April 13, 1970: Grove Press, in New York City, became the third media target of the women’s liberation movement in the past month as activists led by Robin Morgan staged a sit-in today to protest Grove’s sexual exploitation of women in its publications, as well as its union-busting policies.
In previous actions, 46 women employees announced they were suing Newsweek for bias on March 16th, and on March 18th, in a move that got worldwide attention, 200 women occupied the offices of The Ladies Home Journal demanding a more relevant and liberated publication.
Emily Goodman, lawyer for the Women’s Liberation Front, which called today’s action, said the final trigger for the takeover was the dismissal of eight employees, six of them women, soon after they attended a union rally and took out union cards on April 5th: “Grove Press won’t let women be anything but secretaries, scrub women and sex symbols,” she said.
The demonstration began at 8 a.m., and after the firm’s executive offices were seized, a banner reading “GROVE LIBERATED BY WOMEN FOR WOMEN” was hung from the window. Coincidentally, a union group was holding a street protest over the firings as well, so the two groups exchanged shouts of support.
Among the demands made by the demonstrators were that Grove establish child-care centers for its employees, and that Grove’s profits from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” be turned over to the Black community. And because Grove “earned millions off the basic theme of humiliating, degrading and dehumanizing women through sadomasochistic literature and pornographic films,” the protesters demanded that profits from Grove’s erotica go to help women who are victimized by the images it shows, suggesting donations go to programs to help women who have been raped, or a defense fund for prostitutes, as two examples.
As was the case with the suffrage movement of our ideological ancestors a half-century ago, a combination of both militant and conventional tactics are now being employed, and each approach has its own advantages in this continuing and complex struggle for equality.