Saturday, May 11, 2013
American People II
“ ‘Cheerful Robots’ [and what C. Wright Mills really felt about society]”
Many of C. Wright Mills' ideas, which were considered radical in his time, are now taken for granted in the present. A term coined by Mills, "power elite" defined as “a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth.” ended up in Mills being ostracized by conservatives and liberals. But that was in the past and ironically the term is widely used today by the mainstream media. In the article by C. Wright Mills titled “Cheerful Robots,” Americans during the 1950s were “Cheerful Robots.” In the following excerpt from the article you can start to understand the perspective ob Mills.
“Americans during the 1950s were stuck on the idea of perfection. They wanted to live the perfect life. Americans lived in cookie-cutter houses, had nuclear families, and were happy all the time. At least that's what they longed for. There were few differences from one family to another on the surface. Most Americans worked hard to maintain their happy, perfect images. They were all the same.” (C. Wright Mills, “Cheerful Robots”)
This view of American society by mills is not too far-fetched. If you really examine what he is describing he is actually pretty astute. Whether you refer to the elite as the "establishment," the "power structure" or the "top 1-percenters," the American people understand that this concentration of power undermines democracy. The lines between Democracy and financial-tyranny in this country has seemed to grow slimmer which also has given credit to Mills points.
“The husband worked while the wife stayed home and did domestic work. The house they lived in was in a neighborhood along with other houses that looked the same. Inside the house were all kinds of appliances and material things to make them "happy." Outside of the house were nice cars sitting in the driveway when they husband returned home from a hard day of work. If there was any unhappiness or imperfection, Americans did not let it show.” (C. Wright Mills, “Cheerful Robots”)
Hiding what is really going on, not “showing true colors,” or living a life of double-sided secrecy all seemed to relate to 1950’s American society as a whole. Look at Happy Days. Sure it is just a TV show, but it was based on the model of American society at the time. And it is not much different today, possibly even worse. Houses full of electronics and smart phones, gigantic TVs and cutting-edge technology simply used for playing the best video games. It is true that Mills was often seen as a "Marxist thinker" because of the emphasis he put on social classes and their roles in historical progress, and attempting to keep a somewhat Marxist social theory alive. But C. Wright Mills rebelled against conventional thinking and sought his own theories and beliefs, many of which have proven valid, and not so radical, as time passed.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
American People II
“Redstockings was one of the radical feminist movements that arose in the late 1960’s. Based in New York, it issued this manifesto, which, in language typical of the era, illustrates how at its most radical edge, feminism had evolved from demands for equal treatment for women to a total critique of male power and a call for women’s “liberation.”
“Women are an oppressed class. Our oppression is total, affecting every facet of our lives. We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men's lives. Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of physical violence.”
Among the political and cultural conflicts of the 1960’s, women united to win their freedom and to no longer be “exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor.” Women wanted to be liberated. Liberation meant more than the right the vote. It meant equality in economic, racial, education, and political rights. Other than the African American population, the Redstockings was an organization demanding equal rights and changes in American life for women.
“ ‘there seem to be many parallels that can be drawn between the treatment of negroes and the treatment of women in our society as a whole.’ What bothered them the most was the status of women within the movement, where assumptions of male supremacy seemed as deeply rooted as in society at large.” What one can conclude from this quote is that the status of women in both the negro and white culture, was the same.
I After centuries of individual and preliminary political struggle, women are uniting to achieve their final liberation from male supremacy. Redstockings is dedicated to building this unity and winning our freedom.
II Women are an oppressed class. Our oppression is total, affecting every facet of our lives. We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men's lives. Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of physical violence.
Because we have lived so intimately with our oppressors, in isolation from each other, we have been kept from seeing our personal suffering as a political condition. This creates the illusion that a woman's relationship with her man is a matter of interplay between two unique personalities, and can be worked out individually. In reality, every such relationship is a class relationship, and the conflicts between individual men and women are political conflicts that can only be solved collectively.
III We identify the agents of our oppression as men. Male supremacy is the oldest, most basic form of domination. All other forms of exploitation and oppression (racism, capitalism, imperialism, etc.) are extensions of male supremacy: men dominate women, a few men dominate the rest. All power structures throughout history have been male-dominated and male-oriented. Men have controlled all political, economic and cultural institutions and backed up this control with physical force. They have used their power to keep women in an inferior position. All men receive economic, sexual, and psychological benefits from male supremacy. All men have oppressed women.
IV Attempts have been made to shift the burden of responsibility from men to institutions or to women themselves. We condemn these arguments as evasions. Institutions alone do not oppress; they are merely tools of the oppressor. To blame institutions implies that men and women are equally victimized, obscures the fact that men benefit from the subordination of women, and gives men the excuse that they are forced to be oppressors. On the contrary, any man is free to renounce his superior position, provided that he is willing to be treated like a woman by other men.
We also reject the idea that women consent to or are to blame for their own oppression. Women's submission is not the result of brain-washing, stupidity or mental illness but of continual, daily pressure from men. We do not need to change ourselves, but to change men.
