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Consciousness Raising

Barbara Ryan


Consciousness raising (CR) was a cornerstone of radical feminist organizing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of the women involved in the anti-war, New Left, and Civil Rights Movements were disillusioned by the end of the 1960s as they found themselves relegated to the role of providing services (including sex) to men, the official leaders of these movements ( Evans 1980 ). In the Civil Rights Movement and in the New Left, many women became unwilling to assume a back seat to men. Instead, they began small consciousness-raising groups to understand what had happened to them in male-defined social movements, and how they could organize on the basis of sex (gender) to form their own movement for women's equality. They spoke of themselves as members of the women's liberation movement, rather than a women's rights movement ( Echols 1989 ). The term consciousness raising can be traced to other movements for social change, including the New Left where it was called criticism or self-criticism, and earlier as it was practiced in China when Mao sent facilitators into rural villages to raise awareness of the teachings of communism after the 1948 revolution. Mao was particularly interested in raising the consciousness of women to their new role in society under communism – a role of active productivity in the fields and workforce. The women involved in CR in the US constituted one segment ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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