The following tributes were written in 1990, soon after Fred Nemwan’s “discovery” of the concept of “wanting” (as opposed to “needing”). Newman effectively used his “revelation” to charge IWP cadre with his exploitation, and to crush dissention about his promotion of Gabrielle Kurlander (a 25-year-old former therapy patient with whom he had begun a sexual relationship and with whom he had just traveled to Europe). Those who did not agree with Newman were strongly “advised” to resign from the IWP. William Pleasant was one casualty of this hysterical backlash. Although she was initially taken in by Newman’s sham, M. Ortiz subsequently recovered her sanity and resigned from the IWP in the summer of 1990. The tributes were published in Practice, winter 1990.
I am a Jewish working class woman living in America in 1989.
What does that mean?
Harris Levey, my grandfather, a working class Jewish man, emigrated from Russia to America via England–his family too poor to come directly to the “land of the free.”
He still speaks with remnants of an English accent in Brooklyn where, at 78, he lives with my Nana Theresa (“Florida? Why would we move to Florida? This is our home, our neighborhood, all our friends are here”). As a young man in the 20s he dreamed of being an artist and scraped together, from his family and his friends, the $100 application fee to the finest art school in New York City. Called before the admissions committee, he was questioned about only one thing: was his last name pronounced “Leevee” or “Lehvee”? This particular group of white Christian men rejected him. And in his early twenties, my Papa Harry spent two years in bed paralyzed from the neck down. The disease, which the doctors were never able to diagnose: anti-Semitism.
A product of a “broken home” at age nine, I used to sit on our screened-in back porch with my mother, at the simulated wood table with the fold-up leaves on either side and plastic flowered chairs that we had so proudly bought at a furniture store near Ithaca College a few years earlier, on a beautiful new blue grey floor that Papa Harry had painted for us with special outdoor, shiny porch paint, during his last visit. I remember where, when and how we got everything we had in our house. And my mom, having just been abandoned, working four jobs, with three kids and a roof that was caving in, would ask me about the lawyers and the separation agreement, clothing for the new school year and meat for dinner. And, at nine years old, I would tell her. And what I didn’t know, which was mostly everything, I would make up. Because when someone asks you for something, when you are needed, you must respond.
My boyfriend in high school unbuttoned my pants and put his fingers inside of me. It hurt, but I knew I was supposed to like it. On the grass, in Ithaca, he asked me to do “sixty-nine.” I didn’t know what that was; I couldn’t ask. It was disgusting and scary. I thought I was going to throw up. I was sixteen, an odd mixture of innocent and tough; a child. I was supposed to know what to do. I didn’t, so I made things up.
Married at nineteen, I moved to the Big Apple. Thrust into still another scene I knew nothing of and had heard only racist horror stories about, I couldn’t believe how long it took to do my laundry at the laundromat; how hard it was to live my life. Walking down the street, I would be constantly harassed by men, verbally and physically, sometimes several times in one block. My analysis: I should be able to handle this, so I must be doing something wrong. So I tried to change myself, dress in baggy clothing, wear dark glasses; work at disappearing. I grew crazier and crazier. I couldn’t stand to go out of the apartment because I couldn’t stand to be looked at. My husband tried to take care of me. He couldn’t. He made money and we talked about me going into a mental hospital. All that I had learned about how to be tough in Ithaca, so that I could do whatever was asked of me, wasn’t working in New York. So I got tougher. The kind of tough where you take a deep breath, clench your muscles, and try not to hear, as you walk, trying to hold your head high past groups of men on the Street; the kind where you have sex and think it’s great until you wake up the next morning humiliated, and you look at the person lying next to you, whom you realize you can’t stand, are embarrassed by, and wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with, and wonder what the hell you’re doing; the kind where you do everything you are supposed to do sexually, and pretend to love it; the kind of toughness that men exploit; the kind that is complicit with rape.
Bourgeois fairy tales always have good endings; the shining (always white) prince comes on the silver horse to save the day, to take the young maiden (also always white) away from all this. This story also has a good ending. But it isn’t a fantasy. His name is Fred. I want to tell you about him so that you can know better who he is, and how he treats me. He doesn’t exploit my attractiveness, my vulnerabilities, so that he can rape me–far from it. Fred loves me like I’ve never been loved before. Sounds clichéd maybe, but I say it proudly. He is the greatest sweetheart that I have ever had, by a long shot. Fred, a poor working class Jewish man from the South Bronx, has spent his whole life despising the disgusting, vulgar, abusive way (there aren’t enough adjectives to describe it) that men treat women. He has spent his fifty-four years working on how to be a great sweetheart, something that no one ever wanted from him. And, like many things he does, he does this better than anyone. Fred gives to me. Not being used to this, it isn’t always easy for me to accept how giving he is. When men have touched me before, it wasn’t an act of giving. It was them taking something–my sexuality, my decency, whatever–away from me. I always had a feeling of emptiness, like something was eating at my insides. In the last couple of years–thanks to social therapy (Fred’s discovery, by the way) that has gone away. But now that I’m with Fred, I feel full. I feel so loved, cared for, and given to, that it fills me up, and I can be who I am. There is no rape. And boy, is he sexy!–as sexy as the day is long, as he would say. You have all my love, Fred. My sexuality, attractiveness, it’s all yours. I am so happy that you are not alone, my love. You will never be alone again.
