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The end of womyn's lands?
January 31, 2009 6:03 AM   Subscribe

“In 20 to 25 years, we could be extinct": lesbian separatist communes grapple with aging, irrelevance to younger lesbians, and survival in the twenty-first century.

Here is a reprint of a 1994 article from Off Our Backs about lesbian land and commune building, and here is a very brief history of the communes, mentioning some of the internal problems they have grappled with.

And meanwhile, as the radical communes are fading, the demand for gay retirement homes is booming.
posted by Forktine (354 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
New York Times link; registration or bugmenot required.)
posted by Forktine at 6:03 AM on January 31, 2009


They may look like sweet old ladies living in some kind of rural bliss, but:

Many residents subscribe to strict lesbian separatism, meaning that men are permitted only as temporary visitors and that straight, bisexual and transsexual women are also excluded.

Their lifestyle is dictated by some pretty obnoxious views. I can't say it would be a shame to see them go.
posted by Sova at 6:20 AM on January 31, 2009 [22 favorites]


It seems like a good thing that society has evolved to the point where lesbians don't feel the need to seclude themselves from the rest of society. I would argue that the fading away of such places is a mark of progress, and not something to mourn.

Now that I've commented on the article, I can say what I really came to this thread to say. Last night I dreamt I was a chubby flying lesbian. I'm not kidding.
posted by diogenes at 6:26 AM on January 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


I had no idea there were Lesbian Supremacist hate groups. Every day I learn something. Often several things.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:26 AM on January 31, 2009


I had no idea there were Lesbian Supremacist hate groups

Come on now, don't be ridiculous.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:30 AM on January 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


Wow, this (the first one you linked to) is a fascinating article, and it really reminds me of university campus sexual politics in the late 80s and early 90s, and the sometimes polarizing dynamic that existed between male and female students, at least to those who were paying attention to this sort of thing. I'm sure that if I had been in the business faculty, or had studied physical education or engineering, all of this stuff would have passed me by. But, my god, all the things the women talk about in the NYT article were very real issues at a small, left leaning university on the Left Coast of Canada in the late 80s and 90s. And I wonder why I could never get laid.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:35 AM on January 31, 2009


Did anyone watch the slide show? What's with the big wicker man in the background of the third photo?
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:37 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Their lifestyle is dictated by some pretty obnoxious views. I can't say it would be a shame to see them go.

Well, perhaps you should consider this:

“The younger generation has not had to go through what we went through,” Ms. Greene said. She and other Alapine women described leading double lives when they were younger, playing the role of straight women in jobs and even marriages. “I came out in the middle ’60s, and we didn’t even have the word lesbian then,” Ms. Greene said

Combine the sheer pain and agony of living in this condition with the radical liberation politics of the 60s and 70s, add a healthy dose of domestic violence, and what these folks are trying to do doesn't seem so strange at all.

It's a little sad, though, to read this:

they built a matriarchal community, where no men were allowed, where even a male infant brought by visitors was cause for debate.

What kinds of terrible experiences must these women have gone through?

As I said earlier in the thread, this sort of feminist discourse really dominated my university days (but, then again, I was involved in student politics, on the leftist side of things).
posted by KokuRyu at 6:42 AM on January 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


It's always very confusing for me that it is only thanks to women like this that I have the luxury of being slightly embarassed by them. I feel for the men and women who were so out loud and proud in the seventies and eighties that my lesbian identity is practically boring today. Many young lgtb people really have no idea of how fast things have changed.

When I was coming out in the early ninties I wasn't entirely sure what a lesbian was.
Now, there are like 3 kids in my neices preschool who have same-sex parents. She herself probably thinks "auntie" is synonomous with lesbian since both her maternal and paternal aunties are married to women. Practically every show has a queer character, many of them even survive over multple seasons, many don't kill anyone and some even have a sex life!

I do understand that these women feel disrespected, that in order to "own" their own sexuality they needed to be very damned specific in it, and that it scares and confuses them that there are young women who mainly sleep with women, but ocassionally fuck guys and still consider themselves lesbians. The horror!

So while I get an instant shudder at the word womyn, and I find seperatism very close to supremecism, I have some respect for my elders who have, perhaps unwittingly, helped shape a world where I have a huge amount of choice in how, or whether I define myself.
posted by Iteki at 6:47 AM on January 31, 2009 [66 favorites]


That's a pretty interesting article. As for the "obnoxious views," these women formed their beliefs in a specific place and time, and a lot of those beliefs made a great deal of sense for their situations. Just a little background reading makes that pretty clear. What the article doesn't get at, sadly, is whether these communities understand that that their solutions, which may have been valid for their place and time, don't resonate with too many lesbians today. I got a whiff of "we have the answer, but they don't get it, so we are dying out," but I can't tell if that is the real attitude or something the reporter was not interested in pursuing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:50 AM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Are there gay male separatist communities? Miami Beach doesn't count. Seems to me it doesn't matter what one 'went through' coming out....hiding in a commune and then continuing to embrace your youthful trauma to the point of wringing your hands about A BABY WITH A PENIS is no progress, personal or public.
posted by spicynuts at 6:55 AM on January 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


I agree with KokuRyu, one of the driving forces behind this will in many cases have been domestic abuse or similar, and if that's less of an impulse we should all be pleased.

Another strand is that back-to-the-land'ers always had other outsider cultural position they came together around, whether it was growing grass, keeping guns, or some fringe religious views, so it should be no surprise that some of them were lesbians.

And I for one think we will have lost something to conformity when these old ladies shuffle off.
posted by imperium at 6:56 AM on January 31, 2009


we didn’t even have the word lesbian then
Earliest OED citation for lesbian (in the "female homosexual" sense, rather than the "island of Lesbos" sense) is 1870.

"Tribade", which means the same thing and I hadn't even heard of before a moment ago, goes back at least to 1601, with Ben Jonson's "Light Venus..with thy tribade trine, invent new sports."
posted by Flunkie at 6:58 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust: Without answering for anyone, my experience of women from the same activist generation in europe, while probably not exactly matching the american women in the article has been one similar to what you describe. The "omfg, they have let the wool be pulled over their eyes" level of slight paranoia that, well, leads to people barricading themselves into compounds and waiting for the end days. Or communes, or lands or whatever term you prefer.

Younger, "third wave" feminists are in many cases considered naive and decadant by the grey-crewcut brigade, and to some extent they may well be right. Just cos we have the L-Word doesn't mean the fight for womens and queer rights is over :)

I am going to send the link some friends of the birkenstock persuasion, I can let you know if there is any consensus.
posted by Iteki at 6:59 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I knew the defence of 'consider their experiences growing up in specific a time and place', but I don't feel that's credible. It's not their experiences which created this lifestyle, but their analysis of those experiences. Millions of other women grew up in similar situations, and had similar experiences, but neither hold the same ideologies, nor reacted to the problem in the same way. It's those people - lesbian and heterosexual, men and women - who actually did something about the way society worked by changing the relationships between men and women for the better, which made the difference.

I don't thank these women for selfishly parting with society, and I won't defend their beliefs which informed that decision.
posted by Sova at 7:13 AM on January 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thanks, Ikeki. I am a man with quite a few close lesbian friends, but, obviously, not separatist ones. I get a little perspective from my mom, who was coming out just a little after these women, but I'd be interested in some more direct information.

As for the OED, "We didn't have..." is not the same for "the word was not coined yet..."
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:14 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have some respect for my elders who have, perhaps unwittingly, helped shape a world where I have a huge amount of choice in how, or whether I define myself.

Younger, "third wave" feminists are in many cases considered naive and decadant by the grey-crewcut brigade, and to some extent they may well be right. Just cos we have the L-Word doesn't mean the fight for womens and queer rights is over :)


Barricading yourself off in a commune somewhere with no male interaction is not fighting the good fight, it's capitulation and retreat. Though it may have been exactly what some of these women needed to survive and thrive in this world, let's not kid ourselves into thinking that these women were responsible for recent changes in public opinion. There were, and still are, very charismatic and honorable politicians and activists who did push for equal rights in the public realm, who have indeed helped shape a world where GLBT people have a huge amount of choice in how and whether they define themselves. It's just that these ladies ain't them.
posted by billysumday at 7:14 AM on January 31, 2009 [13 favorites]


It's a little sad, though, to read this:

they built a matriarchal community, where no men were allowed, where even a male infant brought by visitors was cause for debate.

What kinds of terrible experiences must these women have gone through?


To be honest, that seemed like a provocative interpretation of the facts, put into the first paragraph to draw people into the article. That is, later on in the article it explains the incident: "Recently when an Alapine resident received a visit from a 6-month-old grandson, an e-mail message went out to all residents, perhaps only partly in humor: “There’s a man on the land.”"

A single e-mail that might be a joke does not a community debate make. I'm not sure that anecdote tells us anything at all about the experiences these women have gone through.
posted by Mike1024 at 7:20 AM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


As others have pointed out, the views of these women are rooted to a particular place and time. I wish that they could realize that and be at peace with it, rather than spending their final years anxious about their community's future.

It has no future, and that's just fine.

I can't judge these people, billysumday. I'd like to think it's not the decision I would have made were I hounded out of my career like these women were, but I don't know that.

A lesbian co-worker said to me one day, "you know, you're the only straight guy I talk to with any regularity at all." It struck me as extremely sad. I'm grateful every day that I'm living where and when I am-- where these kinds of differences among people are taken for granted. I literally can't imagine what my life would be like today without friends of different sexual orientations, religions, ethnicities, etc. A lot more suspicious, a lot less interesting, at the least.

It's always very confusing for me that it is only thanks to women like this that I have the luxury of being slightly embarassed by them.

Very well said, Iteki.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:20 AM on January 31, 2009


These women chose to go live together in communes without any men around. I don't see how that's a big problem. Nuns have been doing that for more than a thousand years. Would you go picket cloisters?
posted by Kattullus at 7:23 AM on January 31, 2009 [16 favorites]


I can't judge these people, billysumday. I'd like to think it's not the decision I would have made were I hounded out of my career like these women were, but I don't know that.

Where did I judge them? I said they did what they needed to do to get by, God bless 'em. I'm judging instead the people who seem to think that these women helped pave the road for future generations of GLBT men and women, which is ridiculous. We don't attribute victories in the civil rights movement to a few black families living together on a farm in Alabama - instead we attribute those victories to Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis and Rosa Parks others who stuck their necks out in public and influenced popular opinion. That's all I'm saying. These women, and these communes, are incredibly interesting. They're not, I'd argue, all that influential.
posted by billysumday at 7:26 AM on January 31, 2009


Are there gay male separatist communities?

Eh, "States of Desire" mentions a few back in the 70s, but that was much more back-to-the-land-y and less separatist. Most of the ones I've heard about died off in the 80s or just became "those dudes that live on that farm." The only really successful one I know is very, very inclusive and run more like a working retreat (come for 3 months and milk our cows!) kind of thing.
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 AM on January 31, 2009


Sova, I guess I don't understand why you feel so angry at these women, and why you consider them "selfish" to have parted with society. Do you find yourself also angry about other people who have exiled themselves for other reasons -- say, contemplative ones?

As someone who came out (at the age of 14) in the early 1990s, I feel more than a little spark of pain in my heart when I hear about communities like these who take extreme measures about male presence (as well as things like Michigan Women's Festival, which bars male-identified adults, but not young male children, so it's not near as extreme). But the pain is mostly for these women themselves. I do not see their way they live their lives as "capitulation and retreat", but from my own perspective, living the life I have, I do have to wonder what they're missing out on.

And who can say who or what is responsible for changes in public opinion? That's a slippery beast. Certainly not everyone is called to be a politician or an activist, and certainly it is not only politicians and activists (or celebrities or magazine editors or what have you) who bring about social change. You can argue that if someone sequesters themselves they can have no effect, but this ignores many of the ways information and identity can be noticed.

Is it condescending to say I feel protective of these women? I hope not. But I do feel protective, here right now on this thread and in the larger and rougher courts of public opinion. Who dare judge these women so harshly, and why?
posted by theefixedstars at 7:34 AM on January 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


the whelk, what about radical fairie communities? I don't know how separatist they are -- I've heard of transgendered people living on them -- but they're largely male.

Personally I hope that the American wilderness is secretly full of queer communities. Hopefully not separatist. But I had an easy time of it coming out. I imagine if my family were homophobic and disowned me, I might need seek a different life away from people who want to make me different.
posted by theefixedstars at 7:37 AM on January 31, 2009


Fair enough, billysumday, I misread you.

I'd say that their act of carving out an independent identity was a part of getting us where we are today.

Probably less than, say, Tony Kushner or Harvey Milk, but "not everyone is called to be a politician or an activist," as theefixedstars points out.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


A single e-mail that might be a joke does not a community debate make. I'm not sure that anecdote tells us anything at all about the experiences these women have gone through.

it does tell us a hell of a lot about the type of journalism one can expect from the NYT Style sections.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:41 AM on January 31, 2009 [9 favorites]


Segregation brings no progress. You don't adapt to gays and lesbians in life if you don't get the opportunity to see them, interact with them. I don't really like segregationists of any kind, and there are many. You don't get a vibrant 'melting pot' if all the beef goes in one bowl and all the green beans in another. It is sad that they ever felt the need to segregate themselves from society, but those times are gone. Still, it's a free country, more or less, so if that's the way they want to continue to live their lives, then that's that.
posted by jamstigator at 7:43 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


While I don't agree with their community's policies, I think I understand (or can at least imagine) the places those women (womyn?) are coming from. To those who dismiss them outright as "obnoxious", etc., ignores the context from which the lesbian seperatist movement emerged.

This has to do with a community's right to self-define, and their doing so is fine by me.
posted by radiocontrolled at 7:45 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Personally I hope that the American wilderness is secretly full of queer communities.

I'm picturing The Village, but tastefully decorated.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:45 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lesbians are great. I know plenty of them. All ex-girlfriends. Wait...
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:49 AM on January 31, 2009


thefixedstars

I'm sorry if I have come over angry, I'm honestly did't mean to. I realise the use of the word 'obnoxious' was too strong, but I do disagree with their views. They're free to live however they please, and I can't and wouldn't stop them. I suppose my difference is that despite being queer, I'm rejected by them because I sleep with men? I don't like to see them lionised or even mythologised, and placed as something important in my history. I want to go 'no, no, no, you're shutting me out' everytime I hear similar people mentioned.

Like just yesterday, Julise Bindel wrote a piece of political lesbianism, and I just can't get over what her, and others such as Sheila Jeffreys, are doing to other women.
posted by Sova at 7:57 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]



the whelk, what about radical fairie communities


Ah! I knew they would come up. The only RF community I've been too has been pretty inclusive, they bill themselves as a "queer" community rather then as a male-dominated one. It was still pretty male-heavy tho.
posted by The Whelk at 7:58 AM on January 31, 2009


Ok, so I'm coming at this as a straight white male who was in college starting in 2000. My best friend in college was a lesbian, and right around that same time one of my closest friends from high school came out to me. So I've absorbed more of the radfem point of view than most straight guys I know. That said, I had one massive problem with these communities. Not the isolation, but the discrimination that they practice too. "...transsexual women are also excluded." I'm friends with two transwomen and one transman. The shit that homosexuals used to go through is still being experienced by transgendered and transexual folks, despite movies like Boys Don't Cry being out there. One would think that knowing the dangers and hardships of the world out there would make these communities a little more accepting to MtF transgendered folk.

Of course, the above mentioned Michigan Womyn's Festival didn't let MtF transgendered folk in until a year or two ago. So I have real trouble feeling any sympathy for these folks. They kind of remind me of the Pilgrims- escaping discrimination so they can discriminate themselves.

Yes, my view is very biased. But the fact that the question of whether to align themselves with transgendered people is a hot issue in the radical feminist community (which I view as a natural successor to these women) makes me question how much this is about freedom and how much this is just another discriminatory enclave.
posted by Hactar at 8:04 AM on January 31, 2009 [9 favorites]


One of the characters in JPOD grows up in a lesbian commune.
posted by chunking express at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2009


"Hey guys, did you know there are other LARPers out here too? They're hardcore, but they use this different rulebook, something about a SCUM Manifesto - oh, and check this: They shot me in the leg!"
posted by kid ichorous at 8:26 AM on January 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


Pileon, his statement isn't frivolous and can't just be dismissed with "don't be ridiculous."
Finding one another in the fever of the gay rights and women’s liberation movements civil rights movement, they built a matriarchal an Aryan community, where no men blacks were allowed, where even a male black infant brought by visitors was cause for debate.

"To me, this is the real world America,” she one member said. "And it’s a very peaceful world. I don’t hear anything except the leaves falling any reports of gang-banging or theft, or any disturbingly bass voices. I get up in the morning, I go out on my front deck and I dance drink my coffee and I say, 'It’s another glorious day on the mountain.' Men Blacks are violent. The minute a man Negro walks in the dynamics change immediately, so I choose not to be around those dynamics."
You can't call them not a separatist hate group just because you don't hate them. Replace terms in this article with ones that confirm biases instead of deny them and it becomes a little more complex, doesn't it? These women are very clearly separatist. The only question is whether their extreme sexism is extreme enough to be considered "hate."
posted by jock@law at 8:31 AM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think this safe and supportive little world these women have created is totally fucking awesome and I wish them the best in their efforts to see it through to the end.
posted by The Straightener at 8:32 AM on January 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


eponysterical?
posted by spicynuts at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2009


My first comment ever......

In the late 90s I attended and graduated from a small, very liberal, women's college. Reading the NYT article took me back to many of the most hotly debated issues on campus. There were definitely women there who thought non-lesbians, like myself, shouldn't have even been attending. There were also women who would not enroll in any courses taught by a man. That being said, my observation is that many of us entered college with our views of feminism developed from those of our mothers, similar to, but probably not as extreme as, the beliefs of the women in the article. Over the course of the 4 years a lot of that mellowed with exposure to newer waves of feminism and the realization that, at least in CA Bay Area, the social forces that led to radical feminism really weren't as big of a deal any more. This is just my experience and observation, YMMV.

The article itself left me feeling a little sad that these women seemingly aren't really recognizing and taking advantage of the progress that has been made.
posted by cbp at 8:41 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a slight derail but for crying out loud is there some kind of rule at the New York Times that anything to do with women must be FASHION AND STYLE? Why can't this article be in the U.S. section? Other "fashion" articles include: Evolution of a Feminist Daughter and Changing My Feminist Mind, One Man at a Time.
posted by tractorfeed at 8:43 AM on January 31, 2009 [21 favorites]


You can't call them not a separatist hate group just because you don't hate them.

I disagree with the equivalence of a Lesbian group that formed in the 70s because they justifiably felt threatened, and an Aryan group that separates because they have delusions of threats to their racial purity. Perhaps the time has passed and this place is no longer needed, and perhaps they have moved closer to the Aryan delusion as they've gotten older and more staid, but these women had a justifiable need to feel safe back then and I think it's lacking in nuance to say both impulses come from the same place and are equally reprehensible.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:46 AM on January 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


The only question is whether their extreme sexism is extreme enough to be considered "hate."

This takes the prize for the stupidest fucking thing I've read here this month. Dude, not all separatism is equal, and I think the fact that these communities did not come out of a position of dominance and violence should be totally obvious. Yes, that argument can be taken too far -- oppressed groups can be racist, sexist, and abusive, obviously. (And if you look at the third link, you can see how many of these separatist communities turned out to perpetuate internally the same racist and classist problems of the society from which they came. Which was of course, as you might be aware, one of foundational observations of third-wave feminism some twenty years ago -- this isn't a new and novel critique.)

But in the cases we are talking about, these are largely lesbians of a generation who came of age in a time that was particularly brutalizing towards people like them, and who were deeply influenced by early second-wave feminist theorists. The fears they express about male violence come out of their life experiences, and even though thirty years later some of seems kind of silly, there was a lot of relevance for these theories in 1979 and into the 1980s.

So I hope you eventually find yourself to a position where you can see how your simplistic conflation of aging and now largely irrelevant lesbian separatists (important though they may have been thirty years ago, at least within radical feminism) with violent white supremacists passes right through Foolish on the road to Idiotsville. Until those lesbian separatists are actually doing the awful things that actual, real, live hate groups do, maybe we can leave these kinds of comparisons in our imaginations, where they belong.
posted by Forktine at 8:49 AM on January 31, 2009 [35 favorites]


You can't call them not a separatist hate group just because you don't hate them. Replace terms in this article with ones that confirm biases instead of deny them and it becomes a little more complex, doesn't it? These women are very clearly separatist. The only question is whether their extreme sexism is extreme enough to be considered "hate."

That's a very facile substitution, jock. The most obvious difference is that neonazi compounds are supposed to be the seeds of a larger aryan country, while lesbian separatist compounds are places of refuge from a larger society that (at the time, at least) was extremely discriminatory, sometimes violently so, against them.

A neonazi wants his country to look like his compound. A lesbian separatist would rather she didn't need the compound at all because she felt safe in her country. Neonazis would exterminate or exile everyone not like them. Lesbian separatists would rather have nondiscrimination and peaceful relations from those not like them.
posted by fatbird at 8:50 AM on January 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


Please don't fucking feed the tired, tiresome troll, folks.
posted by enn at 8:54 AM on January 31, 2009


I have to pause to consider it, but the whole idea of leaving my life behind to pursue a set of values and beliefs that are completely unacceptable to the mainstream takes a sort of courage, maybe different from the courage to speak out and demand to be accepted in public, but courage all the same. At the same time these communes do sound like a sub culture who want to continue being a sub culture who do not want to engage with the issues of the day, even when their beliefs may be given a public outlet. And maybe somewhere between chosen exile and involuntary escape they've become set in their ways or unwilling to entertain alternatives, but then I think that's their privilege, they've earned the community with which to discriminate and inherited the argument of its persuasions.
posted by doobiedoo at 8:54 AM on January 31, 2009


One thing that's interesting, from a quick viewing of the audio slide show, is how many of these women are very into the idea of doing man-like things; building houses, chopping firewood, living on their own, etc. I say man-like because the one woman says as much, directly - that she wants to prove she can do what men do. But what is maybe being rejected is the maternal (even paternal?) desire to have children, raise them, etc. I wonder if there isn't some sort of rejection of the symbols and rituals associated with child-rearing - soft edges, diapers, bright colors, etc. I understand that lesbian mating does not usually produce offspring (ha!) but through adoption or the taking in of children as the result of old marriages or rapes would provide a completely different community where older lesbians would be mothers in addition to carpenters. I think the odd thing that separates this community from other isolated communities is that no children are being reproduced - the Shakers ended up being just a collection of old women, as well, and people have already mentioned convents. So it seems like it's no wonder that this community is dying out and that they can't recruit new members. Perhaps there are lesbians who like to live off the land but they also have male friends, a good job, and someday want to raise a child in their house. There are many things going on here that can't really be covered in a two-page article. But I do find it all pretty fascinating.
posted by billysumday at 8:57 AM on January 31, 2009


Separatist movements, of any stripe, suffer from both an superiority complex and its opposite at the same time. Pretty much any one of these groups which advocates separation (as much as it is possible to) from society believes They Have It Right (and the rest of us do not), so much so that they have to build a town dedicated to the idea. At the same time, the careful isolation either breeds or is the result of (not sure which one comes first) the fear of ideological contamination.

Looking down on outsiders while at the same time being afraid of any changes they could bring seems par for the course.

Take the wingnuts with the compound ranch in Texas or any other cult, really. This just happens to be towns where it's all women. Seeking to legitimize it from a civil rights angle looks a lot like riding the coattails of those who did the thing you have to do if you want to change society, which is, you know, interact with it.
posted by adipocere at 9:04 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, tractorfeed, the second article you linked to made me really angry. "And now I have fallen for a man who understands and respects my feminist beliefs, and who also takes me to dinner, holds the door, calls me Babydoll in a slow Southern drawl." Like, you can be a feminist, and treated like a heroine in a romance novel! Yay!

It sort of reminded me why lesbian separatist communities might still need to exist. As a queer woman, I'm disappointed that I would be left out, but I realize (particularly as someone with a male partner) that navigating the sexual waters with men can be difficult without defaulting to the gendered and inequitable behavior patterns that our mothers and grandmothers were trying to escape from.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:07 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


They're not, I'd argue, all that influential.

I disagree; their mere existence gave an edge and shape to many of the discussions we had in college in the 80s (where "we" means, in my case, the four out queer students at my politically conservative private liberal arts college, people who came to Women's Issues League meetings, and other assorted scruffy leftists). For the women I was socially and politically closest to in college, there was a visceral understanding of the urge to be separate. In our particular circumstances, we were of course looking at this from a position of incredible privilege, but we were also immersed in a culture that was extremely boyzone at times - the school had been coed since the mid-1970s, but there was a large contingent male students and alumni who were delighted to sing derogatory songs about "co-hogs" (coeds) at football games, frat parties, etc. It could be an amazingly hostile place to women, and there was a part of me that longed for a place where I was welcomed rather than confronted by "What are you doing here, bitch? This place was better before co-hogs started coming here."

And after I got the "used" (it was smeared with mayonnaise) condom in my college mailbox, along with a note to shut the fuck up about the most recent frat-related thing we were protesting, well, separatism had a certain appeal.
posted by rtha at 9:10 AM on January 31, 2009 [10 favorites]


But what is maybe being rejected is the maternal (even paternal?) desire to have children, raise them, etc. I wonder if there isn't some sort of rejection of the symbols and rituals associated with child-rearing - soft edges, diapers, bright colors, etc.

The separatist essays that spawned these compounds in the 70s specifically discussed degrees of separatism, with armed compounds being the extreme end. The near end was simply eschewing traditionally feminine roles for oneself, and informed a lot of feminist consciousness-raising workshops. Things like not getting married or having kids, or even simple things like not being a listening ear for everyone's troubles just because one is a woman who's supposed to be more sympathetic and understanding.

A large part of the context in which these communities formed was this broader canvas of figuring out the stereotypes, especially the unconscious ones to which we're all somewhat subject, and specifically acting contrary to them. There's a definite will-to-power aspect of it that very directly led to women like these separatists going into the woods to build houses and tote guns and prove to themselves that they didn't need men to do traditionally male things.
posted by fatbird at 9:11 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


The White Supremacist groups that form in prisons have a realistic fear of racially motivated violence against them. I hope everyone's cool with their bigotry.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:11 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Barricading yourself off in a commune somewhere with no male interaction is not fighting the good fight, it's capitulation and retreat. Though it may have been exactly what some of these women needed to survive and thrive in this world, let's not kid ourselves into thinking that these women were responsible for recent changes in public opinion. There were, and still are, very charismatic and honorable politicians and activists who did push for equal rights in the public realm, who have indeed helped shape a world where GLBT people have a huge amount of choice in how and whether they define themselves. It's just that these ladies ain't them.

this actually isn't the impression I got of these women. their community doesn't seem economically viable. from the article:

One obstacle to drawing younger women is employment. Many of the lesbian communities are located far from cities and other job sources. Only one Alapine resident has a full-time job, as a social worker in town. The others live on savings or income from consulting or piecemeal work.

it suggests to me that this is effectively a retirement home, and that these women did spend their working lives out here with the rest of us. and they did a lot of good by being out back then.
posted by object-a at 9:12 AM on January 31, 2009


I guess it would be nice to cloister myself with people who share my outre worldview. Too bad I can't afford it.

Actually, scratch that thought. It would be really fucking boring to do that.
posted by bardic at 9:14 AM on January 31, 2009


People, this is the NYTimes we're talking about. Odds are that in reality, these women are fundamentalist Mormons with dozens of children, have WMDs, and all of the quotations were made up. Basing a discussion off of a style section piece is like playing the lottery based on a fortune cookie's lucky numbers.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:15 AM on January 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


The White Supremacist groups that form in prisons have a realistic fear of racially motivated violence against them. I hope everyone's cool with their bigotry.

Second obvious difference between white supremacists and lesbian separatists: The white supremacist's bigotry is the cause of their justified fear of violence against them; lesbian separatists suffer violence because they're lesbians, not because they're separatists.

I mean, seriously, does this comparison to white supremacists really seem to explain why lesbian separatists exist and what they want? Do you, Tim, and Jock, really think they're out there in the woods because they think they're superior to men and that their ideal world has no men in it?
posted by fatbird at 9:16 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I disagree with the equivalence of a Lesbian group that formed in the 70s because they justifiably felt threatened, and an Aryan group that separates because they have delusions of threats to their racial purity.

I suspect there's at least some common ground in the way of negative or traumatic experience; I've seen plenty of racism that flowered under the heels of bullying and violence.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:17 AM on January 31, 2009


Sova,

As much as the thought of things like prescriptive or what the Bindel piece terms "politicial" lesbianism (for lack of a better term) makes me totally fucking cringe (unless people like Bindel, thinking of Lysistrata, mean it only as a piece of theater -- a stance to bring attention to an issue rather than a way of ostracizing people), I think that we cannot look at these women only through the lens of our place in time and culture, where we are relatively free to be openly queer and if we're lucky suffer only quieter (yet still somewhat sinister) negative consequences for it. I do see it as sad that these women are so attached to essentialist identity politics, whereas the people I feel most aligned with see gender and sexuality as something more flexible. And I still don't know why they are selfish. I get why you are unnerved by them. I think it would be very hard for me to have a conversation with them about men. Still, I do wish that there was more communication between the old-time gays and the young ones. I used to not believe in anything like a gay culture, but I do want to make sure that we do not forget those who came before us, or cast them in too harsh a light.
posted by theefixedstars at 9:20 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The White Supremacist groups that form in prisons have a realistic fear of racially motivated violence against them. I hope everyone's cool with their bigotry.

If it's genuinely something they need to do to survive, and no one is doing anything to change the things that threaten them and prisoners of other races too (true, given the low priority that prison reform has in this country), then sure, yeah, I'm "cool" with it. The inevitable consequences for the outside world are more our fault than theirs.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:21 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Excuse me, but I just don't buy the "oh, but think of what they went through!" angle:

But Rand Hall, 63, one of the newest Alapine residents, whose 50-year-old stepdaughter has joined her on the property, said separatism still makes sense today.

