Sunday, August 12, 2007

'Ms.' Magazine's `Restricted' Archives--Part 2

After women anti-war activists who had been involved with Movement groups like SNCC and SDS collectively developed an updated radical feminist critique of patriarchal U.S. society, Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem then decided to write about the new wave of feminism for Clay Felker’s New York magazine. She attended a November 1968 meeting in New York City of the Redstockings radical feminist group to gather material for her magazine column.

But, as previously indicated, in 1975 members of Redstockings held a press conference to disclose to other U.S. feminists Steinem’s previous involvement with the CIA. Redstockings noted at this time that “It has been widely recognized that one major CIA strategy is to create or support parallel organizations which provide alternatives to radicalism and yet appear progressive enough to appease dissatisfied elements of the society.”

Because the “material regarding Redstockings events” in the Ms. magazine archives was pulled by Smith College librarians at Steinem’s apparent request, neither feminist scholars nor progressive journalists will be able to let their readers fully know how Ms. magazine reacted to the 1975 Redstockings disclosure about Steinem’s past CIA links. But there is some evidence that a Random House book on the feminist revolution which was to have contained a chapter on Steinem’s past CIA links also had “restricted” material pulled at Steinem’s request. As Current Biography Yearbook 1988 noted, "a Village Voice columnist, writing in the May 21, 1979 issue, darkly hinted that she [Steinem] might have prevailed upon Random House to delete a chapter entitled `Gloria Steinem and the CIA’ from The Feminist Revolution, a collection of essays by writers affiliated with the Redstockings.” And as Nancy Borman observed in the July 1979 issue of the Lower East Side-based Overthrow Magazine:

“Publication of Feminist Revolution was delayed nearly three years…and when the book was finally released…the chapter on Gloria Steinem and the CIA had been deleted in its entirety…Six weeks after Feminist Revolution was finally published five members of the Redstockings held a press conference to argue that their book would be better described as `censored.’…The near-total blackout on the Steinem/Random House censorship story is reminiscent of the level of enthusiasm Redstockings encountered when they first tried to get coverage for the story of Steinem and the CIA.”

Other politically radical women anti-war activists have attempted in the past to alert a new generation of feminists to the Ms. magazine founder’s past CIA links. Australian anti-war writer-activist Joan Coxsedge’s 1982 book, Rooted In Secrecy: The Clandestine Element In Australian Politics, for instance, contained a section titled “Sisterhood and the CIA,” in which she made the following observation:

It goes without saying that because of the growing participation and influence of women in the political arena, certain radical sections of the women’s movement are under scrutiny by secret agencies, including the CIA…The CIA attacks in a variety of ways. One method is to defuse the movement by infiltration and diverting its aim into safe reformist channels. Another method is to set up rival conservative organizations…The CIA involved itself in the international women’s movement as early as 1962. At that time, it contributed thousands of dollars a year to the Committee of Correspondence, a New York-based group consisting of 18 American women and 12 associates…The Committee was in contact with at least 5,500 women in 120 countries…The Committee made a big point in its literature that it was `non-government and independent.’ It held conferences in conjunction with the United Nations and was in a prime position to locate and collect information on women leaders around the world…An example of the watering-down of radical demands was provided by the 1975 disclosure of Gloria Steinem’s role in the Women’s Liberation Movement…Feminists have accused Ms. of substituting itself for the genuine movement, blocking knowledge of authentic activists and ideas.”

And in her 1983 book, The Future Of Women, former University of Chicago Professor of Sociology Marlene Dixon wrote:

“Bourgeois feminism…fights only to gain…equality with men under the rule of capital…Bourgeois women can become controllers of bank and finance capital, petty bourgeois women can become their vice presidential lieutenants. For 10 years this has been the obsession of the bourgeois feminist movement, under the hegemony of such CIA types as Gloria Steinem…And yet during those same years…the conditions of life of all women have been under increasing attack.”

According to Ms.’s editor in the late 1990s, Marcia Ann Gillespie, the magazine’s then-current management played no role in formulating the Smith College library’s policy of restricting the access of journalists in the 1990s to some of the Ms. archives material from the period when Pat Carbine and Gloria Steinem managed the magazine, prior to its subsequent re-organization.

Ms. was purchased in 1996 by Jay MacDonald’s MacDonald Communications, in partnership with Bud Paxson’s Paxson Communications media conglomerate. In its May 15, 1998 issue, the New York Times described Paxson Communications as “the nation’s largest owner and operator of television station” in 1998; and noted that Paxson’s vice-chairman at that time, William Simon Jr., was the son and business partner of former Secretary of the Treasury William Simon, Sr.—the then-president of the right-wing John M. Olin Foundation.

Later in 1998, Ms. founder Steinem and other investors created Liberty Media and repurchased the magazine from MacDonald Communications and Paxson Communications. But by 2001, Steinem’s Liberty Media was facing bankruptcy and Ms. magazine was sold to the tax-exempt Democratic Party-oriented Feminist Majority Foundation, which then turned it into a quarterly publication. But Steinem is still listed on the Ms. magazine masthead as a “Consulting Editor,” according to the magazine’s web site at .

Despite its policy of restricting the public’s access to some of the Ms. archives material during the late 1990s, the Sophia Smith Collection reported in its February 1998 newsletter that it received a $107,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities “to process eight collections documenting women’s activism.”
(end of article)

Next: Nader vs. The Clintons Revisited