World of Women; Speeches from the Lesbian Feminist Dialogue Conference; 71
On the morning of December 16th 1972 several hundred women gathered at Columbia University to participate in a lesbian feminist dialogue. The speeches that day were not in themselves uniformly exciting or ideologically important. Their significance lay I think in the subtle gestures of rapprochement extended on all sides in the week that followed. When I asked women how they felt about the conference their answers tended to be something like it was nice. The women's movement has seemingly reached a new stage a gathering of all forces and a building of coalitions across various differences in the future conferences will be geared I think toward issues at large such as marriage childcare etc. and there will be less absorption in sorting out differences and vying for turf on the grounds of sexual orientation class and race. The first speaker was Florence rush a member of New York radical feminists who subject was the relationship of feminism to lesbian ism.
My name is Florence rush and it's kind of early in the morning for a story but I'm going to tell the story anyway. And the name of my story is called the parable of the mothers and daughters. Many years ago when the world was new there were rivers trees birds animals and people.
The people looked very much alike except for some small differences which no one noticed. And sometimes some boy and gave birth to little people. They were hunted and gathered food played in the water among the plants with each other and each other's bodies and all the big people took care of the little one. When more food was hunted and gathered than was needed for each day the people used the extra time differently. They used the extra time differently. One who liked music would sing or make sounds with sticks and shells while another make pictures of birds on a smooth rock. Even a little person had differences and if she Everyone was she in those days also loved music and chose to be with a music lover. The big music lover then cared for the little one. So people had different preferences preferences and choices each could decide what to do with the time who to spend it with and each had control and power over our own life and that was very good. Later when many little people were born it became difficult to hunt and gather and care for them so the little ones were cared for in one place. This work was equally shared but soon someone suggested that those were with breasts were better able to feed the little ones and to do the entire job. The breast people welcomed this change free from hunting and gathering they could look around at that world for a better way to live. Some planted seeds and grew food animal power was made into cloth. They built houses made tools and before long they became artists and inventors. But one day the breast with one's notice that the breast people were growing so much food that hunting and gathering was no longer necessary. Furthermore the separation made it obvious that the breast people bore and gave birth to little ones. The breast people were very happy to share everything with everyone and would have been delighted to have the breastworks ones have to bear and give birth to the baby. But this could not be shared and this was the only natural difference between them. But this difference and the amazing progress of the breast people so startled and frightened the breastworks ones that they pondered for a way to overcome this fear. So the breast was once contrived to have control over those they feared. And they committed the first crime. They took possession of the lives of the breast with people. The little ones robbed them of all they created and produced and made them their slaves. This crime was known as marriage and from then on the breast West ones were known as males in the breast people females with no excuse for this behavior. The males invented lies to justify their crime. Males are superior to the females they said. The females didn't believe the lies they hated captivity. They fought they ran away they even killed the males. But when resistance continued the males wrote their lies and books and these books became the Bible book Koran and the texts of Hinduism.
To be assured of their power was what was written became law and those who broke the law were punished. So the right of the male to enslave the females became legal. And from then on the males were men and the females women all the women were married. They no longer try to run away. And some even believe what was written. Often several women were married to one man and together they harvested the food washed clothing in the river and cared for the children. But since the wives did not and slaves each other they were very happy together. When the men saw this happiness they remembered when the women was strong and again were afraid. And this time they were they wrote in their books that women must hate fight and betray Jether for the favor of men. So the women were made to believe that love between them was not possible. Later these books became the foundation of civilization and it then became the mothers duty to raise a son to feel superior and her daughter to feel inferior. And this was called socialization. At the risk of punishment to a disgrace the mothers were compelled to train their daughters as slaves and they could not permit them to be inventive or artistic but only to carry heavy burdens submit to the sexual lust of men and bear and rear children. When the daughters were young and their spirit strong they fought their mothers and ran away but the fathers would catch them and send them back to be socialized. But the mothers and daughters knew that each was forced into slavery. And when they were not struggling they were friends. The mothers protected their daughters as best they could from rape and abuse and the daughters danced and gave their mothers flowers and their friendship was their only source of pleasure and strength. But again jealous the men this time demeaned the love of the mothers and daughters. They described it as a strange female compulsion and called that devotion and self-sacrifice. And if women were not devoted and self-sacrificing the men said that they would suffer from a terrible malady called guilt. So with the terrible threat of deal love between the mothers and daughters became a burden and now the men controlled not only the lives of women but their feelings as well. There was no more pleasure for the mothers and daughters at times they complain but were told that if they suffered in silence they would be rewarded in heaven. So because they quietly endured some men thought the women enjoyed this condition and they called them lovers of Cain or masochist. The men were now truly different from the women they never knew the joy of love or the pain of their pleasure was only in power and their sorrow only from the loss of their power made them feel so good and strong that fathers and sons began to battle each other and the winner took his prize of land. Cattle women and other men but the lives of the women were unbearably empty so sometimes they fought each other hoping also to gain some pleasure from power. But the women had nothing to win from each other neither land no wealth. They did not even own their own wives. Men never interfered when women fought because it comforted them to see women divided when it suited the men they were when it suited them and they were friendly.
