- Separatist feminism
Separatist feminism is a form of
feminismthat does not support heterosexualrelationships due to a belief that sexual disparities between menand womenare irresolvable. Separatist feminists generally do not feel that men can make positive contributions to the feminist movementand that even well-intentioned men replicate the dynamics of patriarchy. [ Sarah Hoagland, "Lesbian Ethics."] Instead, separatist feminists concentrate on directing their energies and allegiances towards other women, outside of a patriarchal context. This typically includes working with other women towards political or social goals, choosing living and family arrangements that are female-only, and avoiding hiring or working for and with men. Feminists or lesbians identifying as separatist usually choose to live either in celibacyor as lesbians ("see lesbian feminism").
Marilyn Fryedescribes separatist feminism as "separation of various sorts or modes from men and from institutions, relationships, roles and activities that are male-defined, male-dominated, and operating for the benefit of males and the maintenance of male privilege— this separation being initiated or maintained, at will, "by women"." [Marilyn Frye, "Some Reflections on Separatism and Power." In "Feminist Social Thought: A Reader", Diana Tietjens Meyers (ed.) (1997) New York: Routledge, pp. 406-414.]
In a tract on
socialist feminismpublished in 1972, the Hyde Park Chapter of the "Chicago Women's Liberation Union" differentiated between Separatism as an "ideological position", and as a "tactical position". [Chicago Women's Liberation Union, Hyde Park Chapter. "Socialist Feminism: A Strategy for the Women's Movement", 1972, booklet] In the same document, they further distinguished between separatism as "personal practice" and as "political position". [Chicago Women's Liberation Union, Hyde Park Chapter. "Socialist Feminism: A Strategy for the Women's Movement", 1972, booklet]
Heterosexual separatist feminism
One of the earliest, and best known examples of heterosexual separatist feminism was
Cell 16. Founded in 1968 by Roxanne Dunbar, Cell 16 has been cited as the first organization to advance the concept of separatist feminism. [Saulnier, Christine F. "Feminist Theories and Social Work: Approaches and Applications" (1996) ISBN 1560249455] [Echols, Alice. "Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-75", University of Minnesota Press, 1990, ISBN 0816617872, p164] Cultural Historian Alice Echolscites Cell 16 as an example of feminist "heterosexual separatism", as the group never advocated lesbianism as a political strategy, instead promoting the idea of celibacyor periods of celibacy in heterosexual relationships.
Echols credits Cell 16's work for "helping establishing the theoretical foundation for
lesbian separatism. [Echols, Alice. "Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-75", University of Minnesota Press, 1990, ISBN 0816617872, p164] In "No More Fun and Games", the organization's radical feminist periodical, Cell Members Roxanne Dunbar and Lisa Leghorn advised women to "separate from men who are not consciously working for female liberation", but advised periods of celibacy, rather than lesbian relationships, which they considered to be "nothing more than a personal solution." [Dunbar, Leghorn. "The Man's Problem", from "No More Fun and Games", Nov 1969, quoted in Echols, 165]
Lesbian separatism is a form of separatist feminism specific to
Lesbians.Separatism has been considered by lesbians as both a temporary strategy, and as a lifelong practice. Charlotte Bunch, an early member of The Furies Collective, viewed separatist feminism as a strategy, a "first step" period, or temporary withdrawal from mainstream activism to accomplish specific goals or enhance personal growth. [Davis, Flora. Moving the Mountain: The Women's Movement in America since 1960, University of Illinois Press, 1999, ISBN 0252067827, p271] . Other lesbians, such as Lambda Awardwinning author Elana Dykewomon, have chosen separatism as a lifelong practice.
In addition to advocating withdrawal from working, personal or casual relationships with men, "The Furies" recommended that Lesbian Separatists relate "only (with) women who cut their ties to
male privilege" [Bunch, Charlotte/The Furies Collective, "Lesbians in Revolt", in "The Furies: Lesbian/Feminist Monthly", vol.1, January 1972, pp.8-9] and suggest that "as long as women still benefit from heterosexuality, receive its privileges and security, they will at some point have to betray their sisters, especially Lesbian sisters who do not receive those benefits." [Bunch, Charlotte/The Furies Collective, "Lesbians in Revolt", in "The Furies: Lesbian/Feminist Monthly", vol.1, January 1972, pp.8-9] This was part of a larger idea that Bunch articulated in "Learning from Lesbian Separatism", that "in a male-supremacist society, heterosexuality is a political institution" and the practice of separatism is a way to escape its domination. [Bunch, Charlotte. "Learning from Lesbian Separatism", Ms. Magazine, Nov. 1976] (See heterophobia.)
