Introduction to Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics, 25 years update


Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics

Bev Jo, Linda Strega, Ruston

1990 – 2015

Why We Wrote This Book

I’ve put our entire updated book at the heading of my blog, so all the chapters can easily be seen and linked to, in order.  Each chapter is meant to build from the previous chapter, but most also stand alone, for reading and sharing.

2015 – We have re-positioned the chapters, so our original Chapter One, which was Lesbians for Lesbians, is now Chapter Five. Our new first chapter, The Crimes of Mankind, had been the beginning section of Chapter Two, Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory, but we are now starting our book with it as a separate chapter, since the rest of our book flows from knowing that males are destroying the earth and that women do have the ability to stop them.

We originally had 13 chapters, but are not posting our three personal stories or our brief ending.

So here are the current chapters:

2015 Update, 25 Years Later — 2015 Update, 25 Years Later —    

Chapter One:  The Crimes of Mankind

Chapter Two:  Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory

Chapter Three: Heterosexism Among Lesbians Is Lesbian-Hating

Chapter Four:  Supporting Butches Supports All Lesbians

Chapter Five:  Lesbians for Lesbians — Dyke Separatism

Chapter Six: Leather = S/M = Sadism and Masochism

Chapter Seven: Motherhood: The Ultimate Feminine Role

Chapter Eight: Patriarchy Is One Big Unhappy Family

Chapter Nine:  Hidden Disability by Bev Jo and Linda Strega

Chapter Ten:  If Looks Could Kill:  The Most Personal Oppression

In 1990, we published our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes, in order to share our understanding about what goes wrong in our Lesbian communities, friendships, and relationships, and about how that damage has undermined Lesbian Feminism, Radical Lesbian Feminism, Separatism, and Radical Feminism in general. Everything we described or predicted has proven true. (For example, men claiming to be Lesbians and destroying our last women only space is almost beyond belief, but they are now supported by most pretend feminists as well as liberal Lesbians.)

So twenty five years later, I (Bev) am updating our book with our new information and additional chapters with input from Linda Strega.

I’ve also continued posting new articles at my blog, which would theoretically become a second or third book if we had the money and means to publish them.  They are:

Please, If You Love Lesbians and other Women, Think about this:

Defining Lesbians Out of Existence — the Pretenders:
Part One — “Transwomen” Are Still Merely Men.

Part Two – Better to be Anything than a Lesbian: “Transmen” Are Still Women


AGEISM – A Radical Lesbian Feminist Perspective

LIFELONG LESBIAN – Always a Lesbian




The story of Lesbianism is a story of magic and survival.1 In almost every part of the world, we’re said not to exist, or we’re hated and lied about. Yet we persist in surviving.  Lesbians come from every culture and country. We appear where there are no others of us, coming from people who try their hardest to make us committed man-lovers. We create ourselves out of nothing, appearing like weeds that cannot be destroyed. We crack open the foundations of the enormous structures of male supremacy.

Our passion to survive and find each other over great barriers of distance and time is like the crashing of ocean waves. Unstoppable. Like witches, we are a horror story that chills the heartlessness of mankind. We’re said to be figments of the imagination. Like ghosts, we’re simply not supposed to be. Like witches, we are murdered and lied about. And like the ghosts of millions of murdered witches,2 we haunt all of mankind.

Lesbians are part of nature. Like witchcraft, rats, spiders and snakes, we horrify, because man is so deeply afraid of nature. We remind everyone that patriarchy and heterosexuality are not inevitable.

We dare to be Dykes. That’s our crime against mankind. We dare to love other Dykes. That’s unforgivable in patriarchy. But we won’t be stopped. We want the best possible world for Dykes and all females, and that also means an unpolluted, wild world, safe for the other creatures on earth. The only way to save the Earth is to end patriarchy. The only way for male supremacy to end is for heterosexual women to stop choosing and supporting men and being heterosexual. We can’t prevent men and het women from making their life-hating choices, but, as Dykes, we can choose to stop supporting them, and instead choose to love our own kind and create truly Dyke-identified Dyke communities.

This book is about loving Lesbians, which means fighting male rule and heterosexism. That’s Dyke SeparatismOnly by devoting our lives to ourselves and each other as Lesbians, as a people, will we begin to build truly Dyke-identified Lesbian Movements.  Dykes deserve the very best — other Dykes.

                                                    Valuing Dyke Ways

Why do we often feel that we’re still struggling against familiar pain that wrecked so many of our relationships with other girls when we were younger — betrayals, malice, slander, manipulations, exclusion from cliques? We already know some of the reasons: racism, classism, ethnicism, ableism, looksism, ageism, and fat oppression. There’s another reason that’s seldom discussed, but which explains the many presently “mysterious” disasters among Lesbians: heterosexism or Lesbian-hating among Lesbians.

To have strong Dyke cultures, we need to also return to our true Dyke/female natures. That means recognizing and eliminating the indoctrination of male and het identification that’s imposed on us, which many Lesbians once chose to embrace and which some still actively pursue. Rejecting male definitions of females is central to Dyke Separatism. Because we’re raised in a Lesbian-hating world, we’re all taught Lesbian-hatred. That doesn’t automatically disappear when we come out. This book is about understanding and fighting all forms of lesbophobia and Lesbian-hatred among ourselves as Lesbians, which also means recognizing and fighting female-hating.

Although some of us have had glimpses, none of us knows what it would be like to be part of a truly Dyke-centered, Dyke-loving community. It would be Separatist, with no men or boys welcome, and with het women only as occasional guests. We’d love, protect, care for and value each other as Dykes. We would have one place in the world where we’d be safer, happier, more hopeful, and strong. We would be genuinely committed to eradicating all inequality among us because no oppressiveness is acceptable to true Dyke Separatists and because we want to have the most diverse and welcoming communities possible.

Dykes as a people are incredibly strong and courageous. Otherwise we wouldn’t have survived. But too often that Lesbian strength is spent caring for our oppressors. Too many Lesbians give energy to men and boys. Too many also give their hearts to het women. Even when Lesbians are only with Lesbians, too many maintain and use men’s standards and rules, and police those of us who want to be fully Lesbian in our minds, hearts, and spirits. Het women are revered as the essence of femaleness, beauty, and kindness, while Dyke-identified Dykes are reviled. It’s all a mindfuck that hurts us individually and as a people.

We won’t take care of ourselves if we don’t value ourselves. The Lesbian-only space we need is almost non-existent in the world. “Women’s” space usually includes boys and often even men. Meanwhile, Lesbians are sick and dying from Lesbian oppression.

In the early 1970’s, we felt a sense of hope, excitement, and possibilities for a new beginning. Many of us were finding other Lesbians for the first time in our lives. Dyke communities were growing bigger and stronger, and new ones were forming. There was caring, love, and self-love among us as Lesbians.

Now it’s the era of selfishness. “Lesbian culture” became “women’s culture,” which then became meaningless. Everyone but Lesbians were prioritized by Lesbians. (By 2011, the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective had become the business called the Berkeley Women’s Health Center, which then morphed into the extremely Lesbian-hating Berkeley Clinic for Women and Men.) Theoretically Lesbian organizations, like the National Center for Lesbian Rights3 legally support men against Lesbians, even while still asking for Lesbian money and promoting segregation in our community by having fundraisers that only the richest Lesbians can afford.

Much feminist writing became anti-feminist. Dynamic and exciting Lesbian music became “womyn’s” music, with the politics and culture gutted, and is often even more boring than mainstream het women’s music. The newer musicians played to Lesbian audiences while being closeted enough to attract het and het women. Lesbians idolized Lesbian “stars,” whose goal was to grow in fame and fortune through taking Lesbian energy and diluting it for the consumption of men and het women. The fire, passion, and realness of Lesbian Feminist politics is almost gone.

Some Lesbians say they’re not “political,” as if that means they have no responsibility for what’s happening. But we’re all political. Choosing to passively accept things as they are is as much a political decision as fighting back, because it affects every other Lesbian’s life. Politics are far more than male electoral power plays, or abstract theories — politics means how we decide to live, in a world where every action or inaction affects others.

Instead of working to build Lesbian communities, many women who identify as Lesbians decided to create their own nuclear families by getting pregnant. With “artificial insemination,” they produce over 85% boys, a patriarch’s dream come true. They also formed an enormous, self-righteous, privilege-bonded pressure group, demanding that Lesbians look after their sons and that their sons be welcomed everywhere, teaching their boys that girls and women saying “no” means nothing. They and the men posing as women destroyed our last remaining female-only spaces.

Three events that completely altered our Lesbian Feminists communities were the “feminist” invasions of porn and sado-masochism, along with the arrival of academics (in a culture and movement that previously distrusted academia and had the ideology of no leaders.) The class divisions widened with all three also.

The most influential women who wrote about “Lesbians sex” in the early Eighties were actually choosing to be bisexual while lying and misrepresenting themselves as Lesbian to promote their male-worshipping in our communities, and to make money off Lesbians: Pat Califia (who now pretends to be a man to get sexual access to gay men), JoAnn Loulan, and Susie Bright. (Similarly, the few books supposedly about Butches have usually been by bisexual Fems and are full of porn and Butch-hating stereotypes.)

These het/bisexual pornographers were part of the reason that Lesbians have falsely been identified with sado-masochism, although that history can be traced directly back to het and Gay male organizations.

So a new “women’s” industry appeared, with porn magazines and videos, telephone-sex lines, and strip shows “for womyn, by womyn.” This was even more of a capitalist money-maker than “women’s” music. It’s also directly tied in with the male pornography industry and with sado-masochists.

Some Lesbians and pretend feminists write dramatically about why we shouldn’t have “censorship” in our Lesbian communities. But “Lesbian” porn is male fantasy with Lesbian-hating books and magazines full of male-style pornography –“Lesbians” saying they wished they had penises, and Lesbians wanting to be “fucked” in the vagina and in the rectum by imitation penises. Anyone who protests this and objects to being exposed to it against our will is accused of being like the right-wing, fascist men who outlawed Lesbianism. This is a mind-fuck.

The few of us who dare to speak out against this can’t censor anyone. We can’t stop men or male “Lesbian” pornography. All we can do is protest it and say that we won’t buy it, we won’t support it, and we won’t welcome it into our lives or our homes any more than we welcome men. And when we create rare Lesbian-only space, we have the right to keep porn out so there will be a few small places that are safe for us in this world filled with rape, male-supremacy, and female-hatred (which is what fucking and sado-masochism is all about). In reality, it’s those who dare to protest porn and sado-masochism who are censored. Dyke Separatists are always censored anyway — especially those who dare to write against the heterosexist power structure among Lesbians.

For the Lesbians who are ridiculed and ostracized because you hate porn and sado-masochism and know they are Lesbian-hating, we want you to know you are not alone. There are many of us who agree.

We have been slandered and censored because we dare to fight the lies and speak out against all other male influences in our communities, like pregnancy being promoted, heterosexism, male-identified femininity, and the oppression of Butches, Lifelong Dykes, and Never-het Dykes. If the daily dangers of living in patriarchy haven’t stopped us, then neither will slander by pretend “radfems” or the rape and death threats by the trans cult. Through our work, we continue to meet deeply committed Dyke-loving Separatists and Radical Lesbian Feminists and Radical Feminists of all ages across the world.

                                      Innocents in the Publishing World

Two working-class US Dyke Separatists and one Lesbian Separatist from Aotearoa wrote this book. We aren’t going to name and praise Lesbian stars as many Lesbian writers do. We wrote our book in spite of that network in which shared privilege determines who’s published and who isn’t. We do want to thank our dear friends and the ordinary Dyke Separatists from all over the world who don’t have fame and fortune but whose blood and sweat have kept Separatism and Dyke politics alive.

We did our own writing, typing, word processing, and editing. We don’t claim to be professional writers, and we don’t think Lesbians should have to fit those standards in order to write about our own lives. The most important thing is to be clear and to not be oppressive. Our style is as political as our ideas, and reflects our working class (Linda and Bev) and national (Ruston, Aotearoa) cultures.

It’s important to not change our ways in order to imitate the trend of increasingly unemotional and abstract Lesbian writing. It’s become fashionable for Lesbian political writing to be so academic as to be unreadable, and so vague as to be meaningless. That way no one’s offended, but then no changes in our lives are possible. Lesbians’ communication goals used to be honest, unpretentious writing, easily understood by all.

Too often Lesbian writers, especially the class-privileged, take an entire book to say what could be said in one chapter. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what a writer thinks about a subject even after reading her entire book, because her language and ideas are so muddled by following male academic writing standards. Meanwhile, we had to pack a book into each of our chapters, and a chapter into each paragraph, because of our lack of money and resources.

It serves patriarchy if Lesbians choose to remain permanently confused in a psycho-therapized muddle. It’s frightening to make definite statements and decisions since strong opinions lead to action. Confused liberalness enables you to be “friends” with everyone, while clear political commitment “limits” you to equally committed friends.  There’s plenty of support for the privileged.  We prefer to ally with those who are wronged, knowing that working to stop oppression is the best support we can give each other.

Asking Dyke Separatists or Radical Feminists to explain ourselves in minute detail, sometimes with demands of “scientific” proof, is often a way of evading the truth, as well as a troll technique to divert us, dissipating our energy for political work. This is a common male tactic, but feminists also play “logic” games, distorting our words and meaning in order to evade real issues. (We see this regularly in online discussions where the goal is simply to stop the Radical Feminist discussion by derailing and exhausting everyone. Some of these trolls are very likely to be paid agents.)

Some issues we’re writing about have rarely or never, as far as we know, been written about before. Women who are upset at what we say in this book should remember that learning the truth isn’t always easy. Facing heterosexism in ourselves and other Lesbians is even more painful than recognizing it in men and het women. But the only way to stop heterosexism among Lesbians is to acknowledge and deal with it. It’s far more important for us to support Dykes who are getting support nowhere else than for us to live with comforting illusions and a conspiracy of silence about Lesbian-hating among Lesbians injuring and, in some cases, killing Dykes who are the most oppressed as Dykes.

Intensity and passion have always been the basis of Lesbian cultures. By our very nature, Dykes, particularly Separatists, question and challenge the status quo lies, seeking out not-always-popular truths. That’s how we grow and find our true selves, and begin to heal from the damage that patriarchy inflicts on us.

We write for those who recognize the truth in what we’re saying, and to overcome the barriers of isolation among us. We write to express Lesbian reality in a male and heterosexual world. We write to assert that it’s vital for Lesbians to be clear-thinking, decisive, and politically active for our own Lesbian selves.

                               The Power of Names — Our Definitions

Dyke: We use this term for the most Lesbian-identified of Lesbians. It’s important to remember that it was originally used only for Butches.

Lesbian: A female who loves and falls in love with other females, makes love only with females, and never relates sexually to males or injects semen into herself. When Lesbians are single and celibate, we’re very different from celibate het women, who are still sexually, emotionally, socially, and culturally focused on men.

Lesbianism is far more than a “sexual preference” or “sexual orientation.” It is a choice of women loving women. Everything we feel and do in our lives we do as Lesbians. Our political and creative work is Lesbian. Our friendships are Lesbian relationships.

No male can become a Lesbian. “Transwomen” are simply men perving, fetishizing, and caricaturing women and Lesbians.

Female: The term we use for our sex, since it’s not age-specific and is less identified with heterosexuality than “woman.” Also, it’s a reminder of our link with other female animals on earth, who are generally called “female,” rather than “women.” And, as Julia Penelope said in The Mystery of Lesbians, “female” is derived from the French “femelle,” with no connection to the word “male,” while (crediting the writings of Monique Wittig and ideas of Ariane Brunet and Louise Turcotte) “woman” comes from “wif” (wife) and “man.”

Woman, Womyn, Wimmin, etc.: For many of us, “woman” has meant heterosexual — a “real” woman by men’s standards. It’s a male definition imposed on females and isn’t our natural state. The many feminist variations are closet terms for “Lesbian,” and we refuse to support that trend. When we say “Lesbian,” we mean it. It’s understandable that Lesbians in unsafe situations use a code name like “womyn” to make contact with other Lesbians, but when Lesbians use those terms instead of “Dyke” or “Lesbian” among ourselves, it weakens Lesbian identity. “The womyn’s community” is het-identified, not Lesbian-identified.

Some Lesbians embraced “woman” because that term is denied to many females, especially Lesbians. Men call us “girls” to demean us. However, some Lesbians prefer the term “girl” to “woman” for other reasons. For some African-descent females, poor and working-class females, Lesbians who came out before the Women’s Liberation Movement, and young females, “girl” is a familiar, affectionate term. After all, we’ve all been girls for a long time, while “woman” is a term laden with images of “adult” females who are heterosexually active, wifely, and motherly. For many of us, girlhood was the time when many girls we knew were most clear about loving other girls and rejecting boys. We support girls who call themselves “girls” as a statement of pride, and we support adult females who call themselves “girls” as part of their culture and heritage.

We also don’t call ourselves Gay women since that associates us with Gay men. That term has been a dividing line between Lesbian Feminists and non-feminists or Lesbians who felt afraid to use the term Lesbian.

Lifelong Lesbian: A Lesbian who’s been a Lesbian her entire life (whether or not she made love as a girl) and was never heterosexual.

Never-het Lesbian: A Lesbian who was never heterosexual but who didn’t necessarily identify as a Lesbian from girlhood. Not being heterosexual in mind or practice doesn’t mean that someone is necessarily a Lesbian.

Old Dyke: This is a term used by some Lesbians for Lesbians who came out before the Women’s Liberation Movement. “Old Gay” was sometimes used in the U.S.

Butch and Fem: These terms are defined throughout our chapter “Supporting Butches Supports All Lesbians.” They aren’t “roles” that Lesbians play at or switch, but are choices made at an early age. These ways of being are as much a part of who we are as our class backgrounds. Butches rejected male rules to feminize as little girls, while Fems accepted it. Butches always felt like unnatural outsiders in patriarchy, while Fems always fit in on some level with male and het standards of femininity. Whether we’re Butch or Fem is clearly recognizable from how we look, talk, and act.

We prefer “Fem” to “Femme,” which is the French word for woman. We consider it insulting to call any Lesbian a “woman,” and “Fem” will hopefully be less jarring to French-speaking readers.

Hard Fem: “Hard Fem” is the term I (Bev) coined to describe what has previously been called “High Femme,” which is a complimentary term as well as a goal for too many Fems. Fem is considered the norm, so Butches are scrutinized and divided from each other by Butch-hating stereotypes. Butches who are more acceptable — most often those who are class privileged — are sometimes called “Soft Butches” by Fems, implying that full Butches are the hateful stereotype of hard, cold, mean, insensitive, predatory, etc., which actually is more applicable to Hard Fems. Yet no one criticizes the norm of Fem. Hard Fems also usually wear the extreme male uniform of the feminine drag queen ideal, passing as het as much as possible, slathered in clown-like makeup, wearing exposing dresses and high heels. Hard Fems are often the most oppressive to Butches and Dyke Fems because they are the most invested in obeying and proselytizing male rules for females. Hard Fems also objectify and use Butches as well as Dyke Fems, yet this is never mentioned.

New Lesbian/Women’s Liberation Lesbians: A Lesbian who came out in or after the WLM. In the U.S. and Aotearoa, and many other countries, this is since about 1970.

Queer: We wrote our book before “queer” and “genderqueer” were trendy terms used by and for the “queer” community to avoid saying “Lesbian,” in order to erase and exclude Lesbians. We used “queer” in our book only for Lesbians, since it brings up name-calling,  shame, secrecy, loathing, and fear hets have directed at Lesbians, and expresses the pride and the depth of love we feel for ourselves and each other when we’ve healed that damage. Since the Seventies, “queer” had been a term of Dyke/Lesbian pride as we reclaimed a traditional anti-Lesbian insult that for some of us was the only name we knew for ourselves as girls without support, without any positive image of Lesbians in any media. But it’s not really a term that proud Dykes and Lesbians now can use because it includes our oppressors, as the popular descriptor of Gay men, women who identify with Gay men, bisexual women and men, men posing as women, etc. It’s also become a closet, less Lesbian word that implies Lesbian, for women who are too afraid to call themselves “Lesbian” or “Dyke.”

Het: Heterosexual. This is more specific than “straight,” which also implies correct, honest, non-criminal, and chemical-free. A het woman is a female who is sexual with men, or who, if celibate, still thinks of herself as heterosexual.

A bisexual is a woman who is sexual with men while being sexual with females as well. This includes women who aren’t currently sexual with men but are open to it in the future.

When we talk about “het women” in this book, we’re also generally including bisexuals. Even though they get some degree of Lesbian oppression, bisexuals still get privilege from their allegiance to men, and are in a position to do more intimate harm to us than they could if they were simply het. They have more access to Lesbians physically, emotionally, psychically, and politically. Their men also have access to us: men involved with bisexuals have threatened, attacked, and murdered their girlfriends’ Lesbian lovers. Lesbians involved with bisexuals are exposed to STDs, including AIDS. The personal and community damage that involvement with a bisexual brings is immeasurable. And the existence of bisexual women proves clearly that some women keep as much het privilege as possible while being aware of their option to be Lesbians.

Heterosexual Privilege: The power and privilege of “normality” that women get from being fucked by men, marrying, reproducing, and raising families. Het privilege is everything women get by belonging to men and the het world, and everything Lesbians lose by being Lesbians. But Lesbians who were heterosexual in the past still have some degree of het privilege, particularly when they continue to identify with het women and have het and male values.

Heterosexism: The dogma that all people are or should be het, and that heterosexuality is superior to being a Lesbian. Heterosexism is the most universal institution, and Lesbianism is the most universal oppression. Heterosexism also means Lesbian-hating.

Patriarchy and Sexism: The social system in which males have power over females, and the male belief that males are superior to females. Techniques used to enforce male power include mass murder or genocide (such as the European witch burnings), mass mutilation (such as Female Vulval Mutilation, unnecessary mastectomies and hysterectomies), enforced dieting, murder, beatings and torture, rape (including family rape), stereotyping, insults, and all other female-hatred.

Lesbian oppression is the extreme of female oppression. If females are hated, then females together are doubly hated.

Women-only/Female-only: Is what we used to have before men appropriating our identity demanded access to our last spaces. This space is essential for our survival, community, and culture. We still try to gather together, but are forced to be subjected to men perving on us and to het women openly hating us since we can usually meet only in public places.

Trans cult: I (Bev) coined this term to describe the phenomenon of the most female-hating men demanding we accept them as women, and for some of them, as Lesbians. None of it makes sense since this myth can easily be exposed in one sentence: men can never be women, and women can never be men. The surgery is a joke and does not begin to alter the mind, spirit, soul. Yet men have figured out a clever way to get access to Lesbians previously denied them except through rape. Now they mind-rape and get women to help them.

Since it’s impossible to say no to these men or any of this bizarre ideology without threats, including rape and death, it’s clearly a cult.

“Transsexuals,” “transgender,” “transwomen,” and “transmen” simply do not exist in reality.

Male-Identified: This term is wrongly used against Dykes, and Butches in particular, who refuse to conform to male standards of femininity. Male-identification is actually a measure of how personally devoted a female is to males, and how much of her reality is bound up with the male versions of “reality.” Internalized male culture, which all females in patriarchy inevitably have, shouldn’t be confused with “male identification.” We use the term “male-identified” to describe het women and the most extreme examples of het identification and femininity among Lesbians.

Lesbian- or Dyke-Identified: Dyke-identified Dykes identify with and as Dykes, not with het women or men. While many Lesbians are het-identified, no het woman can be Lesbian-identified unless she becomes a Lesbian. Dyke-identified Dykes look and act like Dykes. The more Dyke-identified we are, the greater our Dyke oppression.

Female-Identified: Lesbians are the most female-identified females, because hetness involves rejecting and betraying females. The more dyke-identified we are, the more female-identified we are.

Aotearoa: The Māori and therefore rightful name for New Zealand. Whanganui-a-Tara is one of the names for Wellington, as is Tamaki-Makaurau for Auckland.

Racial and Ethnic Background: We try to specify the continent of geographical region of origin instead of referring to color to describe someone’s ethnic background. The use of “Red,” “Black,” “Brown,” “Yellow,” or “White” doesn’t accurately reflect the enormous variety of racial and ethnic groups who exist on earth. No person’s skin is literally those colors, and “black” and “white” have been historically used in racist ways to mean negative/positive, inferior/superior, evil/good, etc. We recognize that some Dykes do use “Red,” “Black,” “Brown,” and “Yellow” with pride in their heritage, and, as Dykes, we know well how a term of insult can be transformed into a term of pride. But we agree with and greatly appreciate the work of African-descent US Dyke Separatists who’ve stated their reasons for choosing to name their continent of origin.4 It’s a strong, self-loving identification of the descendants of peoples forcibly taken from their homes by European slavers, separated from those of their own country, placed with others who spoke different languages, and cruelly tortured for daring to speak their languages and pass on their cultures — all in an effort to subdue kidnapped African peoples and deny their heritages. Because of this, most descendants of the survivors of this genocide (estimates are that 20 to 70 million died) are denied knowledge of their countries and cultures of origin.

Identifying one’s ethnic background with region of origin rather than just approximate shades of dark and light skin among us helps every Dyke become more aware of the beautiful variety and complexities of peoples and cultures on this planet. Naming a Dyke’s ancestral homeland — the Pacific, Africa, South, Central or North America,5 the Caribbean, Asia, Western Asia (“Middle East” is not the middle of anything), Atlantic and Indian Ocean island nations, Australia, and Europe, etc. is a beginning, although it’s not adequate. In each area of each region or continent there are many, often hundreds, of individual racial and ethnic groups, each with its own unique past, culture, and language.

Within the Pacific Islands, for instance, there are many nations with cultural, historical, and racial differences, more numerous and complex than the nations of Europe — yet European national differences are far more acknowledged and respected by the dominant, racist European-descent cultures. Calling regions of the Pacific by the European-designated terms “Melanesia,” “Polynesia,” and “Micronesia” is also inadequate. For instance, the original peoples of the enormous area from Aotearoa to Hawai’i to Te Pito O Te Henua (“Easter Island”) are called “Polynesian” because they have some cultural similarities, but they actually represent many distinct peoples and cultures. The same is true for the other peoples of the Pacific.

Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of South and Central America, México, and the Caribbean aren’t just peopled by descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese invaders — they’re also peopled  by the descendants of African slaves and many people of mixed races, as well as the original inhabitants, who are lumped together as “Indians” or other group names that don’t begin to describe the many different original peoples. The original peoples of México alone represent many distinctly different cultures, and the borders set by the European invaders and their ruling-class descendants don’t recognize these different nations. For instance, the Maya live in parts of what are now México, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In the Andes, the Quechua live throughout what was once Tahuantinsuyo (the Inca lands), in parts of Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina. With their population of over 9 to 14 million, the Quechua are more numerous than many other peoples who are regularly reported on in the media of European-descent dominated countries.

In Africa, there are many ancient traditional nations within each current official nation based on the borders arbitrarily set by European invaders. The people of India and other Asian countries are also many different peoples. The Indigenous people of Australia are also many peoples with many languages. In Canada and the U.S., the hundreds of original nations with their distinct ethnic groups and cultures are simply called “Native Americans” or “American Indians,” if they’re acknowledged at all.

So, though we recognize that it isn’t adequate to simply name the region of the world or continent of one’s ancestors as one’s ethnic identification, it’s at least a respectful beginning.

As an example of the diversity of original peoples in North America, we include in our Endnotes a list of some of the original peoples of just what is now California,6 many of whom still live in California as nations within a nation. (The list is only approximate since it’s based on information gathered and recorded by European invaders in the early years of colonization.) Within California, genocide against American Indian peoples reduced their numbers dramatically.7

The tangata whenua (people of the land; traditional and rightful inhabitants) of Aotearoa identify both as Maori and also with their iwi (nation or tribe)8 and, often, hapu (sub-tribe). It was the English invasion, wars, and colonization, beginning in the 18th Century, that forced the tangata whenua to identify as one group, Maori, in order to make unified resistance.

Aotearoa is Maori land. The iwi of Aotearoa9 traditionally organize themselves according to their turanga-waewae (traditional lands) and the canoe they arrived in from Hawaiki, the ancestral Pacific land.

Rape by Male Family: We say “family rape” or “rape by male family” because the popular feminist term “incest” implies consent, and doesn’t differentiate attacker from victim. Men also use other euphemisms for girl-rape: “pedophilia” (literally “child-love”), or “sexual orientation to children,” “seduction,” “sleeping with,” “having sex with,” “sexual intercourse,” “sexual acts,” 10 and “too much affection.” We encourage you to read Father-Daughter Rape, an excellent book by Australian author Elizabeth Ward. She says, “…I believe that the sexual use of a child’s body/being is the same as the phenomenon of adult rape. Terms like ‘sexual abuse,’ ‘molestation’ and ‘interference’ are diminutions of ‘rape’:  they imply that something less than rape occurred.” 11 They’re also ageist terms because they imply that crimes against girls are less serious than crimes against women.

We also prefer saying “family rape” because the crime and trauma of girl-rape goes even further than the pain of being raped by your father or other male relatives. Girl-rape is part of normal family life, and older female relatives, especially most mothers, add greatly to the trauma by denying the attack and failing to support the girl. The girl’s intense pain and sense of conflict is endured against the backdrop of everyday family life that mostly continues as if nothing happened to her. Later she must recover from that as much as from the actual rape, not to mention coping with her family’s reactions if she exposes the rapist.

Victim: We call a female raped as a girl a family rape victim, not a family rape “survivor.” “Survivor” is a US psychotherapy term that glosses over the fact that many females don’t survive the attack — they’re either killed as girls or kill themselves later. While it aims to praise female resilience, it actually compounds the secrecy and shame of family rape by suggesting that there’s something inherently shameful and dirty about being attacked or victimized. The fact that “survivor” is attached to “incest” makes it particularly suspect — not only was there no rape and no rapist, there was also no victim!

If there’s nothing shameful about being victimized, why not say it? Considering that no girl is in any way to blame for being sexually assaulted, why not use “victim”? After all, it has traditionally meant someone who was subjected to harm against their will. Transactional psycho-therapy co-opted the word “victim” to describe someone that they claimed “asked” to be hurt, and they included in their arrogant definition oppressed people who never wanted to be harmed. Someone who truly wants pain is a masochist, not a victim. Identifying as family rape victims supports the victim, and those who love her, in their natural desire for justice and revenge. It helps us assert our power. If we’re victims, then we have the right to bring our attackers to justice.

Lesbophobia: We partly agree with Celia Kitzinger’s article “Heteropatriarchal Language, The Case Against ‘Homophobia’” 12 in which she criticizes the word “lesbophobia” because it originated as a psychological diagnosis that generally defined fear of Lesbians as an irrational phobia — when in reality patriarchy has good reason to fear us. So we describe men’s, boys,’ and het women’s usual reactions to Lesbians by the more accurate term “Lesbian-hatred.” However, we think it’s important to have another word to describe many het women’s reactions as well as some Lesbians’ revulsion at and terror of their own and others’ Lesbianism, because Lesbians and het women don’t have a reasonable reason to fear Lesbian. “Lesbophobia” just seems the best term for this particularly extreme kind of fear. It’s come into general use and no longer feels like a psychological term for many of us, and it clearly portrays the terror that’s as irrational as a phobia towards spiders or other harmless and beautiful wild animals.

“Homophobia” was one of the first terms that made it clear queerness wasn’t Lesbians’ “mental problem.” If anyone had a “problem,” it was the hets who hate us. That made a great difference to many Lesbians’ lives.

Disabled: We (Linda and Bev) prefer this term for ourselves instead of “physically challenged” (although we’re not criticizing anyone who uses “physically challenged”), because we find that most well and able-bodied Lesbians want to deny hidden disabilities and assume that if we just try hard enough we’ll be able to be as physically functional as they are. Chronic illness severely limits our ability to function, and no amount of effort will make us as physically able as well Lesbians. Some well and able-bodied Lesbians seem to have taken the term “physically challenged” to mean that disabled Lesbians can overcome any and all physical limitations if we try hard enough to “meet the challenge.” We also prefer the word “disabled” because it includes developmental disabilities while “physically challenged” doesn’t.

WASP: A US term for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.” It includes culture as well as ethnicity.

History: This word comes from the Greek “histör” and “istör,” meaning “knowing,” “learned.”13 It doesn’t mean “his story,” although the documented history females have access to is the history of patriarchy because men have systematically destroyed records of the time before patriarchy. No amount of calling the past “herstory” will change that. As for what we call female history, why allow men the exclusive use of a perfectly adequate word such as “history”?


We don’t want to compare oppressions, because every experience is unique, but unfortunately, only certain oppressions are acknowledged as existing. Specifically Lesbian oppressions are ignored by almost everyone, including Lesbians. There’s so little understanding of them that they’re sometimes considered to be privileges. Even Lesbianism itself is said to be privileged by some “radical” Lesbians. Usually only issues of oppression that are experienced, written, and talked about by men and het women are considered valid by Lesbians. They may not always be fought, but at least they’re recognized as existing, which is a beginning.

For this reason, in this book, we often give classism as an example to explain the pain and damage caused by the various forms of Lesbian oppression. The comparison isn’t exact, because our class backgrounds aren’t chosen, while the heterosexist privilege that some Lesbians use to wield power over other Lesbians is chosen. We decided to focus only on class as an example because two of us are class-oppressed and it seemed more appropriate to talk from our experiences than to refer to others’ oppressions.

(Ruston: We use the English spelling and punctuation style of Aotearoa in sections I alone wrote, and the US style in the rest of the book. We found this to be the best way of expressing my national identity while not denying our class differences, and it also made the enormous job of typing the book more manageable.)

                                                          Authors’ Notes

Bev: I was born in 1950, in a catholic working-class family of German, English, Scottish, American Indian, and I’m not sure what else ancestry. (My parents and grandparents were all born in the US). I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, was in love with other girls from my earliest memories, identified with the word “Lesbian” and rejected male-defined femininity from an early age (which is why I now identify as Butch). I never was heterosexual, and became lovers with my first lover when I was 17 (in 1968), before the support of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I found a Lesbian community in Berkeley, California in 1971, and became a Dyke Separatist in 1972. I’ve been disabled since 1981 with a chronic illness.

I was one of the three members of the Gutter Dyke Collective who co-wrote and published Dykes and Gorgons in 1973, which was the first Dyke Separatist writing we knew of. (Much of that work was reprinted in the Separatist anthology, For Lesbians Only.) It’s been my goal since first becoming a Separatist to work towards building a Dyke Separatist community. I’ve written Separatist articles published in The Lesbian Insider/Insighter/Inciter; For Lesbians Only; and Lesbian Ethics (USA), Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui; Lesbian Fury/Furie Lesbienne; Voices for Lesbian Survival  (Canada); and Gossip (England), among others.

I taught free self-defense classes for females only for 10 years, did Lesbian-only self-defense workshops and Separatist workshops at “Womyn’s” Festivals, and was in several Separatist action groups. I was part of the collectives that planned the first Lesbian Feminist Conference in the San Francisco Bay area in 1972, the first San Francisco Dyke Separatist Gathering in 1983, and the Lesbian Forum on Separatism in Oakland in 1984. The most recent workshop I did was on Radical Lesbian Feminism at the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change in Oakland in 2014, where I protested our losing one more Lesbian group to male membership.

I moderate three Radical Feminist groups on facebook and one Lesbian-only group.

I regularly party, dance, and cavort with the Lesbians, in spite of our having no women only space left. I lead local nature hikes to see plants, animals, etc. I think the animals that men tell us to hate and fear, like rats, spiders, snakes, lizards, frogs, bats, and Lesbians (among others) are particularly beautiful.

Linda: I’m a working-class, catholic-raised, Italian-descent Lesbian, born in 1941 in a USA factory town. I’ve been chronically ill since 1981. An ex-het Dyke-identified Fem who never married or had children, I was a het feminist activist from 1968 until 1972, when I followed my deepest desires and became a Lesbian. In 1973, I moved to Oakland, California, into a vibrant, intensely political Lesbian community. I found that it was Dyke Separatists who were living by the truths I’d come to consider self-evident, with the most real love for Lesbians, and I’ve been a Separatist ever since.

I taught female-only self-defense classes for seven years, helped organize the Dyke Separatist Gathering in San Francisco in 1983 and the Lesbian Forum on Separatism in Oakland in 1984. I’ve written Separatist articles published in The Lesbian Inciter and Lesbian Ethics (U.S.A.); Lesbian Fury/Furie Lesbienne; Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui, and Voices for Lesbian Survival  (Canada); and Gossip (England).

Ruston: I’m from Aotearoa, born in 1952 and raised in Tamaki-Makaurau. I joined the Women’s Liberation Movement there in 1975 because I’d been falling in love with females for years and very much wanted to become a Lesbian. I’m pakeha (European-descent), of Welsh-Irish-English descent, middle-class, raised protestant, and an ex-het Dyke-identified Fem who never married or had children. I’m educationally privileged through having a degree in medicine, but for many reasons I’ve never worked as a doctor. After working on anti-rape and other feminist issues for about a year I became a Separatist in 1976. I helped organize a Lesbian conference in Tamaki-Makaurau in 1977 and created Lesbian theatre with other Lesbians in Hamilton in 1978.

I moved to Whanganui-a-Tara in 1979 where I got involved in setting up the Lesbian Centre and in running many Lesbian-only political and social events. I’ve written articles published in Circle, the Wellington Lesbian Newsletter, Lesbian Lip, and Lesbians In Print (LIP), among others, in Aotearoa. I met Bev and Linda through our political work in our respective countries, in 1983, and since 1984 have been writing articles and letters with them, printed in the Lesbian Insider/Inciter/Insighter; Lesbian Ethics; and Hag Rag (USA); and Voices for Lesbian Survival; Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui; and Lesbian Fury/Furie Lesbienne (Canada).

Next to Lesbians and Separatism, my greatest love is the forests, wild creatures and wild places of my home, Aotearoa. My favourite creature is the kea (alpine parrot of Aotearoa). It’s a very stroppy bird that survived terrible slaughter. I’d like to spend all my time at Lesbian parties, listening to music, learning homeopathy, drawing, reading murder mysteries, and being outside in beautiful places away from everyone but Lesbians.


  1. Julia Penelope described this beautifully in “Mystery of Lesbians,” printed in Lesbian Ethics, Vol.1, Nos. 1,2,3 (Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.) and Gossip, Nos. 1,2,3, and in an edited version in For Lesbians Only: A Separatist Anthology, p. 506 (Onlywomen Press Ltd., 38 Mount Pleasant, London, WC1X 0AP, England).
  2. An estimated nine million females were accused of being witches and murdered by Christian male authorities in Europe, mostly from the 14th to the 18th Centuries. That was an enormous part of the population — in some villages only one or two females were left alive.
  3. From Gallus Mag:

The NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights) now donates nearly all their (plummeting) resources to non-lesbian (predominantly heterosexual and male) activism, much of it anti-gay. Their legal director is “ex-lesbian” attorney Shannon Minter, who injects testosterone and now “identifies as” a heterosexual male.

Here is a list of all active pending cases on the NCLR case docket posted on their website, as I understand them:

-an amicus brief submitted in a lesbian case challenging Florida’s ban on adoption by lesbians and gays. (The case was represented by pro-bono attorneys, not NCLR, so here the NCLR submitted a brief in a case relating to an actual lesbian, not a case they represented however.)

-Lawsuit filed to force prisons to provide incarcerated trans criminals taxpayer funded hormones and surgery. Free sex changes for incarcerated transgender people who “come out” after incarceration. As wards of the state, convicted criminals should be entitled to taxpayer funded hormones and surgeries that are not provided for law abiding citizens.

-Lawsuit filed claiming heterosexuals are being discriminated against, by being excluded from gay men’s softball leagues. Seriously. This is who the NCLR is representing. Can’t make this shit up.

-amicus brief filed in case of Egyptian gay man seeking asylum from anti-gay mistreatment in a country where gay men can be arrested for homosexuality.

-asylum case for Mexican transgender identified person who received alleged harassment because of claiming to be a sex incongruent with that on birth certificate.

-asylum case for gay Pakistani male.

-amicus brief filed in case of Pakistani hetero male who alleges he was detained by the FBI due to religious profiling of muslims in terrorism investigations.

-assisting a pro bono attorney who is representing an asylum case for Bosnian lesbian.

-lawsuit against Cherokee Nation representing lesbian married couple.

-asylum for another Mexican transgender person.

That’s it. As I understand it those are the open pending cases represented by the NCLR.

Well what else do they do?

NCLR Sports Project issued a report in 2010 warning that women’s sports teams discriminate against males and that failure to permit males to compete against females in female sports may result in “costly litigation”. The NCLR press report was issued in October when a 57 year-old male who beat out all the female competitors (average age 30) to win the women’s world championship for long-drive golf sued the LPGA for his “right” to compete against women. The NCLR supported this action and does so by misrepresenting themselves as being a lesbian WOMEN organization. The NCLR appears to believe that women’s sports leagues infringe on the CIVIL RIGHTS of males. The 57 year-old male may be the first competitor in history to embark on a new professional sports career at such an advanced age.

It’s hard to IMAGINE that a lesbian rights organization would make the rights of males to play women’s sports their highest priority, much less the “rights” of male criminals to receive taxpayer funded sex changes, or the “rights” of heterosexuals to play on gay softball leagues, but this is what the NCLR is concerned with. Only three of the ten active pending lawsuits listed on the NCLR website concern lesbians, and two of them are not actually being represented by the NCLR. So, one out of ten.  Three transgender cases (two male one female), two gay male, two hetero male.

  1. Conversations with Monifa J. Ajanaku; and “Of Color: What’s In a Name?” by Vivienne Louise, Bay Area Women’s News, Vol. 1, No. 6, Jan/Feb 1988, 5.
  2. Although we generally use accepted geographic terms, we disagree with the ones that say there’s a “top” and “bottom” of our planet, with “northern” and “southern” hemispheres, placing Europe, the US, and Canada at the “top” of the world, and southern Africa, South America, and South Pacific nations at the “bottom” or “down under.” “Top” has been made to imply superiority and “bottom” inferiority, so that current maps make northern hemisphere nations appear innately superior to southern hemisphere nations. It may be too much for most male minds to comprehend, but in space there’s no top or bottom. Our planet spins in space, as do other planets, and the stars and moons.

6.  Wikipedia.
List of indigenous peoples of California

Yurok, northwestern California[14]

7.  Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492 (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), 49.

  1. A.W. Reed and T.S. Käretu, Concise Māori Dictionary (New Zealand: Reed, 1984), 13.  Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi (Wellington, New Zealand: Allen and Unwin/Port Nicholson Press, 1987), 267.

9. Wikipedia


Name (“United Tribes” number[2]) Rohe (location) Waka (canoe) People (2001)
Kāi Tahu – (see Ngāi Tahu below)
Kāti Mamoe – or “Ngāti Mamoe South Island
Moriori † (21) Chatham Islands 585
Muaūpoko (31) Levin 1,836
Ngāi Rauru (23) – or Ngāti Rauru Taranaki Aotea-utanganui 3,090
Ngāriki Kaiputahi (44) – or Ngā Ariki Gisborne Te Ikanui-a-Rauru 2,083
Ngā Ruahine (21) Taranaki 3,228
Ngāi Tahu (also Kāi Tahu) South Island Tākitimu 39,180
Ngāi Tai (9) – or Ngāti Tai Hauraki Tainui 177
Ngāi Tai (53) – or Ngāti Tai Bay of Plenty 2,022
Ngāi Takoto Northland 489
Ngāi Tamanuhiri – or Ngāti Tāmanuhiri Gisborne 1,173
Ngaiterangi Matakana Island 9,561
Ngāi Tuhoe (51) Te Urewera Mataatua 29,259
Ngāpuhi (4) Northland Ngatokimatawhaorua 102,981
Ngāpuhi ki Whaingaroa-Ngāti Kahu ki Whaingaroa Northland 1,965
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland 5,892
Ngāti Apa (29) ManawatuSouth Island 3,021
Ngāti Awa (50) KawerauBay of Plenty 13,044
Ngāti Hako Hauraki Gulf 924
Ngāti Hau Wanganui
Ngāti Hauā (26) Waikato ? 6,400
Ngāti Hauiti Rangitikei 1,002
Ngāti Hei Hauraki Gulf 363
Ngāti Huia (15) Waikato
Ngāti Kahu (2) Northland Māmaru 6,957
Ngāti Kahungunu (34, 36, 37) Hawke’s BayWairarapa Tākitimu 51,552
Ngāti Koata South Island 765
Ngāti Kuia South Island Te Hoiere 1,224
Ngāti Kurī Northland 4,647
Ngāti Mahuta (7, 14) Waikato
Ngāti Mamoe South Island 2,262
Ngāti Manawa 1,542
Ngāti Maniapoto (17) King Country Waikato Tainui 27,168
Ngāti Maru (12) Hauraki
Ngāti Maru (Taranaki) (24) Taranaki
Ngāti Mutunga (18) TaranakiChatham Islands 2,652
Ngāti Paoa (10) Hauraki Gulf 2,397
Ngāti Pikiao (Te Arawa) Rotorua 5,022
Ngāti Poneke Wellington
Ngāti Porou (39) East Cape Horouta 61,701
Ngāti Pukenga Tauranga 1,137
Ngāti Pūkenga ki Waiau Hauraki Gulf 273
Ngāti Rāhiri Tumutumu Te Aroha 93
Ngāti Ranginui (48) Tauranga 6,120
Ngāti Rangiteaorere (Te Arawa) 177
Ngāti Rangitihi (Te Arawa) 1,041
Ngāti Rangiwewehi (Te Arawa) 1,551
Ngāti Rārua South Island 699
Ngāti Raukawa (16, 28) WaikatoManawatuKapiti[disambiguation needed] Tainui ? 24,000
Ngāti Rauru – or Nga Rauru Taranaki
Ngāti Rongomaiwahine Mahia Peninsula 4,254
Ngāti Ruanui (22) Taranaki Aotea-utanganui 5,286
Ngāti Ruapani (42, 45) East Cape
Ngāti Tahu (Te Arawa) 1,209
Ngāti Tai (9) – or Nga Tai or Ngai Tai Hauraki Gulf 177
Ngāti Tama (25) King CountryWellingtonSouth IslandChatham Islands 1,764
Ngāti Tāmanuhiri (38) – or Ngāi Tāmanuhiri Gisborne
Ngāti Tamaterā (13) Coromandel Peninsula Tainui 1,866
Ngāti Tara Tokanui Hauraki Gulf 330
Ngāti Te Ata Manukau Harbour 15,652
Ngāti Te Wehi Aotea Harbour Kawhia 5000
Ngāti Toa/Ngāti Toarangatira (32) Porirua Tainui 4,491
Ngāti Tūtekohe (41) East Cape
Ngāti Tuwharetoa (46) Taupo 29,301
Ngāti Wai Northland 3,966
Ngāti Whakaue 5,061
Ngāti Whanaunga (11) Waihi 399
Ngāti Whare 690
Ngāti Whātua (5, 6) Kaipara Harbour 12,105
Pakakohi Taranaki 408
Patukirikiri Hauraki Gulf 60
Poutini West Coast
Rangitane (30, 35) Northern South Island 4,401
Rongowhakaata (44) Gisborne 3,612
Rongomaiwahine Mahia 2,322
Tai Ngahu South Island 1,094
Tainui Waikato 35,781
Tangahoe Taranaki 261
Tapuika (Te Arawa) 1,050
Taranaki (20) Taranaki 5,940
Tarawhai (Te Arawa) 114
Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti (40) East Cape
Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki (43) Wairoa 4,365
Te Arawa (47) Rotorua
Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi (27) 8,820
Te Āti Awa (19, 33) TaranakiWellington Aotea 17,445
Te Aupouri (1) 7,848
Te Kawerau Northland 228
Te Rarawa (3) Hokianga 11,526
Te Roroa Northland 966
Te Uri-o-Hau 732
Te Whakatohea (52) Opotiki 9,948
Te Whanau-a-Apanui (54) East Cape 9,951
Tūhourangi (Te Arawa) 1,617
Uenuku-Kōpako (Te Arawa) 174
Waikato-Tainui see Tainui Waikato Region Tainui 52,000
Waitaha (Te Arawa)
  1. “Suing Ma Bell Over Dirty Language,” Newsweek, 7 Dec. 1987, 47. This article described a 12-year-old boy’s rape of a 4-year-old girl as, “…he persuaded a 4-year-old to perform sexual acts.”
  2. Elizabeth Ward, Father-Daughter Rape (The Women’s Press, Ltd., 124 Shoreditch High St., London E1 6J3, England), 79.
  3. Gossip, No. 5, page 15.
  4. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Massachusetts, USA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1984).


Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings, Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics, Our book 25 years later with extensive additions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Radical Feminism Is Real Feminism by Bev Jo

Radical Feminism
Is Real Feminism

Bev Jo

Part 1

We shouldn’t even have to call our culture and politics “Radical Feminism” when it once was simply feminism.  Real Feminism.

There is so much misinformation designed to deliberately confuse women and girls about what feminism is, that we have to keep re-explaining, to tell the truth. Diluting feminism to make it more palatable is a mistake. Feminism is not a cult that needs fantasies and lies to protect it. Girls and women are hungry for the truth. And the earth is literally running out of time.

Another reason to clearly describe Radical Feminism is to support the women who are heartbroken by the harm that women do to other women in the name of Radical Feminism. (And do not forget that sometimes the worst is by men posing as women).   When we know exactly what Radical Feminism is, then we know that women who are trolling and giving feminism a bad name are not real Radical Feminists.

So what is Radical Feminism? Radical Feminism, and particularly Radical Lesbian Feminism, takes feminism to its logical conclusion. While reformist/liberal/ mainstream feminism is about pleading for equal rights so a few privileged women can get a piece of the rotten patriarchal pie at the expense of most women, Radical Feminism frees us from that mess, which is why it’s so threatening to women benefiting personally from patriarchy.

Radical Feminism is what we know when all the patriarchal censors on our minds are gone and the fear of retribution is ignored. Radical means more than the root — it means going beyond all the lies we were taught, recognizing that patriarchy is built on deception. When the lies are exposed, then patriarchal control of girls’ and women’s minds dissolves.

Radical Feminism means recognizing that patriarchy, and males as a group, being at war with the earth and all females. The propaganda/lie is that it has always been this way and always will be, and that females inevitably belong to males. But, though male supremacy has destroyed many species and the environment in a relatively short time, it has not always existed.

Yes, the logical extreme of Radical Feminism is Lesbian Separatism, which means choosing to have no contact with males whenever possible. (No, this is not a privileged choice. Some of the most oppressed women are Dyke Separatists. After all, the inspiration for Lesbian Separatism was the Separatism of other oppressed political movements.)  But this does not mean that there are no het Radical Feminists. There is a continuum of Radical Feminism, with some basic politics we share.

In the late Sixties and early Seventies, Radical Feminism was an international movement of females of all ages who were fighting patriarchy. This was before we had our own books, so our movement relied on articles passed around and on newspapers. Some women now are discovering Radical Feminism the same way, inspired by their own and friends’ minds and experiences. Blogs and facebook groups help (although there are also many confusing troll groups to avoid).

When I object to Radical Feminism being appropriated, I’m asked, “Who are you to define Radical Feminism?” (This reminds me of when I’ve been asked who am I say a man is not a Lesbian.) Well, I’ve been a Radical Feminist with no selling out and no diluting or flipping my politics for longer than anyone else I know. That doesn’t mean I’m the only one, but considering that I helped create Radical Lesbian Feminism and am still here, I have the right to defend my life and our community from the constant attacks on us.

I saw it. I was there. I remember it.

I became a Radical Lesbian Feminist in 1970 when I was 19, and have since witnessed the dilution and destruction of much of our powerful Women’s Liberation Movement and Radical Feminism.

We know what went wrong and we know how to fix it. But we need absolutely safe, female-only space, which we no longer have. In the past, feminists protected each other from male intrusion. Now, when we try to meet, whether in person or online, we are diverted by men perving on us, and by the women who help shove them down our throats. Even worse, feminism and women ourselves are being defined out of existence.

I object. I object to our Radical Feminist movement and culture being appropriated, parasitized, and gutted. I object when men do it, claiming to be Radical Feminists and demanding we accept them as women. And I object when women who are not Radical Feminists do it, setting themselves up as the leaders of our movement, misrepresenting our politics, policing women to accept their distorted version of Radical Feminism, and harassing actual Radical Feminists who object. Our movement and community is not theirs to steal.

