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the debate between feminism heterosexual and political lesbianism
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P u b l i s h ea n d p r i n t e d y d b . O n l y w o n r e P r e s sL t d . n 3 8 M o u n tP l e a s a n t L o n d o nW C I X O A P April 1981 CopyrightO eachauthor. No All rightsreserved. part of this pamphletmay be reproduced any form in without the written permission the authorand of OnlywomenPress of Ltd. I S B N0 9 0 6 s 0 00 8 7

by Typesetting Dark Moon 4-3All SaintsRoad LondonWl I by Cartoons Jo Nesbitt

w a W e a r e p u b l i s h i n gt h i s p a m p h l e t b e c a u s e e t h i n k t h e d i s c u s s i o n m o n g f e m i n i s t s p o l i t i c a l l e s b i a n i s ms i m p o r t a n t . T h e L e e d sR e v o l u t i o n a r yF e m i n i s t s i about p p a p e r w a s o r i g i n a l l y w r i t t e n a s a c o n f e r e n c e a p e r a n d t h e n p u b l i s h e di n W I R E S , t h e i n t e r n a ln a t i o n a l n e w s l e t t e ro f t h e w o m e n ' s l i b e r a t i o nm o v e m e n t . M a n y w o m e n h a v eh e a r d o f t h e d e b a t e w h o h a v e n e v e r r e a d a n y o f t h e p a p e r s .l t s g e n e r a t e d o m u c h i n t e r e s ta n d f e e l i n gt h a t w e w a n t e d t o m a k e t h e a r g u m e n t s i a v a i l a b l en a m o r e p e r m a n e n tf o r m . B u t o u r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h e p a p e r a n d t h e c e y e n s u i n g o r r e s p o n d e n c d o e s n o t m e a n t h a t w e a s a c o l l e c t i v en e c e s s a r i l a g r e e w i t h o r s u p p o r t t h e p o s i t i o n ss t a t e d o r t h e w a y s i n w h i c h t h e y a r e s t a t e d .T h e r e a r e a n u m b e r o f o t h e r l e t t e r sw h i c h w e w a n t e d t o i n c l u d e i n t h i s p a m p h l e t . W e l r w r o t e t o a l l t h e w o m e n i n v o l v e db u t i n s e v e r a i n s t a n c e s e c e i v e d o r e p l y a n d n . t h u s c o u l d n o t p u b l i s hw i t h o u t p e r m i s s i o n F o r t h e s a k e o f p o l i t i c a l a n d e d i t o r i a l c l a r i t y w e h a v ed e c i d e dt o i n c l u d e b r i e f s t a t e m e n t s c o l l e c t i v ea n d i n d i v i d u a l o f , o u r o w n ( O n l y w o m e n P r e s s ) d e a s . h e s ea r e t o b e f o u n d t o w a r d s t h e e n d o f i T the pamphlet. Letters marked with a star * have been cut

POLITICAL LESBIANISM: THE CASE AGAINST TIETEROSEXUALITY We know that the question of whether all feminists should be lesbiansis not often when we new. We havehad to work out out ideason the subject because about our politics and what it meansto say men are the enemy, with other talk women, we are askedwhether we are sayingthat all feminists strould be lesbiars. We realisethat the topic is explosive.It is somethingwe are supposedto talk about at home and in closeand trusted groups of friends and not make political statementsabout in the movement, lest our heterosexualsistersaccuseus of woman-hating.Is it true that we must conceal our strong political beliefs on the subject when talking with other feminists?We would like to raisethe whole issue for discussionin a workshop; not just whether all feminists should be lesbiarn, but preciselywhy we think they should be and whether and how we may begin to talk about it more openly. We do think that all feminists can and should be political lesbians.Our definition of a political lesbianis a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It doesnot mean compulsory sexualactivity with women. The paper is divided into two parts. The first coven the reasonswhy we think serious feminisb have no choice but to abandon heterosex-'ality. The secondis aranged in the form of questionsraisedand comments made to us about the subject of political lesbianismand the way we think they should be answered. (l) What heterosexuality is about and why it must be abandoned

Sexuality What part does sexrulity play in the oppressionof women? Only in the system of oppressionthat is male supnemacy does the oppressoractually invade and colonise the interior of the body of the oppressed. Attached to all forms of sexualbehaviour are meaningsof dominanceand submiSion, power and powerlessness, conquestand humiliation. There is very specialimportance attached to sexuality under male supremacywhen every sexual refereirce,every sexualjoke, every sexualimageservesto rcmind a woman of her invaded centre and a man of his pou'er. Why all this fuss in our culture about sex?Because is specifically it through sexuality that the fundamental oppression,that of men over women, b nuintained. (This strould be a book, can't really be gone into now.)

6 The heterosexualcouple The heterosexualcouple is the basic unit of the political structure of male supremacy.In it each individuat woman comesunder the control of an individual man. It is more efficient by far than keeping women in ghettoes,camps or oven at sheds the bottom of the garden'In the couple,love and sex are usedto obscurethe realities of oppression,to prevent women identifying with each 'their' man aspart of the enemy. other in order to revolt, and from identifying couplehelpsto shoreup male Any woman who takespart in a heterosexual by supremacy makingits foundationsstronger' Penetration Penetration(wherever we refer to penetration, we mean penetration by the to penis)is not necessary the sexual pleasureof women or evenof men. Its forms of contraception' performanceleadsto reproduction or tedious/dangerous culture of this particular stage Why then does it lie at the heart of the sexualised of male supremacy?Why are more and more women, at younger and younger by ages,encouraged psychiatrists,docton, marriageguidancecounsellors,the pom industry, the growth movement, lefties and Masten and Johnson to get the fucked more and more often? Because form of the oppressionof women male supremacyis changing.As more women are able to eam a little more under of money and the pressures reproduction are relievedso the hold of individual men and men as a classover women is being strengthenedthrough sexual control. The function of penetration Penetration is an act of great symbolic significanceby which the oppressor But it is more than a symbol, its function and entersthe body of the oppressed. effect is the punishment and control of women. It is not just rape which serves this function but every act of penetration, eventhat which is euphemistically describedas 'making love'. We have all heard men say about an rtppity wornan, 'What she needsis a good fuck'. This is no idle remark. Every man knows that a fucked woman is a woman under the control of men, whosebody is open to nren.a woman who is tamed and broken in. Before the sexual revolution there \ras no mistake about penetration being for the benefit of men. The sex"al revolution is a con trick. It servesto disguisethe oppressivenaturc of male sexuality and we are told that penetntion is for our benefit as well. Every act of penetration for a woman is an invasion which underminesher confidence and sapsher strength. For a man it is an act ofpower and mastery which makeshim stronger,not just over one woman but over all women. So every woman who engages penetration bolsters the oppressorand reinforces in the classpower of men. (2) (a) and Comments Questions But it soundslike you are sayingthat heterosexualwomen are the enemy!

No. Men are the enemy. Heterosexualwomen are collaborators with the enemy. All the good work that our heterosexualfeminist sistersdo for women is underin mined by the counter-revolutionary activity they engage with men. Beinga feminist is like beingin the resistance Nazi-occupied in Europe heterosexual where in the daytime you blow up a bridge, in the eveningyou rush to repair it. Aid for example:women who live with men cannot tell battered Take Women's women that survival without men is possiblesince they are not doing it themEvery woman who lives with or fucks a man helps to maintain the selves. oppressionof her sistersand hinden our struggle. (b) But we don't do penetration,my boyfriend and me

If you engagein any form of sexualactivity with a man you are reinforcing his classpower. You may escape most extreme form of ritual himiliation but the because the emotionalaccretions any form ofheterooexual of to behaviour,men gain great advantages and women lose.There is no such thing as 'pure' sexual pleasure. Such'pleasure'iscreatedby fantasy,memory and experience. Sexual 'pleasure'cannot be separated from the emotions that accompanythe exercise ofpower and the experience ofpowerlessness. you don't do penetration,why not take a woman lover?If you strip a flf man of his unique ability to humiliate, you are left with a creature who is merely worseat every sort of semual activity than a woman is). (c) But my boyfriend doesnot penetrateme, I enclosehim

A roseis a roseby any other nameand so is penetration.Or possibly,.you can't make a silk pune out of a boar's ear' is a more apt expresion. The kindest interpretation is to say that believingin enclosureis wishful thinking. It would be more realistic to say that it is a copout and a rationalisation for continuing the activity. Enclosure,where an active vagina(helped by strengthening exercises) sucksin a penis could only take place where a woman and a man were born fully formed, totally innocent, onto an uninhabited desertisland (where they might well neverdiscover fucking anyway). No act of penetration takes placein isolation. Each takes place in a system of relationshipsthat is male supremacy.As no individual woman can be 'liberated' under male supremacy,so no act of penetration citn esqlpe its function and its symbolic power.

8 (d) But I like fucking

I it to suited to California,supposing bearsany resemblance reality, than to HackneY' include the pleasureof But yes, it is better to be a lesbian.The advangages that you are not directly servicingmen, living without the strain of a knowing life, uniting the personaland the political, glaringcontradictionin your personal into those you are fighting alongsiderather loving and putting your energies than those you are fighting against,and the possibility of greater trust, honesty and directnessin your communication with women. Communication with heterosexualwomen is fraught with difficulties, with static which comesfrom their relationshipswith men. Men distort such communication. A heterosexualwoman will have a different perception and reaction to things you say; she may be defensiveand is likely to be thinking 'What about Nigel?'Whenyou talk of women'sinterests and the future and survivalof women,her imaginationmay be blocked by concernfor her man and his brothers. You feel under pressureto say nice things which will not threaten her. (h) You are guilt-tripping us

Gving up fucking for a feminbt is about taking your politics seriously' Women who are socialistsare preparedto give up many things which they miglrt enjoy they seehow thesethingStie into and support the whole system of because economic classoppressionwhich they are fighting. They will resist buying Cape for the applesbecause profits go to south Africa. obviously it b more difficult system of somefeminists to give up penetntion which is so fundamental to the oppressionwhich we are fighting' to live It is much easierfor you in the lesbianghetto than for me. I have day-by-day out the contradictions of my politics which is a hard, relentless, strugglewith the man I live with and That's simply not true. Living without heterosexualprivilegeis difficult living in a women's iry going into pubs with groups of women or dangerous. where youths in the street lay siegewith stonesand catcalls. hou-se Heterosexualprivilegesare male approval, more safety from physical attack, greatereasein dealingwith the authorities, gettlng repain done, safety from a besiegingobscenephone-caller,being able to refer to a man in the bus queue or at work which brings smilesof approval from women and men, let alone the financial adrantagesof being attached to a member of the male ruling classwho has greaterearning power. we Because chooseto live without theseprivilegeswe resentbeing usedby heterosexualfeminists as fuelling stations when they are wom down by their strugtes with their men. Women'sliberation groups and women's households should be a refuge and support for heterosexualsistersin resolvingtheir contradictions by getting out but should not be usedto prop up heterosexualrelation' shipsand thereby shoreup the structure of male supremacy. G) (f) But lesbian relationshipsare also fucked up by power struggles

No. Guilt-tripping is usedto prevent women from telling the truth as they seeit and from talking about hard political realities. It is you, heterosexualsisters, who are guilt-tripping us. It is possibleto stop collaborating and asking you to do that is not a guilt-trip. (i) Are all lesbian feminists political lesbians?

That is sometimestrue, but the power of one woman is never backed up by a position, strugglesbetween women do not directly strengthen suprior sex-class the oppressionof all women or build up the strength of men. Personalperfection in relationshipsis not a realistic goal under male supremacy.l,esbianismis a political choice, part of the tactics of our struggle,not a passport to necessary paradise. G) I won't give up what I've got unlesswhat you offer me is better

No. Some women who are lesbiansand feminists work closely with men on the male left (either in their groups or in women's caucuses within them), or provide mouthpieceswithin the women's liberation movement for men's ideaseven when non-aligned.It may well be that these women find it more difficult to see that men are the enemy becausethey are treated as substitute but inferior men by left malesand are able to feel superior to the straight women who are still strugglingagainstsexual oppressionin their beds. They are not woman-identified and gain privilegesthrough associatingwith men and putting forward ideas which are only mildly unacceptable maleleft ideology. to (j) But you don't understandhow difficult it is to give up men

Wenever promised you a rose garden.We do not say that all feminists should be becauseit is wonderful. The lesbiandream of woman-loving,barelesbians hillsides is more breasted,gUitar-playingsoftballers,gambolling on sun-soaked

Most of us know from penonal experience how practicallydifficult and painful it is to decide not to fuck againand get out from the rnn we live with and/or love.It is usuallyonly done with the love,support and strengthofother wornen who have made that break and whosecriticism and straight-talking spurred us

on. We know that for some women, e.g. those with children, those with no easy to access the movement,and those without the experienceof living on their own, the break is more difficult than for others and they need more time and practical support. we know how difficult it is to find a women's houseto move 'new girl' at the women's disco' But part of into and what it is like to feel like a the support must be in explaining as clearly as possiblethe political reasonsfor our own choice and talking honestly about all the difficulties with the women who are making it. lreds Revolutionary Feminist Group


DearWires' the case LeedsRevolutionaryFeministGroup's paper"Political lesbianism: me, but I'm glad they wrote it heterosexuality"offendedand angered against thoseideashavebeenhangingaround for yearsbut an6 Wiresprinted it because neverbeenstatedso baldly before. have lt's also the first time I've seenfeministsdirectly deny the principle that is everywoman'sexperience real,and valid, - that women havethe capacityand the right to maketheir own choicesabout their liveswithout being told what's else,or being ostracised not conforming. for goodfor them by someone feminists. and heterosexual I know there'sunspokentensionbetweenlesbians ofeach other - cautious and defensive because hard to it's suspicious We're with choicesthat seemstrange- evenperverse. Ihe samecredibility ernpathise gapdividesother groupsof women - mothersand non-mothers, older and youngerwomen,black and white women. But to canonizethosedivisionswith abstracttheory insteadof communicating with eachother - confronting them in a way that MEANS somethingto experience ofour different lives,and builds on those our own conscious experiences well, whateverhappened consciousness to raising? This isn't a vanguard cadregroup with a five-yearapprenticeship an entranceexam,it's and a liberation movement,for all women. Standard, sexistheterosexual with penetrationas the unquestioned sex pirtnacle oppressive womenand tailoredto men'sinterests, that'snot is to but newsand it's not contentious.The tragedyis that women'stentative attempts to exploreand revealand challenge standardsexualpracticehavebeen killed stonedeadby the two commandments if you do it with womenyou're OK that and if you do it with men, you're out. "If you engage any form of sexualactivity with a man you are reinforcing in his class power." Full stop.End of discussion. But lesbianism, we're told, provides "the pleasure living without the strain of of a glaringcontradictionin your personal life, uniting fhe personaland the political, lovingand putting your energies into thoseyou are fighting against, and the possibility greater in of trust,honestyand directness your communicatronwith women." What'sthe secret? "personallife" (I'm a lesbian)is riddled with glaring My contradictions, needsand desires. dubiousmotives,irrational and compulsive I havea very few friendsI really trust and none of them is a lover. I may be unique,but I suspect I've from observation and conversations had with others

(wrRES 81)
Paperfint given to a conferencein September 1979

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that I'm not. And where's evidence the that heterosexual womencan't and don't with otherwomen? lovingrelationships trusting, develop close, Eventhough sexualityis sucha powerful and controlling force in all our lives, it left to discuss - it's not to thereseems be no space in the tnovement seriously eachother. "political" exceptwhenwe usesexualchoiceto judgeand condemn her, change her, but the world song,"change In the wordsof Janieand Andrea's the same". stays and conflicts our and doubtsand needs If we can no longerexpress fears of without beingaccused rockingthe right-onboat we'll be drivenback into fists into clenched will collapse and feminism and guilt and seit'-hatred isolation, and empty slogans. FrankieRickford. In sisterhood, (Wires82)

Men havealways held that it is only women's teeble-mindedness argument. sexist oppression the pitying tone of this paperechoes women's them whichcauses exactlY. about a radicalfeministanalysis that we say that our is Wrat is special is not our fault, but alsothat womenarenot brainwashed stupid). (i.e. oppression needto look at why womendo what they do, to feminists Radical strength women's and to try to add to it, not just to bully them out of respect The Redstockings' manifesto, early radicalfeministmanifesto an their silly ideas. said"we take the woman'ssideon everythine".For me, bearingthis in mind is a good way of exposingliberal arguments, and I think that the political l.esbianisnr paperfallsdown badly.If a womanlikesfucking,radicalfeminists just shouldn't doingand muststop it now, but shouldtalk sayshedoesn'tknow what she's of aboutother areas life. The only pointin womenchanging their livesisif they --if it is good for them. we haveto discover, we go along,what v"antto as it is that womenwant,not try and dictateit now. I spenta long time asa heterosexual, committedfeminist, very and felt guilty a lot of the time, but I did not leavemy boyfrienduntil I wanted vaguely to. My process withdrawalwaslong and painful but I think necessary. I had of If left abruptly,in a fit ofguilty righteousness, process, that ofthe creationofan independent self, would havebeenleft with nothing but a sense virtue to fill of the gapleft by that relationship. I absolutely rejectthe ideathat heterosexual feminists' politicalwork is undermined simply by their sleeping with men as such. on the other hand there are obviouslywaysin which women'srelationships with men damagethemselves and other women.But it is up to heterosexual womento work out what is good for them and I think that lesbians shouldrespecttheir integrity and good faith in doingthat. on the subjectof integrity,I think that the omissions from the political Lesbianism pieceare very interesting.This is the first time, in maybe two years stncethe groupbegan,that any revolutionaryfeministshavemade this sort of absolute statement about relationships with men.It isn't the first time by any means that thesethingshavebeensaidin the Movement,but it's the first time thesewomenhavesaidit. I would like to know, in personal'private' terms, what that means thoseindividuals.I think that a little openness to about their own f'eelings, about their own lives,would be far more interestingthan all thesepronouncements abouteveryone else's. alsobe interested why no individual I'd in women put their namesto the piece- but the whining voiceof the fantasy heterosexual feminist asksonly theight questions, thosewhich allow the wrltersto trot out their lovely slogans, and evadethe doubts and fearswhich might giveus someinsight into what is really going on with them. SophieLaws.

