Robin Morgan Essay, “Goodbye to All That”

21 Dec

In yesterday’s post, I quoted from Robin Morgan‘s 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That”, originally linked to in this post at Tiger Beatdown. The essay is still relevant as ever, unfortunately, and I want to make sure that feminists of “my generation” read it. Know your roots, my fellow youngins!

Morgan also did a second part to this essay in 2008 in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, which was posted at Heart’s blog, Womensspace.

Here is the original essay below the fold, as well as the preface given from the website it was on.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Rat, was one of the leading counterculture / New Left newspapers in New York City. In January 1970, a group of women who worked at Rat, fed up with the increasingly aggressive sexism of the paper’s content and internal hierarchies, took over the newspaper and, with the help of women from Women’s Liberation groups in New York, converted it into a feminist newspaper. In the first issue, Robin Morgan (then a member of W.I.T.C.H.) contributed Goodbye to All That. The article has since been reprinted widely in anthologies of radical feminist writing; this copy is based on the reprint that appears in Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement. A slightly different version appears, together with a long introduction and explanatory footnotes, in Morgan’s The Word of a Woman: Feminist Dispatches 1968–1992.

Goodbye to All That

So, Rat has been liberated, for this week, at least. Next week? If the men return to reinstate the porny photos, the sexist comic strips, the nude-chickie covers (along with their patronizing rhetoric about being in favor of women’s liberation)—if this happens, our alternatives are clear. Rat must be taken over permanently by women—or Rat must be destroyed.

Why Rat? Why not EVO or even the obvious new pornzines (Mafia-distributed alongside the human pornography of prostitution)? First, they’ll get theirs—but it won’t be by a takeover, which is reserved for something at least worth taking over. Nor should they be censored. They should just be helped not to exist—by any means necessary. But Rat, which has always tried to be a really radical cum lifestyle paper, that’s another matter. It’s the liberal cooptative masks on the face of sexist hate and fear, worn by real nice guys we all know and like, right? We have met the enemy and he’s our friend. And dangerous. What the hell, let the chicks do an issue; maybe it’ll satisfy ‘em for a while, it’s a good controversy, and it’ll maybe sell papers runs an unoverheard conversation that I’m sure took place at some point last week.

And that’s what I wanted to write about—the friends, brothers, lovers in the counterfeit male-dominated Left. The good guys who think they know what Women’s Lib, as they so chummily call it, is all about—who then proceed to degrade and destroy women by almost everything they say and do: The cover on the last issue of Rat (front and back). The token pussy power orclit militancy articles. The snide descriptions of women staffers on the masthead. The little jokes, the personal ads, the smile, the snarl. No more, brothers. No more well-meaning ignorance, no more cooptation, no more assuming that this thing we’re all fighting for is the same; one revolution under man, with liberty and justice for all. No more.

Let’s run it down. White males are most responsible for the destruction of human life and environment on the planet today. Yet who is controlling the supposed revolution to change all that? White males (yes, yes, even with their pasty fingers back in black and brown pies again). It could just make one a bit uneasy. It seems obvious that a legitimate revolution must be led by, made by those who have been most oppressed: black, brown, yellow, red, and white women—with men relating to that the best they can. A genuine Left doesn’t consider anyone’s suffering irrelevant or titillating; nor does it function as a microcosm of capitalist economy, with men competing for power and status at the top, and women doing all the work at the bottom (and functioning as objectified prizes or coin as well). Goodbye to all that.

Run it all the way down.

Goodbye to the male-dominated peace movement, where sweet old Uncle Dave can say with impunity to a woman on the staff ofLiberation magazine, The trouble with you is you’re an aggressive woman.

Goodbye to the straight male-dominated Left: to PL, who will allow that some workers are women, but won’t see all women (say, housewives) as workers (blind as the System itself); to all the old Left-over parties who offer their Women’s Liberation caucuses to us as if that were not a contradiction in terms; to the individual anti-leadership leaders who hand-pick certain women to be leaders and then relate only to them, either in the male Left or in Women’s Liberation—bringing their hang-ups about power dominance and manipulation to everything they touch.

