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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



by Alix Dobkin

This article shared 1264 times since Wed Mar 1, 2000
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"... long ranks of magnificent human beings behind me; I ... the inheritor; I the continuer; I the person miraculously appointed to carry it on." — Virginia Woolf in The Waves

Every individual is obliged to give her life meaning and purpose, to make it worth living. The roster of foremothers with which To Believe In Women is populated presents a rich trajectory upon which to launch a destiny for female generations unthinkable before these women— loving— women arrived on the North American scene. Theirs is heady company to keep and it's ours for the taking. Their collective spirit will infuse our own with boldness and possibility. What loftier calling than to join these formidable heroines of our not— so— distant past to advance the female cause?

In this work Lillian Faderman has documented for us a century plus of breathtaking accomplishment by woman— centered ancestors whose dedication, chutzpah and vision has moved females everywhere towards a more self— directed, dignified and satisfying life. Ingenious and determined champions who valued their own kind more than they feared censure, ridicule and punishment managed to overturn seemingly immutable social and legal institutions. Lillian establishes their legacy and, inviting us to do likewise, places herself squarely within it.

To Believe In Women describes how impertinent independent women feeling bold enough or driven enough to take themselves seriously made it possible for us to wear comfortable clothing and take power in their lives and over our bodies. It seems astonishing to us now that Joan of Arc gave her life for that right. She and generations of independent, trouser— wearing women, after centuries of sweat and tears, frustration and sabotage, were continually misrepresented as being "unnatural" women.

The latest version of this tactic comes to us as postmodern deconstructionism, the latest good— old college try to keep women in our place. It's simple enough. Just identify the positive behaviors and entitlement that males have historically reserved for themselves as "social constructions," assign them to men. Self— affirming attributes are suddenly "masculinities," and there we are, back in the little girl's room with our frills and daintyness. ( Funny how the term, "feminities" hasn't caught on with the drag queens. )

Scholarly interpretations aside, traditional butch dress has less to do with "masculinities" and more to do with human freedom than gender theory would have us believe. In this revisionist universe, the unruly, maverick lineage of "manly," "unsexed" and "passing" women disappear. Our heritage becomes unrecognizable to the point where too many young butches think they need to be, and actually CAN be, men, in order to be who they truly are. That is, women.

But what do they know about womanhood, about feminism and Lesbian consciousness? Lesbian separatism's explosive analysis of male rule, race and class is likewise unknown to them except as a caricature of silly flannel— shirted, Birkenstocked "anti— sex" "man— haters," code for "too radical, too smart, too tough, too uncompromising." An obliging educational establishment preoccupied with tenure, politicking and academic status has taught them that they are "beyond" feminism. Popular media obsessed with writing and rewriting feminism's obituary says that they don't need it.

But they do.

Loyalty to, and belief in women remains the non— negotiable feminist bottom line with which to monitor the spectacle of dubious experts, dismal educators and unsavory intermediaries defining the times. We witness their jurisdiction over academia, art and culture, their revisionist texts and wrongheaded representations. The consequence of such distortion and denial is a broken lineage for a generation of girls distanced from their women— loving mothers and grandmothers. Lost in a deconstructed fog with scant connection to their birthright, it's small wonder so many wish to flee their womanhood via everything from queer ( or non ) identity to medical quackery and drug pushers.

From a lecture tour on the road, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote to her daughter Margaret, "Above all considerations of loneliness and fatigue I feel that I am doing an immense amount of good in rousing women to thought and inspiring them with new hope and self respect, that I am making the path smoother for you and all the other dear girls."

Alternative voices do manage to crack through the static. Tune in to your female frequency for an unabashed legacy from ordinary/extraordinary women driven by timeless passion for their own kind. Like weeds pushing through concrete, real live self— respecting female feminists still do exist, and desire your company. We're here and we're not queer. We're women, and we're your line.

Dear girls: believe in us. Believe in yourselves.

This article shared 1264 times since Wed Mar 1, 2000
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