Re: : The Iroquois and the Early Radical Feminists

Lief M. Hendrickson (hendrick@NOSC.MIL)
Thu, 1 Feb 1996 12:52:17 PST

The recently discussed influence of the Iroquois as the determining
factor in a certain aspect of U.S. social change is part of a trend
far beyond anthro-L. The trend is called "filler feminism". Quite
simply, it's a matter of rewriting history to support an agenda.
History is not viewed as a means to understand the past, rather its
description is used as a tool to sanctify ideals of contemporary
feminists- many of whom have strayed far from the laudable efforts of
early women's rights advocates.

Filler feminism is stuffing schools with "feel good" writing rather
than accurate descriptions of reality. As we've seen on this list,
the staunch advocates present their message in the hopes that some
will be suckered-in, but avoid considering actual facts when asked to
do so. An example of "feel good" writing is found in a widely used
high school textbook in which the following passage is found (1).
Referring to early North American indigenous peoples, it states:

"A typical family thus consisted of an old woman, her daughters with
their husbands and children, and her unmarried granddaughters and
grandsons...Politically, woman's roles and status varied from
culture to culture. Women were more likely to assume leadership
roles among the agricultural peoples than among nomadic hunters. In
addition, in many cases in which women did not become village
chiefs, they still exercised substantial political power. For
example, in Iroquois villages, when selected men sat in a circle to
discuss and make decisions, the senior women of the village stood
behind them, lobbying and instructing the men. In addition, the
elder women named the village chiefs to their positions."

Now I wonder if Iroquois women knew the extent to which they were in
charge as indicated by the above passage. Even if they did, they
weren't "feminists" in the contemporary sense. Nor, for that matter,
were there any "Radical Feminists" in that time frame as implied by
the subject line of messages in this thread. The same applies to
early women's rights advocates. They didn't call themselves
"feminists"; the unfortunate term had not been coined back then. The
retroactive use of the term is a means to justify the current movement
by attaching itself to the worthy efforts of many individuals who
worked hard for suffrage, equal rights, and equal opportunity as goals
rather then the anti-male, anti-family ideas of certain of today's


(1) Carol Berkin (ed), _American Voices_, Scott Freeman, 1992: p. 29.