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Where are all the younger lesbian feminists/separatists?

March 12, 2009

eva-johnson

Eva Johnson, Aboriginal playwright and radical lesbian feminist

In these times, where pornography abounds and young men expect young women to gratify their unnatural urges to dominate/control and make slaves out of us, where sexual slavery, the buying and selling of women as sex, is seen as liberation, where evidence of men’s hatred of us blares itself from movie screens and billboards… in these times, lesbianism, as a political choice, makes sense. It seems ridiculously simple. Men hate women. Why the hell would you want to sleep with one?

renate-klein

Renate Klein, biologist, activist against dangerous reproductive technologies, radical lesbian feminist

I chose separatism as a way of life fairly early on. I saw my mother being abused by my father and stopped speaking to him as a form of protest. I realise now that it was also one of the first separatist acts I made, in addition to being an act of sisterhood with my mother and my sisters. It wasn’t long before my not speaking to my father became me not speaking to any male peoples whatsoever. I was a ‘beautiful’ girl. Both men and boys would follow me around, ask me out, touch me, wolf-whistle etc, etc. I rarely had a day that I was not sexually harassed during my teenage years. This is not atypical however. Most women experience this kind of harassment on a daily basis.

audre-lorde

Audre Lorde, poet, writer, radical lesbian feminist

So I decided that all males were as bad as my father and refused to speak to any of them. I guess this meant that I automatically invested in my relationships with women. My primary relationships were with my mother and one of my sisters. But I had a succession of other deep friendships. Those friendships only waned because I moved around a bit. It was the love and support of those female friends that got me through highschool, through an eating disorder, through being suicidal and messed up.

sheila-jeffreys

Sheila Jeffreys, professor, activist against prostitution and all forms of male terrorism, radical lesbian feminist

I was aware of my attraction to females fairly early on. I loved Xena. Definitely my first ‘girlcrush’ as Rain likes to put it. But despite the fact that I was raised in a strict christian household, I didn’t really feel any guilt from my attractions to women. In fact, in order to cause trouble with my father, I would purposely go to see ‘gay’ films and buy ‘gay’ music. It was actually really funny. When I was about 14 my father asked me out to get an ice-cream. I agreed to go, thinking he wanted to maybe try and repair our relationship or something. Anyway, we go and buy ice-cream, we sit down and he proceeds to give me a lecture about not sleeping with boys and not taking drugs!!!! Oh, I was trying so hard not to laugh. He was so way off the mark it was so, so hilarious. So, yes… um no worries with that one, daddy.

mary-daly

Mary Daly, poet, visionary, spinster, sister, radical lesbian feminist

Anyway, I didn’t have much trouble avoiding boys. They gave up trying to talk to me in school as I completely ignored all of them. But when I was 17 I started working. One of the boys at work showed an interest in me, and whether it was curiosity or something, I agreed to date him. He was really boring, he kissed me and it was so unbelievably gross. I dumped him. For some reason, up until this point, I still thought of myself as straight. I had spread rumours around the school that I was a lesbian 1) because I like negative attention and 2) because I had had some really embarrassing incidents with boys inviting me out in front of the whole school and I did not want anything like that to happen again. But despite this, I was primarily attracted to males, even though I couldn’t understand why I was. I really willed myself to be attracted to other girls because boys and men were just so unbelievably disgusting.

staceyann-chin

Staceyann Chin, poet, activist, performer, radical lesbian feminist

So fast-forwarding to uni where I met and fell in love with a gay boy, the son of a lesbian feminist no less. We had a great relationship, while it lasted. Neither of us wanted sex from each other, just love and emotional intimacy. Unfortunately, like most men, he had no problems at all sorting out his priorities and I, of course, was dumped to the bottom of the list once I stopped being interesting to him. I ditched him and it was all very sad, but I decided that he was the last man that I was ever going to care about.

nedra-johnson

Nedra Johnson, singer/songwriter, radical lesbian feminist

But that relationship did bear fruit. I met his mother when I signed up to do volunteer work at The Women’s Library. Both her and her partner were an invaluable source of support and care during the time I was in Sydney.

I had a few brief heterosexual encounters in uni but they all bored and disgusted me. Looking back, I have no idea why I let myself get roped into them. I guess it was a mixture of curiosity and the whole ‘everyone else is doing it’ thing. Which is strange because I’ve always been very reluctant to do anything that everyone else is doing. Also, despite everything, I was still more attracted to men than women.

robin-morgan

Robin Morgan, poet, writer, radical lesbian feminist

The reason that women find men more attractive has NOTHING to do with sexuality and everything to do with socialization and validation. I had serious work to do on myself psychologically, before I could see women as being life partners. I was easily attracted to women, but could not envisage being with them in a relationship. And I don’t think I could really understand why. Not to mention the fact that I was seriously addicted to the male gaze (hence the eating disorder).

susan-hawthorne

Susan Hawthorne, poet, novelist, aerialist, radical lesbian feminist

After a wake up call, which started with a man befriending me when I was desperately lonely, and ended with sexual assault, I decided to tell my best friend of my feelings for her. She reciprocated and I entered my first lesbian relationship, my first relationship period. And it was really good. It didn’t work out long term, although we are still really good friends. During the time of my first relationship I discovered political lesbianism and lesbian separatism by reading about them in The Women’s Library and that felt like the world breaking open. I couldn’t believe that these women existed and that I’d never heard of them. Oh, I had been looking all of my life for them. And I hadn’t found them. And then suddenly they were there. And my imagination was on fire, but it wasn’t a dream, these women actually existed. They were real, and they were just like me. They shared the same hopes and dreams, they believed that a world without violence could exist and they set about making that a reality. And, oh, I wanted to be a part of that so, so much.

sisterhood

But I look around and I don’t see many younger women being interested in political lesbianism and separatism. There are only 2 lesbian feminist bloggers under 30 that I know of. I find this really sad. I think lesbianism is a very powerful and immediate solution to male supremacy and violence. Women-loving women, women-touching women are the ultimate anti-thesis to this woman-hating world. As much as I hate to agree with the ‘fun’-feminists, I do think that feminism needs to change its image. We should be saying, “Feminists ARE hairy, man-hating, prudish, fat, ugly, dykey and radical”. And we are a hell of a lot happier than the women being treated like sexual and domestic slaves by men who say they love women.