Another criticism of the Lreds Revolutionary Feminist paper " Politicallrsbianism" I very much agreedwith what Frankie Rickford and the other women who have written to WIRESaboutthis havesaid,but I want to add somemore thoughtsof nry own on a ratherdifferent tack from theirs. friend to line?" saidmy heterosexual "Whatever to happened the pro-woman eachother.Fair commentit wasat weretreating me about the way that lesbians paper.The the time and also,I think, fair commenton the PoliticalLesbianism Fem'swrite as though they werebeing terribly bravein publislring [eeds Rev. their paper, no openness, risk - one might no and yet it contains realpersonal think that thesewomenwereautomatons. moreexactlyone would think that Or in they weretrying to be "cadres"(professional revolutionaries) the vanguardist Marxist tradition; shiningeyesfixed on the gloriousfuture after the revolution, jumperscovered badges hearts beating the rhythm of the right-online. to in and And the highestact, the test of fire which dividesthe true disciplefrom the hopeless fool ofa liberal,is givingup fucking. to Somehowthey reducethe whole structureof male supremacy fucking. the from men becomes total strategy how exactly services Wthdrawingsexual this will bring them to their kneesis not explained. feel guilty thanit is feminists to it Of course, is a lot easier makeheterosexual either to confront the structuresof the patriarchywhich go beyondimmediate why heterosexual personal or in relationships to examine depththe reasons about relationships havethe hold over women that they do. Shoutingslogans The implicationof the Rev.Fem's this sort of thingis totally irrelevant. and should approach that heterosexual is women areeither stupid or masochistic pull themselves liberal togetherand fight the patriarchyproperly - a classic


DearWires, the which contravened that you did not print contributions I understand Feminist Group Paper, Surelythe Lreds Revolutionary WLM demands. .,PoliticalLesbianism"clearlyand directly contravenes demandfor the right the pieceof arrogant is alsothe most patronising, It to a self definedsexuality. orthodox psychologyetc about women. rubbishI haveeverread,including an I think Wirescollectiveowesits readership explanation' whatsoever, Yoursin no sisterhood Ann Pettitt. (WRES 83) DearSisters, in what is wrong with the analysis the Leedspaper?I seea flat contradiction write: "There is no sisters The experience. Leeds of in it on the question sexual b pll e a s u r e .u c h ' p l e a s u r e ' cs e a t e d y f a n t a s y , S ir s u c ht h i n ga s ' p u r e ' s e x u a from the be separated Sexual'pleasure'cannot memoryand experience. of of the exercise powerand the experience powerthat accompany emotions is that how a woman feelsabout any sexualexperience lessnes." They admit to situationand relationship her her sheperceives overall by determined how the two of them.And so far I between partner, includingthe powerrelationship with them. But then they go on to tell us how we OUGHT to feel in agree what is happeningas'he doesnot with men: if a woman describes relationsl.rips 'wishful thinking', 'a cop-out'' him', sheis guilty of penetrateme, I enclose sexualpenetrationby a man as a humiliation' an act Womenought to experience etc; class-collaboration, and ifthey don't experience of counter-revolutionary that, they aredeluded. memoryetc.,thenit follows on depends fantasy, experience But if sexual when I make love; that .I can be the only authority on what I am experiencing remembering, for I am the only personwho can lcnow what I am fantasising, ice feeling.If I tell you that it feelslike eatingmango-flavoured cream,or like a galloping barebackacross moor by the full moon, or like anythingelsethat comesinto my mind, on what basiscanyou or anyoneelsetell me that I am mistakenor deluded? for don't seemto havemuch respect But morethan that, the treds sisters - or why do they put it into invertedcommasin the as sexualpleasure such Are they telling us that an piecequoted above,or compareit to Capeapples? orgasmwith a woman doesn'tmeansheis controlling me? And is it the act of him his 'controf', or what? The his penetratingme, or my orgasmwhich gives - do they evermake love to anyone,and way they write makesme wonder when they do, how do they feel about it? Whenthey come, don't they get that feelingcomingup from inside,so that for a sort of whooshof overwhelming

And are they while you don't know whereyou end and your partner begins? that kind of feeling- which could be called'powerlessness' sayingthat having personcontrol overyou? If that is what they meanit doesn't the sives other People may havecontrol over me through coincidervith my experience. or (by controllingrny shelter food supplyor income),physical force econornics power,by rapeor the threatof it, but not by stimulating to me or political orgasmwith anyonewho I felt I orgasm. don't think I could experience in any of theseways.The Leedssisters, like many sexistmen, controlledme between rape(penetration without consent) to distinguish and to seem fail They don't explainHOWheterosex shores heterolove-making. up pleasurable, malesupremacY. But secondly,I agreevery much with Sophie [aws' letter in Wires83. And I'd to like to take her argumenta bit further, for it seems raisesomecrucial paperraises the questions the direction the WLM is taking. The Leedssisters' on question- on what basiscan any persontell anotherhow sheshouldlive, who thesesentences which begin"How sheshouldrelateto, etc?I keephearing a variously, . . ". could anyonewho callsherself feminist. . ." and continue, meat/knitin public/want baby", aswell as ". . . fuck men?".There a smoke/eat to seems be an attitude about that the WLM is somesort of established church, externalwith rulesand standards which haveto be lived up to, not a something political movementwhich we havecreated,with which we want to change the world so that we can tve free lives.But this attitude seems mean that we exist to for the WLM,not the other way round! But I don't want that - I've been struggling a long time to get away from the politics of OUGHT, of for revolution-by-guilt-trip, which must inevitably lead to an elitist classstructure post-revolution if we ever get that far! What would happenif I agreed with the keds sisters, acceptedtheir analysis, left my collective home and the man who shares bed,and went to live in a my right-on, Rev Fem all-womanhouse? Such a step would feel like doing violence to a part of myself- but then,"lt's about takingyour politicsseriously" no sacrifice too greatfor the cause. sisters, course,know more about The My of Cause than I do, and now I've seenthe light I'm agogto learn from them. They'vebeen at it longer than I . . . And if I get momentsof missingmy old home and the man I used to "love", the jokes and cuddlesand struggles and day-to-day living which I usedto sharewith him, well, that is counterrevolutionarybacksliding, and I must repress So I distrustmy own feelings it! and reactions, and so haveto rely for guidanceon my sisters tell me what to to do and what to think. And before long, there I am - supportinga new elite, thoseright-on feministswith the raisedconsciousness. . . "kft to carry the burden of the higherconsciousness, membersof this elect will tend to seethe peoplearound them as at worst, bad,lazy, consumedwith

t h e d e s i r e | o r m a t e r i a l a c c u m u l a t i o n a n d s u n d r y d i v e r s i o n a r y pthey i o n s . a t b e s t . ass level ' ' ' Beingan elect means igrorunr, needingto be hauledto a higher And they haveto do everything' can rely on no-oneand beingan electmeans the treacheryand insensitivity of .i*uvr'rf,. weigl.rt tlie burien of responsibility, elseis bearingdown on them'" eueryone of kninist "vanguard" of the left. It is S'eira Rowbothamwrlte that about the many of us cameto the WLM in the to g.t a*ay from this kind of politics that first place.Do we really want it here? witl]out and lots of questions takenup a lot of space I seemto haveraised by sayingwhat I want from the WLM' I I'd gettingvery far. Perhaps bettlr end pulling eachother to pieces'I want to u'feeiingof pulling together not iuunt eachother,but alsoof how we betterhow we aswomencansupport understand aSwomenoppresseachother.Andlwantafeministpoliticswhichtakesinto or tellingme I'm deluded hypocritical und accountmy fantasies i"u't', without to understandthe internal blocks wtrich me when I fuck men; Uut *ftittt enables asperhapsI might! me from contrlUuiingas fully to the Revolution prevent "*t"" I a politics of the unconscious? think we it what l am suy'ngis, Perhaps needone. PennyCloutte' Love and sisterhood, (WIRES 84) .'Politicalksbianism": SomeThoughts


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perfectsense. does It saidin the articlemakes On a very cold logicallevel,what is to I with what to be the naturalconclusion feminismand basically agree upp.u, is written' whenone triesto convert"theory" into "practice"?I But what happens perfectlywhy I shouldfeel angryabout women"collaborating" understand up but I don't feel I can turn round shoring patriarchy; with menand therefore "wrong" (sureI think they'rein a shitty friendsthey're and tell rny heterosexual ' enough seern rintless and they know h<lwI feel).Their relationships situation, just like that? - but can I reallydismiss other women'sl-eelings to me in I believe the right and ability of every woman to reachher own wellview.I know that the majorityof women in our societyat present considered But of probablydon't havea very feministanalysis their relationships. I feelthat -- and are spending a lot of energy feminists havespent a lot of heterosexual that they areliving a contraand DO realise trying to work out their situation, 'smallgroup' in meetingI went to in Brighton,and with diction.Certainly, the other womenI havetalkedto, this hasbeentrue. And they havesaidthat they at althoughthey can seethat to areprepared live out that contradiction present, prepared do so. ls this nol to theremay comea time when they areno longer (lt takingone'sfemhism "seriously",giventhat one is open to change? is not aboutheterosexuality I as the same saying one cannotseeanythingoppressive that do believe think women this tend to drift off into the maleleft.) I guess what it basically boils down to is the question whether"hetero of sexual"feminists at someinferiorlevelof consciousness "political lesbian" are to ferninists. (The articlecould very well be interpreted this way - this is where in the ideaolelitism comes ?). I know that I'm not as "sussed-out" some in as womenwho'vebeenin the movement years, for but it still getsup my nosewhen womentalk about "seriousfeminists", thoughif you don'thappento be as as acutely sensitive how oppressed are as they this minutethen you can't be you of tn earnest. Surelythe ideaof consciousness embraces fact that we are raising the rzl/ constantly becoming increasingly awareof our contradictions/compromrses, etc? My personal experience beenthat, asI became has moreinvolvedin feminism, I found it harderto relateto men: so that now (giventhe limitations of living in this society) am moreor less I separatist. feminismwasnot the initial cause But of my breaking of (sexual off anclemotional) relationships with men;I didn't llaveany "right-on" "ideologically sound" reasons I just didn't like them. (A naturally inferior analysis??). not feel in much ofa positionto be saying I do 'it canbe doneif you reallywant', and that otherwise you're not takingyour politicsseriously enough. gues I just don't seethingsin termsof "absolutes". I Also.I think that because women aren'tcold logicalbeings, are emotionally but invoived with "their" particular NOT goingto be painlessly man,it is obviously

is you may agree It's things. no gooddoingsomething easyfor thelnto resolve you're feeling. logcally "right" if it isn't what (although my "feminist I can'tseewontengivingup tnenwholesale what this article thingslike this). I suppose tells me I shouldn'tsay conscience" whetherI'M takingmy politics question hasreallydone for me is makeme enough. seriously Gilly Heron, February1980)' Newsletter, Liberation (Brighton& HoveWomen's * as Elitismis a tlnction of insecurity much asanything or perceptions beliefs. else, PernaPs' Adi. Liberation Newsletter, February1980) late (Brighton& HoveWomen's


S Dear islers. how It it irony oriust retributionthat at the very time I'm realising the important to me and my hopesof survival WLM is, I feel desperately Againand againas I've readthe Political excluded/denied. increasingly psbianismpaperand the lettersthat havefollowedit I've screamed, "but this it lasn't got anythingto do with me and my life", because just isn't true for nre. well I'll haveto bearit. I if r'urd I'mnowrevealedasthe all-timecollaborator against straitjacket my father's the of spentthe first 20 yearsof my life strugging creedexceptIslam. and dogmas, the last 10 fallingvictim to everypatriarchal flalf way throughmy life I won't acceptthat any womanknowsmy life and betterthan I do myself. experiences privilege a and the advantageshaveasa I kn<-rwbit about heterosexual I woman.(I don't think whetheror not I fuck makes any difference heterosexual - closetcelibates don't havemuchimpact on patriarchy.) I've seen how pressure see insensitive heterosexual womencanbe to lesbians the constant to private,the waysin which many who a womansleeps with asher own business of us refuse truly consider to whetherall men arepotentialrapists, waysin the which we crawland conciliate, just with 'our' menbut with many others. not And all the thingswe can't/won'tseeabout women'soppression, exploitation and degradation because would bringup too many questions it about us and our 'choice'of r e l a t i n go m e n .T o e v e nr e f e rt o r e l a t i n go l n e na sa ' c h o i c e ' s e e r n s t t suspect, asit impliesthat we haveconsidered opening ourselves to the up possibilityof relatingto women. Many of my feminist friendsare wary as I am ol'relating to/sleeping with women.For me the reason that I'm afraidis because womenare too importantfor me to trust rnyselfwith. Oneof the thoughts/realisations had that upsets is a feeling I've me that femi.ism/theWLM (is therea right one?am I exposing myselfas a sellout liberalby usingthe wrong words/phrases)something there.A feelingthat is out I'm not a properfeministand don't deserve liberating I'm because not behaving properly.I've felt this vaguely always, but beforeit's beenbearable. joked I've aboutrny hair (neithercroppedor long),the fact that I like to wearskirtsand bright colours and seldomdrink or smoke. WhatI feel now isn't funny, it's terrifying.I feel I'm beingtold there's no room for me. Either I comeout asa lesbian yesterday today,or preferably or

Somethoughtson the Political ksbianism discussions stateis Political lesbianism not only the LeedsRev.Fem.paper;that is ONE livespolitically' of at all aspects mine/others ment. For me. it is aboutlooking Sexualityispolitical,personalbehaviourispolitical.TheLeedspaperslrows maledomination' symbolises clearlyhow heterosexuality a in itself political;but to be a politicallesbian, lesbian is To be a lesbian not level' madeto societyon a personal of the challenge feministis to be conscious It structures' is not escapism social to norms,to challenge to To refuse conform in societyin all areas, sincemaledominationpermeates from maledomination, only To ofour lives.It cannotbe avoided/evaded. be alesbian all dimensions level.It doesnot, in itself win the on the elirninates contradiction a personal liberal/ with rnen,however that relationships It revolution. is importantto realise Rather with a politicalpower relationship' thosemenare,areascribed liberated level,politicallesbians that on a personal thanput energyinto challenging to choose fight on otherlevels' to whereit nay be necessary fight with men' I think that therearesituations if certainends.But, as a feminist, I chooseto with men,to achieve to organise and conflictsthat at work with men,I shouldnot be surprised the problems with women' And, asa feminist,I preferto work/organise entails. There is ideasand beliefs part of a process. changing is Confusion necessary, etc are or to seems be a fearof claritylrowever, ratherthat statements/papers 'last word' on a subject. mustbe ableto supporteachother in We takenas the beingclear between We and thesechange. needa balance workingout our ideas, patient.There and beingtolerantand and beingallowedto saywhat we believe, I beliefson others. do and imposing sayingthingsstrongly, is a fine line between on to be censored I my not want to compromise own ideas: do not want to have 'heavy' 'alienating for a other women',I do not mind beingcriticised of the basis approach. 'holier than thou' or I do not believein hierarchies elites,and think that a is approach wrong.But neithershouldwomenhaveto deny theirideas,

2L 20
enjoymentbasedon sexualviolence? ? or, is heterosexual why I Liked Screwing elselcrawlawayandsufferinsilence.Iseemtohavelosttheangerthatonce Whenlwas5lplayeddoctorsandpatientswithmylittlegirlfriends.Themale fuelledmeinmybattleforsurvival,orperhapsit'sbeentransformedintothe off eldestgirl, "made" the restof us take our knickers and ;:r;r;r, playedby the tiesperationtlratlbrcesmetowritethiswhenithurtsandl,dratherbeanywhere only in a any l if perhaps -don'tdeserve *hile she"tortured" us.At 8, I playedgypsygirl;dressed ,."a a"*" doinganythingthanstttingherealone'wondering horrorsforcedon me by somelord of the manor.A nameless ,rtri r tanrurtzed r e l i e f , w o n d e r u r g i | t ' m n o t w o r t h l i b e r a t i n g . E v e n s o l s t i l l b e default,the o v i n g lievethatl nakedand in by as herself RomanSlave the MarketPlace; want to be alesbian 7 fantasized ashatingmen. I don't iri.n,i og..f wonlenisn,t the same they are not men' with legswide apartfor men to see' they arewomen,not because chained womenI carefor, I love because too importantfor me to lie about; and Inlg6g,aged22,lread"storyofO"andmyhorroranddisgustwas This is too urgentfor me to evade that realisation ultra-guilty of the l'eeds of by deepened the then unspoken-for-many-years, may be the true expression the feminism separatism lesbian '- a turn-on. Passages the book from with them wasto me who agree ,.udtnt of O's total degradation Feministgroupand of att ttreother women Revolutionarv l-a;t me I that because don't conform to unbiddento tny mind when myboyfriend penetrated and however came but they can't tell me orlny other woman it is political'and I believe them they worked I did enloy it more' I barrislred l/we aren'tieminists'If the personal their standards c'r and of did I speak this,evenwhen womenin sexuality groupsrevealed my own experience the Never to affirm is, then I havethe right/responsibility they and fantasies dreams how in order to cclme own hatedmasochistic (ThoughI know what I'm trying to their whichierivesfrom it' politicalperspective the woods at who'd flashed them in which hoverover all had to think of the man in the raincoat because the phrases conscious uneasy/self :;-f i;;i".i cameto their rninds bondage of history women'sliveshave they were l5; how images rape,beating, through when this pageseemunfeelingiyinttfftt*al)- Al1 get awayfrom thinking of It's whenmasturbating. only recentlyI've beenableto by men' everyaspect our experience beenignoredby womenand classified the powerof, I,m a bit of a pervertand it's all my fault, mainly throughrealising ignoreduntiioneofusmanagedtohesitantlyexpressitandthenitwasdenied/ n for us (and I meanwomen) to m a l es u p r c m a ciY o u r l i v e s . the as obliterated.Now it seems tt,ougt't chance we society. aIe by has our sexuality beenconstructed male-dominated s u r v i v e i s b e i n g l o s t b e c a u s e w e c a n ' t / d o n ' t r e s p e c t e a c h o t h e by f a w o m a n t e l l s r.l a accept generally respond for broughtup to kow-towto men in everyareaof bur lives, and middleclas it's not enough me to me I'm intimidating We escape? possibly lousydealin jobs,pay etc. etc. . . How can our sexuality I spentthe first five yearsof my life in a thinking, well, I'm frightenedtoo and just aswe haveto fight for luve to fight to begin to define it for ourselves, b a c kt o b a c ki n W g a n . - and ['ve donejust this' I shouldrespectthe else everything that'sours that hasbeentakenawayfrom us,or neverallowed l'm not really middle class our fertility, the women in growthor expression the first place- control overour bodies, considerwhat she'ssaid' As I hope all wofinn enoughto honestly me as a of our own ' ' ' me and dismiss our right to do any sort of paid work, a culture who read this splurglewill do and not just categorise Sexualityis too often talked about in the Women'sLiberation Movementas What I am' and what we all are' are repressed' lesbianor whatever' repressed But in a and each ourselves as separate, if it growsin us freeand unfettered. something untouched, exploitedshaton women;andif we can't affirm distorted, of images that is too degraded anything would I haveidentifiedwith society, non-rnale-dominated and other ratherthan denyingin ourselves, eachother and reachfor the put up with faking orgasms 'doesn't fit; I really believewe may as well giveup and womenand found them erotic?would I have painful or that it accepting heterosexuality feigning for headaches 2 yearsof monogamous valium. it have taken me 4 years of wasmy fault and that I must be frigid? Would keds' DianneGrimsditch, bisexualitywith feministsto finally push the last man out of my bed (with much (wIRES 86) guilt and fear)and say"I'm a lesbian"? I through I'm not saying neverenjoyedsexwith men. I did. But I suspect enjoyedit I a long spiel I wrote in January 1980'Reading it This is an extract liom in most "giving",not beingapparerttly wasclear' my most whenI wasmost "on the bottom", I' As I hope a year later there dre tw) points I'd like to make' (providedhe Feminist control bouncingaround on top gettingsore,but beingscrewed at the LeedsRevolutionary of angufshwasn't onllt because my distress by didn't go on and on and on, mind you). As i grewmore feministI couldn'tlet of ither things' principally exptoited and betrayed paper, it was alsobecause read it and find status, that happenwith men I sawas"equat" or "superlor" to me in age, if any men 2 men I had tried to tntst' 2 I wrote it for women; "pretty boy". With educated education and less a etc. so I chose much younger it uninteltigible andfor threatening' tough'

