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'Being' a feminist:
Political Subjectivity and
the early days of the Women's Liberation Movement

Helen Graham

'This Shrew is us …do we speak for anyone else?'
The statement at the end of an early Shrew magazine (1970?) asks this question, naming an existing 'us' but asking and hoping for a larger, inclusive 'we'. The 'us' is taken very seriously and not one name graces the many poems, fictions, cartoons and reflections, a contact name and number for a playgroup makes up the only explicit marker of individuality. Within this very active notion of 'the collective' the 'I' is, however, far from lost and the difficulties of actually 'being' a feminist are thought about throughout the magazine. The conflictual nature of political subjectivity is repeatedly identified as coming from movement between clashing political arenas where the gender and/or feminism of the writer becomes located in their very presence in a specific space. Whether this is the challenge of being on an anti-war demonstration on Oxford Street while you fail to connect with the women on the pavements or waiting at the school gates for your partner's child, these shifts of 'habitus' appear to shock the 'I' into recognition of the 'gaps' and 'silences' between them, as consciously politicised, and the women which populate the margins of these accounts. Taking the magazine as a whole but focusing on the autobiographical pieces, this paper will explore the problematic nature of the dawning 'political I' of feminism. Shrew , I will suggest, can be seen as offering strategies to breach the problematic of 'I'/'we', which still resonates within feminist debate today. The 'political I' here is transformed into the site of the collective through the sheer physicality of realisation and though the elasticity of the Shrew 's 'we'.

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