If you’ve been drawn to feminism but still feel like an outsider because you are seeing some of the same heterosexist, racist, classist, and other oppressive crap that is in the rest of patriarchy, know that that is not true Radical Feminism but a posturing imitation.

We have lost too many good-hearted women who are longtime Radical Feminists or who are new and trying to find Radical Feminism. We can disagree and still learn from each other and make new friendships, as long as we argue respectfully and with care.

Just as there is a clear definition of “female,” there is a clear definition of true Radical Feminist politics as developed for almost fifty years. We will all have differing ideas of what Radical Feminism is, but this is what some of us believe:

Definition of Radical Feminism

1. We know our history. Radical Feminism means recognizing that patriarchy is built on female-hating, rape, and gynocide and that there is on ongoing war against all girls, women and the earth herself. Male supremacist rule has not always existed, but, in a relatively short time, has destroyed many species and the environment. We are running out of time. The propaganda is that it has always been this way and that females simply belong to males. (Try to find anywhere in the media, schools, etc. that this lie is not promoted.) Radical Feminism is about eliminating patriarchy. Wanting only to get a better deal from patriarchy is not Radical Feminism.

2. Radical Feminism is connected to Radical Lesbian Feminism and
is an inclusive, diverse movement that welcomes all females without hierarchies.
We say no to everything which hurts females and is unjust. Of course males are our oppressors, but they have also set up hierarchies giving privilege to some women to encourage them to collaborate against more oppressed women. We do not participate in continuing the divisions that men have created and which keep women apart. We recognize and fight those divisions.

Acknowledging and fighting all oppression among us has been an integral part of Lesbian Feminism from the beginning.  (We did not call it “Intersectionality,” which was a later academic dilution of Feminism, but described the hierarchies we are fighting.)

Radical Feminists never deny the reality and harm of classism, racism, ethnicism, heterosexism/Lesbian-hating, ableism, ageism, fat oppression, looksism, imperialism, nationalism, capitalism, etc. in patriarchy and among ourselves. Women who say that women cannot oppress each other are not Radical Feminists. If differences in power aren’t fought, then the status quo power structure that men set up continues among us. Defending privileged women’s power to oppress other women keeps the more privileged cultures dominant among us and leads to a segregated movement.

3. Radical Feminists are not reformist, liberal, mainstream, or right wing “feminists.” We oppose any dilutions of feminism, including re-writing our history.

Part of what has damaged our movement is women (usually privileged) who are not feminists trying to take over our culture, and then arrogantly lecturing us about what Radical Feminism is. Either they are deliberately undermining the Women’s Liberation Movement on behalf of men, or they have no idea what it is. Some of these women may appear to be Radical Feminists, but reveal themselves when they go against basic feminist tenets.

4. Radical Feminists are unafraid to see males for who they are, including all the ways they mark territory, from man-splaining to rape to war to using pesticides on our water, food, earth…. Language is one example. Men and even women emulating men will triumphantly shout “I nailed it!” But that term is not just used for winning, but also for fucking and killing. Radical Feminists notice language and try to not participate in any language that harms us.

Even just watching how men touch girls and women is marking. Some famous men have written that they won’t wash their hands after using the toilet because it gives them an edge with marking people when shaking hands. Women need to have no illusions about what males do that is unthinkable to women. (See Endnote.)

5. Radical Feminists do not proselytize for men (especially not men claiming to be women or Lesbians), religions, heterosexuality, bisexuality, sado-masochism, porn, etc. Radical Feminists do not make excuses for males in their oppression of females, or believe that males can be feminists or allow them into feminist spaces. (Men who want to support us can organize elsewhere, but their history is not good in terms of being sincere.)

Radical Feminists don’t pretend to believe that females and males are basically the same, while liberal/mainstream feminists repeat the dangerous myth that raping, torturing, and killing are somehow caused by “socialization” rather than innate biological difference — even though male violence can easily be seen in many other animal species. The truth is all around us, and our other animal sisters know better than most women that that is the norm for males.  (Typical male writer misses the point that rape is about maleness but the information is revealing.)

The mistaken belief in “socialization” leads once again to women devoting even more time to change males. It has never worked and never will. It also adds to the dangerous myth that men are oppressed by patriarchy too.

Of course there are differences in brains, and the biological, physical, mental, and emotional differences between females and males are obvious. Some “feminists” react to our saying this to mean that somehow males should not be held accountable for the crimes they commit, when we are saying the opposite. Also, believing that there are no intrinsic differences leads to believing men could be women.

6. Radical Feminists never genuflect to the trans cult line that men can be women or Lesbians. This con has been one of the most destructive things done to females and our movement. (After some of these men didn’t get the attention they expected for pretending to be women, they appropriated yet another oppressed identity. So we also do not accept “trans-paraplegic” able-bodied men who demand to be accepted as paraplegic, or “trans-racial” white men who use surgery and drugs to look African, or any other narcissistic appropriation of oppressed people. Note how ridiculous this becomes: , ,

Saying no to the trans cult includes refusing to affectionately call them “transfolk” or any other terms that give credence to the idea that they are somehow more special than other misogynist female impersonators. Radical Feminists never call men “women” of any kind or “she” or “her,” or call women “men.” This is a crucial dividing line.

Radical Feminists also do not feel sorry for these men, which is the biggest hook the trans cult uses.  We are not confused about who and what these men are. If they truly cared about women, they would not have gotten into power positions in our last organizations and have destroyed our last women only space. They would also not be preying on young Lesbians in “LGBTQ” groups.

We do not believe they are more in danger than women are, as they claim to be, especially considering how much they themselves target us in very male ways with threats of rape, mutilation and death. (And why is it women’s work to protect men from being attacked by other men?) We do not support anything they demand. We are aware that men claiming to be women are included in statistics on “female” violence, making it appear that women are as violent as men. We don’t know how many assaults and murders they have committed, but it looks like it’s more even than what regular het male violence. (GenderTrender is a great resource for this information.)

7. Radical Feminist never believe that women can be men. And we also do not continue the myth that the women who most likely to want to be men are Butches. Most F2Ts are Fem and many are het women who want sexual access to gay men.

8. Radical Feminists have no leaders, no stars, no hierarchies. When I first came online, I was shocked by how many women seemed afraid to give their opinions without quoting some famous feminist writer. In the Seventies, Lesbian Feminists were so opposed to stars that many writers refused to sign what they wrote or signed only with their collective name, as I did with Dykes and Gorgons. (However, that ended up working against the class-oppressed writers, who have been more erased from our history.) Women need to trust the value of their own ideas.

9. Radical Feminists discuss with respect and kindness and caring, and do not try to injure who they disagree with. Real Radical Feminists do not lie, slander, manipulate, play games, name-call, ridicule, taunt, insult, threaten, bully, abuse, or use oppression against other women (such as using classist or racist terms aimed to humiliate women oppressed by classism or racism.)

How pretender “feminists” deal with disagreements and conflict reveal who they really are. They do not argue with mutual respect. They can’t, since their arguments aren’t valid. They don’t know how to deal with women who talk back, so they just keep trying to dominate and eliminate us. They show how comfortable they are in feeling superior, and the glee with which they harm other women reveals how much their politics are not valid. Unfortunately, they do drive many women away.

10. Radical Feminists do not lie. Pretenders make up the most bizarre lies to erase us. One lie that has gone on for decades is that Dyke Separatists live in the country and so are privileged. Please just read our chapter in our book. I’ve been a Separatist longer than anyone else I know and have never lived in the country and have lived my entire adult life below the poverty line in cities. We know that lying is often projection as well as an attempt to erase us. If someone says that only the most privileged women can be Separatists, then that’s a way to convince women to not even have to think about what Lesbian Separatism really is. And that is typical troll gaslighting/mindfuck.

 11. Radical Feminism both gives women credit and holds women accountable for the choices we make. Denial of our power in making choices is a serious dilution of feminism. Being oppressed does not mean having no choices. Women feel powerless and victimized as it is. Saying no to males is one of the most important and powerful choices we can make.

Who does it serve for women to push the patriarchal and gay male agenda that Lesbians were “born this way,” ignoring the Lesbian Feminists of the past who proudly said we choose to love women? The offensive, trivializing term “sexual orientation,” which is applied to Lesbians, but never to het women, makes Lesbians once again be just about “sex,” ignoring the enormous price Lesbians pay for choosing to love women and saying no to men. That is exactly the heart/mind/body/spirit disconnect that women who choose men have learned from their men, while choosing to love our own kind threatens patriarchy at its core.

12. Radical Feminist do not agree with defining collaborators as “victims.”

13. Radical Feminists welcome discussion about past betrayals of our community and do not censor Radical Feminists who are more radical or ban women from groups without good reason. Radical Feminists explain those reasons and do not lie about them. Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it and, even worse, condemn us to repeat it. Those who try to prevent discussion about the past that is relevant to us now are harming our community.

The personal is political. We need to know which women supported men and the trans cult against Radical Feminists. We need to know who has a history of oppressing women in order to bully and intimidate. We need to know who lies and edits and erases threads against group rules and uses online bans to eliminate evidence in an attempt to rewrite history. Who wants the truth and our history hidden?

14. Radical Feminist are not afraid to learn how we’ve been conned into participating in our own and other females’ betrayal. This means scrutiny of the media and patriarchal rules that women use to obey males and police other women. Some of the cons, like male-identified femininity, run so deep that women have assumed it is a natural part of themselves. Some believe this is trivial, but it actually is a major reason into why most women keep obeying male rules. (And also why they accept the trans propaganda. Looking “like a woman” superficially, by glorifying what demeans us, is “proof” of real womanhood.)

Once, feminists were dedicated to unlearning all male lies, but that’s part of what we lost. Unlearning femininity, like unlearning classism and racism, is integral to being Radical Feminist. Being afraid to give up the privilege of femininity is extremely revealing because it goes much deeper than fear of losing status.

15. Radical Feminists take language and meaning seriously. I don’t mean we make trivial changes like changing the spelling of women and history, but make deeper changes. We do not substitute one kind of male language or attitudes for another in an effort to appear radical. Men refer to their vile testicles to denote courage, but mainstream “feminists” play their game by referring to ovaries instead. Do they really think women who’ve had their ovaries removed aren’t as courageous as women who haven’t? Why not go further and say no to all of it?

16. Radical Feminists don’t have double standards where they reprimand other women for doing what they allow for themselves or their lover or friends.

17. Radical Feminism is about community and commitment, not dabbling or playing in radical politics as rebellion or for self-centered, selfish gain. When someone says something that is being done to another woman doesn’t concern them, they are not a Radical Feminist. Caring for each other is Radical Feminism, and that means fighting what is harming us.

                                             Radical Feminism

                                                         Part II

                            The Cons and Lies, and Ruling by Terror  

We need a truly Radical Feminist movement that welcomes all girls and women, where we can finally talk about the most radical of feminist politics, so we go as far as possible with our ideas, observations, and conclusions. We want the women who have been isolated and marginalized to know they are not alone and that they have finally come home.

In the Seventies, feminism was targeted by media ridicule and misrepresentation in order to confuse girls and women into rejecting even the thought of feminism. Now, it’s more difficult because porn and sado-masochism are mainstreamed as “feminism.”

Parasitized pretend feminism tells women to stop questioning and thinking, and to accept lies that can be comfortingly similar to the regular patriarchal cons. Real Radical Feminism is about questioning everything that we are told is “reality” or “just the way things are.” Radical Feminism shakes patriarchy to its core because it calls for the very ending of patriarchy.

That terrifies the pretend “radfems” because ending patriarchy means giving up their privilege. I say to the female pretenders gutting Radical Feminism, as I say to the male pretenders — call yourselves whatever you want, but stop trying to steal our name, our movement, our culture, and then parasitizing it for your own use.

I say the same to those who “don’t want to know” what harm a troll is doing to Radical Feminism and to individual women — please be responsible enough to recognize that we cannot have a movement of women who don’t care about each other — and if that troll, whether a paid agent or someone who just enjoys their game of power and pitting women against each other, is not named, held accountable, and stopped, then she will eventually hurt you too.

A major difference between Radical Feminism and pretend feminism is that we think of ourselves as community. What is done to one of us is done to all. If we fight only for ourselves and our interests individually, we not only have no movement, we have no culture or community.

Patriarchy is about individuals competing so they keep people pitted against each other and caring only about themselves. Radical Feminism is the opposite. We care for and protect each other. It is never about “Oh I like her and she hasn’t hurt me yet, so I don’t really care if she is classist, racist, Lesbian-hating, etc.” Of course you never just believe something seriously upsetting about another women without verifying if it’s true (because the trolls thrive on lies and slander), so look for yourself to see the evidence. Listen to those being harmed and ask the oppressor/troll their side of it. Often a mild disagreement brings out their rage and they quickly will be abusive to you too. If you are afraid of them, that should tell you something. Since I went to an all-girls high school where the girls were mostly very kind and caring to each other, I never understand when feminists say the cliques and exclusion among feminists are like high school. But that has been a lot of women’s experience, so I do believe some women are playing out the same dynamics from high school of in-groups and outsiders, where most want to belong, while a ringleader decides who is to be banned and ostracized. The result is a hierarchy based on fear so some women go along with targeting other women simply to not be targeted themselves. (Many of the girls and later women also competed with each other over males, and those dynamics are also brought into our feminist community.)

Liberal/reformist/mainstream “feminists” interfere when they constantly undercut Radical Feminism with illogical comments to “prove” it’s impossible to really say no to patriarchy. For example, when we mention some of the ways that women could end patriarchy — such as by refusing to be het and refusing to reproduce – the pretenders’ patronizing responses deny reality, saying women don’t have access to abortions (just stop fucking then), or that we want all humans to die out (as if that’s likely with the population already over seven billion), or that men would enslave us all. Seriously? How is that about to happen where many of us live, and so isn’t it even more important to say no when women in other countries are killed for resisting?

Reformism does not go past fantasy into reality. As painful as knowing the truth of reality, Radical Feminism is the only way to actually eliminate patriarchy and male violence towards all females and the earth. Some women are terrified to become Radical Feminists because they think they have to be angry all the time, but the truth is that it is ultimately very freeing. Women are already angry. When we hide that anger even from ourselves, we end up turning it against ourselves and each other. Knowing the truth and our real options is an incredible relief. And also women then don’t waste time on males.

Some of my friends are with men they trust. I try not to worry for them. “Exceptional” men might exist, but more likely they haven’t been caught or haven’t taken the risk to rape. (Remember how Ted Bundy was considered the ideal man?)  I always say that we never know what a boy or man is doing when he is alone with human babies or animals. There certainly are enough male horror stories. I know a Lesbian whose friends caught their male gardener raping their dog. A dear friend was abused by her mother’s boyfriend, who was known to have orally raped his baby daughter to death. None of this is rare. Almost every woman I know has been sexually assaulted as a girl and/or adult, often multiple times. All have been sexually harassed. This isn’t about “crazy” or “sick” men. These are men who measure “normal” on psychological tests. And even if some men are trustworthy, why do some women who claim to be feminists spend so much energy trying to find them, making them more important than women?

Ironically, men know about other males and often will be quite honest when talking about how dangerous they can be. One male psychologist recommends never allowing adolescent boys to babysit. Michael Moore, the documentarian, said on television, “We want to fuck anything in front of us.” Meanwhile, too many women ridicule being wary of males as sexual predators and say it’s oppressive to even think it.

Real Radical Feminists are motivated by love for other females. Hatred for those who harm us comes afterward. A woman who believes the trivializing, superficial stereotype that feminism is primarily about hatred of men rather than love for females is a woman who is more likely to betray us. Sometimes het women who are trying to bond with me send me bizarre images of men being tortured, assuming I’ll like that.  I’d rather not think about males at all, if they would just leave us and the earth alone. When a “radfem’s” masthead and posts focus primarily on hating men, I’m wary because “she” seems like a troll. (I’m thinking of one “woman” in particular who has no images of herself or friends on her page, uses Valerie Solanas’ photo as her avatar, and has a masthead of a woman wearing a see-through, black, lacey bra with tiny men hanging by her armpit hair. That just looks like a man’s fantasy of a man-hating feminist. The posts seem like trying too hard to prove she/he is a Radical Feminist. Plus, a lot of the women we later find out are trolls use the photos or names of famous dead feminists.)

For our own safety, we need to recognize who is and who isn’t truly Radical Feminist. Men can’t ever be women, so they also can’t be Radical Feminists, but a woman who is not yet a Radical Feminist could yet become one, which keeps us hooked in to trying to reach them. But no matter how theoretically good a woman’s politics are, if she is oppressive and insulting, there is nothing to work with. Trying repeatedly to accept or get through to bullies and trolls is done at the expense of real Radical Feminists who need our support. Trolls bleed us dry as they drive women out of our movement. It’s almost as bad as trying to reach men.

I never fully understand why some women claim to be Radical Feminists who aren’t, but it’s the same reason women claim to be Dyke Separatists when they aren’t – some sincerely are drawn to the truth, while believe it’s a trendy way to feel superior as the “most radical” and to bully other women. Of course real Radical Feminists are a constant reminder that they are frauds, so they are determined to silence and eliminate us, which is similar to how the trans cult tries to erase female existence. Mind-fuck is nothing new. Truth and facts are irrelevant when it comes to fighting dirty.

Re-defining Radical Feminism is also similar to how the words “Lesbian” and “Dyke” have been re-defined to include bisexuals, het women, and even men. They also attempt to divide us into “waves.” “Second Wave” is used to refer to real Radical Feminists, while the “Third Wave” are not feminists at all, but are presented as if they are the logical evolution of feminism. This plays on ageism (with young anti-feminists being called “Third Wave” as if there has been a break in the continuity of our movement), while ignoring that real Radical Feminists do not have an age divide. I refuse to use these divisive, meaningless terms.

Reformist/mainstream/liberal “feminists” trying to get a better deal from patriarchy often means accepting male goals and betraying women. That has led to segregated “communities” where more oppressed women are treated like dirt and are condemned to “knowing their place” or are not allowed in at all (Doesn’t sound too different from how the right wing or Male Left treats women, does it?).  Women invested in patriarchy don’t want to make real changes because they will lose their privilege. I mean, my god, if patriarchy ends, what good is that law degree, and how will they keep their servants? That isn’t even describing the rich, but simply the middle class who don’t think of their housecleaners, gardeners, dog-walkers, home organizers, self-help gurus, masseuses, nannies, etc. as “servants.” I’m not talking about disabled women who need help, but about those who could at least clean their own toilets if they are hiring cleaners. They solve the embarrassment of seeing their Radical Feminist servants at “radfem” events by making the event unaffordable for anyone but the most privileged. It took me a while to recognize that having servants is “normal” for them since most grew up with servants.

Every year, I see how glaring the class differences are in the remnants of my old Lesbian Feminist community. I never thought I’d see women hiring other women to work at below minimum wage (and saying their servants don’t mind because they enjoy working for them!), or women charging astronomical amounts for rent in what is substandard illegal housing in their garages or basements. Yes, men and het women have been taking advantage of the increasing homeless for years, but I never expected to see “Lesbian Feminists” I know doing this.

Some of the mercenaries left our Lesbian community to return to patriarchy to get more privilege, but others stayed when they found a way to make careers off us. They brought academia, heterosexism, porn, sado-masochism, and genderqueer propaganda into our Lesbian Feminist community at the end of the Seventies. The main “Lesbian” sexologists, pornographers, and promoters of sado-masochism, like Pat Califia and JoAnn Loulan, were bisexuals who made money off their “Lesbian Sex” books and workshops, while defining us out of existence. At first, Califia was clever enough to use classic Lesbian Feminist terminology like “womyn” and “womon” to sell us Samois and sado-masochism. Similarly, many of the men who insist they are Lesbians call themselves “feminists” and even “Radical Feminists.” (Those two female-hating cults merged when Pat Califia claimed to be a “gay transman.”)

                               Censoring Real Radical Feminism

One way I differentiate who is radical from mainstream is how they react to “givens.” Do they just believe things we are told in patriarchy or do they question? Do they join in mainstream put-downs like calling women “anti-vaxxers” or “conspiracy theorists,” or do they think about why those women don’t trust the medical industry or government?

If they question mainstream beliefs, do they then believe the supposed alternative or do they go further? Refusing to believe in a god does not mean believing in a goddess, or saying “oh goddess” instead of “oh god” when swearing. Another example is refusing the most harmful forms of cancer “treatment” does not mean that the only other option in trying to survive is becoming vegan or to go to a fraud “alternative” clinic that costs a fortune.

I definitely see more questioning by women who are marginalized (like by classism and racism) and those who are not from the US. If a “Radical Feminist” believes government propaganda about history, assassinations, “terrorist” acts and even health misinformation, then she is going to be limited about how much she will explore Radical Feminist ideas. This is based on how invested she is in the patriarchal system. When an issue of feminism becomes confusing, always look to see if the problem is because the women disagreeing are deeply invested in males or patriarchy.

Again, the goal is to divide us and too many unthinkingly join in, so they will be accepted. I know some older Lesbian Feminists who patronizingly call young Lesbian Feminists “kids,” implying they are less wise or radical when that is not true. (That particular insult was used against me even when I was in my fifties by my mother since I was never going to be a “real” adult to her because I hadn’t gotten married or reproduced.)

The new anti-feminists pretend Feminism is a cult where no thinking is allowed. Women who dare question male values are immediately shamed into mindlessly obeying. They then are trained to police other women who step out of line.

Real Radical Feminists are censored and silenced, patronized, called “stupid” and are told we need “educating” (who do they think invented our movement?) or that we are “old-fashioned” (this erases young Radical Feminists and ignores that truth doesn’t change with time.)  In a desperate attempt to shame us into silence, we are even called “misogynist” with no explanation – which are the same tactics and words that the trans cult uses against women who say no to them. It’s all projection. Just look at the issues being discussed and our history, and it’s absolutely clear.

One of the most destructive things I’ve seen is the gutting of our old politics of holding women accountable for harming other women. Women pretending to be Radical Feminists can be incredibly racist, classist, Lesbian-hating and otherwise oppressive online, yet it’s ignored or tolerated. Only the most courageous will confront or unfriend them. Any attempt for justice is answered with accusations that trivialize the seriousness of the betrayal as “horizontal hostility” or being “unsisterly,” etc. Some feminists say how heart-breaking the “infighting” among women is, but objecting to women being overtly, deliberately oppressive is not “infighting” since infighting happens only among members of the same movement. It helps protect us as a community, and protects our hearts individually, to recognize clearly that the women dismantling Radical Feminism are not part of our movement or culture. Unless we say no to everything that harms women, we end up agreeing to our own destruction.

Some of this is because some women confuse conflict with being mean. Not obeying middle class bland, cold, dishonest culture, which often is about being cruel while pretending to be phony “nice,” is not the same as being oppressive. Similarly, playing “polite” when dealing with male rules and using “etiquette” to obey the trans cult especially backfires.

We already know that there are trolls in our online international Radical Feminist movement. Some have been revealed to be MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) but others are women betraying our movement and playing a double game. Too often the women trolls get into positions of power, and even name themselves our leaders. When they are exposed, they just start new pretend “radfem” or Radical Feminists groups, and often real Radical Feminists, not wanting to be left out of the cliques, join, ignoring what these women have done, and so give credibility to the troll groups, draining our movement.

At online sites, the “radfem” imposters will ban you and then lie to explain your disappearance. Other women in the group withdraw in terror of being the next to be banished. (By the way, if anyone does hear bizarre misrepresentations of my politics, feel free to ask for the truth.)  Many online feminists are isolated and lonely, and fear rejection. It’s in women’s nature to be social and want a community of friends. Yet too often the price of joining the cliques gutting real Radical Feminism is agreeing to abandon common sense.

                               “Radfem” versus Radical Feminist

Of course not all women who name themselves “radfems” are fake Radical Feminists, but still, “radfem” is the newer trendy word used by some of the snobbish cliques who are opposed to original Radical Feminist politics. Yes, “radfem” is an abbreviation, but so is RF (Radical Feminist) and so is the trivializing term “women’s lib,” which no feminist would ever use.

It’s easy enough for pretend Radical Feminists to read our extensive history. When they say what we’ve done hasn’t worked, telling us to weaken our politics, they are ignoring how governments and media and Men’s Rights Activists have been undermining us for decades, as well as have the majority of women who betray females for males. With the worldwide change in economics, many more Radical Feminists are poor and barely surviving now than in 1970, which has made it very hard to organize. In the Seventies in Oakland and Berkeley, rooms rented in Radical Feminist group houses were $50 a month, and houses $100. Spaces could be easily rented for women only events where we could do political work and socialize. Since surviving was cheaper, Radical Feminists had more time. Nothing was wrong with our movement and politics, considering a handful of women were fighting all of patriarchy and creating an entirely new culture. What Radical Feminists did all over the world was amazing and we continue.

Then we lost our spaces and publications. The internet provides a whole other way to meet and share support across the earth, but some women wanting fame started blogs plagiarizing feminists’ writing from decades earlier, forming elitist cliques with their own “radfem” language that automatically excludes true Radical Feminists and requires those wanting to join to submit to the humiliation of asking what the bizarre terms mean, even if they were the original writers of the plagiarized work. Some of these “radfems” avoided being questioned about the hypocrisy in their own lives by presenting themselves as courageous man-haters while still keeping their own “exceptional” men (as feminists used to sarcastically say.)

One of the most quoted of these privileged pretend “radfems” admits she came to feminism as a “funfem” (women who participated in the female-hating pseudo feminism that men promote, such as glorifying male-invented “femininity,” porn, and sado-masochism.) She’s a cruel, racist, classist, and heterosexist bully who loves to ridicule and particularly enjoys targeting Lesbians. We have no idea how many girls and women we lost from our movement because they were searching for feminism and ended up being her victim. When I first saw her referred to reverentially, I asked what she had said that made her so worshipped and was told in almost hushed tones that she was writing against “PIV.”  (That’s “penis in vagina,” as if the women who choose men are so fragile that they must use a twee euphemism instead of “fuck.”) But why act as if this issue was something new when it had been extensively and more radically written about as basic feminism almost fifty years ago?  I believe it was her and other bloggers’ het privilege that gave them more authority and appreciation since het women are generally far more valued than Lesbians by feminists, including Lesbian Feminists.

