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  12. <title>The Tyranny of Stuctureless (archive) — David Larlet</title>
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  56. <article>
  57. <header>
  58. <h1>The Tyranny of Stuctureless</h1>
  59. </header>
  60. <nav>
  61. <p class="center">
  62. <a href="/david/" title="Aller à l’accueil">🏠</a> •
  63. <a href="https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm" title="Lien vers le contenu original">Source originale</a>
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  66. <hr>
  67. <main>
  68. <p><em>The
  69. earliest version of this article was given as a talk at a conference
  70. called by the Southern Female Rights Union, held in Beulah, Mississippi
  71. in May 1970. It was written up for <u>Notes from the Third Year</u> (1971),
  72. but the editors did not use it. It was then submitted to several movement
  73. publications, but only one asked permission to publish it; others did
  74. so without permission. The first official place of publication was
  75. in Vol. 2, No. 1 of <u>The Second Wave</u> (1972). This early version
  76. in movement publications was authored by Joreen. Different versions
  77. were published in the <u>Berkeley Journal of Sociology</u>, Vol. 17,
  78. 1972-73, pp. 151-165, and <u>Ms.</u> magazine, July 1973, pp. 76-78,
  79. 86-89, authored by Jo Freeman. This piece spread all over the world.
  80. Numerous people have edited, reprinted, cut, and translated “Tyranny” for
  81. magazines, books and web sites, usually without the permission or knowledge
  82. of the author. The version below is a blend of the three cited here.
  83. </em></p>
  84. <hr>
  85. <p>During
  86. the years in which the women’s liberation movement has been taking shape,
  87. a great emphasis has been placed on what are called leaderless, structureless
  88. groups as the main -- if not sole -- organizational form of the movement.
  89. The source of this idea was a natural reaction against the over-structured
  90. society in which most of us found ourselves, and the inevitable control
  91. this gave others over our lives, and the continual elitism of the Left
  92. and similar groups among those who were supposedly fighting this overstructuredness.
  93. </p>
  94. <p>The
  95. idea of “structurelessness,” however, has moved from a healthy
  96. counter to those tendencies to becoming a goddess in its own right. The
  97. idea is as little examined as the term is much used, but it has become
  98. an intrinsic and unquestioned part of women’s liberation ideology. For
  99. the early development of the movement this did not much matter. It early
  100. defined its main goal, and its main method, as consciousness-raising,
  101. and the “structureless” rap group was an excellent means to
  102. this end. The looseness and informality of it encouraged participation
  103. in discussion, and its often supportive atmosphere elicited personal insight.
  104. If nothing more concrete than personal insight ever resulted from these
  105. groups, that did not much matter, because their purpose did not really
  106. extend beyond this.
  107. </p>
  108. <p>The
  109. basic problems didn’t appear until individual rap groups exhausted
  110. the virtues of consciousness-raising and decided they wanted to do
  111. something more specific. At this point they usually foundered because
  112. most groups were unwilling to change their structure when they changed
  113. their tasks. Women had thoroughly accepted the idea of “structurelessness” without
  114. realizing the limitations of its uses. People would try to use the “structureless” group
  115. and the informal conference for purposes for which they were unsuitable
  116. out of a blind belief that no other means could possibly be anything
  117. but oppressive.
  118. </p>
  119. <p>If
  120. the movement is to grow beyond these elementary stages of development,
  121. it will have to disabuse itself of some of its prejudices about organization
  122. and structure. There is nothing inherently bad about either of these.
  123. They can be and often are misused, but to reject them out of hand because
  124. they are misused is to deny ourselves the necessary tools to further
  125. development. We need to understand why “structurelessness” does
  126. not work.</p>
  128. <p>Contrary
  129. to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless
  130. group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for
  131. any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in
  132. some fashion. The structure may be flexible; it may vary over time; it
  133. may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over the
  134. members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities,
  135. personalities, or intentions of the people involved. The very fact that
  136. we are individuals, with different talents, predispositions, and backgrounds
  137. makes this inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on any
  138. basis whatsoever could we approximate structurelessness -- and that is
  139. not the nature of a human group.
