The radical-as-conservative stance is a strategy that made sense for the Seneca Falls organizers. For one thing, it calls to mind a key tactic later taught by the twentieth-century organizer Saul Alinsky: make the other side live up to its own book of rules. More broadly, it calls to mind Sun Tzu’s advice to attack not the enemy but the enemy’s strategy. That is the very essence of how to change a game. In a self-consciously democratic republic run by men, the core strategy of dominance is control of the meaning of “normal” citizenship. Seneca Falls contested that strategy the way a martial artist flips her opponent: by using his own energy and force against him. But fundamentally this stance was dictated by the sober inventory these proto-feminists had taken of their own power. They had to fight with ideas and principles as their weapons—with the country’s original ideas and principles—because at the time they did not yet have the people, the money, the allies in government, the social norms, or other sources of power.
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