“Outside the gate, it’s still a man’s world,” said Ms. Hall, who retired as the publisher of a gay and lesbian newspaper in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., and moved to Alapine in 2006. “And women are not safe, period. It’s just that simple.”


Excuse me, but to me it's pretty clear that this "womyn" wasn't suffering from rampant discrimination or abuse before she joined the commune. It's also quite clear that her separatism is founded on a deep-seated and IMHO quite irrational fear of anybody with a Y chromosome. Sometimes bitter people cling to other things than guns and God...
posted by Skeptic at 9:23 AM on January 31, 2009


It's unfortunate that they've written off half of humanity as brutes, but on the whole I sympathize with them. The sustaining force behind their commune seems to me to be not lingering paranoia but the intimacy of their own little society, coupled with a rather understandable aversion (made more acute by lack of exposure) to the more cutthroat elements of modern society.

The conditions that necessitated their withdrawal have assuaged somewhat; their love for each other and for the world that they've built has not. It's always a tragedy to see your world disappear into history.
posted by limon at 9:24 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's also quite clear that her separatism is founded on a deep-seated and IMHO quite irrational fear of anybody with a Y chromosome. Sometimes bitter people cling to other things than guns and God...

It's funny: early separatist essays predicted exactly this response, that separatism will be viewed as a fearful and irrational action no matter what the actual motive. "What, you don't want to be around me? Well fuck you!"
posted by fatbird at 9:26 AM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't think I saw a single intelligent response to my post. Try rereading it?

I never, ever, ever, ever equated the two. All I said was that TheOnlyCoolTim's post, above, should get a more articulate rebuttal than Pileon's "ridiculous" comment. Most of you responding gave exactly that, an articulate rebuttal... but to TheOnlyCoolTim's post, not to mine.

Long story short, don't hate for pointing out that y'all skipped an important part of the dialog. It's because I wanted to hear the dialog, not because I think these women are brownshirted thugs.

Geez almighty you guys are touchy today
posted by jock@law at 9:29 AM on January 31, 2009


If it's genuinely something they need to do to survive

Yes, and I can't think of a single prison gang that wasn't originally formed along racial lines.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:30 AM on January 31, 2009


lesbian pensioner bigotry is very different from white supremacist convict bigotry, even after factoring for women's scorn
posted by doobiedoo at 9:30 AM on January 31, 2009


Another aspect of these communities that needs to be understood is that they tend to have a battery of complementary beliefs that make William Ayers look like a Wall St. trader. Communism, hippie ethics, all the crunchy granola ethics of the 70s got taken along in greater or lesser degrees. Separatism for these communities often has political commitments other than simply getting away from men. Withdrawing from predatory capitalism is often a motive, along with pacifism and sustainable environmentalism, sometimes even deep ecology. Viewing these as only a retreat from a male world oversimplifies the case.
posted by fatbird at 9:30 AM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


So, no one is talking about the gay retirement homes? I envision a Home For Retired Drag Queens. Every room has double staircases, strategically placed mirrors, balconies, gigantic double doors, and everything else to make sure every entrance is a grand one.
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 AM on January 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


You can't call them not a separatist hate group just because you don't hate them.

When the members of this lesbian enclave start bombing Hooters restaurants, or raping and lynching men, perhaps we can start to use the term "hate group". Otherwise, the kind of commentary you and TheOnlyCoolTim are repeating is just idiotic. Seriously, think before you type.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 AM on January 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


Why are people so interested in deciphering the moral superiority or inferiority of these places? What if these communes are neither havens of hope and love, transforming the world into a place of acceptance and equality, nor are they a refuge of bitter gender supremacists who hate the male species and wish it dead? Could it be that this commune has nothing to do with racially segregated groups in prison?
posted by billysumday at 9:35 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]



Excuse me, but to me it's pretty clear that this "womyn" wasn't suffering from rampant discrimination or abuse before she joined the commune.

Weird. You got all that from one quote and a short description of her last job?
posted by theefixedstars at 9:40 AM on January 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


Could it be that this commune has nothing to do with racially segregated groups in prison?

I think you're on to something.

Are we going to have problems with straight people wanting to join our queer retirement homes? Because I'm cool with them, except I don't want them to take a place that some hot septuagenarian queer might take.
posted by theefixedstars at 9:45 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everyone practices exclusion to some degree or another. These women are just more vocal and explicit about it.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:46 AM on January 31, 2009


Excuse my self-promo but just wanted to link to a post about this from '07 for more info.
posted by serazin at 9:49 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everyone practices exclusion to some degree or another. These women are just more vocal and explicit about it.

Mmmmm...delicious equivalence! Everybody is crazy, right? And we're all a little gay? And, in our own way, we all chop wood in the lesbian enclaves of our hearts - to some degree or another. Let's hold hands and sing a song - some of us can even be more vocal about it, if we want, whatever, we're all the same!
posted by billysumday at 9:50 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


thefixedstars

I understand what you're saying, and I try to appreciate what it must have been like just a few decades ago (I'm relatively young, and even much younger coming-out wise). But I suppose it hurts me most when I hear people today with the same ideology, or at least respect for these people without realising - or caring - how much it excludes me and so many others. There are still groups who wouldn't welcome me because I sleep with men, and while I try not to get too upset about it, I find myself less inclined to engage in the queer community for fear or being rejected. Biphobia (and transphobia too as somebody else mentioned) is the legacy of these women's ideology. That's why I can't take them in as part of my history, because once I do so, the history ceases to welcome me.

I suppose I see them as selfish for other reasons. They could have been more active in society and helped out, but they left the problems for everybody to deal with. I know that they were only following their own happiness, but for lots of women, in fact the majority, leaving was never a serious option.

I think I've probably said enough in this thread, so I won't comment anymore. I'm sorry if I've offended anybody in the way I've put my views over, but I'm not sorry for holding those views, as that's really how I feel.
posted by Sova at 9:51 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


What if you're a lesbian and your idea of a fun evening out doesn't include godawful poetry and hippy-dippy talk about "Mercury in retrograde"?

For that matter, what if you're a lesbian and you don't necessarily think that "competition" is a cussword?
posted by jason's_planet at 9:53 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Excuse my self-promo but just wanted to link to a post about this from '07 for more info.

Aw hell, I searched but didn't turn this up. Those are some great links, and fit really well with the Times article, and a link to your post should have been in this one. I'm sorry to have missed it.
posted by Forktine at 9:53 AM on January 31, 2009


Jason's Planet: you'd be in the majority of lesbians?
posted by theefixedstars at 9:55 AM on January 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


Lenny Bruce: "I never met a dyke I could'nt like."
posted by Postroad at 9:55 AM on January 31, 2009


I think I've probably said enough in this thread, so I won't comment anymore. I'm sorry if I've offended anybody in the way I've put my views over, but I'm not sorry for holding those views, as that's really how I feel.

It's one of the more interesting parts of the history of the women's movement in general how the identity politics that liberated them also created new issues that exposed the limitations of that liberation. The Michigan Women's Festival fight is the latest (that I'm aware of) in a decades long history of dealing with the consequences of articulating and defending a non-patriarchal identity for women.

Don't be sorry for offending people, Sova. That's often how progress gets made.
posted by fatbird at 9:56 AM on January 31, 2009


It's okay, Billysumday. I checked on GoogleEarth, and their mile-high fence does indeed look like the contours of a giant puzzle piece.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:58 AM on January 31, 2009


Personally, I don't care if lesbians or white supremacists want to go off and live in the woods. The beautiful thing about people going off into the woods is that I don't have to care about them anymore. That's the whole point. Why are some people here angry about it?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:03 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jason's Planet: you'd be in the majority of lesbians?

My point exactly.

I got a strong whiff of group-think from this article. Of cliqueishness.

I believe that a lesbian who didn't fit the community culture wouldn't be very welcome or comfortable there.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:08 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a heterosexual man, I feel neither threatened by the existence of "womyns' lands" nor saddened by their abandonment. Obviously they served an important purpose for a number of women over the years. Perhaps the women who lived there simply couldn't be happy anywhere else. I would think that if you felt strongly enough to sequester yourself like that, you probably wouldn't be happy in normal, everyday society.

Did the women who lived on these communes have much of an influence on culture? Probably not in the direct sense, although I'm sure some women felt comforted by the very fact of their existence. In our hindsight view of late-20th century history, I think most of the 70s-era "back-to-the-land" movements wind up looking pretty misguided. Take the various "hippie" communes - how much social change were they affecting by turning tail and running away for the society they disagreed with so vehemently? They probably would have stood a better chance of influencing culture by embracing technology and becoming involved with efforts like The WELL and other early internet precursors.

That aside, I think that political lesbianism (as represented by the article that Sova linked to upthread), is absolute insanity, and I'd be offended if I actually had the time to be offended by such blind hatred.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:15 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had no idea there were Lesbian Supremacist hate groups. Every day I learn something. Often several things.

Are the Amish a hate group? What about Hasidic Jews who live in separatist enclaves in Brooklyn?

Not every group that wants to live apart from society is a hate group like the Aryan Nation.
posted by rtha at 10:16 AM on January 31, 2009


(running away for = running away from)
posted by Afroblanco at 10:16 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Personally, I don't care if lesbians or white supremacists want to go off and live in the woods. The beautiful thing about people going off into the woods is that I don't have to care about them anymore. That's the whole point. Why are some people here angry about it?

I can't say I understand all the anger, either. It absolutely baffles me that the reaction to a group of people separating themselves from society should be, "How dare they not want to hang out with the rest of us?" I mean, really? You're going to get upset that they've left, chosen to live elsewhere? What do you care?

Also, until they start counterfeiting money, robbing armored trucks, bombing public buildings and assassinating radio talk show hosts, the comparison to white separatist compounds is ridiculous. The white separatist compounds are usually driven by the philosophy that they're armed encampments preparing for/instigating the Great Race War, a la Turner Diaries. These women, on the other hand, are just ... living without men. The false equivalency would be hilarious if it weren't so insulting.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:17 AM on January 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


Having spent a summer on a lesbian commune, I can say that in my experience what that community had in common with extreme right wing or racist separatist communities was a shared commitment to doing what felt personally right instead of what may be arbitrary or sometimes oppressive social standards. That isn't to say that racist separatist communities are actually doing something 'right', but only that they share with lesbian separatists a willingness to make their own standards for right - outside of mainstream society. Another unfortunate parallel: in both types of communities most of the members tend to be white.

I can come up with a million critiques of lesbian-only-space including the reality that residents are mostly middle class white women and so in their effort to create a miniature just society free of oppression, they have often simply side-stepped addressing their own oppressive role in society. Also these communities' role in enforcing extremely binary and biologically deterministic ideas about gender and sexuality is an ongoing problem and controversy in feminist, transgender and queer communities.

On the other hand, though I know some of my friends would disagree with this, I certainly don't object to these communities. Think how few individuals we're actually talking about here! Put in perspective we have maybe a few hundred women who live away from men, mostly living in a fairly sustainable, low-environmental-impact kind of way, caring for eacho ther and themselves in a way that to my thinking certainly doesn't harm others.

I think reading a bit about the history of North American communes/intentional communities, including the late 60s/early 70s politicized communes which grew out of the anti-Vietnam war movement, as well having a bit of understanding and context about 70s radical feminism and separatism can help provide context and understanding for the rural lesbian separatist movement.

Thanks for the post forktine!
posted by serazin at 10:21 AM on January 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


I don't think I saw a single intelligent response to my post.

that's because all the smart people are segregating themselves on a secluded web site in alabama
posted by pyramid termite at 10:23 AM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


bombing public buildings
I agree on the other points, but (at risk of going all David Cross) identifying McVeigh's motives as white supremacist (because of the Turner Diaries) is like saying that the 9-11 hijackers "hated us for our freedom." His stated motive was retaliation for the FBI/ATF killings at Waco and Ruby Ridge.

posted by kid ichorous at 10:24 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]



that's because all the smart people are segregating themselves on a secluded web site in alabama


Shhh! Ixnay! Ixnay!
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on January 31, 2009


I agree on the other points, but (at risk of going all David Cross) identifying McVeigh's motives as white supremacist (because of the Turner Diaries) is like saying that the 9-11 hijackers "hated us for our freedom."

Ah. That wasn't a reference to McVeigh, but to any of the dozens of bombings attributed to white supremacist groups. McVeigh was more of a confused individual, a rube with a lot of unfocused anger that numerous groups had tried to channel for their own purposes.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:32 AM on January 31, 2009


That aside, I think that political lesbianism (as represented by the article that Sova linked to upthread), is absolute insanity, and I'd be offended if I actually had the time to be offended by such blind hatred.

It's hard to discern how much LYE's manifesto was modest-proposal style bombthrowing vs. a serious position to advance. It came at a time when the women's movement was discovering a lot of internal contradictions, and was being criticized from within for being white, middle-class movement by housewives who wanted careers. Taken at face value, it's a reductio ad absurdum of feminism, but it wasn't meant to be taken at face value. It was in part meant to challenge feminist orthodoxy in the same way that the women's movement was trying to challenge patriarchal orthodoxy.

That said, the notion that lesbianism is a choice is interesting in light of this article, about research showing great differences between what women think arouses them and what actually does it.
posted by fatbird at 10:34 AM on January 31, 2009


I believe that a lesbian who didn't fit the community culture wouldn't be very welcome or comfortable there.
I'm sure that's true, but I'm not sure why it's relevant. Lesbians who don't want to live in separatist communes don't have to live in separatist communes. The communes were created for those lesbians who *did* want to live in separatist communes. I'm sure the majority of lesbians never fell into that category, but so what?
posted by craichead at 10:34 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It absolutely baffles me that the reaction to a group of people separating themselves from society should be, "How dare they not want to hang out with the rest of us?"

Speaking at least for myself, that's not the reaction - it's more "How dare they declare my entire half of the human species to be so unredeemably violent and dagnerous that the only acceptable response is to run away and never ever want to deal with us ever again?"

"Men can't be trusted to refrain from oppression and rape" is no less demeaning, insulting, and dehumanizing than "Women are irrational, flighty creatures who cannot be trusted to hold authority."
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:35 AM on January 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


Speaking at least for myself, that's not the reaction - it's more "How dare they declare my entire half of the human species to be so unredeemably violent and dagnerous that the only acceptable response is to run away and never ever want to deal with us ever again?"

Which is probably the best solution for everyone, though, isn't it? White supremacist/separatists regard minorities as violent and dangerous, and they have absolutely no qualms with "dealing with them". If someone doesn't like my company, I don't grudge them choosing not to associate with me. Saves us both a lot of headaches.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:38 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The instant "what about teh menz" response equating separatist communes with Aryan Nation types says to me that this society hasn't grown past the point where Lesbian separatist communities might be useful.
posted by Coyote Crossing at 10:43 AM on January 31, 2009 [10 favorites]


"Men can't be trusted to refrain from oppression and rape" is no less demeaning, insulting, and dehumanizing than "Women are irrational, flighty creatures who cannot be trusted to hold authority."
Maybe not. But it is a lot less damaging. Lesbian separatists set up, what, a couple of hundred acres where their ideology prevailed for a few decades. Male supremacists set up an entire world where theirs did for thousands of years. I think there's a lot that is very silly and somewhat damaging about radical feminist ideology (which I mean in the philosophical sense, not in the sense of "extreme feminism"), but people's outrage at it seems to me to be disproportionate.
posted by craichead at 10:45 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of "Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes on Every Fish":

That evening in bed, Homer tries to snuggle up to Marge, who keeps
sliding away, until she falls onto the floor.

Homer: Marge, get back in bed.
Marge: [on the floor] No, I'm just fine right here.
Homer: What's wrong? I just want to snuggle.
Marge: I don't feel like snuggling.
Homer: What's that got to do with it?
-- Apparently, not much,
``Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes on Every Fish''

Marge explains that she doesn't want to snuggle with someone who doesn't
let her express herself. Homer explains that she express herself,
through her housework and cooking.


The separatists have decided sleep on the floor, rather than coming back to bed to snuggle with Homer.

And equating them with Aryan Brotherhood gangs? That *is* something Homer Simpson would say.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:50 AM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sure that's true, but I'm not sure why it's relevant. Lesbians who don't want to live in separatist communes don't have to live in separatist communes. The communes were created for those lesbians who *did* want to live in separatist communes. I'm sure the majority of lesbians never fell into that category, but so what?

It's relevant because a major theme of the article is that the communities are stagnating because they are failing to attract new people.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:51 AM on January 31, 2009


Wow. A huge thread about lesbian separatist communes, and not one reference to Wonder Woman. I'm disappointed.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:55 AM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Explain then how this isn't putting these women in the same category as white separatists.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:07 AM on January 31, 2009


"Personally I hope that the American wilderness is secretly full of queer communities. "

Haven't seen Deliverance, have you?

"Replace terms in this article with ones that confirm biases instead of deny them and it becomes a little more complex, doesn't it? These women are very clearly separatist. The only question is whether their extreme sexism is extreme enough to be considered "hate.""

That's fucking retarded. You replaced "leaves falling on the ground" with "any reports of gang-banging or theft" for chrissakes. Give me a paragraph from you and the ability to change any of your words and I can make you into a Neo-Nazi furry with one ball.
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on January 31, 2009


I never, ever, ever, ever equated the two. All I said was that TheOnlyCoolTim's post, above, should get a more articulate rebuttal than Pileon's "ridiculous" comment. Most of you responding gave exactly that, an articulate rebuttal... but to TheOnlyCoolTim's post, not to mine.

Does "reading" mean ignoring the part where you crossed out the nouns that referenced lesbians and put in racial hate groups instead? I think my favorite part was when you crossed out "gay and women's groups" and put in "civil right's groups" instead. As if the women went into the woods because of the women's and gay rights movement. If that's how you see it, then I understand the problem.
posted by theefixedstars at 11:19 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]



"Personally I hope that the American wilderness is secretly full of queer communities. "

Haven't seen Deliverance, have you?


Oh, right. Because any queer rural community out in the boonies would naturally be into sexually attacking any hapless urban intruders.
posted by theefixedstars at 11:22 AM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The White Supremacist groups that form in prisons have a realistic fear of racially motivated violence against them. I hope everyone's cool with their bigotry."

I don't think radical lesbian separatism is much of a risk in our prison system, but generally, yeah, I have much less of a problem with the defensive racism in prisons because I think that it is best addressed through reform of the prison system.
posted by klangklangston at 11:23 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to reiterate that part of the motivation for the whole commune idea was the sense that technological civilization was going to crash sooner or later, either by nuclear war or just general unsustainability. Trying to reform society as an "activist" was just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I remember the first time I heard of "survivalists" I thought WTF?! Holing up and preparing for the fall of civilization is a hippie thing, not a right-wing thing! It was like seeing John Birchers adopting tie-die and patchouli.
posted by gamera at 11:30 AM on January 31, 2009


"Oh, right. Because any queer rural community out in the boonies would naturally be into sexually attacking any hapless urban intruders."

And banjos!
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


And Burt Reynolds?

I'm sorry.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:39 AM on January 31, 2009


Burt Reynolds with a big bow and arrow. He's their nemesis.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2009


Explain then how this isn't putting these women in the same category as white separatists.

See the part where I say "Replace terms in this article with ones that confirm biases instead of deny them and it becomes a little more complex, doesn't it?"? Do you see that? Is your pathetic little illiterate mind capable of reading that sentence? Good. Now we're on the same page.

It was a demonstration that biases against supremacist groups and for gay groups may cloud the issue, and it deserved more discussion that Pileon calling someone ridiculous. I didn't compare the groups -- I compared people's reactions to descriptions of the groups.

If you can't see that when I VERY CLEARLY WROTE THAT IT WAS ABOUT COMPARING BIASES, then you are, frankly, so illiterate as to be unworth speaking to on here.
posted by jock@law at 12:01 PM on January 31, 2009


Jock, you can explain without getting shouty.

I didn't compare the groups -- I compared people's reactions to descriptions of the groups.

What? You quite specifically said, "You can't call them not a separatist hate group just because you don't hate them. ... These women are very clearly separatist. The only question is whether their extreme sexism is extreme enough to be considered "hate."" That sounds like an equivalency to me.

Maybe it was clumsily worded. But I don't see how that warrants getting all fighty and /b/tarded.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:06 PM on January 31, 2009


Speaking at least for myself, that's not the reaction - it's more "How dare they declare my entire half of the human species to be so unredeemably violent and dagnerous that the only acceptable response is to run away and never ever want to deal with us ever again?"

But why do you care what they think? They're not advocating the violent destruction of the patriarchy (well, not in a serious, workable way); they're not amassing guns in order to further their agenda. I mean, the Amish think that the world I live in is corrupt and ungodly, but since they're not actually doing anything to prevent me from living the way I want to, I don't feel insulted, belittled, or threatened by their existence. Nor do I see them as akin to a violent supremacist group like the Aryan Nation.
posted by rtha at 12:12 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Separatist movements, of any stripe, tend to suffer from both an superiority complex and its opposite at the same time. Pretty much any one of these groups which advocates separation (as much as it is possible to do so) from society believes They Have It Right (and the rest of us do not), so much so that they have to build a town dedicated to the idea. At the same time, the careful isolation either breeds or is the result of (not sure which one comes first) the fear of ideological contamination.

Looking down on outsiders while at the same time being afraid of any changes they could bring seems par for the course.

Take the wingnuts with the compound ranch in Texas or any other cult, really. This just happens to be villages (hamlets?) where it's all women. The particular flavor of the group is irrelevant, really. That separatist essays predicted this response means little, as the dogma of any other separatist group has the usual "and the outsiders will oppose us" clauses.

Seeking to involve the civil rights angle looks a lot like riding the coattails of those who did the thing you have to do if you want to change society, which is, you know, interact with it. Makes a great excuse.

I could buy a townful of battered women (although it seems statistically unlikely, self-selection can go only so far) so traumatized that they never want to see a man again. I could see the various internal wars over transwomen (go Michigan!), although I find it personally problematic. But, really, to bar women who are bisexual smacks of fear of contamination, which is a key element to any good cult retreating from the world.
posted by adipocere at 12:15 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


But, really, to bar women who are bisexual smacks of fear of contamination, which is a key element to any good cult retreating from the world.

Another key element of any cult is they usually don't give interviews with the NYT, and people usually aren't free to leave any time.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:20 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: Some people are so mired in their own self-impressed narcissism that it's hard to get through any other way.

Compare "You can't call them not a separatist hate group just because you don't hate them" with "You can't call them not a separatist hate group." I didn't say they were a separatist hate group; I said that Pileon's biases are insufficient for a conclusion that they weren't.
posted by jock@law at 12:27 PM on January 31, 2009


These women chose to go live together in communes without any men around. I don't see how that's a big problem. Nuns have been doing that for more than a thousand years. Would you go picket cloisters?

Cloistered nuns are also having trouble attracting new members.

Thanks for the post Forktine. I agree with allen.spaulding that the fashion section of the NYTimes is not where I'd be going for an in-depth look at pretty much anything but I remember the Off Our Backs article and I'm pretty interested in back to the land communities of any stripe. I'm not sure I understand what the harm is in separating yourself from a society you don't particularly want to be among? Unless you happen to read about groups like this in the paper (nuns, similarly) why does it matter what they believe in?
posted by jessamyn at 12:31 PM on January 31, 2009


I guess my "pathetic little illiterate mind" is just stuck on the disingenuous strike-through abuse and Godwinning in your lesson plan for Blazecock. Good thing you can set us narcissists straight.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:32 PM on January 31, 2009


I never called you that Marisa, but if you want to volunteer the label that's fine with me.
posted by jock@law at 12:36 PM on January 31, 2009


Ah, so I'm just in possession of a pathetic, illiterate little mind. Not a narcissist. Thank goodness!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:39 PM on January 31, 2009


"If you can't see that when I VERY CLEARLY WROTE THAT IT WAS ABOUT COMPARING BIASES, then you are, frankly, so illiterate as to be unworth speaking to on here."

No, if you're gonna drop the "illiterate" bullshit, you have to be bringing the logic. Instead, you posted a ham-handed attempt to link these groups with separatists as if the separation itself was what was odious. Since that's all that they have in common, all the fleck and spittle about "BIASES" is just apoplectic idiocy.

So, unless you can take the time to say something intelligent, lose the fucking tone, ace.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2009


I really don't see where all the hate is coming from. Sure, it seems rather outdated to present-day notions of sexuality and gender, but I cannot, for the life of me, see what's wrong with lesbian separatist communities. In reading the article the only thing that offended me was the reference to Mercury in retrograde affecting their ability to communicate and the talking to a dead deer, but separatist communities? Nothing to see here. I can't see why some guys are getting all bent out of shape about this...
posted by ob at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2009


but I remember the Off Our Backs article

That article poses a really interesting ethical issue, actually, that I've been running into more often lately as back issues of all kinds migrate online. From the intro, the author transcribed a group discussion, and gave the participants a chance to read and correct her transcription, and they gave her permission to publish it. However, they did so conditionally:

At our final session I read the notes aloud and we made changes and corrections. The group asked that the transcript stay in the lesbian community.

They were fine with their words going into a radical feminist journal with a combined readership probably in the hundreds -- a "safe space," in other words. Had someone told them, "Hey, in 15 years someone will scan this article and put it up on the internet to be seen by any of the many hundreds of million people with internet access," would they have been ok with the publication?

I VERY CLEARLY WROTE THAT IT WAS ABOUT COMPARING BIASES

Uh, no. That may be what you meant, but it's not what you wrote.
posted by Forktine at 12:59 PM on January 31, 2009


Cloistered nuns are also having trouble attracting new members.

I'd consider joining a monastery if I could find one suitable for people of my faith. There don't seem to be too many feminist pagan nuns around, though.

I love to read about radical back-to-the-land communities of all kinds. I was once part of a group that tried to start one, in fact, but in the end, it failed with flying colors. I admire and respect any group that can actually pull it off.

I hope these lesbian lands are able to remain viable somehow. I definitely understand why they are important. Part of me would love to join them, but I'm not lesbian-identified, and I'm far too attached to the men in my life to seriously consider it.

Thanks so much for this post, Forktine (and thanks, serazin, for the link to the archived post as well). Very much appreciated!
posted by velvet winter at 1:15 PM on January 31, 2009


Why is nobody angry about the artists' colonies? I, for one, find this sort of thing despicable.
posted by taz at 1:26 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Having spent a summer on a lesbian commune, I can say that in my experience what that community had in common with extreme right wing or racist separatist communities was a shared commitment to doing what felt personally right instead of what may be arbitrary or sometimes oppressive social standards.

I think this is a rewarding commonality, because it places both within the experimental tradition of Utopian communities. It was centuries if not very long ago that the transcendentalists tried their own hand at this, and comparing Alapine to that is at least as relevant as comparing it to race separatism. Along these lines:

I didn't compare the groups -- I compared people's reactions to descriptions of the groups.

Jock, I think you could safely argue that modern America reacts to the entire tradition. Over any pocket not lit by our cultural traffic we just inscribe hic monstra sunt. I wonder if we were always this monocultural.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:29 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


aw man, this article made me cry.

i've written about this back when MeFi discussed lesbian separatism before, and i've known about the impending demise of womyn's land since i left there more than ten years ago. but still. until i read this, i hadn't heard that Brenda Henson (Camp Sister Spirit) had died. which made me cry for Wanda. they were truly an amazing pair, and i learned much from them.

i am bisexual. but back in the early 90s, i thought i was a lesbian, and when Brenda and Wanda put out the call back in 1993 to our young radical Women's Action Coalition in Chicago, when we heard that they were under siege from neighboring social conservatives who shot at them, intimidated them with dead animals (pasting feminine napkins on a dead bitch and throwing it onto your mailbox--yeah), and threw anti-cavalry spikes and homemade bombs into the driveway... i was willing to go down to the South for the first time and "hold the line", so to speak. it was truly an experience, the kind that scared the crap out of me. there's nothing like hearing men shooting guns around the property, calling the sheriff and hearing him tell you over the phone that "I'm just down the road apiece, and I don't hear no shootin'" and knowing that he's friendly with the very same people who've threatened to "burn those witches out" to teach you a thing or two about hatred. i felt like i got just a whiff of what Mississippi in 1960 might have been like for black people. i felt for the first time in my life that i understood true fear, because that night when they were shooting? i could only think of getting my shoes on, because i truly thought we were going to have to run for our lives through the woods, with men after us who knew how to hunt. and i surely did not know how to escape being prey. i had dared certain people by simply being there, being alive. they didn't know my name, and they didn't care, and i was going to die. the incredible unfairness of it all, that sense of "my god, these people want me to be terrified" left me just a little bit scarred.

and i am 41 years old. this was 1994. Janet Reno had written CSS a letter saying, so sorry, but there's nothing we can do.

it all died down. the freaks got over it. mainly through very careful diplomacy and the Hensons doing a bang-up job of helping the poor community thereabouts. one of the times i was threatened there, at the gate, was when i was taking a box of food out to the road for a family in need.

i got over separatism too. interestingly, it was the sense of self, the sense of personal competence i learned at womyn's land, that made it possible for me to rejoin the society at large. when i joined an Earth First! blockade up in the North Woods in 1996--another very intense experience involving angry loggers and 20-below temps--i learned around nightly campfires that men really weren't my enemy and that yes i could even get infatuated with one. lesbian separatism made it possible for me to love men again, i think. paradoxes abound in my life, i guess.

They're not, I'd argue, all that influential.

well, you can tell that to the women i saw who came to CSS in the middle of the night from across the state, fleeing abusive marriages or going there because it was the only place they felt they would be safe. it was weird to see, of course, because the only reason these women knew of CSS was because of the news reports about the intimidation. they would see on the news the town meetings where the community tried to figure out a way to get rid of the "lesbuns", and then they would drive there to be protected from The Southern Way of Life. (and by that, i'm referring to the "Southern Way of Life" that these townsfolk had said was "ending" because of the mere existence of a tiny bunch of short-haired women who didn't want to fuck men.)

