Gender and representation in students for a democratic society
This project is a detailed study of gender and representation in the foremost group of the American New Left, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) The thesis charts the progress of the organisation, from the publication of its unofficial manifesto, the Port Huron Statement, to the group's descent into factionalism and its demise by 1970. This study is more than an organisational history, however, and reflects on broader areas where SDS was active and where gender proved particularly salient These include SDS's relations with black nationalism, the organisations' participation in the movement to resist the Vietnam War draft and the group's involvement with the counterculture. It also charts the rise of feminist thought within the New Left and considers the emergence of women's liberation groups. The thesis takes a gender history approach, moving away from the narrow confines of women's history, which considers women in isolation. Thus, by focusing on social constructions of masculinity and femininity and by considering the ways in which men and women in this highly influential group related to each other, allocated sex roles and used sexual symbolism, this study aims to be a more inclusive history of SDS than has previously been written. The thesis finds that gender relations were of great significance within SOS. The study accepts the generally held view that the New Left marginalised women, but also gave them opportunities to develop key skills and confidence, This ultimately resulted in women articulating their grievances at the sexism within the Movement, which saw the creation of women's liberation groups. However, ~his study advances the historiography ofSDS in a number of ways. It reveals the i.npOItant effect that elitism and intellectualism had on men and women throughout the group's existence and finds that the impact of sexual liberation had both an emancipating and repressive effect on gender relations. The study discusses the constructions of identities within the organisation and pays close attention to representations of machismo and within SDS. It looks at the violent and aggressive rhetoric at play in SDS as the decade progressed, discusses the creation of alternative masculinities in the anti-draft movement and considers the fashioning of macho personas and alternative approaches to femininities in the SDS faction, Weatherman and in certain black nationalist groups.