45 comments

  1. This is a fascinating post, allecto. There are so many factors that wage war against separatism. In many cultures, particularly those dominated by fundamentalist religion, there is compulsory heterosexuality for women. Women are married off and have no say or little say in it. And then all over the world, there is enormous cultural pressure on women to couple with men–failure to do so resulting in rejection, scorn, pity, poverty, shame. And see Kitty Glendower’s recent post about FEMINISTS who feel they have to go on and on about how much they love the penis.

    And even on Twisty’s blog, her pretty radical commenters always have to come out with “Unfortunately, I am irretrievably heterosexual” and similar statements to justify lack of rebellion against the norm, lack of separatist possibility, etc. It’s so interesting to me that you, on the other hand, have successfully “crossed over” on the basis of affinity and ideology. I believe Amy of Amy’s Brain did the same.

    Anyway, I wish more young women would think and act as you have done–that it would universally be a possibility, if nothing else.


  2. ‘Where are all the younger lesbian feminists/separatists?’ Is it becoming (being made) increasingly difficult for women to separate from men? I hope not. Thanks for sharing your story. I think it’s good to remind ourselves that we’re not at fault for being wound up by that socialised attraction to men that you refer to.


  3. Mass media. Porn as the personality / appearance standard. Erasure of anything resembling unaltered femaleness.

    Increased alienation of females of all ages from each other.

    The redefinition of “liberation” and “feminism” as some kind of “equality” with males in their anti-social system based on ownership and rule by violent force.

    The very denial and visibility of femaleness (not femininity) as having any kind of existence.

    At least for us old seps, our mothers taught us that we were both *female*, not both “hotties”, feminine, and “equal to men.”

    What a mind fuck. Most female human beings being born now stand only a microscopic chance of ever being able to connect with other females on an actual female-to-female level.

    Oh, and “lesbian” now means a woman who lurves men and boys, and thinks of herself and other females as meatsocks, doms, subs, and should-be-handmaidens to males. And who wants to *fuck* (not make love to) other women.

    The word “lesbian” has been rendered effectively meaningless to those of us who would like to be female identified and radically feminist. It has been totally subsumed under the Queer (capital Q) identity.

    Do I sound pissed off? I can only hope for the resurgence of actual lesbian energy, but one thing sure: the “Queers” and the mass media will never allow it to become publicly visible. Again.


  4. I think it’s just incredibly hard for young women to rebel against the norm nowadays. There isn’t a supportive community like there used to be. I could tell more or less the opposite story if you like – older lesbians in their 50’s who became feminists because they ‘had’ to.


  5. I don’t want to be the voice of discouragement, or to dismiss your experiences. But I hear what you say about what you did as a child and can’t imagine it. I would have been beaten to death if I had been so disrespectful to my mother’s husband. I suppose I could have stood up anyway, but then I think, what good would another dead female child have done?
    And perhaps I should do a better job of breaking away from men than I have. I guess in some ways I’ve been literally beaten into submission. But I hang on to this tiny little way of speaking out. Almost no one who knows who I really am in day to day life knows about my blog.
    I don’t know how many other women out there are like me, knowing things are screwed up but too tired and defeated to make many waves, clinging to what little bit of comfort they can find.


  6. Wonderful post. You bring up so many interesting points and questions. Lots for me to think about!

    Amananta- I hear ya. Yes, absolutely. We all choose which battles to fight, which times we speak up and which times we stay quiet to stay safe. Each of us is at our own place in this journey and it’s so important to respect that.

    I live with my boyfriend, and of course sexism and the patriarchy affects our relationship. But I’ve had long-term non-sexual relationships with women that were more like partnerships than friendships, and those women SCREWED me over so hard, and hurt me so much, WAY more than my current boyfriend ever has. So it’s not all easy-peasy, be with a woman and things are great. And that’s where I am right now. And that’s ok, and it’s ok if other people are in a different place.

    This post is making me think about sexuality, orientation, and choices. What is “attraction?” Is it all just socialization? Is attraction just meaningless? Is it a biological “trick” to get us to procreate? Can we choose what to be attracted to, at least to some degree?

    Really great post Allecto.


  7. I’ve decided I will not be returning to males if/when my current relationship with a male does not work out. The learning curve for getting a male up to speed on radical feminism is simply not worth it in my experience.

    I think resistance from women rests in a traditional view of orientation (or: the questions buggle was posing). Being hetero, as I have understood/experienced it, has meant a combination of the following: fetishizing opposite sex genitalia, fetishizing gendered facial expression, body postures, voice inflections, movements, etc. It has meant conditioning arousal to the *othering* of another individual on a disturbingly s/m level.
    I would bet most feel, though intellectually/idelogically they know it wrong, their life would be missing something without this process of fetishizing another class/group of individuals for sexual/visually-appealing reasons. We are taught to have that in our life–some *group* we like/are drawn to in this manner.
    So heteros think, naturally, they must find a way to desire females through this same process. *The whole system of viewing people in this way* is BUNK is what I’m saying. Just flipping pennies otherwise…

    Insult to injury: women are taught self-hate, esp. of their bodies, in such a deep-ceded and massive way. You’d have an easier time getting men to sign up for homosexuality really. So, for those still trying to find lesbianism through the aforementioned route, the idea of being with the physical form of a female seems awful–degrading even.

    Anyways, I think this is a really important question/post. We are so many layers out from younger females going this direction. Daunting! :) but I believe :)


  8. Mary Sunshine, I feel that alienation pretty strongly. It’s difficult to even just begin to discuss separatism. It’s near impossible to communicate with other women for all the men getting in the way.


  9. Thanks for all the interesting comments. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to reply before now.

    Yes, Level. Of course the backlash against feminism and, in particular, against lesbian feminism, has been long and bloody. It is a pretty scary time to be a feminist, let alone a lesbian one. But I suppose I find this interesting because, having studied the writings and the activism of the first-wave, I find that contemporary feminists are pretty fucking spineless in comparison. It is not as though the women in the 70s and 80s were not facing opposition. They had it in spades, from men, from other women etc, etc. And here we are. Us modern feminists. With all of these opportunities and all of this amazing feminist theory to draw upon, with all of these models for organising and activism… and, at least in Australia, we (young feminists/lesbians) are doing shit all.