And now that I don’t have to pretend; now that I don’t have to be what women, particularly working class women, have to be in our society–a reaction to men and circumstance–I can be myself; a passionate, sexy, powerful revolutionary woman. The personal and the political? No abstraction for me–as real and as sexy as a clenched fist.
Gabrielle Kurlander is one of the 20 Jews who were expelled from New Jewish Agenda for working with the New Alliance Party. Ms Kurlander–formerly an aide to Dr. Lenora Fulani, chairperson of the New Alliance Party–is currently a member of the Castillo Cultural Center collective and special assistant to Dr. Fred Newman. Ms Kurlander is an actress whose credits include the national tour of Biloxi Blues. “I am a Jewish working class woman living in America in 1989. What does that mean?” first appeared in Vol. 10, No. 29 (August 17, 1989) of the National Alliance.
Manifesto for FN and GK
I am haunted by the spectre of this BEAUTIFUL LOVE! I admire it, and want to be near it within sight and sound of it it’s like a beautiful aria! But I can never have the aria. Ah, the division of labor! I hum it (or my poor version of it! As I go about my work, work that has no charm for me because I can’t have it either. But this beautiful love this BEAUTIFUL LOVE could change all that.
You and Rie! You’re in another, better world, a world of your own making. You deserve it! Good for you, comrades! Now there’s a new thing in the world. There’s one beautiful working class product. One beautiful tool and result, one beautiful object of labor that the bourgeoisie, our mortal enemy has not made its product, its object, has not stamped with its hideous trademark.
But Jesus! What a product, what a tool! I’m reduced to childish anger and tears because I can’t figure out how it works! And I feel strangely dispossessed. Like a hand-loom weaver in his homespun smock, in his feudal ignorance staring uneasily at the spinning jenny and the self-acting mule, I and the hundreds of spindles, spinning beyond his fingers! And I know my days are numbered, my days in this trade of revolutionary!–which is the same as saying the days of my life–unless I learn to use this new tool that you and Rie have invented.
But like that weaver so long ago, I can’t learn unless I change myself utterly, utterly, and beyond recognition! The bristling rope of necessity that was knotted around my life is frayed and rotten, in fact, is burst asunder by this beautiful love.
But me–I’m still fettered by the rubble of the old society: the brutishness of need and habit, the barbarousness of Catholicism, which makes a burnt offering of my wanting and offers an animal innocence in return!–the venerable silence and endurance, and all the idiocy of bourgeois life. But, unlike that weaver of long ago, no one will coerce me into this better world. There are no passive, machine-like ranks awaiting me there, no press-gang will transform me.
Since I met you, Fred, I’ve been happy to be an appendage of this machine we’ve been building! Daughter of an engineer, granddaughter of a machinist, I was down for the job! I went to work in the factory of our love–and together, comrade we made many useful things that bore our class’ stamp, it’s true, but also the stamp of necessity.
And of necessity I made a virtue; and of myself I made a machine! And this virtuous machine was an asset to the revolution! And that was enough for me, Fred! But not enough for you! And not enough for Rie! It’s not enough for the comrades, now that we have this BEAUTIFUL LOVE!
Since I’ve been a communist I have wanted some things that were not at all compatible with being “an asset to the revolution,”! (But which were, I see now, useful for being a maker of the revolution), and I attacked these wants with a violence and a spite that only an Irish Catholic can bring to bear on any desire that enters our priest-tinged minds or our priest-defiled bodies and threatens to taint with humanity the purity of a perfect love or a perfect hatred! Hence the tactics of our H-Block comrades who strip themselves naked smear themselves with excrement, and starve themselves to death, thereby to repulse the inhumanity of the oppressor with an inhumanity still more grotesque! (Thus did God help St. Bridget repulse her raping suitor by covering her body with a plague of boils–or so I was taught by the good Sisters! What monumental spite! How hopeless, how loveless But how utterly faithful to the catechism of self-annihilation taught to us with our ABC’s.
In my own way, dear comrades, I have been “on the blanket,” refusing, in the most spiteful way, to be touched by the simple humanity of a poor, Jewish man. You wanted to teach me a way out of this pain. I learned all I could from you, but not the way out of this pain. I didn’t want to I didn’t want you. I didn’t want you to touch it. And that’s my anti-Semitism that I see only now in the light of this BEAU TIFUL LOVE, and for this crime of rejection, dear comrades I am heartily sorry, and beg your forgiveness.
And I tell you with all my heart that I will learn to want you to want you. I want to be more than an asset to the revolution, more than cannon fodder, more than a sacrifice (Jesus, till now, that was truly enough for me!) I want to want you. And I will!
Deborah Green is political director of the Rainbow Lobby, Inc.–an independent citizens’ lobby based in Washington, DC which lobbies for fair elections and democracy in the US and around the world. A founder of the New Alliance Party, Green served as treasurer for Dr. Lenora Fulani’s historic 1988 Presidential campaign. “Manifesto for FN and GK” first appeared in STONO, 1989, Vol. 1, No.3.