23 22
position and think Qrcversayl) hirrrI could abandonmyself in the missionary impossible time went on eventhat became rny thingslike..He',s master".But as me last?anywayhe oppressed as much as a ever (hoi could sucha relationship more from men' towards n,unu, all the othersdid), ani I turnedawaymoreand of conlrol of womenby men mechanisms social fostered carefully = emotional dependence. + rnasochism romanticlove slavish

papers says(in Sexual violence sexual c<-rnference's As a womanin one of the - ThreeWomenSpeak),justafter her initiator hasbeenreally insultInitjation y o u w a n tm e , R o n " ' women. i n g t o h e r " l ' m y o u r sa sl o n ga s R e l a t i n g s e x u a l l y t o w o m e n , o r b e i n g a c e l i b a t e l e s b i a n , l s t i l l s o m e t i m e s h a v e Wren I put this paper(slightlydifferent,and without lhe two paragraphs nor a I fantasies.hate themand fight to acceptI'm not alone' theonly - reactionwas nrasochistic in above) wIRES 90, the main in fact, frustratingly, anclrevelin them as"natural"' to welcome is the .,Aren'tyou brave".Whileit's nice to be seen a plucky little soul' I don't I don't believe answer as feruert. I of my sexuality' think goingto trashyou for I don't think they comefrom my own self-definition reallyseewhat wasso braveabout it. No fentinist's my of grewup asa means adapting achieving traits;only if you reveal *.r. plantei andgrewthereasI your own dislikedcharacter ,h.y to actmitting that and difficult and suggest you'reproud of that'spraiseworthy s e x u a l i t y t o t h e d e m a n d s o f a h e t e r o s e x i s t s o c i e t y w h e r e m e n a r e s u p r e m e l y i n sonrething fromyour try cometo the samepoliticaldecision; to generalise control. othersrnight of wasjealous my boyfriends My politicaltheory;and/orfind and I don,t recallbeinga victim of incest. father experience that of many other womento create that put the blameon men; it's for this that for your behaviour butthisseemstrueofalotofwomenlknow.Mymotherwasthedominant meanings family my particular you, stop speaking you, etc. For a long time to will riseup to censure parentwithin the 4 wallsof our home' But I don't think feminists to Liberation in to is background relevant all this' beenimpossible speakabout masochisrn the Women's it's at malesupremacy challenge sexuality us, of of because the way this ideahasbeenusedagainst by men. Tie stirrings our own self-defined Movenrent we won't havea truly selfthat'swhy they stay,they're by "Womenlike beingbeaten their husbands, itsroots.But until we haveendedmalesupremacy, bodiesand our lives.It's fightingfor this full control overour for they definedsexuality, rnasochists" say,as an excuse doingnothingand letting the situationgo thatwillendma|esupremacy.Yes,Ithinkwehavetogetoutofmen'sbedsas on. No, that'snot true, we say,we aren'tmasochists fair enough but it To the topic at all must be anti-feminist. partofachievingtlris-butno,I'nrrrotadvocatinggoingtobedwithawoman any furtherdiscussion. raise stops ;.for politicalreasons", "to further the revolution"- would any womando so or from to be So now I'11 "brave": I think womenare influenced be masochists, choice can lesbianism be and is a politicalas well asa personal Saying and heterosexual "enjoy" it. In a world anyway? a very youngage,so that we'll become implY that, doesit? by doesn't whereall rnenhavepower overall womenntaintained the useor threator into So - my sexuality,and that of many many other women' wastwisted possibility sexual that our sexual ever-present violence, isn't it inevitable of which made me which cameout most stronglyin my fantasies, nrasochism, dealings with men shouldbe filled with suchthings?And this in itself is a form e n j o y b e i n g s c r e w e d , w h i c h g a v e m e a n e x t r a t h r i l l ' M a n y w o m e n h a v e h e e n of sexual violence against women. into reality, our fantasies turnedon by "Story of O". Many of us havecarried with practices A F'antasy: stimulusto sexualarousal,that is, a necessary helpful accomsexual or a hur:riliating haveput up with or indeedinitiatedextremely paniment masturbation sexual Physical to activity with anotherperson. or before hint to suck him off, askingto be tied to the bed' or r',.n,iik. kneeling one anally' arousal one would be impossible, more difficult, without the fantasy.But a fantasy or simultaneously, vaginally, by rwo male'lovers' beingfucked with men, canbe lessdeliberate, than this. Sexuallystimulatingthoughts and conscious what about the way this humiliation carriesover into everydaylife joked about?who irnages or insulted, that comeunbiddento your mind when masturbating makingloveare to ourselves be treatedlike slaves, how we allow a form of fantasy, she or whetheryou banishthem immediately let them develop. beinga girl" with all that impliesnow, unless washelpedalong could "enjoy So areerotic dreams. or in The peoplein the fantasymay be faceless, engage by masochism? sexualactivity which is outsidethe fantasiser's actualexperience. batteredwoman hasnowhereelseto go: not all are financially Not every it Many women havefantasies which entirely consistof, or haveelementsof, Amonghippiesfor instance was/is, on dependent their man,or havechildren. sado-masochism, lookedat, tied up etc. etc. In rape,beingpassive, bestiality, for a woman to support a man out of fter S.S.,let him live in common enough discussion with womenin treds it turnedout that the two in the groupwho scorehis drugslterselfand basicallymother him, while fter accommodation, b,ad alwayslcnownthey were lesbians not have,and neverhad had, any ol' hasno did by up gettingbeaten andbetrayed him throughout'And she'llsayshe thesesort of sexualfantasies. of The rest of us had had. Obviouslywe can't loveshim. (And hereentersthat other aspect becauseshe .t,oi.., but to stay, graftedand Seneralise anythingfrom so smalla sample- but it isinteresting,nevertheless. Romantic[,ove:two artificiallyconstructed, oppresslon, women,s

and Without masochism the rest,would we get into "l'm yoursaslong as you want nle, Ron"? Wouldwe, indeed,evergetinto Ron at all? Justine ones J feminists and and With many thanks1brdiscussion help to revolutionary other womenin lreds. Papergiven at Leedsconferenceon Sexual ViolenceAgainst Women,

in serves thernwell. patriarchy its own interest",althoughit obviously The irnportantpoint at this momentin time is not whereit's comingfrom that everywornan becomes a but whereit's takingus to. Nobody is insisting (practice lesbian doesn't always makepert'ect) the Leedspaper practising that. PoliticalLesbianism about stopping is doesn'tdernand sleeping with men, that it will be a lot harderfor thosewomenwho enjoy asI seeit. I appreciate I wilh rnen.Personally, wish I could giveup meataseasily.t find it very sleeping because reallylove eatingmeat- my lantasies I are ftardto be a vegetarian about pork chops.But I am slowlycomingto the realisation that my ustrally to of so eatingmeatis contributing the exploitation/oppression animals, I know that, and how I got I nrusttry harder.I couldn'tbeginto do it until I believed thereis by other womentalkingto me about it and trying to persuade that I me wasdoinga bad thing. That didn't makethem "arrogant",neitherwasit a case m k d o 1 - " e d u c a t ea r,t i c u l a t e , i d d l ec l a s s n o w sb e s t " .B u t I u n d e r s t a ny o u r g u t d to that you like. I reaction womensuggesting you ought to giveup something often. I mustadmit, call my friends"bloody smugkilljoysfor trying to put nle off steakand rarnkidneybeanstewdown my throat at everyopportunity." This may not be a very coherent letter,but I bet it's the first time lesbians to havebeencompared kidney beanstewl JeanClitheroe sisterhood, ( w t R E S9 0 )


DearSisters, and I think I know what the womantneantwho saidthat shewasimpressed why womenwere and by inspired the militancyol the suffragettes wondered attacking shetalkingabout actions to not prepared take suchactionnow. Wasn't the asserting powerof women(whetheror not it's nralepower,specifically This is quite into correctto put the suffragettes that category)? historically cometo that, but differentfrom womenfightingwith nren,or independently your examples about,i.e. are end,which is what all towardsthe same by in Republicanism NorthernIreland,equalpay (this is often unsupported the part of the wagelabourv. capital but it is still unionsand maleworkers, armies the third world,and fightingthe cuts.I in nationalliberation struggle), you shouldcall womenarrogant their "angerand militancy" because don't think forms.Everywoman's isn't necessarily these in commitmentis important,but that workingin maledellnedstruggles to collaborate thoseof us who believe is primarilyto thosestruggles. with the enemyobviously won't commit ourselves discussing But why mustit be "alrogant" or even"racist" to sayso?I'm always my viewswith other womenand I try ttl persuade them that what I think is right,and what they do is try to persuade that what they think is right me throughrelating surelythis is one way we develop ferninist a consciousness, (arguing) "all the restof us are with eachother.I think it's unfair to assume inferior,is what is reallybeingsaid." I'm surethat isn't true. It's not a questit-rn assuming womanis weakto believe of a that shecannot enterinto a sexual with a man on her terms.I assume relationship thoseterms would includeequality.Wehaveto look at it in its social context- the personal of is the politicaletc.,the balance powerdoesn'tevaporate the bedroomdoes in (of that an equalrelationship any kind) is impossible a it? I happento believe in power,e.g.between teacher situationof unequal a and a pupil, a bossand a secretary, general a private,or me and my cat. That isn't because a and the are individuals themselves strongor weak,is it? And yesI know lots of women "heterosexual haveexperienced/do experience desire",but I don't think people who challenge arenecessarily it seeing as"an ideological it construct designed by

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Political ksbianism - lvlark II LiberationMovein for Currentlya time of crisisis arising lesbians the Women's us that rnent.It seen.N thereis a moveon to silence and I feelit is importantto understand why that is and to fight it, for all womento fight it. Thingshave on debates (or against) beencomingto a headthroughcurrentmovement and separatism, the argumentaround male children.Thereis a backlashagainst our autonomy. of atmosphere the movement. of] . . . [This is partly because the social and discosthat are organised . . . Lesbianfeministsgo to the few fenrinistsocials which of There [it] is the behaviour lesbians . . . by womenin the movement. to havespace flex Lesbians women may fear which is challenging. that we The strength Not in a sexualway but with bravado. their/oursexuality. This arrogantly. is gainthroughbeingautononousof mensexually paraded to whereit is possible freely do so.Nor is it is social space the only space get that lesbians from being the necessarily bad thing,for it expresses strength a in But often it is expressed a maleway through male mannerisms, lesbians. in to It and behaviour. conesponds the old role-playing straight-dyke attitudes and lesbians heteroIt barsand is sexist. is oppressive sexualwomen alike. lt treats other women as smalland inferior. Such behaviour as But it is not lhe same men doingit. patronises treatswomenasinvisible. and as muchasthe womanto herself negates suchbehaviour The womanexpressing tellingus how to whom it is beingdone.It's just the malepolicein our heads which we get dividedfrorn one another, with women;which means behave like this is to acceptmale To behave means don't trust oneanother. we that you asa in women,andnot to believe yourself, standards how to impress of women are important.havecredulity,matter.Heterosexual lesbian wofilan level. on bel.rave way towardone anothertoo, thoughnot always a sexual this and turn heterosexual other beento increasingly The results all this have of I womenagainst lesbians. do not think thisis justified,nor is it fair, but it women and lesbians level it meansthat heterosexual happens. a personal On it evenmore distrusteachother more - politicallyin the movement creates At backsare differences. meetings irreconcilable sptts and seemingly is together much harder.HereI up, Working immediately whatever issue. the pressures lesbians from the media and on could go on to explainthe increasing just givetwo societyat largeto attempt to justify the behaviourevenmore. I'11 in examples; one is a film calledWindows,which may soon be on release this womanshesees who wantsa heterosexual country,and which is abouta lesbian asher lover. Sheis rebukedby this woman and so hires a man to rapethe men asshehopes.The plan backfiressomewhat woman and so turn her against killing men. This film is meant woman goeson the rampage and the heterosexual to illustratethe depth of lesbianfeelingsfor women (which is accurate,I would

how horrendous and destructive theseare.ln sav) , but still wantsto declare a1l of Tigress, in particular the old stereotypes Womanas Seducer, thisfilm are Thuslesbians be shownonce can Witch,Evil, Dangerous evoked. Insatiable, to again be differentto other women;thuswe areagaindivided. the for to on secondexample,is struggle lesbians get'fair'coverage the tv A 'Gay Life'. Lied to at everycornerand negated anywayone wonders programme is anyway if I *ur worth it. Lesbianism nothingto do with malehotnosexuality in The of I don't seewhy we shouldbe implicated their balls-ups. coverage and It wasminimalasusualtluoughoutthe series. is time we facedup to lesbianism them utterly throughour sexuality; they the fact that menhateus. We challenge and fight to keepus heterosexual under their thumbsand control,if they will feeltliat they havelost this they will turn on us with all theirvenom- and their we so is porver mighty.As lesbians havesained little. Is it any wonderthat with us it the might of their poweragainst we shakewith fearand thus try to dror.rn from it. Or - if we valueit, try to recreate in it out in other ways.To escape ourselves. 'dcluble' our because haveno male protectors we or As lesbians oppresionis policemen hedgeus against wrath of malepowerand dominto the individuai it ation.Olrce is known that we do not allow men to own our bodiessexually, they will makeall attemptsto hck us into submission. Because present we to them,in somepart, the freedomthat other women may obtainfrom them. We standout because show that it is possible liveautonomously, a personal we to on level. without men.They cannotbearthis.They will retaliate keepother to womenfrom doingso. If they haveno poweroverwomenthen they are powerless. render We them impotent,this realisation menis their real fearof for women. I wantedto write about separatism. whichis something that all lesbians participate to differentdegrees in (hereI am referring lesbian to feminists). is It necessary our struggle take awayfrom men asmuch time and space in to and energy possible. only because needan autonomous as Not we Women's Liberation Liberation Movement because but that time and space and energy ours,and is menwould all too willinglystealit from us in any way possible. is Separatism vital to our edstence. is not always possible us to be totally separatist It for but we needto strivetowardstotal separatism because is orir strongest it tactic against them. Somewomenfeel that hatingmen is. I agree that womenget much strength fromhating men and'gettingin touch with the anger that this generates. I needto feel my hatredat leastonceevery<lay. But takingtime and energy away lrorn them is evenstronger.It meanswe havemore control over ourselves and our own lives- to be able to decidewhich are the wayswe want to work most effectively.They simply cannot stand this. It drivesthem literally crazy not to get a reaction from us. Our reactions them givethem credulityand to Power.

today towardslesbians of attitudes womenin the movement The reactionary and comare reactions Sexist are,I feel,born ofjealousy.These andseparatism for with one anotl'rer, approval petitivein the usualwaysthat wolnencompete 'freedoms' of of wornenareenvi<lus the privateindividual from men. Heterosexual were time. Justas we aslesbians of frightened them at the same And lesbians. heterosexuality the across chasmbetween of onccso terribly frightened leaping and their weaknesses, the controlthat challenge Our strengths andlesbianism. is menhavcovertheni.This is why tfte Furieswrote that Heterosexuality the to We of maleSupremacy. areup front whenit comes the oppression cornerstone out of line. The we of womenbecause take the rap for all womenstepping strikesterrorin the heartof many a heterosexual I still believe of'lesbian' charge this to men,be shefeministor levelshewill wish to disprove woman.At sonre not. be women that they will always trapped(in to disprove heterosexual Lesbians If relationships). thereis fear of eonfront' or heterosexual motherhood marriage, towards women,then resentment on ing this challenge the part of heterosexual and showsa we again are rockingthe boat. It is sexist ensues. once lesbians or womennot to understand. at ieast by definitelack of awareness heterosexual are about or readaboutwherelesbians actuallycomingfrom. Often try to talk to thereis very little space speakof the pain of our comingout.The often many knowingthat the yearsof self-doubt and self -hatred, utter terrorof feelingand for that it is much easier womento come one is that different.I do not believe If out in the movement. it is, all well and goodand maybewe arereallygetting For somewhere. most womenthis is not the case. a womenof the agonyof becoming But to speakopenlyto heterosexual the to is lesbian itselfa challenge them. In the veryact of understanding lesbian experience. sexual they haveto relatethis to their own personal experience that they too feel.In understanding they too arewolnen,because Because womenbeginto see are lesbians not differentfrom other women,heterosexual possible. As that potentiallyany womancanbe a lesbian it is conceivably to advantages be they know that thereare strongpoliticaland personal I'eminists Apart from the fact that only women madeby womencomingout aslesbian. to themselves livingwith a man can truly love women.So somewomen resign with this and beinga feminist, somewomen refuseto see,somewomen struggle - othersalsocome out as lesbian.This doesnot meanthat conflict all their lives that it by somedo not seewhat thereis to be gained beinglesbian, just means with our is it The reason is so frightening to do the chailenge too frightening. is and our pastlives.It entailsan openingup to and own individualstrengths gains it and politicallevel, is more than levelas well as on a social womenon a sexual commitmentand trust and solidaritythat is involved. and towardslesbians the lack of of I am very frightened the lack of sisterhood point in our history.It at oppression this particuiar of understanding our specific

another, I've saidbefore,but nlore,it turns f-eminists as us divides from one that is as lesbians well as the rest of the world. It is not lesbianism against It but women,with in the movement, heterosexuality. is heterosexual exclusive generated malesociety, not by women,who of by fears lesbians unfounded with men and hold them close. they are so strong, If their relationships closet If of arethey not open to discussion? the heterosexuality thesewomenis so why moreopenlyin the rootedthen why is it not written of and discussed deeply I'm | movement? needto know because feelingthe pinch right now, and abrewing. trouble's who silence heterosexual womenbut men - may I reiterate. It is not lesbians not goingto havebeentakingthe blamefor too long,I'm certainly Lesbians We and activities and it 13ke any rnore. are the oneswho initiatemoreevents in because havemore time and space we and nreetings conferences the movement thingsin. It is at greatpersonal expense our lives, in because the of to do these painswe havesufferedin the past and the discriminationwe still sulfer at the We of hands men,that we havethis time and space. do not go out and get drunk on it (not all the time anyway)we giveit to women.Not to get greatrousing but of we as cheers thank fr<lmour sisters, because do it for ourselves muchas we for all women.We can givein somewaysmore freely because have fought in the past to be able to do so. The cost is high but the payoffs areimmense.We believe or not arestill in the minority in the Women's Liberation.Movement it wearealsoa minority amongwomenin society. I do not want the voicesof lesbians be silenced the movement thereis to in a tendency creeping way. Wehavemuch still aboutour specific our oppression to understand uncover. and Nor would I want the viewsof heterosexual women to be silenced. I do feel that I haveneveryet reador heardanywhere, But heterosexual feministsspeaking privilege openly and fully of their heterosexual andhow they dealwith that, or justifyingin feministterms,their relationships with men. Thereis still spaceto do that in. Power to all of the women - or to none. Marlene Packwood, RadicalFeminist.

