Califia Women

Califia Women: Feminist Education against Sexism, Classism, and Racism

CLARK A. POMERLEAU
Copyright Date: 2013
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/752948
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    Califia Women
    Book Description:

    Launched in 1975, the Califia Community organized activist educational camps and other programs in southern California until its dissolution in 1987. An alternative to mainstream academia's attempts to tie feminism to university courses, Califia blended aspects of feminism that spanned the labels "second wave" and "radical," attracting women from a range of gender expressions, sexual orientations, class backgrounds, and races or ethnicities.Califia Womencaptures the history of the organization through oral history interviews, archives, and other forms of primary research. The result is a lens for re-reading trends in feminist and social justice activism of the time period, contextualized against a growing conservative backlash.

    Throughout each chapter, readers learn about the triumphs and frictions feminists encountered as they attempted to build on the achievements of the postwar Civil Rights movement. With its backdrop of southern California, the book emphasizes a region that has often been overlooked in studies of East Coast or San Francisco Bay-area activism.Califia Womenalso counters the notions that radical and lesbian feminists were unwilling to address intersectional identities generally and that they withdrew from political activism after 1975. Instead, the Califia Community shows evidence that these and other feminists intentionally created an educational forum that embraced oppositional consciousness and sought to serve a variety of women, including radical Christian reformers, Wiccans, scholars of color, and GLBT activists.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-75295-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION. CALIFIA COMMUNITY IN SOCIAL MOVEMENT HISTORY
    (pp. 1-11)

    This study reveals how community education fit into feminist institution building. In response to entrenched inequalities in the post–World War II United States, Americans who supported gender equality built on political opportunities to find each other and create the country’s largest social movement.¹ By the 1970s, the proliferation of feminist organizations in Los Angeles was representative of the nation’s largest cities. Southern California feminists built on previous leftist education experiments to plan Califi a Community in 1975. They drew on their social networks to bring women (and their children) together for a week or long weekend to learn from...

  5. CHAPTER 1 THE NEED FOR COMMUNITY EDUCATION PROJECTS
    (pp. 12-33)

    Historical aspects of american societal inequalities and radical educators’ interventions help to contextualize feminist institution building. Post–World War II discrimination provided the milieu for New Left agitation, but longer-term frustrations about mainstream education created lines of radical pedagogy that stretched from the nineteenth century to 1960s movements. In response, women raised their awareness of inequalities, equipped themselves with practical skills, and formed women-run institutions that could sustain a sense of community and provide a base from which to address societal disparities. Thus, this chapter combines temporal, thematic, and spatial contexts to set up the relationships among postwar conditions, sexism...

  6. CHAPTER 2 FOUNDING, FUN, AND FRICTION
    (pp. 34-68)

    The ability to find woman-focused separate spaces appealed to some who dealt with negative male behavior in their workplaces or family lives. This chapter makes five major arguments. The backgrounds and goals of Califia Community’s first two founders, Betty Willis Brooks and Marilyn Murphy, make their desire to reach beyond their campuses understandable. Founders distinguished their endeavor from a previous feminist educational experiment’s conflicts and advertised in L.A.’s extensive feminist networks. The initial sense of excitement, wonder, and anxiety women felt at finding like-minded women with new ideas for living during Califia’s first three years of conferences (1976–1978) illustrate...

  7. CHAPTER 3 INTEREST IN WOMEN
    (pp. 69-98)

    From its inception to its conclusion, Califia collective members’ presentations about sexism sought to unite women based on shared oppression by men and to call Califia women to action. Califia founders and their contemporaries built on earlier feminist critiques to teach women to prioritize women.¹ They addressed patriarchal male domination and heterosexual privilege and debated what constituted aspects of sexism. Feminists in the 1970s–1980s disagreed about the amount of privilege women enjoyed, oppression they faced, and degree they could be good feminists in relation to their gender identity, the gendered behavior they exhibited, sexual attraction, and sexual practices.

    This...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER 4 CHANNELING CLASS RESENTMENTS
    (pp. 99-120)

    Radical lesbian feminists taught that patriarchy was an overarching structure with many negative consequences. These feminist teachings tapped into women’s personal experiences to encourage them to organize instead of feeling passively victimized. Personalizing patriarchy was a springboard from which women nationwide joined or created projects to combat violence against women and children, alleviate other forms of sexism, and address homophobia. Advocating structural changes by targeting pornography, prostitution, and media depictions pitted feminists against each other over women’s sexual autonomy, censorship, and working within sexist government systems or with conservatives. Simultaneously, the bonds facilitated by “personal is political” consciousness-raising fostered an...

  10. CHAPTER 5 ANTIRACISM TO GET UNDER THE SKIN
    (pp. 121-148)

    Like the training about class, Califia’s presentations on race sought to nurture integrated women’s groups that functioned effectively across differences. This chapter argues that Califia founders expressed feminists’ concern to teach women to work together and that the development of antiracism trainings represented feminist views on race in the 1970s and 1980s in four main ways. The pedagogy developed from earlier Black Power calls for whites to help other whites unlearn racism; Califia founders developed antiracism as one of the consistent presentations in hopes that white women could become antiracist enough to unite with women of color in sisterhood. Later...

  11. CHAPTER 6 THE RIGHT ATTACKS AND INTERNAL DIVISIONS
    (pp. 149-174)

    A number of califia women have said that conservative attacks, combined with emphases on assimilation and individual gain among gay and lesbian Americans, portended the end of Califia. This chapter argues that Califia conferences waned because of a combination of key founders’ departures, societal shifts that imperiled increasing numbers of Americans economically, and differences of opinion among feminists. New Right members attacked one founder while others turned to different projects. Neoliberal attempts to defund social services and public education hampered grassroots progressive organizing generally, and feminist educating outside universities specifically, by the mid-1980s. Established leaders in Califia collided with some...

  12. CONCLUSION. ENDURING LEGACIES FOR “THE WEEK”
    (pp. 175-184)

    The development of califia community illustrates strengths and weaknesses of forms of feminism as well as how feminist work related to society. Feminists since the mid-1960s have sought to revolutionize the world; their sense of urgency and heightened expectations have built on previous New Left momentum. Califia participants reflected American feminists who tested alternative models of governance and revised assumptions, simultaneously supported and challenged each other, and encouraged political activism.

    Assumptions endure that the “second wave generation” was essentialist, separatist, and antisex and exclusively promoted androgyny in ways that rejected femininity and could not understand gender fluidity. Overgeneralizations about feminism...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 185-220)
  14. REFERENCES
    (pp. 221-234)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 235-247)