Friday Feminist – Anne Phillips

Most of the radicals of the period [1960s and 1970s] had an idea of sharing things around – tasks, expertise, influence, the length of time each member could speak – but this radical equality of participation assumed a particular significance for women. Every organization has its division of labour between ‘mental’ and ‘manual’, creative and routine tasks, but the long association of women with office work has usually guaranteed that they are the ones who type the leaflets, take the minutes and bring the tea. Every organization has its complement of good talkers and silent listeners, but the construction of male and female identities has usually meant that women are disproportionately represented in the listening camp. What could appear as a general problem to other radical movements became for women a matter of the power between women and men. The women’s movement was thus acutely sensitive to the relations of dominance and subordination that emerge int eh course of discussions or get reflected in the distribution of work. An unequal distribution of skills was thought to be inevitably correlated with an unequal distribution of power.

Anne Phillips, Engendering Democracy, 1991


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