Dearsisters, It's obvious now that I'm heterosexual, I'd like to take up your by and tnvitationto discuss/think about my privileges. Your letter didn't threaten/ frightenme into silence, but my ideasarevery woolly and unsurecos I've never written them down before. You'reright. It isn't lesbians who silence me, but neitheris it men - it's myself.I don't want to be lessright-on than my lesbiansisters so I shut up, -

I conningmyselfthat sincethey'vebeenthru' it all, I've got nothingto say' openand full but this is a start' this will be completely don't suppose in persuasion a free choicenone of my choices this as my sexual I don't see I concerned, don't feel free,but, asfar asindividualrelationshipsare society'are by A1l with individualman/men. my life I've beensurrounded .o.r..d into being father who, for all his and a mother with six sisters women - a strong-natured faults,didn't expect more or lessof me for beingfemale a circle of close - and latera succession of friendswho werernoreimportantthan boyfriends are male-dominated groups, which altho' numerically living/working communal families' for preferable me to couples/nuclear joke and then. a and lesbianism teenage was At first heterosexuality inevitable option - and I had to it lesbians wasa real assomeof my friendswere/became to talksof the challenge womenlike me that the agonyof Marlene decide. safe to seem form a warm sisterhood, and is. a becoming lesbian To me lesbians up to me to do what I with nrefirmly on the outside'And why? lt's attractive I believe want, and I can't fool myselfthat I don't dareto take risksfor things to meanthat I'm resigned in. It must be that I don't want to be in there.I don't - but I don't dismiss ratherthat it's what I want at the moment heterosexuality, future. it asa possible to privileges? freeclom talk about my lover The ArnI clingingto heterosexual the right to physical openly(wnicn l rarelydo asl'm me, not half a couple) to to contactin public,the chance fulfil my desire be a mother,the bond with to the majorityof womenwho arehetero.I can't seethe answer that clearly' But togetherness. viewof lesbian it I've nothingto compare with but my rosy when at work, in pubsis easier in yes,dealing with malechauvinism the streets. of a dyke who hasto be convinced in iney ttrnkl'm available theory,and not in love a few individuals, spiteof their and I the error of her ways.Because can me. But I still getangry. to my faults,it's easier toleratethe millionsthat oppress The idealist my heterocompromises feminism. I think I do feel that being world you shouldrelate freely to all individuals,while the saysthat in a perfect the l-.ulirt,uy, that Now we ctul't do that and relatingto men is upholding quo. But that'sall theory. sexiststatus 1feel that my with men in feministterms? How do l justify l|ly relationships don't lie awakeat nightsriddledwith self doubts.Maybe realitydoes.I certainly I should. with menare my me, but perhaps relationships doesn'tthreaten Separatism that of separatism I don't intend.I hope that I am ableto an implicit criticism which are not mine' personal choices, and respect supportwomen's by individual lesbianwomen (only by someof the I've neverfelt alienated lettersin WIRES), maybeI'm lucky in who I've met, or maybe I've an overof sense my own importancewhich doesn't allow thesefeelings. developecl Neither do I envy tlict frccdom from malepower. I don't feel dominatedby and are inclividuals tren as a sexhavepoweroverus all. (ls this an illusion? malepower?) freedfrom collective lesbians Liz In sisterhood, Wilkie. (wIRES e2)


Dearsisters, to Packwood's article I want to write down a few pointsin response Marlene Mark II. In particularI am intrigued by the challenge to PoliticalLesbianism privilege"and how I dealwith it "speakopenlyand fully" of my heterosexual with men". and to justify "in feministterms" my "relationships I for feminismastwofold. The first Basically, seethe reasons heterosexual By (whichin my case factoris "life-situation". this I meanone'sbackground for Also,thereis the "time-factor".It simply Catholicism, example). includes In doestake a long time to shedall our conditioing. fact, I would go furtherand on-going struggle. saythat this is a continual, first, how do I justify, in feminist terms,my Taking the secondchallenge with men?I would saythat relationships relationships with men(in my case part of the on-going in only one relationship fact) arean integral struggle be a to ferninist. seebeinga feministasan on-going I process, a staticor finite one. not Menplayedan equalshare the development my feministconsciousness in of (thoughmostlyin a negative way, i.e. by beingoppressors) that now, as a so feminist, feel the needto work throughthoseformativeexperiences, I re-forming them;sortingout whereI may havemisread situations because my own of sexism and whereI failed to seeoppression; turning silent pain into vocal anger, anger into theory,theory into practice takingprogressively more difficult steps turn the personal to into the political,in other words. AIso,a relationship with a bloke is basically ego-trip;so an totally lackingin feministperspective men. Thiscan alsobe incrediblyfrustrating are when one cannotget throughbecause they lack eventhe most basicunderstanding. a As teacher natureand profession, derivea grealdealof satisfaction by I from "Enlightening lgnorant".At the same the time, I learna lot myselfby trying to Put thingsacross others. to I seecloseness womenas a stage with beyondthis,but it is simplyone which I ltavenot reached - exceptin my dreams yet and phantasies.lack the social I skills and self-confidence eventry to "chat up" anyone.I hope to acquire to them in future. But, at present, am the "all-roundreduced I personality". I rnow I am missingout on the greatest pleasure not havingreally and deepest by closerelationships with women and I suffer for it - very painfully at times. My problemis turningknowledge into action. One obstacle that I havea deep-rooted. naive.belief that the context of is if lovingshouldbe a beautifulone,aswell as the relationship itself.The women-

lrsbos you describe sirnplydo not fulfil this need.I want Sappho's only havens allfreedom.Therealityyou for a// women;poetry,spiritualharmony,above but relationship, thereI is describe far from all this.(Yes,so is a lteterosexual up I of haveno illusions). drearn lesbos,I'm saving all my moneyfor it, but, to until we get there,therearecold, rainydaysto get throughandparents please. to I try, like a// womenbeforeme, to makethe bestof a bad situation, build to I canwith the few toolsavailable me. I think I do very well. It asmuchas (of arguments which I nevertire),harshwords,honesty(which means countless now and againto clearthe air. It it break'ups takeas well asgive), means I can my not gettingmarried on principle- not selling soul to the state.It means at remainingchild-free all costs,so that I havespaceto write, study, means payinghalves whenever It for teach;to work for feminism, all children. means telling him that I only we go out (even though he is wealthierthan me). It means I versionof his species know. put up with him because is the leastabominable he It means hopingthat one day I will be strongenoughto fly away.(And, yes,it but alwayson my own terntsand conmeanwhile, means somecompromises stantly under review). E.g.he privilege", blokedoesnot fit the stereotype. my As for "heterosexual will not travel round tondon in the dark for fear of gettingbeatenup. (He can just about manage daytime, though not by tube always).He fits the stereotype of of a man like I fit the stereotype a woman- i.e. not at all. betweenthe ideal and the actual In my own casethere is a vast discrepancy this is wheremy feminismspringsfrom. It is alsowhere the possibility for friendshipwith maleslies. '80. Paulhe Maniscalco. 25th June

than man orientated but I don't seeany I feel much morewomanorientated to turn away from the few men I do like. reason talkinglike a white middleclass man who sayshe isn't Am I, to Marlene, I from men in this world they run privileged?hopenot. I getenoughaggravation and straight)I loveand wirhouthavingto feel guilty towardsthe women(lesbian witlt. identifY experienceshavehad with other womenhavegrown from long I The sexual friendships ratherslowlyperhaps because we'reso ultra anxiousnot standing eachother. to pressure etc I love the ideaof all womendiscos (thoughin practice usuallyfind such I cliqueyand unwelcoming) would hatethe sort of pick up atmosphere but events describes. thing I loveabout beingwith womenis theabsence one Marlene of sexual tension. The ability to hug and kisspeoplewithout havingto brooding 'backdown' laterand makeernbarrassed excuses apologise seeming or for to l e a dt h e mo n . I reada lesbian novelist's description straiglrt of womenwho unintentionally sexuality acting'liberal'and by denylesbians kissing lesbian sistersjust a in lriendly way. That really confusedme. Is my sisterlylove lessvalid than sexual interest? arn I coppingout because friendship or my with womenis, unlike lesbianism, threat to malepower? no Yet I feel heterosexual feministsare alsoa threat. Not in the overt violent way men understand easily, so because while my first loyalty is to women,(and second the world we live in which men haveso atrociously to damaged) don't I particularly wishmen any harm. But I do want an end to their power and since they can'tunderstand might alsobenefitthem asa sideeffect,our battles this as feminists must be threatening their security. to Loveto all sisters, JanetWright (\\TRES93) 'Political l,esbianism' ksbian FeministCritique. A Political Lesbianism not new or exclusive revolutionary is to feminism. Not so verylongagowomenwho discovered or rediscovered their.lesbianism through theirinvolvement the wLM were in often regarded .poiiticallesbians,. as Indeed manylesbian feminists regarded themselves politicallesbians as precisely because the cluestion their sexuality of wasan integral part or their feminism- it wasa veryco.sciouschoice for wonten.For the very samereason lesbians moving wtthin more conventional gay circlesregarded thesenew political lesbians with somesuspicion. At the heartof their gut feelings that we werenot .real,lesbians, '4v an Importantpoint for beinga lesbian doesnot meangettinginto women oecause our political of convictions alone- it means, addition,a growingand in

(wrRES e2)
Dearsisters, the womenare jealousof lesbians because Why doesMarlenesayheterosexual the Male society,male lesbians' strengthchallenges other women'sweakness? of elsewho are structures basedon only feelingstrongat the expense someone weak by my sisters!Why can't we has to be weak. I object to being considered etc all be accepted strong/energetic/striving rather than as feeblelosers as I because our sexuality? havea long term (sexual)relationshipwith a man I of long term love, many other friends(a few male) I alsocareabout and several deepfriendshipswith women I love. But I don't considera sexualrelationship more important or valid than a non sexualone. I don't live with my male lover 'male protector or individualpoliceman'Marlenementions. so I don't havethe

to Somewl-nt eroticism. to comrnitlnent women-- a female fundamentalsexual w e t a sa r e v o l u t i o n a rfy m i n i s a n d a sa l e s b i a n h o n l y s u r p r i s a n di n i t i a lh o r r o r . e in throughmy involvernent wLM. I found myself my discovered lesbianisrn I ll t k i n d o f a t t i t u d e o w a r d s ' p o l i t i c ae s b i a n s ' t h a t h < t s h a r i n go s o r n e l e g r ete e when I first cameout. The on the gay scene fronr lesbians myselfencountered which hasbeen for reason this liesin the definitionof politicallesbianism ferninists. adoptedby revoiutionary is Firstly,politicallesbianism quite clearlydefinedin termsof women's i s s e x u arl e l a t i o n w i t h m e n o r r a t h e r n t e r m so f t h e l a c k o f t h e m .T h e Womencannotcolludewith the enemyin such for basis this is clear. theoretical in definedmy lesbianism I however, havenever way. As a lesbian, a t'undarnental to it hasalwaysbeenof prirnaryimportance with nren of rerrns my relations with women. in me to definelesbianisrn termsof women'srelationships whether lesbianism, of (and this is not just a question semantics), Secondly, and our Movement beenusedby both the Women's always we like it or not. has a womenwhich includes sexual between a relationship eneniesto describe with women-identified not The term is therefclre synonymous cournritment. 'comeout' as the stressed needto have lesbian-feminists always Indeed, women. to the precisely they recognise centralityof sexuality our because lesbian to It feministstruggle. wasand still is of politicalimportance be openabout the in to havechosen be involved sexual lact that we are womenwho, in particular, with women.Impliedin a rev fem definitionof political and erotic relationships with relations that is lesbianisnr an assuntption you do not haveto havesexual shouldnot that feminists Rightly it is argued womerito be a politicallesbian. Equally,however, by lesbians. haveto provetheir politicalcredentials becoming womenwould arguethat neitherdo heterosexual many women,particularly with men - that is a credentials not sleeping by they haveto provetheir fenrinist it in minefieldwhich I propose this articleto avoid.(l leave to our heterosexual in to their own criticisms that respect). sisters raise in feministone danger the revolutionary Sufficeit to say that as a lesbian the which I canseeis that it displaces pt-rsition politicallesbianism on t'erninist to areaof havealways attached the sexual politicalinrportance which feminists relations of the it our lives.{n particular ignores importance women'ssexual the of with other womenwhilstrnaking question whetherwomenhavesexual For with men centralto the wholedefinitionof politicallesbianism. relations as whetherdefiningthemselves feminists many otherlesbians, me, and I suspect The identifiedwotnanwho doesnot fuck men is not a lesbian. or not. a wornan doesnot alterthe position.As a prefixingof the word politicalto lesbian of the feministI recognise politicalimportance womennot having revolutionary

with nren.As a lesbian feministI feel it is wholly wrong to relations sexual l se c ha p o l i t i c a p r a c t i c e sl e s b i a n i s m o l i t i c a o r o t h e r w i s e . u a p, l clescrib l o B R y F r o m a n i n d i v i d u am e m b e r 1 ' t h e i r m i n g h a n r e v o l u l i o n a rF e m i n i s t group' i w l n . ' \ p p e a r efdr s ti n B i r m i n g h a m o m e n ' si b e r a t i o n e w s l e t t e rn d W I R E S9 4 . a

S Dear isters, born a Rev.Fern.or a lesbian. I wasrr't The changes madein my lil'ehave I've ' b e e nb e c a u sIev e f e l t u n h a p p y i t ' s b e e nl a t e rt h a t I h a v e n d e r s t o o dh e ol'ten u t for perspectives shedlight on my life so liave r.easorts that miseryand as f'erninist s w i l o r c o f t h a t l i f e h a s b e e n l r a r e d i t h o t h e rw o n r e n o f o r m n e w u n d e r s t a n d i n g s t nry It so change l-eninisrn. is and hasbeena constant process and and no single t ch s e v c n t ' c a u s e d ' a n y a n g e(s h o u g h o m es i n g l e v e n t si k e t h e A b o r t i o nM a r c h e l 'laststraw'quality). havea I don't think my experiences my father,rny ex-husband, men I work of the "with" arevery dift-erent from any other woman's. This is precisely what we as share ferninists sorne understandings how men controlwomenboth at an of individual and structural level.The difference between and someother me f e m i n i s tis n o t t h a t I ' r n r n o r e ' r i g h o n ' b u t t h a t I ' v ec o m et o t h e c o n c l u s i o n , s t because haveabsolutely evidence the contrary,that lllenare not goingto I no to tlndanrentally change unless forcedto. Yes and nry bloke wasdifferenttoo I never washed nappyfor a rnonthaftereachof rry two childrenwereborn. . . a blah . . . blah.Yet in the final analysis whenhe lelt too threatened the by assertion my feminisrn which I mightadd he had introduced of (to me) he merely invokedinstitutional force on his side.lle chosewhenit suiteci hrm t<_r stopbeinga "nice bloke" and usedwhat wastherewaitingfbr him. For two years threatened take rnethroughthe courtsfbr the kids on the grounds he to of a lesbian relationship which he had encouraged that I would not leave. so Ultinratcly definitions what a womanshouldbe are nrale the of definitions backed powerandif any r.nan by chooses work with other detinitions, may to he equallywell at any time choose givethem up. I anrnot preparecl any level to at to makemyselfvulnerable anyonefor whom it is a personal to choicewhether they do or don't invoke' nrassive the amountof power they have. Sincemen do havepower,wl.rether they choose exercise or not by rape, to it violence, economiclneans, definitions femininityor wrratever sinie that of and poweris in relationto the powerlessness of women thenif we aregcling to remove their powerwe haveto start by refusing be defirred relationto to in

This means only withdrawing not dependence them, but alsosupportto on . thenr.If we continueto supportthenrwhy shoulcl they change'? is not an This

for argumenl total separatism thereis no rainbowcornerwherewe canbe left on aloneto createa new beautifulworld. Men haveto be challenged their shitty that they couldn't do theirjobs they haveto be forcedto recognise behaviour, by at without a slave homeand we can only force this recognition withdrawing Not so that they supportthemselves. all womencanleavetheir men,some at because the moment they love the man reasons, Sorne of because economic that they'rewith. But let'sacknowledge they can't or feelthey can'tand address to. no that, not that there's reason hatewomen' Feminists elsethat wassaidwasthat Revolutionary Something womensayabout what heterosexual I don't hate women.I clon'tdisregard the with menwhich would atnountto disregarding first thirty their relationships with painful because they resonate yearsof my own life. I find those discussions which both mademe leavemy bloke and to feel grief about all thoseexperiences up leading to the it. I don't underestimate pain of workingthroughthe process men.That pain is not borneof trying to implementsomeright-on not supporting rule like 'Neverbuy goodsfrotn W.H.Smith' but ratherof the slow realization that the man/rnenyou love, work with, strugglepolitically with etc. are retaining over control mechanisms you and other their powerby the useof countless the that you're feeding handsthat bite you. I do slowly women.You realise processes. what I strongly But think that womenhaveto work throughthese of being told that I must be silent in terms of any analysis mine and object to is on We experiences. may commentfreelyit Seems the destructivewomen's other shouldbe madeon each that demands and conclude motherl.rtnd ness isolated of for other for taking responsibility eachother'schildren. But we may not woman'srelationshipon of comment on the destructiveness a heterosexual that for other womenandvalidate her and ourselves part ofher herselfand which wantsout. Thank god a woman (socialistfeminist) told me in no uncertainterms to that womandidn't havean unlimited my about and leave husband, stop pissing fund of energyto pour into me to enableme to survivein that relationshipwith him. I knew what shesaidwas right though I did feel along with the shock that was that Sheunderstoodall right, for what shehad sussed shedidn't understand. I wantedit both ways,the love and support of women and the relativeprivilege wldch accruedto me by relatingto a man. So although I don't hate women and I don't think it is right to heavywomen and pretendthat withdrawalis easyI also privilege,when insteadof get pissedoff when women defendtheir heterosexual comingcleanand sayingthat it's the security,the status,the "normality", the socialacceptabilitywhich they do not want to giveup, they screamat me for their and for "not takingseriously being"moralistic"and "judgemental" experiences".

of I just don't know what their experiences men undermalepowercan be so different from mine and which don't include the realizationthat which are which clobberwomenwhenever he thisnice bloke canopt backinto structures is and that this good experience maintainedat the price of her not going chooses Heterosexual women are living on borrowed time in further than he chooses. and I suspect lessthan honestabout their are of their own security terms (when they speakabout them at all in the movement) order to in relationships security. This in effectdrawsa veil overwhat we share as that tenuous defend male power in our daily livesand what we should be experiencing women I and sometimes unbearable. from Far discussing.think this controlis insidious hierarchy "right-on-nes"operating of from iesbian man-hating supposed this women, I often feel I'm leastacceptable that I in womendown to heterosexual my I Well can't evendiscuss politics because will be hurting a woman'sfeelings. havebeenhurt by men and I want to be able to talk about it. This my feelings Yes bringsme on to the next bundleof confusions man-hating. I do hate rnen - the men in my family for the way they haveconstantlybelittled the women, of I madeslaves them and igrored their needs. hate the men at work who refer to womenstudentsas"little girls" and who have decidedin their wisdom that but I thisis not offensive a term of endearment. hate the Principals the of who think their institutions must haverugby pitchesand barsbut not colleges I creches. hate my father for his egocentricityand the way he hasleft my mother uptight and emotionally crippled and for his questions about whether "old Anne" (my lover)haseverhad a relationship with a man (wassheevera real woman?).I hate my ex-husband the yearsof absence realnurture and for of for the fact that he didn't want the careof his childrenbut he wantedme definedasan unfit mother. I hate my ex friendsand lovers(male) for the way in which they havesmuglyregarded themselves different by virtue of relatingto as a feminist. Iast but not leastI hate the men who rape,batter, murder and objectify women - I hate them all. But I don't walk around the world havingfits of gratuitouscruelty. As a teacher am not indifferentto the fact that black malestudents well as I as femaleexperience greatdeal of racismon the courseor that gay men are a subject an enormous to (it's called"personamountof very polite queerbashing ality problems").I put a greatdeal of energyinto fighting against this not all because theseare men I know and thereforedifferent but because racism, heterosexism whatever inhumaneand inhumanity is preciselywhat's at or are issue. In my own life I'm still working through my relationshipto my ex-husband. He'snot a total turd (few of them everare) and the childrenlove him. I do a lot to make that relationship with their father possible but I alsovalidatetheir

a of awareness who he is asa man.Whenthey say'Daddy's bit sexist' increasing usseriously'l do know what thosekids arefeeling.But I or'Daddy doesn'ttake But in with them (painfullyand all overagain). am goingthroughthe process I him as easyas possible inevitablysupporthim in with rnaking their relationship his falsebeliefthat he is a totally wonderfulfatherand doinghis bit for them. other women as I It's a contradiction don't feel easyabout especially it involves him too. supporting in the house behaviour rule plus appropriate But the ideathen that thereis any sirnple into sightisiust crude.In short I a manheaves which can be appliedwhenever donlt want to supportany man but I don't know at the momenthow not to a Whether man is beating womanor a to supportmy ex-husband somedegree. at in trying to get a creche the college with the Principal whetherhe is arguing to to doesmakea difference how I will behave him. It doesn'tfollow from this go on living with him, for all I know he is beating that I would urgehis wife to to Nor doesit makea difference how far I would the her and supporting creche. aid. We and women's creches wasnice,he supported trust hirn. My husband He whenwe werein Australia. evengaveme together went on Abortion marches to all the currentwritingson the Family and did seemto be sensitive my I positionwithin it. So in the light of my own experience don't trust sympathetic of is not a question whetherindividualmen arenice,it's a question to. power they caninvokewhen they choose the structural of It seems be asumed that the final triumpltantdeathblow could be dealt to "Revolutionin Feminism the form of the followingargument: to Revolutionary of On determinism". the basis this biological implies logically ary Feminism men.But comnlittedto castrating/klling belief,we areall apparently supposed theory,then we weretold, we have our contradicts supposed sinceour practice no stratesies. I Thisisjust crapand confusion. don't want to get into the wholedeterminbut free-willarguments at leastit shouldbe pointedout that deterismversus that whereit is assumed minismforms a iargepart of other feministtheories of us. "society" determines/constructs So it can't be the charge determinism which womenfind which bringson the horrorsbut ratherthe biological commitsus to doingwhat we don't do objectionable which apparently and form of deterkilling rnen.(lt is by the way a very nastyand condescending feministwritingswhich talk of heterosexuality rninism which is irnplicitin these fixed categories). and lesbianism thoughthey weretotally discrete, as to furyway,what wasbeingimputed to me wasa beliefthat men are caused that. I they havea penis.I do not believe do what they do to womenbecause They can don't think that men"can't help it" which is a very old myth indeed. and they could change. malesexuality help it, they don'thavean irrepressible they havetoo much to they won't unles forcedto because The fact is it seems 'strategy' to withdrawfrom men to the lose.That is precisely point of our

and to put energy into womenand into challenging men. forcethem to change determinist and neitherdoesrevolutionary feminism am not a biological I imply it but I do think we cancause thingsto happen anil therefore I tttgicalty to I that it is possible effect change. do think that the biological difference think menand womenis irnportant. For a startif a man didn't lmvea penis between he couldn'tuseit asa weaponbut I don't think the reverse true; that is then ofa possession penisis sufficientto cause him to rapeand control. rrrere Botlt menand womenhavechoiceand what I want is for men to starl ' c h o o s i n g ' t o c h a n gIed o n ' t j u s t m e a nt h a t t h e y b e c a r e f ua b o u tw h a t t h e y s a y . l e a n dd o i n t h e p r e s e n co f f e m i n i s t s I ' m s i c ko f t h i s t o k e n i s mI. m e a nt h a t n t a s h t h e ys h o u l d o t o p p o s eh e d i s r n a n t l i n g o fl l t h o s e t r u c t u r ets a t g i v et h e m that they won't giveanythingup until they really power - but I'm convinced t b e g i n o f e e lt h e d r a u g h t . Pat In sisterhood, (WIRES 5) 9