Busting up the Women’s Club
In 1960 when I was 12 years old and in the sixth grade (when the rebellion of the 60s lurked just below the surface of the repression of the 50s) Eileen Margolis was the local leader of the women’s club–known then simply as the Club. This was in Inwood–the northern tip of Manhattan which at that time was a white working class and lower-middle class neighborhood much more like the Bronx than the rest of Manhattan.
Eileen was already in intensive training–supervised by her mother and with the full authority of her father–for full membership in the adult women’s club; she had at least daily practice sessions with her older brother, already a skilled member of the men’s club. Aside from her familial, social and class advantages, Eileen’s main assets (in the world of the women’s club) were that she was both cute and short and was developing large breasts early.
I didn’t like to do anything the Club did. It met after school at a member’s house–I can’t remember how often but at least once or twice a week. Club members watched American Bandstand, danced with each other, ate potato chips and ranked out non-members of the club who were too Jewish or too working class. I was okay–Jewish but not too much so and lower-middle class.
On the one hand I wanted to be Eileen Margolis (my copy editor wanted me to say “be like Eileen Margolis” but at 12 you don’t make such distinctions; my experience was that I wanted to be her–period). I thought, in many ways correctly, that everyone else–parents, teachers, boys and other girls–also wanted me to be an Eileen and that everything would be wonderful if I could be. On the other hand I didn’t like anything Eileen did and didn’t want to do anything the Club did, especially rank out the girls who were too Jewish (like Nancy) or too working class (like Myra) even though I was neither.
Now you might think that Myra and Nancy were really great kids which no one could see. But like many girls they had been made afraid to do things. So they were, not surprisingly, dull and scared. I didn’t want to spend time with them but I wouldn’t leave them out or be mean–in a way that, I realize in retrospect, was both decent and condescending–so I let them spend time with me and we did some things together which really wasn’t that bad.
After a while I was asked to join the Club–I was not an automatic or charter member–and, conflictedly. I accepted. For about two weeks I was angry, unhappy and scared. I told my mother I didn’t think I wanted to be a member of the Club and she said that if I didn’t want to I didn’t have to. With her permission I quit the Club. I didn’t bust it up or attempt to; I just left. They never asked why and I never told them. A few months later the election for class president took place. It was divided along gender lines, the boys against the girls. I was the unanimous candidate of the girls–a coalition candidate they somehow all trusted because I wouldn’t fuck anyone over.
At that young age the women’s club was already clearly defining how women should be and act, how sexuality could be expressed and who was acceptable. As the 60s came around the norms of appropriate sexual behavior for women and the standards of female attractiveness were broadened. The new morality of the 60s enlarged opportunities for sexual expression by women. But while this progressive development challenged the deadly dehumanizing social repression of the 50s and previous eras it also increased opportunities for sexual exploitation of women by men and it maintained the assumption that the function of women was primarily sexual.
The feminist movement exploded on the scene at the tail end of the 60s, challenging in another way the traditional role of women (a la Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women) as well as the sexual exploitation and idealism of the 60s (a la the radical feminists). The NOW-style feminists claimed that women were the equal of men; the lesbian separatists said we could live without them. But neither version of feminism developed the politic that women must lead.
In the very early 70s I belonged to a women’s consciousness-raising group, part of a broad network of such groups (they didn’t call themselves clubs anymore). The experience was in many ways similar to what I had felt in the sixth grade. When a working class woman–who hadn’t been middle classized in the wave of post-war upward mobility that swept white America–joined the group, it was the old story of too working class Myra, too Jewish Nancy and the old Inwood women’s club all over again. Ellen hated the group and, when she left, wrote a scathing letter about how she’d been treated, she said, by everyone except me. The group, which never discussed her letter, broke up a few months later. I had already left by then.
As a progressive young woman I thought I was supposed to like the group’s activity and tried to, but didn’t really. I didn’t experience it as intimate, supportive, gratifying or particularly empowering. I learned that a feminist “line” was of value in challenging the many false and sexist assumptions about women’s inferiority and began to get some understanding of my experience as a woman. But the politic was essentially negative and pointed in a direction I didn’t want to go–middle class success and assimilation, which is where the feminist movement ultimately went; feminism is now an advantage in the middle class women’s club.
The social hegemony of the women’s club has been challenged but never smashed. And in the course of this decade the club is reasserting its primacy in a manner peculiar to the social and economic conditions of the 80s.
The women’s club is and always has been vicious, elitist and sexist. It oppresses, restrains and is destructive to all women–especially its members–despite the fact that membership in the club has its privileges. The women’s club resides in all corners of society, though it takes different forms and divides into many smaller clubs.
Every women’s club has its charter members and founders, presidents, caucuses, dress codes, theoreticians, recruiters, an initiation process, stars, left covers and periphery–many of whom aren’t full members because they’re too Jewish, too working class, too Black, too fat–whatever the particular club is attempting not to be so its members can succeed as women. The women’s club has a certain walk (if you don’t know it ask a member to show it to you), regular meetings with standard agendas, officers and rules. Members of different subsets of the women’s club recognize each other at a glance–in fact anyone can, though some members are harder to spot than others. Some women hold a general membership card in the women’s club, although they may not belong to any local chapter.
Older members of the women’s club recruit younger women. This activity maintains the club’s dominance, keeps the competition under control, and gives older women a useful function as anxiety about fading looks and youth mounts. The prostitute became the madam and expanded the stable of whores.
