Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing about Womyn's Lands, then and now

In 2009, author Ariel Levy wrote this fantastic piece on the promise of lesbian radical empowerment in the seventies, as seen in the Womyn's Lands section of West of Center

American Chronicles - Lesbian Nation: When gay women took to the road
by Ariel Levy
There was a time, briefly, when women ruled the world. Well, their world, anyway. In the late nineteen-seventies, several thousand women in North America decided not to concern themselves with equal pay for equal work, or getting their husbands to do the dishes, or convincing their boyfriends that there was such a thing as a clitoris. Why capitulate, why compromise, when you could separate, live in a world of your own invention? On the fringes, utopian separatists have been part of the American story since at least the early eighteenth century—the Shakers, in New England; the millennial Rappites, in Pennsylvania; the Oneida Perfectionists, in upstate New York—and these women decided to turn away from a world in which female inferiority was enforced by culture and law. Better to establish their own farms and towns, better to live only among women. This required dispensing with heterosexuality, but many of these women were gay, and, for the rest, it seemed like a reasonable price to pay for real independence.
Lesbianism in the seventies promised its practitioners a life of radical rebellion and feminist empowerment. Separatism was supposed to be an antidote to all the altruism that women had been afflicted with since time immemorial. Now, when the phrase “lesbian mom” is a commonplace, it’s hard to imagine a time when female homosexuality was imbued with a countercultural connotation so potent that women were drawn to it by ideology rather than by desire. Similarly, if you are a young gay woman today, it can be difficult to understand the idea of organizing your entire existence around your sexual preference.

To get a sense of how the Womyn's Lands were written about during their own time, below is an article by Sierra Portland from WomanSpirit magazine (also on display in West of Center). It paints A Herstory of the Oregon Women's Land Trust.

Sierra Portland A Herstory of the Oregon Women's Land Trust, 1977
WomenSpirit Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 11 (March 1977)
Eds. Jean and Ruth Mountaingrove
Magazine, 11 x 8 1/2 in
Published by WomenSpirit, Wolf Creek, Oregon


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