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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Founding of and tensions surrounding the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in the mid-1970s

Slifkin discusses how anti-feminism generated the urge to dissociate the founding of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center from feminism. According to Slifkin, anti-feminism was widespread by the mid-1970s when she founded the OCRCC and, as a result, its initial publicity made no mention of its association with the National Organization for Women or Slifkin, a well-known feminist activist in the community. Although she mentions that Chapel Hill and Carrboro were fairly accepting of women's liberation, the founding of the OCRCC further brought tensions between feminism and anti-feminism to the fore as women who did not self-identify as feminists rallied in support of the OCRCC.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LYNNE DEGITZ Q: At the founding of the RCC, there was some division between NOW and RCC supporters. Could you talk about that? MIRIAM SLIFKIN Yeah, well, this is something I just wrote about. When the RCC came into being, I asked Poquita Jurgenson, who was with the (Chapel Hill) newspaper, to publicize the fact that we're in business. And she asked me to come and talk with her. So I brought a sheet describing everything, what we hoped to offer and everything. And she said xthis good, can I keep it." "Yeah," So then she says, "I'll be honest with you Miriam. I'd rather not mention NOW or your name." And I got so upset. I didn't say anything to her, but you know how it is, when you internalize it. I was really angry. I was thinking here I'd worked myself so hard and all the women on the task force. We'd given money, we'd given time, we gave up a lot of things we wanted to do, in order to do this. And she's saying don't mention the fact that you did it! (laughs) But she convinced me that it would be best if we didn't use NOW. As a matter of fact, I've got the clipping if you want to see it. In the clipping, she used the handout I gave her, she mentioned me as a spokeswoman, never mentioning me by name. And she didn't mention NOW. It hurt. It hurt a lot (098). But we got people to call us, several people called us for information. Fortunately, just a few people called us for emergency situations. But the climate then was so anti-woman's movement (106). We were bra-burners, we did need all the support we could get, which was our favorite joke. And radical women, you know. It was just so difficult for me to understand people's mindsets. Here we were doing something that we felt good about. And yet people didn't want to know that we were the one's doing it. LYNNE DEGITZ The work you were doing was acceptable, but you weren't?
MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
Right, right. We went along. We got more and more rape crisis volunteers that were not NOW members and they wanted to split off from NOW because they were not feminists. I mean, they were against the crime (121). And they wanted to help victims, but they were not feminists. They were the one's who pushed for us to get the 501c (tax-exempt non-profit status). I was against it. And I'm glad they overruled me. And the reasons I was against it was that I was afraid that if you go to these agencies, if they gave us money, that they would dictate what we could do. Well, I got out-voted. And we got the status. They did not dictate. Everybody that we dealt with was so understanding about the problem. And Chapel Hill is really such an oasis. The county at that time, Hillsborough, forget it. But the Chapel Hill town council and Carrboro, especially Carrboro, were very good. And I told you about the police chief. Now they've named a building after him! (laughs) Of course he was a good police chief! (laughs) LYNNE DEGITZ There's that real tension there, between work being done and the history of who's doing it.
MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
Well that was when people would say, I'm not a feminist. And I would say I'm a feminist! (laughs) But it was a great time, it was very stimulating. I think I need an adversary. (laughs) LYNNE DEGITZ Did this conflict have any long term effects on RCC policies or organization?
MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
I don't know, I think the volunteers, at least the ones I came in contact with, didn't realize that they had a lot of feminist ideas. I mean, most of them felt that a woman had a right to refuse to be raped. And that women don't ask for it. There was one or two that believed the myths. She was volunteering because somebody in her family had been raped. But that was an exception, see. That most women who get raped "ask for it." I think overall, their attitude toward women who had been raped was very good. As for other things, I think a lot of them were not feminists. I don't know how they are today. I haven't had any dealings with them.