To one another. But when they want to power they forked. But when they fought they killed and when they killed they were rewarded with more wealth and power. And although one man lost another game even the poorest and loneliest man alive always had power over some woman.
The power of men grew. And soon institutions evolved to support them and the church family and schools established that the inferiority of women was true and the oppression of women was just the people no longer lived off the land. But from what they lived by what was produced by machine by far the machines to cities and families were reduced for many wives and relatives to a husband wife and children no longer bound to the land. People thought of freedom and wealth and some men became very rich. But now the lone woman in the family did all the family work and also worked on the machine. There was talk of liberty and democracy and some women listen for one of their own freedom and justice their hopes were raised a little. A physician appeared and told the world that women were biologically inferior and naturally meant slavery.
Fathers and sons fought for the mother he said but the son soon learned that the mother wasn't worth the struggle. So he allied himself to the Father. So.
I've a daughter also turned to her father but since she could never be a man she could only despise the mother who deprived her of a penis. Mary have a baby instead of a penis and accept a condition of slavery.
So the superior fathers and sons either got a longer understandably competed for masculine power. While the inferior mothers and daughters hated themselves and each other and were forever afflicted by their female deficiency.
This was also written in books and believed by all. Even by the mothers and daughters.
Then men became very greedy. They made terrible wars. They built big machines and began to foul and destroy the earth. The hierarchies of power were getting out of hand. The institutions were crumbling and since women's inferiority was firmly established it was very easy to blame them for this devastation. Men plundered and destroyed. But when children sicken themselves with drugs and the streets were made unsafe by rape smuggling and killing and people weary from a life without purpose. A group of wise men called psychologists found the source of disturbance in women particularly in mothers. Then there was some women who filled with anger by the injustice of the world for two free men from war and racial injustice but no matter how hard they struggled the men made speeches while the women were sent to the kitchen and the women knew they were despised aware that they gained nothing in the cause of men they formed a movement in their own cause.
The women began to talk and trust each other. They discovered that they were strong even stronger than men but they were smart even smarter than men that they had capacity for deep feelings whereas men confuse sexual urges with emotion.
Now women want to control over their own lives but the men resisted they for ridicule the new millions of the women called the man and child hater Dyke destroyers of the family and motherhood and spread their venom by their instruments of communication.
How to obtain power became a prime problem.
But it was soon clear that women so long separated and divided by men according to male class money and status came to the movement with a variety of experiences and this led to differences of opinion. Some women claimed that the institution of oppression must be internally changed. They said they must be attacked from without something else or relationships with men must be discontinued. Others thought one one must live with men and challenge and undermine their power. Some turned from motherhood while others wanted to raise children. Many claim that lesbian lesbianism was the only real commitment to feminist revolution while others wanted to hide this preference and not offend those who fear the love of women for each other. Some advocated socialism some as an excuse and so the women did not agree. So with the weight of the centuries of patriarchal power upon them they began to quarrel and they said one to the other. You are my oppressor. But the technique to keep women apart is told in all the books written by men and it is told in the parable of the mothers and daughters long ago the mothers were forced to press their daughters into slavery. But in recent days the practice continues for fear of social scorn or exclusion. And although the rebellious daughter is no longer captured she is so infused with allies of her inferiority and so stripped of all confidence that force is no longer needed to prevent her independence. So a woman of twenty two unsure of her strength yet wanting freedom. Blame some other end of the mobilising and a woman of 50 or 60 still blames her mother for the bitterness and frustration of her life. And this very same woman agonizes over the antagonism between herself and her daughter. But one of the mothers to turn from their mother role and the daughters their daughter all both could see that it is the world of men which molds or women into slavery that the institutions and machinery of communication can more thoroughly control the daughters that any mother. The desire of a daughter to be slender and attractive will be instilled with a mothers train their daughters to this and who are not. And since daughters are doomed never to be slender or attractive enough so all the mothers do to be for ever blame. So in this conflict devoid of any gratification or victory mothers and daughters are for ever trapped. But if the mothers and daughters could walk away leave each other and stop blaming one another then both then surely both could see that neither have the power nor control over each other. But the power which deprives them of freedom stems from men. The parable of the mother and mothers and daughters is our story and it is our conflict. I will struggle with each other betrays our submission to the rule of men. We have no way to control each other's lives or behavior. Yet with the illusion of power we also quarrel but without gratification or victory. And do we really know what is right or wrong good or bad for each other. Do we women have our own ethics standards and ideology or are we floundering to be feminists within a framework of male definition.