  140. </p>
  141. <p>This
  142. means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive,
  143. as to aim at an “objective” news story, “value-free”
  144. social science, or a “free” economy. A “laissez faire”
  145. group is about as realistic as a “laissez faire” society; the
  146. idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned
  147. hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because
  148. the idea of “structurelessness” does not prevent the formation
  149. of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly “laissez faire”
  150. philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing
  151. control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented
  152. the government from doing so. Thus structurelessness becomes a way of
  153. masking power, and within the women’s movement is usually most strongly
  154. advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious
  155. of their power or not). As long as the structure of the group is informal,
  156. the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness
  157. of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know
  158. the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion,
  159. or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which
  160. they are not quite aware.
  161. </p>
  162. <p>For
  163. everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and
  164. to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not
  165. implicit. The rules of decision-making must be open and available to
  166. everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized. This is
  167. not to say that formalization of a structure of a group will destroy
  168. the informal structure. It usually doesn’t. But it does hinder the
  169. informal structure from having predominant control and make available
  170. some means of attacking it if the people involved are not at least
  171. responsible to the needs of the group at large. “Structurelessness” is
  172. organizationally impossible. We cannot decide whether to have a structured
  173. or structureless group, only whether or not to have a formally structured
  174. one. Therefore the word will not be used any longer except to refer
  175. to the idea it represents. Unstructured will refer to those groups
  176. which have not been deliberately structured in a particular manner.
  177. Structured will refer to those which have. A Structured group always
  178. has formal structure, and may also have an informal, or covert, structure.
  179. It is this informal structure, particularly in Unstructured groups,
  180. which forms the basis for elites.</p>
  181. <h2>THE NATURE OF ELITISM</h2>
  182. <p>“Elitist”
  183. is probably the most abused word in the women’s liberation movement. It
  184. is used as frequently, and for the same reasons, as “pinko”
  185. was used in the fifties. It is rarely used correctly. Within the movement
  186. it commonly refers to individuals, though the personal characteristics
  187. and activities of those to whom it is directed may differ widely: An individual,
  188. as an individual can never be an elitist, because the only proper application
  189. of the term “elite” is to groups. Any individual, regardless
  190. of how well-known that person may be, can never be an elite.
  191. </p>
  192. <p>Correctly,
  193. an elite refers to a small group of people who have power over a larger
  194. group of which they are part, usually without direct responsibility to
  195. that larger group, and often without their knowledge or consent. A person
  196. becomes an elitist by being part of, or advocating the rule by, such a
  197. small group, whether or not that individual is well known or not known
  198. at all. Notoriety is not a definition of an elitist. The most insidious
  199. elites are usually run by people not known to the larger public at all.
  200. Intelligent elitists are usually smart enough not to allow themselves
  201. to become well known; when they become known, they are watched, and the
  202. mask over their power is no longer firmly lodged.
  203. </p>
  204. <p>Elites
  205. are not conspiracies. Very seldom does a small group of people get together
  206. and deliberately try to take over a larger group for its own ends. Elites
  207. are nothing more, and nothing less, than groups of friends who also happen
  208. to participate in the same political activities. They would probably maintain
  209. their friendship whether or not they were involved in political activities;
  210. they would probably be involved in political activities whether or not
  211. they maintained their friendships. It is the coincidence of these two
  212. phenomena which creates elites in any group and makes them so difficult
  213. to break.
  214. </p>
  215. <p>These
  216. friendship groups function as networks of communication outside any regular
  217. channels for such communication that may have been set up by a group.
  218. If no channels are set up, they function as the only networks of communication.
  219. Because people are friends, because they usually share the same values
  220. and orientations, because they talk to each other socially and consult
  221. with each other when common decisions have to be made, the people involved
  222. in these networks have more power in the group than those who don’t. And
  223. it is a rare group that does not establish some informal networks of communication
  224. through the friends that are made in it.
  225. </p>
  226. <p>Some
  227. groups, depending on their size, may have more than one such informal
  228. communications network. Networks may even overlap. When only one such
  229. network exists, it is the elite of an otherwise Unstructured group, whether
  230. the participants in it want to be elitists or not. If it is the only such
  231. network in a Structured group it may or may not be an elite depending
  232. on its composition and the nature of the formal Structure. If there are
  233. two or more such networks of friends, they may compete for power within
  234. the group, thus forming factions, or one may deliberately opt out of the
  235. competition, leaving the other as the elite. In a Structured group, two
  236. or more such friendship networks usually compete with each other for formal
  237. power. This is often the healthiest situation, as the other members are
  238. in a position to arbitrate between the two competitors for power and thus
  239. to make demands on those to whom they give their temporary allegiance.
