Life in Three Feminist Communities
TAKING A STAND. In a Midwestern town, a group of white female college undergraduates hang up the Clothesline Project on a cold winter day in front of the university’s student center. The Clothesline Project consists of a series of T-shirts with poems, drawings and stories of women’s testaments of their sexual abuse and assault experiences. As the group stands shivering in the cold, they garner little attention, but huddled together they are convinced of the importance of “airing the dirty laundry” of rape and sexual abuse in their community.
Talking Out Racism. In a dormitory parlor, twenty women gather to watch a documentary on the racist and homophobic incidents that happened at their East Coast college a year ago. Most of the students are in their first year and the room is evenly divided between white women and women of color. As the video plays, some of the first-year students begin to cry. Following the video there is an impassioned discussion about racism and homophobia on campus, with the women of color leading the discussion and the white women mostly silent.
Playing with Gender. It is a crowded night at a local nightclub. The room is filled with young women and transmen who have gathered for a drag king show to benefit a local queer organization. The theme is “Drag Stars in Uniform: We Want You.” On the stage, drag kings lip-sync and act out songs. All the performers wear uniforms of some sort, with the armed services well represented. Occasionally a woman is portrayed onstage and these performances are sexually suggestive and largely heterosexual in nature. The standing-room-only crowd holds their drinks and cheers loudly for each performer.
Described here are three different social movement communities with three different types of activism—public protest, group consciousness-raising and cultural celebration—and three different activist centers—an organization, an incident and a network. Despite the fact that feminism is often painted in broad strokes as a single identity or set of ideas, taking a close look at feminist communities reveals how they vary from each other. For the three communities studied,