by and large the same ones who oppose
affirmative action for minorities and
women, gay rights, labor-law reform, reproductive freedom, the Panama Canal
It is not, as Russell asserts, the taint of
gay rights or reproductive freedom that is
preventing the ratification of the ERA. It
is the organized opposition of a right-wing
minority that would still combat the ERA
if lesbians disappeared and all women
agreed never to have an abortion. While
distortions of those issues (along with a
host of other diversions) are being used
by the opposition, they are just that-di-
versions—because the ERA does not, in
fact, affect those issues. Rather than play
into this tactic, the women's movement
should expose the politicians who have
used these issues as excuses for not supporting the ERA, when, in fact, they are
not willing to stand up to right-wing, business and other special interest groups or
they are not in favor of women's equality
in the first place. Either way, they are not
our allies and should be defeated.
Every group sets priorities of what will
get the most attention and money at a
given time. However, a distinction must
be drawn between setting priorities and
repudiating other matters of concern. No
movement based on the principles of
equality, justice and freedom gains by discarding those principles internally or in its
public stance. Human rights are indivisible.
For feminists to divide them out-asking
for some while disavowing others- would
be a contradiction so great that the very
basis of the movement would be destroyed
Feminist support of gay rights~is a
human-rights ideal as well as defense of
an allied movement under attack from
the same forces that beset the ERA. But
gay rights is also crucial to the philosophy
and success of feminism because of the
role that homophobia has played in keeping women in their place. All women, no
matter what their sexual preference, are
restrained in many areas of life by the
threat of being called "lesbian" and of
facing the economic and social consequences that go with that label. When
women can give unflinching support to
gay rights, that form of control over
women's behavior will dissipate. Lesbian-
baiting will never end just because feminists deny a connection between the issues;
it will only end when women deny it the
power to threaten them.
Reproductive freedom is also central
to the philosophy and success of feminism
because it is based on the fundamental assertion of a woman's right to control her
body. Russell apparently fails to realize
that that does not mean that the movement is pro- or anti-abortion, but rather
that it is pro-choice-a position that is also
supported by a majority of Americans.
Many feminists do not personally favor
abortion; that does not make them
"second-class members of the movement"
because that is not the issue.
The issue is one of choice. Feminists
do not demand that every woman prefer
abortion, or be a mother, or be a lesbian,
or put her children in daycare, or keep
them at home, or go outside the home to
work. Feminists demand only-simply
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and profoundly—that every woman have
the right to choose whether or not to do
those things. That all women and men
should have the greatest number of options possible, not the imposition of any
one standard, is the heart of the feminist
vision and gives the movement its strength.
Russell reveals her Limited perception
of the movement when she implies that
those working for gay rights and reproductive freedom are ignoring the issues of
"better birth-control alternatives, better
day care, and economic protection and
justice." Nothing could be further from
the truth. Across the nation, the women
who are fighting for ERA, reproductive
freedom and gay rights are the same ones
who have been agitating for birth control,
day care and economic justice for years.
It is not the women's movement that is
leaving these issues unanswered. It is the
institutions in our society that are still resistant to women's equality that are leaving
women's needs unanswered.
The women's movement today is leading the challenge to society to meet human
needs and to live up to its democratic
ideals. In that challenge, priorities are
established and a variety of political strategies devised. But if we abandon the breadth
of the feminist vision with its concrete concern for all women's needs and rights—
indeed, for all human rights—then we
abandon the source of our strength and
the hope of our leadership for a better
Quest: A Feminist Quarterly
For five nights in June, customers at
Bette Otero's small Italian restaurant,
Gigolo's, enjoyed fresh pasta dishes as
well as the knowledge that the proceeds
from their meal were being donated to
the ERA fund.
"I got fed up with the ERA's lack
of progress. So I decided to raise
$10,000 for the ratification campaign,"
says Otero, who is pictured on the cover.
She has formed eight corporations
during her career and is particularly
proud of building the pasta factory
which supplies Gigolo's. "This place
keeps me mighty busy but busy people get things done."
That first effort in June brought in
almost $1500. For the next benefit.
Otero plans to serve more people more
efficiently with a selected menu. A
reservations-only Male Chauvinist Pig
Roast is scheduled for early September.
For further information call:
Gigolo's Fresh Pasta Restaurant
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