What is this power we think when the only power we know with descried by Patriarch and let us think what power can be in feminist terms. What would power mean in a world free of course and coercion. What could love be without a trace of devotion sacrifice and guilt. What could. Sex mean and corrupted by power fear and manipulation. We have so much to discover and it may be that our difference will be our strength and the effort to protect each woman's right to be different.
Our greatest unifying force and this right can be for us all. Lesbian celibates bisexual asexual Amazon virgins heterosexual fun house wives mothers laborers engineers doctors plumbers artists women of all ages and races from all places what ever they are all who want to be. The mothers and the daughters have suffered long enough at each other's hands as have all women.
So if the mothers and daughters do not agree let them not agree but let them leave each other each to find her own way. And if women do not agree let them not agree and if they must let them also leave each other. And the strength of women will be in each of us and from our variety will come our feminist thinking and all the old ways will be challenged. And all the old concepts will be redefined. And from our different our variety and our feminism will come out with strength. And with this strength we will battle our only oppressed. Men.
Next we hear Jan Peterson also a long time member of New York radical feminists.
I personally find the entire conflict between gay and straight women in the movement as both said and ironic. I think it said personally because I felt torn of torn apart inside in a way that I've never been since I came into the movement. I've heard the views of the views and pain of gay women who have felt discriminated against in a movement where they came to find freedom and liberation where they thought that were that they would finally be an atmosphere of a place where they could come and be themselves and be accepted. I've heard straight women feeling that they're being held and questioned on their feminism because they sleep with men that somehow who they sleep with determines their merit as feminists. Both groups I believe both groups are legitimate. In their point of view. These kind of vibrations which I guess is a key case in point right here these kind of vibrations have been given in the movement. And I think it's this point that we should analyze today is how do we get to this point that these kind of feelings are coming about in the moment. I think that one of the main tenants of the women's movement is the fact that it's a it's the one place that all of us came for the first time to find a find a place that we could be ourselves. In fact almost the first comment all of us made is hey we're really not crazy after all.
All of us came because we had a lot of similarities in coming. I think one of the problems is that we forgot that we had a lot of differences in coming each of us came with different primary agendas in our mind. And I think initially in fact you can remember from consciousness raising groups is that for the first number of months is a real high because you sit around and you find out hey that one look. All of that's in common they feel the same way. And all of a sudden there becomes a point in consciousness raising that you starts hearing the differences. And I understand that a lot of consciousness raising groups have fallen apart at that point. And I think because we don't understand that the movement is not first of all it's not going to be and all commonality is going to have a lot of differences it's going to a lot of anxiety brought up. And the fact is is that all of us one of the biggest reasons why we're here why we're in consciousness raising many of us spent hours and hours of consciousness raising is to try to make connections with each other for 2000 years women have been divided what Florence is talking about that systematic attempt to divide women from each other did take place. That means that not overnight. There is no way overnight that we are going to be able to relate to each other that there's going to be struggles within the movement within our consciousness raising groups with our friends. That has to happen and that has to be one of the primary parts that are there. I mean we have just too many too many things for too long that have made us different. I remember one of the first times I think that and a lot of you remember is that they fight I think the second women's conference was the first time an overt group came in to say that a whole nother group in the movement that there was something wrong with them and I think it was s that BP women or it was a whole group of women that came to a conference and told all the so-called middle class women that they were really shit because they were. Oh pressing working class and poor women. I don't know if many of you remember that. But at that conference that was the first time it became to be like polarization took place at that meeting and it wasn't what was being said. If you remember and it wasn't what was being said because obviously all of us that want to be able to deal with the different interests that women have but it was how it was being said. A group of women got up and said to you said to all of us because I felt the same thing. You are really shit your oppressive to other women and here we were feeling so oppressed if you exult promise and not knowing what to do. That there began to be a reaction in the audience. And I want to point out the difference of how another group handled the same kind of thing and that was when the group the lavender menace group came to the second women's conference. I thought that was one of the most beautiful and I won't call it a confrontation if you want to call it. I think that's feminist politics that took place at that second women's conference a group of women got up in front of the room and said hey we don't want to talk about necessarily what the conference is dealing with. We think that there's some things you've got to find out. There's a whole group of us that are in the movement that you're not dealing with and we're going to come out and we think that there's some things you better learn to understand about us. They didn't say to the straight women because nobody knew that they were straight or what they were at that time. And instead of the straight women look you're all bit.
