Re: : : : The Iroquois and the Early Radical Feminists

Lief M. Hendrickson (hendrick@NOSC.MIL)
Mon, 5 Feb 1996 21:33:42 PST

On Feb 4, 1996, Holly Martelle Hayter wrote:

> I am a feminist - a feminist archaeologist. But that does not mean
>that what I do, what I write, as a contemporary feminist, is necessarily

I didn't find what Holly wrote to be polarizing though her self-
applied label of feminist doesn't make her the epitome of a feminist
either. The problem with -ists and -isms is that when one adapts a
label, it isn't generally a partial buy-in of only certain aspects of
the underlying movement.

For example, one person may characterize themself a feminist because
they espouse equal rights and opportunity for all females. However,
other persons who self-apply the same label may have additional ideas
such as totally changing the structure of society. For example,
Simone de Beauvoir (certainly a feminist!) was opposed to allowing
women to stay home to raise their own children because those that do
drag down the changes advocated by her and others then and now. Does
the first example lead to the second insofar as the aim of the
movement? If it does, is that what was bargained for by the person in
the first example. If not, which one is really the feminist?

Maybe we can regard the varying points of view as simply differing
opinions within a larger and evolving context. Certainly Holly's
being an archaeologist doesn't mean she has exactly the same goals and
opinions of every other archaeologist. Nonetheless, there is a
certain perspective shared among archaeologists that separate them
from another discipline, for example from sociologists. Here we're
talking about variations within a scholarly discipline. In the case
of a movement or political -ism, the case is somewhat different.

Take, for example, communism. A person may be enthralled with the
idea of sharing and think of communism as an idyllic system where each
person gives according to their ability and takes only according to
their needs. For a person to call themself a communist on that basis
misses much more that is involved. Choosing to become an -ist based
on only part of the -ism doesn't negate the rest of what's going on.
Indeed, it merely supports the rest of the -ism by creating more
advocates. Any movement has persons with individual intentions that
could externally be considered "good" and those that could externally
be considered as "bad". Unfortunately, to be a declared part of the
movement doesn't mean you only support your own "good" part.

> Contemporary feminists (whoever they are? and whatever contemporary
>feminism is?) do challenge any type of polarization.

The "whoever they are" indicates the nebulous nature of the term and
therein the problem as Holly goes on to discuss. How can one claim
what a group does or does not do if one is unclear about what
constitutes the group? The impact on society is not simply the
statistical average of what all "feminists" may desire as individuals.
Moreover, contemporary feminists are not just persons who research
female studies from a comfortable academic perch.

The thrust and direction of the movement is based on what is being
done and said by the leaders- not the researchers. Two contemporary
examples are: _Revolution from Within_ by Gloria Steinam and
_Backlash, The Undeclared War Against American Women_ by Susan Faludi.
The second one was a recent best seller. "Revolution" and "war" in
the titles certainly initiate polarization, and distortions in the
contents propagate it further. The resulting impact on the movement-
and on society- is far more than a scholarly historical discussion of
societal influences related to women's roles.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy Holly's discussion of the Iroquois and early