HERESIES: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics Vol. 2, N. 4, #8 - Third World Women: The Politics of Being Other
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New York: Heresies Collective, 1979.
HERESIES: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics
Features Howardena Pindell, Rosemari Mealy, Madgalena Suarez Frimkess,
"For all its openness, the journal was not immune to some of the exclusions and errors of the larger movement. Perhaps most strikingly, when women of color got together to produce the eighth issue, 1979’s “Third World Women,” there were no Mother Collective members involved: The journal’s central team was at that point all-white and had been from the beginning. “We were all for having women of color in the thing, but we did not do it right,” Lippard acknowledges. “We didn’t start out with women of color, which we should have—[rather than just] inviting people in after we had formed.” In her 2016 memoir of the feminist-art scene, Openings, Sabra Moore writes that somebody proposed inviting all the editors of “Third World Women” to join the Mother Collective—a move that might have helped Heresies become an art-world microcosm of the multiracial movement feminists across the country were failing to build. Nothing ever came of the idea.
If “Third World Women,” though, suggests something about the original group’s limitations and the way those limitations reproduced themselves down the line, it also testifies to the flexibility and openness the multicollective structure made possible. As the poet Patricia Spears Jones, who worked as Heresies’ office manager for several years in the early 1980s, recalled, the core group “really owned up to what they didn’t know, which was fairly rare, as in almost nonexistent. They worked very hard to expand the main collective, but they also gave the different publication collectives a great deal of autonomy.” The editors of “Third World Women” produced one of Heresies’ strongest issues, featuring work by Lorde, Mendieta, and Pindell as well as Michelle Cliff, Jayne Cortez, Joy Harjo, Adrian Piper, and Betye Saar.
The idea for “Third World Women” came out of one of the public “evaluation meetings” that were held after each issue appeared. In those pre-internet days, criticism of published work was most commonly conducted face-to-face, building a real-life community that could survive critique and incorporate it. And Heresies welcomed critique not just from readers but from collective members themselves. Many meetings ended with a session of criticism/self-criticism: a go-round in which everybody said how they felt the meeting had gone. Moore recalls, “You couldn’t respond to anything. So it wasn’t a debate; it was a final airing. While it was painful and unpleasant, it was also a way people got to leave the room having said what they needed to say.” “Some of us tended to talk more and try to lead [during meetings]—I was one of them,” Lippard says, and crit/self-crit “gave people who weren’t talking all the time a chance to say exactly what they thought about how it was going. I remember always being surprised.” - Sara Marcus.