You know you can understand you're all you're all oppressing us. They said you're pressing us in a way that you don't understand and I think we want to really sit down and talk to you about it. In fact is that that whole entire conference switched over I remember that everybody went up to a room and sat hours and hours talking about women loving women. What gay women felt how they how the they felt oppressed by straight women and the dialogue was really high and the fact is we've had almost every conference I've been to since then the women loving women workshop has been the most popularly tended and the largest. And I think it was because of the style of how it was offered that I think that we have to form a new way of handling differences in the movement. The other point that I want to make is that I think the sexual is political. I think that when what we have been denied our sexuality for the last thousand years that somehow it's our potency that is at issue. I think that men that it's not whether we're gay or straight or bisexual or a sexual or whatever it is I think it's art. I think it's the both. It's the it's the potency of women. And I think if we don't deal with that issue that men right now are going into therapy in huge numbers because they're fearful they're in potency that for years they've been able to to use sex as a as a power dynamic. They were underestimating our own power and I think that for every woman to begin to come in touch with their own sexuality is another way that we are breaking down the power institutions that men have used to control us. And I think so that if women begin to start the nine the potency of other women it's going to be just as bad as men doing it to us. I'm going to end with a personal statement. I think that that might that many women come into the movement trying to figure out their relationships to other women. Personally myself I came in as a I would say male identified woman and that meant that most of my friends were men I totally related to men up until the women's movement in three years I've gone through such changes from from that orientation to loving women to dealing with my I have no idea who I am who I relate to sexually anymore. I know that everybody seems to be turning me on. That somebody got very upset when I described myself as fuzzy. I won't use that term anymore but I really refuse to take a label because I can't leave I can't find a label that I feel comfortable with. And I think that labels is another way to divide us from each other. And I want to add on that is that at the same time not that I'm saying I'm anti label I really understand the necessity of the agave movement to bring out into the open the problems of gayness. And I really understand and I think it's a double dichotomy because I think that we have a we have a whole sexual orientation has been denied in a society at the same time we have a women's movement that is trying to bring a lot of differences for women and I think those to run in conflict with each other the two needs. And I think that that's where the sensitivity is going to have to take place from the last point I want to read I think from Ingrid Benghazi. If anybody have seen EMIs. She says if it turns society decreed that sex for women was taboo and enlightened society decreed that women were entitled to as much sex as men were liberated society has decreed that sex and even exclusive love are oppressive to women. Suddenly I want to scream for God's sake just let me off this idiot merry go round my psyche is not in your logical playground. My inner feelings at their most genuine are not ruled by social decree. You can have a thousand lovers if you want or have none. You can be a lesbian a virgin a career woman a mother of all four or all four. But don't tell me who I am or what's best for me to be. I recognise parts of myself when you speak of women but other parts don't fit the formula. I recognise parts of males I know when you speak of men but other parts defy categorization. I can't make the transition required to fit the current theories of the age especially the ages are still a telescope that one barely has time to absorb one set of perspectives before another is all the rage. I don't know who women are I scarcely even know who I am and that's what I feel about the way I want the chance I really literally personally want the chance to find out who I am because I don't think any of us know we're in a state of evolution. I feel like I was born three years ago and I think that for most of us we were we don't know who we're going to become and I want the right to become me.
Jan Peterson's reference to Ingrid Bender says combat Neeraj in his zone was important and just rights of man hating and lesbian ism in a non-rhetorical way. A new freedom created by the years of internal struggle. But she was followed by a brief statement read by Denise Lewis for a group of Richmond college women which sounded more like the old days. It interestingly did not become the focal point of the day's proceedings.
