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By Sue Anne Salmon and Gretchen Marcum
It was just about this time last year when the University of Chicago was in a state of seige. Some 500 students took over the school's administration building and demanded the rehiring of one Marlene Dixon, a very radical and very popular assistant professor of sociology and human
development. The tenured sociology faculty had decided not to rehire her because "the intellectual quality of her work did not meet the standards required for reappointment in her department"--shown by the fact that she had done little scholarly publication. The younger faculty members of the committee on human development recommended that she be rehired.
The students protested that she was not retained because of her Marxist views, because her emphasis on teaching conflicted with her colleagues' research-oriented priorities --and also because she was a woman. .
The struggle, which lasted several weeks, was ultimately lost and Marlene moved to McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she now teaches.
Long a leader in the Women's Liberation Movement, Marlene was the featured speaker at the Midwestern Regional Women's Liberation Conference held the weekend of January 23 at the University of Kentucky. The following interview was conducted after her speech to approximately 250 people.
btf : Aren't there a number of groups that people tend to lump under the term 'women's liberation? 1 And don't some of these, like Betty Friedan's National Organization of Women (NOW), have different purposes?
Dixon: The National Organization of Women we think is
a reformist, middle class, very liberal organization. They're working on the courts and they're working at that level and they can do that--we don't mind. But what we don't want to do is work with them. Right? Because if we work with them, they'll use our energy, our enthusiasm and our army to go out and knock on the doors, march on the streets, go to jail and all those kinds of things to legalize abortion or something. And we want not only legalized abortion, we want
I Marlene Dixon
nationalized medicine. We don't want to stop at their level. We could go out and work with them, but when it was time for them to be on our barricades, they wouldn't be there. They would be condemning us and saying, "Oh yes. Those terrible revolutionaries; the army should be out against them. So we can't work with those groups. We don't, want to work with them. They can do their things and that's fine.
As for th total women's liberation movement, we don't have a definite national leadership because we don't like elitism. Everything is growing autonomously. They're a few of us who've been around a long time and we travel around and do a lot of talking. We have our own thing. Myself, I want to build a revolutionary women's movement.
btf: How do you deal with organizations such as WITCH?
Dixon: Well, the Women's International Conspiracy f- i Hell (WITCH) has changed over the years. I fii. ; ran into them at the 1968 Chicago Women's Liberation Conference. And they were spectacular. Wow. Talk about charisma and power. At that time I fell in love with WITCH. And I started a number of WITCH groups. In my early travels I saw that the women's groups were not in action. WITCH was a form of direct action that women could engage in that was original. And WITCH brought with it an ideology about women that was completely different: that women have power and that women have roots. The old witches were rebels and they were purged; women could relate their own struggle and their own history to this constant rebelliousness, this constant attempt to liberate themselves. This ideology was very powerful. So I started a number of WITCH groups that have been into wickedness. They weren't like the New York group, but they used the name WITCH. They used chance, they use this ideology and they used direct action.
btf : What do you think of those groups that are anti-male?