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DearWires. is Feministpaperon politicallesbianism Revolutionary I think the Leeds I lesbianism. think it has nor evenabout nor neitherrevolutionary feminist, in political I to nothingwhatsoever do with sexuality. think it is an exercise MoveLiberation Women's the part maneuuering, of an attemptto restructure to movement mass broad-based from an open. ment,to transformthe movement left-winggroups, grouping cadreunits,alongthe linesof certain of a closed what many women This is perhaps with party line and party discipline' complete within the movedirections for desire new thereis certainlywidespread *uni ment but I would prefer we all call a spadea spade' paperpropoint, I find the politicallesbianism To returnto my opening and depends of two concepts, the That is, it revises meanings foundly revisionist. the of all, it revises for (hidden)revisions its emotiveforce.First on these of the meaning "the it itself.Second, revises of meaning politicallesbianism two pointsseparately. personal political". I want to takeup these is or in of The first wave,so to speak, politicallesbianism the mid-seventies dates pretty lousyon specific but (l'm pretty good on generalities rhereabouts America. and facts)camefrom within the radicalfeminist strandsof the wLM in learnan elementof selfhatredwhen notion that all women on It wasbased on based womenin a societywhich is fundamentally they learnto become or lesbian, bisexual, whetherheterosexual, All subjection. women, women's their when they acquire doseof self-hatred a internalise furtherheavy asexual. by and norms,asconstructed exercised Heterosexist orientation. sexual specific all women, in different ways, feel sexuallyisolated ensurethat the male class, from other women.All womenweredefinedprimarilyin relationto, or in of oppression lesbians the Furthermore, specific to, reaction malesexuality. initially found themselves had rneantthat lesbians society within heterosexist within the WLM aswithin the dorninant and just asinvisible. dismissed rejected sc.ciety. First' as at Potticallesbianism that time had two mainelements I remember' of all women- regardless their specificsexualorientation to it wasa call for If as with lesbians, lesbians. all womentook a publiclyidentify themselves would of then much of the specificoppression lesbians public stand as lesbians be subverted. orientation sexual of all Furthermore, women- againregardless their specific under the - wereinvited to look question contextsand circumstances how sexualorientation had beenforged,and to discover which their specific much that sexualorientation,particularly with respectto heterosexuality, femaleour of on depended the rejection femaleness, own and other women's we political lesbians were throwing In callingourselves of ness body and spirit. we This feelingwasso strongpreciselybecause knew our militant off self-hatred. which and that the changes reflectionof our inward feelings, public stancewasa

4L werereal.Wehad learned love ourselves to as we had wroughtwithin ourselves to and we had learned love other women. womerl as Tle importantthing for me about politicallesbianism, it wasfirst was on conceived, that it wasa call for unity amongwomen,based our common oflearningto know and carefor eachother.I found it a profoundly experience opening to partsof myselfI had never experience, lne beforeacknowcreative me opening to other womenin waysI lradneverdreamed possible. It le6ged. me to allowed to feelconnected all women,womenI didn't know, women I womenI desired. didn't like, womenI admired, Feministpaperhastotally revised So now I feel the leeds Revolutionary the of My of rrreaning politicallesbianism. reading the paperis that politicallesbianism for them hasvery little to do with caringfor and bondingwith other women, men.Certainlythereis nothingwrongwith but ratherto do with rejecting men,rnostof nry bestfriendsrejectmen,but that is rrot the same rejecting thing for ascaring women.Nor is it evena startin the right direction. Just because rnenare awful doesn'tmeanwomen are wonderful. I think we are wonderful,all of us.eventhoseof us who are horrible.I think we arewonderfulin our own men areawful. I feel positively rightand not because insultedat the suggestion wehavewomen loversnot because arelovablebut because we that will prove our politicalcredibility. don't want any womanto feelsheis unableto be a I feminist.I don't want any womanto feel shecannotmakeany meaningserious ful changes her life unless in and until shestopshavingsexual(physicalemotional) relations with all men. I remember when we usedto say,"Kick from where you are" - and not that you had to get somewhere beforeyou could else challenge malepower. The paperasserts that women shouldcease havingsexualrelationsof any sort with men because thoserelations always are and invariably and eternally oppressive women.The fact that many womendo experience to quite a lot of powerin theirheterosexual relations, that they find they havea lot of room to l.naneuver within thoserelationships, dictate to male loverswhat they will and to will not do, is dismissed. fact that heterosexual The womencould talk freely among themselves discover and together what extent they are bored, to humiliated, angered, satisfied energised whatever their relationships and or by is discounted. fact I marvelat the paper's In ability to be so authoritative about every single of penetration. always act I thoughtthat part of the strength of teminist analyses oppression that we asserted needandthe right for of was the oppressed peopleto describe their own oppression. Sincerevolutionary feminists don't havesexual relations with men,then how can they be so authoritative about what those relationsmust alwaysbe like? Is Big Sisterwatching me? The crunchhereis that while they arguethat heterosexual relations always 'tuve suchwidespread terriblerepercussions all women,they alsoarguethat for cnanging thoserelationships that they no longerreflectmaleprivilege no so has

down the drain of one at widersymbolicmeaning all. lt is simplypouringenergy relationship with a man and the relationship single man.So if you havea sexual you, in oppresses you arein the wrongfor staying it, and if you work onlt so in you, you areevenmorein the wrongfor staying it. that it doesn'toppress showthat the intent of the paperis not sortsof contradictions I think these or their own oppression to help them overthrowtheir to help womenunderstand to wordsand arguments makeheteroThe oppression. papermerelymanipulates womenfeel they arein the wrong,no matterwhat they do. sexual and bisexual two the The paperplaysboth endsagainst middle,asserting setsof contradictory 'solves' the all and confusion, then spuriously to arguments promoteanguish 'chuck men and all the contradictions be will with a simplistic contradictions As solved' happyending. long as you haveany truck with men you area but as soonasyou feminism, and foreveroutsidethe fold of serious collaborator sinceyou arein the all In separatist is forgiven. the meantinte, becomea sexual carrymore wrong,your opinionsareinvalidand nothingyt)u saycould possibly and weightthan the fact that you fuck with a man.(Many heterosexual bisexual you think we leave our womendo not, in fact,fuck with men . . . what makes men in everyother We politicsoutsidethe bedroom? feel it is right to challenge to sense as to do so?)I deeply areaof our lives,why not in this area,if it makes that what I might do everyoncein a while any positionwhich asserts mistrust than what I do all the time with wonren. with someman is of moreimportance paperhashad suchan emotive the The only reason politicallesbianism the is (generally effecton so many feminists that it alsorevises depressing) is unit of our politics- the personal political.That slogan meaning that basic of which emerged from earlycottsciousness-raising an encapsulates observation of details women's groups. wasan expression the fact that the particular of It personal to lives,which becameaccessible most of us for the first time in the patterns reflected one theme: similarpatterns, WLM, reflected and all these by wt-lmen wereoppressed rnen. of to Wesawthat we did not needto limit our analysis just a few areas our everything. lives;we sawthe immensepolitical power of questioning The versionof 'the personal political' implicit in the political lesbianism is paperis somewhatdifferent. The paper'sauthorsseemto use this sloganas an truth. Because they have"strong political beliefs" unspecified sourceof absolute thosebeliefsare part of their personal identity and part of the truth of their being a strongbelief enoughto make it true lives.But is the fact of something or is for all of us?'Thepersonal political'never meantthat any woman's has group of women'spersonal feelingsor ideasbasedon those feelings could be into a political programme all women. for immediatelytranslatable in Vff:rat does make the statements this papertrue? If "our heterosexual (to us sisters accuse of woman-hating"is it not possiblethat their heterosexual

asexual lesbian) and sisters mightjust be right? saynothingof their bisexual, about what everyheterosexual TSeyjust go on and on makingstatements life wonran's is like, what sheshouldthink about it, what sheshoulddo abourit. that all women question than dentanding their experience nrake and Rather based their new understandings, justtett us what that on they decisicrns is Furthermclre, they tell us that if we do not cxpcrience and what it means. thcir truth and act on it in the way they tell us to - in effect,if we do accept party discipline then we arecollaborators with the enemy.Since 1()t accept groups generally shoot collaborators, analysis the resistance they present is c , r u t h c r h i l l i n g t o s a yt h e l e a s t . in Anotherrespect which'the personal political'hasbeenimplicitly revised is an . i s i n t h e a r e ao f p u b i i c d i s c u s s i o n d d e b a t eh r t h e p a p e r . ' t h e e r s o n ai ls p on political'operates the levelof "My politicsareof intense personal imporuance any attackon my politicsis equivalent an attackon me; to rneand therefore to you cannotattackrny politicswithout attacking me; furthermore, ,I attackthe if w^yyou liveyour personal life, since the personal political,that is reallya is politicalattack." I think it is in largelneasure sort of perhaps this unconscious of revision basicfeministtruths whichhasfueledthe firesof paranoia currently srrlatnpantwithin our movement and which benefits only our oppressors. Finally.I think that a fundamental difference existsbetween identifyrnsasa l c s l r i a o n t h e b a s i s t l f o v ef o r s o m e a r t i c u l aw o r R a no r t r n t h e t a s i so f t o v e n p r l . Irr 'i'onren general, identifying a lesbian in and as because you rejectnrenor think vou shouldor wishyou could rejectmen.I think that identifyingwith wonrellpositively, irrespective ot'the existence men,is part of the process of of gettingrid of the man in our head,our male-identified rejection and hatredof w()l.uen.think that identifyingwith womennegatively, part of our hatred I as of men,not only doesnot get rid of the man in our hearl, makes it him ever morepowerful. The politicaleffectsof this paperarepotentiallydisastrous. hasmademany It fenlr.rists their own struggles hopeless. hasmademany feministsfeel feel are It the WLM is hopeless. hasrnade It many womenfeel rippedapart,with a public presence asserting their lesbianism a privatefeelingthat they reallydon't and know what they areand haven'tthe right to find out. They behave like they think lesbians shouldbehave, thereis always but one eye on the crowd to make surethey are doingthe right thing,and thereis this innerdesolation, feeling this that underneath they are neitherlovable nor angryjust scared and lonely.In fact we aremost of us scared and lonely most of the time, and that is not the fault of other women,it is the fault of malepowerand men. I think it is terriblethe way the paperdemands emotionalservicing from all other women,and blames all otherwomenfor the miseries the lesbian of ghetto. I wish that no woman would becomea political lesbian unlessshereally feels like lesbianisrn represents freelychosen. a happyidentification with another

in Then shewouldn't haveto be so miserable womanor other womenin general. duty. the nameof rcvolutionary liberation we know it today is not about making as and women's Feminism our duty. If we wish to change movement in sacrifices the nameof revolutionary overcreating duty take precdence and revolutionary so that correctbehaviour let women,then by all means us do so,but let us act in loveand unity amongst t I of full knowledge what we aredoing.Personally, don't givea fuck for duty. revolutionary In sisterhood, DebbyGregory. and sizesgadually wearingaway at the stone of the patriarchy. all shapes we Meanwhile, needevery ounceof woman energywe can muster.If the movementcan't be a placefor a// women, whatevertheir sexualitv. women's very much. then we havelittle hope of everachieving Joy Pitman,January1981.


A Reply from York paperwasdiscussed several The political lesbianism in open meetings and workin thereappeared be a consensus shops York. In eachdiscussion to supporting privatelyor publicly afterwards. feel the paperwhile many women disagreed we that this wasdue to the way the paperwaswritten, the authoritarianlanguage, the attempt to pre-emptdebateby dealingwith potential criticismthrough only, and the exclusionof the validity of women's askingcertainquestions experiences. reply takesthe form of comments the question/answer Our part on of the paper. a) Are heterosexual women the enemy? Women'sAid doesnot tell batteredwomen how to live their lives. Can feminist activity - Consciousness porn campaigns, raising, health groupsetc - really be nullified by heterosexual activity? The past showsgains for and by women, ourselves. b) & c) Wedon't do penetration. enclose I him. At the moment sexualityis definedby men. lr doesmake a differencewhat intercourse called, is and to dismiss'enclosure' an attemptat re-definition as impliesthat any challenge the male definition of sexis useless. to Also, are we to dismiss women'sexperiences sexualenjoymentwith men as invalid delusions? of d) I like fucking. Aren't women allowed to enjoy themselves? paper's The reply deniesany autonomous sexuality. The socialistanalogydoesn'twork givingup Capeapplescan't be equated with givingup heterosexual activity which for many women involvesquestions of income,housing, child custodyetc. e) It is easier lesbians. for All women are under attack and we can't escape living with women. The by fbrm of attack obviouslyvaries.Thereare privileges given to heterosexual wolnenbut there are many disadvantages as maleviolence,economic such dependency and lossof identity.

Feminist SexualPolitics 'lesbian' this way (asin PoliticalLesbian) to rob it of any is in To usethe term Those orientation/preference/practice. of us as of meaning a description sexual struggle to all who werelesbians and suffered the guilt, hiding,oppression, -before we were Movement come out without the supportof a Women's feministshavegood reasonto be angry at this denialof what it meansto us to be lesbians. to viewpoint(at its mostextreme)seems behindthe separatist The rationale women.Therefore . be run: (yes,I know I'11 oversimplifying. .) "Men oppress thereforewe must get rid of men are the enemy.Men will not/can not change, they are energyto men.Therefore womensupport/give men.Heterosexual bad traitors/as as men etc . . ." The whole colludingwith the enemy/are at different points. There is a difference, argumentis open to discussion several (the autonomyof the between separatism a politicalmethodof organising as in WLM), a way of gainingstrengthbefore returningto the struggle societyat as large-- and separatism an end in itself. the I understand angerand frustration which leadswomen to declarethat the I is only way to end our oppression to rid the world of men. Evenif you agree, that, or be allowedto. But beyond that, I fail to seehow we could everachieve feel that one of the important thingsabout feminismis the belief that the vny the our ends,influences type of end we will achieve. in which we try to achieve our to structures, attempts do away on Henceour insistence non-heirarchical I Genocideis a form of male power-mongering do not with power imbalances. of society,but not at the expense wish us to makeuse of. I want a non-sexist "men". turning wonlen(who know so much about creating)into destructive a If we envisage future in which men will take part, men will haveto change. Somewomen believethis will only happenif women withdraw their support totally from men. I don't believeall women are everylikely to want to do this. the desired Not all feministswant to do so, now. I'm not sureit would achieve the we effect if we did. I think we will only achieve sort of change want very slowly, and not in any one way - it will be more like millions of little drops of

are f) lrsbian relatitrnships iucked up by powers{ruggles' IIitisrecognisedthatlesbianscan'thaveperfectrelationshipsunder patriarchy''theterosexualwomenmakethebestoftheirrelationships witlt rrrcn'l e better? tlffer sonlething g) Cany<-ru future whenafter abouta man-less Thereisn't rnuchpoint ilnlaving f'antasies L o l e f t i n a s t a t e f o p p r e s s i o n 'i v i n g w t i r eu p l i f t o f b e i n gi n s p i r e d e a r es t i l l r e v o l u t i o n a ra c t i v t t y ' y i r v i r h , r Lr t c t r s n ' ta p r e - r e c l u i s otfe in i g n ll i i ) i l e t e r o s e x r l w t - ' t l t ea r eb e i n g r : i l tt r i p p e d ' guiit trippetlby irot beinggivencredit for knowingtheir own They are Lreing which makeother lit-estyles l'actors ol by ancl rhe neglect structural rninds, in many waysand this paperisn't the most ,lifficult..Thetruth' canbe tolcl rvaY. effective ThecffectthepapcrlraclinYorkwast0makeheterosexualw(}menthink w w a y ' T h e s e o m e nf e l t no a b o u tt h e i r r c l a t i o n s h i p s b u t t i n a c o n s t r u c t i v e their relation(\ temporarilysuspended from the women's Movenrent alienatecl heteroabout our sexuality, more discussion shipswith rnen.we'cllike to see up is patriarchy shored by other factorsaswell as and privilege, how sexual penetration.Thestartingpointfordiscussionneedstobeourfeelingsand continueto giveup heterosexual And clnetastihought,while wclmen experience. find to dealwith this? patriarchy activity what wayswould Jan DenaAttar, PennyBainbridge, Maloney' 1 F e b r u a r Y9 8 1 .