    Arantxa, while I don’t blame women for being socialised into heterosexuality I have to wonder, what is the difference between our generation and the women who came before. The women’s liberation movement was filled with radical dykes. If it weren’t for lesbian feminism, the women’s movement of the 70s and 80s would not have happened. Before the 70s political lesbianism did not exist. Now it does and young women are running scared from it, insisting that feminism is not hairy and lesbian, when clearly it is.

    Mary Sunshine, I hear you. I really, really hear you.
    Most female human beings being born now stand only a microscopic chance of ever being able to connect with other females on an actual female-to-female level.

    I agree. This is really too true and too sad.

    I think it’s just incredibly hard for young women to rebel against the norm nowadays. There isn’t a supportive community like there used to be.

    Yeah, Polly. I think the supportive community is a huge thing. There aren’t enough feminists (real feminists as opposed to Athenas) around to form a movement, and hence lesbianism isn’t really an option.

    Amanata, I was just telling my story, not saying that every girl/woman should model their behaviour on mine. Survival is important. And I have had options that most women haven’t had. I am not passing judgements on women who have not separated from men. I’m just talking bout me. And wondering if there are any other young women out there thinking the same thing.

    Thanks buggle, And that’s ok, and it’s ok if other people are in a different place. Totally agree with this. I am not judging or criticising any woman who is partnered with a man. Just wondering why there aren’t more women interested in continueing the work and activism of the lesbian feminists in the 70s and 80s. And I am not saying that women have to be lesbians to be feminists. There are many, many awesome straight radical feminists that I just adore and I would never question their commitment to women and girls.

    Pisaquari, hmm. Interesting points.
    women are taught self-hate, esp. of their bodies, in such a deep-ceded and massive way.

    Yes! So true. I think this is one of the main reasons tha the taboos against lesbianism work so sickeningly well. Women’s hate and fear of their own bodies, and of all things female.

    I wonder too, if it is men’s capacity to change that is part of it (wishful thinking perhaps). But back in the 70s and 80s women were breaking up with men and becoming lesbian feminists left, right and centre. But now when women join the movement they bring their men with them. Are younger men more able to change for their partners than the men of the 70s and 80s?


  10. I’d put a big part of the change down to the current state of the LGBTBBQ movement. I don’t know how it was in the 70s/80s, but the biggest push against lesbian feminism for me was the message I consistently got *from lesbians* (and gay men and straight liberals, but it obviously had more strength coming from the lesbians). I and every other liberal-raised person I know grew up being taught that sexual orientation is an *inherent* part of your being that everyone should “just know”.

    So anything resembling lesbian feminism, anything about choosing lesbianism for any reason gets LOUDLY AND ANGRILY shot down, often with accompanying accusations of extreme right-wing-ness. The same arguments also get used when anyone questions any other sexual practice as well, and I’ve had plenty of people tell me all about how being anti- BDSM/pornography/whatever is the same as saying gay people should choose to be straight and get married. Sigh.

    I’ve known people, no, I’ve known *lesbians* who would read your post and automatically go “OMG STOP SAYING WOMEN CAN CHOOSE TO BE LESBIANS YOU HOMOPHOBE!!!” So entrenched is the idea of inherent, immutable, totally-controlled-by-biology sexuality where I am.

    All the gathering points, the feminist organizations and the LGBT organizations, formal or informal, that I’ve encountered hold this “sexuality is inherent” view one way or other, and I’d say that it’s the biggest hurdle with regard to lesbian feminism where I am, anyway. There could be a ton of other young lesbian feminists all around me and we’d never find each other.


  11. Nice article, and what happen to the young female feminists. For example have you caught the new TV series that Eliza Dushku is so proud of staring in and co-producing with Joss Whedon. It is called “Dollhouse” and you should comment about it.


  12. Allecto, I love you! :) Thanks for this wonderful post & for sharing your story.

    There are only 2 lesbian feminist bloggers under 30 that I know of.

    Actually three, if you count me (as a currently lonely separatist lesbian feminist).

    Allecto, lesbianism and feminism used to go hand in hand. I mean, I spent my teenage years in the 90’s, a little bit after the patriarchists’ backlash had started to happen, and nobody was talking about feminism anymore. But then I read all about radical feminism during the late 2000’s. And, really, Allecto, sometimes I really wish I’d known the woman-centered culture of 70’s lesbian feminism. I feel like I have missed something. :(

    Nowadays, if there weren’t such a liberal/pornographic misogyny throughout malestream media and culture constantly grooming young women to conform to patriarchy ( :( ), I believe it sure wouldn’t be as hard as it is for us to try to re-build such a woman-centered culture. The task seems mammoth, and the hopes seem so low.

    But, in the end, Allecto, I am very glad to have found this little woman-centered culture, because knowledge is power; even though it is so painful to know all about the patriarchy (hence the saying that ‘ignorance can be bliss’). Although sometimes it can feel very lonely to have no real support group as a lesbian feminist, you can also look at the good side of it: you are fully informed about what is going on and, thus, you are unlearning patriarchal socialization and you are not conforming to patriarchy. And happy can be those who do not conform and manage to keep their full bodily integrity!

    Anyway, Allecto, I can understand your pain. *Big Hugs*

    I’ve decided I will not be returning to males if/when my current relationship with a male does not work out.

    Pisaquari, this is what happened to me when I gave up on my last male partner. Men, within the society as it stands today, are a complete waste of time (especially due to their refusal to change).

    I would rather give my energy to women.

    Allecto, let me see how those apply to me here:
    “Feminists ARE hairy, man-hating, prudish, fat, ugly, dykey and radical”.

    Well, yes, I’m hairy, but I don’t see anything wrong with that: the patriarchal pressure on women to shave and thus to alter their natural bodies in the name of ‘gender norms’ is so awfully wrong.