This is not meant as an insult to madams or prostitutes who are, after all, working for a living–in contrast to members of the women’s club who opportunize off their sexuality. The older women in the club cannot be giving to the younger women, or learn about, lead, teach or see who they or any women really are. Women are seen relative only to their sexuality and looks.
The main qualification for even being considered for membership in the women’s club is that you be willing to opportunize off your sexuality to manipulate and get things–in most cases, hut not all–men. Actual acceptance into the club depends on how well you succeed at this.
The periphery and hangers-on aren’t too successful but keep trying. The women’s club–and this is particularly characteristic of the post-80s feminists–projects this manipulation as power. After all, as a member of the women’s club you were told you had it all. You could get whatever you wanted if you just acted right–used your sexuality according to men’s rules.
The women’s club is wrong. It is not powerful. Members of the women’s club act tough, act cool, act in control, but they need men to want them. Does that sound like being in control? Does it sound powerful? The women’s club crumbles at rejection by men (a standard topic on the agenda at the meetings) while trying to cover that up by acting cool, seemingly dismissing all men as stupid. But although the stupidity, ego-centrism and insensitivity of men is well known, the women’s club never seriously engages what to do about it. In fact they are beholden to men because men validate them. The women’s club can’t lead men, can’t struggle to reorganize men, can’t make use of men’s contributions. And they dismiss if not hate men who don’t validate them as sex objects–men who aren’t, or don’t desire to be (which is rare) in the men’s club. In this way, the women’s club serves to reinforce the men’s club.
The women’s club thinks they and only they are sexy. They either resent, dismiss, or attack women whose sexuality isn’t expressed as manipulation. I myself am not a member of the women’s club. I quit early. I am considered “eccentric,” a cleaned up, neutral-sounding word to disguise what is in fact a vicious attack.
The women’s club has an active lesbian caucus with a structure, regular meetings, recruitment officers, theoreticians, etc., similar to that of the club as a whole. The lesbian caucus is equally obsessed with looks and aging and conducts relationships in a manner as unfriendly and abusive as the larger women’s club.
Members of the lesbian caucus also use their sexuality to define themselves; they regard one another as somehow superior, special and hegemonic when it comes to conducting lesbian relationships. The lesbian caucus determines what and who a real lesbian is, and it becomes very threatened and often hostile when someone breaks the rules. The caucus has its roots in lesbian separatism. But while separatism was a genuine attempt to break with the women’s club, it failed to do so for the same political class reasons as the mainstream feminist movement: the failure to recognize women as leaders.
The independent political movement and the tendency that gave birth to it recognize that women must lead. We can’t use or manipulate men’s rules to our advantage. It is not enough to be equal to middle class men, a privilege available only to a few middle class women. And we can’t form a separate world. These positions rest on middle class illusion and privilege which don’t apply to the masses of working and poor people. Women must lead. We must build a new social vision and new working class institutions that are genuinely inclusive, where no one is too anything other than oppressive or oppressed. The women’s club prevents women in the club, and outside of the club, from leading. It is designed to do so. It is the vehicle through which women perpetuate and reinforce their own oppression as women. The women’s club is corrosive. It is so insidious and corrosive that even the independent political movement, like the rest of this racist, classist, anti-Semitic and homophobic society, has a women’s club.
There are many women who aren’t in the women’s club. We may be conflicted and vulnerable but we’re not in it. We must smash the women’s club. Bust it up. We must expose it, identify its members and the way it works wherever we see it. Once you have begun the activity you’ll be surprised at how much is collectively known but never acknowledged about all the particular clubs you interface with. Ask the periphery of the clubs–the ones trying to get in but haven’t made it–to tell you about the club’s inner workings. Ask them to show you the walk, the talk, the handshake. We must conduct rescue missions and pull our sisters out of the club so all women can be freed from the deadly sexism that keeps us divided, repressed and disempowered.
Join me in smashing the women’s club. Write to me about how it’s going. Tell us about your experiences with the women’s club. This article is not intended to be a definitive statement but to raise the many issues connected with the women’s club. Tell me which ones we should write more about.
I would like to share with you the following poem, actually lyrics written for a song in the play Carmen’s Community. Written and directed by a great artist, my dear friend and political mentor Fred Newman, Carmen’s Community is based on the opera Carmen. The character Carmen thinks she can control men by using her sexuality. Instead she is murdered by a jealous lover. In Carmen’s Community the working class community reorganizes Carmen, rescuing her, liberating her from the deadly clutches of the women’s club. This is the final song of the play and one of the innumerable acts performed by Fred Newman to smash the women’s club and liberate us all.
Love’s a bird, a macho bird
at times it’s noisy, and at times unheard
love and fate–when those two mate
their sex is sordid, and filled with hate
with man as king, and love’s their thing
a woman’s life dangles on the string.
Our fate is cast. the prostitute’s life –
a low grade whore, a high grade wife
arise, arise, oh, sisters, we must arise.
Hear us sisters, our time has come.
We can’t be victims and we can’t be dumb.
The man will kill us if we do not rise.
With fate as master
all of humankind dies.
Our power sings, the woman’s day.
With passions powerful not grabbed away,
we’ll change our world. with Carmen’s might–
no sad seductiveness, no petty fight.
