The purpose of our CR group is understanding what it is to be a woman-loving woman in a patriarchal society that oppresses women. While we acknowledge commonalities with gay men and trans people, we feel the need for and reserve this group as a place for lesbians who were brought up as women in patriarchal society to connect with each other.
In the 1960s and 1970s, lesbians gathered in "consciousness-raising" groups (c.r. groups, for short) in each other's houses. The purpose of the c.r. groups was to share stories and information, to celebrate creative action, to ask questions, and to connect with each other in a safe and supportive space. In 2015, as the culture gradually accepts and affirms us, the feminist/lesbian bookstores, lesbian bars and other meaningful ways lesbians could find each other in all-lesbian community are disappearing. We think we still need those spaces! What if. . .we formed a local c.r. group? What if. . .we met each month to discuss lesbians from history and from today? What if. . .we discovered the creative and social possibilities of meeting as a community once a month? Our meetings could lead to action and connection we can't even foresee. . .
Guidelines for Our C.R. Group Meetings
· A consciousness-raising group is a safe place for women to examine and share their own experiences and to come to understand what is common in their experience and what is specific.
· Everyone must be given an opportunity to talk before anyone gets to speak twice.
· When your turn comes, you may pass if you wish. No one has to talk.
· Everyone is the judge of her own experience. No one in the group shall criticize or judge anyone's assessment or recollection.
· Anyone may address any of the questions or none of them and anyone may raise other questions related to the topic.
GOALS OF WOMEN'S CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING
1. Understanding one’s self in relation to one’s society.
2. Specifically, understanding what it is to be a woman in a patriarchal society that oppresses women.
3. Consciousness-raising sessions should not have an authoritarian leader. If there is a leader or leaders at all, their function is to guide the group along these guidelines. There should not be a discussion leader who determines the content or is presumed to be the final authority. This is not to say that some person at some time may not have more information of understanding of the topic under discussion. If so, listen but if it is always the same person or persons, do something to increase participation of everyone.
4. Utilize a protective structure, such as these guidelines, in an effort to free all participants rather than freeing only some women at the expense of others. But do not hold to structure rigidly. Any or all of these suggestions may not apply to every group at any given time.
5. Speak about the experience of being a woman. Do not stray to topics which are unrelated. Although we are always women, not all our experiences bear direct or obvious relation to this fact.
6. The atmosphere should be sufficiently flexible to permit members to introduce topics of importance to them.
7. Consciousness-raising is “educational" in that it provides the support of other women and their recognition of us and of what we have to say.
8. Refrain from criticizing others.
9. While we are trying to discover our own sexism and the sexism which has victimized us, we try to avoid the traps of classism, racism, and age-ism.
10. Never give advice, though we can give our reactions. This sounds contradictory, and sometimes the line may be hard to draw, but advice is a conclusion and conclusions are hazardous without all the data. We cannot really put ourselves in another woman’s position.
11. Restrain impulses to act negatively toward another sister. Consciousness-raising is not encounter. We are analyzing ourselves and our roles in society, but not each other. Criticism inhibits and makes it more difficult to realize the goal of increased self-understanding. The consciousness-raising experience should be a positive place where one gains support, not a hostile environment to be feared.
12. Respect the different communication styles of the women in the consciousness-raising group.
13. Exert no pressure on anyone either to say anything or do anything.
Even the asking of questions should be limited to questions of clarification. If she wants to tell, “What did you do then?” she will. Be sensitive to the possibility that to ask may be to pressure.
14. Have a clear beginning and end. Do not blend gradually into other functions (e.g., social, political). Be clear when the meeting is over and exert no subtle pressure on women to engage in other activities. Do not mix consciousness-raising and action; keep them separate. If announcements are made, they should be made at the beginning or end so they are not mixed with the consciousness-raising.