    Man-hating? Well, I’m actually indifferent to men. I’d rather care much more about the oppressed, first and foremost, before showing any interest in the oppressor who doesn’t want to change (the exceptions being the very few pro-feminist males, but the real ones are so scarce that it is not showing any major sign of improvement so…). I hate all the men who hate and/or abuse women, that’s for sure, and given the prevalence of misogyny & sexual violence in our culture it means almost all men. I think hating the oppressor is an understandable reaction anyway.

    Prudish? Well, I hate the sexuality that is currently being packaged to us as “great”, i.e. the sexuality of male dominance, as represented in porn, etc. I believe that there is a genuine lesbian egalitarian sexuality that nobody talks about, that is being kept at the margin of this culture. I love sexuality when it involves real human connections and when it rejects objectification. And I hate heteronormativity being portrayed as the norm.

    Fat? I’m in fact slightly underweight instead of overweight, but I am very sad to see that this whole culture is constantly forcing overweight women to be ashamed of their bodies. Women come in all shape. I hate this whole cultural “body image”; it leads so many young girls to have eating disorders.

    Ugly? Well, I dunno (it’s not up to me to judge). But who cares about patriarchal ‘beauty standards’ anyway? Men keep saying “feminists are ugly” as if trying to scare other women away from us… that is ridiculous…

    Dykey, oh, yes I am a lesbian and proud of it! And I’ve got good reasons to stay away from male dominance and violence.

    and radical? Oh, yes, I am. And so are you.

    Rock on, Allecto! :)


  13. “Are younger men more able to change for their partners than the men of the 70s and 80s?”

    I don’t really think change has anything to do with it.

    Think about it this way: 90% of the feminist-man “cred” to be had out there to be had involves being a good dad, particularly to a daughter. (All the dudes who make money off of being good feminist guys are flocking to Dads & Daughters[TM] even if they don’t even have kids! It’s where the cash is.)

    But being a good dad in our society means making sure your daughter can crush the skulls of her peers, having every competitive advantage. Sure, you can argue against sexist advertising and for equal soccer fields, but it’s primarily to make sure your daughter wins out over the other guy’s daughter. Daughters are now acceptable vehicles for the transmission of male power; mainstream feminism has just widened men’s capacity to exert control over the world, even past the confines of their own lifetime.

    Being a feminist boyfriend typically just means picking up your socks and voting democrat (here in the US, although I’m sure there are socks in your part of the world, too), but likewise all of that is very easily folded into traditional male competition: of course you want to do nice stuff for “your” woman, she’s your racehorse, and how she finishes is a reflection of your own status.

    So of course a lot of women (especially white feminists with masters degrees from NYU and the like) don’t have trouble bringing the boyfriend into feminism: he’s more than willing to invest in protecting women who most share the circumstances of his beloved (thus pro-abortion activism is popular), provided he doesn’t have to give anything up unless it promises to pay dividends later. Which, obviously, is how we get articles on how feminism improves sex for men with women who are more adventurous and self-assured and all that.


  14. Maybe they’re still growing up. (Well I can hope, can’t I?)


  15. It seems odd to me that women kind of copped out later. When I was a young feminist, I started reading Ms. magazine, and I read about lesbians before I encountered lesbian feminists. I found men and boys the enemy from the get go.

    There is a treasure trove of books, radical lesbians still hanging out there… a million resources. And then there is laziness. I don’t see young women doing the reading, doing the work, founding the groups, or even contributing to what exists.

    I find a lot of flaky self-centered women who I don’t believe have the passion for feminism at all, let alone lesbian feminism. As for separatism, it’s an excellent and empowering doctrine, and women haven’t a clue as to how to make it work.

    First wave and second wave feminists were simply more committed and more willing to risk everything for their ideals. They created the rape crisis centers, they invented the feminist magazines, they created women’s studies departments. And you can find all these great women on the Internet and Wikipedia. Young women, pick up the phone and go find the elders. Go do the work. If all these women could do all of this work for a fraction of the resources available to young women today, what’s stopping women?

    Radical feminism was never a “mainstream product” it was something you found, it was always underground. None of the radical lesbian magazines I read ever had subscriptions over 300. But we had a passion for sisterhood, and we loved talking to each other, not texting, talking.


  16. Avostarfish, my experience is that women do get involved (start groups, magazines, campaigns etc) but that most are/remain committed to heterosexuality and are not prepared to question it. This committment to heterosexuality takes many guises; there are different ‘excuses’ women offer for why they are/should be partnered with men. There’s a lot of defensiveness (hostility, even) towards lesbian separatism.


  17. I’m reminded of this piece by Marilyn Frye posted by Amy at Feminist Reprise.


  18. So true. I believe this attachment to heterosexuality still is the road block to freedom.
    Many women hide lesbian identity even from themselves for decades. It’s why women come out at age 40 and get on Oprah!


  19. I’ve decided I will not be returning to males if/when my current relationship with a male does not work out. The learning curve for getting a male up to speed on radical feminism is simply not worth it in my experience.

    Add me to this pile. I have generally been more attracted to women than men in my life, and it was only by chance that I fell into my current relationship with my male partner. If/when it comes to an end, I will not enter into another relationship with a man again.

    Separatism may be more difficult for me, as I chose full-time carership of my son. But we all do what we can do.


  20. Hello from a fellow young lesbian radical feminist blogger (is that now four..?)

    I agree with the comments that the demise of lesbian feminism is linked with the rise of the queer community. There are loads of radical ‘queer’ women involved in grassroots activism, but not lesbian activism. Most of these women I would define as lesbians, but they would probably define themselves as queer or trans. And it could be linked to the lesbian community being less (or not at all) feminist. Being a lesbian feminist is mocked in both circles. I too received my feminist backlash education from the queer community (and university). It wasn’t until I met with radical feminist dykes that I began to think differently.

    I suppose the answer to why is there no lesbian feminist movement…is because we (as in collective) aren’t doing much to create one…


  21. Being a lesbian feminist is mocked in both circles.

    I think it is time we reconcile lesbianism and feminism.


  22. This is my first visit & I can’t wait to read EVERYthing!! I see my blog on your blog-roll: THANK YOU! In fact, a link-through in my “stats” is how I found you. :) Anyways, I’m exactly 30, so I’m currently transitioning from “young” to “old” (you wouldn’t *believe* how much gray hair I have! And no, I’m not dying it).