Goodbye to the Weather Vain, with the Stanley Kowalski image and theory of free sexuality but practice of sex on demand for males. Left Out!—not Right On!—to the Weather Sisters who (and they know better—they know) reject their own radical feminism for that last desperate grab at male approval that we all know so well, for claiming that the machismo style and the gratuitous violence is their own style by free choice, and for believing that this is the way for a woman to make her revolution…all the while, oh my sister, not meeting my eyes because Weathermen chose Charles Manson as their—and your—hero. (Honest, at least, since Manson is only the logical extreme of the normal American male’s fantasy, whether he is Dick Nixonor Mark Rudd: master of a harem, women to do all the shitwork, from raising babies and cooking and hustling to killing people on command.) Goodbye to all that shit that sets women apart from women; shit that covers the face of any Weatherwoman which is the face of any Manson Slave which is the face of Sharon Tate which is the face of Mary Jo Kopechnewhich is the face of Beulah Saunders, which is the face of me which is the face of Pat Nixon which is the face of Pat Swinton. In the dark we are all the same—and you better believe it: we’re in the dark, baby. (Remember the old joke: Know what they call a black man with a Ph.D.? A nigger. Variations: Know what they call a Weatherwoman? A heavy cunt. Know what they call a hip revolutionary woman? A groovy cunt. Know what they call a radical militant feminist? A crazy cunt. Amerika is a land of free choice—take your pick of titles.) Left Out, my sister—don’t you see? Goodbye to the illusion of strength when you run hand in hand with your oppressors; goodbye to the dream that being in the leadership collective will get you anything but gonorrhea.

Goodbye to RYM II, as well, and all the other RYMs—not that the sisters there didn’t pull a cool number by seizing control, but because they let the men back in after only a day or so of self-criticism on male chauvinism. (And goodbye to the inaccurate blanket use of that phrase, for that matter: male chauvinism is an attitude—male supremacy is the objectivereality, the fact.) Goodbye to the Conspiracy, who, when lunching with fellow sexist bastards Norman Mailer and Terry Southern in a Bunny-type club in Chicago found Judge Hoffman at the neighboring table—no surprise: in the light they areall the same.

Goodbye to Hip culture and the so-called Sexual Revolution, which has functioned toward women’s freedom as did theReconstruction toward former slaves—reinstituting oppression by another name. Goodbye to the assumption that Hugh Romney is safe in his cultural revolution, safe enough to refer to our women, who make all our clothes without somebody not forgiving that. Goodbye to the arrogance of power indeed that lets Czar Stan Freeman of the Electric Circus sleep without fear at night, or permits Tomi Ungerer to walk unafraid in the street after executing the drawings for the Circus advertising campaign against women. Goodbye to the idea that Hugh Hefner is groovy ‘cause he lets Conspirators come to parties at the Playboy Mansion—goodbye to Hefner’s dream of a ripe old age. Goodbye to Tuli and the Fugs and all the boys in the front room—who always knew they hated the women they loved. Goodbye to the notion that good ol’ Abbie is any different from any other up-and-coming movie star who ditches the first wife and kids, good enough for the old days but awkward once you’re Making It. Goodbye to his hypocritical double standard that reeks through the tattered charm. Goodbyeto lovely pro-Women’s Liberationist Paul Krassner, with all his astonished anger that women have lost their sense of humor on this issue and don’t laugh any more at little funnies that degrade and hurt them: farewell to the memory of hisInstant Pussy aerosol-can poster, to his column for the woman-hating men’s magazine Cavalier, to his dream of a Rape-In against legislators’ wives, to his Scapegoats and Realist Nuns and cute anecdotes about the little daughter he sees as often as any properly divorced Scarsdale middle-aged father; goodbye forever to the notion that a man is my brother who, like Paul, buys a prostitute for the night as a birthday gift for a male friend, or who, like Paul, reels off the names in alphabetical order of people in the women’s movement he has fucked, reels off names in the best locker-room tradition—as proof that he’s no sexist oppressor.

Let it all hang out. Let it seem bitchy, catty, dykey, Solanisesque, frustrated, crazy, nutty, frigid, ridiculous, bitter, embarrassing, man-hating, libelous, pure, unfair, envious, intuitive, low-down, stupid, petty, liberating. We are the women that men have warned us about.

And let’s put one lie to rest for all time: the lie that men are oppressed, too, by sexism—the lie that there can be such a thing as men’s liberation groups. Oppression is something that one group of people commits against another group specifically because of a threatening characteristic shared by the latter group—skin color or sex or age, etc. The oppressors are indeed fucked up by being masters (racism hurts whites, sexual stereotypes are harmful to men) but those masters are not oppressed. Any master has the alternative of divesting himself of sexism or racism; the oppressed have no alternative—for they have no power—but to fight. In the long run, Women’s Liberation will of course free men—but in the short term it’s going to cost men a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily. Sexism is not the fault of women—kill your fathers, not your mothers.

Run it down. Goodbye to a beautiful new ecology movement that could fight to save us all if it would stop tripping off women as earthmother types or frontier chicks, if it would right now cede leadership to those who have not polluted the planet because that action implies power and women haven’t had any power in about 5,000 years, cede leadership to those whose brains are as tough and clear as any man’s but whose bodies are also unavoidably aware of the locked-in relationship between humans and their biosphere—the earth, the tides, the atmosphere, the moon. Ecology is no big shtick if you’re a woman—it’s always been there.