Excuse me, but to me it's pretty clear that this "womyn" wasn't suffering from rampant discrimination or abuse before she joined the commune.

oh now dude, you're really ticking me off. i have spent a lot of weeks listening to these women tell their tales. i once spent an evening in Georgia at a separatist writers retreat, and Rand Hall taught me how to properly cut a melon. she wouldn't probably dignify your comment with more than a laugh at your ignorance. could you imagine being arrested for wearing men's clothes? for dancing with a person of the same sex? being afraid to be out because you would lose your children? never mind having to create your own job (like, say, editing a gay mag) because no one will hire a woman who looks like you. in Hattiesburg in that time, in the early 1990s, the gay bar had matchbooks on the tables with bail bondsmen's phone numbers on them, because the place got *raided* regularly. the one thing i learned being there is that though many of these women might have come for middle class backgrounds (not Brenda and Wanda Henson, mind you, nor their children), they were dirt poor. this was often in part because of their sexuality.

What if you're a lesbian and your idea of a fun evening out doesn't include godawful poetry and hippy-dippy talk about "Mercury in retrograde"?
For that matter, what if you're a lesbian and you don't necessarily think that "competition" is a cussword?


well, yeah. it's a narrow society. in many ways, they *are* pagan nuns. and they can be very stodgy and they think younger dykes are suckers of the patriarchy and that we just don't get it. oh well, you know. their rejection of your manhood can hardly hurt you, now, can it?

Wanda Henson has a son, BTW, and he lived on the land for a time when he was in his late teens/early 20s. the thing about the grandson mentioned in the article *was a joke* reflecting their own understanding of the impossibility of remaining truly separatist *all the time*. they do, after all, have to employ men sometimes to dig wells, or things like that. the point is that they make an effort to uplift women by employing *them* whenever remotely possible. where are, after all, the women well-diggers? what's wrong with a little discrimination when it's meant to help someone who's traveling the harder road? (all kinds of minorities, after all, have been known to prefer giving their business to those like themselves. uplift from within the community, right?)

female separatism has its place, as any woman who's ever gone on a wilderness trip or vacation with only women can attest. we live in a world, still, where we follow silly gender roles that hinder us from learning all kinds of skills that we otherwise might take up. it might seem ridiculous to me now, but it wasn't until i went to womyn's land that i learned to use a power drill and a machete and a power-washer and how to hang drywall or drive a tractor. (or how to shoot a gun, unfortunate though the circumstances were.) before that time, it had been all too easy for me to relegate those tasks to any nearby man, and he was all too willing to do it without teaching me how, since that would be tedious and annoying.

i was sad for a long time, when i had to leave womyn's land behind. i felt rejected and a little angry that because i was bi, i was now a sort of pariah, or just a dupe. i never went back, because i didn't want to deal with that possible rejection (and therefore i can't honestly say that i would have been outright rejected, but i'd heard the talk from within so i wasn't willing to feel gossiped about).

but those womyn taught me some incredible life lessons, and there's no way in hell i would condemn separatism itself for its limitations or the women who've stayed there in its warm embrace. they have their reasons for being there, and i can't judge them for refusing the world at large. there are some very good reasons why that way of life is dying out, and those reasons don't make me sad. but when a generation of women who *did* fight the good fight pass on, and their efforts and creation go with them, i can mourn. they tried to make little pockets where the world was truly *different*, as all communities like them do. that has a value all its own.
posted by RedEmma at 1:35 PM on January 31, 2009 [83 favorites]


I am angry about artists' colonies! I am angry that I am not artistic enough to join one!

We're actually thinking about a separatist commune. It will have goats and a cow or two and chickens and be in the country (but with easy access to the restaurant cuisine of my choice, of course!). We will have a small brewpub, and serve cheese made from our goat and cow milk.

The only people who won't be allowed are assholes. [TOTALLY ASSHOLE-IST]

/fantasy
posted by rtha at 1:36 PM on January 31, 2009


But, really, to bar women who are bisexual smacks of fear of contamination, which is a key element to any good cult retreating from the world.

there is an element, within the older lesbian community, that does attach a sort of spiritual contamination to "male energy". it's true. but it's not so much a "fear of contamination" as it is an effort to be utterly female, without any sense of dependence on men. it is a desire to uplift female energy, not to keep males down. a counter-reaction, if you will. there is so much of the world dominated by male needs and male desires--this is an effort to eliminate that. call it misguided, but i must confess that it can be very empowering to a woman who feels chronically disempowered in society at large.
posted by RedEmma at 1:42 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are there gay male separatist communities?

Probably not, but if there were they would be SO AWESOME (nsfw?)
posted by nanojath at 1:55 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is a good thing that such communes are dying out.

I concede that, at their time of formation, they may well have served a legitimate need and I'm glad that these women had a place where they could feel safe. They were fleeing a world that was hostile towards them for reasons beyond their control. Today, these communes they founded are struggling to attract new residents, so they're fading away. Again, this is a good thing. This means that they (insofar as one can ascribe a "they" to a population as large and diverse as American lesbians) are winning.

The ultimate form of "acceptance" is indifference. I'm aware that, as a heterosexual male, I might have some some difficulty fully grasping what its like to feel persecuted for your sexuality, for urges that you have whether you want them or not. I'm a man who prefers tall women, who prefers redheads. I've never been beaten up for liking tall redheads. I've never lost a job for liking tall redheads. I've never had my fitness as a parent or the fate of my immortal soul publicly questioned because I prefer tall redheads. Other than occasional pointless pining after Cate Blanchett, my sexuality has had zero impact on the rest of my life and has sweet fuck-all to do with the identity I project to most people I encounter.

And the reason for all of this? No one gives a shit that I prefer tall redheads. It doesn't mean anything to anyone, aside from the woman that's sharing my bed. I've never been called a red-lover. I've never been called, I dunno, talloccentric. No one gives a good goddamn who I prefer fucking because it has absolutely to do with their day-to-day lives. There was never a cultural backlash against my kind, driving us to form communes where we watch reruns of That 70's Show from before the tragic day when Laura Prepon bleached her hair. It just doesn't factor. We've never marched for anything.

I absolutely believe that, within my lifetime, the day will come when homosexuality enjoys the same benign indifference. I'm looking forward to it, really - the day when everyone's sexual preferences are just another incidental detail about them. Just like my preferences, the homosexuality or lack thereof in anyone else has zero impact on the lives of those who are not among their intimate partners.

Our country is slowly, slowly, slowly waking up to this fact. I know we're not there yet, but we're on our way. Ellen DeGeneres comes on television every weekday and entertains people from the whole of the sexual spectrum - she's no longer the "lesbian comedienne" of the nineties, she's the "talk-show host" of the 21st century. No one cares about who she's sleeping with anymore, we just hope she stays funny. Every month, DC comics, via their Wildstorm imprint, publishes the adventures of gay analogs of Batman and Superman - but they're not "gay stories" - they're adventure stories featuring characters who happen to be gay. There's hundreds of little examples like this, little changes in the culture that tell me integration is on its way, and will arrive sooner than we think.

I feel for these women, but the culture they're retreating from is no longer trying to keep them out. They aren't getting new residents because potential members are getting along just fine in "man's world," thank you very much. I know we've a long way to go, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say we're well past the point when women need to call themselves "womyn" and go hide in the damn woods.

To the women of St. Augustine, I say that their struggle suffering was ugly and unjust. If these experiences keep them on their commune for the rest of their lives, it's understandable. However, I would encourage them to come out and give the 21st Century a try. The world they're hiding from is not the world they fled. Today, we're all just a little too busy to worry much about who's sharing whose bed.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:55 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


A bunch of folks get together, and decide they want to be left alone.

Why are people upset again?

Oh, that's right. Women are supposed to always be available to men.

Thinking like that, I'm sure we'll have more communes soon enough.
posted by yeloson at 2:23 PM on January 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


As a man, it saddens me that things got to the point where I can't give them each a hug and say I'm sorry and promise to do better. But I'm glad they found some peace. I hope that society is coming to a place where no one needs to be alone to feel safe.

To the people calling them Nazis: you might mean well by your analogies, but come on. They're not calling for the extermination of men, banding together and lynching anyone, or working systematically to disenfranchise and destroy all of dudedom. I wouldn't want to listen to your angry crap in my home either. I don't blame them for wanting some peace and quiet in a loving environment.
posted by dosterm at 2:25 PM on January 31, 2009


*favorites RedEmma's comment a million times*

We're about the same age, RedEmma, and although I didn't go the CSS when the call went out, my friends and I all talked about it, and it sounds like we were having very similar kinds of conversations and thoughts about lesbian separatism.

I didn't join an actual separatist community, but I did live in Northampton, MA for a few years in the late 80s/early 90s, and it was incredibly easy there to only ever hang out with other dykes. It was so easy that it was a good six months after I'd moved there that it occurred to me that I didn't have any guy friends. I knew guys, from work, but we weren't hang-out-after-work buddies. All of my non-work time was spent in the company of other dykes. After the experiences I'd had in college, it was quite restful.

I hadn't heard about Brenda, either. For her:

.
posted by rtha at 2:31 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


“In 20 to 25 years, we could be extinct"

This is what you call a dead end in evolution!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:31 PM on January 31, 2009


I stand by my comparison.
The commune discussed in the NYT article engages in willful prejudice against straight women, women who are bi or some other variation of queer that's not pure enough, men, and transexuals.

As to the distinction between "supremacist hate group" and "separatist," examples of blatant hateful and supremacist thought have been kindly provided:

"Men are violent."
(If it's fine to spout this because of statistical evidence, it's fine for the Klan to rant about how Blacks are violent.)
"Women, when they’re together, tend to be more cooperative. They don’t look for one to succeed and all the others to fail."

That aside, I think separatism based on socially constructed identities carries prejudice inherently - that those people can't get along with my people, that those people are all going to be violent, misogynistic, racist, whatever, that my people will behave better. The membership requirements if I co-founded a hippie commune would select for people who will get along, build consensus, pull their weight, and avoid drama so that the thing doesn't fall apart too quick, rather than caring about someone's race, genitals, genitals they like to play with, political affiliation, or if they're a talking dog.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:39 PM on January 31, 2009


It's been a while since I read it, but this really reminded me of the Ellen Jamesians in The World According To Garp.
posted by inigo2 at 2:48 PM on January 31, 2009


then you are, frankly, so illiterate as to be unworth speaking to on here.

Hey now. No need for the vitriol. I've actually seen Klang read IRL, and he doesn't move his lips or move his finger along underneath the words as he reads or anything.

Also, you have three prepositions at the end of the above-quoted sentence fragment.
posted by Coyote Crossing at 2:53 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The difference, Tim, is that these women aren't waiting for the great Gender War, or trying to start one. They don't seek to overthrow the US government. They're not stockpiling weapons in preparation for the final showdown between X and Y. They're not engaging in counerfeiting, extortion, assault, destruction of property, harrassment, or murder. They're not trying to cleanse American of all but the most resolutely lesbian.

In other words, the only thing they have in common with the Klan (and seriously, WTF?) is living separately from those with whom they feel they cannot live. Which would put anyone who chooses to live separately from anyone else on par with the Klan.

One could go into how there's also a biiiiig difference between a minority choosing to separate itself from the majority's world due to what it sees as irreconcilable differences, and a majority deciding the country isn't quite purely dominated enough by them.

But ultimately, it just seems kind of busybody to blow a gasket over a group of people choosing to not hang out with the rest of us.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:53 PM on January 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


Tim: I stand by my comparison.

I'll grant you that, superficially, your comparison seems apt. What you're missing, though, is a vast amount of context and history that we're unable to provide here.

The nub of it is this, though: there's a difference between a community that sees itself as superior, and a community that refuses to see itself as inferior, even if their pronouncements sound alike.
posted by fatbird at 3:08 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Which would put anyone who chooses to live separately from anyone else on par with the Klan.

This.

It's interesting that TheOnlyCoolTim (see how he creates a separatist space with his very user name? Number of people in group: One!) is okay with creating a separatist commune based on characteristics he finds acceptable, but is not okay with other people forming separatist communes based on characteristics they find acceptable.

What if I'm a fighty drama queen who hates to work?* I guess I don't get to be in Tim's commune; I'd guess that the people in that commune think they're better than me. Maybe they even spend time around the kitchen table talking shit about how awful lazy people are after all, "separatism based on socially constructed identities carries prejudice inherently - that those people can't get along with my people, that those people are all going to be violent, misogynistic, racist, whatever, that my people will behave better. "

Tim's prejudice is okay. The kind exhibited by the women at lesbian separatist communes is not. Is that correct?

*I'm opening a door here, I know. I just hope whoever walks through it makes me laugh.
posted by rtha at 3:14 PM on January 31, 2009


The difference, Tim, is that these women aren't waiting for the great Gender War, or trying to start one. They don't seek to overthrow the US government. They're not stockpiling weapons in preparation for the final showdown between X and Y. They're not engaging in counerfeiting, extortion, assault, destruction of property, harrassment, or murder. They're not trying to cleanse American of all but the most resolutely lesbian.

You can be a bigot without being genocidal.
posted by brundlefly at 3:21 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can be a bigot without being genocidal.

Again: there's a huge difference between a minority choosing to separate itself from the majority's world due to what it sees as irreconcilable differences, and a majority deciding the country isn't quite purely dominated enough by them.

Group of lesbians establish commune =/= KKK wants a white America.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:24 PM on January 31, 2009


You can be a bigot without being genocidal.

Removing yourself to a safe place where you can't be oppressed by keeping the oppressors out is not bigotry.
posted by fatbird at 3:27 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


“To me, this is the real world,” she said. “And it’s a very peaceful world. I don’t hear anything except the leaves falling. I get up in the morning, I go out on my front deck and I dance and I say, ‘It’s another glorious day on the mountain.’ Men are violent. The minute a man walks in the dynamics change immediately, so I choose not to be around those dynamics.”

Sorry, but as a man, I read that and think "Fuck you, lady." I have no problem with the idea of women starting lesbian communes. Whatever floats their boat. I too -- sometimes, rarely -- think it'd be great to live only with people like me. And, frankly, they can say whatever they want about men as well. That's their right. It doesn't change the fact that I believe they're bigots.
posted by brundlefly at 3:32 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


To be clear, I'm talking about the sentiment in that quote. I don't know enough to draw conclusions about anyone other than that particular speaker.
posted by brundlefly at 3:35 PM on January 31, 2009


Sorry, but as a man, I read that and think "Fuck you, lady."

Not knowing what you said, you said it.
posted by fatbird at 3:36 PM on January 31, 2009 [11 favorites]


Sorry, but as a man, I read that and think "Fuck you, lady."
And I think that she would respond by suggesting that you just proved her point. She hasn't hurt you in any way, and yet your first response is violent, sexualized language. Is your idea that she would consent to the fucking, or is that rape metaphor? Has it ever even occurred to you that "fuck you" is sexually violent language? Can you see why she wouldn't want to live in a world where someone who disagreed with her casually resorted to that kind of language?
posted by craichead at 3:36 PM on January 31, 2009 [15 favorites]


craichead Language is not violent. Words never broke any bones, you fuckwit.
posted by Skeptic at 3:39 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, please. What's preferable? How about this: "Lady, you're a jerk. As you view me as some sort of brutal inferior to yourself, I want nothing to do with you."

Is that ok? Or would you rather pick apart my words than address the clear bigotry of her statement?
posted by brundlefly at 3:40 PM on January 31, 2009


Can we disagree with each other without the LiveJournal name-calling?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:42 PM on January 31, 2009


I stand by my comparison.

that's a lot like standing by your rubber love doll, isn't it? - how outraged you are that someone might find american society less than fulfilling, that they might want a space of their own to just be what they want to be

but that's the ultimate sin in our times - to be a person who just wants to be left the hell alone and have people around them mind their own damn business

isn't it interesting how so many people on the right and the left just find that utterly unacceptable these days?

yeah, tell them to love it or leave it and then complain when they leave it and try to drag them back ... sheesh

i've met womyn like this in the 70s and 80s - well, there were actually places that debated whether boy babies might be allowed in such communities and it was a very serious thing - i'm reminded of the big controversy when zusanna budapest insisted on having a womyn only ritual at the pan pagan festival at lake holiday in 1980, but at the end of the day, it wasn't that big a deal - the men went on, and found their loves and had children by them and all that good stuff and the lesbian womyn all got to do what they wanted to, too

so, why do you give a shit? - are you going to stand by your rubbery comparison and tell me that day to day, as you go to work and come home and do whatever you do, that it just fries your damned balls that somewhere there are some lesbians out in loose gravel, alabama who would absolutely refuse to hang around you and that your life is somehow unbearable knowing that?

free clue - there are about 3 billion women on this planet who don't know you and want nothing to do with you - as long as there's a few who might want you, what's your problem?

they don't know you from adam and they don't owe you jack, but when they actually dare to live out that truth, you're offended by it?

oh, the fragility of the overinflated male ego ....
posted by pyramid termite at 3:43 PM on January 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


Language is not violent.
Sure it is. Words convey meaning. All anyone here has from the lesbian separatists is their words, and yet people are pissed off at them. There are reasons that so many insults in English have to do with sex and convey implications of sexual violence. You can pretend that's just a coincidence, but I'm very far from a lesbian separatist, and I don't buy that.
"Lady, you're a jerk. As you view me as some sort of brutal inferior to yourself, I want nothing to do with you."
The irony, of course, is that this is all that she wants. She wants nothing to do with you. She doesn't care what you think about her. You're the one who can't let it go.
posted by craichead at 3:49 PM on January 31, 2009 [9 favorites]


Language is not violent. Words never broke any bones, you fuckwit.

If words contain no violence, then why did you call craichead a fuckwit? Empty verbiage? Had some extra letters you had to use up?
posted by fatbird at 3:50 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


The difference, Tim, is that these women aren't waiting for the great Gender War, or trying to start one. They don't seek to overthrow the US government. They're not stockpiling weapons in preparation for the final showdown between X and Y. They're not engaging in counerfeiting, extortion, assault, destruction of property, harrassment, or murder. They're not trying to cleanse American of all but the most resolutely lesbian.

They're just trying to maintain the purity of a smaller piece of land. I'm not trying to claim that they are as violent or harmful as many White supremacists and separatists, just that they share ideologies of prejudice. Hell, there's enough White separatists who will claim they're not racist, not violent, and just want to live by themselves with their own kind, and in general that the races should be segregated (they sometimes call it "racialist".) I bet some of them are even sincere. I still don't approve and I still say they're racist.

I probably disagree with a lot of people who'll argue about this on Metafilter in that I don't accept power disparities, oppression, and fear as excuses or mitigating factors for prejudice and bigotry. Explanations, yes, but explanations are not justifications.

Tim's prejudice is okay. The kind exhibited by the women at lesbian separatist communes is not. Is that correct?


Examine the word prejudice. Pre-judging. If a hippie commune rejects or kicks out people it believes based on relevant information (say an interview process or a probationary period) will not pull their weight or observes not pulling their weight, that's judgment, not pre-judgment. Prejudice would be if the hippie commune decided to assume that Blacks are too lazy to pull their weight or that gays are going to be a bunch of drama queens.

The nub of it is this, though: there's a difference between a community that sees itself as superior, and a community that refuses to see itself as inferior, even if their pronouncements sound alike.

Please explain the difference more. I can't see how statements like "women are more cooperative" and "men are violent" mean anything but that the community views itself as superior to men because it is more cooperative and less violent, which I see as prejudiced, rather than viewing itself as superior to the violent and uncooperative, which is a great thing to shoot for.

I also don't see how a community refusing to see itself as inferior requires fucking off into an exclusionary wilderness. They could just, you know, not see themselves as inferior. I guess you could argue that by remaining in society they let society place themselves in an inferior position by remaining available as targets for bigotry and discrimination. If that argument works, though, then on the other hand by going off into the woods they're letting society enforce a different sort of inferior position as they accept the drawbacks such as lack of jobs and access to services.

It's funny how people think I'm pissed off, or that I should approve of what I see as prejudice because it doesn't piss me off too much, or something like that. Also funny how everyone is focusing on "Oh you men are so defensive." I've known all about womyn-type separatists for years, and knew they tended towards homosexuality (there's no men around, obviously) - what was novel to me and caused me to make my first comment was the strict lesbian exclusivity that I hadn't heard of before.

No more long responses probably for tonight...
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:56 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Barricading yourself off in a commune somewhere with no male interaction is not fighting the good fight, it's capitulation and retreat.

Hell, maybe they just didn't like anybody else. I live alone with a formerly stray cat, and sometimes I wish the cat didn't even live here.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:00 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it has been said yet, but I want to just say that perhaps these womyn have an approach not preferable for most of society. However, I think there is probably value in having places like that. It's not that everyone should do it, but just knowing there is a place you can go with all like minded womyn with similar experiences could be empowering.

I don't know much about their beliefs, like the issues with male infants, but the idea of establishing a community of like minded people you can feel safe and comfortable with is not new. It seems one of the functions is to allow these people to know they're not alone, just like a national conference for "little people" or other organizations of marginalized or minority groups.

AND there was not internet back then. We may be taking for granted our ability to find people around the world we can relate to in a specific way.
posted by metricfan at 4:01 PM on January 31, 2009


Wait a second - are people writing "womyn" seriously or facetiously?
posted by billysumday at 4:02 PM on January 31, 2009


I decided to write womyn when referring to those specific women who call themselves that. If that is what they call themselves, I don't mind deferring to them when talking about them.

I could also be misguided, and no one is using the term womyn. If that's true, sorry. I only intended to be respectful.
posted by metricfan at 4:09 PM on January 31, 2009


"These days, she and other members worry about the future of Alapine, which is one of about 100 below-the-radar lesbian communities in North America, known as womyn’s lands (their preferred spelling), whose guiding philosophies date from a mostly bygone era." - from the linked article
posted by metricfan at 4:12 PM on January 31, 2009


I find using "womyn" absurdly pointless and lame, like "Micro$oft" or "Amerikkka," but if that's the signified they're going to use for their identities, groups, or ideologies, I'm not going to find some convoluted way to refer to the same idea.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:14 PM on January 31, 2009


I also don't see how a community refusing to see itself as inferior requires fucking off into an exclusionary wilderness. They could just, you know, not see themselves as inferior. I guess you could argue that by remaining in society they let society place themselves in an inferior position by remaining available as targets for bigotry and discrimination. If that argument works, though, then on the other hand by going off into the woods they're letting society enforce a different sort of inferior position as they accept the drawbacks such as lack of jobs and access to services.

There's obviously tradeoffs to this extreme end of separatism, and you identify them. These women accept those tradeoffs in order to have the haven they desire. Most women don't, but some do, and feel the tradeoff was worth it. Reread redemma's post again to understand.

They could just, you know, not see themselves as inferior.

Think on the logic of someone raised in society that oppresses them. Think of the pervasive degradation, the continual enforcement of systemic sexism, and the total atmosphere of being a second class citizen. Then ask yourself how plausible it is that someone could simply "not see themselves as inferior" while continuing to immerse themselves in the society that made them feel that way in the first place.

Please explain the difference more. I can't see how statements like "women are more cooperative" and "men are violent" mean anything but that the community views itself as superior to men because it is more cooperative and less violent, which I see as prejudiced, rather than viewing itself as superior to the violent and uncooperative, which is a great thing to shoot for.

You're cherrypicking some quotes from an article that almost certainly cherrypicked some good lines from the reporter's notes. Undoubtedly there are some separatists who do think they're superior to men and society at large, or at least that they've found a better way to live than the rest. Every group has a few embarrassing members. But the history of lesbian separatists clearly shows that it's not about lesbians considering themselves superior, it's about them finding a safe haven from a society in which they felt oppressed. That comes with exclusionary language that you're unable to understand except in terms of prejudice and bigotry, but that's about ignorance on your part of the history here.
posted by fatbird at 4:14 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've been reading over this thread and at the end of the day, I'm not a big fan of sepratism or utopianism on general principles, but at the end of the day, it's a free country, as they say. And it's ultimately no skin of my ass, as they also say.

I do have to say That I've found the resulting conversation kind of disheartening.

If you can't understand why lesbians back in the 1960's might have felt like they had to separate from mainstream society to feel safe, then you're being a bit obtuse.

If you can't understand why a statement like "Men are violent," (or that editorial sova linked) might make someone angry or upset, then you're being a bit obtuse.

Maybe we should actually try and communicate here, rather than just say "I know-you-are-but-what-am-I?" Maybe?

My own opinion, FWIW, is that in the world is ever-shrinking and people learning to get along with eachother is ever more important. Also, while American society is by no means anywhere near homophobia-free, things have definitely changed for the better over the past few decades, and that's largely due to an increased presence of openly gay people in society challenging stereotypes. As a straight guy, I can tell you that the most widely held sterotype of lesbians in that of the 'man-hater.' Gay women being out in society, interacting with everyone else, combats that stereotype effectively. Gay women living on isolate communes saying "Men are violent,' not so much. Melissa Etheridge singing "So Mary climb in," on her duet with Springsteen on 'Thunder Road' probably have more positive cultural impact than all the all the womyn's-only festivals in the world, just to make an example.
posted by jonmc at 4:23 PM on January 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


I also don't see how a community refusing to see itself as inferior requires fucking off into an exclusionary wilderness.

And so what if they do? I'm trying hard to understand what your issue here is. If you think their opinion of men is overly generalizing and unfair, alright, that's one thing. But why take issue with them separating from people they don't want to be around? Shall we go assimilate the Amish next?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:24 PM on January 31, 2009


If you can't understand why a statement like "Men are violent," (or that editorial sova linked) might make someone angry or upset, then you're being a bit obtuse.

I can understand why those statements offend some men, but as a man myself, I'm willing to cut them some slack given all they've been through, just like I wasn't offended when Rev. Lowery brought race into the end of his prayer at the inauguration. I'm happy to give some latitude to those who've suffered (and still suffer), at least insofar as I don't demand that they carefully qualify every statement to avoid over-generalizing. To do otherwise is to demand that we end racism by just, you know, not being racist; end sexism by just not being sexist anymore. It's a lot more complicated than that.
posted by fatbird at 4:31 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


fatbird If words contain no violence, then why did you call craichead a fuckwit? Empty verbiage? Had some extra letters you had to use up?

Making a point. Some people are clearly lacking a sense of humour. And yes, words convey a meaning. So does a punch in the face. The difference is called "freedom of speech". If some people are too thin-skinned to live with that, then maybe it's true they can't live in open society. But it's their fault, not that of us naughty males (and if they believe that women, lesbian or straight, can't be rude to each other...they're in for a BIG disappointment).
posted by Skeptic at 4:35 PM on January 31, 2009


Also the "women are more cooperative" line also made my day. In my experience, whoever says that is an alpha-female (or alpha-male!) who's actually thinking "easier to boss around". Dominant people of either sex hate competition.
posted by Skeptic at 4:42 PM on January 31, 2009


The irony of talking about men's objections to women-only space in a post about women-only space is just....yeah.

I've had exactly these conversations, from about 1985-1990. Almost word-for-word.

So weird.
posted by rtha at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


Some people are clearly lacking a sense of humour.
Are you seriously pulling out the humorless feminist canard? No points for originality there!
The difference is called "freedom of speech". If some people are too thin-skinned to live with that, then maybe it's true they can't live in open society. But it's their fault, not that of us naughty males (and if they believe that women, lesbian or straight, can't be rude to each other...they're in for a BIG disappointment).
Wow. That's a heavy load of irony, considering that this debate was started by thin-skinned men who were outraged that a woman said that men are violent. Is free speech a special male thing? Are women the only ones who need to grow thick skins?
posted by craichead at 4:47 PM on January 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


Thank you fatbird.

It is not unique to find your life choices superior to others. I think my choice to move away from my hometown is superior than my friend who will never leave our hometown. The very act of disapproving of these womyn's choices shows you feel your choices are superior. I'm not saying this discussion is unwarranted or unhealthy, but you should be honest with yourself and your judgments. Don't discredit their choices just because they find their choices to be superior. Duh! Ideally we all try to make the choice we find superior. However, many women have been/still are unable to make choices for themselves (hence pro-choice), which is what I was saying above about these womyn's lands being empowering in some ways. I think these women feel lucky/empowered to have had the opportunity to make that choice.

If that argument works, though, then on the other hand by going off into the woods they're letting society enforce a different sort of inferior position as they accept the drawbacks such as lack of jobs and access to services.

The one womyn said she decided to retire on the womyn's land, so the jobs thing is not necessarily an issue.

AND to assume the fact they live in the wilderness means they were forced there. I think these women LOVE nature and the scenery. Here is the context to the men are violent comment:

“And it’s a very peaceful world. I don’t hear anything except the leaves falling. I get up in the morning, I go out on my front deck and I dance and I say, ‘It’s another glorious day on the mountain.’ Men are violent. The minute a man walks in the dynamics change immediately, so I choose not to be around those dynamics.”
(my emphasis added in bold)

If that is how they view men, they are empowered to be able to "not be around those dynamics." I think they love the wilderness, and it is a fallacy to assume just because someone is willing to live without some of the comforts of modern society does not mean they are crazy/unreasonable.

And to expect of them to just not see themselves as inferior is far more complicated than you suggest. Gramsci's concept of hegemony helps to illustrate how the dominant culture/group in society enforces their ideas on the marginalized in society. They do not just FORCE the marginalized to view themselves as inferior, the dominant reiterates marginalized values in their own terms to have social control. For example: The hippie culture was commodified, right? So the youthful rebellion was squashed because they reiterated hippie culture through Coke commercials and designer "hippie" clothes. The hippie culture became profitable, and suddenly the values of the authentic hippie culture, like the Free Store in San Fransisco in 1964, were undermined.

Thus, to unplug from the dominant society is a way to protect the marginalized culture and values from being reiterated by the hegemonic. It IS a way to tell yourself your not inferior by empowering yourself to live independent of the hegemonic society. Not to mention they can be in nature like the above quoted womyn professes to love.