In her 1988 book, "Lesbian Ethics: Towards a New Value", Lesbian Philosopher
Sarah Lucia Hoaglandalludes to Lesbian Separatism's potential to encourage lesbians to develop healthy community ethics based on shared values. [Hoagland articulates a distinction (originally noted by Lesbian Separatist author and anthologist, Julia Penelope) between a "lesbian subculture" and a "lesbian community"; membership in the subculture being "defined in negative terms by an external, hostile culture", and membership in the community being based on "the values we believe we can enact here." Hoagland, Sarah Lucia. Lesbian Ethics: Towards a New Value, Institute for Lesbian Studies, Palo Alto, Ca.]
"Bette Tallen" believes that lesbian separatism, unlike some other
separatistmovements, is "not about the establishment of an independent state, it is about the development of an autonomous self-identityand the creation of a strong solid lesbian community." [Tallen, Bette S. "Lesbian Separatism: A Historical and Comparative Perspective", in "For Lesbians Only: A Separatist Anthology", Onlywomen Press, 1988, ISBN 0906500281, p141]
Lillian Fadermandescribes the separatist impulses of lesbian feminismwhich created culture and cultural artifacts as "giving love between women greater visibility" in broader culture. [Faderman, Lillian. "Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers", Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231074883, p220] Faderman also believes that lesbian feminists who acted to create separatist institutions did so to "bring their ideals about integrity, nurturing the needy, self-determination and equality of labor and rewards into all aspects of institution-building and economics." [Faderman, Lillian. "Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers", Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231074883, p220]
The practice of Lesbian separatism sometimes incorporates concepts related to
queer nationalismand political lesbianism. Some individuals who identify as Lesbian separatists are also associated with the practice of Dianic paganism. [" [http://www.warren-wilson.edu/~religion/newifo/religions/paganism/index/goddess/essay.shtml Empowering the Goddess Within] ", by Jessica Alton] [" [http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1754 Goddesses and Witches: Liberation and Countercultural Feminism] ", by Rosemary Ruether]
Radical lesbianMovement is a FrancophoneLesbian movement roughly analogous to English-language lesbian separatism. [Turcotte, Louise. (foreword) "The Straight Mind and Other Essays", Monique Wittig, Beacon Press, 1992, ISBN 0807079170, p ix]
Inspired by the writings of
Philosopher Monique Wittig, the movement originated in France, in the early 1980s, spreading soon after to the province of Quebec, Canada.
Wittig, referencing the ideas of
Simone de Beauvoir, challenges concepts of biological determinism, arguing that those in power construct sex difference and race difference for the purpose of masking conflicts of interest and maintaining domination. [Hoagland, Sarah Lucia. Lesbian Ethics: Towards a New Value, Institute for Lesbian Studies, Palo Alto, Ca.] Separatism was, as such, an opportunity for lesbians to diminish the impact of these constructed power differences on their lives.
Aspects of Separatist feminism are controversial both inside and outside the feminist movement.
Feministshave suggested that separatism is insensitive to, or inadequately addresses existing social conditions like racismor classism. Others view it as a cultural strategy, not as an authentic movement, and some find it dogmatic, prescriptive or confining.
Feminist theorist and author
bell hooksbelieves that the beliefs of separatist feminists run counter to many of the original goals of feminism, and instead of seeking to create equality, attempt to establish a female-centric and female-dominated society in which men are subjugated and misandryis brought into the mainstream. [bell hooks (2000), "Feminism is for Everybody: Pasionate Politics". Cited in Austin, Hannah (2004) [http://www.expositorymagazine.net/2004/november/separatism.php "Separatism: Are We Limiting Ourselves?"] , EM 4:2] Critiques of the term "separatist" have also emerged from feminist critics such as Sonia Johnsonwho, while advocating a broadly separatist policy, point out that feminist separatism risks defining itself by what it separates itself from, i.e. men. [Johnson, Sonia (1989). "Wildfire: Igniting the She/Volution."]