  240. </p>
  241. <p>The
  242. inevitably elitist and exclusive nature of informal communication networks
  243. of friends is neither a new phenomenon characteristic of the women’s movement
  244. nor a phenomenon new to women. Such informal relationships have excluded
  245. women for centuries from participating in integrated groups of which they
  246. were a part. In any profession or organization these networks have created
  247. the “locker room” mentality and the “old school” ties
  248. which have effectively prevented women as a group (as well as some men
  249. individually) from having equal access to the sources of power or social
  250. reward. Much of the energy of past women’s movements has been directed
  251. to having the structures of decision-making and the selection processes
  252. formalized so that the exclusion of women could be confronted directly.
  253. As we well know, these efforts have not prevented the informal male-only
  254. networks from discriminating against women, but they have made it more
  255. difficult.
  256. </p>
  257. <p>Because
  258. elites are informal does not mean they are invisible. At any small group
  259. meeting anyone with a sharp eye and an acute ear can tell who is influencing
  260. whom. The members of a friendship group will relate more to each other
  261. than to other people. They listen more attentively, and interrupt less;
  262. they repeat each other’s points and give in amiably; they tend to ignore
  263. or grapple with the “outs” whose approval is not necessary for
  264. making a decision. But it is necessary for the “outs” to stay
  265. on good terms with the “ins.” Of course the lines are not as
  266. sharp as I have drawn them. They are nuances of interaction, not prewritten
  267. scripts. But they are discernible, and they do have their effect. Once
  268. one knows with whom it is important to check before a decision is made,
  269. and whose approval is the stamp of acceptance, one knows who is running
  270. things.
  271. </p>
  272. <p>Since
  273. movement groups have made no concrete decisions about who shall exercise
  274. power within them, many different criteria are used around the country.
  275. Most criteria are along the lines of traditional female characteristics.
  276. For instance, in the early days of the movement, marriage was usually
  277. a prerequisite for participation in the informal elite. As women have
  278. been traditionally taught, married women relate primarily to each other,
  279. and look upon single women as too threatening to have as close friends.
  280. In many cities, this criterion was further refined to include only those
  281. women married to New Left men. This standard had more than tradition behind
  282. it, however, because New Left men often had access to resources needed
  283. by the movement -- such as mailing lists, printing presses, contacts,
  284. and information -- and women were used to getting what they needed through
  285. men rather than independently. As the movement has charged through time,
  286. marriage has become a less universal criterion for effective participation,
  287. but all informal elites establish standards by which only women who possess
  288. certain material or personal characteristics may join. They frequently
  289. include: middle-class background (despite all the rhetoric about relating
  290. to the working class); being married; not being married but living with
  291. someone; being or pretending to be a lesbian; being between the ages of
  292. twenty and thirty; being college educated or at least having some college
  293. background; being “hip”; not being too “hip”; holding
  294. a certain political line or identification as a “radical”; having
  295. children or at least liking them; not having children; having certain
  296. “feminine” personality characteristics such as being “nice”;
  297. dressing right (whether in the traditional style or the antitraditional
  298. style); etc. There are also some characteristics which will almost always
  299. tag one as a “deviant” who should not be related to. They include:
  300. being too old; working full time, particularly if one is actively committed
  301. to a “career”; not being “nice”; and being avowedly
  302. single (i.e., neither actively heterosexual nor homosexual).
  303. </p>
  304. <p>Other
  305. criteria could be included, but they all have common themes. The characteristics
  306. prerequisite for participating in the informal elites of the movement,
  307. and thus for exercising power, concern one’s background, personality,
  308. or allocation of time. They do not include one’s competence, dedication
  309. to feminism, talents, or potential contribution to the movement. The former
  310. are the criteria one usually uses in determining one’s friends. The latter
  311. are what any movement or organization has to use if it is going to be
  312. politically effective.
  313. </p>
  314. <p>The
  315. criteria of participation may differ from group to group, but the means
  316. of becoming a member of the informal elite if one meets those criteria
  317. are pretty much the same. The only main difference depends on whether
  318. one is in a group from the beginning, or joins it after it has begun.