No one seemed to notice that the more radical question of why would feminists even be sexual/intimate with men was completely ignored, since patriarchy literally could not go on without women helping. And that, of course, was because the pretend “radfem” bloggers certainly did not want to lose their het privilege.

Even worse for Radical Feminism, it somehow became a crime to question women’s choices, which had been the basis of even liberal feminism in the Seventies. To further deflect, gaslight, and mind-fuck, the new parasitized feminism’s rules say that not only are women’s choices not to be questioned, but that women have no choices!

                                         Radical Feminism

                                                    Part III


Radical Feminists question everything we are told we have no choice about, including one of our most important, life-changing decisions, which is whether to love other women with passion as Lesbians, be bisexual (betraying women to men), be celibate, or be het. This issue brings up some of the most bizarre enraged responses I have ever seen, yet who does it serve to insist that women have no real choice in one of the most important decisions we will ever make?  Men.

I recently heard that I’m being called a “homophobe” and “heterosexual” for saying I chose to be a Lesbian, by someone who is twenty years old. (Of course this coward and slanderer isn’t saying this directly to me where I can reply.) I’ve been a Lesbian from my earliest memories, but it’s still a choice, as women who switch back to men show us. It is the natural state of girls and women and I do not believe any woman or girl would choose heterosexuality if there was no patriarchy offering massive rewards (acceptance by family and society is only one part of the pay-offs, as well as feeling “normal” in a culture that despises us.)

Do the women who don’t bother to learn our history really believe what our worst enemies, the psychiatrists of the Fifties, trained the schools, media, families, etc. to believe about us?  Experience the hell and ecstasy I’ve gone through to be a Lifelong Lesbian, never once quitting, and tell me I’m “heterosexual” and “homophobic.” (What’s with the ridiculous “phobia” charge? Lesbians are not homosexuals and I’m not afraid of gay men.) Stop lying about and erasing me. And stop taking away the power and courage of my choice to love other girls and then women.

The arguments against our choices are bizarrely convoluted. Some women deliberately confuse rape with voluntary het sex as a way to claim they do not or did not choose heterosexuality. One online group was actually called “PIV Is Rape,” which not only trivializes the horror of actual rape, but defines it out of existence. Of course being fucked by men is harmful to women on many levels, but these women have to know that many liberal “feminists” brag in pornographic detail about loving it. Meanwhile, women who refused to be het are either said to not exist, or are called “lucky” and patronized by the term “gold star.” No, those of us who always said no to men and chose to love other females are not “lucky.” That trivializes the hell we have gone through, including lifetime harassment from other women, which includes “feminists.” And no, the women who did choose men are not more oppressed, but are more privileged because of the status they get. Do they think we don’t remember other girls betraying us for males?

We also remember girlhood friends turning on those of us who refused to join the het cult, name-calling us to cement their new het membership status. Unfortunately, we are now going through a bizarre new version of being punished for saying no to men, only this time it’s on behalf of men who insist they are Lesbians and women. These men would have very little power to harm us, if women were not helping them. I can’t believe some of us have to experience a second time being betrayed by friends and other women over men.

In the past, when feminism meant questioning all our choices, women’s groups supported each other to leave their men. Anyone saying that women were victims with no choice but to be with men would have been laughed at. Women still with men were quite proud about having gotten a man. Many feminists who came out still endlessly bragged or complained about their ex-husbands and boyfriends, making sure everyone knew it was definitely a choice in order to separate themselves from us “perverted” Lifelong Lesbians.

Politics and movements do not always advance over time. In the Seventies, Lesbian Feminists proudly said they chose to love other women, yet liberal feminists don’t seem to know that the “born this way” theory they so vehemently believe actually originated with our enemies, psychiatrists, who lectured that most women were born het, but a few were born Lesbian because of genetic abnormalities or family trauma. That’s why Lesbians are still questioned about what “happened” to them, such as being sexually assaulted in girlhood – as if that doesn’t happen to the majority of girls.

Only when feminism was overshadowed by later genderqueer/gay male/trans pleading pleaded for equal rights from hets was the “born this way” propaganda reinstated. We still see this “they can’t help it” throughout the media as the main reason given to bigots for why they should accept Lesbians and gay men. (Somehow bisexual choice is ignored in the plea for rights based on pity and so is the fact that most Lesbians once chose to be het.)  The old Lesbian Feminist pride of taking responsibility for who we choose to love has almost been completely erased. (Of course loving other females feels natural to us because it is. That doesn’t stop most females from choosing men though, out of fear or to get the status of being “normal.” Never underestimate the powerful pull of being accepted as “normal,” which is even more powerful than the pull of the massive privilege in resources that many het women get from men.)

Why on earth would any kind of feminist want to join with medical and genderqueer misogynists by believing the con that Lesbians are an aberration – other than that it releases het women from the responsibility of admitting they are making a choice rather than believing the lie that they are just “normal?” Interestingly, this game is played in reverse when feminists do start questioning why they chose or choose men over women. Suddenly, they insist they had a traumatic childhood as an explanation for being het. Yet how many of these women still secretly wonder if a Lifelong Lesbian is “that way” because of terrible childhood trauma?

One of the most dangerous examples of anti-feminist het-supremacist propaganda about how all women are helpless victims of all-powerful men – not because of male violence, but because of how “attractive” men are – comes from a much-praised “radfem” blog:

Even to this day if a man is kind to me or just smiles I can still feel this “attraction” and gratefulness that I’d feel before and tried to get rid of, which simply means that men are still our captors and there’s no way we can completely get away from stockholm syndrome so long as they hold us captive. Which is precisely why I know I have to stay away from them as much as I can

The reason so many of us trauma-bond so instantly and intensely to men in our proximity and sometimes to just any man that crosses our way, whether we are lesbian, celibate, separatist or “het”, is that we are programmed and groomed to react in this way to male threat since birth.

If I hadn’t seen this kind of woman-hating masquerading as feminism reflected elsewhere, I would have wondered if it was written by a man because of its worship of male power. I have never known a feminist to describe men like this. In the Seventies, men were acknowledged as dangerous, but even liberal feminists wrote about men as repulsive weak fools, delusional in their assumption of women being attracted to them. Mainstream films, like “Nine to Five,” from 1979, depicted men as pompous buffoons who had institutionalized power, but were easily dealt with by smarter and stronger women working together. And that was het feminism. Lesbian Feminism was even more scathing towards men.

This new “radfem” attitude is disturbing on many levels. This writer is so determined to appear as a helpless victim, not of male violence, but of her own uncontrollable “attraction” to men, that she reads almost pornographic in her masochism. She says she must keep away from men, not because she hates them or recognizes how  dangerous they are, but because she can’t control herself around them.

Men reading this will love it. It’s bad enough that we have the male media bombarding us with images of women swooning over men, and presenting them as being so powerful that they can just take a gun from a woman’s hand because she is crying too hard to shoot them in self defense. (This scene is never shown in reverse or between two men.) Why would any woman calling herself a “radfem” want women to feel so helpless around men or promote the woman-hating propaganda that all women are captives of men?

Even worse, how dare she implicate Lesbians, celibate women, and especially Separatists in her pervy obsession with men?  Any man in front of us and we “trauma-bond?” I don’t know any woman who reacts that way other than the most male-worshipping of women. How dare she erase those of us who do not obey men? Victim Feminism means not taking responsibility for loyalty to males over females. Why can’t she control herself around men?  Why isn’t she naturally repulsed by them?  And even worse, how dare she completely erase the existence of women who do not feel equally obsessed with men by saying “men are still our captors.”

This is classic mind-fuck/gaslighting. Note she puts “het” into quotes. She ignores the real reason she was with men, which is for the privilege. And saying that women choose men because of “trauma bonding” denies the existence of women who refuse to bond with men in spite of suffering horrific girlhood abuse. The girlhood sexual assault theory again makes Lifelong and Never-het Lesbians as well as many other Radical Feminists invisible.

Patriarchy teaches us we have no control over our attractions and choices, but we do. In fact, most girls do feel attraction/love for other girls that they stifle, and then systematically teach themselves to go against nature in transferring those feelings to males. True feminists would never say that women have no control of self-harming or other sado-masochistic feelings that they’ve learned. Anorexia and bulimia aren’t accepted as natural. The assumption is that women must fight those impulses, knowing how and why they came about, and that they are not innate.

She says she is still “aroused” (the word she uses earlier) by pricks. Since most longtime Radical Lesbian Feminists I know rarely think about or talk about men except to acknowledge one more horror they’ve committed, I believe women pushing these victimizing politics are continuing to obsess about men as they have done most of their lives, and are only pretending to want to be done with them. I believe this “radfem” is actually bragging on some level, and is likely to return to the men she can’t stop thinking about. (I’ve certainly seen enough “man-hating” ex-het women do that.)

She actually says: “Sure, PIV is pleasurable, but the political and social prices are not worth it.”

Make up your mind – is it horrific rape or is it a “pleasure” that you choose?

This propaganda is destroying the feminist movement. Why do too many feminists want to deny the reality of the choices on all levels, weakening and disempowering women. Choices are still being made now.

Another “radfem” online commented:

“The fact that all us womyn are thoroughly immersed in Societal Stockholm Syndrome by virtue of having been raised in captivity does NOT mean that we are to be blamed for not freeing ourselves! Always remember that it is the ABUSER, not the victim who is to blame for the abuse, even if the victim has been inculcated into capitulation as her primary mode of coping with her captivity.”

I responded:

“I don’t see women who support men against women as victims. All women are NOT “thoroughly immersed in Societal Stockholm Syndrome” or none of us would be feminists. Many of us said no on various levels.”

We are the victims of those women. Victim feminism has so diluted real feminism that the politics of understanding about collaborators versus resistance fighters is lost. Those who are blamed are those who are the resistance fighters. And of course I never say that women who choose men choose to be abused. I’m saying they choose men for many reasons, including because it means going with the flow, fitting in, feeling normal, etc. A few say they were attracted to men, but the majority I’ve heard say that it was the thing to do and they didn’t question it and they went against their own feelings and so they crushed their love for other women. Some even talk about breaking the hearts of girls who loved them.

What is also forgotten in all this gaslighting is that women who choose men are often quite vicious in competing against other women for men.  Women and girls often choose to look grotesquely and unnaturally male-identified feminine not as much to attract men and boys, but to win them against other women and girls.

Again, who most wants women to think we have no choice about our most important choices?  Men.

But of course in the new parasitized version of Radical Feminism, no woman is ever to be criticized. (Unless she really IS a Radical Feminist and then she is fair game to be slandered, banned, lied about, etc.)  Just keep those women with the most privilege from being disturbed. In fact, forget they exist, so that the most privileged het women, secure in being rich, owning companies and property, having political power and Radical Feminists and other women as servants, must be erased from the mind. Forget you see them in the media or out in the world or in some of your families. Forget the rich women who are film stars who keep helping to increase porn in mainstream films and television. Yes, they make less money than men, but many still make millions. Some of these women are producers, directors, writers, and actors, like Lena Dunham, who normalized the most disgusting scenes imaginable in her television show, “Girls.” Lena’s character’s beloved boyfriend, who continually sexually abused her, is shown graphically wanking off on a woman’s chest while calling her a “whore,” as the woman yells at him to stop. This acclaimed series is lauded as “feminist” and Lena is in full charge.

And then there are women like Miley Cyrus who are continuing the pornographic selling of females to make fame and fortune, in the tradition of Madonna, except that she has far greater influence on young girls, having been a girl media star. These women know exactly what they are doing. But what power they could have to reach girls and women if they stopped selling out.

A Radical Feminist posted in our Radical Feminist group about women who sell their little ten year old girls to men who hire them out to be daily, multiply raped. This is so premeditated that the women first pay to get their daughters medically certified as virgins because then they will make more money selling them. One little girl escaped and went home, but her mother sold her again. Some of the true Radical Feminists in our group responded with outrage, saying they would sell themselves first rather than ever sell their daughters, but others actually lectured us about how oppressed the mothers were, they didn’t have a choice, etc. I wonder at what point they would hold a collaborator accountable.

I’m not surprised by male violence or, at this point, the women collaborators. What is still a shock is women claiming to be Radical Feminists who target us for shaming when we dare to name these crimes, as they lecture us that the collaborators are victims. How do they think that makes the real victims feel?  Do they care?  Why are they choosing to identify with women who help rapists rather than their victims?

Did this promoting and protecting abusers start with pretend “feminists” or with men? A few years ago, I was at at rally for the fifteen year old Richmond, California girl who had been gang-raped for hours outside her high school dance where a large group of boys and men had texted for their friends to join in. One of the rally organizers said in his speech that “the rapists are victims too.” I did not hear one objection but he was loudly applauded. Can it get worse than this?

We see a parallel with women now defending the US nazis and klan who are becoming a much more serious public threat. I am actually hearing/reading women describe gangs of some of the most privileged men in the US (yuppie young white men) as being “in pain,” to explain their motivations, rather than it being racism, classism, etc. This is extremely similar to the excuses made for rapists and murderers as having been victims in the past, ignoring that if violence were dependent on past trauma, most women would be serial murderers. It is all about turning the oppressor into an oppressed victim. Loss of privilege or imagined loss of privilege does not make someone oppressed.

Policing Radical Feminists who refuse to obey the rules of Victim Feminism erases the existence of many of the most oppressed who have made good choices. What happened to feminists encouraging each other to be strong and take pride in their decisions, instead of playing helpless victims?

If they are honest, most women admit they will not leave men because they don’t want to lose the significant rewards which the rest of us do not have and never had. It’s not just money and property, which can be substantial when so many Lesbians are homeless, but status, including how you feel about yourself with a man on your arm. If a woman can’t bear her family and friends to think that she might be a Lesbian if she leaves her man, what is she thinking about us?

I’ve actually been called “misogynist” and reprimanded for “blaming the victim” when I’ve said that women choose who they love. A bully who gave me the usual patronizing lecture about how women are with men only out of fear, and Stockholm Syndrome, turned out to have her own ”unicorn,” as she calls her man. (Having such a rare man makes her the exceptional woman, doesn’t it?) So how is she a victim? Interestingly, she, like a number of radfems who constantly talk about how evil men are, rarely admit they are with men, deliberately concealing their obvious conflict of interest.

One “radfem” who was posting extremely man-hating posts told the group one day about how nice her husband was. I said, “I’m guessing you are going to be honest, unlike some others, and at least admit that you, as a Radical Feminist with a husband, are choosing to be het.”  She actually started to waffle and say she had “Stockholm Syndrome” to make sure she didn’t step out of the cult line of het women as victim only.

It’s as if women no longer believe in an actual right or wrong. We wrote about some of the more outrageous cases of women betraying women and girls for men in our book, like the women who lined up to marry serial rapist and murderer Ted Bundy when he was on death row.

Ted Bundy confessed to murdering 23 young females in four U.S. states. He’s suspected of actually murdering over a hundred. He usually vaginally and anally raped his victims before murdering them, and in at least one known instance he forced one girl to watch while he raped and murdered another, before killing her also. Many of the bodies were found decapitated and otherwise mutilated. It’s believed that his first victim was an eight-year-old girl who he killed when he was 14. After he was in jail for two years, a woman named Carol Boone married him. The night before his execution for murdering 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, his mother told him, “You’ll always be my precious son.”

In 1987, Robert Chambers strangled 18-year-old Jennifer Levin. He claimed she was forcing him to have “rough sex” with her and he killed her “accidentally”! Since his family is rich, he was let out on bail. Before the trial even began, he went to a “slumber party” consisting of just him and four women. A videotape of the party, shows the women laughing, dancing, and playing sado-masochistic games with each other and with Chambers. At one point, he holds a Barbie doll up to the camera, twists its head around and says, “Oops, I think I killed her.” In another scene, one of the women plays at being a baby crying and tells him, “I’ll tell everyone.” He says, “I’ll say you’re lying. I lie and they believe me.” These women were also Jennifer’s friends. One of them, Chambers’ new girlfriend, was interviewed on TV. She said she “loved” him, that he was “warm and funny,” and that everyone at the party knew he’d confessed to the murder. She said he’d received over 400 letters of support, many from women. When asked how she felt about the murder, she said, “I don’t feel it’s really my business.”

What about the laughing woman on YouTube who was concerned her fifteen year old son had been raping chickens since he was eleven, not because he was torturing innocent small animals, but because he might get an STD. The boy was shown stroking the chicken as if he loved her, calling her cute, and then showing her cloaca where he rapes her. The announcer says that chickens are easier to get than “girls.” Throughout the video, comparisons are made with consensual heterosexuality. Finally, his mother says she should get him a prostitute, even though she thinks he might have STDs.

A lot of women have experienced horrific abuse as girls by males that their mothers allowed or encouraged for the rapists’ benefit. The rapists are often the victim’s father, step-father, brother, grandfather, uncle, etc. Calling the women who helped the rapists  “victims” is a direct betrayal of the real victims, many of who are still vulnerable to these cruel, sadistic women.

Even in patriarchal courts, it’s sometimes acknowledged that the men who help the actual rapist are equally accountable. Of course we reject pleas that the men are victims too. But if excuses are made for women who help men against women, why not excuse the men also? Just as you cannot love both the real victims and their rapist/murderers, you cannot support both the victim and the collaborator.

When a dear friend was seventeen, her mother invited a six foot four foreign military man to stay in her daughter’s room where he raped her until her bed and the walls were bloody. My friend remembers her mother being so set on making her het that she had bought her birth control pills before the extended rape, acting like everything was fine, and afterward mimicked the man’s accent, telling her how easy it would be for him come back and open her window to get inside to rape her again. But that mother is a victim too?  Isn’t it clear that excusing her is a horrific betrayal of my friend?

“Victim Feminism” is about patronizing women as too weak, too damaged, and too oblivious to be given credit for and held responsible for the choices that we make all the time. It is the opposite of the empowerment of Radical Feminism. This is partly why the feminist movement seems to have lost much of the incredible sense of excitement and pride in ourselves, as well as and hope for the future.

What I’ve learned from being in Radical Feminist community since 1970 and from moderating Radical Feminist groups online is that there is a major difference between women who really care for other women and the women who use feminism to get power and to bully. If women could recognize the difference, they would be less likely to give up from heartbreak. It’s like recognizing the person you loved for years is not only unwilling to love but is a sociopath. Painful, but far more freeing than believing their lies.


 Don’t forget about agents when thinking of the worst betrayals:

When I was first in the Lesbian Feminist community, it was understood that there were government agents reporting back about what we were doing. For those who ridicule this idea, you need to learn our history.

After the US government was embarrassed by not knowing about the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Weather Underground and the Lesbian members, they were not going to let that happen again. If I hadn’t lived in the Bay Area and met Pat Soltysik and Camilla Hall, who joined the SLA and later were burned alive by the LA police, I would have thought that organization was a bizarre joke with their offensive, racist, and even silly “communiques.” Later a Dyke Separatist friend of mine in Wisconsin described being briefly held by the FBI because they thought she was Kathy Soliah from the SLA. Another friend said her ex-lover, the Lesbian singer/songwriter, Kathy Fire, had been raped by men from the FBI, also in the Midwest. When I saw a documentary about Malcolm X where it was mentioned that most of his bodyguards were FBI agents, I was more surprised by them crying about his assassination than that they were FBI agents. (Agents are not always dedicated patriots to right wing governments. More often they will be people wanting money for reporting what they convince themselves is not likely to be relevant information.)

I knew that the French Secret Service had blown up a Greenpeace ship in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand (killing a photographer) to stop them protesting French nuclear testing in the Pacific, which was increasing the cancer rate. (I remember the slogan, “If it’s safe, test it in Paris.”)  I only recently found out that the agents got credibility in the NZ Leftist community when one of their women posed as a Lesbian, to get into the Lesbian Feminist community. So why wouldn’t agents be in our online Radical Feminist community?  Some of the worst trolls fit all the classic agent behavior, from having multiple aliases, game-playing, lying, trolling, posting opposite politics within a few days, targeting some of our most courageous activists, etc.

As Amoja ThreeRivers has written: Please pay special attention to this–There is ALWAYS infiltration of progressive groups by govt agent provocateurs, whose purpose is to create & facilitate inter-group & intra-group chaos, misinformation, enmity, violence & destruction. Anyone who has lived thru the era of Civil Rights, the Black Panthers, the anti-war groups, the Farmworkers, AIM & Cointelpro, & is NOT paranoid is either woefully uninformed or mentally ill. Anytime people try to organize around the betterment of their communities, there is going to be infiltration. You can count on this. I’m not advocating for mistrust, but for awareness. Some of the politics around trans issues, especially as it relates to feminism might be an example of infiltrator mischief. Pay attention, y’all. I’m Old & I can assure you that the day may be different but the shit is still the same.

Another longtime Lesbian Feminist activist wrote:

…you could almost always be sure of an agent somewhere. The other thing we learned they did, from our close relations with other radical groups, was to try to damage and destroy groups. They did this by infiltrating with one to two members, creating dissent, often one proposing a crazy action and the other opposing it. So groups self-destructed. Never be naive. We are being watched, these days probably on the internet too. It’s also police and even corporations who have agents in radical communities. Several women environmental activists were in relationships with some of these agents, including one woman for six years. First, her boyfriend was working for the English police and then for a private agency, reporting on her and her activist friends. This was taken seriously enough that a police commissioner made a public apology and gave compensation.

Men are so charming. In Trump’s the “Art of the Deal” he said he would go to the restroom and not wash his hands because then when he shakes hands with someone they have touched his prick.

Tell us again, why women should welcome men into our restrooms…. Warning, this is incredibly disgusting and will be traumatizing for some women to read.  But women who support them need to know the truth:

Posted in Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics, Our book 25 years later with extensive additions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Does Lying about Voting Benefit?

Who Does Lying about Voting Benefit?

Bev Jo


I usually don’t focus on the US or US politics, but we are in a crisis and what happens with the US, unfortunately, affects the rest of the world.

Please spread the word about this before the next election, to stop the lies that are being spread. The poor and working class are being scapegoated for Trump winning, when they are not the majority of who voted for him. So what is this contempt that most liberals/leftists have for the most class-oppressed really about?  Why do the privileged feel so superior? No one’s ego is worth the death and suffering that will result if the right wing/Nazis stay in power. (“Conservative” is one of the many euphemisms that needs to go. The murderers who got into power in 2017 are not remotely conservative. Please note and stop all the many ways terms contribute to keeping the oppressive power structure going. Language is half the battle, as we know with other crucial issues.)

So much should be common sense. If something doesn’t sound right in the media, is it really true?

“Why do people keep voting against their own interests?” (Implied: The poor and working class are such stupid fools.)

But are they?  No one I know voted against themselves (except for a few, mostly middle class, who threw their vote away to Jill Stein. I have a lot of friends and no one I know voted for Trump.

When pondering something that is not immediately clear, I always question: who benefits, who does this serve?  Dividing people along class and race lines, and erasing women and Lesbians, definitely serves the ruling class European-descent males. Some people do start to believe insulting stereotypes, and so pretend to be proud of being oppressive and stupid, which pushes them more towards the right wing. So why are privileged liberals helping the right wing?

This is not just a case of the media being against most people in the US, though of course some media does serve the right wing/Nazis. Other parts of the media have been alerting us to the worst of this criminal government (like Joy Reid on MSNBC). If we don’t want men like Trump to keep getting in power (I won’t call it “winning an election” since they cheat and he did not win), then the media needs to stop repeating dangerous myths. Why are they doing this?

For instance, if we don’t believe that the majority of US voters went against their own interests, then what happened?  How many of the most oppressed people were removed from voting rolls, called felons when they weren’t, and otherwise prevented from voting?  (We know many people were simply turned away at the polls, their voting information “lost.” Polling places were closed so people had to travel hours to vote, take time off work, risk losing jobs, etc. I heard of a man who had moved from Illinois to Wisconsin and then had to travel back and forth, spending hundreds of dollars to correct an error on his voting form, who was still not allowed to vote. In some places, people with obvious, common Black or Latina/o names were accused of being the same person trying to vote more than once and not allowed to vote at all. It didn’t even matter if they had different middle names.)  All the voter fraud easily accounts for Trump’s narrow win in key states. And that doesn’t even begin to deal with the Russian interference.

I think the reason for the myth of who gave the election to Trump is primarily classism. The class-privilege’s sense of superiority over the class-oppressed is more important to them than letting people know the truth. No matter how upset most commentators and especially most political comedians and talk show liberals/leftists seem about the election, they continue to smirk and ridicule the poor and working classes. They ignore or forget that the majority of the poor and working class are People of Color. And that the Euro-descent poor and working class were not those who primarily voted for Trump either.

There is so much confusion and lies from all directions about who voted for Trump. Even many friends repeat the myths and don’t seem to know that the poorest people voted for Hillary, and of course most people oppressed by racism voted for Hillary.  Black women and Lesbians of all races are completely ignored in the polls, yet they/we voted the most sensibly.

The liberals who trash Southerners online forget that People of Color will soon be the majority in the South. Samantha Bee has been the only political comedian I’ve heard who accurately describes the right wing goal in eliminating health care. She said that the right wing aren’t trying to repeal Obama care – they are trying to repeal LBJ’s original Medicare. Lyndon Johnson was the poverty class Texan president who did the most of any president to change racist voting laws, created Medicare for the poor, and tried to make college possible for all class-oppressed. But if he is referred to at all by the liberal media, it’s to make fun of his poverty class Southern accent, which is exactly what many liberals do about current Southerners and other poor people, again insulting and erasing the people who actually voted against the right wing.
Here is the exit poll from CNN:

24,537 people were polled to get this info, in about 28 states, which includes the swing states.

Note that of those with incomes under $30,000, 53% voted for Hillary and 41% for Trump. All voters with incomes over $49,999 voted 46% to 48% for Hillary and 48% to 50% for Trump. The higher the income, the more people voted for Trump. How does that translate to blaming working class and poor people for electing Trump?

Note that the vast majority of People of Color voted for Hillary, while the majority of Euro-descent voted for Trump.

The majority of women of all backgrounds, but Black women were the most who voted for Hillary.

Married men voted the highest for Trump, while married women and both unmarried women and men voted more for Hillary.

Jewish people voted most for Hillary, but christians, including Mormons, voted more for Trump.