    I have many of the same questions that you raise here: where are my peers?!?!

    I can only speak for myself (and my privilege), but I was raised by a 2nd-waver and I learned the connection between lesbianism and feminism at Smith College. Obviously, the effect was unique, since I don’t any see other Smithies on this band wagon. I believe that I would’ve eventually Come Out, but it might’ve taken me a MUCH longer time if it wasn’t for my immersion in that radical community of woman-loving-women. I’m bisexual (if you will) and as you say, It seems ridiculously simple. Men hate women. Why the hell would you want to sleep with one? That’s why, as a radical feminist, I live my life as a LESBIAN. Proudly.

    Nevertheless, the rise of gender studies was in full force during my years at Smith (late 90s). Queer, queer, queer was/is all the rage! The mutability of sexuality has been made invisible and feminism has been hi-jacked by the unquestioned “wisdom” that attraction is a biological fact. ALL other human behaviors can be conditioned and developed, why NOT this one?? I like to use my brain and body TOGETHER, thank you. My brain tells me to be with the people who love me best, treat me best, and connect with me on the deepest emotional level: WOMEN.

    Anyways, I started blogging shortly after I started reading radical feminist stuff on these inter-webs (early 2009). It was primarily in response to the frustration I felt towards Twisty and her REFUSAL to use the dreaded S-word. Ooooh, separatism is so SCARY!!

    Ultimately, I believe VERY strongly that we NEED to stick together. We need to stop allowing foolishness like “gold star” lesbian primacy to divide us. We NEED TO BE NICE. *At least* to each other. That’s how we build community based on new values.

    So glad to have found you, my new friend. SOLIDARITY, SISTERS!!!


  23. Thanks for your awesome comment undercover punk. I discovered your blog recently and fell in love. Your writing is awesome sister. Nah separatism is in no way scary when compared to the alternative!!! I hope you enjoy your reading here. I certainly have enjoyed reading you.


  24. Amen, allecto, separatism is the ONLY rational response to Reality!!

    I’ve stolen the totally awesome “Sisterhood” image you posted above. Please let me know if I’m violating your rights–I would never, ever want to do that! I only want to propagandize sisterhood. ;)


  25. Great post.

    I’m a radical feminist in my mid-twenties struggling with lesbian feminism. I was first introduced to lesbian feminism and the radical feminist analysis of prostitution and pornography as a student of Sheila Jeffreys at the University of Melbourne.

    Although I came out as a lesbian when I was twelve years-old I have subsequently undergone a long process of heterosexualization, including a long-term heterosexual relationship with a pedophile. Everyone around me identifies me as heterosexual.

    Since being introduced to lesbian feminism I have become a political lesbian in the sense that I am woman-identified and celibate.Yet I am uncertain about coming out again to family and friends and alienated by the sexism and lack of feminist consciousness within the lesbian community. While I continue to be inspired by lesbian feminism I don’t know whether I’ll be able to survive a without a supportive community around me.

    Blogs like this one are heaven-sent.


  26. Hi Bearded Lady. Awesome to meet another lesbian feminist in their 20s. Especially another Aussie.

    I hear you so much when you talk about a lack of supportive community. I have found the internet to be the only haven… the only place I have found a supportive lesbian community. Do you still live in Melbourne? I get the impression that there is quite a lot of feminist events organised there, ususally organised by Sheila jeffreys and company.

    I’m sorry that you had such an awful experience with heterosexualisation. I hope you are healing.

    Stay strong. :)


  27. Thanks for the warm response, allecto. I still live in Melbourne. Sheila Jeffreys recently gave a great seminar on Kate Millet for the Key Thinkers series at the University of Melbourne. She also hosts regular seminars for her postgraduate students to discuss their research, but I don’t think undergraduate students or the general public are permitted to attend.
    It’s great that blogs like yours help facilitate lesbian feminist community and discussion. Thanks for the support.
    In sisterhood,
    BL


  28. Wow. It is a pleasure to find you young lesbians that understand the lesbian feminist thinking of the 80’s
    I am currently working on a film about us old lesbian seperatists and radicals, I want people to understand what our philosophy and politics were. Not as crazy as it could seem…
    I did not know where to find young lesbians like some of you there, did not know even if they existed…
    Would love to have young lesbians carrying the torch in my film, but Australia is a little out of my reach…
    Love the hairy part!!! I must be one of the rare -even-lesbian I know who never shaved…red hair too!
    You are giving me faith in a futur…I tend to think that things come back all the time, the 80’s are not over yet.
    I am finding out that there are some lesbian land in Italie, Germany, US, do you know of any in Australia? Good to hear about Sheila Geffrey still teaching!

    Myriam


  29. Hi there,

    I just visited and slept yesterday in a true lesbian separatist community in France, 4 lesbians remaining there, at a time they were until 16 and biggest lesbian separatist community in Europe, but a lot quit, some went even straight (maybe they were straight or bisexual and at the time they joinded did it only as a fashionable political way of life but they did not hold it long), these ones are lesbians I guarantee you and they are all above 40, but under 60, that’s not too old ! And they look very young and wild !
    They are totally separated of the outside world since 20 years, living there with a so beautiful love for their true being, amongst themselves and for nature and animals they care of, although there are poor..
    Discover them was fantastic, I am totally in love !
    And finally I am thinking that this is the life to look for. It requires much more truth and courage to live so since 10, 15, 20 years, than to try to relaunch lesbian feminist (not-mixed, not queer) political discussion groups as I am trying, or to try to connect via the internet.
    But I think I won’t ever give the address, these lesbians are too precious, their lifestyle is so beautiful and so fragile, it is really magical.
    It is not only ideas anymore but life and courage that are going on in a separatist community and it is important to understand that when you enter in a real life community, it is the same experience as crossing a border and meeting lesbians with much more awareness, like a cultural difference to keep in mind.
    There is no way to stay in both worlds at same time, we have to join if they accept us, live fully there, take the time to do it and totally forget the other world, or if we don’t join, we can then continue to make politics, advertise here and there for it, play on the internet, often compromise, continue not to care enough from us, etc..
    I suppose a fruitful action would be to create women-only spaces or our own lesbian separatist communities and only then and rich of our experience try to reach the ones that already exist and join.
    Anyway a kind of lesbian state would more look like several campsites to my mind..
    I have to leave you there, but I just wanted to share with you my wonderful experience for this new year to give you hope.
    Don’t commit suicide, don’t compromise, and if you quit all to look for what is really worth for you, you will find it, like I finally found them.
    Take care !