  319. If involved from the beginning it is important to have as many of one’s
  320. personal friends as possible also join. If no one knows anyone else very
  321. well, then one must deliberately form friendships with a select number
  322. and establish the informal interaction patterns crucial to the creation
  323. of an informal structure. Once the informal patterns are formed they act
  324. to maintain themselves, and one of the most successful tactics of maintenance
  325. is to continuously recruit new people who “fit in.” One joins
  326. such an elite much the same way one pledges a sorority. If perceived as
  327. a potential addition, one is “rushed” by the members of the
  328. informal structure and eventually either dropped or initiated. If the
  329. sorority is not politically aware enough to actively engage in this process
  330. itself it can be started by the outsider pretty much the same way one
  331. joins any private club. Find a sponsor, i.e., pick some member of the
  332. elite who appears to be well respected within it, and actively cultivate
  333. that person’s friendship. Eventually, she will most likely bring you into
  334. the inner circle.
  335. </p>
  336. <p>All
  337. of these procedures take time. So if one works full time or has a similar
  338. major commitment, it is usually impossible to join simply because there
  339. are not enough hours left to go to all the meetings and cultivate the
  340. personal relationship necessary to have a voice in the decision-making.
  341. That is why formal structures of decision making are a boon to the
  342. overworked person. Having an established process for decision-making
  343. ensures that everyone can participate in it to some extent.
  344. </p>
  345. <p>Although
  346. this dissection of the process of elite formation within small groups
  347. has been critical in perspective, it is not made in the belief that
  348. these informal structures are inevitably bad -- merely inevitable.
  349. All groups create informal structures as a result of interaction patterns
  350. among the members of the group. Such informal structures can do very
  351. useful things But only Unstructured groups are totally governed by
  352. them. When informal elites are combined with a myth of “structurelessness,” there
  353. can be no attempt to put limits on the use of power. It becomes capricious.
  354. </p>
  355. <p>This
  356. has two potentially negative consequences of which we should be aware.
  357. The first is that the informal structure of decision-making will be
  358. much like a sorority -- one in which people listen to others because
  359. they like them and not because they say significant things. As long
  360. as the movement does not do significant things this does not much matter.
  361. But if its development is not to be arrested at this preliminary stage,
  362. it will have to alter this trend. The second is that informal structures
  363. have no obligation to be responsible to the group at large. Their power
  364. was not given to them; it cannot be taken away. Their influence is
  365. not based on what they do for the group; therefore they cannot be directly
  366. influenced by the group. This does not necessarily make informal structures
  367. irresponsible. Those who are concerned with maintaining their influence
  368. will usually try to be responsible. The group simply cannot compel
  369. such responsibility; it is dependent on the interests of the elite.</p>
  370. <h2>THE “STAR” SYSTEM</h2>
  371. <p>The
  372. idea of “structurelessness” has created the “star”
  373. system. We live in a society which expects political groups to make decisions
  374. and to select people to articulate those decisions to the public at large.
  375. The press and the public do not know how to listen seriously to individual
  376. women as women; they want to know how the group feels. Only three techniques
  377. have ever been developed for establishing mass group opinion: the vote
  378. or referendum, the public opinion survey questionnaire, and the selection
  379. of group spokespeople at an appropriate meeting. The women’s liberation
  380. movement has used none of these to communicate with the public. Neither
  381. the movement as a whole nor most of the multitudinous groups within it
  382. have established a means of explaining their position on various issues.
  383. But the public is conditioned to look for spokespeople.
  384. </p>
  385. <p>While
  386. it has consciously not chosen spokespeople, the movement has thrown up
  387. many women who have caught the public eye for varying reasons. These women
  388. represent no particular group or established opinion; they know this and
  389. usually say so. But because there are no official spokespeople nor any
  390. decision-making body that the press can query when it wants to know the
  391. movement’s position on a subject, these women are perceived as the spokespeople.
  392. Thus, whether they want to or not, whether the movement likes it or not,
  393. women of public note are put in the role of spokespeople by default.
  394. </p>
  395. <p>This
  396. is one main source of the ire that is often felt toward the women who
  397. are labeled “stars.” Because they were not selected by the women
  398. in the movement to represent the movement’s views, they are resented when
  399. the press presumes that they speak for the movement. But as long as the
  400. movement does not select its own spokeswomen, such women will be placed
  401. in that role by the press and the public, regardless of their own desires.