So I agree with fatbird, just because your first interpretation is that it is exclusionary, does not make it so.
posted by metricfan at 4:56 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


you've never been a party to an hours-long lesbian separatist meeting, have you? there are great, tedious efforts made to approach true consensus. could drive the most patient to bang their heads against the wall, trust me.
posted by RedEmma at 4:58 PM on January 31, 2009


too much delay, dammit, preview, blahblahblah.

i was speaking to Skeptic.
posted by RedEmma at 4:59 PM on January 31, 2009


there are great, tedious efforts made to approach true consensus.

RedEmma:therein lies the rub...of all civilization I guess. If a room full of people with (presumably) common interests have that much difficulty, imagine a nation of people of wildly diverse backgrounds, personalities and aims. But I guess that depends on what one considers 'consensus' to mean. Anyways, to someone who still kind of hopes that there'll be some way where we'll all get along peacefully without barricading ourselves off, it's just kind of depressing to me.
posted by jonmc at 5:08 PM on January 31, 2009


there are great, tedious efforts made to approach true consensus.

I'm so having flashbacks right now.
posted by rtha at 5:09 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think that consensus is the only way to reach decisions peacefully, jonmc. You can, for instance, reach consensus that you will delegate decisions to one person or that you'll take a vote on each decision and the losing side will live with the outcome even if they don't like it. It's important to reach consensus about the decision-making process, but once you've done that, you don't have to reach consensus about every single decision. In practice, requiring consensus on every decision is a recipe for long, boring, painful meetings. There's a reason that most communities don't govern by consensus.
posted by craichead at 5:15 PM on January 31, 2009


The irony, of course, is that this is all that she wants. She wants nothing to do with you. She doesn't care what you think about her. You're the one who can't let it go.

What the hell are you talking about? I made a simple statement: "men are violent" is a bigoted statement, whether the speaker is plotting "gender war" or not.

It's not her wanting to go off to the middle of nowhere that I'm objecting to. If you go back and read what I originally posted, you'll see that I have no problem with it. It's the inability of some people (like you) to call a bigot a bigot when it's a a lesbian talking about a man that ticks me off. Are you being willfully obtuse about this?
posted by brundlefly at 5:16 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


jonmc: it's just kind of depressing to me.

Think on the fact that time in one of those compounds gave redemma the strength to come back out and deal with society from a position of greater internal strength than before.

Redemma, what proportion of members of CSS come and go, versus coming and staying?
posted by fatbird at 5:18 PM on January 31, 2009


In practice, requiring consensus on every decision is a recipe for long, boring, painful meetings.

In my experience, "consensus-based decision-making" is a pretty way of saying "The squeakiest wheels get their way all the time."
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:22 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


fatbird: I know from previous experience that RedEmma is quite capable of telling me what to think on, no offense. Reasonable people can differ here, OK.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on January 31, 2009


jonmc: I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to disagree with you. I do see your point. But I wanted to offer a reason not to be too depressed.
posted by fatbird at 5:30 PM on January 31, 2009


RedEmma you've never been a party to an hours-long lesbian separatist meeting, have you?

Either you at least do have a sense of humour, or else you have not noticed yet that there's a chromosomic deficiency in the way of me taking part in a lesbian separatist meeting. Anyway, for my sins I've been to hours-long meetings, with males and females alike, and usually the reason for them taking hours is the presence of extremely uncooperative individuals.

craichead Are you seriously pulling out the humorless feminist canard?

No. I was just noting a serious deficiency in the humour department on the part of somebody who had to ask why I had ended my sentence the way I had ended it in the context of a discussion about "violent, sexualized" language. I've met humourless feminists, and humourless male chauvinists alike. Humourless straight and humourless gay. Lack of humour can strike anywhere. But, please, "excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta".

craichead That's a heavy load of irony, considering that this debate was started by thin-skinned men who were outraged that a woman said that men are violent.

First of all, let me note that, although I can't speak for other people, I was more amused than offended by that statement. Calling it out as stupid and bigoted is not thin-skinned, merely noting what appears obvious to me. And I sure hope that I'd think the same if I was a woman. Moreover, our reaction has been to contest and debate it, not to leave in a huff to a wilderness retreat, far away from mean militant lesbian separatists.
posted by Skeptic at 5:31 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Calling it out as stupid and bigoted is not thin-skinned, merely noting what appears obvious to me.

Yeah. The fact that this is actually being debated is kind of weird to me.
posted by brundlefly at 5:44 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


you must be new here, sir. :>
posted by jonmc at 5:55 PM on January 31, 2009


(meaning that we'd find a reason to debate...Oxygen:friend or foe?)
posted by jonmc at 5:57 PM on January 31, 2009


FOE, CLEARLY!
posted by brundlefly at 5:59 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


well, yeah. it's a narrow society. in many ways, they *are* pagan nuns. and they can be very stodgy and they think younger dykes are suckers of the patriarchy and that we just don't get it. oh well, you know. their rejection of your manhood can hardly hurt you, now, can it?

I don't view their decision to separate from mainstream society as a rejection of me, or my masculinity or as something that hurts me in the least. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear.

In fact, I'd tend to agree with this comment above:

The instant "what about teh menz" response equating separatist communes with Aryan Nation types says to me that this society hasn't grown past the point where Lesbian separatist communities might be useful.

I fully support their rights to autonomy and self-determination.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:02 PM on January 31, 2009


not to leave in a huff to a wilderness retreat, far away from mean militant lesbian separatists.
You truly do not get it, do you?

You don't have to go anywhere to be in a place where lesbian separatists don't call the shots. You already are in that place. You were born in that place. You will die in that place. With the exception of a few scattered communes, the whole world is that place. There is no equivalence between you and them. You don't have to be a separatist, because you can achieve the same goal just by existing.
Moreover, our reaction has been to contest and debate it
Wow. So if you're a guy, saying "fuck you, lady" counts as rational debate? But if I say that lesbian separatists would say that "fuck you, lady" is sexualized language and an implicit reference to rape, that's not rational debate and is in fact just women being hypersensitive. I wonder if anyone has ever thought about who gets to define what's rational debate and whether women are more likely to be dismissed out of hand as hypersensitive and irrational? Gosh. That might be interesting!

You know, I am a good third waver who is generally totally disdainful of essentialist RadFems like the ones in the article. But I've got to say that every once in a while MetaFilter makes me understand the separatist impulse.
posted by craichead at 6:06 PM on January 31, 2009 [22 favorites]


Oxygen:friend or foe

Well, it's a corrosive gas, some say a metabolic poison in certain contexts...
posted by weston at 6:06 PM on January 31, 2009




RedEmma:therein lies the rub...of all civilization I guess.

well, i don't look back on it with anything like depression. it was very difficult, and somewhat amusing in retrospect. it was also exhausting, but hell, it was interesting in a way and it was cool to see people try to get beyond Robert's Rules/majority rules. i still would prefer to be in an organization that makes serious efforts in this vein, and i have been since then, with male/female, black/white, old/young people. it worked out okay. i think what rtha and i are remembering is the particular kind of care that was taken in these sorts of meetings that was in many ways uniquely female and uniquely lesbian-feminist of its era. i think an outside observer (and a lot of those who were *there*) would see it as insufferably PC--as a group of verbose women who just can't stop beating dead horses all over the place. if there's one thing we could do it was cooperate. ending a meeting, on the other hand....

the point was to allow women who often felt unheard and unable to speak for themselves the time and space to let that happen. this could be awful for those of us who never have experienced that sort of silencing and just wanted to cut to the chase. interestingly, i've since been part of meetings with Anishinaabe and Dakota people, who traditionally have a very roundabout way of getting to the point. learning to deal with the frustration in those types of situations is very similar--learning to wait and listen is a very difficult lesson for some of us.

Redemma, what proportion of members of CSS come and go, versus coming and staying?

i don't really know the answer to that question, but i assume that the attrition rate is very high. i was not a member of CSS, but a frequent visitor for a space of three years. and there were lots of us who came and went. CSS itself was always pretty much a home for Wanda and Brenda, and a few womyn who lived there as "caretakers" between the times of different events. there were trailers, and campers, and a few cottages, and a dormitory. its primary function was as a place for a yearly womyn's music festival, solstice/equinox holiday gatherings, and as a "folk school"--an idea they picked up from the civil rights movement. they intended it as a place where women could learn things and teach things. also, they still operate, i believe, as a food shelf collection point for the community at large. Andie, Brenda's daughter, appears to now be the primary caretaker of the land. because of its rocky, threatened beginning, it never attracted womyn who wanted to live there permanently, i don't think. it's not like a lot of the other "womyn's land" around the country, where things were always more quiet and peaceful. i do know that the land is held in trust, and is meant to always be womyn's land, long after the founders are gone. i don't know how well that will work out.
posted by RedEmma at 6:50 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow. So if you're a guy, saying "fuck you, lady" counts as rational debate? But if I say that lesbian separatists would say that "fuck you, lady" is sexualized language and an implicit reference to rape, that's not rational debate and is in fact just women being hypersensitive.

I said "fuck you" because I curse like a sailor to everyone, and there are people of all stripes (including plenty of lesbians) who say that phrase all the damn time without being dragged through the mud for it. That's because anyone with any awareness realizes that "fuck you" is generally not intended literally, but is an all purpose insult. If you object to crude language or unoriginality of speech, that's your right, but it is not a reference to rape, so I'd love it if you stopped saying it is.
posted by brundlefly at 7:02 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has there really been this many comments without one person mentioning Woolf's A Room Of Ones Own?
posted by metricfan at 7:34 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just want to thank RedEmma for being in this thread. She's describing quite eloquently a world I know little about, and it definitely adds a new dimension to my understanding of this.

Reading over this thread, most of the outrage seems to be directed at the fact that there are some key quotes in the article that indicate that some of the people on this commune don't like men very much. Because it's hard to imagine that there would be this much vitriol over a lesbian commune per se. But I guess it always stings a little to learn a group of strangers you'll never meet - who have in fact recused themselves from the rest of the world - don't want your company, and are doing absolutely nothing to have an impact on the world around them with regards to their opinion of you. Gracious.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:38 PM on January 31, 2009


I don't really have a horse in this race, but as a former flirting-with-anarchist youngster, let me just say that Consensus as a system of government really, really sucks.* It looks like Compromise as a political system but it's usually more "keep arguing until everyone is so tired they give in".

And I don't get the outrage over people who, by their own admission, are out of date and isolated. As said before, one of the big benefits of people living in the woods, alone and peacefully, is that I don't have to listen to them and they don't have to listen to me.

* Okay it doesn't suck like how Police States suck, but it' so tedious and circular and unproductive. Standard majority rule, which I don't even like or support, works better at actually solving problems... and um, there.
posted by The Whelk at 7:57 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Consensus as a system of government really, really sucks.* It looks like Compromise as a political system but it's usually more "keep arguing until everyone is so tired they give in".

Yes.

In the basement of a coffee shop, eight very tired activists sitting around a table, rubbing their eyes, yawning, looking into their empty coffee cups, as the meeting chairperson reads aloud: "So then ... we're going to hold the flea market first, at ten, Jen will do the literature, Mark will organize the music, we will all get as many people together as possible to march, it will begin at 2 in the afternoon, and end at City Hall. Yes?"

Brief silence.


One voice: "Mmmm, yeah, you know what? I don't know ..."

*Groans*
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:16 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The irony of talking about men's objections to women-only space in a post about women-only space is just....yeah.

I've had exactly these conversations, from about 1985-1990. Almost word-for-word.


Oh yeah, me too, and I'm a bloke.

I spent my early adolescence involved in the peace movement in the early 80's in the UK when separatism was *the* big debate, and I spent a fair amount of time surrounded by lesbian separatists of one stroke or another. It all seems far off now but I count it as formative experience coming down on the pro-separatist side because in the end if a bunch of people have got together to go and do something who the fuck was I to try and stop them? Ironically enough it did a lot for my relationship with women because somewhere long the line I realised that maybe it wasn't all about me, that maybe when women get together on their own they might have something better to talk about , than you know, men*, so perhaps the world didn't revolve around me and women might be real live people with their own ideas.

I had to laugh at the idea people being outraged at men only being allowed as visitors, given the women I knew who ran a women only house as absolutely no men allowed through the front door while women were present, not even to read the meter. I'd gotten to know them as part of a housing co-op we all belonged to, and I knew it was a women's house so I was a little surprised when they invited me round for a meeting, but I didn't think much of it. As we had all spent a lot of our formative years in the peace movement we had a fair bit in common and meetings bled in to socializing and I became a fairly regular visitor. I finally realised the extent of the exclusion policy when sitting round after a meeting the poor sod of a meter reader came round to be met with "sorry we don't allow men in the house, no exceptions" and left. Coming back to face the elephant glaring contradiction in the room, the woman who answered the door explained: "Oh. We don't allow men in the house... it's ok, though, you..you don't count".

I chose to take it as a compliment.

So my point is, apart from my descent into anecdotage, is..."history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce"...no wait. Maybe it's ...your are ideas about radical lesbian separatism are not original. Perhaps, just perhaps, women who have decided to make this the way to live their lives might have just have thought about all this and decided to do it anyway. It's not like the article suggests that they are not aware of whats going on, but perhaps they though it important enough to still try anyway.

* What do I know, I'm just a dude, maybe the moment our backs are turned they have a quick round of of 'rate our sexual performances on a scale of 0 to -10' before a power point presentation on 'Banding or Shears: the optimal castration method'.

I kid. Yes, I know, sometimes when women get together, men are exactly what they chose to talk about and it's not always complimentary. But I figure I've only got something to be ashamed about, if I've got something to be ashamed about, kapische? Sure, you're upset about being accused of something you're not guilty of you're right. But grow a pair won't ya. Sounding like you are afraid of the big bad lesbian separatists doesn't really do anything for you. Maybe it's more important sometimes , to empathize, than win the argument, because at this point in history it looks like you are trying to get in a pissing contest with your granny.

posted by tallus at 8:28 PM on January 31, 2009 [6 favorites]




In the basement of a coffee shop, eight very tired activists sitting around a table, rubbing their eyes, yawning, looking into their empty coffee cups, as the meeting chairperson reads aloud: "So then ... we're going to hold the flea market first, at ten, Jen will do the literature, Mark will organize the music, we will all get as many people together as possible to march, it will begin at 2 in the afternoon, and end at City Hall. Yes?"

Meanwhile the staff is looking at them, thinking 'Are these people gonna leave soon or what? We gotta clean up, so I can go home and get some sleep. and they're lousy tippers, too.'
posted by jonmc at 8:29 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


"men are violent" is a bigoted statement

i must have missed hearing about all the wars that women fought in my history classes

---

My own opinion, FWIW, is that in the world is ever-shrinking and people learning to get along with eachother is ever more important.

yes, but staying away from one another is often a good strategy to make sure that people DO get along
posted by pyramid termite at 8:41 PM on January 31, 2009


yes, but staying away from one another is often a good strategy to make sure that people DO get along

I'd disagree there. The more people remain a mystery to eachother, the more they can be built up into the Big Bad Other.

Of course, this is a classic example of tempest in a teapot. It's not like there's some Ellis Island where gay people are lining up to sail off to Gayistan, so let's not make this thing more than what it is.
posted by jonmc at 8:48 PM on January 31, 2009


The more people remain a mystery to eachother, the more they can be built up into the Big Bad Other.

that is true - but on the other hand, men are hardly a mystery to a bunch of 20 or 30 something womyn who decide that they'd rather be secluded from them - and if they feel that strongly - well, there's less conflict involved if they can just do as they wish
posted by pyramid termite at 8:53 PM on January 31, 2009


If you can't understand why lesbians back in the 1960's might have felt like they had to separate from mainstream society to feel safe, then you're being a bit obtuse.

If you can't understand why a statement like "Men are violent," (or that editorial sova linked) might make someone angry or upset, then you're being a bit obtuse.


Word.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:14 PM on January 31, 2009


i must have missed hearing about all the wars that women fought in my history classes

Well, let's not confuse lack of motive with lack of opportunity.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:20 PM on January 31, 2009


I think I saw a movie about separatists like this. It was called "The Village".
posted by hal_c_on at 9:57 PM on January 31, 2009


I stayed out of this one, but I want to note one quick thing that's always amused me about these discussions. The men who are upset that separatism prevents them from being welcome on these spaces are the ones who are the least likely to be wanted there, although they might not know this. The stories RedEmma told about neighbors firing upon these women are instructive. To me, the closest analogue are people who insist the Confederate Flag is not about hatred - somehow these are almost always the people who are the most likely to wish a return to antebellum times as far as race relations are concerned, yet they might not realize this either.

So if your reaction to this piece is to think "what bitches, how dare they not want me to live on their territory," no need to worry. Their views are not what would prevent them from being your friend; it's your views that are getting in the way.

The single worst way to discredit these views is to attack them in such a manner. The second worst way is to pretend that lesbians are cool because they arouse you. The ninth worst way is to accuse them of being Lizard People. I'm glad that there was an absence of "I'd hit it" comments. I'm sad there was an absent of "omg Lizard People."
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:29 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I personally think it's fascinating whenever any group of people decides to break away from the society they're a part of and try to find or make a place in the world where they can build communities in line with a shared vision. There's something primal and compelling about these exodus and promised land stories. It's hardly a surprise that sometimes these visions seem strange to outsiders, and may even occasionally be wrong in spots, given that they're created by human beings, so, sure, no surprise there's a few ideas to take issue with, but as other people have said, generally, nobody's forcing anyone to move in and subject themselves to that vision.

But I think the unease on the part of some in this thread comes from some underlying questions about how the idea of tolerance interacts with these communities that may have rules we couldn't accept for the larger society we may see ourselves as part of. Small male-free consensus driven communities are fine, it's really unlikely to become oppressive to anyone, and I think you could say the same thing of most communities that might be similarly organized around other potential identities. What happens, though, if you consider the idea of such a community getting bigger than a small municipality? Assuming the communities in the linked articles could grow to the size of an entire county, would you be OK with such a county organized in this way? What about an entire U.S. state in which males were unwelcome?

It sounds a little ridiculous, but it's one way of examining a truth here: especially in the modern world, where most corner of the globe is pretty much already claimed by some nation state, if your vision is different, is at best only uneasily compatible with most larger societies, your most likely fate is to either remain a small subculture on private-property-scale plots, probably eventually dwindling, or you'll compromise somewhat to grow out into the broader society. If there's another way, I'd be interested to know about it. Because while I think the American experiment in plurality has shown a lot of merit, I wonder if something isn't lost here. I think the idea of libertarians having their own state isn't likely to actually happen, would probably end up inconveniencing some number of people already rooted in New Hampshire even if it did, and is unlikely to really work very well, but part of me wonders wishes I could see the experiment they seem to have in mind unfold.
posted by weston at 10:51 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Way back in 1985, my then-neighbor spent a week at an all-women's retreat near Yosemite Park. Several hundred were expected to attend. It had been meticulously planned so that there would be no men. But some of the women expressed fear that men might still venture into the retreat to do harm... so a few (including my then-neighbor) brought guns to the gathering, to keep in their tents.

When my neighbor returned home, she said the retreat had been wonderful... except someone had stolen her wallet and credit cards. (Strangely, the thieves did not take her Ruger).

There's no utopia.
posted by terranova at 10:59 PM on January 31, 2009


There are times when it can be appealing to imagine living in a separtist environment, being away from attitudes along these lines:

I said "fuck you" because I curse like a sailor to everyone, and there are people of all stripes (including plenty of lesbians) who say that phrase all the damn time without being dragged through the mud for it. That's because anyone with any awareness realizes that "fuck you" is generally not intended literally, but is an all purpose insult. If you object to crude language or unoriginality of speech, that's your right, but it is not a reference to rape, so I'd love it if you stopped saying it is.


I curse like a sailor to everyone

Great! Classy! The fact that people might reasonably find this--apparently beyond "darn," "damn," etc.--unpleasant is apparently not your concern.

say that phrase all the damn time without being dragged through the mud for it.

There is such a thing as time, place and tone. Sure, most of us can swear like sailors and it's more having our moments, less a default setting. Considering the topic, discussion, it's not the most considerate, thoughtful approach or choice of words.

That's because anyone with any awareness realizes that "fuck you" is generally not intended literally, but is an all purpose insult.

AKA "Those with differing points of view, find my approach offensive or unpleasant, they have no awareness so I marginalize them, have no respect for their point of view."

If you object to crude language or unoriginality of speech, that's your right, but it is not a reference to rape, so I'd love it if you stopped saying it is.

Revelatory as this may be, it ain't all about what you'd love.
posted by ambient2 at 11:13 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


What kinds of terrible experiences must these women have gone through?

I categorically reject this double standard that only favored groups in identity politics get to cash in on. To the people in this thread speculating about these "womyn's" experiences with domestic violence or wringing their hands about life in the 1960's: Why aren't you making these kinds of excuses for people in the KKK or for neo-Nazi's?

Might some of the lesbian separatists have felt alienated from American culture or abandoned by society during the turmoil of the 60's? Yeah, probably. But I don't see that as any less true for residents of the rural, uneducated, poor South who have no inroads into governmental power structures and nothing in their lives to be proud of except for some pathetic fantasy about being "the true great race" or whatever.

Whether you direct your hate at racial minorities or at men, bigotry is bigotry. A difficult life and a story of personal tragedy is not a get out of jail free card for hatred to be used by misandrists, racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, or anyone else. We all struggle with negative experiences in our lives and we're all responsible for not turning that struggle into fertile ground for this kind of ideological poison.

If 1960's radicalism eroded lesbian separatists' ability to recognize basic human dignity in other people, then all I can hope for is that they do die off, isolated and subject to our rightful opprobrium. After that, maybe their particular iteration of the same evil attitude that has plagued human history for centuries can rot in the ground with them and be forgotten.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 11:44 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry to have offended your delicate sensibilites, ambient2. Since this seems to be a figurative language-free zone, I will clarify that when I say I curse like a sailor "to everyone" it was exaggeration for effect, and I mean to adults who are not likely to take offense to naughty language. Ok? Beyond that, I reserve it for issues that genuinely anger me, like what I view as bigotry.

If you are not aware that the term is used regularly with no literal sexual meaning, then I would say that there IS a lack of cultural awareness. And, again, taking offense to nasty language is perfectly fine with me. Bad language doesn't bother me, but I'm not everyone. It's characterizing a casual expletive as an implicit sexual threat that I find absurd.
posted by brundlefly at 12:05 AM on February 1, 2009


Why aren't you making these kinds of excuses for people in the KKK or for neo-Nazi's?

Because the lesbian separatists aren't advocating the killing of men. They are not amassing arms in order to violently overthrow the government. They are not robbing banks to support their way of life. And the explanations above offer historical and sociological context for why communities like this form.

They're kind of like the Amish, actually. Living apart from the world. But to you, I suppose the Amish are a bigoted hate group, too.

It's been a long time since I hung out with anyone who'd lived on land like this, but I always had the impression that they didn't actually spend any time at all talking about men.

It's funny how some people just can't stand the idea of that.
posted by rtha at 12:07 AM on February 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


And before I'm accused of trying to deny lesbian separatists the right to move out into the wilderness and live on their own, that's not what I'm saying. If they want to isolate themselves like this, that's their right and I'd never begrudge them that prerogative. I criticize the beliefs and attitudes that they cite as the reasons for making that choice.

As other people have said in this thread, most of us probably wouldn't be bothered if a bunch of Aryan Nation members built a fort in the woods. But I'm quite certain that, to a one, every single person in this thread would be outraged if the AN members stated publicly that their reasons for doing so were to insulate themselves from the innately violent black race. Directing that selfsame broad-brush, cavalier, dehumanizing accusation at men is no different, and should not elicit a different response. From me, it doesn't.

Good riddance.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 12:07 AM on February 1, 2009


They're kind of like the Amish, actually. Living apart from the world. But to you, I suppose the Amish are a bigoted hate group, too.

They're not at all like the Amish, actually. The Amish welcome people into their communes who express a sincere, genuine interest in joining, irrespective of biological characteristics. Their way of life and the structure of their communities are not predicated on the postulate that all members of a race, sex, etc. are innately inferior or evil.

As for the apologists' "sociological context," I don't accept that laying claim to the mantle of historical oppression gives any group carte blanche to espouse bigoted views and attitudes, particularly bigoted views and attitudes that are analogs of the type of "oppression" they claim necessitated their separatist communities in the first place.

And finally, if these communities never said anything at all about men, I wouldn't have a problem. As I said, I'm criticizing them to the extent they've endorsed bigoted beliefs about men. If there's a lesbian separatist group out there that hasn't done that, good luck to them.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 12:21 AM on February 1, 2009


Ok, I posted this upthread a while ago and I've seen a little mention of it here and there in the comments, but it continues to surprise me how pissed off people are that they don't want men around. I can understand that. What bothers the fuck out of me and makes me think that these wom(e/y)n are just another discriminatory group of people who will choose to exclude groups that don't fit the mold is their policy towards transwomen. If there's any group out there these days that needs these retreats, it's the transpeople. Those with anything from unusual gender identities to those who have opted to completely change physical sex and gender. They're the ones who get shot and killed with minimal punishment to their attackers. N., a transwoman friend of mine identifies as a lesbian. She's had the full surgery, is on hormones, the works. I think a community like this might be a good safe place for her to finish figuring out what it means to be a woman. But these biggoted fucks wouldn't let her within a hundred yards of the border. So let them die, or have them adapt. If they want to go found private summer camps for their brand of white middle class lesbianism, they can rot for all I care.

If they were truly inclusive and welcoming to those who would benefit from their help, I'd be decrying this as a tragedy. I don't care if they don't want men to bother them. But to discriminate on the basis of the genitalia that someone happened to be born with and not who they truly are, how is that any different than the society that they left?
posted by Hactar at 12:33 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Weston, I think those are great questions, because yes - I am very uncomfortable with that, and it does happen. Here (no female mammals allowed, even, except for hens and cats; I guess they aren't fond of milk), for example. And, essentially, here. So, in our world where men wield the most power, they sometimes choose to exclude women entirely, or arrange things so that they are available for sex, reproduction, and certain kinds of work, but are otherwise invisible. And that's undeniably wrong. And in a world where lesbian women wielded the power, creating places where men were excluded or made invisible would be undeniably wrong, but an oppressed group retreating to a few acres where they can feel safe doesn't seem like a slippery slope to me.

As others have mentioned, there are religious groups who choose to live only among their own, and there are even places that ban children. In reality, wealth creates all sorts of strictly closed communities, and there are artists'colonies, as I mentioned, nudists camps, retirement communities... any of these made macro would violate human rights, but as small communities, most of them draw little ire.
posted by taz at 12:34 AM on February 1, 2009


I haven't read most of the comments here (yes, that is an "in" for those that want to take a jab at me), but I do want to chime in a bit more than my previous comment:

I think I saw a movie about separatists like this. It was called "The Village".

I think people have a right to do what pleases them as long as it doesn't infringe upon anyone else's right to happiness. If there is a lesbian separatist movement and they don't want me there because I don't believe what they believe, thats cool. I wouldn't really want to go there anyways. No problem. The separatist group AND myself can both agree on two things:

1. My being there wouldn't make anything better.
2. Their right to exist.

What I don't agree with is ANY GROUP who has a separatist movement. It basically says "We don't really want a diverse group of individuals". You may only come if you are like us, and believe what we believe.

I know that this group feels as if they have an excellent reason for doing this. They probably think ALL lesbians should do this. Lets play along with that. Lets pretend that ALL groups who feel they have been mistreated should do this. We'll have separatist movements according to race, sex, sexual orientation, political stances, origin, etc...ad nauseum.

What the hell would that lead to?

Sure this is ONE group doing their ONE thing...but if everyone who felt wronged by society did this, we wouldn't have a society. We would have tons of groups, who somehow learn to dehumanize those who are different from them. Once you reach that point, there's no coming back.

Do I think these separatists are gonna go buck wild on us non-separatists? No. Not a chance. Do I believe that if everyone who felt as if they should go live amongst their own kind would ultimately lead to all sorts of intolerance. Absolutely.

Yeah, I'm sure that some of these women went through experiences that we couldn't even imagine. But is that an excuse to do something that would ultimately lead to the breakdown of a heterogeneous society? No.

I think they're being totally selfish. I think they can make society MORE tolerant, respectful, and accepting for lesbians if they joined it and contributed. Leaving society when they have something to contribute just makes it harder for the lesbians that don't have a choice but to live here.

But yeah, I defend their right, as well as other groups' rights to do so. Ultimately though, there are more intelligent people of from all groups who will decide to stay in this heterogeneous society, and this WILL make it better for those who have to live here.

So maybe I do agree with them. Maybe it is for the best if people who ONLY want to be among their own kind live separately. That works out best for everyone.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:55 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Quit comparing them to the KKK! It has been said repeatedly that the KKK is different because they want to do harm to others. If a bunch of supremacists got together and built a fort in the woods to "protect themselves" from people we know won't actually harm them, which would mean they would not bother others, then good! That means we can know those people are in one place and far away. There would still be people on this board who would support those people's choice to move out of mainstream society and not bother us. Because as a person who studies race and culture, the anti-racist movement needs to not focus on the few KKK members, rather the systematic ways minorities are oppressed. (like how former KKK members and KKK sympathizers can be elected to office, yet Obama is constantly fighting the stereotypes of a Black Nationalist)

That is the big difference here the people making these comparisons keep glossing over: there is a difference between skepticism of the hegemonic group and espousing extremist views against those who are actually oppressed. To get so hung up on such a small part of the article just fuels the stereotype of feminists and lesbians as man-hating-feminazi-butch-crazies.
posted by metricfan at 1:27 AM on February 1, 2009


But if I say that lesbian separatists would say that "fuck you, lady" is sexualized language and an implicit reference to rape, that's not rational debate and is in fact just women being hypersensitive.

