Separatism and Women's Community

Separatism and Women's Community

Separatism and Women's Community

Separatism and Women's Community

Synopsis

The energy spent on all sides of debates about women's separatism demonstrates the vitality of separatism as an important issue. Excited by the prospect that changes in their personal lives could reverberate through the nation, many women have organized rural communes and urban business collectives, putting ideas into practice. Separatism and Women's Community reviews debates in separatist theory, historical narratives by members of separatist collectives, and utopian novels that envision how collectives might be formed. Shugar compares the ideas and proposals of theorists - including Robin Morgan, Shulamith Firestone, Joyce Cheney, Joan Nestle, Ti-Grace Atkinson, and the Radicalesbianswith the experience of women from collectives as diverse as Cell 16, the Combahee River Collective, the Gutter Dyke Collective, the Seattle Collective, the Bloodroot Collective, and the Lavender Woman Collective of Chicago. Despite the attempts to connect action and thought, many women were ill-prepared for the problems they found in collective life. Women who theorized that oppression based on difference was a man-made phenomenon were confronted by other women who challenged their racism, classism, or homophobia. The community had to respond to these confrontations in ways that would strengthen, rather than destroy, their tentative connections with other women.

Excerpt

Perhaps nothing is more out of fashion in feminist critical theory today than the discourse of lesbian separatism. Because separatism (that is, the belief that women must and should separate from men politically and personally in order to accomplish the goals of a feminist revolution) and cultural feminism both strive to create or codify a female culture, many contemporary feminist scholars often conflate the two. This conflation has led to a dismissal of separatism as essentialist, unappealing for a large number of women, politically nave or ineffective, and morally oppressive, especially on issues that concern the representations of women's sexual desire. Yet the energy scholars spend on all sides of the debate over separatism clearly indicates that separatism continues to be important to feminists engaged in a wide range of theories and practice.

The purpose of this study is to begin to move beyond the debate of the legitimacy or effectiveness of separatist discourse to a more useful examination of the functions such texts play in the creation and continuation of feminist communities. To do so, I examine the community work of three historically specific moments in American separatist discourse: separatist theory of the late 1970s through the 1970s, historical narratives of separatist collectives, and separatist utopian novels. By 'community work' I mean the ways in which these texts interact with the social order of feminist communities to participate, through discourse, in the movement for the sociopolitical changes demanded by radicalfeminist agendas. I define 'radical feminism' as the beliefs that women are oppressed as a class in patriarchy, that patriarchy is a geographically and historically vast social system of sexism, and that only the complete destruction of this patriarchal system--not reformist measures or the destruction of a few of its aspects--will liberate women. My . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.