Goodbye to the complicity inherent in the Berkeley Tribesmen being part publishers of Trashman Comics; goodbye, for that matter, to the reasoning that finds whoremaster Trashman a fitting model, however comic-strip far-out, for a revolutionary man—somehow related to the same Super-male reasoning that permits the first statement on Women’s Liberation and male chauvinism that came out of the Black Panther Party to be made by a man, talking a whole lot about how the sisters should speak up for themselves. Such ignorance and arrogance ill-befits a revolutionary.

We know how racism is worked deep into the unconscious by the System—the same way sexism is, as it appears in the very name of The Young Lords. What are you if you’re a macho woman—a female Lord? Or, god forbid, a Young Lady? Change it, change it to the Young Gentry if you must, or never assume that the name itself is innocent of pain, of oppression.

Theory and practice—and the light-years between them. Do it! says Jerry Rubin in Rat’s last issue—but he doesn’t or everyRat reader would have known the pictured face next to his article as well as they know his own much-photographed face: it was Nancy Kurshan, his woman, the power behind the clown.

Goodbye to the New Nation and Earth People’s Park for that matter, conceived by men, announced by men, led by men—doomed before birth by the rotting seeds of male supremacy transplanted into fresh soil. Was it my brother who listed human beings among the objects that would be easily available after the Revolution: Free grass, free food, free women, free acid, free clothes, etc.? Was it my brother who wrote Fuck your women till they can’t stand up and said that groupies were liberated chicks ‘cause they dug a tit-shake instead of a handshake? The epitome of male exclusionism—men will make the Revolution—and make their chicks. Not my brother. No. Not my revolution. Not one breath of my support for the new counterfeit Christ—John Sinclair. Just one less to worry about for ten years. I do not choose my enemy for my brother.

Goodbye, goodbye. To hell with the simplistic notion that automatic freedom for women—or nonwhite peoples—will come aboutzap! with the advent of a socialist revolution. Bullshit. Two evils pre-date capitalism and clearly have been able to survive and post-date socialism: sexism and racism. Women were the first property when the Primary Contradiction occurred: when one-half of the human species decided to subjugate the other half, because it was different, alien, the Other. From there it was an easy enough step to extend the concept of Other to someone of different skin shade, different height or weight or language—or strength to resist. Goodbye to those simple-minded optimistic dreams of socialist equality all our good socialist brothers want us to believe. How merely liberal a politics that is! How much further we will have to go to create those profound changes that would give birth to a genderless society. Profound, Sister. Beyond what is male or female. Beyond standards we all adhere to now without daring to examine them as male-created, male-dominated, male-fucked-up, and in male self-interest. Beyond all known standards, especially those easily articulated revolutionary ones we allrhetorically invoke. Beyond—to a species with a new name, that would not dare define itself as Man.

I once said, I’m a revolutionary, not just a woman, and knew my own lie even as I said the words. The pity of that statement’s eagerness to be acceptable to those whose revolutionary zeal no one would question, i.e., any male supremacist in the counterleft. But to become a true revolutionary one must first become one of the oppressed (not organize or educate or manipulate them, but become one of them)—or realize that you are one already. No woman wants that. Because that realization is humiliating, it hurts. It hurts to understand that at Woodstock or Altamont a woman could be declared uptight or a poor sport if she didn’t want to be raped. It hurts to learn that the sisters still in male-Left captivity are putting down the crazy feminists to make themselves look unthreatening to our mutual oppressors. It hurts to be pawns in those games. It hurts to try and change each day of your life right now—not in talk, not in your head, and not only conveniently out there in the Third World (half of which are women) or the black or brown communities (half of which are women) but in your own home, kitchen, bed. No getting away, no matter how else you are oppressed, from the primary oppression of being female in a patriarchal world. It hurts to hear that the sisters in the Gay Liberation Front, too, have to struggle continuously against the male chauvinism of their gay brothers. It hurts that Jane Alpert was cheered when rapping about imperialism, racism, the Third World, and All Those Safe Topics but hissed and booed by a movement crowd of men who wanted none of it when she began to talk about Women’s Liberation. The backlash is upon us.