When women rise to lead the class
no more will fate and love
make us the ass.
So join us, men, who know the score
who fight for justice and not Lamoure!
Arise, arise, oh, sisters, we must arise.
Hear us sisters, our time has come.
We can’t be victims, and we can’t be dumb.
The man will kill us if we do not rise.
With fate as master, all of humankind dies.
Hazel Daren is a founder and leader of the independent political movement. She is currently the coordinator of the US-Congo Friendship Committee which is leading the fight in this country against Mobutu Sese Seko, the brutal dictator of Zaire. Ms Daren is also a social therapist at the East Side Center for Short Term Psychotherapy. “Busting Up the Women’s Club” first appeared in Vol. 10, No. 25 (July 20, 1989) of the National Alliance.
The Anti-Women’s Club Club
I learned about the women’s club at age six, when I found out my mother wasn’t in it. In the 1950s, the Age of Television, you didn’t have to go far to see the prescribed role model for American womanhood. Mothers paraded before me on the tube–pretty, sane, slim, smart, always loving, always available. A single scolding word from such a mother was all that was needed to deal with the lightweight and laughable mischief of their erring progeny. Who could ask for more?
My mother’s name was Dorothy–Dotty for short. She was a poor, working class Irish immigrant. In her 40s, she developed arthritis of the spine, probably due to the long hours spent working as a seamstress. The disease twisted and disfigured her body. The unending supply of barbiturates she took–prescribed by uncaring and inept physicians to ease the agonizing pain which was so bad that it caused her to stay in bed some days–destroyed her mind. My father–an ungiving, working class non-hero (thank you, Fred)–abandoned her. Though he continued to live with us, I slept with my mother and he slept in my bed.
She was a real crazy and very angry lady, my mom–not exactly what you would call club material, even to the working class women of our community. She was so lonely that I ache to think about it now. At some point, she began relating to me more as a peer than a child. We would get up in the middle of the night (my father was out hitting the bars) and play cards or sit out on the stoop in the summertime.
“Mommy,” I asked one day in stupid imitation of one of my middle class TV pals, “why aren’t you pretty like the mommies on television?” She grabbed my father’s belt and beat the living shit out of me. She did this on a regular basis.
I can forgive you now, Dotty.
One purpose of the women’s club is to organize better terms or conditions under which women can be raped or exploited, kind of like a trade association. Women get worse or better deals based on their status in the club.
I have never been a revisionist in this regard, holding a right position (to my surprise and shame) which goes something like, “After all, a rape is a rape is a flicking rape, isn’t it?”
This disgusts women in the club. “Can’t you hold out for a better deal?” they ask. “Where’s your self-respect anyway?”
As it turns out, you have a point, women’s club. Unmediated relationships with the men’s club can take their toll, even with the men’s club of the independent political community–the men who think they’re too political to rape.
I was never in the girls’ club in school, having been too fat, too smart, too poor and above all too naive. I always had one or two close friends whom I depended upon completely. We formed an “anti-girls’ club” club of sorts. We would get together, just like the girls in the girls’ club, only we would talk about them. How dumb they were. How stuck-up. How mean. About the stupid manipulative games they played. How the boys were stupid for falling for it. Of course, the boys thought we were freaks or worse, though they would also try to fuck us in secret.
Occasionally, one of the girls in the girls’ club would take a liking to me for some reason. They could talk to me about some humiliating thing that happened to them without being further humiliated (I never shared my judgments with them, and they did likewise). Or some inter-girls’ club thing that was going on. Or they thought I was funny for a little while. Or they needed me to help them with homework (I was a great tutor). Whatever. Sometimes they saw some potential in me. Maybe I could be fixed up–lose some weight, fix my hair, lighten up a little bit, then I’d be okay. When they saw that it wasn’t working, they dumped me.
Putting down the girls’ club wasn’t the only thing we did in the anti-girls’ club club. Along the way, we would fall in love with each other (11 years old, walking in the pouring rain, laughing, playing sexual games in your back yard tent, Ruth). But we were always deeply ashamed of each other, and our friendships soon died out–usually due to a change in status or a relationship with a boy (they were almost always related).
I joined a women’s consciousness raising group at age 15, and this women’s club supposedly had a new set of rules–we had to talk about our terrible relationships with men. But this wasn’t new, though I didn’t have one at the time. In fact, I believe that I jumped into my first loveless sexual affair in order to have something to talk about in CR. We also had to be middle class (forget it). And some women insisted that everyone had to come out as a lesbian or be a hopeless sellout. (What kind of invitation was that?) In a women’s collective house in Pittsburgh, I was once chased up and down the stairs by a woman who screamed, “You’re male identified!” My friend Mary was another white working class woman from Jersey City, and the two of us formed the local chapter of the “anti-women’s club” club, trying to get each other through the demise of the movement.
Dearest Fred, do you remember our long lunches and walks around the Upper West Side over 15 years ago? (These were our therapy sessions–fuck you, Chip Berlet.) How you taught me what the working class was, and who I was in it? You did it so tenderly and carefully, since I had surrounded myself with protective illusions which are still being smashed. I remember how angry you were when I wanted to go away. I couldn’t believe someone wanted me.
What does this have to do with the anti-women’s club club?
