Feminist Manifestos

dialectic of sexThe manifesto has been an important genre for feminist writers because the form enables women’s voices to be heard at their most provocative, independent, irreverent, and demanding. Feminist manifestos are often short and pointed declarations of identity and politics that use radical rhetoric to upend the status quo of gender and sex. Whether they take the form of letters, brochures, pamphlets, or even full-length books, feminist manifestos try to change reality by using the power of words to resist male domination and to envision women’s liberation.

Not surprisingly, given the flexible form of the manifesto, a long history of such programmatic, revolutionary feminist discourse exists. From Mary Wollstonecraft’s (1792) treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, to Mina Loy’s 1914 “Feminist Manifesto,” women have rearticulated their relationship to men and to power. From the 1970 Black Woman’s Manifesto by the Third World Women’s Alliance to the Radical lesbians’ formulation of “The Woman Identified Woman,” and Carol Hanisch’s “The Personal is Political” in that same year, women have drawn on their intersectional experiences of race and sexuality to imagine gender otherwise.

scumFrom Donna Haraway’s 1985 “Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” to Roxane Gay’s irreverent 2014 book, Bad Feminist: Essays, women have complicated their alliances with nature, culture, and each other. The 1960s and ‘70s witnessed the creation of some the most iconic feminist manifestos, thanks to renewed global and local women’s liberation movements.

Seminal works from this era include Valerie Solanas’s 1967 SCUM Manifesto, which advocates (perhaps satirically, perhaps not) for the elimination of the male sex; “Redstockings Manifesto” (1969) bythe Redstockings Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970), which offers a feminist theory of politics that critiques and revises Freud and Marx; and the Combahee River Collective Statement of 1978, which theorizes the identity politics of Black feminism. The 1991 “Riot Grrrl Manifesto” offers an example of the feminist art manifesto, a subgenre that highlights women’s creative capacities within the politics of cultural production.

Watch:  “Grrrl Love and Revolution:  Riot Grrrl NYC”  (Women Make Movies, 2012)

Read: 

Jill Johnston, Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution (1973) by

Janey Lyon, Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern (1999)

Larry Mitchell and Ned Asta, The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions (1991) by

Feminist Art Manifestos and Feminist Manifestos,” n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal

Looking for Lyotard, Beyond the Genre of Feminist Manifestos

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