47 and coutrnitment the womon you'r'e criticising.r I've the of r,,.ursllect sincerity womyn are that lesbians who are not respectful lleteroscxual of .nn,. ,., believe heterosexual selves.2 tlgse who can't forgivetheir own previously you but think there'ssomething you to ls it arrogant say that I respect s a h a v e n '" s e e n " .I ' m a l e s b i a n e p a r a t i s tn d I t h i n k t h e r ea r et w o m a i nr e a s o n s / t one isthat I'm growingin waysthat I could not haveforeseen soodef'fects: about madness ttregapbetween ivhenI wasstill with men.The thing you sai<i has separatism andreallife. For me lesbian livingat half strength oLrreveryday gap.It's actuallylivingin tlrat gap,outsidewhat into tl-rat beingstepping becniis in for passes reality,and the jolt of doingthis hasmadecracks me to allow in little twinklesof else.Tlie something is still just hints and ciues, else sonrething you believe now? That I madelove to myself more that I telepathise light.Would myselfonce?(not masturbated reallyfelt how you feel with a lover).That I very fclt ltow deepthe rootsol a tree werein the earth.3l expectall this sounds It's alsofeminism. it's very very frightening livingin Sometimes spiritull.It is. the tliisglp but I think we (me and the othershere)aregoingto changc world t h i sw a y . is The other reason that we muststop nurturingmen. They rnustlearnto they will survive. Right otherand if they can't then I don't believe nurtureeach to they'rea danger all life on this planetand most.especially womyn. I to norv know somemen arenicer than othersbut I've neverInet oneyet who wasable to give/receive emotionai supportto/from anotherman.They drainthe life force of frorr womyn in a very real way, quite apart from the institutional genocide womyn.I think the LeedsRev Femstook a greatrisk in writingthe Political paper.How I wisha heterosexual Lesbianism womon would reply to it in detail. Your reactionto it is that it is nothing to do with you or your life. Pleasesay privilege, more.4You clearlyunderstand you saythat menare heterosexual irrelevant to You alsosaidyou're afraidof relating and can't reallyunderstand. 'women are too important for me to trust myself with.' I really wonrynbecause needto understand what you meanby this. It sounds like a fearI had but I'm not sure. Stay strong, Dane. You are the Womyn'sLiberation Movement.And so am I. ln sisterhood, Paula Jennings. (WIRES88 (footnotesadded (1212181) the light of recentlettersin in WIRESand also asthe resultof discussions, mainly with JenniferKerr. Footnotes

DearDiane(Grimsditch)' timestrying to hear it and several I,vejust readyour letterin Wires whatyou'resaying.Suchcourageandtrust-tobewritingdownyour|eelings by' feelrejected thernwith womyn you already andsharing A big one is of you feelingthat l've beentrying to sort out my impressions' ..tirem"not you. You saidit in lots of differentways.And the thing the wLM is I would rather hear a about truth. I c/o want to hearyour truth and I know that difft"nt from mine' than be mystified by a womon telling her truth, evenif it'' of adoptedthe uniform and phrases 11d-goloSV womon who haspainlessly And there is a lot of that in the wLM. We haven't which hasnevertouched'her. of lived under male rule for thousands yearsfor nothing'

I Reactions the Political ksbianism papersuggest to that heterosexual feminists Maybe don't feeltheir sincerity and commitmentis beingrespected. Irememberthefeelingofbeingcold-shoulderedbylesbianswhenlwasstill this is more to do with all the "shoulds" in the paperand with being withaman.ltenragedrne.Butlalsorememberbeingchallengedbylesbiansand that,althoughpainful,helpedmegrow.Supportivecriticismisonlypossibleif

'collaborators' than with the actualtheory of heterosexuality' as described haveoutlined the theory and includeda vision of a The papercould perhaps men. ie. Here are thegood thingswhich futuie wherewomen did not service withdrewthat support.This would be feminists if couldhappen heterosexual damning. and moreencouraging less implies and for disrespect lesbians their choices Heterosexual And viceversa. be' of a fear (and unforgivingness) the lesbianthey too could friendshavereactedangrily to this part of my letter, sayingthat Heterosexual which I attributeto my they too havehad the sortsof insights/experiences has All a becoming lesbian. I can reply is that my lesbianism definitelymade ability to usemore bits ir greatchanges me. Apart from feelingan increased of I in of rrryself perceiving,no longerhaveto endurethe contradiction activityand a liberationasmy central for havingthe struggle womyr1's For groupas my centralconfidantand companion. of member the oppressor are changes not unconnected. me these by of no So far I've comeacross analysis heterosexuality a heterosexual silence.In all the outraged feminist.Behind the angry noiseis a resounding paperthereis no realattemptto refute to responses the PoliticalLesbianism Nor of is the theorythat heterosexuality the cornerstone malesupremacy. is feminismwhich heterosexual it therean attemptto replace with a theoryof with men contributeto feminist relationships how emotional/sexual describes criticismof the Politicalksbianism paper I've readone detailed revolution. inherentin of the and that one sidesteps question the powerconnotations to that somewomen tell their maleloversrvl-rat sex heterosexual by retorting of fucking and the cultural equationof do in bed. (The culrural meaning from thesebeds')I've peniswith power is apparentlymagicallymissing the misunderstanding arguments if wondered womenaredeliberately them' to avoidanswering in conlained the paperin order thereis frequentlythe indignant(and supposedly Instead analysis of us - "But how will men learnto stop oppressing if we're question rhetorical) how to necessary describe It is not considered not thereto teachthem?" them. is than leaving, more effectivein changing stayingwith men, rather of Further,thereis no questioning this focuson "teaching"men.It's assumed theoriesare not to a new world and alternative to be the obviousroute that they are ridiculedand so (or treated seriously areconsidered threatening within a ltisnot obviousthat directly confrontingthe oppressor disrnissed). is relationship an effectiveroute to change. that lesbianln recent feminist writings there hasevenbeenthe suggestion theory by from formulating feminists heterosexual are feminists preventing and guilt-tripped that lesbians, paralysing them with guilt. It is overlooked to invalidatedby the whole of society,still manage write down explanations

that what is reallypreventing of our politics.I would suggest heterosexual from explaining their positionis that it is the norm and therefore feminists to of considered not be requiring any politicalanalysis. currentdebate The in WLM is not between two conflicting the setsof theory(i.e.lesbian and Thereis lesbian heterosexual). and/orseparatist theoryand reactions it. to I'd like to list someof thesereactions commenton them. and (a) "How dareyou tell me what to do?" Thisis a frequentresponse any questioning the norm. It is not criticism to of but a fearful attempt to stop questions that might lead to difficult changes. It is true that the PoliticalLesbianism paperactuallydoestell womyn what to the do, so in this case response hardlysurprising. is However, "How dareyou" etc. doesnot cometo gripswith the ideas the paperand doesnot further in the debate. (b) "This bears relationto what I experience my life." no in This is fair enough, but then we areleft wondering how the writer does experience heterosexuality how this relates her feminism. her and to (c) "You arecontravening WLM demandof our right to a self-defined the sexuality." To put forward a theory about the relationshipof heterosexuality male to supremacy not the same denying womon the right to be heterosexual. is as a A theory canbe disagreed with (evenif it doescontaina numberof "shoulds"). If womyn havedifferent theorieswhich they find more convincingthen they'll presumably aheadand live in accordance go with them.what lesbians haveto contendwith in a heterosexist world is not just a theory. It is a socialrule backedup by punishments rangingfrom lossof job and childrento violence and murder. (d) "SinceRevolutionary (and other lesbians, Feminists presumably) don't haverelationships with men how can they be an authority on what those relationships like?" are Many,if not most,lesbian feminists wereonceheterosexual. Somewhere lurking in this response the implication that lesbians not real womyn is are and cannot understand most womyn's concerns. This is an attempt to make our opinions irrelevant and therefore non-threatening. (e) "My heterosexual relationshipis not oppressive because lover is under my my thumb." This response impliesthat role reversal rather than the overthrow of male power is the goal of feminism,and that dominatinga malelover is somehow revolutionary.But why would any womon want to be in a relationshipwith a doormat?Besides, pomographycontainsmany images "masterful" womyn of discipliningnaughty men. While men continue to hold realpower in the world

thisis just a gameand a turn-on. paperin to Therehavebeenrnanymore responses the PoliticalLcsbianism complaint The most serious in particular and to lesbian-feminism general. a ) ( a n dI t h i n k i t u n d e r l i em a n y0 f t h e o t h e r s i s t h a t h e t e r o s e x u wlo m y na r e s with the But ferninists. if a womon disagrees as bcinginvalidated serious of then the charge being that theoryof heterosexuality is beingproposed have Lesbian-feminists been is or unsericlus a collaborator simplyirrelevant. on of accused beingdefeatist the groundsthat we haveopted out of the "real with men". SinceI don't acceptthis definitionof "real struggle clay-to-day by I inirnobilised beingcalleddefeatist. struggle" am nt-rt ls but shouldfeel invalidated tlte answer It is not good that somefeminists womenwho write down their ideas. not to attackor silence Press, DearOnlyrvonren



I wantedto write something favourof the politicallesbian in paper.I was whenseveral ofmy lesbian buddies wereoutraged, sftocked upsetand angry w i t h i t . T h a t i s . I w o u l dl i k e r o c ' x p r e s sp o i n t o 1 ' v i e wh a t i s o u t s i d e h e h e t e r o a t t a r s e x u allr a m e w o r k l t o g e t h ea n d s a yh o w i t c h a n g e d e f r c l ma g u i l t y l e s b i a n m or ferninist. into a politicallesbian lesbian My lesbian experience beganwhenmy dearest friend at University handedme a pieceof computerpaperon which waswritten 'l want your body'. After o e s e v c r am i n u t e s f m a s s i vh e a r tt r a u m a s t o l d h e r I w a sn o t i n t e r e s t e d . u t a s l I B i s o o na sI h a dd e n i e dt I r e m e r n b e r e h a t I h a d d r e a m t f l y i n gi n b e c l i t h l r e r td o w tn i n p a s s i o n a ee r b r a c e ,n d r n y r e s i s t a n c e u r n b l e dI. w o u l dn o t l i k e y o u t o a cr t h a t w e l e a p ta t o n c ei n t o b e d .A f t e r t h i sd e c l a r a t i oin t o o k u s h o u r so f ' think t cxcruciating embarrassrnent touch f ingers, to daysot'coiledup agonyto and ernbrace weeks beforewe evenapproached full expression the ol'lhis love. I do not think this hesitation wasreallyabout t>urmutual pruderybut rather ()ur terror of this thing of passionate between love womenand our fear o1' outsideheterosexualtiy. werenot f'entinists did not realize stepping We and that in sorne circles wasok, fine, evenlovelyto be lesbian, of course, did it and we not think of ourselves lesbian. couldn'tevensaythe word, let aloneapply it as I to myselfor her. And for the yearthat we wereinvolved, did not tell a soul. we we scuttledout of each<-rther's room at 7 in the rnorning, takingseparate routes to the breakfast cafeand discreel showersand wees the night. Suchwasour in f e a r . y l o v e rw a sa n A m e r i c a n n d a t t h e e n d o f ' t h es u m m e r e t u r n e do t h e M a t States. Alter long periodof desperation the lossof'her,I beganto realize at that indeedwe werelesbians anotherwholevolumeof grief roseup. The and possibility anotherrelationship of with a womanseemed unlikely,I knew no womenwlro werealliesin any way,let alonelovers.I cannotdescribe the utter despair that the prospect a f'uturewithout her or this cornpanionship of with a wornanthrewon to me. For ages did not teli anyone I about her.- excepr for a woman whclthenattemptedto usethe fact of my 'perversion' against me. I startedto think of myselfas a'homosexual' and tried to find out if there werebarsor places wherepeoplelike me could meet.Finally I 'got of| with a straightwoman(a business woman)at a straight party and was lllled with hope fbr a weekuntil shephonedme to saythat her boyfrienddidn't like the idea and shewassorryetc. At that point I startedto believe that I would neverhavea passionate equalrelationship and again and that I wasdestined sordidaffairs fbr with fucked-up lesbians myselfor straight like womenwho liked to experiment but werenot serious. Finally I spentthe night with a youngerwonran-frienil of rninewho in the morningseenred find the mernoryof the night appalling to and disgusting. too felt disgusted my unnaturalfeelings. I by

to I After a year of this,I drifted towardsfeminism.In thesecircles started from my realidentity separate I asbisexual. wasstill completely referto myself and they introducedme to a I The feminists knew werestraight asa lesbian. I issue. worked on perspectives the woman's socialist involved which feminisrn man and had I wasbeingfuckedby an equallyalienated with NAC. Meanwhile e v e ng o n es o l a r a st o g e tc o n t r a c e p t e d . womenbut until I met this man I had tried to This may soundabsurd straight overthe to excuse get out of beinglaid by various'boyfriends' possible every christian,then catholic,sayingI would years. Thishad meantbeingexcessively neverhavean abortion(so you betternot fuck me), I'm a bride of Christ(he's 'sorry I don't reallywant to'. But I of and monogamous), a hundredrepetitions to he manbecause madeno pretence be lovedthe sex with this alienated agonywhile fuckingand an it enjoying - we both assurned attitudeof glorious werebuilt from hatred. our orgasms Anyway, after gettinginvolvedwith a straightfeminist (boyfriendsin tow), I At rurade anotherattempt at lesbianism. this point I did not think of my still of asfeministor politicalbut asa question deviation. closeted-lesbianism it Nevertheless, wasnice that all thesestraightfeministsthat I met did not But to and to appear think me disgusting, they seemed tolerateme completely. that therewerecertainrulesin this world. lt wasok to be a lesbian it appeared as longasone didn't showit in certainareas in publicor aroundpeoplewho might mind. the Feminismchallenged position of women and that wasthought to be the went too far and alienated ordinary but pretty much acceptable, lesbianism butch if asked I couldlook a little less beingdiscreetly (I people can remember I my in ro.pany). At this time I did not assert lesbianism, wasnot certainof it I and wasstill afraid of my isolationdespitethe toleranceI received. still thought of myselfas bisexualfor my own safetyand protection. I did not feel that at a crunch thesefeministswould standbehind me' that their loyalty was partial.I poseda threatto their ltormality.(I do not meanto blamethese was)' women:asI havesaid,I knew how terrifyinglesbianism 'Political lesbianism' paperhad such Anyway, all this is to explain why the feminismI thought what my problem an effect on me. When I first encountered because in life had been wasa questionof sexualorientation.I had beenstrange this accountof my life did I wantedto havesex with women.BUT in someway not fit. The fact that it wasnow ok in lesbiancirclesto havesex with women did not make any differenceto me. I did not believethat the way I was,was definedby the fact that I wantedto havesex with women.It felt more like a deepdesireto be free, to be a real woman. as As a child this meant beingclassified a tomboy. I didn't want to play with and very aggressive girlswho I thoughtweresilly' I wassportyand independent, The way thingsare, this or hated anything which reekedof wetness weakness.

I identify as'woman'.I hatedall the thingswhich tried to cut rneant could never 'woman'. This had nothingto do with sexor nreoff from myselfand makeme Why I had beencastout asa child,asan adolescent asa young pleasure. and I adult wasbecausewantedto be a womanwho alsowantedto be free of the of constraints "femininity". Societyhad extremelysubtlecoercive techniques to appliedright from the beginning. destroywomenlike me, and these Therefore it to which challenge seems me now that all the characteristics society's construc'woman' (tame, submissive etc) are categorized deviantor lesbian tion of the as And characteristics. for me to be tolerated a lesbian feminists as by somehow the utterly missed point about what I felt my self to be. My 'lesbianism' had far involved more thanbeingsexually attracted woman.But feminismseemed to to leavelesbianism that is all tltosethingswhich opposeand resistthe false 'woman'of construction in the sameplaceas before:assimplesexual pref-e' ence. What I saw when I read the Political Lesbianism paperwasthat insideme was (womanattracted woman- struggling expression a heteronot a lesbian to for in sexual world but a woman,a completely woman-defined-woman, struggling to be free of a world wherewomen must be shackledto the demands men, of including the demandfor sexualsubmissiveness. lrsbianism took on a completelynew light and I knew that throughthis paperI had at lastfound what I had beencut off from all my life, my selfas a woman. And then I started seethe wholetacticof sexual to preference | prefer - as a tactic to prevent womenand you prefermen,let's tolerate eachother wonlen from being themselves. startedto seethe waysin which men use sex to I control lesbians, is, the tacticwhich says,'Youwomenwho dress that like men, who seekto live independent men,who are not available maleadvances, of to sexuafor otherwise,arejust lesbians'. reducingour oppositionto the male By construction the femaleto sexual of orientation, kind of genetic a deviation which leadsus to hate men and grow facialhair, men effectivelygaveus images of ourselves a fear of ourselves and which crippled the possiblityof us developing a feministcritiqueof maledominated society, and worse, prevented from it us identifyingwith other womenor themidentifyingwith us. The paperalsomade me seejust how much malesusesex to control women whe.ther they seethemselves lesbian not. lrsbianismbecame me the obviouspoint of resistance as or to to malepower whichis expressed porn, rape,prostitution, as sexual abuse, purdah,infibulation, sexualharassment work, on the streets, at sexy, insulting. ads,forms of dresswhich either cripple us physically(footbinding, high heels) or morally (the silliness so many clotheswe are coercedto wear),sex therapy of (the variousways to get unwilling women to fuck). We arejust beginningto bring to light the atrocitiesmen perform on women and they are mostly to do with sex. I seemto havegoneon a bit, but the point I'm gettingat is that the Political le sbianpapersaid somethingthat wascrucial to me and I think for feminism:

as of I thclught rnyself a closet pret-erence. sexuar is that lesbianisnr not abour a t A r o l e r a n c e . f t e r r e a d i n gh e p a p e r n dl o o k i n g J v t . u n , tt h o u g h tt h a t I n e c d e d p a s ti n a n e w l i g h t ' I s a wt h a t w h a t a t t h e w o r l d i n a n e w l i g h t a n dl o o k i n ga t m y tow3rdswolllen urges I had beendelinedby all my life wasnot nly sexual had defined movement' part of the f'eminist (which is how the world, incluciing