Years ago my relationship with you was based on need, though we were also friends. As our work developed, other women started needing you–politically and personally–and I learned to live without you, only calling when I was “in trouble.” This was also everyone else’s model for relating to you, more or less (mostly more)–the women’s (and men’s) club in action.
When did I start resenting the women’s club in our political Community? Who knows? It’s been years, and it has played itself out as being anti-woman because I have by and large withheld from my sisters what I have to teach them–about the women’s club, about rape, about politics. I have been unable to learn from them, and there is so much to learn.
To my sister Nancy and others in the women’s club; I want you. I want your ordinary smartness and straightness and savvy and sexiness. You’re too flicking good for the men’s club. Leave them alone because they’re exploiting you, they’re FUCKING RAPING YOU AND I CAN’T STAND IT! I can’t stand how you have to be to deal with them. Leave yourself alone. If they want you, tell them to get the hell out of the men’s club. Tell them to learn how to want Fred and Rie, and learn about a hot, sexy relationship without rape. No deals. Forgive me for my judgments about you. I’ve been covering for them, protecting them for a long time, as you told me.
Fred and Rie: Thank you–for leading us in this difficult, passionate, sexy process of learning how to touch you and be touched, want you and be wanted, want the revolution and be wanted by it.
Cathy Sadell, a long-time political activist originally with the women’s movement, is currently on the staff of the US-Congo Friendship Committee. Ms Sadell ran for State Assembly in 1982 on the independent New Alliance Party line. “The Anti-Women’s Club Club” first appeared in Vol. 10, No. 27 (August 3, 1989) of the National Alliance.
Freda Rosen’s farewell address
As some of you may already know, this column goes way back–all the way to January 1983, when the paper was still only the New York Alliance. Since then we’ve gone national, the world’s changed, and with this issue “Sexually Speakin’ and Otherwise” comes to an end. No longer will we separate the personal and political, even in the pages of this paper. Carrying on the column would be to cover up rather than to come out with who we really are, which is what must be done now. Let me explain.
I’ve never been particularly good at self-exposure. In fact, I’m pretty closed. That’s how I grew up, trying to hide who I was–poor, Jewish, plain. It was an impossible task–everyone could tell. That’s why I never got invited to join the Girls’ Club, the Women’s Club, or the anti-clubs you’ve been reading about. So I formed my own.
I looked around my neighborhood, full of welfare families from “broken homes” like my own, I looked at the lives of other poor women, the deprivation, the desperation, the rats and roaches–the women selling their bodies to make ends meet–and I knew I didn’t want to grow up to live like this. No one should have to.
My mother, a poor Jew, had fled from rural Scotland in the 30s to New York City, hoping to escape both poverty and anti-Semitism. She got off the boat and asked to be directed to the “streets paved with gold.” She was laughed at for this, she told me years later. “People are poor in Scotland,” she would say, “but not like here. Here, if you don’t have money they treat you like an animal.”
Minnie (she preferred “Millie”), my mother, was full of life; she was beautiful, but too poor, too Jewish and too much a foreigner to be invited into the Women’s Club–not that she knew there was one. In fact, she never really adjusted. I saw her spirit get broken trying to raise four kids alone. The big gap between the American Dream and her ability to live it made her crazy. I was her only hope, and I wanted to get away.
I was never into boys, far back as I can remember. But being poor, all I had was my sexuality to get stuff with. The older I got the less I wanted to be a “real” woman, and the more I couldn’t understand why other women didn’t feel the same way. But I figured I’d better ad just–and fast! It was the mid-60s and I was entering my 20s. I looked around for the least abusive guy I could find with a good job and married him because it seemed like the only way up and out of the garbage, the starvation and poverty. It didn’t work out, because rape is rape–what Fred identified as the male strategy for everyday life, which is getting as much as you can while giving as little as you can–whether with a smack or a smile. Participating in my own rape made me more and more depressed. Finally, with the help of other women, I found a way to live without him. I left my husband after six years, not having gotten very much or very far.
It wasn’t until the Women’s and Gay Liberation Movements got underway that I seriously considered the possibility of living my life as a challenge to the oppressive and repressive social roles and rules of Real Womanhood. I tried, but failed; for much the same reasons that the Sexual Revolution went down to defeat: as Fred has pointed out, sex won and revolution lost. That is, I made certain reforms, but I hadn’t transformed. I simply exchanged roles rather than changing challenging them. I was now with women instead of men, but still using my sexuality as a vehicle for upward mobility. Getting as much as possible and giving little became my tactic.
Yet while I lived my personal life this way, I was still able to develop politically. And the gap between what I said, sexually speakin’ and otherwise, and what I did, grew.
During the 80s I had become a well respected sexologist in the independent political movement; lots of folks thought I was an expert on sex, intimacy and relationships, and I thought I had to be. “Sexually Speakin’ “was an institution and no one challenged me, except my closest friends–especially Fred, who had taught me everything of any value that I knew. And he knew I hadn’t learned enough. I played my role as Ms Sexually Speakin’, the sexpert, instead of performing as the sexy revolutionary communist I had set out to be.
