Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 23, 1972 · Page 84
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 84

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 23, 1972
Page 84
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Page 84 article text (OCR)

8G--July 23, 1972 Sunday Co*ttt*Mail -Chtrlwmv Wt»« Marriages Lose to 'Consciousness-Raising' (Following is a series of interviews with four women whose marriages have been affected by the Women's Liberation Movement. Tliree no longer are married; one is contemplating separation. (The women, all Washington-area residents of middle-class backgrounds, are of varying ages and came into marriage with expectations ranging from the very traditional (to be wife and m o t h e r e x c l u s i v e l y ) t o t h e more progressive--hope of independence and "liberation" within marriage. They all expressed the angry opinion that society had conditioned them to be afraid of independence, fear to take responsibility for themselves, and be dependent upon their relationship with a man for their real identity in life. They found they could not change that conditioning within their marriages--a realization they came to with the aid of the women's movement, they said. (Several other women were approached for interviews bat refused. They said they did not wish to link the women's movement publicly with the breakdown of some marriages. They said they believe some women feel threatened by the movement, and that such an article would reinforce that feeling. (In the following edited interviews, the women who cooperated speak candidly about the women's movement and its effect on their personal attitudes toward marriage and family.) By Aileen Jacobson PAM BURCHETTE (Pam Burchette works with the Washington area peace action coalition.) It wasn't the women's movement that broke up my marriage. It was the thinking I did, though I don't know if I could have done that thinking otherwise. The women's movement helped me to find what I wanted. It gave me a perspective to think out what I wanted. It gave me a political perspective for what I was- feeling personally. I had been married for five years. I was in school when We got married, then I was a computer specialist with the government. I didn't get into the women's movement until the march (on the anniversary of s u f f r a g e for w o m e n ) August two years ago. But before that, when I heard women's movement people talking on TV, I knew what they were talking about. I ·went to a fair at Reston (Va.)-- where we were living then--and found out about some classes in Women's Liberation. They were more meaningful to me than the League of Women Voters and the Girl S c o u t s , t h e o t h e r organizations I had been involved in. I had never been a radical. In fact, I voted SDS off campus at George Washington (University). But later I joined a consciousness-raising group and I got to know the women in the movement at GW. My views about society in general started changing. I was leaning toward being a Socialist, and my husband felt he had to play devil's advocate. We had some ideological fights, though t h e y m a y h a v e b e e n covering up some personal feelings. Then in December, a year and a half ago, we visited some friends in Princeton ( N . J . ) . T h e y h a d everything--fashionable clothes, fashionable dinners, a fashionable home. I was being rude and he told me in the car afterwards that he was tired of hearing my radical rhetoric. He dropped me off at my consciousness-raising group. When I came home, I woke him up and told him I was leaving him. I was fond of him and I didn't want things to get worse. I left, went to live with a friend, and I never came back. I was in the house maybe five minutes, I packed a skirt and blouse so I could go to work the next day. I told him I needed time to get away and think. My husband didn't call me. He has an incredibly healthy ego. We both cried for a little bit, but now there's no hostili- - ty. We've been separated 14 months now. He told me later it wasn't fair that I left without an explanation, but I think he understands now. I wrote him a couple of letters and we've talked. I was an only child, the center of attention. I had good feelings about myself, I felt successful, until I got married. My husband made me feel insecure. He was critical and I would cry and become upset. I had no confidence in myself, except at my job. I kept on feeling, if only I could find some missing element, I could enjoy cleaning house. But the whole thing is structured so that a woman loses her identity, so that she puts herself aside for another person. Men don't benefit either, but they don't lose so much. It was no problem for on the plane to his mother when I came back. While I was pregnant, I listened to a psychiatrist couple talk on equalitarian marriage at a FEW (Federally Employed Women) convention. It made me angry, because it was so far from what my husband believes. I pay the babysitter half of my pay, and he won't pay for anything for me or for her, not her food or her diaper service. I cook for myself and for the baby now, but not for him. I don't do anything for him any more, because I know he won't do anything for me. I have fears of independence. It's easier to stay, even when I'm miserable. Sometimes I think that I shouldn't stay, that it would be healthier to get out. But I'm still hoping that he will change, and he is trying. I started consciousness- raising in November and it's been really great. I wanted to start while I was on maternity leave but he wouldn't let me. Something always came up when I wanted to go. He felt threatened, I guess, but when I finally went, I'd gotten