We represent a group of lesbians who choose not to participate in this conference although we respect the right of the lesbians here to participate in this conference. It does not as the title implies represent all lesbians. It is essential that it be understood by all women that the views that might be expressed here by lesbians are not the views of all lesbians. For instance the following groups of lesbians have not been given room at this conference. Lesbians who see the enemy as heterosexism because there is no heterosexism or lesbians who relate only to lesbians because there are straight women here third world lesbians who would relate only to with third world workshop because there is no workshop working class and poor lesbians who would want to relate to workshop with each other because there is no workshop lesbian mothers because there is there was no childcare listed on the flier lesbian mothers who needed a workshop with other lesbian mothers because there is no workshop for lesbians who could not afford the registration price and who aren't familiar enough with the women's movement to know that they might have been able to get in for free lesbians who do not in their daily lives go to the places where the flyer was distributed. For instance college campuses and women's centers lesbians to relate only sexually and socially to women were not given the option of attending this conference because the Flyers were not distributed at places in the city where lesbians are known to congregate socially. The Latin lesbians who could not read the flyer. Lesbians who need room to have workshops that the plan is did not think of because the flyer did not advertise empty classrooms to fill those needs. There is no explanation rationale or excuse that the organizers of this conference can give that will satisfy the charges that we are bringing against it. We the lesbians who have been excluded from this conference and the lesbians who are not here charge that the organizers of this conference have misused their class privileges. We have searched at this conference will be directed as it already has as evidence by the friar to write middle class educated women's libbers by power tripping white middle class educated women's lib careerists. Therefore in the names of our sisters lesbian mothers poor working class third world old gay sisters we are demanding a public apology from the perpetrators of this reactionary elitist event.
Thanks. Martha Shelley a longtime feminist and gay activist replied briefly to the Richmond college women.
Yeah I've been to I don't know how many conferences in the last five years and I don't remember any conference that. You know was publicized to the extent of everybody wanted it publicized that included absolutely everybody. And that met all of the criteria for everybody. And likely an awful lot of them have been happening without child care. Well the only category I fall into that was on that leaflet is being a poor lesbian because I'm a welfare recipient. OK I happen to be an educated lesbian too. But I thought the purpose of this conference was to try to you know to start dealing with the fact that we've been divided by labels and not to continue to reinforce the whole thing. And it's true we can't cover everybody. But with this can place can be a start to reach out to more people and we can start learning how to reach out instead of denouncing everybody because they didn't do everybody everything first.
Right. The second half of the morning was devoted to the gave you a feminism. First a dyke separatist whose name unfortunately I don't have her choice not to read her original paper I think was indicative of where things were going. In other words they were to be no aggressive ideological statements of difference but rather simple statements of where I'm at. And let's get together.
I'd like to read what I think from the paper I wrote is a constructive sort of criticism that I've heard other women who call themselves separatists. Number one. We find sexual relationships with men politically untenable labeling men people in order to continue your involvement with them. It is hypocritical to the personal ideological accommodations within feminism to the head of a sexist institution have corroded I believe in the strength of the movement to make a real revolution. The feminist movement is in danger of being neutralized by the legal reform and male participation. We have experienced great pain in relationships the straight identified women to whom we have been open in the CIS in the spirit of sisterhood. We have been humiliated and objectified sexually. We have been accused of cruising every straight woman we see. Well we have had to suppress our natural responses to the conscious and or unconscious seductiveness of these women we see in the feminist movement very little willingness to build women's counter institutions with withdraw support from men and to direct it towards women. Because women are losers. We have been until now I think. As I said the lesbian has been a conscience within the movement and it's a mistake for straight women to put lesbians down and I think it's suicidal for lesbians to renounce feminism.
The next speaker is Jill Johnston columnist for The Village Voice who was instrumental in organizing the conference.
I'm attempting to criticize everybody and and.
Offer some unrealistic idealism. I'm saying even Muslim. First or Second off I'm into thinking we're all in these different places different places. And as many places as we are women. So I ask myself when so I asked myself when I meet this one or that one where is them politically sexually and where is Ron in relation to this one or me or RAM I know sexual political sense I'm not the me I was yesterday or last year and where are we going around my already ahead of myself or behind.
And there's somebody else slightly behind ahead of that and therefore not then want to write anything I mean how should we behave and where should we think or rather we committed to it. All right are we permitted to assume much less concerning anybody else their total life their total past. Who are they. Who am I. Who am I to them to become if anything and so on like it is the run I'm talking to about to sleep with a Roman for the first time. In which case what I caused her not to if I accused her of oppressing me by sleeping with the man and if she dies anyway will she then be terrified to think she might be thought a rise. And if so should we condemn her by thinking right we were I brought up early centuries to actually think about it we now make we're so smart just because a few of us KNOW IT'S GREAT No it is bad and that makes us in fact the ultimate feminist cetera. I mean we think we're really hot shit and we all are and so.