As women and Lesbians are learning, the most effective way of controlling, dividing, and conquering a community (as well as individuals) is to re-define and erase them. Get them so confused that they don’t even know who they are or how to identify. Then they can be turned on each other.

That is exactly what most of the US media and schools have been doing to the poverty class and working class for decades. We are usually told we are middle class, even when we clearly are not and are treated very differently from the actual class-privileged. The term “working class” has almost been banned from the media, so when they go on about the “middle classes” suffering from lack of access to health care, housing, jobs, etc., people join in with adding to the myths. No, the middle classes are not having a hard time. Doctors, lawyers, professors, etc. are doing just fine as always. Those with middle class status but lower incomes, such as teachers, still do much better than the working classes and poor, but they at least can feel superior at our expense. And they usually fight like hell to not lose their air of superiority.

The gaslighting about class in the US is criminal. I remember being told in my mixed class grade school that we were all middle class. My best friend who grew up in an immigrant community with one parent an immigrant was told by her parents that they were working class. They were far more savvy and aware than my better educated US parents. (My father finished high school. My mother was forced by her mother to quit to work.)

It is no coincidence that the few workshops on class (never “classism”) I’ve been to at Radical Feminist conferences and gatherings are always run by the class-privileged, (though a few lie about their backgrounds. Class is not just about money and income, but status and power). It’s always amazing to see women I know who have avoided the subject suddenly claiming to be “classless” or “working class” when they clearly are not. I call this “class-splaining” after being astounded when rich women start lecturing the rest of us about class.

After the election, a very class-privileged German woman who is a professor at UC Berkeley, told me to not be mad at the Trump voters because they were really suffering. She had gone to Nevada and talked to them and they were in pain she said vehemently, which is why they voted for Trump – as if that made any sense with his record as a rich nazi who hates the poor. “They even lost their houses,” she said!  I said I never had a house to lose. And what does that have to do with betraying their own kind? When I tried to explain that I grew up around such people, in my family and neighborhood, she literally ran away, crying. How dare I challenge such an expert on class? No talking back allowed to class-splainers. Ironically, less than two years previously, in response to my saying how hard it was for the poor to survive in the Bay Area because rents were unaffordable with too many rich moving in, etc., she simply said “The poor should leave.” To make room for her, I suppose.)

This “quiz” from PBS, who should know better, is an example of how bad the mindfuck can be. Friends who took it were equally infuriated:

I grew up working class with poverty class parents in a Cincinnati suburb. My mother and grandmother were desperate to escape from rural farm poverty, but paid a price. My mother died in poverty in a Bay Area mobile home, while my father who tried to be upwardly mobile still died homeless. I have lived below the poverty line my entire adult life. So how/why did this quiz gave me a score of 34 and called me either:

0–43: A second-generation (or more) upper-middle-class person who has made a point of getting out a lot. Typical: 9.

11–80: A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents. Typical: 33.

This erases both me and my parents. They were poverty class, not middle class! And how on earth am I “upper-middle class”???  Certainly every time I’m treated as inferior it’s clear I’m not seen that way. (Those class-privileged who claim to not understand about class sure read us accurately and treat us accordingly.)

This quiz also completely ignores the urban poor and working class, which includes many People of Color.

Was the quiz deliberately designed to trick the class-oppressed into identifying with the class-privileged? That’s one way to get people to vote against themselves.

When examining this mess, their racist, sexist, heterosexist, and classist bias is clear. Their idea of class-oppressed is a white man with white male interests such as buying mainstream beer, being into sports, being in the military, being a fundamentalist christian, being a smoker, fishing, having a pickup truck and ironically having the higher income such men have that most women I know never had, making it possible to go to mainstream films, crappy mainstream restaurants, join a union (which usually requires having a good working class traditional male job.) Women who went to working class Catholic girls’ schools don’t have “letters.”

The questions geared towards women are insulting and objectifying. Avon?  No. I am not Fem or het and would not spend money on poison. “Have you had a “spouse” with a pickup truck?” (One of my lovers did have one but since we weren’t allowed to be married, I couldn’t include her as a “spouse”.)  No, my health can’t take being around smokers because I had to grow up breathing in smoke and toxic factory fumes.

I don’t even understand what parades the class-oppressed are supposed to be part of, but the quiz carefully excludes anything political, for “gay rights” or the environment or injustice as being for the privileged. Are the class-oppressed supposed to be so selfish and uninvolved? Isn’t that the class-privileged?  And why do they seem to think most Lesbians are class privileged, when we aren’t?

Note that they combine working class with poverty class and the assumption is that we are basically stupid. No acknowledgement that we might be smarter than the middle classes and do not follow their hateful stereotypes of us. No understanding that we self-educate and probably know more about health and eating well than they do and don’t waste our time and money on bad films or television.

After being yelled at and threatened by evangelical christians, no I do not spend time with them and no, that does not make me “upper middle class.” For the same reason of growing up marginalized by classism but also being a Lifelong Lesbian, of course I don’t have friends with extremely different politics. I’m not a masochist and I choose friends who deserve my love and support, and vice-versa.


The class-oppressed are practical. We do not expect perfection or pout, saying we won’t vote if the candidates are not exactly who we want. We weigh what is best for our and the earth’s survival. We don’t have illusions. We know the choice can be the difference between life and death for many because what happens in the US affects the rest of the world and it’s our responsibility to fight the right wing. (But this does not mean we say “we” when talking about what the US has done, countries invaded, etc. since we personally did not do that, and that identification with the power structure also seems particularly class-privileged thinking.)

We learn from what we have observed and from bothering to know history. We explore the truth and do not just accept lies. And we don’t throw our vote away by voting for a candidate who cannot win. (We recognize that the US does not have a parliamentary system.) We also know that many of the most oppressed people have died trying to get the right to vote and we do not take that casually. If those who were too petulant to vote actually voted, we would not be facing this horror from Trump.

Please disagree every time you hear anyone lying about who voted for Trump or lying about the poverty class and working class in general. Especially try to reach anyone in the media who could have an influence on this. And please object to the putdowns of Hillary and the Democratic party. No, they are not perfect. If they were, they wouldn’t be in the running. But is the psychopath in power better? Only the privileged and delusional can ignore the difference in quality of life and the deaths caused by the right wing.

Besides Trump and the voting myths, US liberal media continues ridiculing and playing superior to the class-oppressed. Please encourage them to stop since they might be too rich to be hurt by the right wing/Nazis being in power, but a lot of other people across the world will die.


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Working Class Radical Feminism: Telling the Truth for a Change

Working Class Radical Feminism:
Telling the Truth for a Change

Bev Jo

This is a new blog I’ve started that has shorter, more condensed and ongoing articles. I’m posting here to spread the word….

This space is for women-born-women only and is about making Radical Feminism and other issues relevant to women be as clear, simple, direct, and honest as possible.

I try to keep things simple. There are many reasons for that. Convolution and academic styles of writing are unnecessarily confusing. They also weaken politics. (Class-privileged styles are usually more about bragging than clarity or honesty.)  I want to reach all females, including those who, because of oppression, haven’t had access to patriarchal “higher” education and those whose first language isn’t English. That was why I co-wrote wrote our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only in direct, honest, and clear language. It’s also harder to lie about something that is clearly stated.

This is my second blog. My first has almost our entire book, updated 25 years later, but also has many newer articles that would be enough for another book or two. The articles are long and dense, so I wanted a blog with shorter articles that could be easily written and read, with links to my more complete articles for women who want to read more in depth.

My goal is to answer a lot of the questions I’m seeing Lesbians and other women ask online about Radical Feminism and other issues and to discuss any topics relevant to us.

Plus, with so many Radical Feminists being banned for months on facebook, this can be a way to continue community with articles to talk about. (So let me know if there are any guest posts you’d like to do.)

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A CHANCE TO SURVIVE CANCER Doctors Are Not God   Bev Jo I am dedicating this to my best friend, who has inspired women with her choices in  dealing with cancer. She had three unrelated cancers, starting in 1993,  for … Continue reading

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Defending Our Lesbian Lives and History from Male Erasure

Thanks to Gallus Mag, our champion in defending Lesbian and female identity and history


This is a GUEST POST by Bev Jo.

‘When We Rise’ miniseries logo. [ABC]

Defending Our Lesbian Lives and History from Male Erasure

By Bev Jo

We know about the trans cult appropriating our Lesbian and feminist identity, our organizations, our communities, our lives. Whatever they can’t take over and mark as their territory, they destroy. Throughout this female-hating, Lesbian-hating vendetta, there is also a steady re-writing of Lesbian history by gay men and some women collaborators.

Some rewritings are conscious and aggressive, while others are just lazy erasure, such as the “alternative facts” in the recent gay male-produced and directed television “docu-drama” mini-series on the major US network channel, ABC. “When We Rise,” is set in San Francisco, starting in 1972 and continuing over decades. They combine bad drama with actual videos of the time, and include stories of some of the people who lived then, giving an air…

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Chapter Four — 2015 Update, 25 Years Later — SUPPORTING BUTCHES SUPPORTS ALL LESBIANS

 Chapter Four

2015 Update, 25 Years Later


 Bev Jo

(My update is the introduction for our edited original chapter on Butch oppression,  BUTCH-HATRED IS LESBIAN-HATRED, published in 1990. That three-part chapter follows this section.)

We know why men hate and fear Butches, but why do so many women and even Lesbians? Seriously, why?

How Butches are treated in patriarchy and in our Lesbian communities is a more severe example of how Lesbians as a group are oppressed. When the existence of Butches is denied or we are treated as freaks, then love and acceptance of Lesbians as a people is missing. Butches are the most obvious, the most out of Lesbians. We are feared and hated. We are ridiculed and scapegoated. We are even told we don’t exist.

The fear and hatred are damaging enough, but why deny our existence?

This is similar to how Lesbians used to be forbidden to be referred to and how none were allowed to be seen in the media except in the most objectified and bigoted ways. Now Lesbians are acknowledged as existing and are even on television, but still no Butches. Yet even while we are not generally shown in any media, including Lesbian media, we are still ridiculed, and the rare representations allowed are the most disgusting male fantasies of Butches. (Loren Cameron, a Fem who now identifies as a Gay man, has said in one of her talks that she saw the het women and Gay men who worked at a clothing store make fun of a Butch, while they treated her, appearing as a short working class man, with respect.)
It’s obvious why men want to hide and distort Butches. But why do women go along with this?  Why feminists?  And why do so many Radical Lesbian Feminists participate in erasing and lying about us?  What are they so afraid of?

Butches are closer to what all females would be without patriarchy. We refused as little girls to obey male rules and accept male-identified femininity as our identity. We never fit in as “normal” girls and usually were completely alone with no one else being like us, during our most vulnerable years of girlhood. (Most oppressed, marginalized people at least grow up with others of their kind in their families, schools, and neighborhoods, reflecting them back to themselves.) Butch girls are also harassed, ridiculed, and physically attacked by men, boys, and even women and other girls. Then when we finally find other Lesbians, we are harassed and oppressed in a whole other way because Lesbian communities are dominated by Butch-hating Fems.

Butches are always visible, recognizable as Lesbians and as Butches, and do not usually pass. We can be identified from a single photograph, by looking at us, hearing our voices. Is that why we are such a threat? Is that why we are to be kept secret and hidden, even while slandered, even in Radical Feminist space?
It’s revealing that many feminists are likely to call Radical Feminists “woman-hating” or “misogynist” as a way to shut down any questioning of some women’s collaboration with men and patriarchy. But has any feminist/woman ever been called “woman-hating” or “misogynist” for slandering and insulting Butches?

Some women pretending to be feminists actually object to Butches ever being mentioned, deny we exist, or wish we were dead. Is this because we are undeniably Lesbians, so the men and het women can’t pretend we aren’t a version of male-identified feminine het women? Is it because we are an embarrassment to the Lesbians who want to be considered “normal?”

Butches are used by men as the scariest representation of a female imaginable, in order to police women into being afraid of Butches, but also to be of afraid to even think about what a Butch is. Part of this is that women are also afraid to be considered Butch or Lesbian because men police women by telling even the most het-looking women that they don’t look like women.

Butches are used as “proof” that Lesbians play roles and emulate hets, but the grotesque role playing that men and het women do are ignored, and being Butch has nothing to do with role-playing. It’s the Hard Fems who make themselves a caricature/drag queen image of woman. And fighting Butch oppression means ending even unconscious role-playing.

“Hard Fem” is the term I coined to describe what has previously been called “High Femme,” which is a complimentary term as well as a goal for too many Fems. Fem is considered the norm, so Butches are scrutinized and divided from each other by Butch-hating stereotypes. Butches who are more acceptable — most often those who are class privileged — are sometimes called “Soft Butches” by Fems, implying that full Butches are the hateful stereotype of hard, cold, mean, insensitive, predatory, etc., which actually is more applicable to Hard Fems. Yet no one criticizes the norm of Fem. Hard Fems also usually wear the male uniform of the extremely feminine drag queen ideal, passing as het as much as possible, slathered in clown-like makeup, wearing exposing dresses and high heels. Hard Fems are often the most oppressive to Butches and Dyke Fems because they are the most invested in obeying and proselytizing male rules for females. Hard Fems also objectify and use Butches as well as Dyke Fems, yet this is never mentioned.

Now that male identified femininity is being challenged again in feminism, I’m seeing feminists online ask why no woman stops being feminine, which continues the erasure those of us who never played the feminine role and of Dyke Fems who stopped years ago. It’s like how most het women just refuse to see Lesbians. Part of this has to be that these feminist deniers of reality do not want to give up their own Fem privilege and the compliments they get. Notice that the avatar facebook photos of most feminists are in grotesque makeup, with their eyebrows unnatural (as no man would ever choose to look unless caricaturing femininity), and basically looking as het/male as possible. (Or if they look like they are pretending to be Butch, check their previous photos.) Also notice how every time such a photo is posted, they are told how beautiful they are, what a great style they have, etc. It’s not just compliments, but policing the women who refuse to play that game and a reminder to those who do obey the male rules of what they will lose if they stop. As soon as a woman refuses to continue even a tiny bit of playing feminine, she gets harassed by friends and family and loses status.

The fact that Butches are scapegoated, ridiculed, hated, and our existence erased, by men, het women, and most Radical Feminists explains exactly what has gone wrong with feminism and why we do not have an increasing proud and strong Radical Feminist movement.

The story of how Butches create ourselves out of nothing, and manage to exist in a patriarchy that forbids us from even being shown in the media, is a lesson for all Lesbians and women.

                            Butch Myths and Objectifications

In spite of Butches being closer to how all females would be without male rule, the common myth about Butches is that Butches are “male” or “masculine.” Refusing to follow male rules does not make someone “masculine,” but the opposite of masculine. Butches are the least male of women because we refuse to obey men. Just because men have declared that the more comfortable, better made, and less humiliating clothing is only for them, does not make it male.

Feminists have always known that it is an insult, not a compliment, to be called “male” or “masculine.” So why use it against the women who most say no to male rules?

In some cultures women aren’t allowed to drive. When a few brave women risk torture and imprisonment by driving, do we call them “male” or “masculine”?

Standing in a natural grounded way also does not make a woman male. Women are told from girlhood to be afraid to look centered and grounded or they will appear “masculine,” which is part of what wearing high heels is all about. If men like how they look, they should wear them!  It’s horrifying to see how women are wearing heels, including women in films who are portrayed as being warriors, and how restricted women competing against men in singing TV contests are. The men can run around the stage and leap dramatically, while the women can barely walk or stand, and certainly must have their attention divided to not just fall over and by the pain in their feet, leaving them at an extreme disadvantage. (There are videos of famous women and models in high heels teetering and then falling.) Notice that film or television shows increasingly depict women with less clothes, tight clothes, and their bodies exposed. Even if the plot is about people trying to survive a terrible disaster, finding clothes wherever they can, the women still look distinctly and unnaturally “feminine.”

Notice the vast difference in images used to denote female versus male. Many public restrooms signs show men taking up space with a wide stance, while the “women’s” sign is like a one-legged top in a dress. Humiliating and demeaning. Every media silhouette I have seen depicting female versus male shows a dignified strong male image and a weak, flimsy female image. None of this is innate, natural, or normal. But this propaganda affects us from girlhood, showing us how to look “proper,” though unnaturally, female.

Some Lesbians’ Butch-hating shows itself in cruel ways, such as obsessing about physical characteristics, which reveals they believe Butches are aberrations with hormonal imbalances. One Lesbian, who had literally run away from a workshop my ex-lover and I did about equal lover relationships and Butch oppression, actually asked, “Why are Butches slim-hipped if it’s not a hormonal problem?” — which is especially bizarre since the Butch stereotype is more likely to be fat, with large hips. This is like how doctors and even alternative healers tell Lesbians they must have a hormonal imbalance.
Lesbians who say such Butches “look like men” ignore large-breasted Butches. Since Butches are less obedient about following male dictates, we are more likely to be bigger and fatter than Fems, many of who starve themselves into being acceptably underweight. (This is not a criticism of naturally thin women, but of those who deliberately deprive themselves of adequate nutrition to fit feminine standards. The male rules for small, weaker women, as well as the women who police on behalf of men, have led to new generations of girls and women who are permanently smaller and weaker than previously.) Of course there are thin Butches, but there are less of them than thin Fems and het women. I have never heard anyone speculate about inadequate female hormones when commenting on malnourished, bony models.

In our Radical Feminist groups, Butches are usually ignored, but once brought up, bizarre Butch-hating comments are made, showing that the women writing them have no idea what a Butch is, but hate us anyway, because we are the scapegoats for Lesbians. One het women said Butches were as oppressive as men because of a woman she knew at work. I of course did not assume she was talking about a real Butch or even knew what a Butch was, and after wasting hours of our time, she finally asked if Butches were recognizable. That’s the entire point of why Butch oppression is inescapable! It then became clear that this woman’s “Butch” was actually a feminine heterosexual woman. Another time, we asked the Radical Feminists if they could find any media images of Butches, and they linked to incredibly pornographic het woman images.

Then some of the women send me photos of themselves to prove they are Butch, while the photos prove the opposite — they are Fem, don’t even look like Lesbians, and clearly heterosexual. I’m still puzzled as to what they think a Butch is.These are usually women who previously were scared to even think about Butches. Some Fem Lesbians who have passed completely as het to escape Lesbian oppression and to be considered attractive to men, also try to say they are Butch, or ask could they be Butch if they change how they look? No. It’s a choice made in girlhood, reflected by body language, mannerism, stance, voice, etc. (Many women pitch their voices unnaturally high as part of following male rules. Men want women to seem weak, while also looking as different from men, and as unnatural, as possible.) Most of these same Radical Feminists are outraged when men appropriate the identity of women, yet don’t consider they are also appropriating an identity that is not theirs. I finally realized that part of this is because women are so used to competing with women for men, so they then see Butch identity as being another competition to win.

Now that most Lesbians are passing as het, many Lesbians believe that any Lesbian who is not a Hard Fem must be a Butch, even though Butches are only about 5% of the Lesbians we commonly see at events. There are a lot of Fem Dykes who are out as Dykes, but who are clearly not Butch. And then there are extreme Fems who say how much they love Butches, yet are unwilling to stop passing as het, which would make life much less difficult and dangerous for Butches, as well as Fem Dykes.

Many Fems who do recognize the existence of Butches objectify us with a similar sense of ownership and objectification towards us that men have towards women – as if we somehow belong to them. If we say that we are more attracted to Butches or are not attracted to Fems, we are told that we can’t possibly mean that, or we just haven’t found the right Fem yet. It’s the same kind of patronizing amusement men have towards Lesbians. I’ve actually been told that two Butches together are missing out. (On what? Unequal, passionless love-making?)  Exactly what men say about two women together. These predatory Fems never even bother to ask about how our experiences with Fem lovers we’ve had over the decades led us to prefer being with Butches. Then there are Lesbians who are so freaked out by the idea of Butches loving each other that they announce that we couldn’t possibly be real Butches (though not if they meet us in person).

I’ve heard Fems ask, “What’s wrong with objectifying Butches?” Well, what’s wrong with sexually objectifying any oppressed groups of women? Some Fems want to be with Butches to get the attention and love they expected to get from men, but didn’t. And for some predatory Fems, Butches make a convenient scapegoat to take out their rage at men. I know two Radical Lesbian Feminist Fems who talked about beating Butch lovers. One was an upper middle class Euro-descent Fem who beat her poverty class, legally blind, racially oppressed Butch lover. The other Fem said she beat her working class Lifelong Lesbian Butch lover because she could not get back at her father or ex-husband. Neither seemed remotely remorseful and were contemptuous of those Butch lovers who had been devoted to them. (When I asked the blind Butch about her lover beating her, the Butch was still trying to protect her abusive ex, and said “there was violence in our relationship,” which actually implicated her. So I asked if she had ever hit her lover, and she said no.).  And these abusers of Butches were Radical Feminists! We can only imagine how often this happens.

It’s true that many Butches are so self-hating that they worship Hard Fems beyond what would make an equal relationship (although others of us find that look repulsive). Butches aren’t unique in this. Other oppressed people often value those who try to assimilate to look more like their oppressor, which is why so many Fems pass as het. I see most Fems where I live also being more attracted to Hard Fems than to Lesbians who look like Dykes, whether Fem or Butch. It feels like the patriarchal media has won out, after all these years of bombarding us with ugly male-defined “beauty.” It’s not just that many/most Lesbians want to be lovers with women who look like movie stars – they want to be seen to be lovers with women who look like movie stars. In my old community, these extremely feminine women would have been looked at warily, as if they might not be truly Lesbians. This isn’t being unfair – Hard Fems who do follow male rules of how women are supposed to look are more likely to have chosen men in the past and to go back to men.

Women, like other colonized people, have been given a caricatured, fetishized representation of how we are not only supposed to dress, but move, gesture, talk, laugh, think, etc. Most women learn unnatural patterns of behaving while being little girls when they are punished for acting naturally and rewarded when obeying male rules. Butch girls, with no support and no role models, refuse to obey the male rules.

What is heart-breaking is how much self-hatred there is among Butches. Some have been encouraged by their Hard Fem lovers to believe and say that Butches have “male privilege” — which of course is not true. Butches are never treated as men. Butches are treated as the most abnormal freaks among Lesbians. Fems usually can make more money, have more status (as “real” women) with family, friends, and in the rest of patriarchy, and are more likely to own houses as a result of having had husbands, careers, and sometimes families who gave them money. (Butches are more likely to be disowned, and more Butches are class-oppressed, and there is a higher percentage of Butches of Color than European-descent.)

Then there is the lesbophobic myth that identifying as Butch means we play roles. Yet Lesbians can be outrageously Fem and not be accused of role-playing. I have never played roles. Daring to discuss differences does not mean we play roles. Identifying as Butch does not mean playing roles — it means identifying with the choice we made as little girls, against all odds, as well as being a marginalized, oppressed, invisibilized minority in Lesbian communities. We get it in the het world for being the most out, obvious Lesbians, and we get it in our own communities. Are working class Lesbians who identify as working class accused of playing roles about class? (This is again about Butches being insultingly categogorized as only a sexual identity, pornifying us.)

It doesn’t help that almost the only books about Butches are in anthologies edited by Fems and bisexual women who further Butch-hating stereotypes. What I have seen in decades of being out as Butch is that it’s Fems who have pushed Butches into role-playing, partly because it makes the Fems feel less scarily Lesbian. Sado-masochism, including using dildos, is part of that and is absolutely mainstream among het women as well as non-feminist Fems. (Yet ridiculous comments are made, like by a Fem who was planning a “sex” workshop and said that she’d have to keep an eye on all of her dildos to stop Butches from stealing them. Why would any Butch want an ugly dildo? At another event, a Fem threw her large collection of dildos out into the Lesbian audience.)

At a Butch Voices conference dinner, I brought up how upset I was that a workshop organizer assumed all Butches used dildos, calling it “Butch cock.” I asked how many of us have been sexually assaulted by pricks and all that they represent, comparing dildos to sado-masochist use of Nazi paraphernalia in scenes. A Hard Fem bisexual patronizingly lectured me about how much better sex was using objects. I answered that something is seriously wrong if a Lesbian prefers silicone in the shape of a prick instead of the feel of her lover’s hands and body, and why would someone want to use such an offensive object on her lover, instead of feeling her? No way was this het-looking woman in full make-up going to bully me into believing that the incredible loving, wild, and passionate love-making I have shared with lovers would be improved with ugly male objects. She finally resorted to telling me that it probably was too late to change at my age – an ageist version of the usual sado-masochist taunt implying I was a prude or had never heard of dildos before. I’d been saying no to repulsive dildos since first being told about them when I was 14.

I have heard other Butches say that although they hate dildos, they have been pressured to use them on ex-het Fem lovers, for obvious reasons. The first Lesbian I knew told me how she had found other Lesbians in a bar community run by bisexual prostitutes in1965. As a teenaged Butch, they were training her in what “real women” want. She felt so disgusted and used by these women that she left and never again tried to find a Lesbian community.

I wonder how many of those women who want their lover to use dildos are fantasizing about being with a man. By using objects, they can disconnect, as opposed to being completely present, loving, feeling, and being felt by another woman, which is a continual reminder that they are Lesbians and are doing things that can still be punished by death in some countries.

A horrific aspect of role-playing that I recently heard about is the so-called “Stone Fem,” who will only be lovers with a Stone Butch. I believe that the Stone Butch is a Hard Fem creation since I have never known of a Butch who willingly, happily said she wanted to not be loved and never wanted to be made love to. What I have heard is Butches talking painfully about Fem “lovers” who refused to make love to them with equal passion, attention, time, and love, or refused to ever touch them, while they were expected to make love to the Fem for hours, whenever she wanted. Once you fall in love with and are committed to a woman, it can be very hard to acknowledge, even to yourself, that she doesn’t love you equally, or at all.

I believe some Butches, and particularly those without support, do sometimes end up as Stone Butches because it can feel less painful to take on that identity than to continually face inequality in love and love-making. After years of bad treatment, some just stop hoping for real love, and shut down. It’s a travesty that some Fems have fetishized such a traumatic aspect of Butch oppression. I can’t imagine how some Fems can justify identifying as “Stone Fems.” It’s like declaring, “I really am an incredibly selfish, misogynist, Lesbian-hating, and Butch-hating woman and am proud of it. I just want to be the complete center of love, attention, and pleasure, and I want to make my lover feel alone, unloved, and worthless. Aren’t I wonderful?”

