Contradictions in Our Power

Essay by Zalgiris April 2004

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Contradictions in Our Power

Any analysis of the distribution of power and its effect on society's institutions must recognize the historical context of our oppression. Our oppression is different from that of our sisters at the turn of the century who had no legal rights, were confined to the home, and bore children from maturity to death. Thus, what is liberating at one time may be a factor of oppression at another. For example, women were denied their own sexuality because of social attitudes, inadequate birth control, the shelter of the family, women's private role in the economy, and the lack of knowledge about their bodies. The development of a more advanced technology (the pill and machines) and education objectively gave more freedom to our sisters. At the same time, these developments also made possible new forms for the oppression of women, increased sexual objectification and abuse.

In the realm of women and work, legislation which protected women was of great benefit in easing their burden.

Currently, however, in the name of easing our burden, such legislation is used to deny women equal opportunity. Of course, women and all people have a right to safe and good working conditions; but these need to be fought for all workers.

Understanding our changing history helps us to avoid stereotyping our opposition or own own notions of what liberation means. The development of a strategy makes it clear that technological advances, legislative changes or educational developments are not good or bad in themselves. When we know the context in which any specific change occurs, we can judge the value of that change for our goals.

We have learned from history that, in fact, what is progressive for the system as a whole is also the seeds for its destruction. For example, increasing...