No, I'd say that that's not rational debate and that's a woman possibly being hypersensitive and more probably trying to play on language and identity politics to divert the debate from its original subject: whether statements like "men are violent" are bigoted, something which I noticed you keep scrupulously avoiding to debate.

The sin lies in generalisation. When I say that you missed the joke, I refer to you personally, I don't intend to generalise to the whole feminist movement. That would be bigoted, prejudiced and plain false. When I say that you are being (or pretending to be) hypersensitive, again, I only mean you, in the view of the available evidence. But when you say "men are violent" or "men are pigs", well excuse me but you are generalising the behaviour of some men to the whole gender, and that's the very definition of bigoted. And again, if some people want to live on their own because they don't want to share their world with other genders/races/sexual orientations/hair colours, well, my reaction is "good riddance!". I'm definitely not complaining about that.
posted by Skeptic at 1:28 AM on February 1, 2009


On review: just what hal_c_on said.
posted by Skeptic at 1:30 AM on February 1, 2009


The only place in my life I've felt truly hated was in a lesbian bar with a friend of mine (straight white dude here). The violence of the feelings against me from my friend's lesbian friends and lovers was shocking.

Until it dawned on me that until that time, it really was the only place in my life I'd felt truly hated. To live a life where the feelings of rejection and disgust I caused were the norm must be unbearable.

Men [in general] are dicks. Seriously we are. To claim otherwise is disingenous at best, look around you.

Men are so used to not being rejected simply because of who we are, so used to not having to deal with prejudice that when it occurs we sometimes lose the plot.

When was the last time you were walking down the street and a group of heavily armed womyn pulled up along side you and started calling you a child-raping murderer? When was the last time a womyn quietly put forward the notion that if you'd only consent to a good hard raping then you'd probably castrate yourself and come round to their way of thinking? If you think this level of abuse is uncommon then you should speak to a few more lesbians.

Sometimes it's not about us men. The fact we find this a difficult concept to process shows how often this is not the case.

As to Lesbian Separatist Retreats, good luck to 'em.

all that stonewashed denim though *shiver*
posted by fullerine at 2:42 AM on February 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


The lack of "I'd hit it" comments I think is mainly due to them being butchy septugenarians.

The comparison to the KKK isn't really valid. The comparison to the Amish is somewhat more apt. The comparison to hippy and eco-warrior communes is practically 1:1. The main difference with KKK or similar is that the KKK members are/were a visible and priviledged majority.

As a part of a predominantly invisible minority I know I get a hella kick on the rare occasions where I am surrounded by others like me, be they gay events like pride, or women only events, the sense of being in it together is very powerful and affirming. Maybe it's the same feeling straight white guys get from supporting a sports team? :)

Re. men-hating, it's not so much that for most/many of these women I think. It's just that, perhaps even worse for guys egos, that there's no real need for you there. There's nothing in my life I specifically need guys for, and taken as a monolithic group, you're more trouble than you're worth. Yes, some of the women there are misandristic bigots, some are genuinely afraid of men, with or without reason, but for most I think guys just are not particularly relevant. It's not about you.

Places like this occurr organically in "the real world", there are plenty of middleclass white 2-child-and-a-suv families who live in areas where they are surrounded by people just like them, and not really giving a crap about the fact that they are not experiencing diversity.
There are plenty of poor, gay, inner city, latinos to whom the idea of moving to a community like that is very unattractive. For that matter, ask men who have served together in the military, previously an all male environment, or on sports teams, or hung out at their favourite bar or gone camping with "just the guys". They probably have an idea.

Please bear in mind when reading this post that "some of my best friends" are straight guys, I love living in a diverse world, and I have had comments deleted for being too boyzone.
posted by Iteki at 3:04 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Re. men-hating, it's not so much that for most/many of these women I think. It's just that, perhaps even worse for guys egos, that there's no real need for you there.

Heh. Most of the chronic men's rights advocates around here remind me of some guy barging into a club on Ladies' Night and insisting on getting the half-off cocktails, too. No one is allowed to be doing something that exlcudes them, even if they had no interest in bring there until they found out they weren't allowed. It's bigotry! Pfft.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:37 AM on February 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


It's always interesting to me how many men assume lesbian = man hating. I suppose it's the whole world view where manhood is dependent on women needing them, therefore, if you don't need men, therefore you must hate them.

You know. Because not needing someone is equivalent to wanting to lynch them, right?

Oh wait, that's right. Context and history don't apply here. Carry on!
posted by yeloson at 4:49 AM on February 1, 2009


And I think that she would respond by suggesting that you just proved her point. She hasn't hurt you in any way, and yet your first response is violent, sexualized language. Is your idea that she would consent to the fucking, or is that rape metaphor? Has it ever even occurred to you that "fuck you" is sexually violent language?

Calling speech "violent" seems to lead to one of two positions. Are you saying that women (or people) are so constitutionally fragile, so crystalline, that they can't hear certain magic words without being shattered? Or are you saying that crushing institutions of power and oppression are buoyed up by mere words?

If the former, I think you've said less about words themselves than about an atavistic and false notion of womanhood - that Woman is some Victorian creature bruised by vibrations of air, by figures on a page. This is the direct opposite of empowerment. It's treating women as we treat children, and is as patronizing and sexist as it is chivalrous.

If the latter, you're assigning an almost magical power over material to words. But if MacKinnon's "only words" can, of themselves, oppress, it stands to reason that "only words" are sufficient to liberate. If "only words" can hold up an evil institution, "only words" should also send it crashing down. It's like the stories of shamanic duels, where words and counter-words constrict each other to an endless wheel of language. No one statement is so powerful, so unsayable, that it cannot be refuted or modulated by "only words," unless it is a statement of some perfect, categorical truth.

That said, I still see no place for "fuck you" in this particular conversation; not because it is some vestigial display of sexual power, but because it is a flippant refusal to hear opposing terms. But there seems to be plenty of that on both sides in this thread. How about we not speculate about (or extend backhanded congratulations for) the lack of "I'd hit it" comments? It wasn't part of this discussion until you made it so.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:41 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Amish welcome people into their communes who express a sincere, genuine interest in joining, irrespective of biological characteristics. Their way of life and the structure of their communities are not predicated on the postulate that all members of a race, sex, etc. are innately inferior or evil.

Would most (or any) Amish community welcome as full members a married/civilly-partnered lesbian couple? I don't know what the Amish have to say about race -- my guess is that the official stance is one of tolerance -- but at the practical level, the Amish communities I've seen have been pretty racially homogeneous.

And I'm fine with that, honestly. As a society, we often allow things at the small level (eg segregated private clubs are legal in most states) that we wouldn't want at the national level. You are allowed to insist that your spouse be of a particular color, religion, or anything else -- that's your business, in your private space, and we are all better for that. If you want to have roommates, but only roommates who share your sexuality, politics, or whatever else, that's fine, too. And a commune is barely a stretch from choosing your partner or choosing your roommate -- it's marginal, it's private, and no one is hurt.

The outrage being expressed here is so disproportionate to the actual issue at hand that I'm really struck by it. We are talking about what, a few dozen of these communes at the most? Most of them barely economically viable, most of them aging and in decline. This is not a vibrant, expansionist movement that is likely to appear in your backyard and convert your girlfriend -- this is the last vestige of a particular moment in feminist history; within a couple of decades there will be three or four left and they will be more like museum pieces, or one of those Ye Olde Dayes reenactment tourist attractions.

So honestly, what is so scary about a few women wanting to live together on a farm somewhere? What does it matter if they do so because they like trees and fresh air, or they worship the moon goddess, or they don't like being in a society they see as male-dominated and violent? Unlike the Aryan Nations goons, these women aren't doing anything more threatening than reciting some bad poetry or publishing marginal political journals. Where's the threat here?
posted by Forktine at 6:24 AM on February 1, 2009


Are you saying that women (or people) are so constitutionally fragile, so crystalline, that they can't hear certain magic words without being shattered? Or are you saying that crushing institutions of power and oppression are buoyed up by mere words?

I'm going to be 100% honest with you. From a very, very young age, hearing "fuck you" etc., "bitch", "slut", "whore", "cunt" - I definitely acquired the notion that sex was disgusting and dirty, sex was a violent, revolting thing, and women were especially disgusting when viewed sexually. I still haven't been entirely able to reverse that in my head. I don't think women are horrible, unclean, revolting creatures, but I have to fight against thinking that most men think they are, and even sort of thinking that I am, in a sexual context, in their eyes. That's all from words, pretty much. As well as some pretty scary aggressive/threatening/hostile actions often attached to those words. But I always thought deeply about what words meant, what was being suggested by choosing to use certain words over others, for as long as I can remember. I think it's a great thing for you that they mean so little, and that you feel so little assaulted or ever personally threatened by them, but I can assure you that it's not always the case.


are you saying that crushing institutions of power and oppression are buoyed up by mere words?


Um. Here, I can't even pretend like you are making any kind of sense.
posted by taz at 6:28 AM on February 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


taz: I always thought deeply about what words meant, what was being suggested by choosing to use certain words over others [...] I think it's a great thing for you that they mean so little, and that you feel so little assaulted or ever personally threatened by them, but I can assure you that it's not always the case.

I don't think it's very fair to conclude that, because I obviously don't share your reaction to a set of epithets, that "words mean so little" to me. Maybe we can do this with a touch less passive-aggression, please?

Um. Here, I can't even pretend like you are making any kind of sense.

In other words: do you believe that words do violence not to the soul, but by creating or holding up some oppressive social institution? This is a standard anti-pornography argument.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:01 AM on February 1, 2009


Yes, I believe that oppressive social institutions are mostly held up by words, which is why propaganda is such a popular and enduring tool of war and politics.

Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.
—Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion *
posted by taz at 7:23 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Taz: And what I'm saying is that oppressive social institutions can also be torn down by words. If words have the power to do one, they have the power to do the other. And since two minds can look on the same statement and perceive two entirely different effects, and since your own experience with the word "fuck" differs from mine, which in turn differs from KRS-One's (who thought it the "most powerful word in the English language"), I'd hesitate to say that any words were violent, bad, or oppressive.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2009


It has been said repeatedly that the KKK is different because they want to do harm to others. If a bunch of supremacists got together and built a fort in the woods to "protect themselves" from people we know won't actually harm them, which would mean they would not bother others, then good!

And I've said repeatedly that my criticism is not directed at their choice to go live in the woods by themselves, but their stated reasons for doing so. Those reasons are qualitatively the same as the reasons for white separatism, or any kind of racial separatism.

That is the big difference here the people making these comparisons keep glossing over: there is a difference between skepticism of the hegemonic group and espousing extremist views against those who are actually oppressed. To get so hung up on such a small part of the article just fuels the stereotype of feminists and lesbians as man-hating-feminazi-butch-crazies.

No, it's statements like "all men are violent" and policies that categorically exclude 48% of this country's population that contribute to the image of feminists and lesbians as "man-hating-feminazi-butch-crazies." Categorical exclusion that, I might add, is based on a stereotype.

Men [in general] are dicks. Seriously we are. To claim otherwise is disingenous at best, look around you.

Substitute any "oppressed" social group for "men" in that statement and tel me with a straight face that you wouldn't be pilloried for saying it in any public forum.

The violence of the feelings against me from my friend's lesbian friends and lovers was shocking. Until it dawned on me that until that time, it really was the only place in my life I'd felt truly hated. To live a life where the feelings of rejection and disgust I caused were the norm must be unbearable.

So...what? Is there some kind of minimum threshold of bigotry and abuse that all social groups must suffer? And if one particular group might be experiencing less than another, they lose the right to object to it until they "catch up?"

It's always interesting to me how many men assume lesbian = man hating. I suppose it's the whole world view where manhood is dependent on women needing them, therefore, if you don't need men, therefore you must hate them.

Re. men-hating, it's not so much that for most/many of these women I think. It's just that, perhaps even worse for guys egos, that there's no real need for you there. There's nothing in my life I specifically need guys for, and taken as a monolithic group, you're more trouble than you're worth.

I take it these communes teach straw-man building? I'm sure it's very easy to defend bigotry by postulating that the only possible objection to it is rooted in egotism, rather than a desire for even-handed application of the Western taboo against prejudice and discrimination.

Heh. Most of the chronic men's rights advocates around here remind me of some guy barging into a club on Ladies' Night and insisting on getting the half-off cocktails, too. No one is allowed to be doing something that exlcudes them, even if they had no interest in bring there until they found out they weren't allowed. It's bigotry! Pfft.

Yeah, what's up with people not wanting to be excluded based on a biological characteristic? It's almost like they want antidiscrimination laws and policies to apply to them, too. The nerve.

So honestly, what is so scary about a few women wanting to live together on a farm somewhere? ... Unlike the Aryan Nations goons, these women aren't doing anything more threatening than reciting some bad poetry or publishing marginal political journals. Where's the threat here?

Again, there's nothing threatening about what they're doing. What's objectionable is their beliefs, which are every bit as bigoted and intolerant as the Aryan Nation.

Look. If you can honestly tell me that you'd have no objection whatsoever to KKK communes announcing they want no further contact with mainstream American civilization because they can't deal with associating with the innately violent, inferior black race, then fine. You're a more tolerant person than I am.

But I strongly suspect that you, like most people in this thread and most people in America, would recoil with horror and roundly condemn another of example of "hate" directed at black people. And that's fine. But to cherry-pick which forms of bigotry are acceptable and which social groups are fair game to target with what, at its foundation, is exact same set of attitudes and beliefs, is a transparently sexist double standard.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 8:31 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for anyone else, but I reject separatism because I don't like the idea of society breaking off into ever smaller separate hostile camps. Of course, in reality, there's very little chance of that happening, but the idea of it still has managed to have a bunch of people, (who when all is said and done, probably more or less agree with eachother in general principle), to argue themselves hoarse for 200+ comments, for no other reason than the fact that people love to argue and dig in their heels rather than listen, and that goes for people who take positions I agree with as well as ones I disagree with, just so you know.
posted by jonmc at 8:33 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think they're being totally selfish. I think they can make society MORE tolerant, respectful, and accepting for lesbians if they joined it and contributed. Leaving society when they have something to contribute just makes it harder for the lesbians that don't have a choice but to live here.

Frankly, they're not obligated to do jackshit for society. They're not obligated to educate the rest of us about lesbian separatism, or teach us how terrific consensus meetings are. There are lots of books and articles about the subject (some even linked here!) if you want to read about it; there are people around who have lived on the land for periods of time (one has even commented in this thread). There's lots and lots of information available to you without any of the actual separatists having to come to your house to do a tutorial.

It's not the job of every member of a minority (or oppressed majority) to teach the rest of us/you. If they/we want to, or it serendipitously happens along the way, that's great.
posted by rtha at 8:35 AM on February 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


The OnlyCoolTim: The White Supremacist groups that form in prisons have a realistic fear of racially motivated violence against them. I hope everyone's cool with their bigotry.

This is a poor analogy, as prison is a unique environment much different from life "on the outside.” Prisoners join gangs in order to protect themselves from violence and in some cases continue criminal activities. No doubt there are deeply hateful members among their ranks, but prison gangs are based more on strength in numbers than on political ideology. (Do you think that the average new inmate who doesn’t want his dinners stolen and doesn’t want to get stabbed in the shower has the luxury of advancing his political principals?) Prison gangs have historically been segregated by race, e.g. the Aryan Brotherhood you allude to, which was formed by white prisoners alarmed at suddenly finding themselves a minority in American prisons—but protection and profit, not racial hatred, is the first priority of most prison gangs.
posted by applemeat at 8:38 AM on February 1, 2009


also, is the comment count higher by 2 on the front page than inside the thread for everyone, or just me?
posted by jonmc at 8:49 AM on February 1, 2009


Yeah, what's up with people not wanting to be excluded based on a biological characteristic? It's almost like they want antidiscrimination laws and policies to apply to them, too. The nerve.

Since when is it a legal issue? It's private property. Case closed.

By the way, I'm crashing on your couch tonight. You will not oppress me!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:27 AM on February 1, 2009


It's still just prejudice. Toleration is fine. Celebration is quite another thing.
posted by cytherea at 9:46 AM on February 1, 2009


craichead You don't have to go anywhere to be in a place where lesbian separatists don't call the shots. You already are in that place. You were born in that place. You will die in that place. With the exception of a few scattered communes, the whole world is that place. There is no equivalence between you and them. You don't have to be a separatist, because you can achieve the same goal just by existing.

What "goal"? "Running the place"? I've never had such a goal, never mind achieved it. And you know what? You touch just upon what bothers me deeply about the mentality behind these communes. I'm definitely not upset about not being welcome there, nor do I have the slightest interest in visiting. I'm pretty glad that I don't have to live with such people, frankly.

No, what bothers me is the impulse to reverse real or perceived discrimination by "running the place". I don't want any particular grouping to "run the place", because no matter how genuinely oppressed a minority is, once it gets into power, humanity's "asshole factor" takes over, and they start acting obnoxiously against others. In fact, the more oppressed a group was before, the more oppressive they tend to be once they start "running the place". Exhibit 1: Israel (arguably, a much more justified separatist experiment).

fullerine Men [in general] are dicks. Seriously we are. To claim otherwise is disingenous at best, look around you.

In that case, women [in general] are cunts. Nature is wise.

Men are so used to not being rejected simply because of who we are, so used to not having to deal with prejudice that when it occurs we sometimes lose the plot.


You can speak for yourself. As an Arab-looking Mediterranean type, I've being on the receiving end of some racist prejudice more than once. And I don't see the difference between getting the evil eye and being judged a potential criminal and rapist because of my (assumed) race and because of my gender. It's equally unpleasant, injustified and grossly unfair.

Frankly, you can keep your liberal man-guilt. As a lapsed Catholic, I already got my full dose of sex-related guilt from a very young age.
posted by Skeptic at 9:57 AM on February 1, 2009


Lesbian separatists have abandoned a heterocentric, androcentric world, where they have little voice but great oppression. Rather than their hyperbolic comparison to KKK/Aryan separatists, they may be more similar to black separatists, who might choose to exclude individuals who are half-black or who wish to date whites. And to Orthodox Jewish separatists who might choose to exclude conservative and reformed Jews from their collective, as well as those who wish to date outside their religion.

In all cases, the separatists may not wish to interact with their perceived oppressors, and may choose to maintain a lifestyle that allows them voice and ability to act freely. They do not harm others, nor do they harm themselves by their choices. (Yes, they are "missing out" on larger society's offerings, but so are anthropologists who opt to live in the Amazon jungle amongst tribes).

How silenced are lesbians? Lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel (author of "Dykes to Watch Out For") is known for The Bechdel Rule, a rule in which one of her characters state that she will only watch films in which 1) there are two female characters who 2) talk to each other about 3) something other than a man.

Can you imagine if there was a fourth rule: 4) and at least one of the female characters has to be lesbian?

Lesbian separatists are creating a place where their voices, beliefs, and lifestyle choices count.
posted by terranova at 9:58 AM on February 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Again, there's nothing threatening about what they're doing. What's objectionable is their beliefs, which are every bit as bigoted and intolerant as the Aryan Nation. "

Uh, no. Not without either wildly understating the Aryan Nation beliefs or forcing everything into a false dichotomy of bigotry. And, I mean, come on—why not just say The Nazis? You clearly want to. Why not just say that these lesbian separatists are exactly like the Nazis who killed six million Jews because both of them were prejudiced toward an outgroup? I mean, on that level, you know who else are like the Nazis? City dwellers who don't want to live in rural areas, or rural folks who don't want to live in cities. Exactly like the Nazis. By believing that people who live in cities are violent and dirty, just like the Nazis thought Jews were dirty.

OR BUT WAIT COULD THERE BE A GRADATION?

And regarding the silly "Is werds violent?" bullshit: Think about the line, "Your money or your life." In some contexts, it's a game show. In others, it's a mugger with a gun. For the vast majority of recorded human history, men have held social, economic and military power—that "Fuck you" can come with an implicit threat of rape. The bullshit about women being delicate wisps versus "It's just words, man" ignores this. If you're spooked by the mugger's words, you're crystalline and prone to fracture? And the only other approach is that the victim just needs to use other words?

Leave off the stupid rebuttals about the proximity of the risk; it's an analogy, not a case citation. But be aware if any of your friends get mugged—they'd probably be annoyed if you snuck up behind them and pretended to mug them again, even if you didn't have that gun in your pocket.
posted by klangklangston at 10:30 AM on February 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


I think it's hilarious that we have people saying "Language isn't violent! I tell people to fuck off all the time - it doesn't mean anything!", and we have other (or maybe sometimes the same) people saying "They can't call all men violent! That's bigoted language and it's harmful and bad!"

I dunno. Maybe you guys should argue with each other.

---
If you can honestly tell me that you'd have no objection whatsoever to KKK communes announcing they want no further contact with mainstream American civilization because they can't deal with associating with the innately violent, inferior black race, then fine. You're a more tolerant person than I am.

Leaving aside the continued problem of comparing a violent group whose members belong to the majority, and who have a long and ugly history of actually killing people, with that of a group of lesbians, I would honestly have no problem with this. I would rather they live in the woods and only talk to each other than recruit in prisons and schools. If they genuinely want to be left alone, and will likewise be leaving other people alone, then why do you care why they want to be left alone? If weirdos want to live in the woods and not enforce their beliefs by law or bullet, then what the fuck does it have to do with me? Or you? The fact that you object to separatists if you don't approve of their reason for separating is is bizarre and illogical. They certainly don't approve of the choices you've made, and do not want to live the way you live. Their solution is to get away from you - to leave you alone, and to be left alone. Why not return the courtesy?
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since when is it a legal issue? It's private property. Case closed.

I was responding to your broader point about the gall of MRA's in objecting to discriminatory treatment, as if they're somehow excluded from the protections of both antidiscrimination laws and societal taboos governing bigotry. As to the former, Ollie's barbecue was private property, too. The law didn't throw up its hands and allow categorical exclusion of an entire social group from places of public accommodation. As to the latter, the Augusta National Golf Club was private property; Martha Burk wasn't content to let it operate beyond the reach of antidiscrimination taboos, either.

I know the name of the game is to defend the actions of the favored children of identity politics at all costs, but come on.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 10:59 AM on February 1, 2009


I know the name of the game is to defend the actions of the favored children of identity politics at all costs, but come on.

I find it hard to believe you're actually making these points in good faith. Comparing a golf club which is, if I recall correctly, receiving government licensing and other general legitimization with people living basically in their own homes is not a really valid comparison.

This has nothing to do with identity politics as I see it and a whole lot more to do with some people being squicked out because other people disagree with them in their minds and for some reason that gives them the fidgets.

Seriously, what's it to you and what legal remedy would you seek (along the lines of the cases you outlined) to a bunch of lesbians living among each other at their home? I have a no assholes policy at my own house too, good luck with that lawsuit. At what point does preference become discrimination?
posted by jessamyn at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


I know the name of the game is to defend the actions of the favored children of identity politics at all costs, but come on.

Gawd you're priceless. Don't ever change. Poor you.

I was actually wondering why you were so late to this thread, as anytime there's a discussion with regards to women's rights, you're normally one of the first ones to hoist the banner of the Oppressed Male. You really think homosexuals are the "favored children"? What world are you living in?

The false equivalency to the KKK is hilarious. This country is dominated by straight white Christian men. I seriously don't think you could reasonably assert otherwise. The KKK, comprised of straight white Christian men, have fought to keep America dominated by straight white Christian men. Their "separatism" doesn't solely mean going off to the woods to live on a compound. It means separating the undesirables from where they already are. By force if necessary. And they have used violence to this end.

These women, by contrast, are recusing themselves from the company of people with whom they do not want to associate. They have no intentions of making America a lesbian country. I seriously doubt they'll be bombing an Elk's Lodge any time soon. They don't like men, and have removed themselves from them.

I know you're pretty much just disingenuously playing word games in order to stir shit, but you come on. Your issue is you don't like their opinion of men. Oh well. Deal.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:12 AM on February 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


rtha
I think it's hilarious that we have people saying "Language isn't violent! I tell people to fuck off all the time - it doesn't mean anything!", and we have other (or maybe sometimes the same) people saying "They can't call all men violent! That's bigoted language and it's harmful and bad!"


rtha, there's a BIG difference between "violent" and "bigoted". The social contract aims to exclude violence. We have courts, and jails, for those who commit violence. Calling language "violent" is thus an implicit call for banning it. Associating violence to language is the oldest trick by those trying to limit freedom of speech. I agree that "fuck you", or even my own "fuckwit" are rude, unpleasant and not very civilised. But they are not and cannot be "violent", and certainly should not be banned.

Nor should bigoted language be banned. By their language we shall know them, and try to reason with them, just what I've been trying for this whole thread. Because bigoted thinking certainly cannot be banned, but only reasoned against.
posted by Skeptic at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


They certainly don't approve of the choices you've made, and do not want to live the way you live. Their solution is to get away from you - to leave you alone, and to be left alone. Why not return the courtesy?

At this point I'm going to stop providing more direct emphasis on my point and conclude you're intentionally distorting my argument to avoid having to respond to it. I have said, several times and quite clearly, that I don't object to people moving into the woods to live by themselves. I have also said, equally as clearly, that what I do object to is anyone maligning an entire social group in broad-brush, cavalier terms rooted in stereotypes.

I'm not demanding that these people come back to society to defend their bigotry or participate in my lifestyle. I'm criticizing their hateful attitudes and beliefs, especially to the extent they've been articulated as attacks on men and by implication, on me.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 11:20 AM on February 1, 2009


I think it's hilarious that we have people saying "Language isn't violent! I tell people to fuck off all the time - it doesn't mean anything!", and we have other (or maybe sometimes the same) people saying "They can't call all men violent! That's bigoted language and it's harmful and bad!"

Denigrating people who aren't like you beats out casual expletives any day of the week, and I don't buy the assumption that these women would be all that offended by my language. The people objecting to it are in this thread, not on a lesbian commune. Do you speak for them? Do they know that?

Also, I would never say that someone can't call all men violent. It's their right to do so, but it's also my right to call them on it. What I find disturbing is the reluctance to classify that statement as bigotry and the urge to dismiss those who point it out as self-obsessed whiners.

I don't care that these people don't like me. If that's true, I don't like them either. I don't care that they want to move somewhere far, far away from people like me. Good riddance! Don't let the door hit you on the way out. What I do care about is that some people in this MeFi thread are dismissing overt, spoken bigotry (perhaps on the part of a small percent of the population of these communes) as passable because of who it's coming from and who it's about.
posted by brundlefly at 11:26 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm criticizing their hateful attitudes and beliefs, especially to the extent they've been articulated as attacks on men and by implication, on me.

Oh jeez, grow a pair.
posted by neroli at 11:41 AM on February 1, 2009


You really think homosexuals are the "favored children"? What world are you living in?

If you're going to go so far to distort my argument as to remove words from my sentences to turn them into completely different statements, there is nothing more to discuss. Congratulations, you've earned a hard-fought victory over a well-constructed straw man.

I find it hard to believe you're actually making these points in good faith. Comparing a golf club which is, if I recall correctly, receiving government licensing and other general legitimization with people living basically in their own homes is not a really valid comparison.

Living in their own homes, no. But if there is any place of public accommodation, be it a trading post, a meeting hall, a school, or anything else, then I think the comparison does hold. Since these were lesbian communes, I feel confident in assuming they're not solely residential dwellings without any shared, "public" spaces; if they are, then the Ollie's Barbecue principle doesn't apply.

This has nothing to do with identity politics as I see it and a whole lot more to do with some people being squicked out because other people disagree with them in their minds and for some reason that gives them the fidgets.

I disagree with their postulate that all men are innately violent or inferior. I contend identity politics is salient because no one (or, at the very least, far fewer people) would be defending them if their attitudes targeted a different social group.

Seriously, what's it to you and what legal remedy would you seek (along the lines of the cases you outlined) to a bunch of lesbians living among each other at their home? I have a no assholes policy at my own house too, good luck with that lawsuit. At what point does preference become discrimination?

I cited those cases in response to Marisa jeering at men who try to join certain private establishments as a form of protest over being excluded. I brought up Ollie's Barbecue and the ANGC as counterexamples of other social groups doing the same thing. I've said before that I don't care about lesbian separatists living by themselves in the woods. What I do care about is them doing so alongside their proclamation that they need to insulate themselves from men because men are innately violent or in some other fashion inferior.

I have every right to criticize that statement.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 11:46 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting that the discussion is all about the line in the linked article about "men are violent," and no one objecting to that bothers to mention the nearby passage where one of the women says she feels safe in her community, which isn't true in the outside world and around men.

I'm male, I'm non-violent, I'm unwilling to shoulder blame for things I didn't do, and yet I look at that statement and you know what? My answer isn't to call that person "unfair" or "bigoted."

Because the fact is that there are a lot of violent men running around out there - far more than there are violent women - and we do not come with little name tags identifying us as violent or not violent. And given the prevalence of acquantaince, familial, and spousal rape and battering, knowing someone well is no guarantee he won't turn out to be violent.

If I were female, I would mistrust all of us. It would seem to me to be the only sensible, safe course. And I think of that fact, and I read this thread, and I wonder how any man could read the above article and NOT have his immediate reaction be a flood of gratitude for the women who still trust him.

To complain about women who feel men are violent is to shoot the messenger. I reserve my resentment for the minority of men who are violent, and after that for the majority of men who provide them cover by dismissing or denying women's perspectives on male violence.
posted by Coyote Crossing at 11:58 AM on February 1, 2009 [13 favorites]


If you're going to go so far to distort my argument as to remove words from my sentences to turn them into completely different statements, there is nothing more to discuss. Congratulations, you've earned a hard-fought victory over a well-constructed straw man.

Did you not say lesbians are among the favored children of identity politics? I think you did, unless "I know the name of the game is to defend the actions of the favored children of identity politics at all costs" means something else entirely. My counter was that in the real, practical sense, the "favored" are - surprise! - not the homosexuals.