  402. </p>
  403. <p>This
  404. has several negative consequences for both the movement and the women
  405. labeled “stars.” First, because the movement didn’t put them
  406. in the role of spokesperson, the movement cannot remove them. The press
  407. put them there and only the press can choose not to listen. The press
  408. will continue to look to “stars” as spokeswomen as long as it
  409. has no official alternatives to go to for authoritative statements from
  410. the movement. The movement has no control in the selection of its representatives
  411. to the public as long as it believes that it should have no representatives
  412. at all. Second, women put in this position often find themselves viciously
  413. attacked by their sisters. This achieves nothing for the movement and
  414. is painfully destructive to the individuals involved. Such attacks only
  415. result in either the woman leaving the movement entirely-often bitterly
  416. alienated -- or in her ceasing to feel responsible to her “sisters.”
  417. She may maintain some loyalty to the movement, vaguely defined, but she
  418. is no longer susceptible to pressures from other women in it. One cannot
  419. feel responsible to people who have been the source of such pain without
  420. being a masochist, and these women are usually too strong to bow to that
  421. kind of personal pressure. Thus the backlash to the “star” system
  422. in effect encourages the very kind of individualistic nonresponsibility
  423. that the movement condemns. By purging a sister as a “star,”
  424. the movement loses whatever control it may have had over the person who
  425. then becomes free to commit all of the individualistic sins of which she
  426. has been accused.</p>
  428. <p>Unstructured
  429. groups may be very effective in getting women to talk about their lives;
  430. they aren’t very good for getting things done. It is when people get tired
  431. of “just talking” and want to do something more that the groups
  432. flounder, unless they change the nature of their operation. Occasionally,
  433. the developed informal structure of the group coincides with an available
  434. need that the group can fill in such a way as to give the appearance that
  435. an Unstructured group “works.” That is, the group has fortuitously
  436. developed precisely the kind of structure best suited for engaging in
  437. a particular project.
  438. </p>
  439. <p>While working in this kind of group is a very heady experience, it is also rare
  440. and very hard to replicate. There are almost inevitably four conditions
  441. found in such a group:
  442. </p>
  443. <ol>
  444. <li><em> It is task oriented</em>. Its function is very narrow and very specific,
  445. like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task
  446. that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to
  447. be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people
  448. can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.
  449. </li>
  450. <li><em>It is relatively small and homogeneous</em>. Homogeneity is necessary
  451. to insure that participants have a “common language” for interaction.
  452. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising
  453. group where each can learn from the others’ experience, but too great
  454. a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they
  455. continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words
  456. and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other’s
  457. behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone
  458. knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be
  459. accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent
  460. straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.
  461. </li>
  462. <li><em>There is a high degree of communication</em>. Information must be passed
  463. on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured
  464. in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small
  465. and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the
  466. task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve
  467. everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This
  468. inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from
  469. some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15,
  470. but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which
  471. perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each
  472. other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can
  473. be passed around easily.
  474. </li>
  475. <li><em>There is a low degree of skill specialization</em>. Not everyone has
  476. to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by
  477. more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent,
  478. people become interchangeable parts.
  479. </li>
  480. </ol>
  481. <p>While
  482. these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not
  483. possible in large ones. Consequently, because the larger movement in most
  484. cities is as unstructured as individual rap groups, it is not too much
  485. more effective than the separate groups at specific tasks. The informal
  486. structure is rarely together enough or in touch enough with the people
  487. to be able to operate effectively. So the movement generates much motion
  488. and few results. Unfortunately, the consequences of all this motion are
  489. not as innocuous as the results’ and their victim is the movement itself.
  490. </p>
  491. <p>Some
  492. groups have formed themselves into local action projects if they do not
  493. involve many people and work on a small scale. But this form restricts
  494. movement activity to the local level; it cannot be done on the regional
  495. or national. Also, to function well the groups must usually pare themselves
  496. down to that informal group of friends who were running things in the
  497. first place. This excludes many women from participating. As long as the
  498. only way women can participate in the movement is through membership in
  499. a small group, the nongregarious are at a distinct disadvantage. As long
  500. as friendship groups are the main means of organizational activity, elitism
  501. becomes institutionalized.