In a published conversation about
black feminismand lesbianactivism with her sister, Beverly Smith, Barbara Smith, co-author of the Combahee River Collective Statementexpresses concerns that, "to the extent that lesbians of color must struggle simultaneously against the racism of white women (as against sexism), separatism impedes the building of alliances with men of color." [Smith, Barbara and Beverly Smith. 1983. "Across the Kitchen Table: A Sister-to- Sister Dialogue," anthologized in " This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color", p121] Smith also notes that race places lesbians of color in a different relation to men as white lesbians, as "white women with class privilegedon't share oppression with white men. They're in a critical and antagonistic position whereas Black women and other women of color definitely share oppressed situations with men of their race." [Smith, Barbara and Beverly Smith. 1983. "Across the Kitchen Table: A Sister-to- Sister Dialogue," anthologized in "This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color", p121] Smith makes distinction between the theoryof separatism, and the practice of separatism, stating that it is the way separatism has been practiced which has led to "an isolated, single-issued understanding and practice of politics, which ignores the range of oppressions that women experience. [Smith, Barbara. Response to Adrienne Rich's "Notes from Magazine: What does Separatism Mean?" from Sinister Wisdom, Issue 20, 1982]
Jewelle Gomezrefers to her entertwined history with black men and heterosexual women in her essay, "Out of the Past" and explains that "to break away from those who've been part of our survival is a leap that many women of color could never make." [Gomez, Jewelle. "Out of the Past", in David Deitcher's "The Question of Equality:Lesbian and Gay Politics in America Since Stonewall", Scribner, 1995, ISBN 0684800306, pp44-45]
Alice Echolsdescribes the emergence of a lesbian separatist movement as a response to what she sees as homophobicsentiments expressed by feminist organizations (like the National Organization of Women. Echols argues that "...the introduction of (homo)sex troubled many heterosexual feminists who had found in the women's movement a welcome respite from sexuality." [Echols, Alice. "The Eruption of Difference," from "Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975", 1989, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 0816617872, p216] Echols considered separatism as a lesbian strategy to untie lesbianism from sex so heterosexual women in the feminist movement felt more comfortable. [Echols, Alice. "The Eruption of Difference," from "Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975", 1989, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 0816617872, p218]
In her essay "Women, wimmin, womyn, womin, whippets - On Lesbian Separatism",
Julie McCrossintakes the view that some aspects of separatism are "restricting...confining, inward turning and exclusive, not only of men, but of many women too." [" [http://www.takver.com/history/womyn.htm Women, wimmin, womyn, womin, whippets - On Lesbian Separatism] ", by Julie McCrossin,] McCrossin cites slogans like "dead men don't rape" and "kill them in their cots" as examples of extreme lesbian separatist views. [" [http://www.takver.com/history/womyn.htm Women, wimmin, womyn, womin, whippets - On Lesbian Separatism] ", by Julie McCrossin,] . Some separatist feminists seem to predict or advocate the attrition of men by a process of evolution, murderor abortion. Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifestosuggested that it was the job of females to "destroy the male sex" though she later said her manifesto was "just a literary device." [Solanas, Valerie. Interviewed by Howard Smith, Village Voice, July 25, 1977 Issue, quoted in "Scum Manifesto" By Valerie Solanas, AK Press, 1996, ISBN 1873176449, p55]
While some of these statements may be empowerment fantasies rather than literal calls to violence, one
men's rightsactivist compared separatist attitudes and hate speechtowards men to those taken by Nazistowards Jews. [Carey, Roberts (2003) [http://mensnewsdaily.com/archive/r/roberts/03/roberts081203.htm "Feminism's Thousand Year Reich"] , "Men's News Daily"]
Men's rights groups have described women-only events and organizations as "separatist", with the UK Men and
Father's rightsgroup Website describing women-only library tables, for example, as " apartheidpractices of excluding men". [UK Men and Father's rights Homepage, " [http://www.coeffic.demon.co.uk/descrim.htm#public_libraries Discrimination Against Men] ". Accessed 14th December, 2006.] However, while organizations restricted to or geared towards only women are exclusive, they are not necessarily associated with the theories and political stance of separatist feminism.Fact|date=March 2008
eparatism in literature and culture
An important and sustaining aspect of lesbian separatism was the building of alternative community through "creating organizations, institutions and social spaces ...women's bookstores, restaurants, publishing collectives, and softball leagues fostered a flourishing lesbian culture." [McGarry & Wasserman, "Becoming Visible : An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life in Twentieth-Century America", Studio, ISBN 0670864013, pp187-188]