rne;.nutratlrerthat'longsidethousattdsofotlrerwt)|l]en(nranytllwht}tnllever of patriarchy' the c I n p u b l i s h i n gt h i s p a m p h l e t w e w e r e e s p e c i a l l y o n c e r n e dt o p u b l i s h w h a t put it irr sexualternrs)lliail simplybeenresisting ntechanisms nry llow is that I cannotseparate love tor women a c t u a l l y w r o t e , t o p r o m o t e g e n u i n ed i a l o g u e ,i n t h e h o p e o f a v o i d i n g to women wlat this hasrneant ute the growth of a mythology where twisted versionsof other women's words fromnlylovef-orwonlen-thepassionatefromthepolitical.Thet.actthatl exceptthat t'm a feminist'and assuch to b e c o m e m o r e c u r r e n t t h a n t h e o r i g i n a l . l n t h e l a s t f e w y e a r st h e r e s e e mt o h a v e witlr woulenseelns me irrelevaltt sleep standinreslstancetomalepower.Anditseemstomethatcrucialtothemale puts his and our sexuality is cortrol ol w'men in all splieres the useto which 1e |ar so lesbianism, frorn beingmerelya questit,l of that control.And to facilitate poiitical' up lot-rms asintensely preference sexual N o w a d a y s l d o n ' t k n o w w h a t l c s b i a n i s m i S . I t i s n ' t | o r m e'attracted'i n g aboutbe as .attracted,toworilen.I don't know what that nreatrs I find myself tOsomernales(ifattractioninvolvesthat|urrnysenseofmlnmllt.).Whenlread I lesbian find I agowho didn't cali themselves bookswritten by womenyears and women'spinsters the like who who wereall these identify with their words. I don't careif they slept wh.oformedlife-longcompanionships? livedtogether., to pity if they didn't! It appears be a strateS/ a it although seenrs together, sex just now to emphasise asan objectt. be had' often' | l'eelwe oipatriarchy the sexualrelations testol relationmustn'tjusiimitate their world and nrake it because on in the emphasis feminism non-monogamy shipsoL politics.I fear and aswonten all rriesto iull together our differentwaysof beingtogether reducethemtosex.ItiStothecreditofthePoliticalLesbianpaperthatit powerdimensiotl the to attempts emphasise politicsof sexuality the representedbyheterosexualityandlesbianism-ratherthanthepleasureof sexuaiity'Thehistoryoflesbiarrismislriddenfroml"ristorynotbecausethe is (aslong as lesbianism of world ls frightenecl womenmakinglove to women it, it evenwanks call copewith the preference patriarchy as constructed a sexual someto is lesbiatrism seen represent actsin porn),but because lesbian il, "ir. ", until now that is, for now we ourelusive to and thingelusive clangerous society, the that it signals limits of awareof its politicaldimensions: are selves becoming patriarchY. In sisterhood, W J e s s i c ao o d1 9 l 2 1 8 l ,
n i b e e n a n i n c r e a s i n g u m b e r o f a t t a c k so n l e s b i a n sn t h e m o v e m e n t ,o f t e n d e s a s f e a r o f l e s b i a n sa k i n g o v e r t h e m o v e m e n t - a s t h o u g h l e s b i a n s e r e t w cribed w o m e n , a s t h o u g h t h e e x p e r i e n c e f l e s b i a n s e r e n o t a l s of e m a l e w o not experience. I t i s t r u e t h a t t h e r e h a s o f t e n b e e na n u n d e r c u r r e n ti n l e s b i a nf e m i n i s t p o l i t i c a l d i s c o u r s ea f e l t b u t r a r e l y e x p l i c i t l y s t a t e d w i s h t h a t a l l w o m e n w e r e o r , c o u l d b e l e s b i a n , r a f e e l i n gt h a t t h e y s h o u l d b e . W e w a n t t o g i v e c r e d i t t o t h e o i n t e n t i o n o f t h e L e e d sp a p e r i n b r i n g i n gt h i s o u t i n t o t h e o p e n . H o w e v e r w e f e e l in that the Leedspaper, while successful this. gave little or no attention to the s w e i g h t ,d e n s e n e sa n d c o m p l e x i t y o f w o m e n ' s e x p e r i e n c e T h e w o m e n ' s . l i b e r a t i o nm o v e m e n th a s s p r u n gf r o m w o m e n ' s d e s i r e sf, r o m t h e c o n c l u s i o n s women have drawn f rom the processof consciousness-raising among women, e x a m i n i n go u r o w n e x p e r i e n c e n o t f r o m a p r o g r a m m ew h i c h w o m e n m u s t f o r c e , themselvesto conform to. S h i f t i n g a s e x u a l / p o l i t i c aild e n t i t y i s n o t , a f t e r a l l , l i k e c h a n g i n gy o u r c l o t h e s , o r , t o r e c a l lt h e e x a m p l e u s e d i n t h e p a p e r ,l i k e g i v i n gu p C a p ea p p l e s .M o s t o f u s who have either become or acknowledgedourselveslesbianshave been through a d i f f i c u l t , c o m p l e x a n d o f t e n p a i n f u l p r o c e s s f c h a n g e ,b y n o m e a n so v e r . l t h a s o , m e a n t q u e s t i o n i n g s e l f - q u e s t i o n i n g ,h a n g i n go u r l i v e s ,l o s i n ga n d g a i n i n g c f r i e n d s .l t c o n t i n u e st o b e a p l a i n , h a r d , s o m e t i m e s x h i l a r a t i n gb u t n o n e t h e l e s s e extremely daily and bit-by-bit struggle.The nature of this struggleoften only b e c o m e sc l e a rv e r y g r a d u a l l ya s t i m e g o e so n : i t i s r a r e l y a s i m p l e q u e s t i o no f fully-informed choice. For instanceit is hardly possibleto believethat paople w i l l t h i n k y o u y o u r s e l fs i c k , p i t i a b l e ,d a n g e r o u so r u n f i t t o b e a m o t h e r o ' t o d o , certain iobs, or to imagine howdeeply this can affect your own consciousness, u n t i l i t h a s h a p p e n e dt o y o u . We feel that it is essentialto recognizeand respectthe living complexity of women's lives,and the intelligence with which we make our choices.Wt: are d e a l i n gh e r e w i t h i s s u e s h e r e o u r t h i n k i n g i s w e i g h e dd o w n w i t h d e e p l y w ingrained patriarchal attitudes and where it is easy to feel ourselvespersonally threatened by other women's dif ferent positions. The heterosexualresponseto lesbianfeminist utteranceshas been sometimesso defensiveas to prevent hearing what rare say.

that ts h t w e m u s tq u e s t i o nh e a s s u m p t i otn a t h e t e r o s e x u a l i" iy " s e x u a l i t y . n o t a s s u mt h a t e b m o s tw o m e na r ea n d w i l l a l w a y s e " n a t u r a l l y "l i k et h a t .w e d o anyformofsexuaIbehaviour,particu|ar|yonesoconscious|yengineeredand d an politically ominant . f c o n t r o l l e do r s o l o n gb y t h e c u l t u r a l l ye c o n o m i c a l l y . d l sn H e t e r o s e x u a l i t y o m o r e" n a t u r a l "t h a nh i g h - r i sfea t s ,t h e s c l a s si, n a t u r a l . women we neutronbomb or any of the maior religions. feel that heterosexual n l l w h a tt h e y a r ed o i n ga t t h es a m e e v e o f r i s ka s l e s b i a nis e v i t a b l y m u s tc o n s i d e r They cannoteven,or especially, - that is, takingnothingfor granted. haveto do . i t t a k ef o r g r a n t e dh a t t h e i rs e x u a l i t ys " n a t u r a l "o r a g i v e n w e m u s ta l s o Heteroand reproduction' sexuality between connection accepted the challenge powerfuone. l , i s e x u a l i t ys a n i n s t i t u t i o na c o n s t r u c tt,h o u g ha n e x t r a o r d i n a r i l y by upon women and maintained enforced This institutionhasbeencreated, of all one for their purposes, of which is to oppress women,everywhere' men, descriPtion. whatever th t s h W eu n d e r s t a ntd a t l e s b i a n i s im n o t a s o l u t i o n o t h e p a t r i a r c h y , a t m e n n se g o o n o p p r e s s i n g n o n e t h e l e sH . t e r o s e x u a l i tsyo b v i o u s l y o t t h e o n l y us will it women:however doesseemto be a institutionthroughwhich men oppress feministis mostvital to oura of key one.The significance becoming lesbian will certainlybe used we the although strength find in comingtogether selves, one teaches a greatdeal a of the against oppression women.Becoming lesbian to privilege: sanctions available punishthosewho do not the about heterosexual c o m p l ya r em a n ya n dv a r i o u s . of or the It is very difficult to appreciate problems the pleasures lesbian s e e r e x i s t e n cfe o m w i t h i n h e t e r o s e x u a l i tly :s b i a n x p e r i e n ci e s u p p r e s s e d , women repressed vw know this and this is why we demandthat heterosexual to listencarefullY what we say. about criticising makeno boneswhatever womengenerally Heterosexual p a s s i oa n d n a n h e t e r o s e x ur e l a t i o n s h i pis ,d e p t h .i n d e t a i l , n d w i t h c o n s i d e r a b l e al heterosexual i lr l b i t t e r n e s st. s e e m s t h atth i sc r i t i c i s ms a c c e p t a b f eo m a n d a m o n g we because haveacted feminists perhaps women,but not often from lesbian - radically of the and conseguently possibility acting upon thosecriticisms possibility have to to exists. Somewomenseem find this an uncomfortable with to but choose remaininvolved our around.othersunderstand challenge men. heteroof for Wewould like to expandthe possibilities discussion women's our to express and to be allowed both pastand present, experience, sexual we at bianfeministanger that experience. havemuch in common:we areall les to we treatedas"women" by men,however choose womenand areall always dealwith that. you Unless experience' somekind of heterosexual No womanescapes or either lesbian that one must be born to subscribe one of the old theories viewson women's to for thereis no excuse refusing hearlesbian heterosexual, relationshi Ps. heterosexual

w e w a n ta l s ot o s p e a k r e e l yo f w h a t i t ' s l i k e t o l i v ea sl e s b i a ne m i n i s t s . f f Thoseof us wfro are lesbian feminists so,amongother reasons, are because we enjoy it. lt is a clearer, moreconsistent more integrated and life,and our energy for is more available ourselves eachother.we do haveto contendwith the and ureight the world'santi-lesbian immense of views,feelings actionseveryday and ( s o m e f i t c o m i n g r o m i n s i d e u r s e l v e sn d s o m ef r o m o u r s i s t e r s ) . u t m a n y o f o a B of us havefound that livingamongwomenhashelpedus to gaina sense of escape self-hatred, an extent which we would not havebelieved to p o s s i b l i n o u r h e t e r o s e x ud a y s . h i si s t o t a l k o f a r e - o r i e n t a t i o nu c n m o r e e al T m p r o f o u n d h a n t h e r e l a t i v e ls i m p l e r o c e so f s l e e p i n w i t h d i f f e r e n tp e o p l e a n t y p s g : i n t e r n as h i f t f r o m m a l e - i d e n t i f i c a t ito nw o m a ni d e n t i f i c a t i o n . l o Alexandra Stone Anna Wilson JackieBishop Lynn Alderson L i l i a nM o h i n MariaJastrzebka SophieLaws Sheila hulman S Statements from individualmembers the collective of

Although I agree with much of the collective statement and believe needs it to be said,therearesomeother pointsand different kindsof perspectives I that t h i n k I m u s tm a k ei n d i v i d u a l l y , The f irst is that I believe that the mainsplit in the movement between is two different kindsof politics.This split often manifests itselfaroundtne i s s u eo f l e s b i a n i s a n d h e t e r o s e x u a l is yn c e t i s a n e a s i l y d e n t i f i a b l e s m ti i i c r u n c h - p o i n tn da n i m p o r t a n e l e m e n itn t h e p o l i t i c i s a t i oo f t h e p e r s o n a l . a t n sexualityalsobeingsupposed men to be the essence the relationships by of between men and women.To characterise positions the briefly:_ (1) if you acceptfeminismonly asone part of a wider struggle humanrights;accept for the politicsof gradual reform of existing institutions and attitudes; believe that it is not only worthwhile.but properwork to be trying to change men. t h e n t h e r ei s n o t h i n gi n c o n s i s t e n tb o u tw o m e ns l e e p i n w i t h m e n ,e v e ni f a g you don't do it yourself.Lesbians who hold theseviewsseetheir sexuality asmerelya question personal preference. of (21 lf however you believe that the patriarchy the root of all forms of is oppression, all men benefitfrom and maintainit and are,therefore, be that to seenasthe enemy;that the powerbalance cannotbe changed reason, by

p a t i e n c ea n d s i m p l y r i g h t b e i n go n o u r s i d e ; a n d f u r t h e r t h a t w o m e n m u s t build positions of autonomous strength through and with each other - then it t i s c l e a r l y a b i g i n c o n s i s t e n c yo , a t t h e s a m et i m e , b e i n c l o s es e x u a l / e m o t i o n a l relationships ith men. w f N o w , I d o n o t t h i n k t h a t t h a t m e a n st h a t t h e l e s b i a n e m i n i s t c a n l i v e . w i t h o u t c o n t r a d i c t i o n s T o a v e r y r e a le x t e n t , I t h i n k w e a l l s i m p l y c h o o s e w h i c h c o n t r a d i c t i o n sw e w i l l t r y t o l i v e w i t h . B u t i f y o u s e e k t o s h a r ey o u r of p o l i t i c sa n d y o u r u n d e r s t a n d i n g / e x p e r i e n c e y o u r l i f e w i t h y o u r l o v e r a n d you do not believea man can be a feminist or ever really comprehend what it is to be a woman, then clearly the two become incompatible. lf a woman choosesto live that contradiction, then I would not want to "judge" thatshe s h o u l d n o t . I w o r k p o l i t i c a l l y w i t h w o m e n w h o d o p r e c i s e l yt h a t , b u t w i t h whom I do sharean approach to politics as a whole (loosely described as a t r a d i c a lf e m i n i s m ) . B e c a u s eh e y a r e o p e n a b o u t t h e i r c o n f l i c t i n g d e s i r e s n d c p e r c e p t i o n s n d , i n d e e d ,o f t e n m u c h m o r e p a s s i o n a t e l y r i t i c a l o f s u c h a l r e l a t i o n s h i p sh a n I w o u l d b e - a n d b e c a u s e a m o p e n a b o u t t h e c o n f l i c t s t other's loyalty and respecteach other's I experience,we can trust each intention. T h i s b r i n g sm e t o m y s e c o n dm a i n p o i n t , w h i c h c o n c e r n si n t e g r i t y a n d p r o c e s s W h e n w e a s f e m i n i s t sd i s a g r e eg e n u i n e l ya n d t h o u g h t f u l l y a b o u t w h a t . , politics of feminism, we each choose whichever are the effective/appropriate We hold these beliefs dear, they believeto be better for women (ourselves). vrre us. The position we are left with is a liberal matter agreat deal to all of toleration of our differences,not agreement.What raisesthat toleration to a position of respect and not just indifference or contempt is a belief in each other's integrity, as exemplified by how we perceiveeach other's practice and's a kind of political morality, basedon the valuesof .g c o n s c i o u s n e s s - r a i s i ne . t h e h o n e s ts h a r i n go f d i f f e r e n t l i f e e x p e r i e n c e s . common oppressionand the belief that that processis integral to analysisof what we intend to achieve- a revolution very different from the traditional l e f t i s t m o d e l , o n e w h i c h w i l l a r i s ef r o m a m u c h m o r e r a d i c a ls o l i d a r i t y ' f I t h i n k t h e v a l u e ss t i l l h o l d g o o d a n d s h o u l d n o t b e s a c r i f i c e d o r e i t h e r or superficialshort-term gain, apparent greater effectiveness out of the E l a s s i t u d e f s o m e y e a r se x p e r i e n c e . x a m p l e ss p r i n g t o m i n d t h i c k o cynical o a n d f a s t , I h a v es e e n ' f e m i n i s t s ' m i s r e p r e s e n tu r h i s t o r y t o m a k e p o l i t i c a l capital; try to co-opt us into party politics or personalsolutions; personally intimidate other women with a wide variety of weapons such as class. a r t i c u l a c y ,p h y s i c a lv i o l e n c e ,r a d i c a lo n e - u p - w o m a n s h i p l ' m s u r e t h a t e v e r y one knowsthe kindsof things I meanthat make you doubt the intention and integrity of the woman concerned, whoever she sleepswith. We must somehow create bonds of trust between ourselvesand commitments to each other as women involved in the same struggle.To do that on a basis

o f h o n e s t y a t h e r h a nt o t a l s i m i l a r i t y i g h tb e p o s s i b l_ t o a t t e m p te i t h e r r t e m t o p a p e r v e rt h e c r a c k s i t h o u t q u e s t i o n i n g r i t i c i s i n o r e x p l a i n i n g u r o , w c g o differences to insistthat thereis only one true way would be as fatal for or o u r m o v e m e na s b e l i e v i ntg a t t h e r ei s a n a t u r a a n da b s o l u t e i v i s i o n t h l d between heterosexual womenand lesbian women.
Lynn Alderson

For the first few years that I was in the wLM I beronged,roughry, to tne s e c o n do f t h e 2 c a t e g o r i e s f p o l i t i c a l t h o u g h t w h i c h L y n n A l d e r s o nd e s c r i b e s , o but I wasn't a lesbian.This inconsistency,this gap between what I had come t o b e l i e v e( p r i n c i p a l l yt h r o u g h c o n s c i o u s n e srs i s i n g )a n d h o w a I was livingwas a s i t u a t i o n I f e l t I h a d t o j u s t b e a r . I c o u l d n ' t s e et h a t I h a d a n y right to try ro h a v ea s e x u a lr e l a t i o n s h i p i t h a w o m a n j u s t b e c a u s e h a c j w I this problem with a logical inconsistency.Moreover, I knew that loving women must be, indeed. l o v i n g ,o r I w o u l d b e b e t r a y i n gn o t o n l y a n o t h e r w o m a n b u t m y s e l f ana the theory. I h a d b e e n p e a c e f u l l ym o n o g a m o u s r y a r r i e d f o r 1 6 y e a r st o m a n m a who c a l l e dh i m s e l f a f r i e n d o f f e m i n i s m ( k n e w e n o u g h n o t t o d a r e c a l l h i m s e l fa f e m i n i s t ) . M y c h i r d r e nl i k e d t h e w a y w e r i v e d .l t s e e m e d difficurt to imagine t a k i n g r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o r c h a n g i n ga l l t h e i r l i v e sb e c a u s e . d f l c h a n g e da p a r t o f my mind. I s p e n t a g r e a td e a l o f t i m e a n d e n e r g y i n m o v e m e n t w o r k w i t h other radical feminists and when I fell in love with one of them it didn't seem a question of l o g i c o r c o n s i s t e n c i e( a l t h o u g h ,o f c o u r s e ,i t w a s i n a w a y . ) s [To explainhow I got past the combined (for me) taboos of infidelity and lesbianism is more t h a n I c a n m a n a g ei n t h i s n e c e s s a r i l y r i e f s t a t e m e n t . l T h a t r e l a t i o n s h i p b was m u c h m o r e c o m p l i c a t e dt h a n , l o g i c ,i m p l i e so r c a n e n c o m p a s s , taking in so m u c h o f m y s e l f , m y t h i n k i n g a s w e i l a s a i l m y s e n s e sl.t w a s n , tj u s t the reratively s i m p l e a c t o f s l e e p i n g i t h a w o m a n .o n l y b e c a u s e o m u c h w s w a s i n v o l v e dw a s i t p o s s i b l e o c h a n g em y l i f e , t o b e c o m ea l e s b i a n . t I h a d n o i d e a h o w d i f f i c u r t i t w a s g o i n gt o b e . N o t j u s t t h e m e s s surrounding l e a v i n gm y h u s b a n d ,r o s i n go n e o f m y c h i r d r e n ,f i n a n c i a ri n l e c u r i t y , r o s so f privilege,safety and status, but what it means and continues to mean to oe a l e s b i a ni n t h i s w o r l d - t h e w e i g h t a n d f o r c e o f b e i n g , w r o n g , ,, b a d , , . w i c k e d . , 'perverted', outside and ultimately apart from the codes and concepts of e v e r y o n ee l s e- v u l n e r a b l ei n t h e e x t r e m e . And I had no idea how good it was going to be. Not only the warmth, the f e e l i n go f b e i n g o n t h e s a m es i d e ,t h e s e n s u a r i t yf,r i e n d s h i p . rereaseenergy, d but the freedom to begin to think and act in new ways. This freedom of t h o u g h t i s l a r g e l yp o t e n t i a l . B u t t h e d o o r i s o p e n .

