Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: In that case could you tell me a little bit about the issues you were campaigning on.
JACKIE: When I got involved, I got involved, interestingly enough there was a split in the early feminist movement - even before it started really - of the really the late sixties/early seventies, of how you came to the feminist movement. Some people came to the feminist movement from liberal and left organizations, where they had not felt that their participation was equally valued, and so forth and so on. Some women had not - either because they were younger than us, or because they were just not in locations where they got involved in political activism - the first political thing they did was feminism. And there was as big difference in those two groups of people, that eventually turned out to be no difference at all - and that was the heyday of that period for feminism. I was from the political side, and so frequently I kept thinking that I was going to make this feminist movement a serious political movement, and not frivolous. I was worried about it being frivolous. and I was continuously being chastised by women who were saying, just because it's about women it is not frivolous automatically - and so I really, I must admit, I was definitely not anybody blazing any trails: I was one of those people who had to be, have their consciousness raised; and I was in several consciousness-raising groups, and I finally got it, I mean I did get it. And the issues were very simple: they were issues of how you have women in the leadership without them either being neutered, or having to be like men, to be heard - to be man-like in their presentation and ways of doing things. They were issues of equity in the household: I mean we had endless debates - it may sound petty, but they were not petty - about what a clean sink really amounts to, and, you know, because we were, were forcing the men in our lives to divide chores with us, except that when they did their half it didn't look like it, after we had cleaned it, it didn't look the same. So we did engage in debates about what a clean sink would entail - how it would look when it was truly clean; and what are the obligations of shopping - is it to actually decide on what the meal is going to be, and buy those things, or is to go down and pick whatever came to your fancy off the shelf, regardless of the cost? I mean these were serious and hard-fought issues: the issues of childcare - careers were very important, because an awful lot of us were not going to stay home and raise children, so who did? And if we chose - and there were pressures that we couldn't answer, just ideologically, because if he is making twice what you're making, of course you're the one that has to stay home, otherwise the financial backing of the family is destroyed. so there were various issues. And then because most of us working, we very quickly got into working issues: women making 49 cents on the dollar - that was in the seventies, it's now the nineties, we're now making 69 cents on the dollar - at that rate we will never catch up, that's 20 cents in 20 years. I am not interested in a cent a year. so we're still working on those issues. Job discrimination, glass ceiling - they were all there in the early days, and they are currently as well; and of course for many in the women's movement the issue of sexuality was also an important question, because what do you do with lesbians who are lesbians - there were separatists lesbians who wanted to separate from straight world men or women, and so forth and so; and then of course, you know, being a lesbian myself, that was a, I wasn't aware of my own sexuality at the time I started as a feminist, but that happened along the way somewhere in there. so there was a lot of changes in people's lives: it was a lot of upheaval, but it was also exciting, because whenever you're going through upheaval and you're talking about it - and that what was different about the seventies, compared to the sixties - is just that women were wi
INT: The Kennedy assassination: can you tell me how you remember it and what it meant to you?
INT: The Kennedy assassination: can you tell me how you remember it and what it meant to you?
JACKIE: John or Robert?
INT: John .......
JACKIE: I was walking toward the Student Union in Berkeley when he was assassinated, and everybody - I knew something had happened, people inside were coming out shouting and screaming and crying; I went inside, all the classes went out as the word filtered through the campus; some of us thought about leaving the country - I was one of them: I thought, this is it, I'm out of here - particularly if there's any left wing overtones to the person who shot him, at all. Our lives were not worth a plug nickel - we began debating and discussing where we would go, and could we get there; most of us didn't have passports huh huh. when we found that it was Lee Harvey Oswald, and it was probably from the right not the left, some of us thought that the next time the South wanted to leave the country we should let it go. there was a lot of strong emotions about it. It, there were already a lot of people in the liberal and left wing movements, student movements of the United States, who weren't thrilled with Kennedy. So it wasn't because they saw him as the only hope, and now that hope was lost, it was the notion that that there were people who could feel that if they didn't like what somebody did, they could just go them, even if they were President of the United States - that I think had, it had the impact that it did. and then everybody was worried about what the consequences would be, and who would be blamed, and things like that. Certainly there were a group of sort of centrist American kids who thought that all hope was lost, as well - because they, they believed he was the sterling knight on the white horse. I must admit I didn't believe that at that time, so I thought that this was a pretty devastating blow, and I was very moved by it; but I didn't think, oh well that's the end of life as we know it, and all hope for progress in this country is over, because I didn't believe he was the embodiment of it in the first place; but there were a lot of people who did, and for whom that was the beginning of a downward trend in their activism, because they thought that that meant that nothing ever good could happen. And then if you add to that then, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and then finally Robert Kennedy, you can see what people who believe that there would be a single person that would save America, and each of them getting murdered as they became more effective at having political change be directed by them - you could see why some people decided that. I came from the school of thought that wasn't ever going to be a single individual anyway, that it was movements that changed history, and that leadership was very important - don't misunderstand me - but that it was movements that would change history - so the impact was a little different politically.