  502. </p>
  503. <p>For
  504. those groups which cannot find a local project to which to devote themselves,
  505. the mere act of staying together becomes the reason for their staying
  506. together. When a group has no specific task (and consciousness raising
  507. is a task), the people in it turn their energies to controlling others
  508. in the group. This is not done so much out of a malicious desire to manipulate
  509. others (though sometimes it is) as out of a lack of anything better to
  510. do with their talents. Able people with time on their hands and a need
  511. to justify their coming together put their efforts into personal control,
  512. and spend their time criticizing the personalities of the other members
  513. in the group. Infighting and personal power games rule the day. When a
  514. group is involved in a task, people learn to get along with others as
  515. they are and to subsume personal dislikes for the sake of the larger goal.
  516. There are limits placed on the compulsion to remold every person in our
  517. image of what they should be.
  518. </p>
  519. <p>The
  520. end of consciousness-raising leaves people with no place to go, and
  521. the lack of structure leaves them with no way of getting there. The
  522. women the movement either turn in on themselves and their sisters or
  523. seek other alternatives of action. There are few that are available.
  524. Some women just “do their own thing.” This can lead to a
  525. great deal of individual creativity, much of which is useful for the
  526. movement, but it is not a viable alternative for most women and certainly
  527. does not foster a spirit of cooperative group effort. Other women drift
  528. out of the movement entirely because they don’t want to develop an
  529. individual project and they have found no way of discovering, joining,
  530. or starting group projects that interest them.
  531. </p>
  532. <p>Many
  533. turn to other political organizations to give them the kind of structured,
  534. effective activity that they have not been able to find in the women’s
  535. movement. Those political organizations which see women’s liberation
  536. as only one of many issues to which women should devote their time
  537. thus find the movement a vast recruiting ground for new members. There
  538. is no need for such organizations to “infiltrate” (though
  539. this is not precluded). The desire for meaningful political activity
  540. generated in women by their becoming part of the women’s liberation
  541. movement is sufficient to make them eager to join other organizations
  542. when the movement itself provides no outlets for their new ideas and
  543. energies. Those women who join other political organizations while
  544. remaining within the women’s liberation movement, or who join women’s
  545. liberation while remaining in other political organizations, in turn
  546. become the framework for new informal structures. These friendship
  547. networks are based upon their common nonfeminist politics rather than
  548. the characteristics discussed earlier, but operate in much the same
  549. way. Because these women share common values, ideas, and political
  550. orientations, they too become informal, unplanned, unselected, unresponsible
  551. elites -- whether they intend to be so or not.
  552. </p>
  553. <p>These
  554. new informal elites are often perceived as threats by the old informal
  555. elites previously developed within different movement groups. This
  556. is a correct perception. Such politically oriented networks are rarely
  557. willing to be merely “sororities” as many of the old ones
  558. were, and want to proselytize their political as well as their feminist
  559. ideas. This is only natural, but its implications for women’s liberation
  560. have never been adequately discussed. The old elites are rarely willing
  561. to bring such differences of opinion out into the open because it would
  562. involve exposing the nature of the informal structure of the group.
  563. </p>
  564. <p>Many
  565. of these informal elites have been hiding under the banner of “anti-elitism” and “structurelessness.” To
  566. effectively counter the competition from another informal structure,
  567. they would have to become “public,” and this possibility
  568. is fraught with many dangerous implications. Thus, to maintain its
  569. own power, it is easier to rationalize the exclusion of the members
  570. of the other informal structure by such means as “red-baiting,” “reformist-baiting,” “lesbian-baiting,” or “straight-baiting.” The
  571. only other alternative is to formally structure the group in such a
  572. way that the original power structure is institutionalized. This is
  573. not always possible. If the informal elites have been well structured
  574. and have exercised a fair amount of power in the past, such a task
  575. is feasible. These groups have a history of being somewhat politically
  576. effective in the past, as the tightness of the informal structure has
  577. proven an adequate substitute for a formal structure. Becoming Structured
  578. does not alter their operation much, though the institutionalization
  579. of the power structure does open it to formal challenge. It is those
  580. groups which are in greatest need of structure that are often least
  581. capable of creating it. Their informal structures have not been too
  582. well formed and adherence to the ideology of “structurelessness” makes
  583. them reluctant to change tactics. The more Unstructured a group is,
  584. the more lacking it is in informal structures, and the more it adheres
  585. to an ideology of “structurelessness,” the more vulnerable
  586. it is to being taken over by a group of political comrades.