Lesbian separatism and Separatist Feminism have inspired the creation of art and culture reflective of its visions of female-centered societies, including various works of
lesbian science fictionwhere new technologies in human reproductive strategy have created Lesbian utopias, eliminating the need to have men for human reproduction.Fact|date=March 2008
The "Wanderground" (Persephone Press, 1978), is a separatist utopian novel written from author
Sally Miller Gearhart's personal experience in rural lesbian-separatist collectives. [Shugar, Dana R. "Separatism and Women's Community", University of Nebraska Press, 1995, ISBN 0803242441]
Lesbian and feminist in the 1970s "created a wide network of publications and presses" andmagazines and periodicals designated "for women only" or "for lesbians only" were a common sight in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (see
List of lesbian periodicals); including the London, Englandlesbian magazine "Gossip: a journal of lesbian feminist ethics" [http://www.laganz.org.nz/serials/gei-huz.html ] , "Circle", a lesbian only journal collectively produced in Wellington, New Zealand[Covina 1975,pp 244-245.] [http://www.laganz.org.nz/serials/cap-cut.html ] , the Australian periodical "Sage: the separatist age" [http://www.laganz.org.nz/serials/s.e-squ.html ] , Canada's "Amazones d'Hiver: Lesbiennes d'ajourd hui", produced for lesbians only in Montreal, Quebec, [Warner 2002, p 179.] and the "Killer Dyke" a magazine by the "Flippies" (Feminist Lesbian Intergalactic Party), based in Chicago, IL. [http://www.wifp.org/womensmediach6.html ] [http://www.clga.ca/Material/PeriodicalsLGBT/inven/PeriodicalsInventoryH-L.htm ]
The early 1970s was an active period in
Womyn's music, a genre mostly originated and supported by separatist feminists. Maxine Feldman's " Angry Atthis", and Alix Dobkin's " Lavender Jane Loves Women", were two early examples of this phenomenon. [*Garofalo, Reebee. "Rockin' the Boat", South End Press, 1992, ISBN 0-89608-427-2] Fact|date=March 2008
Separatist feminism provided lesbians opportunities to "live their lives apart from ...mainstream society," [McGarry & Wasserman, "Becoming Visible : An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life in Twentieth-Century America", Studio, ISBN 0670864013, p190] and, in the 1970s, "significant numbers of lesbian feminists moved to rural communities. [McGarry & Wasserman, "Becoming Visible : An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life in Twentieth-Century America", Studio, ISBN 0670864013, p187] One of these Lesbians, Joyce Cheney interviewed
ruralseparatist feminists and lesbian separatists living in Intentional community, Land trusts and Land co-ops. The result was her book, "Lesbian Land". [Cheney, Joyce. "Lesbian Land", Word Weavers Press, 1976] [Valentine, Gill. "Contested Countryside Cultures: Otherness, Marginalisation, and Rurality" ed: Paul J. Cloke, Jo Little, Routledge, ISBN 0415140749, pp109-110] Cheney describes the reason for many of these separatists' move to Lesbian Land as a "spatial strategy of distancing ...from mainstream society". [Valentine, Gill. "Contested Countryside Cultures: Otherness, Marginalisation, and Rurality" ed: Paul J. Cloke, Jo Little, Routledge, ISBN 0415140749, pp109-110]
Noteworthy separatist feminists
Separatism within the feminist movement enjoyed a peak in popularity during the 1970s. Organizations associated with separatist feminism include:
Cell 16( Boston, Massachusetts)
Chicago Lesbian Liberation
Collective Lesbian International Terrors
The Furies Collective( Washington, D.C.)
The Gorgons( California)
*The Killer Dyke (Newsletter)"
The Lesbian Separatist Group( Seattle, Washington)
The Lesbian-Feminist Center( Chicago, Illinois)
Radicalesbians Revolutionary Lesbians( Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Tribad( New York City, New York)
* [http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/UFDC/?s=rwg&m=hitletter Radical Women in Gainesville] , a digital collection and exhibit site that documents the history of the Gainesville Women's Liberation Group. ( [Gainesville, Florida] )
Individuals associated with separatist feminism include:
Jeffner Allen, author of "Lesbian Philosophies and Cultures"
Joan E. Biren(JEB), lesbian Photographer
*Lizzie Borden, director of "
Born in Flames"
Rita Mae Brown, author and founder of The Furies Collective
Mary Daly, theologianand former Boston Collegeprofessor
Alix Dobkin, Singer-Songwriter
Andrea Dworkin, author of "Womanhating"
Marilyn Frye, author of "The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory"
Carolyn Gage, Author of "The Second Coming of Joan of Arc"
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of "Herland"
Karla Jay, English professor and former member of the Gay Liberation Front
Judy Grahn, American poet
Sarah Lucia Hoagland, Co-author of "For Lesbians only: A Separatist Anthology"
Sonia Johnson, American author and activist
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, American activists
Kate Millett, author of " Sexual Politics"
Julia Penelope, Co-author of "For Lesbians only: A Separatist Anthology"
Adrienne Rich, American poet
Linda Shear, American folksinger
Heidi Wyss, Swiss writer
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