I believe the “Lesbian Bed Death” myth is usually about the Fem or both Fems (since the majority of Lesbian relationships are two Fems together), stopping wanting to make love. Butches are much less likely to stop, no matter what horrific childhood and other sexual assaults they’ve suffered. Even when a Lesbian otherwise appears as Butch, this intimate detail of wanting to be passionate in love-making and to make love to their lover is a defining characteristic of being Butch.

                                                 25 Years Later….

So how are things for Butches now, since 1990, when we published our chapter on Butch oppression in “Dykes-Loving-Dykes?”

Well, things seem mostly a lot worse – some of which we predicted, based on how mainstream and assimilated and Lesbian-hating many Lesbians were becoming. But some of it has still been a shock. I have never seen or heard such overt hatred of Butches among Lesbians as I’m hearing now.

In my old Lesbian Feminist and Separatist community from the Seventies, there was disapproval about role-playing, (which I still agree with, but not for the reasons said then), sometimes falsely blamed on Butches by the lesbophobic, yet Butches were more respected and appreciated than now. Even without clear politics about what it meant to be Butch, there was an awareness that Butches were the most visible of Lesbians who had kept Lesbian existence known while other Lesbians were passing and hiding. Some of the out Butches were appreciated and acknowledged for having created our Lesbian Feminist community with their brilliant Radical Lesbian Feminist politics, articles, poetry, books, music, etc. Looking like a Dyke was valued, so most Lesbians, even most of the Hard Fems, cut their hair, wore trousers and boots, and the infamous flannel shirts. We didn’t wear “men’s” clothes. We rejected the flimsy, demeaning, and restrictive clothes men ordered us to wear, and we proudly wore our Dyke clothes, which were handsome, practical, comfortable, cheaper, sturdier, and safer (in terms of being able to defend ourselves, do physical work, and not be such a target for male harassment or attack). We were saying yes to being Lesbians and no to men.

The only reason I can think of why Lesbians make fun of that time and of how we looked is that they are embarrassed by so many women being so clearly out and rejecting male rules, and they want to police us into being less threatening and more assimilated. (You would think they invested in the cosmetics and other industries selling male-invented femininity.) Some of Fems from that time talk bitterly about the “pressure” they felt to look like Lesbians, ignoring the punishing and sometimes lethal pressure and harassment in the patriarchal world (from family, het women and male friends, at work, from strangers, etc. to look more het/feminine). They are still furious that there was a brief time in history when they did not dominate Lesbian communities with their Fem supremacist politics. Not enough to have the rest of patriarchy reflecting and rewarding them, they wanted no woman to say no to them. Some of them also still deny being Fem, and yet it is their core identity.

Most of the Lesbians I know now pass as het. The more extremely male-defined feminine a Lesbian is, the more valued she is. Occasionally, there are defensive comments like, “What do you mean? What does a Lesbian look like?” But that’s game-playing since we all really do know exactly what Lesbians look like, especially since so many women are devoted to not looking like a Lesbian. (Some of the same women now pretending to be confused about identifying Lesbians in the past joined with their men in ridiculing and harassing us. Some of the women now glaring or smirking at us at public places where Lesbians are gathered (since we have none of our own places left), proudly having their man on their arm, will later come into our community saying how they were victims of those men they once bragged about, demanding and getting attention and support from the Lesbians they still oppress.)

Looking like a Lesbian means looking the way patriarchy forbids us to look, and it deeply threatens those who support patriarchy. It means looking free and being able to recognize each other in public. It means being proud to not assimilate or succumb to the pressure to feminize, including saying “I don’t want to waste my time and money trying to make myself fit impossible standards that leave most women feeling inadequate.” Looking like a Dyke also means looking far more attractive.

There is a high price to pay for always looking like an out Dyke. It can mean being threatened,  attacked verbally and physically, being harassed by family, being disowned, being hated and ridiculed, being evicted, losing jobs, not getting jobs, etc. Young Lesbians have been locked up in mental hospitals by their families and tortured. Out Lesbians are raped and killed for looking like Dykes, and Butches are even more targeted (as Teena Brandon was.)

Many Lesbians who are not Butch get Lesbian oppression. The more Dyke a Fem looks, the worse she’s treated. But Butches do not or cannot pass as het, even the few who try. That creates a whole other level of oppression. But it’s how Butches are treated in Lesbian communities that I’m focusing on, because if we can’t treat Butches as equals and with respect in our own communities, there isn’t much hope elsewhere.

For the first time, I am hearing Lesbians point out particularly attractive Butches, saying “She’s so ugly. She looks just like a man.” Well, no, she doesn’t look like a man at all. She looks the opposite. The policing is so extreme, that I’m even hearing such insults said about stereotypically “cute” Fems with painted toenails, just because they have short hair and look like Lesbians. It is not a safe time and place to be an Out Lesbian among Lesbians, let alone a Butch.

In just one week recently, I heard three Butch-hating comments from Lesbians. (And I can only imagine how much harder these onslaughts are for Butches with no support.)

On a hike, two Fems began commiserating about how hard it had been for them in college to find Lesbians to identify with because the only Lesbians they’d seen were Butch. (From experience, I’m guessing those “Butches” were probably mostly Dyke Fems since there aren’t that many Butches.) It didn’t occur to these Lesbians that by adhering to mainstream standards of how women are supposed to look, they were making it impossible for other Lesbians to find them. It’s as if they thought it was Lesbians’ responsibility to seek out and rescue them. The “Butches” took risks to be so visible, yet instead of being appreciated, they were criticized. Would it have been better for all the Lesbians to pass as het at those colleges? I think the real issue is that looking so Dykey was and is threatening to those Lesbians. But why? What are they really scared of?

I think it comes back to the fear of being “abnormal” and not fitting in (“what will people think?”) – and daring to challenge rigid male rules of how females are “supposed” to look, which women continue to enforce. I frequently read Lesbian writers being very impressed with women displaying the various trendy feminine styles that pretend to be wild, outrageous, and edgy with piercings, tattoos, elaborate hair styles, shaved heads, high heels, etc. – but these are just variations on how women are expected and demanded to look. It is Butches and Dyke Fems, who are truly showing courage and, by their existence, are threatening patriarchy.

I don’t understand why so many women don’t seem capable or willing to understand basic feminist politics, like that “femininity” is male – male-invented, male-identified, and a caricature of true femaleness. It’s a colonized status, with obvious parallels with other colonized people who are pressured to assimilate. It is a demeaned appearance, demanded of women to display their supposed inferiority, and especially their subservience to men. Yet like other ways that oppressed people assimilate, femininity is greatly rewarded in patriarchy, including by other women. (Some feminists pretend that the women playing feminine are treated terribly by men and are victims, forgetting how other women also reward them and how they then police women who refuse male rules.) That’s part of why it’s such a joke for men to dress in drag – they love to humiliate women. Nothing about “femininity” is female. It’s a con and a trick of patriarchy. Yet, most women wholeheartedly accept and identify with it, and will defend it so rigidly and irrationally that they refuse to even think about the issue. Again, why is this so terrifying to explore?

The flip side of women’s fear of being too “other” is women being extremely concerned about protecting some people who claim to be oppressed for being “Other” — even though those people have far more privilege than Butches. During that same week of the hike, I went to a Lesbian brunch where a Hard Fem was telling us about how terribly difficult it was for F2Ts (Female to Testosterone – women who pretend to be men.)  I answered that they are women who no longer want to be us, and no longer want to be oppressed as women and/or Lesbians. (People can’t change sex any more than they can change species. They are women opting for privilege at our expense. I’ve heard/read some say that they want to be men to get better jobs, more “chicks,” and because they dread becoming “old women.” I do not understand why we are expected to not only support them, but to put their desires above Lesbians,’ other than that usually everyone is considered more important than Lesbians.)

I had just begun to protest the comment, when the het-looking woman began to lecture me with the trans cult line: “You have no idea what it’s like to grow up never feeling like you fit in.” Seriously? Had she not bothered to look at me?  Anyone can tell immediately on seeing me that I grew up exactly like she had described – knowing I never fit in as a “normal,” proper feminine girl. I have always felt like an outsider because I hated and rejected male-identified “femininity” from my earliest memories. I had no politics or support — not one book or film that showed Lesbians in anything other than the most horrible, degrading, terrifying stereotypes. You certainly couldn’t turn on the television like now, and see much-loved public Lesbians. Meanwhile, many F2Ts actually are Fem or het/bisexual women (who want sexual access to Gay men) who grew up fitting in quite well. But here was an example of the experiences of Butches being taken from us – appropriated – by a privileged Fem who was oppressing a less privileged Butch on behalf of F2Ts who had betrayed us both.

Meanwhile, for the feminists wanting to support women to not want to “transition,” they really should think about if they look het and male-identified feminine that their choice makes it much harder for any woman who refuses male rules, making them feel further alone and like freaks. Or: Meanwhile, feminists who want to support women to reject “transitioning” should realize that their own choices to look het and male-identified feminine makes it much harder for any woman to reject male rules,  because that makes them feel more alone, marginalized, and  perceived as “freaks”. Perhaps if they don’t care about how Butches are oppressed, they will care at least for the het, bisexual, and Lesbian Fems who say they are men.

Then another Hard Fem at the brunch told us about how her nineteen year old daughter was a Butch who was lovers with another teenaged Butch. To me, this sounded rare and wonderful. But the mother was very upset because her daughter’s lover was “too Butch” and she preferred her to be with a more “womanly” Lesbian. When I protested, the first woman said confidingly to me, “It’s really more about class.” Meaning the young Butch was just too blatantly poverty class to be good enough for her daughter.

Sometimes I despair about Lesbians and women. But then I remember what all this means politically – it is clearly about the worshipping of patriarchal oppressive standards which too many women have adopted as their own – and that means that these attitudes and ways of hurting other women can be changed, just as some formerly right wing women have changed and now fight for justice. But unlike with other issues of privilege and oppression, specifically Lesbian issues are ignored. Our communities have been inundated with women who were determinedly het, sometimes for decades, often with the privilege and arrogance that that means. Unless they examine and change their lesbophobic and Lesbian-hating attitudes and politics, they undermine and destroy our communities.

The reason we wrote our book was to explain the internal factors among Lesbians and feminists that keep us from fully allying and fighting patriarchy. Recognizing female-hating and Lesbian-hating – which means recognizing all the ways that women who are more allied with, identified with, and committed to patriarchal standards betray Lesbians and women who have rejected those male rules – is the only way we can have truly loving, diverse and egalitarian Lesbians communities. This is in addition to fighting other oppressions among us, such as racism, classism, ableism, ageism, fat oppression, etc. Other feminists have written about these issues, but almost no one has named the oppression of Butches, Lifelong Lesbians, and Never-het Lesbians in Lesbian communities as well as in patriarchy. If anything, growing up as a lone Lesbian or Butch, feeling like you never belonged, being ostracized and put down by other girls, family, neighborhoods, schools, etc. is said to be “lucky” or a “privilege.”

Lesbians who betray other Lesbians on behalf of patriarchy, to make themselves more comfortable, do end up hurting themselves as well. But they still benefit from the power they wield over other Lesbians, sometimes including their own daughters.

I experienced another example of common anti-Lesbian attitudes recently at a Lesbian party in a town known for being right wing and mainstream. A Lesbian I was talking with said that she felt different from the others at the party. Since common introductions at some of these events consist of: “What do you do?” (career talk), “My children…,” “My grandchildren…,” I was very curious how she felt different. But then she said, “I’m more suburban, I don’t like the word Lesbian, and I want to be more normal.” She looked almost startled for a moment when she realized what she’d said. She’s not the only one to feel like that. Self-hatred is sad enough, but it’s worse when it affects other Lesbians as well.

                                           Femininity Is a Choice

I want to talk about how assimilating into men’s rules for how girls and women “should” look hurts Butches, but I also don’t want to upset my friends who do choose to look male-defined feminine. There are many compromises that we all make. I have a Dyke Separatist friend in her twenties who said, “I have to look like this — gesturing to her long, styled hair and feminine clothing — if I want a lover.” It’s not true, but any increase in privilege does give an increase in options. If it’s that difficult for someone who’s prime age, how much harder is it for old Lesbians who are being subjected to ageism as well as disapproval for looking like Dykes?

Looking extremely feminine also improves Lesbians’ and women’s career options. Some women singer/songwriter/musicians know that being respected, with their skill and talent recognized and appreciated, is greatly influenced by how they look. They are expected to look “beautiful” by feminine standards. I don’t criticize them or any woman for this, but I just want to stir awareness for women to support women who will not or cannot fit male dictates for what a woman is supposed to look like.

I don’t mean to make anyone who chooses to look feminine feel bad. But there is no way to talk about the increase in butchphobia and Butch-hatred without talking about enforcement of male-created femininity. We can’t stop societal and male hatred of us, but women can stop policing girls and other women to obey male rules. And since women who fit in with patriarchal standards are more likely to be listened to and taken seriously, het Radical Feminists can be important allies and friends.

Lesbian oppression (for being Lesbians) hits Butches much harder than Fems. That is part of why we all need to be aware of it and acknowledge it. Far too many Butches (particularly those who are also oppressed by classism and racism) have already died far too young. Being hated and scapegoated in mainstream patriarchy, among feminists, and even among our own Lesbian people takes a severe toll. (In one year, three Butch friends died from cancer. One had been horribly humiliated and harassed at her birthday party when her family and Lesbian friends ganged up to tell her she should wear dresses. Another time, her Lesbian friends slathered her in grotesque makeup to go to a Lesbian event, to “make her be more like a girl.” She was more of a girl than they ever could be. Even an extreme Fem friend was horrified by how unnatural she looked. I didn’t live near her, so didn’t see her often, and can only imagine what else they did to her. Our immune systems are definitely affected by stress.)

If all Lesbians made sure they were visibly Lesbians, instead of most now passing, that would dramatically change things for us. When the subject comes up, most Lesbians profess to not understanding at all what it means to be Butch or Fem, other than extreme role-playing caricatures. Yet, each woman does daily make a conscious decision about how she will look in the world. There is even a distinct look that some Fems choose, which seems to be a kind of uniform or signal identifying them as Lesbians but which is still clearly Fem and not any way that a Butch would choose to look.

For those who don’t feel safe being out, do try to help fight Lesbian-hating and Butch-hating when you can. For women choosing femininity, do think about why you make that choice. Is it out of fear of harassment? Is it to look “attractive?” For Fems attracted to Butches, you clearly find that look attractive, so why not choose it for yourself? If your reaction is about wanting to look like a “real woman,” and you recoil at the thought of looking like a Dyke, please explore and change your bigotry. There should be groups for Unlearning Butch-hatred and Unlearning Lesbian-hatred as there are about other issues that divide us. Since some non-Lesbians and het women are also working to fight male-identified femininity inside and outside of themselves, I want to acknowledge these women as WFF – Women Fighting Feminization – which reflects that it is a continual and essential process for fighting patriarchy. (An example is our wonderful friend and ally, Megan Mackin, a non-Lesbian, who, in an effort to be supportive to Butches, explored the issue of rejecting femininity at her blog.)

“Why don’t Lesbians just stop separating and identifying as different? That’s divisive.  I don’t even know what a Butch is anyway.”

Well, I guess that’s because you aren’t one and don’t notice or don’t care how we’re being treated. (Most Butches do understand and know who they are, even those in denial.) We wouldn’t need to identify separately if we weren’t made to feel like we don’t belong — if we weren’t being treated as different, other, inferior (including/especially in lover relationships with Fems). Typically, in patriarchy, the most privileged, especially if they are a majority, dominate. They either drive out those they oppress or they bully and insult. Their dominant position is too often taken for granted. Many Fems, particularly those who identify as “radical feminists” and claim to not be Fem, question why the existence of Butches is even mentioned. This is exactly how most het feminists treat Lesbians.

Because Butches are a barometer of Lesbian oppression and because the more Butches are maligned, the worse it is for all Lesbians, it’s in all Lesbians’ interest to support Butches. But we completely upset the het-identified world of “normal” lesbophobic Lesbians. The same thing also happens when ex-het Lesbians are dominating a conversation with assumptions that we all have been het, and make jokes about “virgins.” Do we object and say we exist, or do we not put ourselves through the inevitable harassment and attempts to humiliate? It is all about the most privileged Lesbians’ experiences and lives being the most recognized and valued. It’s the classic situation that happens with other issues of privilege and oppression, except that those with otherwise radical politics, too often revert to being right wing when it comes to specifically Lesbian oppressions.

For those who just can’t handle their Lesbian-hating bigotry about the existence of Butches, do you really mean to be asking “How dare you exist and how dare you make those of us looking down on you uncomfortable?” Do we not have the right to say we exist and to discuss how and why we are treated differently from other Lesbians and other women?

Whenever a Lesbian says she doesn’t understand why anyone identifies as Butch, that’s because she’s not Butch and it doesn’t affect her. She’s not hurt for being Butch or she would understand. It’s similar to het women not understanding the importance of Lesbians identifying as Lesbians. (Although there is a difference, because het women could choose to be Lesbians. The Butch choice is made in childhood.) We need to define ourselves because we are not represented in the dominant culture or in most Lesbian cultures. We are rarely, if ever, represented in media images of Lesbians or we’re presented as a horrible stereotype or a joke. Sometimes we’re commented on as a prurient interest of Fems who objectify us.

We are treated as Butch whether we want to be or not. Those who profess to not understand what this issue is about, do treat Butches differently. It’s like those who profess to be unaware of class or classism, claiming to be “class-free.” That’s a privileged option for those in the power position because they are not the ones being treated as inferior, which happens to the class-oppressed whether we identify or not – and the oppressiveness is still there because people do know, whether they are honest with themselves or not. Those of us who are aware of these issues can see it clearly even in personal and written interactions.

Those who deny the existence of class or of Lesbian or Butch oppression are more likely to use their privilege to control, intimidate, and hurt others. Those who dominate always insist there is no oppression. This is what men do to women in denying that misogyny and patriarchy exist.

I often wonder what Lesbians who deny the existence of Butches think when they hear men and het women and the media joke about us. Do they cringe and then vow to be more obedient to male rules so no het would ever take them for such a despised creature?  In spite of Butches being a joke in the mainstream and even Lesbian media, there is so much pressure to feminize girls and women that they rarely show a real Butch. When a “Butch” is mentioned, it’s a feminine woman who is less made up and less drag queen-looking, but who is still clearly not Butch. Even The L Word  television series had not one Butch. Orange Is the New Black has a grotesque Butch caricature played by prurient actor Lea DeLaria, who has said she is Fem and has public feminine photos of herself, but she still looks enough like a Butch stereotype to play the travesty of a real Butch.

It’s ironic that the “Bechdel test,” which is used to determine how sexist a film is, came from Alison Bechdel, who never once drew a Butch in her syndicated cartoon series, Dykes to Watch Out For, (now in book form) — even though she drew it over decades and showed an otherwise diverse Lesbian community. Yet Bechdel was capable of drawing a boy pissing on a Lesbian and semen dripping from a condom. Many Lesbians thought her non-monogamous, trannie-supporting, genderqueer sado-masochist Fem character with a crewcut, Lois, was Butch, but her look and behavior were the opposite of Butch. Male money and a television network was behind The L Word, but Bechdel’s work was her own choice. Both of these, like the most public “Lesbian sex” books, which were actually written written by bisexual women, did great harm to our Lesbian culture and communities by normalizing and giving a trendy status to porn and sado-masochism and the trans cult.
Again, what are they so afraid of?

The horror of being called Butch is used to terrorize girls and women into being even more artificial and male-identified feminine. Most women want to placate their oppressors, who, after all, are dangerous. Women then police girls and other women on behalf of men. (Very important to not anger Daddy.) Women who are the most threatening to men are the most policed. This can be subtle – with constant suggestions about “improving appearance,” which just happen to fit in more with male standards – or less subtle, like open ridicule of Butches and Dyke Fems.

Identifying as Butch can bring up self-hatred since “Butch” is a term so used against us with contempt, but it can also give us pride and a way to share support and culture with others. I believe that identifying who we are gives us a means and language to connect with others and defend ourselves against bad treatment.

For those who do love women and Lesbians enough to care, it is easy to learn about who Butches are. I have friends who can immediately recognize Butches. Many can do it from just seeing a photograph or hearing a voice. As a Fem friend said, “Just look around. Butch oppression is obvious.” There is a Butch look that is instantly recognizable. I have seen that same exact look among American Indian, African-American, Maori, Thai, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian, Israeli, Chinese, Filipina, Mexican, Serbian, English, French, German, US (from so many backgrounds and races) Butches.

             Identity Appropriation Is Not a Form of Flattery

Another part of the objectification of Butches is when Fems claim to be Butches.

It’s not uncommon for Radical Lesbian Feminists who are threatened by the mention of Butch existence to claim that they were never feminine as girls. (Even het women actors brag in their biographies that they were ‘real tomboys,” although their girlhood photos could not look more feminine. Ironically, real Butches hated being called “tomboys” as girls because we didn’t want to be identified with our attackers, boys, in any way.) In spite of many Fems’ attempts to prevent Butch oppression from being discussed and to erase our identity, there seems to be a deep awareness that Butches fought patriarchy from the beginning, and so some envy us. I’ve even heard a Fem who came out in her fifties and is an Hard Fem who bonds with other Hard Fems in public about makeup tips, say that if she’d come out sooner, she’d be Butch. Well, then why not try to look as much like a Butch now, and support your lover and other Butches?

It’s very unfair for the same women who as girls taunted and ridiculed little Butch girls (do they think we don’t remember?) to now claim our identity, even while some of them still look extremely feminine and would never be taken to be a Lesbian. Somehow we are both despised and yet considered trendy.

What is even more upsetting is that many of these Fems are publicly posing and posturing as offensive Butch stereotypes in photo collections and organizations that claim to be Butch. And they always outnumber the real Butches.

Then there are Fems who want their lover to be Butch and there are not that many Butches, so they push a more Dykey Fem into the Butch role of taking the brunt of Lesbian oppression when they are out together, and to do for them things that Butches often do, like accept inequality in love-making.

Other Fems decide to be authorities of what it means to be Butch and even write incredibly Butch-hating propaganda. An example is Carolyn Gage’s “The Lesbian Butch: Hope of the Planet from Supplemental Sermons for a Lesbian Revival Tent.” Val Miller and I co-wrote a response —

It’s become standard in Lesbian communities that no one is allowed to question anyone’s self-identity, no matter how bizarre, making it extremely difficult to object to extremely feminine woman being in Butch groups. Appropriating our identity is one thing, but it’s even more harmful when Fems get into power positions in Butch organizations, and control and influence the direction of the group into Butch-hating politics.

Some Fems ban real Butches from Butch groups. I was in such a “Butch” group for a year (our goal was to organize an ongoing female-identified Butch groups) with a Fem who was stereotypically feminine in appearance, body language, and gestures, even constantly mentioned her children (Butch mothers aren’t common and they also don’t refer to being mothers as frequently in political groups). She also identified as a “Leather top” (otherwise known as a “sadist”) and brought a bull whip to every meeting — I believe partly to try to intimidate me. (She just looked silly while brandishing her whip.) Half the original group quit or were kicked out, until I was left with the Fem and her Butch ally. I was soon also kicked out, leaving the “Butch” group to be led by one Butch and one Fem sadist.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the women claiming to be Butch who use male pronouns for themselves are actually Fem. A number of Fems and even het/bisexual women have claimed to be Butch and later claim to be F2Ts, which leads many people to think that the majority of these women are/were Butch. In Loren Cameron’s book, “Body Alchemy,” the “before” photos show adult feminine women who “transitioned” to male. Many of these women (like Loren herself and Pat Califia) later claim to be Gay men because they return to being sexual with men. They are het or bisexual women who are a “trans” version of fag hags. Some Butches became het when they were isolated and pressured, before finding other Lesbians. I have never known a Butch in a Lesbian community to go het.

Many of these women even use mannerisms and speaking styles that are like stereotypical Gay men, reflecting how influenced they are by Gay men.

But the worst appropriation I’ve seen happened at the Butch Voices conference in 2012, where it was bad enough that Fems posing as Butches were in power positions. Even while forbidding us to present any female-identified Butch workshops, they allowed two workshops by men claiming to be Butch. The men simply looked like drag queens with mannerisms and voice patterns similar to Gay men and were nothing like women and even less like Butches. One of them, Tobi Hill-Meyer, who was raised by Lesbians, was then welcomed onto a board of Butch Voices, even though he has had no surgery and is a pornographer who posts photos of his prick online.
These men had no shame about appropriating our identity and rare space. I really feel that if they could kill real Butches and take our skin, they would. But like with all men masquerading as Lesbians, they can never have what they most want – they can never have consensual sexual access and passion with a Lesbian, because any woman who would agree to be intimate with them is no longer be a Lesbian.

Original Chapter Four


Bev Jo, Linda Strega, and Ruston

Part 1

We originally wrote this chapter as two articles that countered the increasing glorification of male-identified femininity and role-playing in most Lesbian publications and among individual Lesbians.1 This reactionary trend is part of the growing acceptance of heterosexist values among Lesbians in all the countries we have information about. We have to fight it, because ignoring it means contributing to it.

    Butch Oppression

Butch oppression is a difficult issue to deal with because there are so many conflicting definitions of what it is to be Fem or Butch. Butches are the Lesbians who, as girls, rejected patriarchal male rules to feminize, and refused to play the role designed by men for women. Fem Lesbians are those who accepted that male-defined feminine, to various degrees, as girls.

We use the term Butch oppression (and Fem privilege) for what many Lesbians call “roles” and “role-playing.”  “Roles,” as it’s usually used, implies that Butches and Fems have equal power or that only Lesbians who define themselves as “Butch” or “Fem” are in roles.  But this is a political issue of power inequality — and is as serious and real as any other inequality that Dykes work to change. Our language should name the real core of the issue. “Butch oppression” makes it clear that Fems have the power and the privilege over Butches.

We use the word “roles” to mean the basic core identities of Butch and Fem that all Lesbians have developed in childhood (and which are not a result of genetics or hormones.) We say “role-playing” to mean deliberate role-playing as well as all the ways Fems maintain power over Butches, including sexual and social behavior, political beliefs, appearance, self-image, and manner.