to the point where I didn't care. Consciousness-raising is helpful because you find other women who have the same problems and you don't have to start from scratch. When I first went into analysis, my husband patted me on the head--Yes, you're the sick one. Now he feels threatened my husband. He didn't need- by it because I changed. And to get his identity from our he feels the same about my Sale, Now Through September 16. Kirk Keep-It-Quiet Sale 20% OFF Plain and Fancy Serving Pieces in Re- pousse--Wadefield--Old Maryland Plain Kirk America's Oldest Silversmith JJnljn I. (Eonk Jeweler--Watchmaker 211 Hale Street Phone 342-5081 marriage. He got it from his job. I was completely conditioned. If cleaning or something had to be done, I did it. If I wanted him to do it, I would have to browbeat him, and it was easier to do it myself. I think my relations with women are stronger, deeper and more meaningful now. My relations with men are- probably healthier, too. But there is no man or woman I take my identity from. I get my identity from what I do, from my political work, not from who I sleep with or eat with or talk with. I'm living by myself now for the first time in my life. I'm 26. I really like it. My relationships with other people are important, but they aren't primary, the way it was in my marriage. It never was primary for my husband. SANDRA GOLD ("Sandra Gold"--not her real name--is still living with her husband but has b e e n c o n t e m p l a t i n g a s e p a r a t i o n . She is a management intern with a government agency.) I've been married four years and have a baby girl who is 19 months old. Two years ago, I went to a psychiatrist who told me to stand up to my husband. He was being unreasonable and I rebelled. The women's movement gave me encouragement to stand up to my husband. He wanted his way, he wanted me to do everything for him, even to cook him hot snacks at night and to take care of the insurance and seeing that the car got repaired. The psychiatrist told me that if I don't do what I don't want to do, the other person will. But he won't. He even wants me to take responsibility for the separation. Once I left the baby with him for two hours, while I went to a meeting, and he was consciousness-raising. For women with no a w a r e n e s s , I w o u l d n ' t recommend consciousness- raising. It's so painful, though supposedly you grow with the pain. Maybe it's better that they remain neurotically happy. My sister, for instance, is traditionally married and happy. She feels her husband comes first and she's not doing a lot of things because of him. She quit work because her husband wanted her to. But I hesitate to talk to her, because I don't want to bring unhappiness on her. She knows about my opposition to my husband. I know women who are happily married and are working with their husbands slowly, with patience and tact, to get them to change. They're willing to settle for less than perfect. That's all right if you feel you're getting a lot out of the marriage. I envy those women, I was looking for security. I was looking for a guy to settle down with. I don't look forward to living alone. It's good t h a t I'm w o r k i n g , because my daughter needs a mother who can let go and who can set an example with a happy, independent life. I can't see getting married again. There are so few men who are equalitarian and now I can't accept less. The more r e a d i n g I d o a b o u t equalitarianism and about open marriage and the ideal, the angrier I get and the harder it gets to accept anything less. That's what the movement does. MYRTLE SYDENSTRICKER Myrtle Sydenstricker works at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and is national secretary of Federally Employed Women. Her hus- b a n d is a c o m p u t e r Lef the be your Host... Your reception is very special at the Daniel Boone. Every member of our staff knows this is the most important day of your life. Before you make any decision on the site of the wedding reception, we in-" vite you to see our facilities; let us assist you in some of the million and one details you will have to think about. Let us design a wedding reception never held in the Charleston Area "Let's Be Different"! We know we Can please you! Yours very tordiallf, CATERING MANAGER MRS. SHIRLEY LEVENSON let Us Plan Your -- · CONVENTION · RECEPTION · BANQUET · SHOWER · WEDDING REHEARSAL DINNER · WEDDING · WEDDING DINNERS · PARTIES Charleston's Most Distinctive M Hotel Washington and Capitol Streets (Phone 304-343-6131) programmer.. They have Bo children. My husband was always extremely dependent on me. We were married in 1948 and I was unhappy from the very beginning. But I couldn't ad- mi t it. There was no divorced woman in my family and I felt that 90 per cent of the happiness in a family was the wife's duty. I had my excuses. I didn't know what else to do. There were no alternatives in society. I was an innocent trying to work it out alone. At the peak of my internal e m o t i o n s a b o u t m y marriage, I was facing sex discrimination at work. I had got to the point where I was an uppity female, a threat to my boss. I had such tremendous defenses, it had to be those two things--the family and the job--coming together to knock me off my balance. I had been working for two years on my own on the effects of lowlevel radiation on the human body, and I wanted to attend a seminar at the University of Virginia. This was in 1969. But my supervisor wouldn't let me. He sent men who had no ' expertise in the field, and I had to meet with them afterwards to tell them what they had heard, meant. And on top of it, that was after a two-year stretch without a promotion. Then I went to