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Craft claims a need exists for civil disobediance in women's movement

Activist Nikki Craft spoke on civil disobedience and her personal involvement in the feminist movement last week. Pro-femina sponsored the lecture.

"Civil disobedience is a very important option," Craft said. She has been arrested 34 times on a variety of charges. Women would not have been granted the right to vote had it not been for "a few women willing to illegally enter the voting booths," she said. "We take what we learned from the non-violent movement and apply it."

Getting arrested, however, "is only a small part" of the women's movement, Craft stressed. She believes that her actions are "filling a void that needs to be filled."

Craft has founded numerous activist groups, including:

O+ Women Armed for Self-Protection: "A small group of women committed to becoming proficient in the use of various weapons, who called for immediate and drastic retaliation against rapists by their victims."

O+ The Kitty Genovese Women's Project: Craft led a group of women into the Dallas County Records Building. After months of research, they compiled the names of approximately 2100 indicted sex offenders and printed over 25,000 copies of the list.

O+ Preying Mantis Women's Brigade (PMWB): This group's statement of purpose claims, "... We refuse to hold mankind's laws, objects, and positions of power to be sacred, and vow to ... create havoc and ... topple the empire that profits from the rape, death, and psychological destruction of 53 percent of the population."

The primary target of the PMWB was Hustler magazine and its publisher Larry Flynt. An open letter to Flynt from the brigade accused Hustler of providing "a slick support network for men who commit countless atrocities against women ... you routinely make a laughing matter of sexual torture."

Members of the PMWB went through Santa Cruz, tearing up copies of Hustler in stores and boycotting all places that sold the magazine. Their protest resulted in the removal of Hustler from 28 Santa Cruz stores.

A Pro-femina flyer stated that its opposition to pornography is not based on any personal distaste for the material. Rather, it said that the distribution of these materials results in violence to women.

"Women's safety and our very lives depend on challenging these women-hating, slanderous lies that pornographers are marketing about us," stated the "Outlaws for Social Responsibility," another group that Craft founded.

Craft led a campaign against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione and numerous photographs which depicted apparent acts of violence committed against women. Craft showed pictures which appeared in the magazine such as a woman hanging from a tree, a girl tied to the outside of a house, and a female figure dashed against the rocks on a seashore.

"I do not want to hide these images," Craft said. "[We must] get them into media. Whenever we tear up magazines we do not do it because we think that to tear up the images is going to help anything; we tear it up in retaliation. We are not going to respect these images as women. [It is] a symbolic act of expression."

Craft presented several caveats for the women's movement. She warned the audience against allying with right-wing groups in the fight against pornography. "At every demonstration we have `We do not oppose nudity' signs. We feel it is very important not to ally with the right-wing on this issue. [We have to] force them to deal with the topless rights."

The "Cross-Your-Heart Support Committee" fought for the right of females to appear topless in public. Craft and eight other women have been arrested nine times in Santa Cruz and are taking their case to the state Supreme Court.

Craft stressed that although the right to appear nude in public is not the only goal the committee is fighting for, its symbolic value is great. "It is as trivial as where you sit on a bus," she claimed, comparing her struggle in Santa Cruz to that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, AL.

Craft plans to be arrested in Cape Cod in the summer for appearing topless on the beach. She invited the audience to attend. "If I can turn one woman into a criminal, then I have done my job here."