I've said before that I don't care about lesbian separatists living by themselves in the woods. What I do care about is them doing so alongside their proclamation that they need to insulate themselves from men because men are innately violent or in some other fashion inferior.

Why? They're taking absolutely no action to influence policy in the outside world with regards to their opinion of men. Talking about how you feel personally attacked, and how the speech is hateful, drawing comparisons to the Klan seems a bit of an over-reaction. Sure, you have a right to criticize the quotes of a few of the people in the commune. But is it really worthy wall-of-text inducing outrage? If so, well, so be it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:09 PM on February 1, 2009


Not to derail the pissing contest here, but here's a thought: these places were founded because gay women felt that the rest of society was violently hostile to them. Nowadays, as one of the residents said "In 20 to 25 years, we could be extinct," because less gay women are interested in living there, possibly because society as a whole is far less* hostile to them than it was 30 or 40 years ago. Call me a goofy old fool but I'd say that's a good thing.

*I'm not saying that homophobia's not a big societal problem, just that things have changed quite a bit and for the better
posted by jonmc at 12:23 PM on February 1, 2009


Somewhere, someplace, a small group of people are gathering who may not like me. I will not rest until they are destroyed.
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on February 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Somewhere, someplace, a small group of people are gathering who may not like me.

Where and when? How much are tickets? Will there be refreshments?

(sorry, klang, but don't feed me straight lines. Had I not responded, my head would have exploded.)
posted by jonmc at 12:32 PM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somewhere, someplace, a small group of people are gathering who may not like me. I will not rest until they are destroyed.

Our first meeting was the day after the Indian pizza SF meetup. HA ha!

You should come back to visit soon, because that was fun that time! You can destroy us over pitchers of beer, yes? Maybe we'll go to Zeitgeist to drink beer and wait for the tamale lady to show up.
posted by rtha at 12:48 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was listening to the audio slideshow that goes with the article.

Towards the end, one of the women says that they get along very well with their local neighbors, that the neighbors are, in fact, "wonderful" while noting that the surrounding community is very Baptist and socially conservative. I rather doubt that she would be inclined to make excuses for them or to minimize any clashes they've had.

So if a bunch of Bible-bangin' Hillwilliams can accept this community, live in peace with them and work with them, why is it so difficult for enlightened MetaFilter intellectuals, many of whom would have nothing but scorn for those country folk, to do the same?
posted by jason's_planet at 12:50 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whether or not I am male (true) has nothing to do with whether or not lesbian separatist communities are expressions of prejudice. We're on the internet, so it shouldn't be too hard to argue against words on a screen, but if it helps, pretend I'm a lesbian, a nullo, or whatever fantasy will help you to avoid the ad hominem fallacy.

Why I feel so threatened or outraged (I don't, except in the very abstract sense that I think engaging in any bigotry threatens to diminish the general well-being.) has nothing to do with whether or not lesbian separatist communities are expressions of prejudice.

That lesbian separatist communities are dissimilar from White hate groups in that White hate groups have shown a much greater propensity towards violence does not show that lesbian separatist communities aren't similar in being expressions of prejudice.

Removing yourself to a safe place where you can't be oppressed by keeping the oppressors out is not bigotry.


Let's look at that prejudice.

Straight Women = The Oppressors
Improperly Queer Women = The Oppressors
All Men = The Oppressors
MTF Trans = The Oppressors

I disagree with the concept of "safe space" when it's used in this way. To me a "safe space" for lesbians could mean homophobia and misogyny are banned, not people who happen to be straight or male. I like the latter idea and it's one I often see used by inclusionary groups such as, in this context, those that call themselves Gay-Straight Alliances and GLBTQA Clubs (the last A stands for straight Allies. Too many letters, though, I think they should just cut it down to Queer Club and let straight people who aren't uptight about it be queer too.)

I am familiar with an argument that the oppressed group has come to fear all members of the group they associate the oppressors with and needs an exclusionary space to feel comfortable, but I think that type of bigoted fear and discomfort is something that everyone needs to excise. White separatists feel discomfort and fear around other races and that argument doesn't seem to work in their favor.

Then ask yourself how plausible it is that someone could simply "not see themselves as inferior" while continuing to immerse themselves in the society that made them feel that way in the first place.


So the vast majority of lesbians who remained and remain immersed in society have accepted their inferiority? NO ONE should be judging their self-worth based on the oppressive structures of their society. There's a neologism that comes from feminist theory but applies to all sorts of social problems: kyriarchy. Tl;dr: The Man keeps us all down, except The Man isn't the same as men and The Man is actually a woman sometimes. No one should let The Man tell them how to value themselves; it fucks up everyone to different degrees except maybe a very few at the top.

Their views are not what would prevent them from being your friend; it's your views that are getting in the way.


Actually, no, their standards don't care about my views, just my penis. Pretty much the definition of prejudice, and in my book, bigotry, which I think of as willful examined prejudice, i.e. everyone has prejudices but upon realizing a prejudice the thing to do is to cut that shit out rather than embrace it.

As for being offended that they don't "need men," that doesn't make much sense. I "don't need" lesbians, but, (yeah, it's a cliche) I have been and am friends with a bunch of lesbians, rather than excluding the group from my life.

(And to yeloson for pulling out of their ass the strawman argument that people here are objecting to separatism because the women aren't around for the men to fuck: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.)

It's interesting how I've been condemning equally the exclusion of men, other ciswomen, and transwomen, but for the most part everyone else has been solely discussing and defending the exclusion of men. (Excepting that the blatant example quotes I used which were limited to men because that's what the NYT provided. Probably shouldn't have bothered with the quotes.) Let's see some defenses for banning the bisexuals and the trannies. If anyone wants I could Devil's Advocate myself; I know a decent argument from the Michigan festival for excluding MTFs if the acceptability of separatism and prejudicial safe spaces is assumed.

Finally for now, to be clear it really wouldn't bother me if some lesbians were sitting around the table and someone said, "The bullshit in this society is too much, so let's go off into the wilderness and start a chill commune." I think it stops being a chill commune when they flee an exclusionary society only to set up their own, when they kick out or disdain the woman who decides actually she likes both girls and boys.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:06 PM on February 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


The (more extreme) criticisms of these communities on this thread are fascinating and I think point to one of the many reasons why these women became separatists.

Contrast comments such as "pretty obnoxious views", "Lesbian Supremacist hate groups", "selfishly parting with society" and these women not having "stuck their necks out in public and influenced popular opinion".

With the article: "Men are violent. The minute a man walks in the dynamics change immediately, so I choose not to be around those dynamics."

Do you get it now?

As an aside, lesbian separatism has been influential on feminism with works such as 'Herland' adding much to the canon.

With the experiences that these women have had, they didn't feel that they could change the world and it is not everyone's responsibility to be an activist. That puts the political burden on the powerless. To many their retreat was inspired by fear and a resistance to engaging with adversarial politics. They were attacked while in heterosexual society and are criticised for leaving it.

Go figure.
posted by Blackadder at 1:09 PM on February 1, 2009


Let's look at that prejudice.

God, for a potential rapist you don't half whine.
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's incredibly demeaning to suggest that lesbian's can't be prejudiced bigots.
posted by cytherea at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Let's see some defenses for banning the bisexuals and the trannies."

I'm probably going to get slaughtered for this, please, don't shoot the messanger here, but one of the reasons sometimes given for excluding transwomen from women only spaces is ... fuck I have tried to write this as inoffensively as I can, and am just making it so I don't even understand what I am saying, so excuse the overbluntness here.

Argument = that people raised as guys and used to those priviledges can be as good at taking up too much space as actual guys and it can fuck up the balance of a discussion. It can also be uncomfortable to be sharing about stuff that may be specific to growing up as a woman, with somone who hasn't made that part of the journey. That may well change as people are coming into contact with their gender identity a lot sooner in life.
posted by Iteki at 1:36 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's incredibly demeaning to suggest that lesbian's can't be prejudiced bigots.

She has a point. Positive sterotypes and prejudices are still stereotypes and prejudices.
posted by jonmc at 1:45 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: And regarding the silly "Is werds violent?" bullshit: Think about the line, "Your money or your life." In some contexts, it's a game show. In others, it's a mugger with a gun. [...] If you're spooked by the mugger's words, you're crystalline and prone to fracture? And the only other approach is that the victim just needs to use other words?

Klang, that's a bit glib. If one believes that "at gunpoint" adequately describes the climate of gender relations, or political life, or whatever; if one chooses to inhabit some Neocon's id, where siege and crisis are the only things going, then sure, I can see how one might interpret any word or gesture as an artifact of oppression. But the problem here is not with words, but rather with constructing this artificial and shell-shocked perspective.

I have not one single problem with these women living in a community of their own design. But I'm fascinated (and saddened) by the number of times the fundamentals of free speech come into question around here. And I'm the one who doesn't care about words?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:05 PM on February 1, 2009


As for being offended that they don't "need men," that doesn't make much sense. I "don't need" lesbians, but, (yeah, it's a cliche) I have been and am friends with a bunch of lesbians, rather than excluding the group from my life.

So you're fighting a lifetime's worth of cultural and familial teaching that you're worthless without a lesbian? That your life is incomplete or meaningless unless you are partnered with a lesbian? That your only worth is what role you play in relation to lesbians? That there is something wrong with you if you don't want to stay home and take care of the house and cats while your lesbian goes out to work?

And since you do, in fact have lesbian friends, why does it matter that some other lesbians out there don't want to be your friends, or have no interest in you at all?

It obviously hurts that there are women who see no value in associating with men. And while I am sometimes annoyed that there are people out there who don't want to associate with queers, I really don't give a shit unless they're trying to run my life. Their mere existence, and my awareness of their beliefs, does not in fact affect me in any way. I am not outraged by their presence on this planet. I am not outraged that they don't want to associate with me. I don't understand why you are.

I don't agree with excluding bisexuals or transwomen. But my solution to that is not to go to a private group that isn't making public policy or otherwise advocating that I adhere to their rules and tell them that I disapprove of their choices and that I will consider them to be wrong and bad until they change their beliefs to agree with mine. They're not coming to my house to tell me what to do, so I won't go knocking on their door either.
posted by rtha at 2:05 PM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's incredibly demeaning to suggest that lesbian's can't be prejudiced bigots.

I'm not aware that anyone in this thread has said any such thing. I have seen people be surprised that some people apparently think that lesbians who want to live without men are morally equivalent to the Klan.
posted by rtha at 2:07 PM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've seen innumerable people take offense at the suggestion that statements like "Men are violent" by people who refuse to live with or sell their land to anyone with the wrong sexual orientation or gender are, in fact, prejudiced.
posted by cytherea at 2:18 PM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


OR BUT WAIT COULD THERE BE A GRADATION?

Thank you klangklangston! There are gradations of prejudice and oppression, and to have the same outrage over prejudice against men as would typically be reserved for nonhegemonic groups is ridiculous!

What I find disturbing is the reluctance to classify that statement as bigotry and the urge to dismiss those who point it out as self-obsessed whiners.

We dismiss it because calling 50% of the population violent is obviously an overgeneralization, and MOST women would agree. It isn't so much about men as individuals, rather the social values and norms with which the majority of men have been raised, not to mention the majority of women. I think that woman is referring to the socialization of the men and nonlesbians in the world, and it is a place to retreat from that socialization for lesbians. She is not talking about YOU, yes YOU, like YOU would pick up a knife and stab her. She is talking about a more abstract violence that is built into our culture, and THAT is why I am willing to dismiss claims of bigotry. It is like Coyote Crossing said: To complain about women who feel men are violent is to shoot the messenger. I reserve my resentment for the minority of men who are violent, and after that for the majority of men who provide them cover by dismissing or denying women's perspectives on male violence.

Associating violence to language is the oldest trick by those trying to limit freedom of speech. I agree that "fuck you", or even my own "fuckwit" are rude, unpleasant and not very civilised. But they are not and cannot be "violent", and certainly should not be banned.

Just because someone called you out for saying "fuck you" does not mean they are undermining freedom of speech. It is their freedom to call you out on it by justifying why that language offends them. Rhetorical sensitivity is not about what the speaker meant, it is about how their audience interpreted it. There are consequences for your free speech, and one of which is offending others. AND language CAN be violent. Noting that is not the first step to censorship, it is the first step towards a realistic description of how the victims of this oppression feel.
posted by metricfan at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whether or not I am male (true) has nothing to do with whether or not lesbian separatist communities are expressions of prejudice.

it has everything to do with your overly dramatic sense of grievance over what you perceive them to believe

sorry, you don't get to leave your gonads outside of a discussion of sexual politics

We're on the internet, so it shouldn't be too hard to argue against words on a screen, but if it helps, pretend I'm a lesbian, a nullo, or whatever fantasy will help you to avoid the ad hominem fallacy.

and there's a classic male strategy right there - an appeal to the "rules" of "logic" over what is, after all, an emotional and spiritual lifestyle choice

Why I feel so threatened or outraged (I don't, except in the very abstract sense that I think engaging in any bigotry threatens to diminish the general well-being.) has nothing to do with whether or not lesbian separatist communities are expressions of prejudice.

my reading of the article was that it was an expression of experience - how can one prejudge an set of experiences one has already had?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:44 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Language CAN be violent? Strange, my brother works in an ER, yet he's still to meet a patient who's been injured by a sharp epithet. And I wasn't "called out" (nor did I say "fuck you", BTW), I'd to hear that my language was "violent". It's a commonly accepted principle that violence should be banned and its perpetrators punished with more than a strongly-worded rebuke. Do you see my point?

pyramid termite "Male strategy"? Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron? Anyway, thanks for confirming that, for you, "logic" is a lifestyle choice.

posted by Skeptic at 2:57 PM on February 1, 2009


I'll admit, I was a little upset to read this. But not at the lesbians. The fact that there are such communities filled with people that felt so rebuffed by society that they had to flee to compounds and the safety of numbers...I'm upset because WE failed THEM. We preached diversity, but didn't practice it. We spoke much of tolerance and respect for others different from us, but they were only words to too many of us.

And yet, to be fair, these folks failed us too, by bailing out, by giving up. Integration is hard, plain and simple. Breaking down prejudices takes time, commitment and bravery. They didn't have that. We failed them far more than they failed us, but they failed us too, by going off in the woods and raising a white flag to societal bigotry.
posted by jamstigator at 3:22 PM on February 1, 2009


Look. If you can honestly tell me that you'd have no objection whatsoever to KKK communes announcing they want no further contact with mainstream American civilization because they can't deal with associating with the innately violent, inferior black race, then fine. You're a more tolerant person than I am.

I'm the "you" you were referring to here, and yes, I have exactly zero problem with anyone going off and living in cabins in the woods, alone or together, be they nazi skinheads, radical lesbians, hippies, or anyone else. I have a lot of problem with all of the other actions the Aryan Nations and similar groups have taken and supported over the years, of course, from bombings to assaults to robberies. But the going off and living in the woods part is of no concern to anyone (except their neighbors who get to watch their property values decline, perhaps).

Why should I care what their reasons are, either? Maybe they think armageddon is nigh, or they don't like libertarians, or they want to live with people just like themselves and engage in some sort of collective fantasy, so what? Why on earth should I feel hurt, threatened, or impacted by their retreat to a commune in the woods?

Are religious monks and nuns "bigoted" because they want to live in single-sex communities, and of the celibate at that? Are self-selecting religious communities "bigoted" for wanting to live with others of their faith? Am I a "bigot" because I insist on marrying a woman only, and reject 48% of humanity immediately?

A couple of the people posting repeatedly in this thread have long displayed near-total tone-deafness on gender issues. At some point I hope you can see the pattern, and realize that the variable here is yourself. There's some serious misuse of language here (including "bigoted" to describe an elderly lesbian's reflection on her personal history of interactions with men decades ago), and some really offensive comparisons, like with the KKK and the Aryan Nations. Grow the fuck up, ok?
posted by Forktine at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anyway, thanks for confirming that, for you, "logic" is a lifestyle choice.

judging from your inability to parse what i wrote, it would seem that logic is not a lifestyle choice for you
posted by pyramid termite at 4:13 PM on February 1, 2009


I've seen innumerable people take offense at the suggestion that statements like "Men are violent" by people who refuse to live with or sell their land to anyone with the wrong sexual orientation or gender are, in fact, prejudiced.

I'm not sure I'm reading you right (maybe a word or phrase got left out? I'm having a little trouble parsing your sentence), but I'm not aware of any lesbian separatist land where the owners have refused to sell to [kind of people]. Selling property is subject to various laws and statutes; living on your land with people you choose to live with is not, as far as I know, subject to laws or statutes about discrimination, as long as you're a private group doing a private thing without taking public money to do it.

But I suspect that what you want is for someone to say yes, lesbian separatists are prejudiced.

So, in my opinion, are they prejudiced? Yes. Do I give them a pass? Yes. Why? Because I understand - both in a visceral and an academic sense - what social and historical forces led them to make this choice.

The continued insistence by some here that some women who have suffered actual, violent oppression and who want to retreat from it and live apart from it as best they can is just like white men who want to live in the woods because of the oppression they have suffered at the hands of blacks or women they don't like blacks and who advocate the killing of black people is bizarre.

Language CAN be violent? Strange, my brother works in an ER, yet he's still to meet a patient who's been injured by a sharp epithet.


Do you remember what happened in Rwanda? Do you remember that some people were tried for war crimes because they used the radio to advocate killing the "bugs"? Your inability or unwillingness to see how other people might interpret a "Fuck you, bitch!" as a statement with violent or threatening subtext is kind of sad.
posted by rtha at 4:36 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


A large room is filled with cats and dogs. Some dogs bite and chase the cats. A few cats scratch the dogs. It's bedlam, but eventually things settle down, and most of the cats and dogs coexist peacefully. Hierarchically, though, the dogs rule.

A few cats leave the room to inhabit a small safe closet away from the dogs, whom they perceive as threatening and potentially violent.

Are the cat-separatists bigots?
posted by terranova at 4:47 PM on February 1, 2009


Thus far, I have yet to see a coherent defense for the "we need to ban heterosexual and bisexual women" concept I've been peeking into the thread, looking for it, and not seeing it. It appears to be indefensible.

"Men are violent," even supposing that is true, does not address it.

"Seeing men changes the social dynamics" isn't relevant.

"We've had traumatic experiences" does not cut it.

That's the bit that transforms what could have been an almost-understandable motivation right into your basic ideological purity requirement. It says, "You have been contaminated by the outsiders." And we all know where that comes from. That's the true elephant in the room.
posted by adipocere at 5:12 PM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


It says, "You have been contaminated by the outsiders." And we all know where that comes from. That's the true elephant in the room.

I read their decision differently: "Outsiders remain an integral part of your world. For you to exist in ours, you would need to abandon those outsiders or bring those outsiders here. Both of those options would distress you and us."

Further, lesbianism -- not femaleness -- is the separatists' identity.
posted by terranova at 5:37 PM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Klang, that's a bit glib. If one believes that "at gunpoint" adequately describes the climate of gender relations, or political life, or whatever; if one chooses to inhabit some Neocon's id, where siege and crisis are the only things going, then sure, I can see how one might interpret any word or gesture as an artifact of oppression. But the problem here is not with words, but rather with constructing this artificial and shell-shocked perspective."

Well, much as it's our place as men to tell women whether or not their feelings about their safety are justified or legitimate, "Fuck you, lady," is both aggressive and sexual.

And for folks who are making the specious link between lesbian separatists and Klansmen, that sexual and aggressive would be linked to rape should not be a surprise.

In fact, were I to be being glib, I would say that "Fuck you, lady," is to rape exactly as these lesbian separatists are to Aryan Nation compounds, and wonder why folks so dedicated to erasing the damaging stereotype of men as aggressive and threatening aren't worried about such language.

Oh, and my girlfriend just reminded me that every religious group that isn't universalist inherently believes in their superiority and thinks you're going to Hell. While I have no doubt (having gone through the Atheism Wars here) that some folks will find their anti-prejudice positions consistent, it's stupid to waste this level of opprobrium. It is over-sensitive, it is anti-pluralist, and it is exactly the kind of bullshit that PC is always caricatured as.
posted by klangklangston at 5:46 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't agree with excluding bisexuals or transwomen. But my solution to that is not to go to a private group that isn't making public policy or otherwise advocating that I adhere to their rules and tell them that I disapprove of their choices and that I will consider them to be wrong and bad until they change their beliefs to agree with mine. They're not coming to my house to tell me what to do, so I won't go knocking on their door either.

Oh fuck, I thought this was a general-purpose forum for discussion and debate on the Internet, not the e-mail inbox of the lesbian commune. You realize you just disapproved of their choices and considered them wrong right in the same place I did.

The continued insistence by some here that some women who have suffered actual, violent oppression and who want to retreat from it and live apart from it as best they can is just like white men who want to live in the woods because of the oppression they have suffered at the hands of blacks or women they don't like blacks and who advocate the killing of black people is bizarre.

Are they equivalent if we discuss White racists whose views were formed in part by suffering from actual violent crime perpetrated by Blacks? After all, "Black people are violent criminals" just like "men are violent." I'd be curious to see the a justification for the latter statement that precludes the former. Or, considering those attracted to White supremacism are often themselves marginalized and financially oppressed, what if they feel oppressed by government and business and point to the (very real) relative overrepresentation of Jews in upper-level government and business positions as justification for anti-Semitism? To me, these seem equivalent - these women take up their objections to all men because of actual oppression by some men, while the White supremacists take up their objections to all women because of actual, if indirect, oppression by some Jews. (And now that a biracial man is the president I definitely expect there'll be tons of noise about the Blacks using the government against the Whites.)

And for folks who are making the specious link between lesbian separatists and Klansmen


So I'll discuss my initial phrase "Lesbian supremacist hate group." Hyperbolic in connotation? You bet. Completely specious? I disagree. First off, I'll note that I try to say what I mean and mean what I said, and I just said "supremacist hate group." I didn't specify which hate group - didn't want to get specific, different Klans and Aryan Nations and so on act and believe differently and I was getting at the general commonalities of prejudice and superiority. I wasn't even thinking of White groups in particular, because though no one picked up on it I also wanted to highlight commonalities with Black supremacist/separatist groups like the Nation of Islam which also get called "hate groups." (A classification which I'll admit is controversial or iffy but don't find completely unreasonable; the SPLC, for one, uses it.)

Oh, and my girlfriend just reminded me that every religious group that isn't universalist inherently believes in their superiority and thinks you're going to Hell.

I would be very amused by someone coming up with some weird postmodernist universalist religion that asserts all other religions' dogmas are somehow simultaneously true. Something a bit like some flakey syncretic New Agey stuff I've seen, but self-aware about it. Could probably throw a bunch of pseudoscientific readings of quantum physics in there too.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:27 PM on February 1, 2009


I've spotted a little island in the Bahamas.
I'll hang up a sign--No Trespassing--and go back to nature.


--Pussy Galore, "Goldfinger"
posted by Restless Day at 8:51 PM on February 1, 2009


Okay, let's say they are a hate group. Let's say that this definition of a hate group applies here:

The ultimate aim of a hate group is commonly the delegitimization, elimination, and exclusion of groups, or the harm, deportation, or death of individuals.

We're agreeing that by choosing to live together on their own without men, or without other women who might want to live with men, these women constitute a hate group. Choosing not to associate with men on their own small piece of land is enough like actively working towards the elimination or total suppression of men everywhere that this is a hate group. Now what? What do you want? Should we send the ATF and FBI in? Confiscate their rakes and whisks? Burn 'em out? Send them to reeducation camps where they can learn to love men? Seize their land and build a male appreciation temple on it?

Or do you just want everyone here who doesn't consider them similar to white supremacists to capitulate to your logic and agree that women who don't want to have sex with or live with men are pretty much the same as these people. Some people here obviously do agree with this, but others aren't going to see an oppressed group that is specifically trying to avoid violence against its own members as being equivalent to a group that uses violence to oppress and terrorize others.
posted by taz at 9:13 PM on February 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


rtha So, in my opinion, are they prejudiced? Yes. Do I give them a pass? Yes. Why? Because I understand - both in a visceral and an academic sense - what social and historical forces led them to make this choice.


In 2006?! The obviously quite affluent editor of a gay and lesbian magazine? Maybe you should acknowledge that some people are prejudiced without having suffered persecution. Besides: I don't see previous oppression as "giving a pass" to prejudice. Sorry, two wrongs do not make a right.

Do you remember what happened in Rwanda? Do you remember that some people were tried for war crimes because they used the radio to advocate killing the "bugs"? Your inability or unwillingness to see how other people might interpret a "Fuck you, bitch!" as a statement with violent or threatening subtext is kind of sad.

First of all, you can search all this thread as much as you like, nobody has written "Fuck you, bitch!". That last word is a gratuitous embellishment you just added. You are either delusional or lying.

Secondly, the people killed in Rwanda were killed with machetes, not words. The crime of "Radio Mille Collines" was that of inciting people to use those machetes. And you betcha I'm completely unable to see the simple use of the word "fuck" (never mind "fuckwit") as an incitement to rape. If you see it as threatening, it is your problem, not mine. I can guarantee you 100% that no remotely sane man (or woman, for that matter) is going to feel compelled to rape you by reading that word.

Thirdly, for somebody who's made such a show of moral indignation because of the (certainly unfair) comparison of those lesbian separatists with the KKK, you throw genocidal references around a bit too easily. Now, if I was to take the same mantle of self-righteousness, I could make a big fuss about your equating the mass murder (and violent rape!) of hundreds of thousands with your perceived oppression by The Man. But, because I do have a sense of humour, I'll limit myself to the following:

FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCKITY. FUCK.

There, get your knickers in a twist.
posted by Skeptic at 12:23 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand what you are doing, Skeptic. Nobody said the word "fuck" should be banned. I'd be very, very surprised if anyone here thought so. You're the only person to have brought up that idea. Nobody's trying to take your FUCK away from you. Add fuck into every fucking sentence all fucking day to every fucker you fucking talk to. Nobody here will mind.

Still, we can talk about what words mean/imply/suggest all fucking day, too. Fuck?
posted by taz at 1:30 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


On a lexier note, how do communities such as this manage to avoid lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act?

The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and as of 1974, sex; as of 1988

I'm under the impression from CLC v Craigslist, as well as from speaking with Boston realtors, that FHA lawsuits are particularly easy to trigger. Is it legal to even advertise housing at Alapine?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:18 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, this would be an excellent time to be lectured on FHA applicability, since this community is out in the Hinterwelt, and couldn't have fewer market implications if it were titled Norbit II.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:29 AM on February 2, 2009


There, get your knickers in a twist.

What are you, 12 years old?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:23 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


They describe themselves as a a 501(c)3 organization, so I'm guessing that they are set up in such a way that they are not required to offer properties to the general public, though I know less than zero about such things.

I do have the feeling that they are going to be very, very sorry that they agreed to this article, and it makes me sad to imagine how they are going to (probably) be harassed now. I think that they are misguided that their community can continue in its present form because as so many have noted here, society is moving forward and young lesbians have different, better, broader expectations and opportunities. But there are all sorts of possibilities for how that land and the organization might evolve, and I hope that these women who have lived through such difficult times and managed to carve out a bit of space for themselves in what was otherwise an almost completely hostile environment will just be left in peace.

Most of you who are very angry about them... well, I imagine they are around the age of your grandmothers. How much do you really want to see them punished? I'm as old as their youngest member, so it's easier for me to understand where they were coming from. With the exception of maybe only the most meager handful of cities in the U.S., and there, only a very few areas or neighborhoods, none of these women could have lived a reasonable life as an out-lesbian, unless they had a lot of money, which makes its own exceptions. I'm not a lesbian so I would be never be welcomed into their community, but I'm not even the tiniest bit bothered by that. I wish them the very best.
posted by taz at 3:25 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon What are you, 12 years old?

Oh, so you're ageist too?
posted by Skeptic at 3:49 AM on February 2, 2009


I'm not sure I'm reading you right (maybe a word or phrase got left out? I'm having a little trouble parsing your sentence), but I'm not aware of any lesbian separatist land where the owners have refused to sell to [kind of people]. Selling property is subject to various laws and statutes; living on your land with people you choose to live with is not, as far as I know, subject to laws or statutes about discrimination, as long as you're a private group doing a private thing without taking public money to do it.

From the article:
At Alapine, the development corporation owned by three women who started the earlier women’s community in Florida sells plots to individual owners. If someone who owns decides to resell, the development corporation has the right to buy the property. The women at Alapine have agreed that they want to remain a lesbian-only community. They acknowledge that this could make them vulnerable to a legal challenge from a nonlesbian, but they say no such challenges have arisen.
So, in my opinion, are they prejudiced? Yes. Do I give them a pass? Yes. Why? Because I understand - both in a visceral and an academic sense - what social and historical forces led them to make this choice.

Their anger at the injustices of the world is understandable, but directing that anger at individuals who are not responsible for the injustice is not. Obviously they are free to associate with whom they choose, but I don't think these are the kind of communities we should romanticize or celebrate. Theirs is a fundamentally flawed basis for building an utopia.
posted by cytherea at 5:10 AM on February 2, 2009


The Amish welcome people into their communes who express a sincere, genuine interest in joining, irrespective of biological characteristics.

Yeah, as long as you're Christian, and a particular variety of Christian, at that.
posted by desuetude at 6:51 AM on February 2, 2009


Those prejudiced, beard-and-no-moustache clad bigots. They're like the Klan!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:53 AM on February 2, 2009


Stop twisting my knickers Marisa, my delicate and illogical lady parts are smarting.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:58 AM on February 2, 2009


The Argument:
Lesbian separatists are prejudiced supremacist bigots like the KKK.

The Fear:
What if bisexual women and the GorgeousLesbiansInMyPornTapes stopped wearing makeup and acting in ways I approve, and went into the woods OMG?
posted by terranova at 8:27 AM on February 2, 2009


If some people feel the need to separate themselves from a society completely, then ultimately, that's their right. I am, however, glad that I live in a world where most people don't feel the need to do that.
posted by jonmc at 10:05 AM on February 2, 2009


In 2006?! The obviously quite affluent editor of a gay and lesbian magazine? Maybe you should acknowledge that some people are prejudiced without having suffered persecution.