They tell us the alternative is to hang in there and struggle, to confront male domination in the counterleft, to fight beside or behind or beneath our brothers—to show ‘em we’re just as tough, just as revolushunerry, just as whatever‐image‐they‐now‐want‐of‐us‐as‐once‐they‐wanted‐us‐to‐be‐feminine‐and‐keep‐up‐the‐home‐fire‐burning. They will bestow titular leadership on our grateful shoulders, whether it’s being a token woman on the Movement Speakers Bureau Advisory Board, or being aConspiracy groupie or one of the respectable chain-swinging Motor City Nine. Sisters all, with only one real alternative: to seize our own power into our own hands, all women, separate and together, and make the Revolution the way it must be made—no priorities this time, no suffering group told to wait until after.

It is the job of revolutionary feminists to build an ever stronger independent Women’s Liberation Movement, so that the sisters in counterleft captivity will have somewhere to turn, to use their power and rage and beauty and coolness in their own behalf for once, on their own terms, on their own issues, in their own style—whatever that may be. Not for us in Women’s Liberation to hassle them and confront them the way their men do, nor to blame them—or ourselves—for what any of us are: an oppressed people, but a people raising our consciousness toward something that is the other side of anger, something bright and smooth and cool, like action unlike anything yet contemplated or carried out. It is for us to survive (something the white male radical has the luxury of never really worrying about, what with all his options), to talk, to plan, to be patient, to welcome new fugitives from the counterfeit Left with no arrogance but only humility and delight, to push—to strike.

There is something every woman wears around her neck on a thin chain of fear—an amulet of madness. For each of us, there exists somewhere a moment of insult so intense that she will reach up and rip the amulet off, even if the chain tears the flesh of her neck. And the last protection from seeing the truth will be gone. Do you think, tugging furtively every day at the chain and going nicely insane as I am, that I can be concerned with the peurile squabbles of a counterfeit Left that laughs at my pain? Do you think such a concern is noticeable when set alongside the suffering of more than half the human species for the past 5,000 years—due to a whim of the other half? No, no, no, goodbye to all that.

Women are Something Else. This time, we’re going to kick out all the jams, and the boys will just have to hustle to keep up, or else drop out and openly join the power structure of which they are already the illegitimate sons. Any man who claims he is serious about wanting to divest himself of cock privilege should trip on this: all male leadership out of the Left is the only way; and it’s going to happen, whether through men stepping down or through women seizing the helm. It’s up to the brothers—after all, sexism is their concern, not ours; we’re too busy getting ourselves together to have to deal with their bigotry. So they’ll have to make up their own minds as to whether they will be divested of just cock privilege or—what the hell, why not say it, say it!—divested of cocks. How deep the fear of that loss must be, that it can be suppressed only by the building of empires and the waging of genocidal wars!

Goodbye, goodbye forever, counterfeit Left, counterleft, male-dominated cracked-glass mirror reflection of the Amerikan Nightmare. Women are the real Left. We are rising, powerful in our unclean bodies; bright glowing mad in our inferior brains; wild hair flying, wild eyes staring, wild voices keening; undaunted by blood we who hemorrhage every twenty-eight days; laughing at our own beauty we who have lost our sense of humor; mourning for all each precious one of us might have been in this one living time-place had she not been born a woman; stuffing fingers into our mouths to stop the screams of fear and hate and pity for men we have loved and love still; tears in our eyes and bitterness in our mouths for children we couldn’t have, or couldn’t not have, or didn’t want, or didn’t want yet, or wanted and had in this place and this time of horror. We are rising with a fury older and potentially greater than any force in history, and this time we will be free or no one will survive. Power to all the people or to none. All the way down, this time.

Free Kathleen Cleaver!
Free Kim Agnew!
Free Anita Hoffman!
Free Holly Krassner!
Free Bernardine Dohrn!
Free Lois Hart!
Free Donna Malone!
Free Alice Embree!
Free Ruth Ann Miller!
Free Nancy Kurshan!
Free Leni Sinclar!
Free Dinky Forman!
Free Jane Alpert!
Free Dinky Forman!
Free Gumbo!
Free Sharon Krebs!
Free Bonnie Cohen!
Free Iris Luciano!
Free Judy Lampe!
Free Robin Morgan!
Free Valerie Solanis!

Free our sisters!
Free ourselves!

—Robin Morgan (January 1970)

3 Responses to “Robin Morgan Essay, “Goodbye to All That””

  1. Aileen Wuornos December 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    This is fucking awesome! I can’t believe I’d never read it before, thank you so much for sharing it with the class 😉

    • lishra December 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

      Yeah, I hadn’t seen it before either. It’s amazing.

      Also, class, your essays on Valerie Solanas are due next week. If you wish, they may take the form of manifesto 🙂


  1. WE ARE THE 51% « Against All Evidence - October 15, 2011

    […] is, sadly, another occasion in which Robin Morgan’s words from 1970 are still far too relevant in the […]

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