And so why is that going to do for us when so many women are still so scared. The question is do we want more advice or do we want to just go around saying what hot shit we are and. And how are you and how you straight women are asking us out just to make sure that I'm doing it. And. And if so how long would it take before the women called lesbians re-emerge as a special interest group. And how long after that before you can say the word lesbian et al anymore as if there is such a thing as a lesbian the thing is the more I say it the more I feel it doesn't exist.
Hi Lo I have to go on saying it to make sure anybody knows I'm defining myself politically as a woman committed woman and the word feminist to me doesn't totally convey that idea since so many feminists advocate a change in our situation in relation to the man rather than the devotion of our energies to our own to our own kind to women. I have to ask does this make us an amaze when we all are potentially dedicated to ourselves and we are in a sense all the women we ever were including straight possibly just yesterday or last year or the last time I slept with a man two years ago where four years before that in a tenement on Howson street with two kids still thinking I was straight and I was even though I was in love with a woman I still and that woman I am all the women I ever rise which is all the women of the world in transition. I've become more completely a lesbian or woman committed woman. As the centuries pass and more of me become me or the me I think it's to be which it is by which I mean a woman the more I sleep with myself and eat myself and write myself and breathe myself the more woman I become I become a woman myself I am who I sleep with it doesn't mean you're not a lesbian if you never slept with a woman before. If you consider the person you sleep with the most is yourself.
I. Was. And.
And and that's you a woman from this point of view where all that right from the start all over. All right we are in what we think or say we are can be altogether different. Thanks it doesn't matter even by the size of advanced ideology. You can't demand that people be where they're not yet ready to be. Even if you say all persuasive an important lesson a woman committed to herself meaning a woman has a combined image of mother daughter sister rises absolutely at odds with society which has been in the modern western world organized around the principle of heterosexuality which in effect means the prime commitment of woman to a man who is committed to himself or saying it another right if you say what I really mean when I say you are oppressing me when you sleep with a man is that you're getting something so vital to the man in the sense is the same as withholding it from me your daughter your sister. Or how in effect you go to bed with my brother by paying him more attention. You deprive me in proportion as you do so it was all very good logic possibly especially when we can say Furthermore look you who have for centuries given your best services to your sons what in the end had the son's done for us if not to persuade us or corrosive us to serve more sons. OK and go on and say and look around you do you see any lesbians becoming straight and so on. No matter. No matter what we say we can't very well demand what anybody isn't right. Need to give who may in fact be ready to change tomorrow or next year who may know a lot more in advance of her current opportunities or present practical situation or emotional readiness or who may be putting her life in order to make big changes we don't know about. Anyway you probably won't be significantly impressed by anything so much as the example of our own togetherness. All of which doesn't alter its true the social fact that the very women we wait for continue to hurt us by damning us are ignoring us or hating us or tolerating us for loving ourselves or oppressing us by objectifying us as potential lesbian experiences are projecting onto us the sexism and puritanism and chauvinism of their own expectations of our life known in relation to the man. We won't stop them from doing this by accusing them of it or by objectifying them in turn by saying making any woman a princess and or an all purpose mommy. Or even necessarily by carrying on about how when you saw me at that party and said So you have breasts what you meant was so you're a woman after all like a guy saying to a faggot in a locker room you really do have balls. As though a lesbian a woman come what a committed woman is less than a woman are somehow a male for liking other women the way males do supposedly and thus being less a woman not being a woman in the sisterhood of man pandering females are when you say oh I happen to love a woman now but I could as well have a relationship with a man. If you were the right sort of person as they were not all persons before the feminists taught us we were women in the sense of being a political class in which case what you're really saying is if the right sort of man came along or when you say if all else fails we'll try loving our sisters even if you do think you mean just sex. I translate it to mean loving your sisters which means sex in everything. I still know the truth is demonstrably only by example and the only way to proceed historically is to respect personal places even while asserting the logic and example of our own in this way. Enough women by a few centuries time will become the hot shit we think we are. To make a viable Amazon nation or tribe or tribes of women capable of sustaining themselves independently of the male species we have to remind ourselves that in 1972 in America we are a fugitive band who can't afford to isolate ourselves from the woman in the middle. If we don't see common cause with feminist spam this are not likely to see it with us either. Especially when it's so easy to find reason by offense to say we have nothing to do with you when it's still so scary to proclaim the Genesee of an identity so recently criminal. We've.