INT: Overall what you're describing to me during this period, seems to be just about political and social revolution. Is that how you saw it?
JACKIE: I don't think I saw it as a political and social revolution, because so much of the country was the same after it, as it was at the beginning. The big change though really was, that for a short period of time, we did really take McCarthyism apart. it didn't last long - they reinstated it; now you're not allowed to say you're a liberal, now you're not allowed to say you're against the death penalty - we like censorship a lot in this country, for all our belief in the First Amendment. I used to, when I was teaching in High School, have my students carry the First Amendment, as a petition, to see if they could get anyone to sign it in the neighborhoods; and of course we had very little luck getting anyone to sign the First Amendment as a petition. so we've always had a love/hate relationship with the with the party line; for a group that believes that what was wrong with Russia was is that it was autocratic and had a party line, I think were - it's, it's very funny to me to see how much of a party line we have to have in a mass media culture, though, that's easier to do, it really is. but I think that certainly the notion of anti-communism would never be the same - even though there was the war in Vietnam, even though the Cold War didn't end, an entire generation of students was no longer afraid of the bogeyman - the bogeyman being, being called the communist. we were not going to be shut up if we believed in something; we did not believe that we had no rights as long as were students; we did not believe that that calling us names would silence us. Whereas not too many years earlier, to be called a name, people would not sign a petition, people would not speak out on what they believed in - they would not join the labor union, even if they believed in it. so if we were, if I were to say that we did anything at all, the most important thing we did, had to do with was just really a frontal assault on fear-mongering, and the scare tactics of calling everybody a communist, and a leftist, and a pinko, and things like that. I think that was very important. Other than that, I think what we did was put into motion the idea that if you believe in the constitution of the United States, that it didn't come with only rights, it came with certain responsibilities, and that the responsibilities are that you have to hold everybody accountable for everybody having those rights; and that led to further civil rights activity, and anti-war activity, and eventually to environmental activity, and to feminism. So, yes, it leashed a lot of contemporary American social movements; but a revolution is too strong: we, I wish it had actually been that, but it wasn't. this is a, that rev-, the revolution is yet to come.
INT: Going back to '68, with Nixon being re-elected, and the appalling democratic convention in Chicago: what did that really mean to you?
JACKIE: Well I watched the democratic convention of 1968 from Havana, Cuba, which, if you think it was appalling watching it in the United States or in the rest of the world, it was certainly hard to explain to a country that we were boycotting, and not allowing travel to because they were too autocratic, and a and a police state. And there I was saying anything I wanted to say there, but here I would've had my head knocked in. 1968 was probably one of the more important single years in American history, because of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, because of the number of things that happened that year, that really moved people dramatically, including the democratic convention. I think those who were looking for a way to be cynical found it; and we lost a lot of activism after that - people said nothing is any good, and if anybody is any good they'll kill them, or they'll beat them up, or they'll, they'll do something to stop them. I have been the eternal optimist - I have seen too much change in my life not to believe that there's more to go. I have infinite faith that those things which I consider to be progressive are going to ultimately win; now whether they'll be in my life-time or not is another story - I'd like to see them all happen, but I tend to think maybe not; but there are some things you just don't go back from: people think that they can make abortion illegal again in this country - I think that's virtually impossible. I think that women will simply not allow it to happen - period. Even if the laws were actually to be passed - because our legislators are still mostly controlled by men - women will not follow those laws; and if they think that they will, they're nuts, because too many of us are still alive that remember what happened when it wasn't legal. They're just not going to go back. If they really believe that passing propositions like 209 on the Californian ballot, which will end affirmative action if it passes, is really going to mean that African/Americans and Latinos and women are really going to say it's OK for you to go back to blatant forms of discrimination - they've missed a chapter here. That is simply not going to happen. What they're going to do is exactly what happened the last time they tried this, which they created the movement of the sixties. I'd like to say we created it - baloney! Baloney! We reacted to what they did - we didn't start it; and they forget themselves, the forces of reaction forget themselves that there is - you should pardon my physics professor's notion - an equal and opposite action to every reaction; and there's going to be a reaction: everybody thinks that you can just do this, and everybody will lie down and be quiet, and say, oh it's OK, I liked it better when you weren't discriminating against me openly, but if you want to go back to that it's OK with me. No, it's not going to happen, and in fact you already see it: we've had arrest of UCLA students around this 209, except that's the tip of the iceberg. It's been relatively quiet because people have bought into the fact that there are, there is an orderly and civilized way to get change. When people start believing that, they will all be back out in the streets again, because they'll have no other form of expression that's OK; and it'll take us to the next station in life.