Herstory is Powerful: Why the Stickers? Why Now?

Since the “This Oppresses Women” sticker from the Redstockings Archives has gone viral, with a flurry of  favorable coverage from women reporters at Huffington Post, Cosmo, MTV, and iDiva and hundreds of women writing us to request stickers to use, we thought  it would be valuable to look at the thinking behind re-launching the 1969 sticker.

The following letter was written by Kathie Sarachild, one of the teachers of the Women’s Liberation class offered in the fall of 2014 by Redstockings and National Women’s Liberation.  Students in the class were planning a street action, as a practical application of the ideas they learned in the class.  (The class was originally taught in 1991 by Gainesville Florida Women’s Liberation, and, as a principle of the curriculum, always culminates in an action.)

From: Kathie Sarachild
Date: Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 5:00 PM

I think we should take the position that the sexualization (sex objectification?) of human females by the corporate world of mass commercial advertising and mass communication, and in fashion ads and porn, are the main source of the problem — flooding men and women with false and exploitative measures of female appearance by which men are enticed to judge women, as both present or potential employees and in personal relationships, as mates, etc.

These images by the men in the corporate boardroom also harass women on a daily basis and fuel the harassment by men on the street.

These images by the men in the corporate boardroom also harass women on a daily basis and fuel the harassment by men on the street.

Redstockings, in the late 1960s, initiated as a form of fight back against this form of street harassment the plastering on sexploitation ads in the street, shopping malls and mass transportation of stickers saying “this oppresses women” and “this exploits women,” and we believe that activists should be doing this again. But the most important part of the fightback and solution lies in the growing power of the organized unity of women for a power base for women’s liberation.  With this, we can impact the sexism of everyday working men, to make it easier to build a united movement of working people to tackle the main source of the many problems emanating from the unfair, undemocratic rule, and economic exploitation of the tiny percent of monopolists who are now running the lives of most of us and running the country into the ground.

Graphic accompanying Susan Brownmiller's March 15, 1970 New York Times article.

A piece of the graphic accompanying Susan Brownmiller’s New York Times Magazine article “Sisterhood is Powerful,” March 15, 1970. Note that this graphic has been removed from the New York Times archival link.

To give an idea of the historic sticker campaign, and as an example of mining the Archives for Action for ideas to use today, we can link to Susan Brownmiller’s March 15, 1970 article in the NY Times Magazine called “Sisterhood Is Powerful,” which has images of “This ad insults women” stickers slapped on sexist ads [note that we later found that image has been removed from the New York Times archival link].  And we could also do our own “This oppresses women” sticker from 1969 and put it on one of today’s ads.  It would take a little more time, but I’ve been wanting to propose our making up new stickers like this…

I’ve been meaning to raise this whenever the groups get into this “street harassment” stuff, which I’ve found “low consciousness,” I guess you could say, compared to when we aimed more at [men at] the top in the earlier part of the movement (especially cause those ads affect all our relationships, whereas some of us somehow don’t get street harassed very much.  Even when I was in my 20s, men would whistle at other women but not me. But I still knew in my gut, and from things guys would say, from fathers to potential dates, that those beauty standards and the sexualization expectations were affecting my ability to have equal relations with men… and other women’s relations with men, also, even if it was operating more indirectly than the whistlers’s whistling and the catcallers’s catcalling)

I was thinking of bringing this to the action planning meeting of the class — to try to find a way to dramatize the main source of what the harassers are doing and maybe even try to win them [the harassers] over with class consciousness-raising, rather than ONLY “calling out” male supremacy and sexism…

Kathie

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2 thoughts on “Herstory is Powerful: Why the Stickers? Why Now?

  1. gbl

    Today, we learned that two major woman celebrating events have been cancelled at a feminist conference because the Queer and Trans community said the edible art depicting women’s vulva’s in all their diversity made them feel “unsafe” and was transphobic.

    We also learned that midwives in another area cannot say “women” get pregnant. It’s now people who get pregnant.

    A teen girl’s nipples made little pointy marks in the completely non-opaque sweat shirt, and FB had enough complaints they threatened to remove her account.

    Further on in the news feed is a story of a male to transgender teen who is at the epicentre of forcing his female classmates to accept him in their bathroom and gym change room. Punctuating his terrible pain at having the school profer a gender neutral toilet “I’m a girl” was his prominent boner in the center of his skirt.

    Reply
    1. Women What Is To Be Done, Editor Post author

      If you are connecting this censorship to our protests of sexploitation ads, we’re not getting the connection. Please explain, and please send a link to the “edible art.”

      Reply

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