Sexism and homophobia ended in 2006? And nobody told me? Damn!

You're willing to assume - based on a sentence in a newspaper - that Rand Hall never suffered persecution (because she was publisher of a newspaper? because she is allegedly affluent? because it was 2006? What?), and based on that obviously sound and accurate judgement of her entire life experience, you dismiss her reasons for wanting to live the way she wants to live.

Really?

Oh, so you're ageist too?

This was probably meant as a joke, but you know, don't use up all of your outrage on lesbian separatists. Especially ones in Florida....which is jammed with retirement communities that don't allow people under 60/62/65 to live there. Ageist! Retirement communities are a hate group!

Thirdly, for somebody who's made such a show of moral indignation because of the (certainly unfair) comparison of those lesbian separatists with the KKK, you throw genocidal references around a bit too easily.

Your assertion that no one's ever been injured by a sharp epithet struck me as quite flippant, and the first thing that popped into my head was the Rwanda situation I mentioned above - I don't see where "easily" enters into it, since it seems like a recent and extremely obvious example of the power of language. It's not like a few hundred thousand people all got up one day and decided to hack their neighbors to death. They were explicitly encouraged to do so - encouraged not by a gun to the head, but by words.

You realize you just disapproved of their choices and considered them wrong right in the same place I did.

Yeah, I did. Except I don't consider them to be a hate group, a distinction you are unable or unwilling to make.

these women take up their objections to all men because of actual oppression by some men,


No. Not "actual oppression by some men", but actual oppression by a system built and maintained by and for men, a system which privileges men over women - yes, even in this country, even in this century (Lilly Ledbetter, anyone?) These women would call it the patriarchy.
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not like a few hundred thousand people all got up one day and decided to hack their neighbors to death. They were explicitly encouraged to do so - encouraged not by a gun to the head, but by words.

The Rwandan genocide was not merely carried out by civilians spurred by a voice on the radio; it was the culmination of three years of civil war between organized armies, including foreign armies, and a pattern of internal violence that reached back decades. Pointing to such devastation and saying that words did this is saying much too little. Words and a state of civil war; a war the Tutsi militias won, and went on to invade Zaire.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2009


Nobody is suggesting, as you are dishonestly characterizing them as suggesting, that words alone caused the Rwandan genocide. Words were, however, one of the weapons employed.

seriously I cannot read this thread and believe that that comment was made in good faith
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:26 AM on February 2, 2009


Pope: I can't believe you'd accuse me of bad faith after reading this thread, which, on so many levels, is just one outrageous mischaracterization after another.

I thought "encouraged not by a gun to the head, but by words" elided a massive piece of information about a multi-national war that never really ended. And if it's any consolation, rtha, I'd tried to write something about the propaganda campaign. I'm sorry I cut it out. But it's immensely complicated - state propaganda in the midst of civil war. Is it a particular choice of words, in calling someone a "bug?" Is it the government-supported publications, the state imprimatur? Is it the lack of a free press, the fact that all discourse had been silenced save the mouthpieces for the state and for the rebels? Is it the climate of war? There were plenty of loaded guns to the head, and still are - and it's possibly the worst, most confounded situation I can think of in which to judge the power of words.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:07 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am aware that the violence in Rwanda was spurred by a very complicated matrix of events/people/propaganda, and that it was not simply or solely a voice on the radio that got people to go kill their neighbors.

In any conflict like that, propaganda is a weapon of enormous importance, and those who control the means of mass communication have a huge advantage. Statements like "no one's been injured by a sharp epithet" are incorrect, unless one is going to be utterly literal.

Instead of mentioning the power of propaganda in a genocidal war, perhaps I should have told the story of this guy I knew in school, who nearly committed suicide over a whisper campaign against him. As far as I know, no one every beat him, or stuffed in a locker, or tripped him in the cafeteria, but what was said about him caused him great, nearly deadly, pain.

And clearly, some people here are hurt or upset by lesbian separatists stating that men are violent.

Maybe words have no power. Maybe they can't be injurious at all. But I'm just an editor and I totally went into this field for the money, because everyone knows that editing and publishing are where the bucks are so what do I know.
posted by rtha at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2009


While I'm still against the anti-male bigotry, I'll agree that probably little direct harm to individuals comes from that. I do think, however, that their bigotry directly hurts other oppressed groups of women. Just in this thread we have two personal accounts just in this thread of queer women experiencing rejection, which have been mostly ignored. If I'm going to keep being told I'm outraged, can I decide that's what I'm so outraged about?

Since this seems to be the ad hominem thread, I'll post quotes from some quick literature searches/reading I've done earlier. All these articles are written by women with varying views on, conceptions of, and experiences with separatism. I do have to pick quotes and unfortunately most of them aren't available online, but if you can accept my good faith I wasn't digging hard to find quotes like these. I just clicked topical-seeming titles/abstracts from the top search results and tried to draw a bit from a spectrum of perspectives (including, yes, a few real out-there ones, but I wanted to get beyond the misconception that none of these groups had or have aspirations beyond living in the woods by themselves and leaving everyone else completely alone, I still didn't have to look hard, and I've not hesitated to include sensible positions, too, that don't agree with mine.) It's a huge wall of text but I'm already forced to pull things out of context to share them here at all and I'd feel flat wrong pulling things too far from context, so I've provided emphases if people want to skim. I've linked to the few articles I could, and while I won't post these on my webserver I feel I should note that if people Metafilter mail me with their e-mail addresses I most certainly am not allowed to share articles without breaking a EULA or TOS.

Here's a few from Off Our Backs, which from my quick look seemed to generally contain support for Lesbian separatism. These are excerpts from relatively short articles. (Off Our Backs has articles online after 1995, but I was looking at the full archive and ended up with mostly stuff from before then.)

Or lets say each of us has the idea to organize a conference "for wimmin only." In general, I don't believe males are or can become wimmin. If you believe that anyone who believes herself to be a womon is a womon, then you and I have a heck of a lot of negotiating to do before we can work on the same conference.
...
Lesbian separatism is not a universal ideology. By definition, it doesn't include men. Wimmin who identify as heterosexual or bisexual are also unlikely to feel included by a separatist point of view. Of course, many lesbians also disagree with separatism. Most lesbian separatists I know are perfectly willing to let everyone else figure out their own ways of doing politics.

Is this attitude likely to lead to a fragmented society? I can only say that I hope so. The core of the patriarchal sickness is the belief in the desirability of a "one size fits all" political philosophy that applies to everyone. The "one size" truly only fits a few powerful white men, and anyone who asks for alterations is accused of being divisive.

The art of the impossible: Some thoughts on lesbian separatist strategy
Brown, Betsy. Off Our Backs. Washington: Dec 1995. Vol. 25, Iss. 11; pg. 8

Waters believes, as does Tallen, that separatism is inherent in feminism. She said that feminism is a theory that advocates a culture of feminist values. She sees it as a new theory that has not yet developed a strong economic analysis or clear understanding of race, sex and class and how they operate together to service privileged groups. According to Waters, it is women's values and ethical systems developed through our herstory (and still developing) that are fundamental to feminism. She listed eleven basic principles implicit in women's values and admitted that as we understand more about our barriers they may change. Some of these principles include: individual freedom; the importance of experience; the need for withdrawal; the importance of quality and necessity of health; the belief that one ought not to feel guilty; the means for change is as important as the result, etc.
...
Joyce Trebilcot was the last to speak. ... She agreed with the others that separatism is withdrawal to develop a woman's culture. She said she recognizes her own desire to have as little as possible to do with men as a temperamental inclination that is rooted in her own personal history.

Trebilcot believes that simultaneous with some women's separatism, other women must continue political struggle against patriarchy and that we should discipline ourselves to carry on this struggle. She talked about "expansionism" and revealed her fantasy of all women having a separate geographical space, not on earth. She said that she thought of men as a separate species and felt more aligned with cats and trees. "I'd rather be in their group," she said (meaning that of cats and trees).
Lesbian Separatism: History & Theory
Mudd, Karen. Off Our Backs. Washington: Sep 30, 1983. Vol. 13, Iss. 8; pg. 10 (This is a report on a workshop with the same title.)

The hostility that many lesbians feel toward bisexual women is a familiar story. A few gay women who knew of my relationships with men still considered me a lesbian. Others thought of me as a flake who straddled the fence, frivolously using women and unable to make up her mind. Still others designated me a defective lesbian, a betrayer of the ranks, someone who unfairly had the advantages of heterosexual visibility when she wanted them and enjoyed the "privilege" of being a lesbian too. The last designation makes sense up to a point when you consider that women who relate only to women can't "pass" as heterosexuals, and so without this option are not regarded as legitimate by mainstream society.
...
I distinguish the above from the separation that people require when they're in the process of changing and re-thinking their identities, when they form and re-form (reform) groups. In this case, the I'll-do-it-my-way separatism can be an intrinsic and valuable tool for healing and development -- such as when a woman-identified woman needs to minimize contact with men or heterosexual society in order to assess her own values. Taking time to replenish and heal ourselves is vital to our growth as human beings. This period of hibernation allows us to sort through what we have learned, to discard and keep and integrate. And it's crucial if we are to renew our energy and re-define our own selves.

But integration can -- indeed, must -- be achieved with our sense of tolerance intact; otherwise, how integrated are we? If my lesbian sisters feel a need to protect themselves, I ask, "From what are you really protecting yourself?" If lesbians hate or dislike me without knowing who I am, then their need to protect themselves is a bogus need and a bogus protection. They are not affirming themselves in disavowing me. The position they think they are asserting is not the position that springs from the strength of self-love. When we act from a position of defense, it always negates us. But when we act from love, we affirm ourselves.
A Dialectic on Loving: Can We Be Friends If I'm Bi
Silver, Nina. Off Our Backs. Washington: Oct 1993. Vol. 23, Iss. 9; pg. 14
As Lesbians we are female-born beings who separate our sexuality from men, and we relate physically, affectionately, intimately and sexually with other female-born Lesbian-loving beings. When we as Lesbians enjoy Lesbian being and Lesbian spaces, we are enjoying, at least to a degree, an act of Separation, Separatism.
...

There is no one way to be a Lesbian Separatist, or to live Lesbian Separatism.


Some of us may still relate to some men superficially, or to maintain paid work, housing, or other needs that can't currently be met by Lesbians. Some of us live in cities and deal with men daily, but don't let them into our hearts. Some of us deal with men rarely, but still struggle against the effects of previous associations.
...
Some of us hope for a better life for ourselves, more whole with other Dykes. Some of us hope for a better world for us all if females regain our full power. And, some of us believe that because males are parasitic on females and female energy, that if we create a movement that inspires females to progressively withdraw ourselves and our focus and energy from males, we'll ultimately create a Lesbian planet...mmmmmmmmm.
Lesbian Separatism
Anne, Sheila. Off Our Backs. Washington: Jun 1992. Vol. 22, Iss. 6; pg. 17
But here it was. As I groped my way out of my dew-drenched dome, earlier that morning [began to hear rumblings of how THE SEPARATISTS had postered a Lesbian's cabin with signs saying to get her prick off the land. My intestines rolled, looped and knotted as I was sure there would be resulting Separatist trashing from this incident and that the fact that this mother had no business bringing her son on the land would be obscured. It didn't feel good. I don't know what approach to this situation would have felt good. That he - or any of the other boys I heard about - were on the land at all felt like invasion and betrayal - behaviors that warrant anger. I hear that the Lesbian whose cabin was postered was terrorized by the signs - or perhaps the anger behind them - or perhaps by being caught in her betrayal she feared more intense repercussions. Whatever, I felt greatly disturbed by the gulf of distance between us where we can feel so disrespected by and so angered and fearful of each other.
...
Our communities are experiencing a Lesbian baby boom. The children, largely the products of artificial insemination, are and will be mostly male.

I think we ought to take a close look at what's going on here.

I think we're in big trouble.


Womyn or children first? Lesbian space elusive at east coast fest; "separatist positive" perspective
Anne, Sheila. Off Our Backs. Washington: Oct 31, 1989. Vol. 19, Iss. 9; pg. 27
(The next two are responses from the next issue.)
I have heard women say that the violence was directed against the boy, not his parents. This, it seems to me, is ignoring a lot of things. Principally it is ignoring that women who have a child love that child, and will respond to hatred directed at that child as though it were directed at them. Further, it is ignoring that the contents of the signs -- for example, "don't feed males, don't breed males" -- were directed at the parents, not at the boy. Again, I don't think the boy should have been brought. However, to me it is more important to work with other lesbians than to work against men, and I see the events at the festival as a turning against lesbians more than against patriarchy. Women let patriarchy direct their actions when they let one small male representative focus their energy, turning them against their sisters, choosing the patriarchal method of outward violence.

...the waste and ruin on the battleground of the First Annual East Coast Lesbian Festival was caused in small part by the presence of an 18 month old boy. In large part it was caused by woman-directed violence by women.
Womyn or children first? The debate continues: there must be a better way
Johnson, Angela. Off Our Backs. Washington: Nov 30, 1989. Vol. 19, Iss. 10; pg. 20
The age of the boy is also not the issue. The Michigan Festival makes an arbitrary judgement that boys up to the age of three are allowed on the land. This makes little sense. Boys are born with pricks and male privilege, these attributes do not mysteriously appear at a certain age. The age of the boy should not be used as an excuse to deal with the problem of boys in womyn's space later.

I believe that lesbians should not be bearing and raising boy children in the first place. Lesbians should not put our valuable energy into raising the oppressor. Lesbians should not be compromised in the development of womyn-only space by boy children. Lesbians should not be putting ourselves in a position where we reap heterosexual privilege.
Womyn or children first? The debate continues: in defense of separatists
Braeman, Elizabeth. Off Our Backs. Washington: Nov 30, 1989. Vol. 19, Iss. 10; pg. 20
Later I looked at a couple from Feminist Studies. These are excerpts from 30+ page articles, the first a retrospective examination of lesbian separatism from a queer theory and personal experience. I found the first article especially interesting, and luckily Google found it so it's linked. I cut out a lot because I initially ended up excerpting about 5 screens of text just from this, so do go read it for context and ideas I left out entirely.

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That's exactly how I now feel about my years as a lesbian separatist in central North Carolina. That period of my life provided me with dreams and politics that have lent a character everything that followed. I also ended up in conflict with just about every person in the tight-knit, claustrophobic community.
...
Around 1983, we started asking each other to declare primary or even sole allegiance to "the women's community." Class, race, regional, or religious issues and struggles were forced into secondary positions or overlooked entirely. We began policing ourselves in order to guarantee that our members were faithful to the principle of putting women first.
...
Additive identity politics failed in radical feminist communities because it challenged the central tenets upon which many of these communities were built. Radical feminism used an essentialist notion of identity to ground its politics in what was thought to be the superior nature of women. Essentialism saw female identity as an ontological ground, a truth about nature itself and the virtuous nature of women specifically.
...
In graduate school, however, I found new friends and newly emerging theories in postmodern feminism that reflected for me the serious limitations of a politics based solely on racial, ethnic, gender, sexual preference, or class characteristics. Around 1989, the entire world of feminist theory had become suddenly energized with deconstruction.
...
I can now watch police shows on TV go to church, watch porn, have male friends, work in coalition around race and class issues, flirt with straight women, circulate in both the centers and on the margins of many institutions, in short, live the complicated life of human subjectivity. Queer theory and practice provide a much greater amount of freedom than radical feminism.
Radical Feminism, Lesbian Separatism, and Queer Theory
Kathy Rudy
Feminist Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 191-222
This last is a narrative about a short-lived radical revolutionary lesbian collective. I quoted the intro. The magnitude of their vision is pretty impressive.

In a 1972 memo to the Furies,member Charlotte Bunch articulated her dream for fifty years in the future. Bunch foresaw that "women will have taken power in many regions in the US, [and] are governing and beginning to create a new feminist society." This new society entailed a long-term view of lesbian feminist separatism: "[W]e have built alliances in which we are the dominant power,with some minority groups and with a few male groups (especially gay males). We have minimal, but not warring, relations with some other US regions where minority groups have taken power and where the women are advancing rapidly but not yet in total control." The former United States had become "A Federation of Feminist States," governed by a lesbian feminist party." Building on Bunch's vision, members of the Furies, a lesbian feminist collective based in Washington,D.C., in the early 1970s, proceeded to plan how they could eventually bring about this political goal.
Living a Feminist Lifestyle: The Intersection of Theory and Action in a Lesbian Feminist Collective
Anne M. Valk
Feminist Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2, Second Wave Feminism in the United States (Summer, 2002), pp. 303-332
The document quoted, which I did not find online, is cited as:
Charlotte Bunch, "Notes for the Cell Meeting, January, 1972," box 1, Joan E. Biren Papers, Lesbian Herstory Archives, New York.
I found an archive of The Furies newsletters but haven't had much chance to take a real look.

I'll also be careful to note that Charlotte Bunch seems to have chilled out since then and done what at first look seems like some good work, I guess sort of like William Ayers.

So, with these accounts of bigotry against an 18-month old child and revolutionary gender warriors, how far off is "supremacist hate group" for some of these separatists? I'll certainly acknowledge there are degrees - I'm generally against exclusion or separatism but there of course there are gradations between having a women's only event, a commune that excludes bisexuals, and the United States of Revolutionary Feminism.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:35 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


what
posted by Coyote Crossing at 2:36 PM on February 2, 2009


So here's the thing, TheOnlyCoolTim. I'm pretty sure that most of the people who are arguing with you are totally aware of those criticisms. Anyone who has been paying the tiniest, slightest bit of attention to feminism for the past thirty years would be aware of those critiques. In fact, my hunch is that most of us arguing with you are people who accept those critiques and who don't subscribe to or have much sympathy for RadFem or lesbian separatist ideology. So the question isn't "are lesbian separatists right?" It's "how do we think about this movement which has been pretty thoroughly discredited, and which is no longer in the mainstream of feminism, but which was important in the development of modern lesbian and feminist thought?" You think the answer is to focus on how wrong they are, in a pretty unsophisticated, inflammatory and male-focused fashion. I think that it's old hat to talk about how wrong they were, since that battle has been fought and won, and that we can afford now to focus on the positive aspects of their legacy. And I think that there are things to applaud about them. I admire their insistence on creating the kind of society in which they wanted to live. I admire their unwillingness to compromise or hide who they were. I think the spaces they created, for all that they were exclusionary in many ways and very much not my thing, were a source of strength that sustained a lot of women. And I think that arguing against them, figuring out why their ideology didn't work, was really good for lesbian and feminist thought and caused the rest of us to sharpen our ideas and figure out some important things. So I would like to focus not on what's wrong with them, which is something I've been hearing about since the day I got involved in feminism, but in what they accomplished and why they're not just a bunch of stupid, wrong-headed freaks.
posted by craichead at 2:45 PM on February 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


Just in this thread we have two personal accounts just in this thread of queer women experiencing rejection, which have been mostly ignored. If I'm going to keep being told I'm outraged, can I decide that's what I'm so outraged about?

No not really.

You could make some sense instead of just pullquoting a bunch of offline articles about what a few lesbian separatists say. The fact that any self described radical group has positions that you personally [anyone, personally] find troubling and possibly offensive seems to be how that whole thing is supposed to work. That's what radical politics are about, provoking a reaction, generally. So great, you seem provoked.

That you, TheOnlyCoolTim, are deciding to be fighty and massive-pullquotingly GRARing (in my personal opinion) about a radical group that has exactly no adherents in this thread is a little mystifying. What is your point? You don't like what these women are saying? You think their approach is harmful to harmonious gender relations in American society? That there's no possible reason or any possible life they may have lead that can justifiably bring them to their radical concusions in your opinion? What?

Put another way, while I think Forktine's post was an attempt to shed light on an interesting if quirky subculture; I think the takeaway is that FRINGE GROUPS ARE FRINGE AMIRITE? They're not recruiting, they're not threatenting your way of life in any way. It's a look into a group of people I have personally had almost zero interaction with except through reading publications like Off Our Backs which reports on but is not an advocacy publication for lesbian separatism in my assessment except that it doesn't treat it as fringey the same way the Times does.

This post could have linked to an article on nudists and you're seeming like a sales rep for Levi Strauss complaining about their impact on your bottom line. I don't understand

- what conversation you're responding to
- how you think what you just posted contributes to that at all

I am with jonmc here, I don't much care if some people decide to remove themselves form society, I'm glad most people don't decide to do that.
posted by jessamyn at 2:53 PM on February 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Last comment - mostly done either way but I have shit to do and if anyone wants a response please ask cause I might not be back on for a couple days so you'd get a late one. Metafilter Mail to jessamyn to follow shortly.

In fact, my hunch is that most of us arguing with you are people who accept those critiques and who don't subscribe to or have much sympathy for RadFem or lesbian separatist ideology.

It's been like pulling teeth to get most to admit it though.

So the question isn't "are lesbian separatists right?" It's "how do we think about this movement which has been pretty thoroughly discredited, and which is no longer in the mainstream of feminism, but which was important in the development of modern lesbian and feminist thought?" You think the answer is to focus on how wrong they are, in a pretty unsophisticated, inflammatory and male-focused fashion.

I've been, in roughly the latter half of the thread, explicitly trying to steer the conversation towards the rejection of other women. I'll admit everyone else's focus on MEN MEN MEN has tended to draw me back to that because I had little discussion on the other issues to respond to.

I think that it's old hat to talk about how wrong they were, since that battle has been fought and won, and that we can afford now to focus on the positive aspects of their legacy.

I don't like hagiography too much. Don't know negative history, doomed to repeat it, or something like that. And the battle's been fought and won? It's my understanding there's still significant biphobia around, especially against femme bisexual women, and transphobia's done with?

That's what radical politics are about, provoking a reaction, generally. So great, you seem provoked.


Looks like my radical politics are working right, then.

Off Our Backs which reports on but is not an advocacy publication

I didn't mean to style it as an advocacy publication for separatism, but it certainly contains advocacy of separatism, more often than not from what I saw.

- what conversation you're responding to


That was a tricky part, all of them at once most of the time but if I tried to respond to every individual one I'd just never finish a comment.

At the end I was just tired of hearing about how I'm outraged, I'm upset, why do I care, I'm male, and therefore my arguments are invalid, so, fed up, I went into my history and pulled some other people's voices who are not I. If they were blogs or something, I'd have been posting them before, but most of those articles are unavailable to most and I expected all of them to be unavailable, which made me hesitate.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been busy and it has actually taken me three whole days to work through this thread so now I've forgotten what was so contentious to begin with. Was it that one lesbian separatist characterised ALL men as violent and then some men objected and said ALL lesbian separatists are bigots based on the one womon's one statement? 'Cuz that just doesn't make sense at all to me.
posted by saucysault at 4:51 PM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Was it that one lesbian separatist characterised ALL men as violent and then some men objected and said ALL lesbian separatists are bigots based on the one womon's one statement? 'Cuz that just doesn't make sense at all to me."

Yeah, pretty much.

In fairness to Tim, though, he really has been trying to focus at least somewhat on the more risible exclusions of these communes, but I think he ignored the point made way upthread that the reasoning behind these women's rejection of the transfolk is that they haven't grown up as women. I know a lot of women who feel similarly.

Fundamentally, I don't think that's a resolvable point—I do think a case can be made that people who grow up enculturated as male may interact differently than women who have lived their whole lives as women, though, due to my magic penis, I can't say one way or another, really. But what's the remedy? I mean, it's, on some level, all about how a conflict of freedom of association is resolved, whether the transwomen's right not to be excluded is, in this case, important enough to justify forcibly including them. Because I don't think anyone can make an authoritative decision on this case, the remedy seems to be to let these women do what they want on their own land, and to encourage other safe spaces for folks who want to have a more inclusive vision.

To this, I'd add two points coming from my gendered perspective: First off, Tim, I find it fairly risible when people of privilege are so dedicated to destroying inequality that they refuse to suffer any slight along the way. It's the same reason why I get annoyed when white men yammer on about how Affirmative Action is just as wrong as Jim Crow. I think there's a fair amount of that bullshit in this thread, and while I understand your points, your hyperbole contributes to viewing you this way, especially by women here. Second, I think something that may be a valuable thought here, or at least something that I seem to be hearing, is that even if we guys disagree with this stuff, well, there are plenty of smart women who are able to make the same arguments without the baggage of gender relations. I think, in large part, smart women have made those arguments, and that's a part of why these communes are dying off. Sometimes women can work these things through, even without the super-logic that our lingams imbue us with. In fact, the failure of these communes may be seen as women doing just that.
posted by klangklangston at 5:25 PM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


God, that was redundant toward the end. What I meant was that it's valuable, especially in this context, to not contest the autonomy of women and that this autonomy is pretty much exactly responsible for the decline of the communes.
posted by klangklangston at 5:28 PM on February 2, 2009


Was it that one lesbian separatist characterised ALL men as violent and then some men objected and said ALL lesbian separatists are bigots based on the one womon's one statement? 'Cuz that just doesn't make sense at all to me.

Nor to me. I won't speak for anyone else, but I had a problem with the statement of one individual. I've known a few women who lived in similar situations at different points and I don't believe I ever heard this type of sentiment coming from them. Granted, these people were no longer living on communes, so that may have skewed my sample, but I never got the sense that bigotry was a significant part of it.
posted by brundlefly at 6:15 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think he ignored the point made way upthread that the reasoning behind these women's rejection of the transfolk is that they haven't grown up as women. I know a lot of women who feel similarly.

I could understand how this might seem to be a reasonable argument made by people who don't have much experience with transgendered people. But if I may be blunt, it is an argument or excuse made after the fact to cover for more a more raw, emotional response to something that isn't understood or doesn't fit with a worldview that was constructed in reaction to hardship and pain or perhaps adopted bigotry. It's pretty easy to come up with excuses for prejudice. I'll bet there's a good verse in the bible somewhere. We do get so attached to our worldviews.

Nevertheless, it's acts and ethics that ought to be our guiding principles in the fog, not some possible etiology, not the gut instinct.

I think it's ridiculous--with a bit of thought, or with a bit of empathy--to imagine that the emotional life of an FTM child is anything like the emotional life of a non-transgender girl. And it's certainly not the same as growing up a non-transgender girl. That's probably pretty obvious. But I would imagine that it would be far more like the emotional life of a boy with some severe hardships than anything like the emotional life of a young girl. Growing up as a poor girl with violent parents is extraordinarily different than the experience of growing up with kind parents of means. Why should one vector be quantitative and the other qualitative? It's just so incredibly archaic to be drawing these lines based on a particular essentialism. It's giving undo magic to some damn body part over the soul.

Hateful, judgmental people come in all shapes and sizes. As do kind and loving ones. What made Pinocchio a real boy? Magic? The blue fairy? No. I think the important thing that separates us from machines is that a machine does not desire. It can simulate, but not wish. The fact that Pinocchio genuinely desired to be a real boy is the essential element that made him one. Desire is the glue that tethers us to the earth and the fertile ground where empathy grows. And right or wrong, I choose to believe in other people. To believe that they are genuine people, not malicious machines, bent on fucking with our heads. Except for Karl Rove and friends, of course. I'll hold off my judgment of them for now.
posted by cytherea at 12:06 AM on February 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Eh. Normally I'm not a fan of typographical corrections, but for the sake of semantic clarity:

And it's certainly not the same as growing up a non-transgender girl boy.
posted by cytherea at 12:17 AM on February 3, 2009


It's been like pulling teeth to get most to admit it though.

It's been like pulling teeth to get anyone to say that because we don't necessarily agree with their lesbian separatist ideology that they are a hate group like the klan or aryan nation, which is what you were arguing, the position you were defending.

Your concern for bi women or transwomen is cool, but it came only in context of this charge.

I don't want to live in this community. If I were a lesbian, I wouldn't want to live in this community - because it's too narrow. But spending a lot of time freaking out about the exclusions of a very specific separatist community also doesn't make that much sense to me. It's like...

- Okay! We're the club for talking about cellophane tape! Only cellophane tape! Only clear cellophane tape, not frosted! This is the club where we talk about nothing but clear cellophane tape! Go!

- O hai, I'd like to talk about masking tape please?
posted by taz at 12:40 AM on February 3, 2009


TAPIST
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:49 AM on February 3, 2009


http://www.divinecaroline.com/article/22360/65946-tribe-ukrainian-fighting--pics-

(My "link" button isn't working)
posted by Restless Day at 5:04 AM on February 3, 2009


The more I think about it, the more I am struck by how specious the argument is, comparing these women to the KKK and the Aryan Nations, all based on one quote pulled out of context. That's a really dishonest argument, and is using language in particularly dishonest ways. Maybe it's just trolling, or maybe the tonedeafness of some posters (like TOCT) is something that they display in real life, too, I don't know.

But look at the quote in context:

Both women, who like most of the others at Alapine were once married and had children, said they were deeply scarred by their experiences.

“I did everything I was supposed to do,” Ms. Adams said. “I went to college, I got my job, I got my man, I got my two kids. But it still didn’t feel right. I didn’t know that I was a lesbian because I didn’t know what that was. It was the ’50s and ’60s and nobody ever talked about it. It took me a long time to come to terms with it and come out.”

For Ms. Adams, every choice she makes today — which restaurant to go to, which contractor to hire, which music to listen to — is guided by a preference to be around women.

“To me, this is the real world,” she said. “And it’s a very peaceful world. I don’t hear anything except the leaves falling. I get up in the morning, I go out on my front deck and I dance and I say, ‘It’s another glorious day on the mountain.’ Men are violent. The minute a man walks in the dynamics change immediately, so I choose not to be around those dynamics.”


This is not someone expressing hate, or saying that she dreams of crushing cockroach-men under her feminist bootheel. This is someone reflecting on her past, and the path that has brought her to where she is now, and who remains deeply afraid of men. Actually, that bears repeating: she is expressing fear and disempowerment; characterizing that as "hate" and "bigotry" is either base stupidity or intellectual dishonesty.