I’m not sure exactly when I formed the Lesbian Caucus of the Women’s Club–blaming women for getting raped and standing by while men raped them. But the conditions have been present for a long time–my distance, elitism and privileged position which I used to get stuff for myself, especially from those who cared for me most–all of which I thought I deserved and needed to protect me from a hostile world, a world I had committed my life to changing.
That changing is why I wanted to be close to Fred in the first place, but I ended up using him instead. So why wouldn’t I go all the way with him? Well, wanting Fred is very demanding. It means wanting to live your life as a revolutionary–not separating the personal and political, not adapting in any way to a world which is inhumane. It means coming to terms with the fact that the world doesn’t owe you anything–no matter how much you’ve suffered. It means not settling for the kitchens, closets or clubs. It means not using the caring and commitment of communists for your own ends. It means being a decent human being, all of the time, to all of your comrades (not just the ones you’re trying to cut a deal for yourself with).
To my followers in the Lesbian Caucus and elsewhere: our time has come! We’ve all got to come out instead of covering up who we really are. I’m no longer willing to use my skills to mislead you, or to let you misuse me in this way. We can no longer be complicit in allowing the right wing to organize “personal life.” We must do the work–we must dare to expose our errors and take a shot at correcting them. I for one see no other meaningfulness in this life than changing it. That’s what we must push each other and support each other to do, remembering that it’s bigger than each of us, even put together. It’s about capitalism turning to fascism.
I sometimes remind myself of Stella, from the South Bronx Jewish working class community Fred grew up in. She pretended she was middle class until one day she was, but she never stopped pretending. Being a revolutionary has been something like that for me. To the extent I’ve pretended to be a revolutionary instead of performing as one, I’ve only reformed. Now I want to transform myself.
Wanting Fred has been key to all this. That’s why we’ve been writing so much about him lately, and writing to him. Here’s part of a letter I wrote to Fred New-man recently.
“There were times I wanted you for the father I never had. While I respected his courage, his smartness, his good looks, unlike you it was all about him for himself, and I really didn’t like him much. He was the first, or so I thought, to abandon me. You never would. (I mistook this for softness.)
“You are the only man in my life I have never felt abandoned by. You have given me so much, and I have given you so little–and I know that now. Fred, you are the brother I have abandoned. (You told me to stop feeling guilty, that my guilt gets expressed as nastiness.) Your relationship with Rie has opened my eyes to this and now I can see the possibilities of wanting. I don’t know much about wanting; I have mostly known need–the need of a poor Jew for survival, for relevance. I used you for that, again giving little, when you deserve it all. And for whatever worth I have to our class, it is you who deserve the credit, as Comrade Lenora put it so well . want you–terrified, yes–and I want you. I am a believer, remember. I have always believed in you.” Fred, I will do whatever I have to, to want you, by whatever means necessary, to follow you. To Hell with “Sexually Speakin’ and Otherwise”! It’s a new day–Long Live the New Communism!
Freda Rosen is a social therapist at the East Side Center for Short Term Psychotherapy. From 1983 through 1989 she was the author of “Sexually Speakin’ and Otherwise,” which appeared weekly in the National Alliance. She ran for State Assembly in 1988 on the New Alliance Party line. Ms Rosen is currently a member of the Castillo Cultural Center collective and writes regularly for the National Alliance. “Freda Rosen’s Farewell Address” first appeared in Vol. 10, No. 30 (August 24, 1989) of the National Alliance.
Women know that men always do what they say they ‘won’t do’
Just friends, I promise. I won’t mold you into whatever I want or make you invisible. I won’t inspect you, dissect you or reject you. I won’t beat you, enslave you, prostitute you, fuck you, screw you, nail you, bang you, ball you and ‘let” you aim only when and how I want.
I won’t impregnate you in the name of male supremacy and private property or refuse to wear a condom and then abandon your AIDS stricken frame in the middle of the night. I won’t tie you up, knock you up, lock you up, beat you up, whip you, bum you, shoot you, stab you, mutilate you and watch you DIE for the ultimate sense of possession.
I won’t take and give you nothing (RAPE YOU) or give to you only during my “weakest” moments and then pretend it never happened or unleash my unbridled rage as a poor, working class, Black, Latino, Jewish, white, straight and gay MALE in this dying planet upon you.
I won’t abandon you to the oppressive social, economic, political, cultural and religious institutions I have created and then sell you their classist, racist and decadent trappings as false insulation. And I won’t call you cunt, bitch, dyke, or commie whore whenever YOU dare “come out.” I won’t RAPE you. I promise. We’ll just be friends.
M. Ortiz is a Puerto Rican working class woman who became a single mother as a teenager. She put herself through Hunter College where she was the editor of Pneuma and was a well-known student leader. She currently works for Vision Communications, Inc., a public relations firm which represents a number of organizations that make up the independent political community centered around the New Alliance Party. “Women know that men always do what they say they ‘won’t do’ “first appeared in Vol. 10, No. 28 (August 10, 1989) of the National Alliance.
rising flames . blowing winds, fka closets, kitchens and clubs
This business of our lives being organized by the masters and rulers of capitalism has finally reached the point in history when we each have to respond to the burning reality of capitalism’s terminal crisis. After all, who the hell do you think the powers that be have power over, anyway? You, me, all future generations, and every damn thing in between if they could pull it off. Alas, there’s the rub in the eye; they can’t pull it off. As a matter of scientific fact, the powers that be are failing to the point that they live on the edge all the time and are desperately making deals with fascists and revisionist communists planet-wide.
