Women of the World: Report from Mexico City

A Women's Liberation march in Washington, D.C., 1970. Wikimedia Commons

Not since Adam and Eve ate the apple has this earth been faced with a social issue as complex as that which drew the delegates to the International Women's Year Conference in Mexico City last June. The delegates, who were mostly women, came as representatives of their governments, which were mostly men, to talk about profound alterations in the balance of everything between the two sexes. They did not, however, look like revolutionaries: Imelda Marcos of the Philippines and her corps of silken butterflies; the U.S. delegation, carefully dressed in styles ranging from Lord & Taylor to Peck & Peck; the Africans in their richly woven cloths and elaborately wrapped turbans-certainly not the solid Byelorussians, with their knotted hair and flower prints. Nor were they united behind a single ideology: they were rather a microcosm of the differences which confront the women's movement as it gains international legitimacy. And, in fact, the women's revolution was immediately faced by what seemed like a counterrevolution-the delegates from the developing countries appeared for a time so intent on the redistribution of resources between rich and poor that the redistribution of power between men and women seemed for them a competing priority. That this threat to the liberation effort came from the oppressed was disarming. Both the women and the poor are trying to change the status quo, either by altering the existing power structure or by carving out a more advantageous place for themselves within it. For Western women, however, debate over any issue other than those directly affecting women could only be construed as wasteful and frustrating. They wondered whether the Third World position did not reflect a disdain or hostility by those countries and their male-dominated governments for the goals of the conference, an attempt to distract the women from how much they had in common. "The International Women's Year will have been another mockery," said France's Françoise Giroux, "if the results are subtly diverted toward either national or international political causes,

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