In 1973 | acted,in part, out of a beliefthat it is importantnot to have spentthe last 8 years with men. But I haven't relationships emotionaUsexual men, course.I work apartfrom and against of simply not beingheterosexual, for no longerthe impetus my political accepted, but that's in the background, what it can mean on activity.My politicalwork is focused women,on creating groundI standon. the theoretical to be women.Daily. I attemptto invent patterns the womenwe can and must for pre-existing Thereare no acceptable on politicallesbian aboutconcentrating women, is For me, beinga become. This is not to say these. achieve how to use,develop. our strengths, our needs, or a the that I repudiate feministwork I did beforebecoming lesbian the work that lesbianism. I However, believe feminists. radical by heterosexual done for to politicallesbianism, necessary feminism.necessary feminists' is L i l i a nM o h i n

t h a t y o u a r ef i g h t i n g h e ' r e a l ' b a t t l e e c a u sy o u a r e ' o u t t h e r e ' d e a l i n w i t h t b e g men, boys,the realworld. (whose realworld). we'veall saidthat several times but it seems bearrepeating. you shallquestion assumption to also the that heterosexuality yours,a freegift with everychromosonalpackand that i,m is not like that becausewaseither born missing grewup missing. you want i or if to go on beingheterosexual, that'sok. but i want you to think about the fact that you're doingit because want to. you areresponsible being you for h e t e r o s e x u- l i t ' s n o t l i k e t h e c o l o u ro f y o u r e y e s a n d f i n a l l yi s h o u l dl i k e a . you to consider how you actuallyfeel about lesbian feminists: sometimes. i s u s p e ct h a t y o u , t o o , r e a l l y h i n k w e ' r ea b n o r m a ls i c k ,i m m a t u r ew a r p e d t , , by-terrible-adolescent-experience, freaks- or you'd be out male-identified herewith us. Anna Wilson

but needfor explanations. you else's i,m a bit tired of my own and everyone school- whereit's easier to i becausevrrent boarding lesbian could say i'm a (all to feelings find sexualexpression. you needis a little for inappropriate to control?)'wheretherewasno access a brief lackof parental opportunity, caringwomen' (why wait in to ampleaccess warm. intelligent, and males tediouslimbo when womenhad so much to offer?)whereone doesn'thaveto r s o f b u r d e n n e s e lw i t h t h e h u m i l i a t i o no f t h e f e m i n i n e o l e i n o r d e rt o h a v ea of (maybefor someof us the contortions lookingnice/likea persona. sexual t a g i r l i n o r d e rt o p a s s r eh a r d e r o b e a r ? ) be thesemay, perhaps, reasons but noneof them mattervery much now' t e e d o , o n l y t o m e .t h e y a r e n ' ta p o s s i b l o r d e s i r a b lb l u e p r i n f o r or if they solidity. an the world. but they givemy lesbianism ineradicable changing l d s p e r h a pis w o u l df e e lt o m e l e s s o l i di f m y p o l i t i c a b e l i e f s i d n ' t f a l l i n t to in would appear. contrast. be feminists me so readily.heterosexual behind that makes in investments something pulledtwo ways.havingheavypersonal thereare many waysone may choose them (l hope)politicallyuncomfortable. few very clearto me why relatively a dilemmaof this sort. it seems to resolve it in to womenchoose resolve the directionof lesbianism: is a heterosexual the that requires takingon of a whole new burden sick doubtful resolution thereisn't of for twistedin exchange the guilty pleasures privilege. abnormal freechoiceavailable only the way the truth the light is strungwith much to and freedrinks- and if i felt i'd actuallychosen be notices encouraging i might be in a betterpositionto say other womenought' i camehere here placeto be,but that's not the same. and i think it's the mostcomfortable you women,nonetheless. to i havecertaindemands makeof heterosexual the assumption you shallquestion your assumptions. particular in shallquestion

So you demandall feminists become lesbians. That is,as I readthis, to stop having sexualrelationships with menasa politicaldemonstration heteroagainst sexuality.But not fucking is not the end of heterosexuality institutionand as compulsory lifestyle. our oppression women,nor is it lesbianism. identifyas ln i n g a sa l e s b i a nh e s t r u g g l es n o t i n g i v i n g p f u c k i n g a sa p l e a s u r a b ae d i c t i v e t ld i ; u commodity like coffee,sugar, cigarettes. Neitheris lesbianism intermediary an politicalstrategy be useduntil suchtime comes the boyslearntheir lessons, to as m a n n e r s ,n da p o l o g i z e . o t s os i m p l e . a N A s a f e m i n i s t c o n f r o n tt h e o p p r e s s i oa n d v i o l e n c en o u r l i v e s a s i r l sa n d I g n i women.I am lesbian, woman-identif woman,in my commitmentto a ied acknowledge intensityof the feelings emotional the and sexual- | havefor women. I am stillaskingmyselfWHY. Not in selfdoubt, but to re-assert choices my a n d i d e n t i t y .m y v i s i o n sa l w a y s u i l d i n g n e wa g a i n stth e v i o l e n c e f h e t e r o ; b a o sexistdenials my existence, prejudice of the and fears. I too demand heterosexual of feminists that they acknowledge their choice, that they areand havechosen be heterosexual, seethe privileges rights to to and accorded them asmembers a dominantclass. of I want them to doubt their reality,questioning whosepowerlaysthe in d e s i g nT h i n k i n g e r i o u s l a n d s p e a k i n g , H Y ,a s I h a v e a dt o d o . I d o n ' t w i s h . s y W h their examination be in selfdefence, from doubt and mistrustbecause to but we haveall beenliedto. Alexandra Stone

at womenwaspossible school. becoming awarethat lovebetween I remember in Not that I wantedto call it lesbianism thosedays.The lastthing I wantedto a b e w a sa ' l e z ' ,e v e nt h o u g hI ' d b e e ni n l o v ew i t h a g i r l . l t w a s n ' t i l l l ' d b e c o m e of and chopping and changing feministmuch later- after a lot of confusion But I to with confidence. sexuality that I began saythe word lesbian or remember beingawarethat something, warmth.intelligence electricity, a passed womenand wondering why no one elsesawit. Boyscame, between "adulthood". marriages, and for most of my friendsan end to all that. whatever womenget a chance to I so It's a process feel l've seen many times,whenever etc) but get dividedby men again. together(at work, at college come disappointed women,probablymost by At times I know l've felt personally off, caught by thosewho camenearest beinglesbians then backed to and of all s p s o s, i n f a m i l yo r s o c i a l r e s s u r ec l.o s i n g f f v i t a lp a r t so f t h e m s e l v ep e r h a p u n a b l e t o b e l i e v e w o m a ni s g o o de n o u g hS o m e t i m eIst h i n k , w e l l t h e y m u s tb e . a h a p p y .O t h e rt i m e sI d o n ' t b e l i e v et . I ' m g l a dt o s e ew o m e nc o m i n go u t i n t h e i , a W L M ,s l o w l y , o m e t i m ep a i n f u l l y m o v i n g w a yf r o m e m o t i o n a l / e c o n o m i c s s findingtheir strengths, lovingother on dependence men,findingthemselves,'ssuch a reversal the usualprocess. quite a uniqueway the of In supportof other womenin the WLM hashelpedmany of us comeout. Somewithout that support.Well many don't I times I wonderhow we evermanaged t h i n k . B u t i t i s n ' t n e a r l y n o u g h L i v i n gi n a g h e t t o- w h i c hi s w h a t i t a m o u n t s e . t o - i s n ' te a s y . for But So l'm gladwhen womenare lesbians. I alsowant it to be possible for morewomento be lesbians, it to become realchoice, realoption. I a a are believe sleeping with a womanis a politicalact. Not that all lesbians automatically Having brokenone of the biggest revolutionaries. rulessometry to ie m a k eu p f o r i t b y b e i n g o n s e r v a t i vn a l l e l s e b e i n g t r a i g h t e r a nt h e c , s th just provingv\,'re "like everyone elsereally".Or on a more subtle straights, level,rnre may try not to be too 'heavy'(or too butch.or whatever is seems it to groupsit seems offend most;like other oppressed we'retolerated long as we as don't become I too vocalor too sureof ourselves).say this asa Polishlesbian who'sspentyearstrying to be extra nice. l h o S l e e p i nw i t h a m a na l s o a sp o l i t i c a m e a n i n gl.t p u t sy o u i n a p o s i t i o n f g l e n j o y i n g e t e r o s e x u p r i v i l e g e i,k e i t o r n o t . W h i c hi s n ' t t o s a ya l l h e t e r o s e x u a l h al womenfeelgood about it. and somearetrying to fight the institutionof hetero o s e x u a l i t yn o t l i k i n gt h e p a r tt h e y ' r es u p p o s etd p l a yi n i t a l l e i t h e r .B u t o u r , experiences aren'tthe same.lf heterosexual womendon't listento what we're to sayingthey missa vital part of what it means be a woman.They don't see lesbianism the repression our sexuality, negation of how the taboo against the from men and loyalty to one another- dominates all of our independence lives.Althoughit's us,as lesbians, women's who feel it mostdirectlyand are lookingat how womenareforced often forcedto seeit means


into heterosexuality how we areail activery and discouraged androrprohibited f r o m b e i n gl e s b i a n s . t h a t i t i s n ' tg o o de n o u g h o s a y :y o u ' v eg o t y o u r o t sexual p r e f e r e n c e s d l ' v eg o t m i n e . . . l t ' s a b i g ,l i b e r a l i e i n an a w o r l d w h e r ea l l t h e dice are loaded you growingup a dyke. against MariaJastrzebska

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I seem havebecome politicallesbian, to a though I never consciously decided that that waswhat I intended be, and I haveneveradvocated to political lesbianism other women,I found relationships for with menoppressive, and r e s o l v etd l i v ew i t h o u ts e x u arl e l a t i o n s h i pb e l i e v i nm y s e l f o b e u n a b l e o o s, g t t relate sexually women.I did not performthe act of faith which is sometimes to demanded heterosexuar of womenby resbians, reave to menexpecting to d i s c o v ea s u p p r e s s ee s b i a n e x u a l i t y a n yw o m a nc a n . . . ) . r ld ( s But it happened anyway. I wondernow whetherI wasnot so afraidbecause somesubconscious of fear of the intensityof my feelings women,but I remember for clearly,in contrast, the deadfeelingin me when I searched soul for sexualattractiontowards my women.I did not fear beingostracised a lesbian I did not really understand as what that would mean.

h , s t t W e m u s td e m a n d h a t w o m e ne x a m i n eh e i rf e e l i n gc l o s e l yc h a l l e n gte e i r But we musttake in good faith their description beliefin their heterosexuality. wasan extremelycomprehenmy Reorienting sexuality of what they discover. process very difficult to describe' siveand subtle is r l a v h A s s e r t i ntg e p o s i t i v e a l u e n dt h e p o s s i biit y o f l e s b i a ne l a t i o n s h i ps to mostly know all they needto about relating men. centralto this, for women womenare takingthis decision? But what arethe real reasons of My in pursuitof happiness. sense my self, my own For myself,it was distortedby a in violatedb\/ my i6velvement relationships humanintegritywas I l A o f p o w e r . f t e r t r y i n gf o r a n i n d i v i d u as o l u t i o n , g r o s s l y n e q u ab a l a n c e u l had The needtof ight the patriarchy friendship. and women's optedfor celibacy survival for part of my consciousness yearsthen. but my own emotional been way to exist' to primary.This seems me to be a sane wasalways men in orderto havean effecton them. I had tried to change I did not leave particularly one man for manyyears- | gaveup when I left. I wasquite sorry, g g i n a w a y ,a s I f e l t t h e nt h a t I w a sd e s p a i r i no f a l l m e n .I w a sa b a n d o n i nm y men into better change could straightforwardly liberation beliefthat women's f h u m a nb e i n g sI. t h e nf e l t f o r t h e f i r s t t i m e w h a t l s t i l l f e e lt o d a y :e n o r m o u se a r can eversucceed' liberation how women's about and despair my I haveneverfound that any manexceptperhaps own old boyfriendhas or by threatened my lesbianism, for that mattermy celibacy. felt especially Admittedly I do not ask menhow they feel about it' from men can createa women,livingseparately and Lesbians celibate , , w o m e n 'c o m m u n i t y "- i n l a r g e i t i e s c o m m u n i t yl a r g e n o u g h o a l l o w s t e a c awayfrom men.The questionis whethersuch a sociallife completely feminists W r a c a c o m m u n i t y a ns u r v i v e n dh a v ea n i m p a c to n m a l es u p r e m a c y ' h e t h e w h a t grouping partly a social cantransformitselfinto a politicalforce,or is at least N m s i l w h e t h e rn s e x u ap o l i t i c s u c ha g r o u p i n g a y i n i t s e l fb e r e v o l u t i o n a r y ?o n e can be the claim to havesolved problemof how a women'srevolution of us can broughtabout. SoPhieLaws

thoughtotherwise. wasafraid I would not be seen (or be) enoughlike I as other women.I might not evenbe one,quite. Overthe yearsmy sense myselfasa lesbian become of has clearer and clearer, without work and pain and conflict. I realised not moreand morethat my feminismwasrootedthere- in my body and in my experience in my and lovefor my womenfriendsthat went further back and deeper than anything elsein me. My anger camefrom a sense wastedlife and a recognition how of of much I had beenliedto and of how much I had had to lie evenand especially to myself,but the realfuel wasa passion friendship. found that in some of I ways,at last,lfelt whole,and could breathe, and that I wasseeing througna w h o l es e r i e o f v i c i o u s i n d - f u c k sI.w a sl e a r n i n g n d u n l e a r n i na t t h e s a m e s m a g time, and I knew I could do both only seemed me that I to wastrying to live in a world that didn't existyet, that I had to make it, out of nothingand out of buriedand silenced of the past.I could not makeit bits alonebut only with other womenwho had stepped the same off cliff with n o t h i n gb u t t h e i rn a k e da n d l a r g e l y n k n o w n e l v e sT o t h i s e f f o r t ,e x c e p r s u s . a an obstruction, men wereand are irrelevant. without metaphors, very air the I needin orderto stay alive,the groundthat I standon, is whatever _ ano we tor me "\/e" is mostlylesbran feminists because is with them I share it a passion and a visionand a commonexperience havemade,can make,are m a k i n g . o r m e l e s b i a ne m i n i s ms a p o l i t i c s n d i s t i n g u i s h a br o m m y b o n e s F f i i f le or blood or strained and aching consciousness, for that matterfrom my or occasional moments joy or exhilaration. have, of I therefore, serious difficulty i n s e e i n ge s b i a ne m i n i s m sp e r i p h e r a l t oh e w o m e n ' sL i b e r a t i o n o v e m e n t . l f a t M For me it is necessary inevitable the effort of makinga world in which and to womenareat lastthemselves, themselves eachother. for and Sheila hulman S

52a Shakespeare Strect, l{6f,t'lnghqr. t{oailay-hiitay. Tel, O5O2 411175. Open loaD-4pn UOI,IENOIILY rNDrvrDUAt suSscRI?TroN fB GRoUP SUBSCRTpTTON il6 S j r l e (C5 fi' pooR) f,4 six roonths,

about nine yearsago,I LiberationMovement, WhenI cameinto the Women's s l c o u l d n o t . T h e i m p l i c a t i o nw e r e b w a sa l e s b i a n u t I d i d n o t c a l l m y s e l fo n e . to going to acknowledge, myselfor anyone to too f rightening me. I wasnot pickingup Judy Grahn's pervert.I remember that I wasan unnatural else, h o t c o a l .l d i d n o t e v e nw a n t t o b e i E d w a r dt h e D y k e a n d d r o p p i n gt l i k e a m a i h s e e n o l d i n g t . I f e l t a t t h a t p o i n t t h a t m y b e i n g l e s b i a n i g h tu n d e r m i n e "straighthistory" notwithstanding, my feminism, the credibilityof my radical beenseento do by womenof whom I would have asin fact it hassometimes

(t12 IF POOR),8 Six months, copies JOp each.


we mean male *xuality, as it is male xxuality that determines the form that heterosexuality takes. Penny cloutte points out that we don't explain ftow heterosexuality shoresup male supremacy- this ommission also came out in discussions the conference.The discussionwhich followed has at forced us to retum to this and clarify it for ourselves. The paper does not explain how we penonally arrived at these ideas. Personalexperienceis important, as it is through this that we become feminists. but we couldn't go into our individual backgroundsas there were several women in the goup, so the paper would have ended up being far too long; besides,we wanted to point conferencediscussiontowards political strategies, and thought that our personalexperiences could be talked about in the workshop if relevant. we tried to be accountableby listing our namesat the front of the conferencepapers. some women have seenthe paper as suggesting that withdrawal of sexual services from men is the sum total of our political strategy. we completely disagree with the idea that living as separatelyas possiblefrom men is by itself sufficient to overthrow patriarchy; and we said so in a paper we wrote on Separatismfor the sameconference.It would have been clearer if we had put this paperin WIRESalongside "Political Lesbianism,'. THE TITLE some women have been puzzled about why a paper called "political Lesbianism" concentrateson heterosexuality. In retrospect, the sub-title we added in the WIRES version, "The CaseagainstHeterosexuality", is more accurate;but we also recognisethat many women were glad to have the term 'political lesbian' brought to their attention. We certainly didn't invent it, but not every woman has read "Redstockings" and other American feminist writing from the early '70s where it was lust used. Also, some women were confusedas the term has been usedsince then to mean lots of quite different things, such as lesbians with a socialist awareness, non-lesbians acceptingthe lesbian label as a gesture of solidarity with lesbians,lesbianswho were membersof the Gay Liberation Front, etc.,etc. THE DEFINITION we defined a Political Lesbianas a woman-identified-womanwho did not fuck men. Wenow think it's rubbishto say that women fuck men;what happens is that men fuck women, or women get fucked by men. Woman-identified-woman beenusedso much that it is hard to think has aboul what it really means.When we re-examinedthe phrase,we realised that we took it to mean: women who, by withdrawingtheir energyand zupport from men, have put women first. In doing so, they have found that it is incompatiblewith sleeping with men. This had beenthe experience someof of


For some time before this paper was written those of us who had been invited to women's Liberation groups to talk about our politics felt very dishonest give and uneasywhen women askedwhether we thought all feminists should yes, but did not say so because up sexualrelationshipswith men. we thought we feared women would be alienated from all the rest of what we had to say. The paper was written partly to resolveour uneaseand dishonesty' ..Political lrsbianism" was written very quickly in a high energy brain' storming sessionone evening,for discussionat a Revolutionary and Radical our Feminist Conference.It reflected some discussions group had had, but in knew that we would be able to a very condensedform. This wasbecausewe and unpack these ideasin workshops at the conference.It went down "*pund quite well at the time and there were four workshops on the subject. it we were askedto put the paper in WIRES because had sparkedoff wantedother women to join in with and discussion, women at the conference the original paper availableto them. If it had sunk like a stone it wouldn't have receivedany wider distribution. it Because appearedin wIRES, it was seenas a finished product, which was never intended. We were moving towards an analysisof how heterosexuality The debatethat followed madeus look back is centralto women'soppression. benefitted from the at the paper again and again,and our own discussions flip, offensiveand inconsistent, feedback.We found someof our comments ..why not take a woman lover?". we now think that "collaborators" suchas is the wrong word to describewomen who sleepwith men, since this implies feminists, act a conscious of betrayal.Even if appliedsolely to heterosexual general,it is inaccurate: most feminists rather than to heterosexualwomen in as do not seemen as the enemy,or heterosexuality crucial to male supremacy' is privileges incorrect,and doesnot answer Again,our list of heterosexual the questionwe raised.we realisethat this is a very important and complex issueand needsfuller discussion. Some lesbiansand some heterosexualfeminists saw the paper as an attack as women: in fact, we were criticisingheterosexuality the on heterosexual that it is used acceptedform of sexuality under male supremacy,and saying like "Attached to us. to oppress This is not clearwhen we make statements . of all forms of sexualbehaviourare meanings dominance/submission. .". By

68 us in the group. One woman in the group had not given up men for consciously feminist reasons. realisethat many lesbianshavenever slept with men at We all. We were trying to describethe processby which some feminists becorne lesbians,and to say that it was possiblefor women to stop sleepingwith men for political reasonswithout necessarilysleepingwith women. The value of calling yourself a political lesbian is to state that you are not sexually anailableto men; to repeat what we said in the paper, it is not about compulsory sexual activity with women. THE QUESTIONS A lot of women presumedwe made them up. In fact, they were questions had been askedby friends, or had come up at we'd either asked ourselves, conferencesor meetings. THE AFTERMATH The furore that resulted after the paper was published in WIRES led some of us to believe that there wasno room in the Women'sLiberation Movement for real honesty about somethingas controversialas sexual politics. We don't think that now, as a fully-fledged discusion around sexuality is taking place, as this pamphlet shows. Sometimeswe found it difficult to recogniseourselves some of the in caricaturesthat emergedfrom the debate as cadres,an elite, authoritarian. The paper was written by a small group of women who really were in no position to impose anything, except a paper for discussion,upon the Movement. We really thought, when writing the paper, that we were merely expressingcommonly held vieua which were just not uzually written down. To some extent we were scapegoated writing them down. for We were distressedto be accusedof being anti-heterosexual-women, when one of the major aims of the paper was to start an honest dialogue about what sexualorientation had to do with our politics. We seeheterosexuality as an in'stitution of male domination, not a free expressionof personalpreference. Heterosexuality is forced upon us from babyhood, it is extremely difficult to break away from; but this fact is often dismissed.Believingthe personalis political meanswe camot separatesexuality off from male supremacyas a politics-free zone. lal Coveney,Tina Crockett, Al Garthwaite, Sheila Jeffreys, Valerk Sinclair. March1981.


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