    Monique


  30. Thanks for this, Monique and Myriam. Judith Ion has written a brief history of lesbian separatist communities in New South Wales between 1974-1995 but I’m not sure whether or not these communities still exist, fifteen years on but I certainly hope they do. Here’s the reference, if you’re interested: Ion, Judith. ‘Degrees of Separation: Lesbian Separatist Communities in Northern New South Wales, 1974‐95′ in Jill Julius Matthews (ed), Sex in Public, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, 1997, pp. 97‐113. I do that many women in the US still live on lesbian land. If you’re interested in contacting such women, I recommend subscribing to a Yahoo! group called “dykefeminism”. Anyway, it’s great to hear that lesbian separatist communities still exist in France. French women (both in France and Quebec) contributed so much to lesbian/feminist theory…it’s so great you’re making that film, Myriam. Hope when it’s done it gets a run at all the international gay and lesbian film festivals.
    In sisterhood and solidarity,
    redmegaera.


  31. Thank you so much Redmegaera for the book’s reference of Judith Ion, I would be very curious to read it, do you know where I can buy it ?
    But I will look for it.
    There were few French lesbians taking part in this community, most were German and I know they went to live in Wales too at a moment. Same ones ?
    You are right regarding politics but sincerely speaking no, French did not do a lot for separatism, the only French lesbians I know who are separatist could only put a word on their feelings and learn when discovering what had been done and written by American lesbians.
    Radical lesbianism in France is not the same, the word itself is strong and beautiful but Monique Wittig placed like a registred name on that by writing her books, her theories, and when you look carefully at what she or others wrote, it says that lesbianism is only a temporary form of resistance towards oppression, that all kind of gender and of sexual orientation are only social constructions (or resistance). I really don’t believe that and won’t ever care of males, even if the society changed, while I would still be fond of other lesbians.
    Maybe this theory is not too bad for bisexual and society generally speaking, but for true lesbians, I don’t think so.
    And of course it is better welcome by males to tell them * don’t worry, we are lesbians at the moment, but once we will change the society, even the word lesbian will not mean anything anymore and we may have sex with you *
    It has become fashionable in France to declare oneself radical lesbian, radical lesbians networks are in place and organize events, there is an elite having jobs (stable income) at University and writing books or articles, and even if they disapprove queers, they try not to tell it too loudly and they invite them at their events (of course, as queer theory originated from the same Monique Wittig’s or other radical lesbian writers and they claim to be radical too..) while at the same time, you can hardly find any feminist lesbians (just feminist, but not willing to make politics with males) organized in one group and having something to say. I did not find any.

    Anyway I begin to see as secondary my fight to relaunch feminist lesbian political discussion groups in France, I believe separatism is better, indeed I always trusted practical things more than just blabla and theories. Once you proove you can separate, grow yourself and be so happy to love your lesbian mates, in spite of all difficulties, live it and build it really, then I think, it is much more precious than dozen of theory books ! Of course if you write about it, about your own belief and advertise this way of living, it is good too.

    But it is so difficult to separate, it needs to find a house with some land, where you can always add some caravans or small shelters without asking for a building permit, it needs to have enough motivated lesbians and enough money to buy, and know how to survive once living there. And when most lesbians are indeed very poor, unfairly treated by parents (my parents bought a whole house for my sister more than 10 years ago, they still gave her a car and a camping-car, but I had of course nothing, only insults) by employers and by society and abused in all ways possible, it is really difficult.
    It is my problem at the moment.
    I wonder how to join this community, work at same time (as few as possible in the outside world, but I will have no choice and I was thinking of telecommuting jobs) and how to improve their income, maybe by doing some more agriculture as they have some land, for example doing crocus culture, because it is quite easy to care of and we can earn enough to buy food with that. If you have any ideas, do not hesitate to give me a tip…
    Thank you !

    Monique


  32. Oupss, I confused Wales, Uk and New South Wales, Australia.. The separatist lesbians I met went to live in UK, in Wales at a moment, many years ago, why, how long, I don’t know, but it was another separatist community there, in Wales…
    The separatist I know seem to be quite isolated now anyway, so if you know of any other communities that I could inform them.
    But as I said, we can’t exchange addresses just like that, without knowing who we are talking to first. I even don’t give the address to other lesbians around that I know very well and who live just near them, in the next town, just because they are not separatist.


  33. Thanks Monique and Miriam for your inspiring comments. I am sorry I haven’t had the energy to respond before now. I have been on holiday from my blog for a little while… as I have been feeling a bit over the internet.

    I am very excited to hear about your project Miriam. There are one or two women in Australia doing similar project. I have been so motivated by the work of lesbian feminists and separatists of the 1970s and 80s. I wish there were more younger lesbians engaging with it too. So much of womyn’s culture and history of that period has been buried and all but erased. And women like me find ourselves being shunned by the current gayandlesbian and queer communities. Not that those communities interest me… just that it feels like there are no spaces that lesbian feminists are wecome… aside from online spaces.

    Monique, it sounds wonderful, your experience living with the separatists in France. I have always wanted to live as a separatist… at least for a little while. It would be great to set up a women’s-only land here in Australia. There is women’s-only land here in NSW. But it is vacant throughout most of the year. A small group of lesbians go there once a year to ensure that the property is maintained… but no one lives there permanently.

    It is the solution to male supremacy, I think. To separate from them and give our energies to women and women’s community.


  34. I’m confused as to how separatism will further the cause of feminism in the long run. Is the idea that groups of women will eventually overpower men? Run the world governments? Place men in a submissive role? I can certainly see why women would want to separate if they’ve had bad experiences with men, but I don’t see how, as long as both genders live on this earth, separatism would further the cause of feminism. It seems to me that working with men would be more productive for long term social change.

