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Lesbian Feminism

After the second wave of feminism, the Lesbian Feminism largely emerged as a
dissatisfaction to womens liberation movements exclusion of lesbians. The term Lesbian
Feminism was introduced by Sheila Jeffreys, who explained its development: "Lesbian feminism
emerged as a result of: lesbians within the WLM (Women's Liberation Movement) began to create a
new, distinctively feminist lesbian politics, and lesbians in the GLF (Gay Liberation Front) left to join
up with their sisters"(19). Lesbian Feminism was not just a movement; it was also a critical perspective
to the society. Sheila Jeffreys offers 7 key themes for Lesbian Feminism (19):

An emphasis on women's love for one another

Separatist organizations

Community and ideas

Idea that lesbianism is about choice and resistance

Idea that the personal is the political

A rejection of social hierarchy

A critique of male-supremacy

This essay will try to analyze the last theme regarding male supremacy as an analysis of
heterosexuality as an institution.

One of the main goals of Lesbian Feminism was to resist to "man-made" institutions. Lesbian
feminism insisted on rejecting patriarchal culture. Cheryl Clarke wrote I name myself lesbian
because this culture oppresses, silences, and destroys lesbians, even lesbians who do dont call
themselves lesbians. I name myself lesbian because I want to be visible to other black lesbians. I
name myself lesbian because I do not subscribe to predatory/institutionalized heterosexuality". All
this were the reasons to produce new alternative form of expression centered on women, and the terms
womyn, wimmin, womon have gained popularity. The need for this terms were to distinguish women
from men and masculine language. The term "women" was seen as women's oppression and
subordination, as it was formed from the word men.

Lesbian Feminism had a lot of critics and oppressions, for example, Betty Friedan, the first
president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), offered tough critic to Lesbian Feminism,
she named the people involved there Lavender Menace arguing lesbianism in the feminist agenda
would undermine the credibility of the womens movement overall. While Lesbian Feminism blamed
the mainstream feminism for promoting homophobia, as it didnt manage to integrate the sexuality in
its discourse, and they treated lesbians as a separate issue. At the beginning, mainstream feminism
and lesbian feminism failed in finding consensus. Betty Friedan, started the war in 1969, when she
fired Ivy Bottini, an open lesbian, who was the president of New York chapter of NOW and the openly
lesbian newsletter editor Rita Mae Brown. Flora Davis in Moving the mountain: the women's
movement in America since 1960 says that as an answer to this unjustified expulsion, in 1970 at the
Congress to Unite Women, twenty women wearing T-shirts with inscription "Lavender Menace" led
by lesbian novelist Rita Mae Brown came to the front of the room and faced the audience of 400
people (264). This was a protest and a manifest. One of the members of that group read the "The
Woman-Identified Woman", which Cheshire Calhoun believes that was the first major lesbian
feminist statement (27). These 20 women were the first to offer lesbian experience as a positive term,
Carolyn Zerbe Enns suggests (105). The results of this protest were rewarding, one year later, NOW
declares that a womans right to her own person includes the right to define and express her own
sexuality and to choose her own lifestyle", three years later NOW establish Task Force on Sexuality
and Lesbianism. Additionally, Del Martin is elected the first lesbian president of NOW.

It would be obvious to assume that the majority of activist and scholars associate with this
movement are lesbians, therefore women, however there are also men that supported this culture.
Eugen Lewis, a political theorist, describes himself as a "lesbian feminist in the ideological sense",
additionally, he criticized patriarchal society and analyzes the parallels between theatrical mockery of
women in the works of C.S. Lewis and underground male prostitution rings in "Reflections on
Patriarchy: A Comparison of the Gendered Worlds of the Sex Industry and The Chronicles of Narnia".

Even though, Lesbian Feminism failed in some arias, it also made a huge impact on the
development of feminism that cannot be neglected. In 1972 a woman could be prisoned for having
sex with other woman, but already by 1973 she could buy lesbian records, books, and attend women-
only lesbian events, and that is a huge step for the rights of women and LGBT community.
References:

1. Sheila Jeffreys, Unpacking Queer Politics: A Lesbian Feminist Perspective (1st ed.)
2. Cheryl Clarke New Notes on Lesbianism (1983) in The Days of Good Looks: The Prose
and Poetry of, 1980 to 2005
3. Flora Davis Moving the mountain: the women's movement in America since 1960, Illini
Books, 1999
4. Cheshire Calhoun, Feminism, the Family, and the Politics of the Closet: Lesbian and Gay
Displacement, Oxford University Press, 2000
5. Carolyn Zerbe Enns, Feminist theories and feminist psychotherapies: origins, themes, and
diversity, Routledge, 2004
6. Eugene Lewis, (1997). "Reflections on Patriarchy: A Comparison of the Gendered Worlds of
the Sex Industry and The Chronicles of Narnia". Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

Articles used:
1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/lesbian-feminism
2. http://outhistory.org/exhibits/show/lesbians-20th-century/lesbian-feminism
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian_feminism#cite_ref-36
4. http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/lesbian/1970s-Lesbian-Feminism.html
5. http://www.glbtqarchive.com/ssh/lesbian_feminism_S.pdf