Redstockings, also known as Redstockings of the Women's Liberation Movement, is a radical feminist group that was founded in January 1969. The word is a neologism, combining the term bluestocking, a pejorative term for intellectual women, with "red", for its association with the revolutionary left.
The group was started by Ellen Willis and Shulamith Firestone in February 1969 after the breakup of New York Radical Women. Other early members included Kathie Sarachild, Patricia Mainardi, Barbara Leon, Irene Peslikis, and Alix Kates Shulman. Shulamith Firestone soon split with the group to form New York Radical Feminists along with Anne Koedt. Rita Mae Brown was also briefly a member during 1970. The group was mainly active in New York City, where most of the group's members resided, and later also in Gainesville, Florida. A group called Redstockings West was started in San Francisco in 1969, but was independent of the East Coast group. Redstockings went through several phases of activity and inactivity; they first split up in 1970 and were formally refounded in 1973 by Kathie Sarachild, Carol Hanisch, Patricia Mainardi, and Barbara Leon. (Ellen Willis was involved only peripherally with the reformed group.)
In the early 1970s, Redstockings were noted for their "speakouts" and Zap (action) and street theater on the issue of abortion rights. (This style of protest was emulated by an early-1980s pro-choice group, No More Nice Girls, one of the founders of which was Redstocking veteran, Ellen Willis.)
More recently, the group leads a project to make available radical feminist papers and original source organizing material building on their concept "History for Activist Use" through the Women's Liberation Archives for Action, as well as putting out new theory on women's oppression and what to do about it. In 2001, they put out a book called Confronting the Myth of America: Women's Liberation and National Health Care. As of 2006, the group is active and operates a website, though Kathie Sarachild is the only original member still active with the group.
The group is a strong advocate of consciousness raising and what they refer to as "The Pro-Woman Line" – the idea that women's submission to male supremacy was a conscious adaptation to their lack of power under patriarchy, rather than internalized "brainwashing" on the part of women, as was held by some other radical feminist groups. Redstockings holds the view that all men oppress all women as a class and that it is the responsibility of individual men to give up male supremacy, rather than the responsibility of women to change themselves.
Redstockings' relationship to other strands of feminism of the 1970s was complex. Like many other radical feminists, they were critical of liberal feminist groups like the National Organization for Women, whom they viewed as advancing women's liberation only as a type of institutional reform while ignoring the interpersonal power of men over women. The Redstockings were more influenced by Marxism than other radical feminist groups. However, they strongly rejected socialist feminism (which they referred to as "politico" feminism) as subordinating the issue of women's liberation to class struggle. On the other hand, Redstockings were against cultural feminism, which in their view substituted the building of a separatist women's culture for political engagement. (In Redstockings' view, most other tendencies of radical feminism, especially after 1975, were expressions of "cultural feminism".) Brooke Williams was a member of the group who critiqued this tendency strongly.
Redstockings were strongly opposed to lesbian separatism, seeing interpersonal relationships with men as an important arena of feminist struggle, and hence seeing separatism as escapist. (Like most radical feminists of the time, Redstockings saw lesbianism primarily as a political identity rather than a fundamental part of personal identity, and therefore analyzed it primarily in political terms.) Redstockings were also opposed to male homosexuality, which they saw as a deeply misogynist rejection of women. Redstockings' line on gay men and lesbians is often criticized as homophobic.
Notable essays associated with the group include "The Redstockings Manifesto", "Program for Consciousness-Raising", and "The Politics of Housework". The refounded group published a journal, Feminist Revolution. A nearly complete anthology of articles from the journal was published in 1979 by Random House. The anthology omits a controversial report on Gloria Steinem's involvement with a liberal youth group that was later revealed to have been funded by the CIA. This publication created a lasting rift between members of Redstockings and feminists who were close to Steinem.
- Willis, "Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism", p. 124.
- Rosalyn Baxandall, Irene Peslikis: Too Soon: A Loss for Feminism and Art, Veteran Feminists of America, accessed online 11 July 2007.
- Biography, alixkshulman.com, accessed online 11 July 2007.
- Willis, "Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism", p. 133.
- Willis, "Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism", p. 144.
- Redstockings (1979). Feminist Revolution. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-73240-5.
- Echols, 1989
- Willis, "Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism", p. 145, 150n.
- Echols, Alice. (1989). Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–1975. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1787-2
- Redstockings. (1979). Feminist Revolution. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-73240-5
- Willis, Ellen (1992). "Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism" (originally published 1984). In: Ellen Willis, No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays. Wesleyan University Pr. ISBN 0-8195-6284-X
- Official site
- "The Redstockings Manifesto" (1969).
- "The Personal is Political by Carol Hanisch (March, 1969).
- "Resistances to Consciousness" by Irene Peslikis (1969).
- "Women and the Myth of Consumerism", by Ellen Willis, Ramparts (1969).
- "The Politics of Housework" by Pat Mainardi (1970).
- "Consciousness-Raising: A Radical Weapon" by Kathie Sarachild (1973), from Feminist Revolution.
- "Over My Shoulder #21: Kathie Sarachild, “The Power of History,” in Feminist Revolution (1975)" (excerpt), Rad Geek People's Daily, April 30, 2006.
- "Over My Shoulder #22: from Barbara Leon, “Consequences of the Conditioning Line,” from Feminist Revolution (1975)" (excerpt), Rad Geek People's Daily, May 7, 2006.
- "An 'Oppressed Majority' Demands Its Rights" by Sara Davidson (photographs by Mary Ellen Mark), Life, 1969 – magazine article, includes interviews with and photos of Redstockings. (Archived at MaryEllenMark.com)
- Interview with Kathie Sarachild and Amy Coenen of the Redstockings by Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer, January 24, 2002.
- "Gloria in Excelsis" – includes part of Redstockings 1979 statement on Gloria Steinem.
- WomaNews (Gainesville, Florida's Feminist Newspaper written and published by radical women in Gainesville), full text searchable