    But then, I’m not a radical feminist, just a curious commenter. And the mother of a son, who is just a toddler and from whom I would never voluntarily separate for any sort of permanent manner, political ideology be damned. Do these separatists leave all their male family members behind? In the case of an abusive father, well, good riddance, but brothers? Sons? Who have done nothing wrong but be born male? This post is so puzzling to me. I suppose I am one of the younger generation who just doesn’t get it.


  35. Katy,

    Separatist lesbians are not straight or bisexual (not the ones I know), so no need to build any emotional relationships with men. Further on, sep lesbians need to live amongst the ones they are attracted by and respect. Even not speaking about any politics, they don’t need men, worse men (and society) parasite them and the relations they build with other lesbians, so they need to get rid of men and society. The goal is not to change the society but to build one’s own. Now it can give ideas to other women of course.. Now you speak about fathers, brothers, etc.. If you choose to have sons, adopted or made by yourself, then you choose to integrate relationships with the other sex. I don’t think it is compatible with being happy as a separatist, with being a separatist, so this problem does not exist. Biological filiation is only biology and has nothing to do with the relationships you should be allowed to choose for yourself and with social filiation imposed by this society (in other societies, biological filiation does not lead to social filiation..). If you carefully think about it, your familial relationships have been imposed to you all your life, you had no choice, it has blocked you to be in same close relationships with other people (and do we need so enclosed relationships ?), and they are not better than others that could have existed otherwise (most of the time they are worse and abuse). You did not choose your parents and siblings, there is NO OBLIGATION to consider them as mandatory relationships if not satisfying and mutually chosen, at least if you are cleaver about it, think that no special affection is required to give to people who forced you to live with them as their property, who forced you to know and accept their every deffects and qualities, who educated you their way and who excluded other more nurturing people and knowledge. You have just been forced to grow in such a family and to belong to your parents and siblings.
    That’s not very fair. Moreover, lesbians are often unfairly treaten by their families.
    Most of the time, siblings and parents do not miss to separatist lesbians.
    That’s my situation and the one of separatist lesbians I know.
    Even if some males did nothing wrong as be born males, and I personnaly know some who are even helping a lot of other humans, just understand please that we don’t need men or any women.
    Besides the heterosexual oppression and men power in the world, besides hating heterosexuality that all of us try to never experience (but some of us have been raped, like a lot of other women), something else is that we just don’t like men, their body, smell, habits, way of doing things and talking, their presence, way of appropriating females, all things inherent to them, to their sexual desires, hormones, constitution, and that we are forced to endure even without having any relationships with them. I can even say we hate that.
    So the only solution that is a happy solution is to live separated, free..
    Who would like to ask why for example fishes want to live in an other world than dogs ?


  36. Do you say separatist lesbians as it should be said or lesbians separatist (maybe even lesbians separatists) ???
    After months where I am always desperately looking on the internet to find something about separatist lesbians, and possibly alive communities, I am just discovering that I may have written the word wrongly. Normal, I am French.. Shit, it is so stupid, what a waste of time. I hope I will find something now.


  37. Monique, I think it is conventionally written lesbian separatist in english. You are not stupid at all. You write very eloquently and I an very surprised that english is your second language.

    Yes, there were women in the 70s who left their sons in order to live within lesbian separatist communities. So staying heterosexually partnered and living as a primary carer of a male child are choices to some extent. Most women are brainwashed into beliving that they are the only choices. And lesbian separatism as a political and personal response to male supremacy is not validated in any way, shape or form by anyone, anywhere, except by lesbian separatists ourselves.

    I think that to build a society of women, separate from men is actually a way of changing the world. Certainly separating from men and living my life as a lesbian feminist has completely changed my world and my way of thinking. It requires a great deal of courage and imagination, to totally re-member ourselves as women. I think lesbian separatists are trailblazers. Lighting up totally new ways of thinking and doing. We have such potential as women-loving women to reimagine a world without heirarchy.


  38. If I can give you hope, I’m a youngen, and my goal in life is to become a lesbian separatist. And perhaps join the circus.


  39. Imaginary, the writing on your blog is amazing. I can’t wait till I have some time to check it all out properly. And yes, since writing this post I am feeling much more hopeful about the future of lesbian feminism.


  40. I’ve been a Lesbian Separatist since 1972, and I do know a number of Separatists under 30. The book I co-wrote, “Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only” helped find some of them. We’re an international community and do continue. It’s the absolute best way to be!


  41. Hello, dear radical feminists and seps.

    Allecto, thank you for writing this. It’s so nice to read a post from a younger lesbian feminist.

    I have been a sep in my heart since my late teens, 30 years or so.

    I have found it hard to find community, for many reasons, partly geography, and partly due to the risk as coming out as a sep or, these days, even as a radical feminist.

    I agree with the person above who wrote to the effect that it is difficult to be in the midst of the backlash, and to keep even a small part of oneself as sep or radical feminist.

    While I live relatively simply and quite inexpensively, it is difficult to support myself in malestream culture, but I quickly discovered in my 20s that trying to live off the land is extraordinarily hard to do, also.

    I also think it is important to recognize that we are products of the culture we are born into and that it is not easy to just reject, walk away from, or step out of everything we grew up with and that molded us, even if we’d like to.

    To me, any lifestyle or life decisions need to be practical and honor who I am/we are emotionally, culturally, intellectually, practically, herstorically, etc.

    I think of separatism as more of a process, and as a negotiation within the circumstances of one’s upbringing and current physical and cultural geography, carving out what one can of separate space and relationships as one wishes, rather than an all or nothing proposition. Because of course, we each have a foot in both the world in which we were raised and exist, and where our heart and mind might be, at least in some regards.

    (It always strikes me as absurd when non-seps point out that “separatism isn’t practical/realistic” because we live in a patriarchy, on a planet with men! As if any sep doesn’t realize men are here, in our lives and towns, and how pervasive and systemic patriarchy is. The people who are most keenly aware of this and just how difficult it is to extricate ourselves from relationships of various sorts with men and patriarchal culture are those of us who try to practice feminist separatism! That is why I have developed for myself a practical definition of separatism, below.)

