Underground Press Syndicate: “Sexism Must Be Eliminated”

Sheila advocated for women to take an equal role in the underground press:

In July 1969… Ann Arbor, Michigan… a four-day UPS [Underground Press Syndicate] conference that was hosted by a commune called Trans-Love Energies Unlimited. … the group managed to discuss many of the main issues that were roiling the underground press in this period. One focal point was sexism; a group of women’s liberationists complained that they were treated shabbily by their colleagues, and despite heavy opposition from the White Panthers, LNS’s Sheila Ryan was able to spearhead the passage of a three-point resolution proclaiming: “(1) sexism must be eliminated from the underground paper’s contents and ads, (2) undergrounds should publish articles on women’s oppression, (and) (3) women should have full roles in underground papers’ staffs.”

— From Smoking Typewriters, John McMillian, Oxford University Press, 2011, page 120-122.

A slightly longer version of this resolution is given in the Wikipedia entry on UPS which sounds like Sheila’s composition;

1. That male supremacy and chauvinism be eliminated from the contents of the underground papers. For example, papers should stop accepting commercial advertising that uses women’s bodies to sell records and other products, and advertisements for sex, since the use of sex as a commodity specially oppresses women in this country. Also, women’s bodies should not be exploited in the papers for the purpose of increasing circulation.

2. That papers make a particular effort to publish material on women’s oppression and liberation with the entire contents of the paper.

3. That women have a full role in all the functions of the staffs of underground papers.

LNS member Andy Marx accompanied Sheila to the UPS meeting and tells the story this way:

We went to this meeting … it was this really weird thing, it was out on this sort of farm outside of Ann Arbor, with — one of the organizing groups was the White Panther Party, who fancied themselves to be the equivalent of the Black Panthers, so there’s this sort of wasted looking guy named Fuzzy, that was his nickname, with a 22 and something — sitting at the end of the driveway, as if he was going to … fight them off [if the police came].

The papers, a lof them that were represented there were all into this — a lot of them survived on advertising that was full of sort of misogynistic images of women, and Sheila, just in this non-confrontational but absolutely persistant — I mean, she just wouldn’t let go of it — carried on this long debate / discussion, and it ended up they adopted a position saying that the papers should, both in their content page coverage and in their advertising pages, they should repudiate sterotype and demeaning images of women.

… So she was dealing with … these stoned guys who were sort of proclaiming about being too hard-core political, and being uptight about this — “so we have pictures of naked chicks, you know, what’s the problem, you know, we all want to be free.” … And she managed — it was impressive — to communicate across the board.

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