a seminar for executive women. After three days, I realized that there was nothing queer about me, that I wasn't s . . ., that I was a human being. I came back, and challenged my supervisor. I spoke with an Equal Employment Opportunity officer and he took me to meet some other women. It ended in our founding the Women's Action Program at 'HEW. I heard of federally employed women than and joined the same month. It was incredible to me that women could get together and address themselves to ·the problems of women. Since then, I've joined National Organization for Women and attended some meetings of the Washington feminists. It's important to me to work with women who are struggling with the same things I am, trying to work it out. In the beginning of '69, that same year, my husband and I agreed that we had problems in our marriage. He said he had far more to lose if we separated because I was the support, the caretaker of all things. I made the social arrangements and kept the home together. I was really all these years holding up an institution. I didn't have myself enough together at the time to do anything. I'm in a consciousness- raising group now, since November, and I want us to talk about the topic, "Can I care about me?" We women are brought up to rely on a man for our emotional fulfillment. That is supposed to mean everything to a woman. AH the women in my group could work or have worked, but they are afraid to be responsible for themselves. For a year, I had been coming and going as I ple- lased in my home, not telling him where I was going, but then in February I couldn't stay anymore. I didn't want to see about the laundry or cook food for him or keep the house clean any more, though he hadn't been bad about sharing chores. Up until a year ago, we had been "the perfect couple," warm and loving and careful with each other. But it was a game we were playing, the ideal roles because we both wanted a warm, expressive marriage. But my bitchiness grew, and he withdrew and didn't want to confront the issues. He had me as an ideal way to act and. when I didn't act like that, it caused problems. I was supposed to be intelligent but not too intelligent. I had to be entertaining, but he didn't want friends around. I was supposed to be there only when he wanted to talk, not when he was reading. It was a strain for me to live up to the ideal. We became so tense with each other that it came to the point where we literally weren't talking to each other. If I had stood up before, my marriage might have been better, it might have worked) out. My husband has grown, he's opened up, but not to the degree that I desire. I feel it is better for him to go his own way and for me not to feel that I am dragging him along. I'm 50 now. 1 don't think I would get married again. My standards are high. I would want someone who thinks that cooking and cleaning are just as much his iob as mine. For all the pain, I believe that it's better to go through it earlier. My life has been such a waste, covering up, not expressing myself. I don't say this to younger women who are in the same position but it's better for them to do it now. ROBERTA GREENE Roberta Greene is a social worker with the Board of Education. She has three children, ages 11,12 and 13. For almost a year now, she has been handling a "Crisis Phone" in Washington for the National Organization for Women. She is preparing a book to be entitled "Till Divorce Do You Part.") When I was getting my divorce, my lawyer considered everything I got as a big prize, as something undeserved. But a housewife works 90-something hours a week, only no one considers that work. Marriage is for many women such a depending relationship. Women feel guilty about buying anything for themselves, they are so grateful when their husbands "buy them" a coat. They consider the money t h e i r husband's, as my lawyer did. But I used the argument that the work in the home is work, too, and I think it's certainly a viable one. The consciousness-raising group I joined helped me to .put my thoughts together. It helped me to realize how insidious, how pervasive the situation is. Most women ;1ust don't come to that point 'while they're inside the marriage. Most of a woman's benefits in a divorce are for the children, not for herself. If I d i d n ' t have c h i l d r e n , I wouldn't have the house and furniture. But I don't even want the house and the fur- n i t u r e . T h e y ' r e e n cumbrances. I want to move to California but I'm stuck. I'm held here by a lot of junk. People don't know the divorce laws so they're forced to go to a lawyer. Many women are a f r a i d to go because they don't know how lawyers work. They don't know about the $30 consultation fee, they don't know if it's a commitment, they don't know if they should go to a lawyer, a psychiatrist or a marriage counselor. Both the calls and my book grew out of my own ignorance a b o u t d i v o r c e a n d m y awareness that I was not isolated. 1 try to tell women how to get out of dreadful situations--to gather evidence of beatings or bruises, to change the locks if he walks out, not to leave herself in most cases, because she can be charged with desertion and how to negotiate an equitable agreement. Women don't come out better in a divorce. Brides of all ages you mill Fall in loue with our store--expensive looking furniture'at inexpensive prices-\Just the thing all brides are shopping for. FURNITURE The Store For Young of all ages 225 7th »VE_ South Clurfestoi 19* REMOTE CONTROL COMPACT SPACE COMMAND* 500 REMOTE CONTROL Tune-TV from across the room- with silent sound. No wires! No cords! No batteries! 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