    If we deny parts of our emotional and practical selves, we can begin to shut down part of ourselves emotionally, which I came to the conclusion for myself wasn’t healthy and can lead to repression and depression. If we shut down any part of our feelings, we start to shut down our ability to feel, and a great deal of feminism is about connecting more fully with our feelings. Patriarchy is so much about disconnecting with feelings: mind over matter, intellect vs. feelings. Both mind and heart are important: our feelings inform our thoughts, and our thoughts can help us remain practical, steady, and thinking critically so we do not get carried away with our feelings without thinking things through carefully as well.

    Since there is no such thing as total separation from patriarchy, given we are all raised and exist within it (even on women-only land within the larger malestream political and economic context, and we are all socialized and educated into patriarchal thinking to a considerable degree), I look at separatism this way:

    Rather than regard separatism in impossibly purist terms that can deny part of our feelings and lives: an absolute of cutting off my relationships entirely with men, straight women, and malestream culture, and denying my feelings and attachments that are only natural to that with which one is raised (even if we don’t agree or like much of what we were raised with), I define separatism…

    as recognizing, appreciating, and *valuing* the benefits that each individual woman derives from the various separations from men, male culture, and heterosexuality that she *freely chooses for herself at any given moment in her life*, while respecting the separations each woman is willing and able to make for herself at any given time. This allows us each the freedom to make our own choices of separations as will benefit us and not require ourselves or each other to make separations that we are practically or emotionally unable to make at any given time. We can support and respect each others’ chosen separations. The benefits of these separations include potentially greater physical, emotional and intellectual safety and opportunities to think, envision, and create more outside of the patriarchal box, which are very much needed to free ourselves from patriarchal thinking and harm.

    So, for example, if a woman sets up a woman-only meeting, dance, or group, other women should respect that choice and not pressure her to make it mixed female/male. After all, virtually all space is mixed-sex, and those who want to create mixed space can do so at another time or place. The opportunity for woman-only or lesbian-only space is rare, and should be respected for what it can provide for those who work to create it. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable in woman-only space, she can create mixed space, such as a mixed dance elsewhere, and be respectful of the woman-only efforts. After all, there are few women who don’t appreciate some degree of separation from men/patriarchy at some moments in our lives, even if it’s just lunch or a vacation with only female friends, etc.

    Each of us knows best for ourselves those separations that support and nourish us at any given time: those separations are not going to be exactly the same for any two women, or even for the same woman at every moment in her lifetime.

    But we can still value and respect the benefits feminist separations give each of us to heal, feel, think, and create.

    This perspective of separatism allows it to not be an all-or-nothing philosophy or experience. It respects who we each are emotionally and practically at any given moment, so that we can make use of feminist separations to help us heal from and work our way out of a patriarchal culture.
    **

    Finally, for the moment!, here is a book I think some (or many) in this discussion might really love. It is a brilliant book called “Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gays, and the Politics of Identity,” by Vera Whisman (1995), available on Amazon.com, and written from a lesbian-feminist perspective. It is a brilliant lesbian-feminist analysis of interviews with lesbians and gays who consider their sexuality to be chosen, in one form or another. Absolutely fascinating – I think you will love it. Very sharp, clear, insightful reasoning, and oh, so deliciously radical about our capacities to choose our sexuality, and why lesbians are more likely than gays to perceive our sexuality as a preference (or choice) rather than as an “orientation” (or non-choice.)

    There is also a web site called Queer by Choice, and interestingly, though it makes references to Whisman’s book, there are more gays than lesbians on there. But definitely get Whisman’s book as it is filled with insight not on the web site, that I think many on here may find intellectually and emotionally supportive.

    Next time here, I’ll write about what I observed of the anti-feminist backlash by gays through the 1980s and 90s.

    Thanks again so much for your blog, Allecto, and connecting us up on your blog. Everyone on here gives me feminist hope.


  42. Where are all the Separatists ?
    Where are all the radical & I mean radical Feminists?

    Sold out, destroyed , trashed, attacked, mind fucked each other.

    Dominated by white middle class lesbians.
    Working class, undereducated, poor seps & rad fems
    silenced, excluded, emotionally abused.

    Silenced by ‘queer’ and liberal feminists.

    So yes attack ‘queer’ for the the damage it is doing to lesbians & feminists, but stop turning a blind eye to all the BULLSHIT in the feminist & separatist communities…………….

    Sorry but it;s the truth and my and many others experience……….


  43. I was born a lesbian, did not choose it because of politics. I have been looking around reciently to see if i can find lesbian sepratists as i want to know what they are like and to know more about the politics. I know a lot about queer politics, but find those people to man excepting. I dont think i would be happy though if i was to meet sepratist lesbians and find out they were really attracted to men and had choosen to change there sexuality for political reasons. Also the one line in this article that pissed me off was the comment about being addicted to the male gaze, i think that is sad.


  44. I’m late replying, cause I just discovered your blog, wich I like a lot.

    I’m under 25, and yeah, we are extremely few to be radical lesbians feminists/separatists at that age (hum…being very few at all ages doesn’t help).

    But it’s no suprise, it is so hard to even hear about radical lesbianism! I had to be feminist for years before I discovered it, at first theoreticaly, and i didn’t thought much about it (even if it was mysterious and appealling somehow), but it was when I finally met lesbian feminists than everything changed.

    They were so clever, strong, funny, confident (even the less confident ones), loving each other, having inspiring conversation…I just couldn’t resist.
    There is no such lesbians or community where I live, so it is always like breathing for the first time when I meet them again!

    But separatists community seems to be on the edge of disappearing…we come too late or too soon.

    The fact that some are creating blogs is also a great relief,

    This is one of my favourites radical lesbian-feminist blogs:
    (Mostly french-speaking)
    http://teteshautesregardsdroits.wordpress.com/


  45. I just want to say this article is full of awesome. I’m not a lesbian, but I”m a separatist. I do think that choosing lesbianism could be a way to go — I don’t think that hetero women in general would support this. They’re too wrapped up in their men, and their minds have been warped by eons of patriarchal dominance.



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