We want to make it clear that we’re against role-playing. Acknowledging Butch oppression does not mean supporting role-playing. To think that it does is like saying acknowledging Lesbian existence supports stereotypes against Lesbians.  When we talk about all Lesbians being Butch or Fem, we’re using these definitions to make it possible for Butch oppression to be fought. Just as it’s impossible to fight classism if some Lesbians claim to be class-free, it’s impossible to end role-playing as long as some Lesbians deny their Butch and Fem core identities.

This is a complex issue. The terms are loaded, the definitions are contradictory, and, more than any other issue among Lesbians, the thought of it brings up intense Lesbian-hatred. To admit your Butch and Fem core identity in a responsible way means declaring your commitment to strong Dyke identity, which takes a lot of courage. Unfortunately, most Lesbians who openly identify themselves as Fem (and to a lesser extent, Butch) aren’t doing it responsibly, or even accurately. They’re just glorifying role-playing as “sexy” and “fun.”  But role-playing, including the intense versions played by Lesbians who deny they play Butch and Fem core identitys, is hurtful and damaging to Lesbians, individually and as communities.

The male origin of femininity is clear. We agree with the basic feminist writings of the early 1970′s that rejected all forms of femininity. Men demand that women caricature ourselves for men’s benefit. Identifying and rejecting that crap is the way to find our true, innate female selves. Even non-Lesbian feminists worked on these politics in consciousness-raising groups in the past.

We are so subjected to the propaganda of femininity being natural womanhood that it can be hard to see through the lies. For instance, growing up with caricatured images of female cartoon animals from our earliest memories has an impact. Look at real wild female animals – not the poor inbred pets with pink bows in their fur – and you see none of the mannerisms and movements that we’re taught are intrinsically female.

Yet many Lesbians, including those who consider themselves radical, still admire and emulate that male facade. They’ve embraced femininity. Even though it is so clearly a self-absorbed, narcissistic, unnatural state, these Lesbians believe that it is true femaleness, and so they set up Femness as the acceptable norm for Lesbians.

Besides the obvious signs of femininity in clothes, makeup, and mannerisms, and in articles glorifying femininity in Lesbian and feminist publications, there are also subtle undercurrents of feminization among Lesbians. In this chapter, we confront both the obvious and the subtle.  Looking past the tangle of lies we’re taught from the moment we’re born means facing the fact of being Lesbian in a whole new way — a reality that’s far removed from the world of “normal” het women.

There are differences among Fems: The extremely feminine Hard Fems are at one end of the scale — they internalize male ideals of womanhood, which requires continually viewing themselves as if through men’s minds until men’s ideals feel like their own. At the other end, Dyke-identified Fems are repulsed by most aspects of femininity. Fems’ Lesbianism is obviously a major resistance against male values and male appropriation of women. But our basic femininity and recognition by the het world as “women” remains. (Since we’re two Fems and one Butch, we generally use the terms “we” when writing about both groups.) We can choose to grow less feminine in thought, action, manner, looks, and clothes. However, nothing can change the fact that Fems grew up feeling accepted as real girls and real women, and so were spared the agony, punishment, abuse, and self-doubt of being ostracized as “abnormal.” Most likely, the reason girls become feminine is the same reason Lesbians choose to remain feminine, go back to being more feminine, or pressure other Lesbians to become feminine –that is, so they can fit in, feel acceptable, and not think of themselves as unnatural.

I’ve often heard Fems say, in defense of men who claim to be Lesbians, “You have no idea what it feel like to grow up never feeling like you fit in or belong.” Yet, unlike most of these men, that is exactly what Butch girls feel like growing up. But typically, men’s feelings are considered more important than women’s.

Most Butches who acknowledge being Butch clearly remember hating and resisting femininity when we were little girls. This is more than being a “tomboy,” which many Fems claim to have been. A Butch’s resistance brings extreme punishment:  she’s described as abnormal, queer, a woman-who-wants-to-be-a-man; she’s often beaten, raped, institutionalized, psychiatrically tortured (including being subjected to electroshock, drugs, and psychosurgery), and/or disowned by her family, for not “acting like a woman.” Her resistance does not EVER win her the privileges that men keep for themselves. Because men know she’s indeed a female, and a most rebellious one, she’s made an example of for all contemplating resistance. She has “stepped out of her proper place” and “gotten above herself.” Butch oppression originates with men saying, in effect, “This is how patriarchy punishes resisters.”

Many Fems, especially Separatists, are strongly Dyke-identified and genuinely want all Dykes to have equal, loving friendships and relationships. Adoration of femininity is no more acceptable to Dyke-identified Fems than it is to aware Butches, and that’s why we (Linda and Ruston), as Fem Dykes, are as willing to fight Fem privilege as Butch Dykes are.  Becoming aware for the first time that being Fem puts you in a position of privilege can be disturbing, but that hasn’t stopped many Fems from taking that new awareness as a chance to strengthen our Dyke identities and work toward stronger Dyke communities.

For many Dykes, the very mention of Butch and Fem is upsetting because it seems to prove male lies about us.  One of the most common stereotypes of Lesbians is that we “play roles.” Therefore, many Lesbians insist roles don’t exist or that only the most “unfeminist,” “uneducated,” “male-identified” Lesbians “play roles.”  Roles are supposed to be a thing of our “sleazy,” “perverted” past that feminism cured. These condescending, Lesbian-hating politics discredit and malign anyone who dares to try sorting out the complex truth, which is that most women, whether Lesbian or het, choose to be Fem from girlhood.

Since the 1980’s, there’s been a glorification of role-playing.  Some newer Lesbians think of roles as a trendy game, imitating mainstream hets’ reactionary return-to-the-1950′s nostalgia (with 1950′s racism, Queer-bashing, and stagnation).  Some Lesbians we’ve known who were unconsciously playing the Fem role began to be conscious and deliberate about it when they realized it could increase their privilege. So roles are either considered a reactionary topic we should avoid or the key to the hottest Lesbian sex, especially if played in an sado-masochistic setting. Also, there are a lot of Fems who think it’s fun to play at being Butch, the same way some class-privileged Lesbians make a game of downward mobility. Some of these Fems are the most vocal about being “Butch,” which adds to the general confusion about Butch and Fem core identitys. They are also the most likely to harass other Fems for being feminine.

All these misconceptions make it very hard to even begin dealing with being Butch or Fem in a responsible, political way. But it’s essential to do it because, otherwise, we won’t have equality among ourselves. The issue of Butch oppression is as complex as any other political issue that involves hierarchies among Lesbians. As with any other inequality, ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away. It persists, affecting how each of us thinks and feels about herself and other Dykes. It affects our political work, our friendships, and our interaction with lovers.  Exploring the truth about Dyke identity, including Butch identity, is the only way to learn to truly value and love each other and ourselves as Dykes.

Dykes who want to deal with roles aren’t responsible for roles existing. We’re just describing them and trying to fight injustice. We don’t want Lesbians to feel shame, guilt, fear, embarrassment, or to take offense. We’re writing to free Dykes from those feelings.  Nor are we confirming male and het lies about Lesbians. We’re trying to make sense of a confusing situation that causes pain and oppression for Butch Dykes.  Dealing with any issue of inequality is hard and can be painful. No matter how unjust, the status quo of injustice is familiar and can seem safer.  But the damage is severe, while the gains from fighting Butch oppression mean happier, safer, stronger Lesbian communities for all of us.

Some of the oppressive behavior we describe may be similar to something you find yourself doing.  If you realize that it’s just a way you learned to act and identify with, and isn’t who you are deep down inside (otherwise you wouldn’t be a Dyke), then it’s possible to stop being oppressive without feeling personally threatened.  And if you sincerely care about the Dykes you’re oppressing and causing pain, it’s possible to let go of old ways of behaving and change without feeling resentful or bad.

Every Dyke we know, both Fem and Butch, who’s had the guts to bring up Butch oppression and Fem privilege has been attacked to her face and in the Lesbian press, and has been subjected to ridicule, condescension, slander, social exclusion, and loss of friendships — all in an effort to suppress the truth.  Obviously we care very much about this issue and are deeply convinced of the accuracy of our understanding, if we’re prepared to risk this sort of reaction. Fems have usually been the most insulting, because this issue threatens their power over Butches.  Those who fear loss of privilege usually become enraged.

Coming out as Butch is as terrifying and difficult as coming out as a Lesbian or a Separatist without support. The reactions are similar to what happens when someone brings up class in a group for the first time. She usually meets with angry resistance, denial, hostile jokes, unfair accusations, and ostracism by the privileged, which crushes opportunities for major, positive changes in how we think of ourselves and each other.  This destroys our chances for personal happiness and Dyke unity. Such reactions focus sympathy on the outraged Fem, when it’s the Butch who needs support.

Fems who deny that they are Fem are actually saying Butches don’t exist. Most Lesbians deny Butch oppression the same way that most het women deny Lesbian oppression. Some Butches also deny that they are Butch, or that Butches are oppressed, because for Butches, thinking about it brings pain, self-hatred, and fear of exposure to the surface, and because exploring Butch oppression can bring retribution from Fem lovers and friends.

When the reality of Butch and Fem identities are acknowledged by Radical Feminist Lesbians, they usually assume that only Butches “play roles.” Fems aren’t considered “Fem,” but are thought of as “just ordinary Lesbians,” because we merge into the mainstream concept of normality. Being more feminine makes us more like women are meant to be in a male-run world. These male standards have been taken for granted for so long that they’re usually assumed to be “natural.”

If we realize that femininity confers privilege, and therefore social power, and not nurturance, fragility, softness, and warmth, we won’t fall for feminine games.  If we realize that resistance to femininity makes openness, honest directness, a sense of realness, emotional intensity, passion, and Lesbian loyalty more possible, we can release and develop more of those qualities in ourselves and in our communities.  If we don’t reject femininity and the Lesbian-hating, self-hating politics it reflects, we’ll never have fair and equal personal or political relationships, because we won’t be loving and valuing each other as Lesbians.  Discussions about Lesbian ethics will remain an abstract fantasy as long as love and friendship are based on unethical game-playing, manipulation, and objectification.

Butches as Scapegoats

Butches have kept Lesbianism alive and visible over the centuries and should be an inspiration to us all.  Butches who are out in times and places where females are openly owned by fathers or husbands are extremely brave.  They are the first to be attacked, persecuted, imprisoned, and killed during the worst times of female and Lesbian repression.

Butch oppression is simply a more extreme version of how all Lesbians are treated by a heterosexist world.  Men and het women often use the term “Butch” interchangeably with “Lesbian.”  Men and het women scapegoat Lesbians for male crimes.  Lesbians are portrayed as girl-molesters, when it’s men who are the rapists, and when Lesbians ourselves are among the many girl victims of rape by male relatives and strangers.  Men have succeeded in diverting attention away from their own violence, teaching women to displace their real rage at and fear of men onto Lesbians. Scapegoating Lesbians enables the het woman who shrinks in revulsion from a Dyke on the bus or who shouts insults at a Dyke at work, to live with, look after and defend a man who beats her and rapes her daughters.

This scapegoating is central to Lesbian oppression.  It’s become clear only recently that most females are victims of rape by male family, making it obvious that most males are rapists.  The enormity of this terrorization is why males find it necessary to divert attention from their crimes, in order to maintain het women’s devotion.  Butches personify Lesbianism, so the most rage and fear is redirected at us.  Butches are portrayed, by hets and Fem Lesbians, as hardened abusers of women, when it’s men who are callously gynocidal, and when Butches ourselves are prime targets of male violence, as well as abuse from het women and Fems.

The existence of Butch and Fem identities have been so distorted and lied about by hets, and Butch identity is so deeply linked with Dyke identity and Queer oppression, that  just mentioning the issue often calls forth denial, pain, anger, and confusion among long-time Dykes. It also calls forth a stream of anti-Butch stereotypes from reactionary ex-het Fems who haven’t rid themselves of the lesbophobia of their het years.

Butches have the right to come out as Butch, yet when we do, reactions by other Lesbians are often identical to how hets react to any Lesbian coming out.  In spite of all the pressure, there have always been Dykes who identify as Butch, as well as Butches who won’t, just as there are Lesbians who are clearly out and others who prefer to be called “women,” or “womyn.”

For decades, I’ve been asked, “Why don’t you identify as something other than Butch?” by threatened Fems. (The last who asked me that was one third my age.)  Can you imagine asking another oppressed, marginalized, and invisiblized Lesbian why she doesn’t just give up her identity so she won’t make those in the dominant position uncomfortable?

A Lesbian-focused analysis of Butch oppression has to be based on what we know about heterosexism and Lesbian-hatred. Who first accused Lesbians, especially Butches, of being “like men?”  Who first accused Lesbians of imitating heterosexual couples?  Who is the most interested in destroying our self-esteem and making us appear repulsive to ourselves and others?  Who is the most invested in discouraging girls from resisting femininity and heterosexuality?  Who uses Lesbians, especially Butches, as scapegoats?  We know men’s lies, and we know we can extricate ourselves from yet another network of lies that damages us at our very Dykes cores, and at the heart of our relationships with each other.  Butches are not like men.  Lesbians are not the same as het couples. Analyzing “roles” among Lesbians really means analyzing Fem privilege, Butch oppression, and the heterosexual hierarchy that exists among Lesbians. Instead of assuming that Butches are in a role while Fems are just “being themselves,” we need to recognize that it’s Fems who have accepted the artificialities of a role, while Butches have resisted accepting those artificialities.

Het women consider themselves to be the norm of what it means to be “womanly,” just as Fems consider femininity the standard by which all Lesbians should be measured.  This means that many, perhaps most, Fems don’t even consider themselves to be Fem. They think of themselves simply as “Women,” “Womyn,” or (for the most radical) “Lesbians” or “Dykes.” That’s similar to how het women don’t think of themselves as feminine women or het women, but simply as “women.”  It’s left to us as Lesbians to say that het women don’t represent us all, that they aren’t “the Women,” but are just one kind of female — otherwise we end up accepting their implicit definition of us as non-female.  In the same way, we need to assert that Fems don’t represent Lesbianism or the ideal Lesbian.

We’ve been bombarded with feminine standards since we were born, so many Butches also believe the propaganda that Femness is the “normal” way to be.  This is similar to how the cultures of the class-privileged can seem more real and even cozily familiar to poor and working-class Dykes than our own cultures, because of media propaganda.

Butch oppression is so ignored that most Lesbians insist on simple definitions if anyone dares to bring up the subject.  When easy explanations aren’t possible, they conclude that the issue isn’t real.   After all, why should most Fems care when they’re not the ones being hurt?  Denying the reality of Butch oppression is like denying any inequality — denial ensures the continuation of the oppression.

Butch oppression isn’t given validity as a political issue.  Even otherwise radical Lesbians make jokes about Butches and put us down in a way they would never do with other oppressed groups.  Although some Lesbians are opposed to classism being discussed and fought, for instance, at least there’s a recognition that classism exists in patriarchy and also among Lesbians.

Often Fems, and even some Butches, not only deny that Butches are oppressed, but say that we’re oppressive to Fems. Old myths die hard, especially when the male and het world all around us constantly pressures us to believe them.  The fact is that more Fems fit negative Butch stereotypes, including being “male-identified” and “like men,” than Butches do. Fems who single out Butches this in way are acting like the men and het women who say that Lesbians are as cruel and horrible as men. Fems may find this a “terrible” thing to say, but how do they think Butches feel to be told such things about ourselves?

We should know by now that believing stereotypes distorts our perceptions.  For example, a Fem who isn’t expressive or talkative may be perceived as “shy” and “vulnerable” while a quiet Butch may be called “sullen,” “cold,” and “aloof.”  A Fem who shouts in anger may be perceived as “strong” and having a right to her feelings, while a Butch raising her voice in anger is likely to be perceived as “violent” and “domineering.”

Butches are no more perfect than any other oppressed group.  If being perfect were necessary for someone’s oppression to be acknowledged as real, and fought, no injustice would be fought.  There are always a few individuals from every oppressed group who happen to fit the worst stereotypes of that group, but that doesn’t make the stereotypes true or mean that group or those individuals deserve oppression.  The fact is that there are nasty individuals from all groups, and just as many or more individuals from the privileged group also fit the oppressed group stereotype.  Responsible Lesbians would never say classism is irrelevant because they know mean working-class Dykes and kind middle-class Dykes. Butch reality is so distorted and misrepresented that many Lesbians forget to apply what they’ve learned about their own and others’ oppressions to this issue.  For this reason, one way to avoid being unintentionally reactionary is to temporarily substitute Butches in your mind with a recognized oppressed group when you think or talk about roles.

Each of us has internalized some degree of anti-Dyke propaganda, which we take out on ourselves and on each other. The main targets are Butches, who are also the most pressured to internalize self-hatred.  But the strong Dyke inside every one of us is punished, repressed, and damaged by fear, hatred, and ambivalence towards Butches — whether as Butches we internalize it against ourselves, or as Fems we externalize it against Butches. It’s way past time for us to say No to heterosexual demands that we hate our Dyke selves and Yes to our love for each others’ enduring, wild, determined female/Dyke selves.

                                         “So Give Me a Definition”

A definition is both easy and difficult. When we describe Butch and Fem, some Lesbians immediately recognize what we mean. Those who do want to understand will recognize themselves and other Lesbians. For others, no definition satisfies them unless it’s a stereotype. Those who want to avoid the issue or “just don’t understand” are expressing their resistance to the truth, just as some het women don’t understand how anyone can be a Lesbian. The complex realities of our Butch and Fem core identities can’t be reduced to a brief glib sentence or two. This entire chapter is our attempt to define and explain it.

For those with awareness of Butch and Fem identities, it’s obvious. You can usually tell when you first meet someone whether she’s Butch or Fem. Sometimes you can tell just by hearing a Lesbian’s voice. It’s much easier, for instance, than identifying someone’s class background when you know nothing about them. Yet, for Lesbians who aren’t aware of who, it can seem difficult at first.

One way to work out whether someone is Butch or Fem is to notice how you feel around her.  What’s your gut reaction?  Who do you feel effeminate in relation to?  When do you feel like a clumsy clod?  How “Queer” or how “normal” do you feel around a Lesbian?  When do you feel “like yourself”?  Butches and less feminine Fems tend to feel awkward or crude when they’re around the extremely feminine. Fems, including the least feminine, tend to feel more feminine around a Butch.

Butches are more likely to recognize a Lesbian’s core identity because Butches are so oppressed by role-playing. Fems who’ve also suffered because of other Fems’ role-playing may recognize roles more easily, too. Butches tend to know more about who is Fems, just as other oppressed groups tend to know more about the oppressor’s culture than vice-versa. Hard Fems also recognize immediately who’s Butch and who’s Fem, for their own predatory reasons. Hard Fems are the most obvious role-players.  Some are so feminine that they look like drag queen Hard Fems, while others are more subtle. They may look like strong Dykes, but their actions reveal their oppressive attitudes. Hard Fems generally treat Butches as sex objects, treat less feminine Fems as if we were of no consequence, and treat other Hard Fems as rivals.

Butches are closer to what all women would be like if we didn’t live in patriarchy.

Butches are more like what we’d all be if we weren’t subjected to intense male feminization.  Butches express femaleness and Lesbianism more naturally, while Fems’ femaleness and Lesbianism is channeled through the acquired values of femininity.   Fems share those feminine values with men and heterosexual women while Butches’ ways of being are furthest from those of men and het women.  But there are exceptions.  The institution of heterosexism has many aspects.  Making one decision to resist male rule doesn’t mean someone makes them all. Some poor and working-class het women from rural areas who do hard physical labor have less of the typical feminine mannerisms, (although that has changed in the last few decades since pressure has been on such women to feminize even more).  And there are Fems who accepted some degree of femininity but never became het, while there are Butches who were het and even wives and mothers.  But there’s a higher percentage of Butches who never were het than Fems.  And there’s a higher percentage of Butches who are oppressed by racism and classism.

Since most of the many Lesbians who came out through the WLM are Fems, Butches are in a minority. Nowadays, it’s possible to go to a Lesbian event and find yourself in a crowd of a hundred Fems and five Butches.

Even though many radical Lesbians say they reject the most obvious femininity of the Fem stereotype, Fem is still overwhelmingly the image presented in Lesbian publications and books, and on CD covers and in films:  long hair, often dyed or bleached, in the styles clearly designated for women by men; plucked eyebrows; cosmetics; earrings; long, painted fingernails; dresses, skirts, and high heels.  Besides these images in photographs, there are also drawings of exaggerated femininity.

Even when the image is supposedly more “Lesbian,” with short hair and pants, there’s usually some male-identified womanliness — a touch of feminine jewelry, long fingernails, a “dainty” unnatural hand position, and/ or an expression that’s commonly found on models:  narcissistic, arrogant, coy, seductive, cute, graceful, or posed sweetness, rather than plain Dyke directness.  A few images project a “proper” motherly or grandmotherly expression, which is also acceptably feminine.  Most Lesbian feminist media stars are clearly Fem (although this was less true in the early 1970′s).  Many look het, but even those who look like Lesbians convey their Femness by the tilt of their head, their facial expressions, and the way they talk.  Many Fems speak in a higher-pitched voice than is natural for them.

On virtually every leaflet or advertisement we’ve seen for Lesbian conferences, meetings, support groups, and dances, the image is clearly Fem (sometimes including in ads for Butch events!).  This is a political statement saying who the organizers consider representative of our Lesbian culture, and who is welcome and who isn’t.  This not only excludes Butches, but Dyke-identified Fems as well.  It’s as elitist as high prices and lack of sliding scale, which say, “for the moneyed only.”  When the common images are also of thin, young, able-bodied, class-privileged, European-descent gentiles, then even more Lesbians are excluded.  But while there’s some growing consciousness about including groups of Lesbians other than the most privileged ones, there seems to be a decrease in including images of obvious Dykes.  (We suggest it’s better to not use any images of Lesbian faces or bodies on ads than to use ones that exclude any oppressed Dykes.)

Fems generally fit the image of how a woman is “supposed” to be, and Butches don’t.  Notice how much ease or unease a Lesbian feels with feminine apparel and how easily she passes or could pass for het.  We can all change our appearance, but body language is revealing.  Fems are more likely to move and make gestures in ways that are traditionally feminine, playing with their hair when talking, even if it’s only an inch long. Some Lesbians think the fad of shaving their head as a political statement makes them look more Butch, but it’s almost always a sign of being Fem. It requires constant maintenance and is actually just a variation on feminine fussing with appearance. Also, it’s not unusual for a Fem to dress and wear her hair clearly like a Dyke one year and look very het the next.  Looking Out has been a fad for many, but fads pass, and many Fems ultimately reveal a craving to follow the drag queen Hard Fem ideal. Dyke-identified Dykes, whether Fem or Butch, are repulsed by that crap.

Fems are more likely to be obsessed with their looks and what they like and dislike about their bodies.  They’re more likely to spend a great deal of time preparing their appearance, as if they’re going on display for the male gaze, just as het women do.  They’re also more likely to notice other Lesbians’ appearance and make critical comments about how they look.

Fems are also more likely to act “motherly.”  We’ve never met a motherly Butch who wasn’t an actual mother, but we’ve met many motherly Fems who aren’t mothers.  And Butch mothers tend to be less in the motherly role of being critical and policing.  But that doesn’t mean that non-motherly Butches and Fem Dykes aren’t loving, caring, protective, and nurturing.  Contrary to het propaganda, those are Dyke qualities, not inherent mother qualities.

Butch and Fem identity go much deeper than the superficiality usually talked about.  Some Butches convince themselves they’re not Butch because they’re good cooks, or they like doing craftwork, making a cozy home, and hate sports, and/or are intimidated by mechanical tasks. Some Fems think they’re not Fem because they hate femininity and are comfortable doing traditionally “male” work like carpentry and mechanics.  A more accurate way to recognize core identities is by noticing who has the power in social and intimate relationships. Fem privilege carries a lot of clout in Lesbian social interactions.

One Honest Fem’s Self-Recognition List

1. When I first meet another Lesbian, if all other things are equal (more or less), I feel less difference with Fems.  Even when there are other differences between us, such as ethnicity or class, when it comes to core identity, Femness is an area of similarity. With a Butch, I feel the potential barrier that any major difference creates.  We’re on different ground. We can’t assume we know how each other feels — we can assume our experiences have been very different and that as a result we’re likely to feel different about a lot of things.  That’s true of any two Lesbians, but every difference in privilege and oppression widens the gap and requires more conscious effort to achieve understanding and closeness.

2. Until developing a radical Dyke politics, I never had any qualms about identifying as a   “woman” and had no trouble being accepted as one by hets I feel myself moving like a Fem, and automatically using some feminine gestures.  They’re not exaggerated, but are obviously different from how Butches move and act I don’t pass as het, but I feel relatively confident I could pass as het if necessary — not a polished version, but adequate.

3.  Feminine activities like sewing, needlecrafts, cooking, and other things designated as “woman’s work” feel like something that belongs to me and to my sphere of activity.  Some I enjoy, some I’m indifferent to, and some I hate, but somehow they all “belong” to me.  I remember the years it took to train me in some of those skills, and how bitterly I hated most of them at first, but in the end I accepted them as “second nature.”  No one thinks it’s odd to see me doing these activities, while Butches who are comfortable and skilled with this kind of work are often teased and ridiculed by both Butches and Fems.

4. Often, Butches show friendliness to me by acting protective, solicitous, even deferential. They don’t usually act that way toward other Butches.

5. I can tell that I’m less uncomfortable among het women than Butches are.  I don’t need to be as on guard, because het women don’t act as scared, hateful, or predatory (flirtatious) toward me, especially if a Butch is present — they focus on the most Queer Lesbian present.  If I’m alone with het women, they sometimes do act that way.  However, no het woman has ever pretended after a long conversation that she thought I was a man, which has happened to Butch friends who are very obviously female.

But I Don’t Play Roles”

It makes sense that some otherwise responsible Lesbians don’t want to acknowledge that we’re all either Butch or Fem because:

1) Hets use this as propaganda to obscure their outrageously extreme role-playing;

2) Dykes don’t want to admit doing things that seem to confirm het stereotypes of us;

3) “Role-playing” is a negative stereotype of Dykes who came out before feminism, and so they are looked down upon by the newer ex-het feminist Fems;

4) Sado-masochist Lesbians and “Lesbian” porn glorify role-playing;

5) The even newer ex-het Fems who came out after the WLM (and who are therefore much less oppressed as Lesbians) often think it’s campy, cute, thrillingly “naughty,” and trendy to play with roles.

