feminist political theory, "we would have a powerful force of women." A powerful force? Sounds good to me. She said, "We wouldn't have all this disconnect between what happened and what really happened."
I agree, the details of the Women's Liberation Movement are not shared among ourselves. Our memories grow old and like the brain itself, if you don't use it, you lose it.
Avery suggested that if we had continued Consciousness Raising groups we would have a society where women could drop into an ongoing group, anywhere.
Imagine that, visit your parents in Seattle and drop in on a CR group! These groups would be places to connect with others and be repositories of knowledge. In a country with ongoing CR our history as women in America would been passed down through the decades since the women's movement to new generations, that's us.
It was the consciousness raising groups of the 60s and 70s that provided the intellectual and emotional fuel for for the Women's Liberation Movement.
How did they work? The feminists picked one topic and talked about it within their group until until the subject played out, Discussions ranged from marriage, children, employment, parents, anti-war movement, war, abortion, birth control.
They had rules and one of them was not to interrupt a woman as she was speaking. Interesting.
They were enlightening. The feminists started to see the connections between their own personal lives and the their public lives. For instance, perhaps a boss was not allowing a woman to rise from secretary to reporter and then through her CR group, she started to see the connection between her boss and her husband's or parents quashing of her ambitions. "The Personal Is Political" is a phrase born from the women's movement.
Consciousness Raising changed our nation.
The CR group in which I am a member is not covering personal experiences too much. We are shifting the topics to women and politics and discussing the current political situation as well. Things I want to discuss:
- children and their rights as citizens
- women and employment
- women in congress
- what life is like for women in countries who have had two female presidents (Let's skype!)
- is the GOP putting our children in danger by backing Roy Moore
- America's low global ranking on women in politics
- why can't the United States seems to get a female president
The list will be a long one.
We are meeting face to face for the power of the interaction. Forget the computer screens and let's see one another.
Perhaps after a few meetings with my sister CR participants I will see many reasons as to why female citizens are stymied in their road to power. Is our thwarted road to the White House a personal one?
If women revive CR groups in this terrible time for our country we can provide the emotional and intellectual underpinning necessary to combat the lies coming from our White House. This new consciousness can be seen as one national unit, so to speak, it can be the energy with which we can take our rightful place in our elected offices.
The personal is political and, who knows what will be unearthed as women discuss the forces moving against us, citizens, as we take our rightful place in American politics.
"We should have looked at them as keeping groups together as long as people lived....We would have a powerful force of women and we wouldn't have all this disconnect between what happened and what really happened. Because people would know it. It would be ingrained, it would be within the fabric of their lives and of their consciousness." Byllye Avery