Millions have been murdered through the use of endless military force, human deprivation, and chemical germ warfare–all in the name of imperialism, and capitalist expansion. People of color in Africa, Asia, North and South America, and indeed, throughout the planet are the niggers of the world, making them the first to die and the last to cry as they face continuous rape, genocide and annihilation day by day.
This business of having our lives organized by aggressors and oppressors is necessarily a class structure where the concept of being better than someone else and or everyone else is a fundamental element connected to some individual understanding of making it. You know, making it as in looking good and being nice, having the right attitude and kissing the right ass. Making it as in being middle class, but not poor, white instead of Jewish, Black, Latino or Chicano, being invisible and not Native American, being lesbian and nothing else, being gay, but straight, intelligent, and un-opinionated, pretty, but not sexy. Think about it. The result is impotent powerlessness expressing the class hostility, or antagonisms, relating to the most backward reactionary bottom line: the racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, homophobic to the core, flag-waving middle class. They bring along with them the closets, kitchens, and clubs. The result is not a tool of empowerment–the result is not a tool.
As an African American, woman, lesbian and one hell of a fully-empowered politically charged “fighting people’s lawyer,” I support 100 percent Dr. Lenora B. Fulani, independent candidate for mayor of New York City, builder and leader of the Coalition for a Progressive New York, national chairwoman of America’s fourth largest electoral party, the left of center NAP. She is a powerful tool working for the poor and working class. We must follow her and learn how to fight back, using our passion and directing our anger, and guilt. She is leading the charge to bust up the closets, kitchens and clubs, indeed to smash them asunder, breaking the chains of petit-bourgeois privilege.
We have to continue our unconditional support and respect for Hazel Daren, coordinator of the US-Congo Friendship Committee, a foremost builder and leader. Hazel started this dialogue in these pages a couple of weeks ago. Hazel Daren is a tool of empowerment, a result of making a tool.
Hazel and Lenora, along with our finest scientist, Dr. Fred Newman, are acknowledged by millions for their development of social therapy as a political tool for the poor, working and middle classes. They built the controversial, sexy New Alliance Party into a people’s party, as a tool of empowerment. They are supported by millions of people across racial, sexual and class-wide lines. They support me when I say light a match and put a fire inside the closets, kitchens, and clubs across race, sex, and class lines.
Let’s not ever forget what it really, really means to be in the closet, kitchen, and club. Many of us have direct experience inasmuch as we never wanted to be in the closet, kitchen or club. We were maladjusted. Shit! We were called renegades! Growing up in the Savannah, Georgia sun during the rebellious sixties, the closets, kitchens and clubs were white and redneck with enough Yankee migration, and an active international seaport. Coming out at age sixteen, in 1968, angry, aggressive and lesbian, meant to fight for your rights, step out of roles, and be connected with one’s own power and intimacy. It was radical then, and was political. One had to demand respect and not be subject to abuse. The people in the closets, kitchens and clubs didn’t come to visit us and we did not visit them. Except on many, many occasions we have worked for them as maids, whores, nannies, and whatever. When the outlaw forces (that’s us, the outcasts) and the middle class do meet in public places, there the conflict is exposed to open sun and open wounded feelings. There follows the fight. We defined the clubs as white supremacy. The closets were filled with privileges for the discreet, for the man who needed just a little more, white and male for the most part but not entirely so: women in great numbers lived in closets, kitchens and clubs (and still do).
Today, we witness the death of capitalism and the ensuing fight for democracy, decency, justice and freedom. We are fighting, advancing and we will win. Nothing, nothing is more important now. No one can stop us from having liberation from your institutions of abuse and misuse of human resources and production. My sisters and brothers are here with us, ready to go all the way. Let’s go forward with all deliberate speed, using our famous inside outside tactic, as created by Fred Newman and taken out to the people by Lenora B. Fulani, the nation’s smartest, and newest leaders of all people. Fulani Dinkins is the smart race. So yes! Torch the closets, kitchens, and clubs. The people inside have to figure out how to come out or perish with the others who follow fascism so easily and laissez-faire. Coming out of the flames without your privileges and your shit-face arrogance which really are your chains and gags is the only move to make! Coming out of the winds with nothing to lose but your chains and your pain, and terror.
Nobody ever seems to get but one real shot to go all the way in the fight for decency, working class and ordinary decency. History is moving us and we will take the stage for victories. We may not have all the support; we’ve got enough support to carry on . And that is exactly what we are going to do.
Alvaader Frazier, Esq., writer and poet, is best known as the “fighting people’s lawyer.’ She founded the International People’s Law Institution and is currently its executive director. She led a successful international campaign to free Haitian artist and political prisoner Eddie Moise, and represented Adam Abdul-Hakeem (a/k/a Larry Davis) and Ricardo Burgos in a case that implicated Bronx police in drug running. Ms Frazier traveled to Chile as part of an international team of observers during the 1988 plebiscite and earlier this year to Africa with the Rainbow Lobby, Inc. “rising flames . blowing winds, fka closets, kitchens and clubs” first appeared in Vol. 10, No. 28 (August 10, 1989) of the National Alliance.