Had this this this was a statement made by lesbians International. Lesbians International came out in favor of feminist rights. When I asked because she defines herself in relation to men the straight feminist is considered unnatural incomplete. Not quite a woman is that of the essence of womanhood were to be identified with women. And whereas feminists were never excluded from Lesbians International. But we have been evasive or apologetic about their presence within the organization. I'm afraid of encouraging public email support. We have often treated feminists as the step sisters of the movement. Allow them to work with us but then expected them to hide in the upstairs closet when the company comes. Asking women to disguise their identities so they will not embarrass the group as in an tolerable form of oppression. Like asking white women to join us in blackface lesbians international must reassess the priorities that sacrifice principles to image whereas we are affected by society's prejudices against a heterosexual woman whether we acknowledge it or not as lesbians we are all subject to straight betting by opponents who use the tactic of labeling us the worst thing they can think of heterosexual in order to divide and discredit the movement and bring women to heel. Even within lesbians international This tactic has been employed by some members who insist that feminists are a special interest group whose primary concern is men lesbians internationalism it is inevitably weakened by these attempts to undermine the spirit and efforts of its members. We can no longer afford to ignore the problem therefore be it resolved that lesbians international recognizes feminism as a lesbian issue. Was.
Next booth Stimson an unofficial speaker and a past president of daughters of believe is an early lesbian organization which preceded most feminist groups and which was dissolved by the ideological splits and infighting of the last couple of years.
I'm Ruth Simpson I'm a past. Here OK.
I'm a past president over daughters of the elitists. You may remember back to. The disrupters were back I'm sure. Because this is what happens when we're dealing with a pathology of women better and worse be the disruptors. There will always be those who want to separate themselves or off calling themselves revolutionaries. And I would like to say that a lot of allegedly revolutionary action is dreadfully counter-revolutionary when it is analyzed. And I would like to deal with. I would like to deal with what I consider a very peripheral and almost minuscule approach to some of these kind of revolutionaries a deal in rhetoric. The whole right thing I would like to ask a feminist recently I saw a pamphlet on how to be a healthy diet. I know that to me is like. A feminist group spending time saying how to be a healthy broad or black saying how to be healthy niggers or Jews how to be healthy kikes and why spend time spinning wheels taking on labels that don't mean a goddamn thing anyway. Blue bagger goes way back it means a mean nasty Butch and what we have to remember about homosexuality. But we have to remember about homosexuality if you want to think about it homo does not come from the Latin man. It comes from the Greek homos meaning the same and we are women. I am a lesbian I've never had problems about it I've always been happy about that I've never been in therapy and when I have. One I have. That is not how he died because I don't consider myself into any sort of role playing and I as I say this is peripheral. It's insignificant but a lot of people are spinning a lot of talking about how to be a healthy diet when actually we should be out in the streets. We should be getting the laws off the books which make us illegal. We should work with whomever we can find who will work with us and stop cutting across boundaries saying I will do this I will not do this. We let's all be women together let's all. Somehow somewhere some time learn to love each other as the same and let's stop the roleplay the disruption and let's get on with our work.
Michael. Now in response to back to killer problem Debra My name is Debra Granik in response to that Ruth.
The use of words such as dyke or butch or Finn is an attempt to reclaim words so they can't be used against us. If I wear a button that says Dyke some man on the street when he sees me with my women friend my lover can call me a dyke because I've already said that that's what I am. And it's just a matter of taking away words that have been used to hurt us keep us down keep us in the closet. You take them you wear them out front you come out and you don't let anybody put you down.
Hi my name is Jackie early and I have a poem I like to read because basically that's how i express myself through poetry. But first of all before I read the poem I would like to repeat a few words of one of my favorite women. She stood out many years ago and she said I think where there's so much fuss and and carrying on there must be something out of kilter. Now I think betwixt the white women of this country and the Black women of this country that we can get it together.
I thank you.
Now they say that a man is supposed to support you and lift you over ditches and help you into carriages and give you the best of places everywhere. Well I will say that no man has ever lifted me over ditches or given me the best the place anywhere and in the words of Sojourner. Ain't I a woman. I.
Now I wrote a poem called about your mom.
Two warning shots in the air. Two Southern University students fell to the earth. I know not where or why.
But if I cared I'd. Ask.
