- Austen Hufford/Daily
By Danielle Raykhinshteyn, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 31, 2012
While some students donned 1960s garb for Halloween costumes Wednesday night, the acvitism of the decade was brought to life by key individuals in social movements that shaped American policy in commeration of the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement.
More like this
The Port Huron Statement, published by Students for a Democratic Society, a 1960s student activist group, in 1962 in Port Huron, Mich., was a 70-page statement designed to encourage student participation in social reform and distributed to about 60,000 individuals during the Vietnam War. The group was led by Tom Hayden, a University alum and former editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, and spurred activism around the country.
As part of the three-day event, titled “A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement in its Time and Ours,” Ruth Rosen — a history professor emeritus at the University of California-Davis, author and a veteran activist — gave a keynote address on Wednesday evening focused on the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s in commemoration of the anniversary of the Port Huron Statement.
Rosen said the late 20th-century women’s movement stemmed largely from the statement’s ideas, and began with men’s sexual freedom and women’s desire for equality. Rosen said women felt it was unfair that men could leave their traditional family role for a life of “rotating lovers” and the “pleasures of sex without the burden,” but women were required to take care of the children.
“(Women) were really, really hungry for a new world,” Rosen said. “Hugh Hefner began publishing Playboy, which encouraged bachelors to enjoy a sybaritic, sexual life.”
According to Rosen, before the movement, the divisions between men and women were distinct: banks denied married women credit, women began a continued tren of receiving subtancically less pay than men and between 1950 and 1970 all hurricanes were named after women. She said this was due to the fact that women were looked at as “chaotic” and undeserving of equality.
Through the movement and peaceful protests, such as sit ins at libraries and coffee houses, women began to enact a change in policy.
“Rape, once the subject of great shame, became redefined as physical assault, which has very little to do with lust,” Rosen said. “Date rape, for which there was plenty of evidence but no name, opened up a brand new national conversation.”
She added that as the movement progressed, white women joined forces with gay men, lesbians and women of other ethnicities to fight not only sexism, but other civil rights issues as well.
“Once they saw inequality, they saw it everywhere,” Rosen said.
In a question-and-answer session after the event, Rosen addressed the provocative fashion choices of today’s women. She referred to the annual SlutWalk in Ann Arbor, where women demonstrate how risqué clothing is not designed to encourage unconsented sexual relations.
“Although it does sometimes bother me to see young women going on SlutWalks, at the same time, they are organizing and saying, ‘We’ll do whatever we want,’” Rosen said. “It’s not what I would want, but they are organizing and they are saying ‘We will take our sexuality into our own hands.’”
Robert Ross, a sociology professor at Clark University, a private liberal arts college in Massachusetts, and a panelist for Thursday's speech, was one of the original drafters of the Port Huron Statement. He agreed with Rosen’s sentiments that the statement helped encourage the women’s movement.
“I agree that the values and spirit of the Port Huron Statement set a background and a direction from which the women’s movement grew,” Ross said.