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BY ANNIE BOGGS
Second-wave feminist Carol Hanisch originated the phrase “the personal is political.” Hanisch enlightened me on the myth of bra burning and her hopes for the future of feminism, as well as other interesting tidbits. I was inspired and wanted to share with the Hollaback! community. Enjoy!
photo via redstockings.org
Carol Hanisch was one of the original “bra burners.” Except she never actually burned her bra. Starting a fire on the boardwalk at the 1968 Miss America Pageant protest in Atlantic City wasn’t permitted, but the newspapers still picked it up and the name stuck.
“They should have called us girdle burners. That was much more important than the bras. Those things were so uncomfortable,” Hanisch said on the phone from her home in upstate New York.
As a member of the group New York Radical Women, Hanisch was the instigator for that now well-known protest. One of the pioneering feminists of the late 1960s, Hanisch also has local connections to my college town of Gainesville, Florida, (once known as the “Berkeley of the South”) as one of the former members of the Gainesville Women’s Liberation.
Born and raised on a farm in Iowa, Hanisch wants to correct the assumption that all members of the women’s liberation movement were big city, middle-class liberals. She wasn’t the only person from a rural, working-class background.
“It’s important that people realize that it really did cut across all class. Women of all backgrounds took up the fight.”
Hanisch’s early interest in feminism stemmed from her involvement in the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the mid-1960s, which “propelled” her entrance into the women’s movement.
“I guess it kind of turned my head around,” said Hanisch of the racism she witnessed in Mississippi in 1965 and 1966 as a civil rights volunteer.
Her famous statement “The personal is political,” is still well-known in feminist circles, though Hanisch admits the phrase has become distorted since its inception.
“People think that anything they do is political and feel they don’t need to get involved in a movement. We were all movement. Couldn’t change anything unless women united and worked together in a united way.”
She still has hope for the movement. Though there’s been a huge backlash against women’s liberation, Hanisch believes issues like abortion, violence, and even general respect for women (Hollaback!) all need to be worked on. She thinks SlutWalks are a good example of what the movement needs, although she’s not sure she likes the name.
As for feminism ever thriving on college campuses?
“It certainly could,” Hanisch said. “It just needs some leadership and some courage.”
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