These women aren't the KKK or the AN -- they are just one small piece of the history of separatist communities, which in the New World goes back hundreds and hundreds of years, and thousands of years in Europe. They aren't reveling in fantasies of violence, and planning ways of exterminating those they don't like, or making up stories about taking power. They are instead choosing to self-segregate.

And you know what? In this (and pretty much every other) society, it's ok to self-segregate. Legally, they are on some shaky ground because of how they are buying and selling the houses, and they'd be smart to rethink their legal framework before they end up with a lawsuit that bankrupts them. But as a society, we permit people to choose to be around others like themselves. No one is checking to see that your friends and your neighborhood are accurately representing national or local racial, sexual, or other statistics, for example. You are allowed to choose a school for your child with race in mind. You can choose your neighborhood the same way. Personally, I think that that is a sad and lonely way to live, but it that's what makes you happy, well, so be it.

I think that this ambivalence about self-segregation is what makes separatist communes so interesting. They are like little experiments in social formation, and their purity -- which is what allows the experiment to happen -- is often their worst weakness. If you look at any of the hundreds of accounts of hippie back-to-the-land communes falling apart during the first tough winter, you can see this. Lacking the complexity and resilience of the full society, these little mini ultra-pure separatist societies have a lot of trouble surviving and maintaining.

Like in the article, the ones that adapt and diversify are the ones that do better, usually. Look a few paragraphs down from the quote that has created all the heat and noise here, and see a different commune taking a much more nuanced path:

“I see the whole picture and the idea of a womyn’s land utopia, unless you have unlimited amounts of finances for yourself, I’ve watched one after another go belly up,” said Andrea Gibbs-Henson, 42, who lives at Camp Sister Spirit, a womyn’s land in Ovett, Miss., where she became executive director when her mother, one of the founders, died last year. “The bottom line is the world is too diverse. The whole idea of a feminist utopia, it’s just an ideal. We would not survive here if all we did was cater to lesbian separatists.”
posted by Forktine at 6:04 AM on February 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


"I could understand how this might seem to be a reasonable argument made by people who don't have much experience with transgendered people. But if I may be blunt, it is an argument or excuse made after the fact to cover for more a more raw, emotional response to something that isn't understood or doesn't fit with a worldview that was constructed in reaction to hardship and pain or perhaps adopted bigotry. It's pretty easy to come up with excuses for prejudice. I'll bet there's a good verse in the bible somewhere. We do get so attached to our worldviews."

Nope. I realize this is personal for you, but arguing that people don't really hold these views, they just use them as after the fact justifications for prejudice, is bad faith and ad hominem reasoning.

Frankly, like I said upthread, it's a realm of subjective identity and I don't feel comfortable arguing one way or another. But I think that there's no way to ever dismiss the argument that always feeling like a female is not the same as always being a female, just as I wouldn't dismiss anyone who said that growing up trans is not the same as growing up cis. That they're different seems indisputable; the question is whether those differences are strong enough to merit exclusion.
posted by klangklangston at 9:47 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


But if I may be blunt, it is an argument or excuse made after the fact to cover for more a more raw, emotional response to something that isn't understood or doesn't fit with a worldview that was constructed in reaction to hardship and pain or perhaps adopted bigotry.

It's really not that simple. The lesbian and women's communities have been having this discussion for long, long time, and in all of the discussions I've been a part of there has been great awareness of prejudice and bigotry and also very nuanced discussions about socialization, history blah blah blah. It's never, in my experience, been "Boys are icky so no boys or people who used to be boys ok?" They have thought about it and talked about it and cried about it a lot. And the communities that welcome only biological XX women-born-women who love women have decided to put their needs first, yes, ahead of the needs of transwomen or straight women or bi women. In a culture with a history of teaching women to put the needs of everyone else ahead of their own, this is seen as important and significant for these communities.

No one here, including me, has said anything new about separatism (except for maybe the part about lesbian separatists being like the Klan or AN - that one, I hadn't heard). All of the "separatism is bad because...." arguments advanced here have been offered, refuted, and argued over by women involved in separatism or involved in groups that are considering becoming separatist.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on February 3, 2009


For those who express understandable concern that the lesbian separatists in this case excluded transgendered women, consider if the scenario were reversed: a community of transgendered separatists chooses to exclude non-transsexual females.

The community members might argue that their experiences growing up, accepting "differentness," rejecting rigid gender roles, opting for sexual reassignment, and being subject to harassment, ridicule, and prejudice are what form their common bond. Their separatist community is a safe haven where they can live freely, in relative peace. Most of us could accept and understand this community's choice of defining parameters.
posted by terranova at 1:48 PM on February 3, 2009


But at the risk of switching horses mid-stream or some other mixed metaphor: Just as there's a difference between a white "separatist" and a black "separatist", there is also a difference between a cis-gendered/non-tran/bio gendered person excluding trans folks and trans folks making space that excludes non-trans people (not that I've seen much precedence for that situation even coming up.)

When the group that has historically experienced oppression takes space away from those who have historically oppressed, there is an explicit understanding that this creates a freedom unavailable in a society where priveldges are not spread equally.

What some separatist lesbians have ironically avoided addressing is that they too have privilege relative to (if they are white, as they often are) people of color, or (if they are not trans, and they rarely are) trans women.

So while I think equating a woman choosing to live on womyn's land with a neo-nazi disingenuously ignores social context, I still don't think that lets seperatists off the hook for their own unaddressed trans-misogony (to steal a term from - maybe Julia Serano? Not sure who coined it.)
posted by serazin at 3:06 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am late, late to this discussion, and have not much more to contribute than another personal anecdote, and the thought that rtha and redemma and I are about the same age. I was in Eugene when the call went out about CSS; I was hanging out with dykes, I was trying to figure out which closet door to open, I was in grad school and up to my wobbly bits in the Theory Wars. I sat in the same consensus meetings the two of you did, visited people on separatist land, saw a relative move to a separatist community in Southern Oregon (she had to move to a retirement home in town where half the residents call her Sir).

I turned out bi and femme and mostly asexual, so I don't talk to most of those people any more, but it was a weird wild ferment of a time. Thanks for reminding me of it.
posted by catlet at 3:27 PM on February 3, 2009


serazin Just as there's a difference between a white "separatist" and a black "separatist"

Is there? Please expound it. I think that here is where the genuinely liberal part ways with "leftist" ideologues.
posted by Skeptic at 1:59 AM on February 5, 2009


Please expound it.

Gee, I don't know, this is a tough one, isn't it? What difference could there possibly be?

Or wait, maybe the history of white separatism and black separatism are entirely different? With vastly different uses of violence? And fitting very differently into the broader political and social context?

Yes, you can cherry-pick and find weirdos of all stripes who speak in genocidal and apocalyptic language. But when you look at the actual attempts at separatism, and the planning of those separatist attempts, I think that you may see how sharply the histories of black and white separatism diverge.

(I'm speaking here to the US context; I think it probably gets a lot more complex when you look at post-colonial independence movements in Africa and the Caribbean, which is a history I know much less well. But other than the killings during the Haitian revolution, I can't think of any systemic and organized mass killings across large areas of whites by blacks in those countries (though like I said, my knowledge is far from encyclopedic on the subject), whereas I can think of innumerable mass killings by white supremacists. But certainly Mugabe and other leaders have skirted this sort of unpleasantness, though they have been very careful to limit actual violence against whites to individual attacks.)

Enough of the false conflations, please.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on February 5, 2009


Forktine Gee, I don't know, this is a tough one, isn't it? What difference could there possibly be?


Sorry, all other things being equal, what is the difference?

I didn't ask "what is the difference between a white separatist who burns crosses, attends to lynchings, wears a white hood and kills black puppies, and a black separatist who sorts his garbage, writes poetry, and means no harm to white people (as long as they just don't come anywhere near her or him)"?

I just asked: what is the difference between an individual who is a white separatist, and another individual who is a black separatist? No false conflation there, just a straight question.

And, BTW, mentioning "history" just doesn't cut it to me: for me, responsability and guilt are individual, not collective. "Collective guilt" is the basis of bigotry (and if you don't believe me, just consider the case of the ethnic group which used to be collectively blamed of "deicide").
posted by Skeptic at 10:19 AM on February 5, 2009


all other things being equal, what is the difference?

Your initial premise is just wrong -- all other things are not equal. I guess you could say, ignoring history, and ignoring our society, and ignoring pretty much anything else I can think of, what is the difference? But that's not much of a question, is it?

I just asked: what is the difference between an individual who is a white separatist, and another individual who is a black separatist?

And the answer is the one I gave: that the historical and social context for each is entirely different.

It really does matter that many (but not all) black "separatists" in the US have used separatism more as a metaphor for organizing than anything else, while many (but not all) white "separatists" have used separatism as an entry point for anti-black violence. Context really matters here -- you can have two people, both saying they are separatists, and both meaning entirely different things by it.
posted by Forktine at 10:41 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


all other things being equal, what is the difference?

Also because, as has already been said, white separatists intend to "separate" the undesirables from America. A lot of black separatists aim to live away from white people.

All this wide-eyed, innocent "Golly gee, I'm being totally sincere with my blanket false equivalency" is tiresome.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:07 AM on February 5, 2009


We live in a society that is characterized by systematic inequality. Black separatists aim to diminish that inequality. White separatists aim to preserve or increase it. If you really can't see the difference between fighting against inequality and fighting for it, then I'm not sure I can explain it to you.
posted by craichead at 11:15 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


craichead Black separatists aim to diminish that inequality.

Do they? How? "Separate but equal" wasn't a NAACP slogan, you know?
posted by Skeptic at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2009


Forktine and Marisa: IMHO, if a behaviour is bad, it is bad irrespective of context. For me, white separatism would be bad, even if white separatists didn't "tend" to do other bad things.

Anyway, let's reformulate this: what's the difference between a black separatist and a white Jewish separatist (aka Zionist)?
posted by Skeptic at 11:48 AM on February 5, 2009


By removing themselves from the white power structure and setting up an autonomous structure under which they could determine what was best for themselves on their own.

Black separatism has a pretty long history, which, if you weren't just tossing off facile zingers, you could read up on.
posted by klangklangston at 11:48 AM on February 5, 2009


In the U.S., separatism grew out of an increasing awareness that the NAACP's strategy wasn't really addressing a lot of forms of inequality. But I guess that's the "history" and "context" that offends you so much.
posted by craichead at 11:49 AM on February 5, 2009


IMHO, if a behaviour is bad, it is bad irrespective of context.

I see where you're coming from and I think this may be a fundamentally irreconcilable perspective with the one that a lot of people here are positing in terms of why they feel that lesbian separatists are not at all the same as white separatists, or for more functional equivalency, to black separatists.

So, the way I explain why context matters and why it can't be ignored is just to note that in the US, black separatists are pulling away and removing themselves from a culture and/or community in which they are disempowered. They're not taking their ball and going home so much as not playing in the kickball game where no one picked them to be on their team anyways. If they "rejoined" society it would still be one in which white people held pretty much any position of power that was available over them. Wanting this to change -- being someplace where black people owned the businesses, were the police force, handled the money -- was what motivated them. The legal structure was not their beef, but the institutionalized racism of the power structure was problematic.

White separatists had different goals, wanting to basically be someplace where laws that were put in place to prevent them from discriminating against people would have less effect on them. The institutionalized racism in the US was actually helpful to their goals, but the legal system (which was trying to right some of the wrongs created by institutionalized racism, that is the individual actions of thousands of individual people acting in subtly racist ways that overall created a culture of intolerance that was problematic to black people) was what they perceived as being problematic.

Most white separatists in the US withdrew because they wanted to break the law. Most black separatists in the US withdrew because the laws weren't going far enough to protect them. To me this is the easiest difference to point out besides the basic "what's motivating them" dscussion.

I personally believe there's no way to remove context from political choices and that most choices that we make in a day to day environment have some political baggage whether or not we're aware of them, but if you disagree with this premise we may not be able to agree on the larger issues here.
posted by jessamyn at 11:58 AM on February 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


"IMHO, if a behaviour is bad, it is bad irrespective of context. For me, white separatism would be bad, even if white separatists didn't "tend" to do other bad things."

I'm sorry, but that's a dumb and simplistic opinion to hold, e.g. "If it's wrong for white people to call black people 'nigger,' how come black people can do it? Isn't it wrong for them too?"
posted by klangklangston at 11:59 AM on February 5, 2009


craichead In the U.S., separatism grew out of an increasing awareness that the NAACP's strategy wasn't really addressing a lot of forms of inequality.

Actually, according to my sources, it was actually the other way around:

The alliance between Du Bois and Trotter was, however, short-lived, as they had a dispute over whether or not white people should be included in the organization and in the struggle for civil rights. Believing that they should, in 1909 Du Bois with a group of like-minded supporters founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

(Of course, as the linked article makes clear, Du Bois did swing between separatism and integrationism during his whole life. His most perduring legacy, however, is integrationist).

And which strategy was ultimately most successful? Oh, right.

(And I do note that, speaking of "history" and "context" - read: grievances - nobody really wants to address my question regarding Jewish separatism. Quite an historical can of worms, that one, right?)
posted by Skeptic at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2009


nobody really wants to address my question regarding Jewish separatism. Quite an historical can of worms, that one, right?

Which is why it's a terrible example for drawing any sort of analogies about other peoples' behaviors.

Countries started by world power fiat for a culture that suffered very recent and very public genocide gives you a sample size of one. Trying to draw conclusions from what is happening in Israel as if it would apply to any other historical or current ethnic/cultural/geographical dispute or inequality is impossible. Bringing it up makes you seem more like you're interested in getting fighty rather than getting at the root of the already complicated separatist issues that the original articles brought up.
posted by jessamyn at 12:15 PM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're right, of course, that the separatist vs. integrationist debate has a very long history. What I meant was that the most recent wave of black separatism, which coincided and was related in some ways to the rise of lesbian separatism, was motivated by a realization that the NAACP's strategy worked really well for dealing with formal, legal inequality but was much less effective at combating forms of inequality that were not mandated by law. It's one thing to get rid of bad, discriminatory laws. It's much harder to transform a society that has woven inequality into its very fabric.
nobody really wants to address my question regarding Jewish separatism.
That's because it's a stupid analogy, albeit one that is inflammatory and therefore helpful to you.
posted by craichead at 12:18 PM on February 5, 2009


And which strategy was ultimately most successful?

Yeah, no shit. That's why we have an FPP about these last few remaining lesbian separatist communes, and why there is a holiday in MLK's honor but not in Marcus Garvey's, and so on. Which path is successful isn't really in doubt here, at least to me. No one here (and almost no one in the entire country) is seriously saying "separatism is the path!" and suggesting that the 1960s and '70s separatists had the right idea -- quite the opposite, I think. But that doesn't mean that some of what they did wasn't important, or didn't create spaces (real or theoretical) for other, ultimately more productive, approaches to be considered and tried.

And I do note that, speaking of "history" and "context" - read: grievances - nobody really wants to address my question regarding Jewish separatism. Quite an historical can of worms, that one, right?

And again, what is your point here, other than shit-stirring? Yes, separatism is morally tricky. Israel can't be assessed without a lot of context, and even then there aren't any simple answers. Many of Liberia's recent woes date back to its founding in the early 1800s as a new homeland for freed US slaves, too (something supported by both black and white separatists at the time) -- but knowing that doesn't give us any easy solutions to those problems, either.
posted by Forktine at 12:20 PM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


klangklangston"If it's wrong for white people to call black people 'nigger,' how come black people can do it? Isn't it wrong for them too?"

Heck, yes. Why should words be taboo according to one's race? There's nothing quite as ridiculous as Spike Lee's whining about the use of the n-word in Quentin Tarantino movies (by black characters!), when it is liberally used in his own. Same goes, by the way, by the "reclaiming" of the word "dyke" by some lesbians, as seen elsewhere in this thread. Sorry, but an insult is an insult is an insult. You aren't reclaiming anything, just making arses of yourselves, just as I would if I called myself a "dago", "spic", "wog", or even a "honky".
posted by Skeptic at 12:20 PM on February 5, 2009


jessamyn A terrible example? The single most successful and justified case of ethnic separatism in modern times? Just because it does show all the complicated moral implications and consequences of separatism, it is, on the contrary, a rather good example. Unless you do not want to explore them, of course.
posted by Skeptic at 12:26 PM on February 5, 2009


Oh, and can I say another thing? Being oppressed is exhausting. It is stressful to go through your entire life thinking about whether or not you can tell the person you're talking to that your roommate is really your partner. It is depressing to be trailed around stores every time you go shopping. It is terrifying to know that if you make a quick movement in front of a police officer, he or she may assume you're reaching for a gun and kill you. Maybe separatists don't aim to change things. Maybe they just want something much smaller, but still valid: to create a space where they can live a safe, fulfilling, emotionally healthy life. Or maybe they want a retreat where they can go for a while to get away from the stress of living in a society that oppresses them.
posted by craichead at 12:28 PM on February 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


craichead There, I do absolutely agree with you, even if I still do not think that it is the good reaction. But then, better people than us have argued for longer on the subject...
posted by Skeptic at 12:32 PM on February 5, 2009


Israel may be successful on its own terms, Skeptic, but its terms are entirely different from those of lesbian separatists. Israel has embraced the nation-state model, while lesbian separatists often totally reject it. If you want a Jewish analogy, Hasidic enclaves in the U.S. would be more analogous to lesbian separatist communes than the state of Israel would be.
posted by craichead at 12:35 PM on February 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Heck, yes. Why should words be taboo according to one's race? There's nothing quite as ridiculous as Spike Lee's whining about the use of the n-word in Quentin Tarantino movies (by black characters!), when it is liberally used in his own. Same goes, by the way, by the "reclaiming" of the word "dyke" by some lesbians, as seen elsewhere in this thread. Sorry, but an insult is an insult is an insult. You aren't reclaiming anything, just making arses of yourselves, just as I would if I called myself a "dago", "spic", "wog", or even a "honky"."

Nope, sorry, that's stupid. It presumes that intent has no moral value. You can argue it all you want, but you're clearly out of touch with the vast majority of both theory and practice regarding morality and roped into supporting all sorts of spurious bullshit to be consistent.

For example, it's got you thinking that the separatism of White Power groups is the objectionable part, without regarding any of the means, motives or aims of the separatism. Why should the desire to be alone be castigated? What function does mentioning the Aryan Nation serve aside from ad hominem reasoning? None.

To follow your line of thought, the penalties for someone who kills in self-defense should be the same as those for someone who kills for profit, because killing is wrong. It's simply indefensible in any practical system, and absurd on its face.

With that, I'm pretty much done. I don't foresee anything else from you on this topic aside from more absurdism or (unlikely) capitulation.
posted by klangklangston at 1:36 PM on February 5, 2009


what's the difference between a black separatist and a white Jewish separatist (aka Zionist)?

Think of this: what would it mean to be a "Jewish separatist" in Germany compared a Zionist in Israel? In Israel, there is a more-or-less indigenous population who live in apartheid conditions under the Zionist state system. This a case where those who have power are exerting it unfairly. But if after WWII Zionists had set up new Jewish cities within Germany, can you see where the dynamic would be different? They'd have asserted independence within place where they both had been living up until that point anyway (not arriving as outsiders to oust an indigenous population) and the group that they would have sought to disenfranchise (if they had chosen to disenfranchise anyone) would have been the group that had recently attempted to wipe them off the face of the earth. Doesn't that seem a bit different to you?

Maybe more to the point, lesbian separatists aren't attempting to create their own country where only lesbians are allowed, they're only claiming a few acres. Sure, almost everyone in this thread agrees this is not a perfect solution to the problem of living as an oppressed person within an unequal society, but I'm also having a hard time seeing what kind of concrete oppression these women are responsible for. And even though I do think lesbian separatists have caused real hurt to trans women and bi women, I don't think I'd compare it to Gaza. Would you?



Separately, I think its a bit simplistic to presume that civil rights gains are attributable solely to activists who advocated integrationism or to those who worked within existing legal systems. Think of the social programs that came out of the Watts riots for example. Social change comes about in part from a change in social attitudes. These attitudes are influenced not just by the NAACP but also by, for example, the media magnets called the Black Panthers. Radical left activists can also serve as a sort of outer boundary of possible change for the mainstream. The message is, if you don't compromise with the "nice" activists, you'll get the rioters instead. I can't find a reference but I believe Malcolm X said something to this effect: if white people don't listen to Martin Luther King, they'll have to deal with me.
posted by serazin at 1:39 PM on February 5, 2009


Hasidic enclaves in the U.S. would be more analogous to lesbian separatist communes than the state of Israel would be.

Word.
posted by serazin at 1:43 PM on February 5, 2009


klangklangston For example, it's got you thinking that the separatism of White Power groups is the objectionable part, without regarding any of the means, motives or aims of the separatism.

No, it isn't the objectionable part, just one objectionable part and obviously not the most objectionable. Some of the means of White Power separatism (like threats, intimidation and murder) are indeed far more objectionable, but I made it abundantly clear that that was not my point. However, separatism is a very slippery slope that can very easily lead that way, however noble its underlying motives and aims may be (and guessing the real motives and aims of each individual in a whole group is in any case a very tricky matter).
posted by Skeptic at 1:46 PM on February 5, 2009


Hasidic enclaves in the U.S. would be more analogous to lesbian separatist communes than the state of Israel would be.

To me, that is more a matter of scale than principle. Sooner or later, any reasonably successful separatist community is going to be confronted with the matter of which Law to follow: the law of the country, or their own law? Do they accept outside authorities, even when acting against the consensus of the community? At the end, they will have to choose between compliance with the state (abandoning genuine separatism), or a split with it. Small enough groupings can hope to muddle through or pass under the radar. Large minorities can't. That's when strife begins.
posted by Skeptic at 1:57 PM on February 5, 2009


However, separatism is a very slippery slope that can very easily lead that way, however noble its underlying motives and aims may be

If the slope is so terribly slippery, then why isn't there a Confederacy of States and a Union of States (or whatever they would have been called, had the Civil War been a draw, or the Union had lost)? Why isn't Idaho a formal entity called Whites R Us? Why aren't lesbian separatist communes growing in number? Why hasn't the Nation of Islam occupied some piece of some state?

Your unwillingness or inability to consider, analyze, and appreciate context when considering things people do strikes me as terribly debilitating.
posted by rtha at 2:04 PM on February 5, 2009


If the slope is so terribly slippery, then why isn't there a Confederacy of States and a Union of States (or whatever they would have been called, had the Civil War been a draw, or the Union had lost)? Why isn't Idaho a formal entity called Whites R Us?

Because the Union won, obviously? (Not that the motives of the Confederate separatists were in any way noble). I never meant a slippery slope towards success.

Why aren't lesbian separatist communes growing in number?

Not enough lesbian separatists, perhaps?

Why hasn't the Nation of Islam occupied some piece of some state?

Because the FBI always had more guns and money?
posted by Skeptic at 2:20 PM on February 5, 2009


Forktine and Marisa: IMHO, if a behaviour is bad, it is bad irrespective of context.

It's already been outlined for you how their behaviors are not the same. I can't decide if you're deliberately ignoring this, and that this is why you've shifted now to the Jews, or if you're just really bad at reading. Either way, the rhetoric hoops being jumped through and the multitude of hairs being split in this thread have probably given ibuprofen manufacturers a 20% revenue boost since the thread's creation.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:22 PM on February 5, 2009


You know Skeptic, I think I get where separatism leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling. Often, separatists do hold very disparaging views about people outside the community. I think kids who grow up in socially isolated communities can get shafted if they don't have other options or a way out. And I don't want this to be a dogpile against you or your perspective.

On the other hand, I think its worth thinking more about because just as a separatist might harbor a lot of negative stereotypes about outsiders, outsiders tend to harbor even more negative stereotypes about those who don't fully participate in mainstream society. Hasidic Jewish enclaves don't necessarily have any interest in creating their own country. Neither do rural Mormon offshoot communities. Neither do lesbian separatists. Its' actually one of the common critiques about lesbian separatist communities - that instead of trying to change the larger society they seem to be just opting out. It seems to me that if as a diverse society we don't want separatist thinking to flourish, then we'd be wise do something about the conditions that lead people to opt out. One major thing we could do is show more curiosity, openness and respect for folks who don't fit in easily to the mainstream. Just a thought.
posted by serazin at 2:23 PM on February 5, 2009


serazin Funny that you should mention the Mormons: for a while, they did create their own state after all. And not always without violence.
posted by Skeptic at 3:00 PM on February 5, 2009


Dude, it's annoying when you cherry pick some little bit of a long argument to respond to or change the focus of your argument in the middle. For example, you've now totally dropped your Israel analogy. But if we're going to cherry pick, I'd love to see you point to an example of a lesbian feminist community that was substantially involved in violence towards non-lesbian feminists.

PS, please see the slippery slope fallacy for some thoughts on rhetorical technique.
posted by serazin at 3:12 PM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never meant a slippery slope towards success.

Then what did you mean? A slippery slope towards what?

Ah, I see: Some of the means of White Power separatism (like threats, intimidation and murder) are indeed far more objectionable, but I made it abundantly clear that that was not my point. However, separatism is a very slippery slope that can very easily lead that way, - by "that way", you seem to mean "threats, intimidation and murder." And yet there is example upon example in this thread of separatist communities that didn't, or haven't yet, gone "that way", and those that did were short-lived indeed, primarily as a consequence of the separatist community in question committing violent crimes in order to further its aims. If the slope is so slippery that it can "very easily lead" to this, then why hasn't it, in the vast majority of instances of separatist groups?

Q: Why aren't lesbian separatist communes growing in number?

A: Not enough lesbian separatists, perhaps?


Um, yes. Exactly. Separatist movements like this will never appeal to very many people, and in time may appeal to fewer and fewer people - so again, I ask, this is a slippery slope to what, exactly? Proof that as society becomes more equitable, fewer people feel the need to withdraw from society? Which makes separatist movements like this dangerous....how?
posted by rtha at 3:30 PM on February 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


rtha Proof that as society becomes more equitable, fewer people feel the need to withdraw from society?

The trouble is that, it isn't always like that. Any human community, especially if isolated from much outside contact, is vulnerable to some nasty group dynamics. If additionally the whole reason to exist of the community is real or perceived persecution in the "outside" world, things can get rather crazy: not for nothing du cult leaders try to instil such a mentality in their followers.

If those lesbian separatist communes have avoided falling into such human pitfalls, then they must be truly admirable. But, as a cynical observer of human nature, I seriously doubt they're that utopian.
posted by Skeptic at 3:54 PM on February 5, 2009


The trouble is that, it isn't always like that. Any human community, especially if isolated from much outside contact, is vulnerable to some nasty group dynamics.

If an isolated group implodes in a forest and there's no one else around to hear, does it matter?

It's nice that now you're worried that, instead of having the potential to be a violent hate group, lesbian separatists might be in danger of becoming brainwashed cultists. The point of a lesbian separatist community is not to demonize the outside world. The separatists I've known and talked with have exhibited a very low or non-existent sense of persecution. They are not interested in whining about how things suck Out There and how people Out There are mean and horrible and dangerous. Lesbian separatists do not actually talk very much about men, for instance. The patriarchy? Sure. But men, not so much.

The separatists I've known have been interested in building their own skills so they can be as self-sufficient as possible. They have been interested in pushing their own cultural boundaries around what women "can't" do; it's a side benefit if the larger world starts to think that it's not that weird to see women plumbers, or astronauts, or whatever. The separatists I have known have been interested in living in a community where this learning and living process is valued and supported. Some of them just wanted to find a different way to live.

I worked briefly at Smith College, after I'd graduated from a different (coed, very male) college. I picked up a copy of the student paper one day and surprised myself by being surprised that all the names on the masthead were female. All the reporters and photographers and the publisher and everyone was female.

Well, duh, right? Smith is a women's college. But I had never lived or worked in a place where the default was female - club presidents, team captains, student body president, etc. Women did everything (I'm talking students here, of course - there are male faculty and staff at the college) because that's who was there to do it. It was a remarkably eye-opening experience.

But, as a cynical observer of human nature, I seriously doubt they're that utopian.

They're not utopian. That's never been in question. The question is why you care.
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


rtha The question is why you care.

Because I do care about my fellow people, even those who do not share my gender, sexual orientation, political views, or lifestyle?

All the reporters and photographers and the publisher and everyone was female.

I'd find it very sad, just as I found my engineering school (only 6 women out of 900 students in my class) very sad. That was also "eye-opening" to me...just not in a good sense.
posted by Skeptic at 3:16 AM on February 6, 2009


>All the reporters and photographers and the publisher and everyone was female.

I'd find it very sad, just as I found my engineering school (only 6 women out of 900 students in my class) very sad. That was also "eye-opening" to me...just not in a good sense.


I'm not following your direct comparison between the all-female makeup of students at a women's college to the low numbers of women at a co-ed engineering school?

A more direct comparison to rtha's point would be, say, students who love math and science who endure years of it being an unpopular and despised class, then attending a college where they're surrounded by people who also find this kind of problem-solving to be fascinating, where "ugh, I'm never going to use calculus in the reaaaal world" is never heard.
posted by desuetude at 9:56 AM on February 6, 2009


Because I do care about my fellow people, even those who do not share my gender, sexual orientation, political views, or lifestyle?

Then you should talk less and listen more, because most of your comments in this thread have displayed a tone-deafness that's really remarkable. Without knowing much (or anything) about why a particular group might do a particular thing, you have found fit to judge them, condemn their choices, and/or pity them. You have seen fit to dismiss or marginalize the actual experiences that people here have shared about being part of communities like this if their experiences don't reflect what you think the reality of these communities is. You assume that your way of seeing the world and being in it is the best way for everyone.

You find it "very sad" that there are a couple of places on this planet (like Smith College) where the default, for once, is female?

That is sound of privilege talking.
posted by rtha at 10:00 AM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


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