  587. </p>
  588. <p>Since
  589. the movement at large is just as Unstructured as most of its constituent
  590. groups, it is similarly susceptible to indirect influence. But the
  591. phenomenon manifests itself differently. On a local level most groups
  592. can operate autonomously; but the only groups that can organize a national
  593. activity are nationally organized groups. Thus, it is often the Structured
  594. feminist organizations that provide national direction for feminist
  595. activities, and this direction is determined by the priorities of those
  596. organizations. Such groups as NOW, WEAL, and some leftist women’s caucuses
  597. are simply the only organizations capable of mounting a national campaign.
  598. The multitude of Unstructured women’s liberation groups can choose
  599. to support or not support the national campaigns, but are incapable
  600. of mounting their own. Thus their members become the troops under the
  601. leadership of the Structured organizations. The avowedly Unstructured
  602. groups have no way of drawing upon the movement’s vast resources to
  603. support its priorities. It doesn’t even have a way of deciding what
  604. they are.
  605. </p>
  606. <p>The
  607. more unstructured a movement it, the less control it has over the directions
  608. in which it develops and the political actions in which it engages.
  609. This does not mean that its ideas do not spread. Given a certain amount
  610. of interest by the media and the appropriateness of social conditions,
  611. the ideas will still be diffused widely. But diffusion of ideas does
  612. not mean they are implemented; it only means they are talked about.
  613. Insofar as they can be applied individually they may be acted on; insofar
  614. as they require coordinated political power to be implemented, they
  615. will not be.
  616. </p>
  617. <p>As
  618. long as the women’s liberation movement stays dedicated to a form of
  619. organization which stresses small, inactive discussion groups among
  620. friends, the worst problems of Unstructuredness will not be felt. But
  621. this style of organization has its limits; it is politically inefficacious,
  622. exclusive, and discriminatory against those women who are not or cannot
  623. be tied into the friendship networks. Those who do not fit into what
  624. already exists because of class, race, occupation, education, parental
  625. or marital status, personality, etc., will inevitably be discouraged
  626. from trying to participate. Those who do fit in will develop vested
  627. interests in maintaining things as they are.
  628. </p>
  629. <p>The
  630. informal groups’ vested interests will be sustained by the informal
  631. structures which exist, and the movement will have no way of determining
  632. who shall exercise power within it. If the movement continues deliberately
  633. to not select who shall exercise power, it does not thereby abolish
  634. power. All it does is abdicate the right to demand that those who do
  635. exercise power and influence be responsible for it. If the movement
  636. continues to keep power as diffuse as possible because it knows it
  637. cannot demand responsibility from those who have it, it does prevent
  638. any group or person from totally dominating. But it simultaneously
  639. insures that the movement is as ineffective as possible. Some middle
  640. ground between domination and ineffectiveness can and must be found.
  641. </p>
  642. <p>These
  643. problems are coming to a head at this time because the nature of the
  644. movement is necessarily changing. Consciousness-raising as the main
  645. function of the women’s liberation movement is becoming obsolete. Due
  646. to the intense press publicity of the last two years and the numerous
  647. overground books and articles now being circulated, women’s liberation
  648. has become a household word. Its issues are discussed and informal
  649. rap groups are formed by people who have no explicit connection with
  650. any movement group. The movement must go on to other tasks. It now
  651. needs to establish its priorities, articulate its goals, and pursue
  652. its objectives in a coordinated fashion. To do this it must get organized
  653. -- locally, regionally, and nationally.</p>
  655. <p>Once
  656. the movement no longer clings tenaciously to the ideology of “structurelessness,”
  657. it is free to develop those forms of organization best suited to its healthy
  658. functioning. This does not mean that we should go to the other extreme
  659. and blindly imitate the traditional forms of organization. But neither
  660. should we blindly reject them all. Some of the traditional techniques
  661. will prove useful, albeit not perfect; some will give us insights into
  662. what we should and should not do to obtain certain ends with minimal costs
  663. to the individuals in the movement. Mostly, we will have to experiment
  664. with different kinds of structuring and develop a variety of techniques
  665. to use for different situations. The Lot System is one such idea which
  666. has emerged from the movement. It is not applicable to all situations,
  667. but is useful in some. Other ideas for structuring are needed. But before
  668. we can proceed to experiment intelligently, we must accept the idea that
  669. there is nothing inherently bad about structure itself -- only its excess
  670. use.
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