The following statement by Vicki Noble was written in the context of a discussion about how it has come to be that right-wing women in the US have appropriated the term "feminist." She gives a chilling insight into the difficulty of disseminating radical feminist writings and voices today. - FW
Yes, all wonderful questions—why indeed are there apparently no radical feminists speaking out these days in America, speaking to the younger women, writing books and communicating? I believe my personal experience almost certainly serves to generalize about the process by which our voices have been eliminated from the larger public discourse in this country.
In 1994, Rupert Murdoch bought HarperSanFrancisco, thus temporarily ending the long publishing careers of many early Bay Area feminist authors and creative artists (myself, Judy Grahn, Starhawk, for example). At that moment, all our most well-known classic books began, unceremoniously, to be put out of print. It’s not that we didn’t fight this, but I’m afraid it was a done deal. (Each of us has resurrected over the years, so I’m not whining, we’re all continuing to do our work—I’m just telling you the history, which for many people is unknown.) An excellent article in [The Nation] Magazine in the late 1990s, called “The Corporatization of Publishing,”* articulated the widespread negative effects of this phenomenon on a much larger (global) scale. (Independent bookstores, distributors, and publishers went out of business, along with individual artists.)
In case you might think this was subtle or negotiable in any way, or that I’m overstating the case, I’ll give you a blatant example of how direct the message was to us: In 1997, an editor at Three Rivers Press (an offshoot of Random House) told me, after publishing a book on Motherpeace and in response to a subsequent book proposal, “If you take the Goddess and the kundalini out of it, we might be able to publish it.” Since it was a book on ecstatic healing in the Goddess tradition, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that could have even been possible for me to do (had I been interested in selling my soul so directly to the corporation).
During the same period of time (late 1990s), I stopped being invited to teach at places like Omega Institute in New York, I think because my radical feminist message is too “confrontational” in comparison to some of the new mainstream and corporate women who jumped on the Goddess bandwagon and began to produce and attend workshops and conferences for women (Women of Power; Women, Money, and Power; etc.). Groups like “Gather the Women” emerged with conferences on what they publicized as the brand new notion of women coming together to make changes in the world. Now the public commercial centers for growth and “new age” teachings can offer events for women without rocking the boat, offending anyone, or requiring any profound transformation or change (especially to social structures or capitalism). It was an effective marketing strategy. The success of this overall strategy can be seen in the emerging numbers of women who are excited, apparently, about having discovered that their gender gives them a step up the ladder right now—-while working actively in support of patriarchal corporate, capitalist and mainstream religious values and goals (i.e. They work against reproductive rights and threaten the gains we made three decades ago, they cut social services and gut social programs that feminists established in the 1970s, and they keep their eye on the money).
Even NPR (National Public Radio) has recently admitted that it no longer ascribes to its original mission of providing alternative programming to the mainstream. They have their marketing strategy too! Yoga Journal went mainstream in the last decade, changing its look and shortening its articles to please some imagined public that no longer has the attention span to read something thought-provoking.
We’re simply watching global capitalism do what capitalism has always done: It rapaciously sucks up everything interesting or profitable, turns it inside-out in the usual patriarchal mode of colonization and appropriation, and then spews it back out at us in a pseudo form that we can buy. Anything that holds to its original purpose or integrity is relentlessly denied or viciously stamped out, erased, made invisible. Anyone who can’t be bought just disappears from the public arena.
So—-where did all the feminists go? Well, I’d say we’re all still here, getting older but holding our own, disseminating our wisdom where we can, rocking the boat whenever possible, passing on our genes and our ideas, and always, ALWAYS, creating new forms that respond to the real needs of our communities.
A great and positive example of this creative feminist work behind the scenes is the steady building of the Matriarchal Studies and Gift Economy movements in the last decade. This creative international coalition of feminist activists, Goddess scholars, and indigenous healers, elders, and leaders who come together periodically to discuss, analyze, distill, and refine the discourse on Matriarchal Studies (thanks to Gen and Heide** and their pioneering leadership) is thrilling. It is one of the obvious places where the unstoppable underground stream of female intelligence is again springing up to the surface and taking form.
Perhaps we can begin to take some actions and make some international headway by speaking back (organizationally) to some of these emerging mainstream pseudo-feminists and celebrity political women who are being thrust in our face by the media. I’m up for it.
A bibliography of works by Vicki Noble appears with her Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicki_Noble . Note that the article on her is currently rather slight - perhaps those who know her work would like to add to it. - FW
*The article appeared in The Nation June 3, 1996, and its author, publishing veteran André Schiffrin, also published a related memoir: The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read (2000).
** Genevieve Vaughan; and Dr. Heide Göttner-Abendroth, Director of International Academy HAGIA.