Free Space: Consciousness Raising and CCLOW


The sharing of
revealed a very
powerful way to

CCLOW has just celebrated its 10th Anniversary as a national feminist organization which promotes the empowerment of women through education. What kind of education leads to empowerment? A "re-visit" to the origins and principles of consciousness raising groups, considered to be the foundation of the women's movement and of feminist pedagogy, can help us reflect on our purpose and our future.

Consciousness raising groups spread rapidly during the late sixties and into the seventies throughout North America, during the second wave of the feminist movement. The first groups of this second wave emerged from the activities of the New York Radical Women (1). These women had left the New Left movement because of the repressive activities of their male colleagues (2). They found that when men were present women's problems were not taken seriously and groups became stratified. Their experiences led them to create a space where women would feel free to break their silence rather than to have it continue.

The New York Women met regularly to plan for public actions and demonstrations. A major activity at these meetings was discussion of women's oppression, often using material from books and articles. At one particular meeting the discussion began, instead, with a member of the group telling her own story. What was different and powerful was how this woman related the abstract notion of oppression to her own experiences. This link to their personal lives and the sharing of common experiences revealed a very powerful way to understand women's oppression. There was much debate about how this would take place.

Rules on how to proceed were not established because it was feared they would lead to the formation of methodological experts. There was no one method of consciousness raising; the one important principle was to go to the sources, both historic and personal-to go to the women. Some groups, however, found that just letting things happen led to avoidance of certain topics because they were difficult or painful to discuss. Study plans were therefore organized as a way to cover certain areas (such as production, socialization, sexuality, and reproduction), to give structure to group meetings, and to encourage cross-group communication at monthly "collective" meetings.

Notre prise de conscience reconsidérée

Après le 10e anniversaire du CCPEF, il semble opportun de reconsidérer les origines et les principes de la prise de conscience féministe, procures d'apprentissage qui a donné du pouvoir a des milliers de femmes. Dans les groupes ou l'on cultive cette prise de conscience, groupes que l'on considère encore souvent comme représentant la vraie méthode féministe, les femmes sont parvenues en racontant leur histoire a comprendre a quel point les structures sociales en place sont opprimantes et a se rendre compte que l'ordre social devait changer. De là est né le principe féministe selon lequel notre idéologie et notre praxis devaient se fonder sur le vécu des femmes. Dans un climat politique et social en pleine mutation, nous sommes confrontées en tant que féministes et en tant qu'organisme féministe a de nouveaux défis de taille. Cette remise en question nous rappelle qu'il faut procéder a une analyse sérieuse avant d'agir, nous réserver des «espaces sûrs» où nous pouvons partager et analyser nos situations et édifier des coalitions solides avec d'autres féministes et groupes féministes pour discuter toutes ensemble de nos préoccupations et planifier des changements.

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