about how actively and officially they should support gay rights. As noted above, Friedan was among the feminists who feared a vocal and visible lesbian constituency might further alienate the general public from "women's rights" causes. The woman who succeeded Friedan in office, Arlein Hernandez, was embarrassed by her predecessor's lukewarm support for lesbians. Upon accepting the presidency of NOW in 1970, Hernandez issued a strong statement in support of lesbians: "[ NOW does] not prescribe a sexual preference test for applicants. We ask only that those who join NOW commit themselves to work for full equality for women and that they do so in the context that the struggle in which we are engaged is part of the total struggle to free all persons to develop their full humanity."123 Even more significant, as Judith Hole and Ellen Levine observed, Hernandez accused the media in particular of employing a kind of "sexual McCarthyism" in its eagerness to discredit the women's movement by labeling it a "lesbian" movement: "[The media] attempts to turn us away from the real business of the movement and towards endless and fruitless discussions on matters which are not at issue. . . . We need to free all our sisters from the shackles of a society which insists on viewing us in terms of sex."124 Lesbians no less than heterosexual women, insisted Hernandez, have sexual rights.
To be sure, Hernandez's statements did not win her NOW's universal approval. Conservative members of NOW complained "gay rights" was not a bona fide woman's issue. Radical members of NOW countered that if anyone knew what a real woman's issue was, it was the lesbian: she who puts women, not men, at the center of her private as well as public life. The battle between these two groups in NOW escalated to such a degree it threatened NOW's existence for a year or so before NOW officially identified lesbian rights as a feminist issue and a NOW issue. In 1990 NOW manifested its support of lesbians in a particularly visible way: It elected Patricia Ireland, an open bisexual, as its president. It is important to stress, however, that even today NOW supports lesbianism as a personal sexual preference--as a life-style or partner choice some women make--rather than as a political statement about the best way to achieve women's liberation. Liberal feminists do not claim that women must orient all of their sexual desires toward women and away from men or that all women must love women more than they love men. They instead claim that men as well as women must treat each other as equals, as persons equally worthy of love.
One way to react to the limitations of liberal feminism is to dismiss it as a bourgeois, white movement. In essence, this is precisely what Ellen Willis