Who is the mother of the white man who shot that young black student. Who matter that young black mind who is the daughter and son who called Daddy poled nice man. I asked. Who is the wife of the polo man and was a little girl holds the gun that kills teenaged blacks with questions might. That some murderer would no longer have a woman around to support his cause. OK. Guys I do. That's.
What you need me to hold would be nice. I'd raise him a vegetarian up peaceful May. God. And released so he can not mistake my children at school as something to be killed and eaten. Oh yes look how you gobble the new a dead black students then cross your lovely lady like me and order dessert. Yes maybe you won't. Men is who done it. Maybe you will. Men are the thing. I must change because you game birth to that two legged mange to get married two legged men walk in this earth.
You gave birth. Check yourself. Woman What are you worth. If you no longer determine the quality of birth and peace. But how was the was.
And the mating calls listened.
And you tell every brotha don't worry about the prop. And the gym.
Prop her prop up and look at her at her. Has. Not her thighs. And her my ass and not her kind. See if she has something hidden at home. Something half human. It drinks a beer at night with the boys then at daybreak makes noise killing black boys and girls.
There are no exceptions to this rule. You want the teacher is of this earth school. What is it you have at home support knew.
Didn't you get a raise when he shot those two. A medical science sharp shooter did you buy him a gun when he was wanted to ask you when he said better than your dad. Did you rob that nigga into his head. Is Megan his spook in the dock.
I am stuck raving mad when I realize someone's dad killed those two with Southern you and you.
Are you his mom.
Check and see what you got at home and guns. There are no exceptions to this rule. I feel.
Now Gloria Steinem one of a number of well known feminists in the audience who was asked to speak. We lost her first few words she was saying that a reporter had called her that morning to inquire about the bad image. A conference essentially organized by lesbians might have on the feminist movement.
It was just it was talking about image you know wasn't it true that lesbians were messing up the image of the women's movement. And I said well you know it's not a public relations movement.
Thank you. And.
She said Well wasn't it true that women of the lesbians had primarily had dominated the March this year and so it wasn't very successful.
And I said well straight women have been fucking up marches for years you know where everybody should have a turn.
And I mean I don't know it's that maybe the last tyranny the final tyranny is they have to be responsible all the time. But finally she got to the other end of the spectrum and started to talk about lesbian chauvinism.
Now I've I've had occasional qualms about lesbian chauvinism because it excludes me. I mean you know that which really says that only lesbians can be feminists. It excludes me and it makes me feel rotten. But what is more serious I think is that it accepts the male definitions of sex as conquering. And I think really we shouldn't accept the male definition of anything. We really have to rethink all of those definitions.
Thanks. Thank you.
But she was essentially saying I don't I think I I don't mean to put her down I don't memorize names she was probably quite a nice person and just some stage of development that we're all in. But she is she seemed to feel that somehow that it all it sort of balanced out you know that there was lesbian chauvinism on the one hand and there was this oppression of lesbians by straight women on the other.
And then everybody is in between. I I think it's absolutely clear that lesbian chauvinism is nothing is nowhere near as harmful and painful and prevalent as oppression of lesbian women by straight women. It's ridiculous to equate them. It really seems to me one is a reaction to the other. That is that lesbian chauvinism is a reaction to pain and to hurt. And we have to it's no it makes no more sense to say that a black separatism is equal to white separatism because the one is a reaction to a preexisting incredible humiliation and injustice. So. You know we're all going to have different groups and. Have our own interests to work on. I hope that we can make institutions that are for women alone and support women and that we can support each other as sisters. And thank you for. I don't know. Thank you.
Thank you for for not shouting that you know what's this person whose name shows up in the press doing on the stage I believe it.
That was Gloria Steinem. You've been listening to a portion of the proceedings of the lesbian feminist dialogue held at Columbia University on December 16th 1972.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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Editor: Ranone, Nanette
Speaker: Glick, Deborah
Speaker: Steinem, Gloria
Speaker: Rush, Florence
Speaker: Peterson, Jan
Speaker: Lewis, Denise
Speaker: Shelley, Martha
Speaker: Simpson, Ruth
Speaker: Early, Jackie
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 268.04 (SCUA)
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- Chicago: “World of Women; Speeches from the Lesbian Feminist Dialogue Conference; 71,” 1972-12-16, New England Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_305-7634tvnx.
- MLA: “World of Women; Speeches from the Lesbian Feminist Dialogue Conference; 71.” 1972-12-16. New England Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_305-7634tvnx>.
- APA: World of Women; Speeches from the Lesbian Feminist Dialogue Conference; 71. Boston, MA: New England Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_305-7634tvnx