The most slanderous evasion of all is that women can oppress men. The basis for this illusion is the isolation of individual relationships from their political context and the tendency of men to see any legitimate challenge to their privileges as persecution.
V We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience, as the basis for an analysis of our common situation. We cannot rely on existing ideologies as they are all products of male supremacist culture. We question every generalization and accept none that are not confirmed by our experience.
Our chief task at present is to develop female class consciousness through sharing experience and publicly exposing the sexist foundation of all our institutions. Consciousness-raising is not "therapy," which implies the existence of individual solutions and falsely assumes that the male-female relationship is purely personal, but the only method by which we can ensure that our program for liberation is based on the concrete realities of our lives.
The first requirement for raising class consciousness is honesty, in private and in public, with ourselves and other women.
VI We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman.
We repudiate all economic, racial, educational or status privileges that divide us from other women. We are determined to recognize and eliminate any prejudices we may hold against other women.
We are committed to achieving internal democracy. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that every woman in our movement has an equal chance to participate, assume responsibility, and develop her political potential.
VII We call on all our sisters to unite with us in struggle.
We call on all men to give up their male privilege and support women's liberation in the interest of our humanity and their own.
In fighting for our liberation we will always take the side of women against their oppressors. We will not ask what is "revolutionary" or "reformist," only what is good for women.
The time for individual skirmishes has passed. This time we are going all the way.
July 7, 1969
P.O. Box 748*
New York, N.Y. 10009
P.O. Box 748*
New York, N.Y. 10009
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Phyllis Schlafly is an American constitutional lawyer, conservative activist, author, and the founder of the Eagle Forum. She is known for her opposition to modern feminism and for her campaign against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment of 1972. Before this point Phyllis Schlafly already had political involvement, yet still stood by her role as a house-wife. To Phyllis Schlafly stopping the ERA was an issue she could build a political career around. Schlafly began her own campaign called "STOP ERA". STOP is an acronym for "Stop Taking Our Privileges." Schlafly argued that the ERA would take away gender specific privileges currently enjoyed by women, including "dependent wife" benefits under Social Security and the exemption from Selective Service registration.
Here are some quotes from Voices of Freedom: Phyllis Schlafly "The Fraud of the Equal Rights Amendment" (1972)
- “Suddenly, everywhere we are afflicted with aggressive females on television talk shows yapping about how mistreated American women are, suggesting that marriage has put us in some kind of “slavery,” that housework is menial and degrading, and –perish the though –that women are discriminated against.” (Pg. 315)
- “The claim that American women are downtrodden and unfairly treated is the fraud of the century.” (Pg. 316)
- “Why should we lower ourselves to “equal rights” when we already have the status of special privilege?”
-“Foxholes are bad enough for men, but they certainly are not a place for women.” (Pg. 316)
“Why should we abandon these mandatory wife-support and child obligation to take job?” (Pg. 317)
- “The women’s libbers are radicals who are waging a total assault on the family, on marriage, and on children.” (Pg. 317)
In conclusion, Phyllis Schlafly is a woman who during the 1970's almost single-handedly prevented the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (also known as the ERA), which is a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing equality of rights for women. Schlafly strongly believed in all the privileges women received before the ERA and believe that as women, “we” should be grateful. Throughout the 1970's she barnstormed the country with her supporters, lobbied state legislatures, and debated feminist leaders. Phyllis Schlafly was very determined and strong-minded. She wrote many books such as The Positive Woman, which was published in 1978, in which she compared a traditional wife and homemaker, pro-family and pro-defense ideal, to feminist ideals and values. Her style and content again offended readers across the political spectrum, but some commentators acknowledged a strong vein of common sense in her arguments. Although Phyllis Schlafly worked real hard to stop the ERA, it wasn't enough.
The "I Have A Dream" speech was delivered by Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963. This speech was known as one of the defining moments for the American Civil Rights Movement. In this speech, King calls for racial equality and a just place where blacks and whites could live happily without segregation or discrimination.
His first point was to mention the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation which was supposed to free all slaves indefinitely. He referred more to the symbolic significance because the proclamation did not automatically free slaves everywhere. The Emancipation Proclamation was a sign that blacks would be able to reach the American dream once they were declared free by Abraham Lincoln.
He then explains how the blacks are still not free. Although they were not officially slaves anymore, the whites found ways to segregate them. These actions were called the Jim Crow laws. Whites and blacks would have different bathrooms, fountains, seats and even schools. This not only degraded blacks but showed them that they were still not equal to whites even being free men and women.
King then goes on to say that both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were made to protect and guarantee our right's as citizens. "Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds"", there he says that instead of blacks obtaining equal rights as whites as promised in these documents, blacks cannot figuratively "cash their check" because those rights weren't guaranteed for all men. King urges for the change to happen now and for people to stop putting it off any longer. This movement would not be temporary and it would take people that will not give up easily. If people continued to ignore the injustice then nothing would change. He was not about a violent struggle for freedom. He believed that it could be acquired peacefully. He urged people to fight for equality until it was completely achieved, zero racism, zero segregation. He hopes that one day we could all rejoice in equality just like slaves did when finding out they were free.