Of the many Fems who deny being Fem, some claim to be Butch, and others claim to be neither Butch nor Fem. Yet, to anyone with any awareness, it’s easy to identify whether someone who you don’t personally know is Butch or Fem just from a photograph or from a Lesbian’s voice and way of speaking. How can any Dyke consider herself free of these basic core identities? It’s like the Lesbians who insist they are class-free, when they visibly are not. When you’re privileged, you can take your position for granted, but when you’re oppressed, you can’t avoid noticing it. Whether or not a Dyke chooses to identify her Femness, she should be aware that Butches are treated as Butches no matter how we identify. She should at least notice and resist the ways she’s treated as more normal (Fem) by both hets and other Lesbians.

Some Never-het Fems associate Femness with heterosexuality and are understandably unwilling to identify as Fems, but they still benefit from Fem privilege, although to a lesser degree.  A sound analysis of heterosexism among Lesbians clarifies both issues — Butch oppression and Never-het Dyke oppression.

Some Fems claim it’s “masochistic” to identify as a Fem, because they accept and perpetuate the lie that “Fems are oppressed by Butches like women are oppressed by men.”  The truth is that Butches are oppressed by Fems similarly to how Lesbians are oppressed by het women.  Fighting femininity is an essential part of fighting sado-masochism.  Accusing politically responsible Fems of self-hatred because we acknowledge Fem privilege is just another way of trying to silence discussion about Butch oppression.  Should everyone just grab whatever privilege they can with no concern for who pays for it?  Lesbians who refuse to use our privilege, and who fight injustice — whether about Butch oppression or any other issue — should be respected for our courage instead of being called masochistic.  Fighting inequality benefits everyone.  Who wants to live in communities where some feel good about themselves at others’ expense?  We should all feel good together.

Many Fems claim that Butches are more privileged and admired in Lesbian communities.  Some Dykes do support other Dykes to stop being feminine and to be Dyke-identified in appearance and behavior.  But that doesn’t mean Butches are considered superior.  Similarly, working-class culture occasionally getting respect doesn’t mean that the working class are considered superior or now have privilege over the middle-class.  Oppression is real and observable.  Privilege means gaining real, concrete advantages.

When Fems complain about “pressure” to look and act like Dykes, it’s like het feminists complaining about being “pushed” to come out.  There’s far more pressure on us all to feminize — in the male and het world, our families, and Lesbian communities as well.  The support to be more Dyke-identified is minuscule compared to that (and, by 2015, nonexistent.)

Butches are under unrelenting pressure to look more “normal,” by mothers, other family members, co-workers, and even lovers and Lesbian friends.  If we do feminize ourselves, we are rewarded by being told how much “nicer” we look. Some Butches have succumbed to this pressure over the years.

Ironically, some Fems who are temporarily playing at being “Butch” pressure other Fems and Butches to act more “tough” (their erroneous image of Butchness).  They’re the ones we’ve noticed being the most likely to make nasty anti-Fem comments and jokes (another part of their erroneous image of Butches), which isn’t the same as honest resistance to Femness.  It’s scapegoating other Fems for your privilege.  A Fem we knew who used to make frequent anti-Butch comments was told why this was oppressive; she then tried to make herself appear more “Butch” and began making anti-Fem comments. It’s much more acceptable for Fems to reject femininity than it is for Butches, who are perceived as “going too far.”  In fact, the Lesbians who are most praised for being “Butch” are usually less obvious Fems. This makes identifying Lesbians more difficult, especially when newly-out Fem Lesbians are inclined to think of almost all longer-out Lesbians as “Butch.”

Anti-Butch attitudes are taken for granted among Lesbians.  At a Lesbian forum in San Francisco, the audience cheered when it was announced that several members were Fems, and they cheered again when another Lesbian described herself as a “recovering Butch.”  U.S. gay papers print many personal ads making statements like, “feminine Lesbian wants pretty Lesbian who looks like a woman,” or “no Butches, please.”  In one such ad2 the Lesbian stated her bias clearly:  “I’m most comfortable in this straight world acting straight.  I truly dislike the gay scene, roles, Butches, dykes … etc.  I’m not secretly looking to ‘come out,’ so no helpful offers please.  My closet has always been, warm, cozy, and exciting.”

We’ve occasionally seen some support of Butches in Lesbian and feminist publications, although it’s still vastly outnumbered by anti-Butch statements.  In criticizing a play about “Lesbian battery” for showing the victim as “obviously more femme” than the abuser, one reviewer wrote, “It is necessary to note … that the [Lesbian] abuser can as easily be a 5’2″ woman with a high voice and big dimples as she can be the tough “Butch” image.”3  In a workshop on Lesbian identity at the First Encuentro (Gathering) of Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Lesbians in Cuernavaca, Mexico, “Several women noted that it is generally the Butch that is regarded with distaste.  We need to accept the Butches among us and … thereby reject heterosexist attitudes.”4 De Clarke wrote about Butches:

I’ve never seen Butchdom as a cardboard replica of masculinity; never met a Butch who felt to me, socially, like a man; never felt from a Butch the sense of violence that underlies most male social congress … Many Butches of my experience have an almost exaggerated gentleness … I contrast this with the all-out violence of which women are capable who believe themselves weak and powerless … Butches come in for a lot of teasing … aggravation …To me it feels like queer-baiting, but from dykes … it’s a kind of violence to refuse a Butch her identity.”5

“Just Don’t Use Those Words!”

Like other inequalities among Lesbians, Butch oppression isn’t something the privileged — in this case, Fems — have the right to “disagree” exists.  Butch oppression does exist, and Fems either act honestly and responsibly about it or they refuse to, which is the luxury of the privileged.  When even the most well-meaning and otherwise radical Fem says, “I don’t agree with the issue of Butch oppression,” she’s denying the existence, identity, experiences, and lives of Butches.  It’s more honest to say, “I don’t want to be responsible about my Fem privilege.  I don’t want to face up to Lesbian oppression,” rather than to liberally act like it’s just a “matter of opinion” for Fems to deign to make decisions about.  Butches simply don’t have that luxury.

We use the terms Butch and Fem because, although we’re not certain of their origin, it’s likely Butches chose them as a way of expressing their oppression.  Butch isn’t only a political term, it’s an identity.  To delete the term is to delete that identity.  To replace it, as some Lesbians have suggested, is to gloss over reality with euphemism — it’s as closet as calling Lesbians “wimmin-loving-wimmin.”  Butch, like Dyke reclaims an insulting, “shocking” word as a term of pride and courage.  And to soothe Fems’ discomfort by deleting Fem is to delete Butch and the entire issue.  Fem accurately reflects the origin of Femness — femininity.  When Fems say, “I agree with some of your points but not those words,” they remind us of Ruston’s het sister who said, about Ruston being a Lesbian, “I don’t mind what you do — just don’t use that word!”

                                                                       Part 2

The Big Sell-Out: Lesbian Femininity

                                                  Linda Strega

In the 1980’s, a decade of reactionary politics, femininity became an accepted value among many Lesbians. Even many politically radical Lesbians, who I would most expect to support Lesbian self-love and self-respect, who usually call male bullshit for what it is, began to openly admire feminine ways of dressing and acting. Femininity! A patriarchal hype if there ever was one — a phony ideal created by men, not by Lesbians — an ideal that almost all heterosexual women embody to please men.

Femininity is not an inborn aspect of femaleness. Our most innate qualities as women can never be developed through the restraining, artificial posing, game-playing and mirror-gazing that is femininity. Men have taught women what they want women to be –they call it “feminine” or “womanly.” As Lesbians, we need to be awake enough to realize that this male invention is masculine to the core, no matter what it’s named, no matter how many women go along with the lie. Femininity is not truly female; the similarity in the words is a lying male trick.

Lesbians’ acceptance of anything “feminine” is part of the weakening of Lesbian politics — a Lesbian parallel to the right-wing trend of het politics. The same is true of the popularity of sado-masochism among many Lesbians. In fact, sado-masochism encourages the re-acceptance of femininity as a “positive” “erotic” style among otherwise radical Lesbians. I’ve heard shallow reasoning that if some Lesbians “enjoy” femininity and “can’t stop wanting it,” then it’s better to go ahead and accept it. That’s the kind of irresponsible, reactionary politics too often supported by psychotherapy. It’s the same liberalness that supports Lesbians going het, becoming bisexual, and having babies. It’s the same self-destructiveness that leads Lesbians to accept thinness as a standard, that calls the slow suicide of dieting “eating healthy” and the self-punishment of over-exercising “staying fit,” and that encourages Lesbians to worry about the effects of aging on their appearance. Those are all male, het values — feminine values. They all revolve around how men want women to act and look, and they all derive from male desires to control female behavior.

Those Lesbians who act out the feminine model and claim it’s a contribution to Lesbian culture, a flowering forth of their “real selves,” are of course Fems, and most often Fems who were once heterosexual. They haven’t gotten rid of old het values, which are now resurfacing in this reactionary time.

The het media is full of stories about the het feminist who “realizes that she doesn’t have to give up being a woman to be a success in life,” who “regrets having tried to be like a man,” and is now “rediscovering the excitement of feminine seductiveness, the fun of dressing up in high heels, make-up and skirts, and her deep need for the joys of motherhood.” Doesn’t sound too different from lots of Lesbian media, does it?

                                Fem Privilege — Who Pays for It?

During the past decade, I’ve read many articles and stories written by Fem Lesbians that celebrate Fem role-playing as positive, fun and erotic. It’s not just the writings that alarm me. I’ve encountered the same trend at Lesbian social and political events, even among otherwise radical Lesbians. By contrast, articles I’ve read about being Butch show conflict, self-questioning, self-criticism and pain. The same contrast occurs in most discussions I’ve had with other Dykes about Fem and Butch identity, and is one of the many indications that Butches are in an oppressed position relative to Fems.

I’ve been identifying myself openly as a Fem since 1979, when I joined in gradually developing a political analysis about Butch oppression and Fem privilege with a few Dyke Separatist friends. I define myself as a Fem, not because I admire and enjoy femininity or want to develop my Fem qualities but because I recognize that, like most girls, I accepted feminine training as a small child. Why I didn’t resist, when Butch girls did, is now unknown to me, part of the forgotten past. (I do know it wasn’t because I was more oppressed or more heavily pressured than Butches I’ve met.) What’s important to me now is how that choice affects me and other Lesbians in the present.

Being accepted as a “real girl” by the het world, and therefore by my own self, has given me the bearing, manner, and lack of doubt about being a “real woman” that Fem privilege bestows (even though I don’t now identify as a “woman” but as a Lesbian or Dyke). I try to avoid oppressive Fem behavior, but I know that because of my history I will always be Fem. If I claimed to have become Butch because I now reject Fem clothing and behavior, that would be as untrue and offensive as a class-privileged Lesbian saying she’s poor or working-class now because she doesn’t have much money and rejects classist values.

Is it possible to be neither Butch nor Fem, as most Lesbian feminists claim about themselves? From my observations, no. (By Butch and Fem I mean the core self-identity chosen in girlhood — not role-playing, which is about acting out a part which may or may not be your core identity.) Every girl is faced with the choice of either submitting to feminization and being accepted, or resisting and being punished. The pressure on girls to feminize themselves is universal and unrelenting. It exists in every patriarchal culture, and I don’t know of any culture in the world today which isn’t patriarchal. The styles of femininity vary in quality and degree from culture to culture, but in every patriarchal culture “woman” is defined by her allegiance and orientation towards male values and desires.

Patriarchy’s idea of “woman” is not based on true female biology as men claim. “Woman” is actually an artificial, social definition invented by men. It defines what men want women to be — a submissive being who bonds emotionally, mentally, and physically only with men. According to this scheme, if you’re not a woman (namely, a male-identified female), then you’re some kind of deficient man, or trying to be a man; you’re “unnatural.” So, Lesbians, by choosing to bond with other instead of with men, are defined by hets as being “like men.” (Notice that only Lesbians really give primary allegiance to other females. Het women and all men give primary allegiance to men. The comparison of Lesbians to men is inaccurate even regarding the choice of who we bond with.) Butch Lesbians, who not only bond solely with women but completely reject femininity, are even more viciously defined as being “unnatural” and “like a man.”

I believe that Butch and Fem identities are chosen at such an early age (they can be observed in four-year-old girls) that they have a profound effect on how we feel within ourselves, how we interact with each other, and how we’re treated by the het world, for the rest of our lives. A small girl is surrounded by only two models of gender behavior: she lives in a world that says and believes, “Women dress and act like this, and men dress and act like that.”

If a girl cannot and will not accept the artificial trappings and mannerisms of the feminine role, everyone around her begins telling her she’s doing something wrong and unnatural. As she gets older and still resists femininity, the accusations intensify. When her Butch (and possibly Lesbian) identity becomes obvious, she’s labeled a deviant, a freak of nature, a man in a woman’s body. She isn’t supposed to exist. She’s a threat to the Big Lie of “feminine woman,” and so men and their women collaborators make up all kinds of ridiculous, hateful fictions to explain away her existence. The pressure is meant to humiliate and bully her into accepting femininity, and it must put her through soul-shaking self-doubt, even if she knows other Butches. Because so few women totally reject femininity, she usually doesn’t meet other Butches for many years, but faces the onslaught alone, during the most vulnerable years of her life—her girlhood and adolescence. Sometimes Butch girls are partially accepted in their families and among friends, but as a kind of mascot or pet, not as an equal. After all, it’s helpful to have an outcast around, someone who’s at the bottom of the pecking order for those further up to feel superior to.

[Now in 2015, well-meaning liberal parents are being misguided into labeling daughters as young as four years old “transgender” if they resist femininity. These parents tell their daughters that they’re boys trapped in a girl’s body, and start them on a track towards hormone injections and surgery and, therefore, a lifetime of destroyed health. No alternatives are suggested. No one tells the girls that it’s natural for to prefer the freedom and dignity of trousers instead of dresses, and to want active and adventurous play. No one tells them that Lesbianism is a possibility and a good way to live. The parents, and their social workers and medical supporters, think they are “liberal” when they name a girl “transgender,” but they are not “liberal” enough to accept her as a young Butch or a Lesbian. In fact, their destructive enforcing of gender roles is not liberal at all, but extremely reactionary.]

Meanwhile, girls who accept femininity—the vast majority, unfortunately—are accepted as “real girls” and encouraged to take pride in their feminine ways. There are degrees of femininity, of course. Some Fem girls accept the complete emaciated Hard Fem sex-object ideal while others take on just enough feminine identity to still be accepted as real girls. But, because of hets’ fanaticism about “real womanhood,” they do set a rigid line. Any female who refuses to make at least some concession to feminine requirements is over that line—that is, she’s denied the right to be called normal. Not only is she “not really a woman,” she’s pushed outside the bounds of normal society, which judges that it owes her nothing and has the right to destroy her. She’s become a danger to male rule instead of a saleable item in the het marketplace and/or a cooperative representative and promoter of male-defined “womanhood.”

Fem privilege is based on retaining a claim to that “normal” standing that Butches are completely denied. Even though Fem Lesbians are seriously oppressed as Lesbians, we’re still treated by hets as if we’re more like women than Butches are. Butches receive a more extreme version of hets’ insistence on seeing Lesbians as unnatural. When young Butch and Fem lovers are found out by angry het guardians, who gets the most blame and punishment? You know it’s not the Fem. The usual interpretation, as we all know, is, “That disgusting bulldagger shouldn’t be allowed around decent innocent girls.”

Because Fems, in varying degrees, fit more closely the male-created ideal of “real woman,” we’re more privileged than Butches, both in the het world and in Lesbian communities. Because Butches have rejected feminine conditioning more completely, they’re treated as being more queer, more suspect, more “unnatural.” (Ex-het Fems get more “normal” privilege than Never-het Fems, and ex-married Fems and mothers get even more privilege. An ex-het Butch and a Never-het Fem are in a position to oppress each other, but when they’re both Never-het or both ex-het, the Butch will be more oppressed than the Fem.) Hets don’t relate to Fem Lesbians with the same degree of vicious queer-hating. Even though we do get it, especially if we’re dressing and acting in a more Dyke-identified way, it’s never as bad as what a Butch gets. As is always the case with oppression, we’ve internalized these privileges and oppressions, so that Butches and Fems alike tend to treat Fems as if we are more “real women,” more deserving of care and attention. Meanwhile, Butches are viewed as being “male-identified.” What could be more insulting, untrue, and oppressive?

Feminine Lesbians Treat Butches As Non-Women

Some of my understanding about Butch oppression comes from how I’ve been treated by het women, by more feminine Fems, and by anti-Separatist Fems who think of Separatists as being like the worst sort of men. At those times, I’m treated a little bit as if I were Butch, as if I were very queer and not quite female. Not a nice feeling. While it’s happening it’s made me feel, in weaker moments, as if there might really be something monstrous about me. The effects of being viewed as unnatural go deep, no matter how much I know they’re wrong, no matter how strong I am—and I am strong and politically aware. It’s insulting and objectifying to be seen as being like your worst enemy—men—and to have your female reality and individuality denied. That’s the kind of thing that’s done continuously to Butches.

Fems seriously injure Butches when they believe and act on Butch-hating stereotypes. Some of those stereotypes are obviously negative ones: that Butches are abusive, dominating and insensitive, like men; that they oppress women, like men do; that they don’t understand real women; that they don’t experience female oppression; that they are obsessed with sex, like men are. Other stereotypes are claimed to be positive, but are just as damaging: that Butches have special erotic power; that they are mysteriously physically stronger and emotionally invulnerable; that they enjoy doing hard physical tasks and protecting Fems from danger and from unpleasant experiences. Believing any of these stereotypes is not respectful — it’s objectifying.

Many Fems falsely assume that Lesbians value Butchness more highly than Femness. That’s similar to class-privileged Lesbians romanticizing poor and working-class Lesbians and feeling sorry for themselves because they’re “the wrong class.” If you pay attention to how Lesbians actually treat each other, it becomes obvious that Fems are treated more like “real people,” “real women,” while Butches are treated as more queer, more in need of Feminism.

Women’s Liberation feminism is concerned with making heterosexuality more comfortable for heterosexual women. Why should any Lesbian want to support this heterosexist reformism which, of course, supports the male idea that femininity defines femaleness? Accepting that unquestioned male definition is why most ex-het Lesbians who came out in the WLM think that Butches are in a role, but that Fems are not. Like with other privileges, Femness is considered the norm. And of course it’s those with the privilege who have the power to define what the norm is. Butches are usually considered unfeminist by ex-het Women’s Liberation Fems and are accused of not being “woman-identified”—an indirect way of saying not “womanly.” This is insulting and oppressive, because they’re saying Butches are like our oppressors.

The fact is, Butches are more truly female-identified than the Fems who criticize them. It’s Butches’ rejection of femininity that offends these Fems. Never does it occur to such Fems that they themselves are the ones who need to become more female-identified, that is, more Lesbian-identified. The “womanliness” they value so much isn’t basic to female nature at all: Butches’ independence from male definitions is more truly female. Most ex-het Women’s Liberation Fems have been too arrogant, because of their het and Fem privilege and lesbophobia, to realize that it’s they who have something to learn from Butches who are lifelong Dykes.

I’ve met many ex-het Fems who, because of their lesbophobic assumptions about roles, think Fems are oppressed by Butches. When I asked one ex-het, ex-married Lesbian mother what she meant by saying she, as a Fem, felt oppressed by Butches, she answered that it was “an extension of how I was oppressed as a heterosexual woman.” This Lesbian is unfortunately far from unique in thinking of a Butch as another sort of man, and she’d been a radical Lesbian for years when she said that. Het attitudes and het privilege don’t vanish upon coming out, even after years of being a political Lesbian: they have to be recognized, analyzed, and consciously resisted just like other oppressive beliefs and behaviors.

The same Fems who think of Butches as oppressive imitation men also often romanticize Butches as lovers: wanting to be pursued and swept off their feet, wanting to be the one who is made love to and not caring to focus the same attention on her lover; wanting to experience the Butch lover as Other, as some kind of opposite, as mysteriously more powerful, stronger, braver. The honest admiration and respect that a Butch could arouse in another Lesbian, Fem or Butch, gets distorted into a het-like power game—an addiction to inequality, with the Fem in the power position and pretending not to be. It’s not honest, it’s not respectful, and it sure isn’t love.

There are also degrading eroticized anti-Butch attitudes which are accepted unchallenged among Lesbians, like the following description of a sex video advertised prominently in the May, 1985, issue of a local Lesbian/Gay newspaper: “For the lesbian s/m connoisseur — butch is taught a few manners in femme worship.” Anyone having a hard time recognizing the hatred in this ad needs only to substitute the name of any other oppressed group for “butch” and the corresponding privileged group for “femme” and feel what your gut reaction is. (The depth of Lesbian oppression is such that it’s often easier for us to react emotionally to an issue which isn’t particularly and solely about Lesbians.)

It’s wrong to exploit Butches’ courage and risk-taking, letting them do most of the work of maintaining Lesbian visibility and take the worst punishment from the het world, while they are used by Fems to celebrate the Fems’ “power to attract.” What about Fems trying to develop some of those Butch qualities they sometimes claim to admire? Many Fems have done that, but the trend toward femininity is eroding support for de-feminization and replacing it with strong pressure to feminize.

What about Fems recognizing our privileged and oppressive position? What about trying to stop the sexualizing of power imbalances? What about acknowledging that acting out of privilege is, of course, going to feel more comfortable, but that that doesn’t make it all right? That privilege is why many Fems are now saying “I enjoy being a Fem,” while Butches express conflict, soul-searching, discomfort, self-criticism and pain about being Butch.

                             Fems Who Think They’re Butches

Discussions about Butch and Fem identity often become confused because many Fems think they are Butches. Butches are a small minority, and there are many misconceptions about what true Butch identity is. So, many Fems are mistakenly assumed to be Butches, or believe themselves to be Butches, if they’re less feminine than other Fems. Some Fems who are also privileged in other ways, like looks, thinness and class, get positive attention from other Lesbians by playing at being Butch. They may be admired for managing to act “Butchy” without “going too far,” but they certainly don’t experience Butch oppression. There are also Fems who want to be like men and think that means they are Butches.

Then there are more oppressed Fems who get pressured into a Butch-like role and are objectified as sexual and emotional servicers by more privileged and more feminine Fems. When two Fems are lovers or friends, if one is more oppressed because of being darker, fatter, older, having less looks privilege, less ethnic or class privilege, less or no het experience, or being more Dyke Separatist, she’s likely to be considered the less feminine of the two, and therefore “the Butch.” This just adds to her existing oppressions. Her feelings won’t be considered to be as important or as sensitive as her lover’s, her lovemaking may not be reciprocated, and her lover may interpret everything she does through the distorted screen of lesbophobia, because “the Butch” in the couple is the one who’s considered more queer than her lover. She’s more likely to understand the nature of Butch oppression as a result of being treated like a Butch at times, although she’ll never experience as much Butch oppression as she would if she was actually Butch.

                The Het Woman’s Uniform vs. Lesbian Identity

I’ve been criticized by Fem Lesbians who wear some form of Fem drag and want to know why I don’t “dress up,” why I “want to wear a uniform.” This offensive, militaristic male imagery is openly Lesbian-hating—they’re the ones wearing the male-approved feminine uniform. They complain about how terribly pressured they feel to wear Dyke clothes, yet in every case these Fems aggressively initiated talking about clothes. I don’t go around confronting Lesbians who dress feminine, nor does anyone else I know who feels the same as I do about this issue: we’re usually too busy defending ourselves against attacks on our lack of femininity. Meanwhile, I often hear feminine Lesbians praised for their “courage” in displaying their femininity. Where’s the “courage” in perpetuating male and het values?

One Fem, an ex-het, ex-married mother, gave me a lecture at my own kitchen table about how the “Dyke look” (Butch) is really a European-descent middle-class “uniform.” She claimed that racially oppressed Lesbians and poor and working-class Lesbians like to “dress up” Fem. (She herself is European-descent, working-class, protestant-raised.) For her, apparently, racially oppressed Butches and poor and working-class Butches either don’t exist or don’t count. Not to mention myself, sitting in front of her, a working-class Fem who hates feminine clothes and rejects the idea that Fem drag is “dressing up” in any positive sense — I also didn’t count.

Why do our critics assume I and other Dykes don’t know what a “uniform” is? None of us want regimentation. And why are the ancient, universal cultural traditions we’ve developed as an oppressed people shown such disrespect? Many oppressed groups of people express their cultural identity and recognize each other through wearing traditional clothes unique to them, with individual variation according to taste. People who invade others’ lands and suppress their cultures forbid traditional clothing as one of the first steps of genocide. Reclaiming traditional clothes is often one of the first steps in resisting cultural destruction. They’re worn as a statement of pride. Dykes wear Dyke clothing for similar reasons. Yet the same liberal men and women and het-identified Lesbians who’d never dream of attacking other peoples’ cultural style don’t hesitate to attack us for ours.

The clothes I and other Dykes wear aren’t the kind men designate for women. They’re clothes that are cheaper, sturdier, warmer in cold weather, less constricting and more protective—the kind of clothing that men would like to reserve for themselves. Wearing them is not only more comfortable and functional, it also makes it more obvious to anyone who sees me, including other Dykes, that I’m a Dyke. They also make it easier for me to defend myself if a male attacks me. My Dyke clothes free my movements to be more natural to myself, because they don’t require the artificial constraints that feminine clothes do: the smaller steps, legs kept together, restricted shoulder movements, the fussing with hair, jewelry, and make-up that we’re used to seeing in women. (When I refer to restricted body movement, I’m not talking about inherent physical ability. Whatever one’s physical ability, clothing can either restrict or allow maximum use of one’s body.) My clothes aren’t “male” clothes, they’re Lesbian clothes. They symbolize Dykes’ deep refusal to be men’s sex-toys. And because they’re forbidden to us, they also represent our refusal to follow men’s orders.

Those who understand patriarchal dress codes are aware that the seemingly more reasonable feminine slacks and blouses that many Lesbians accept still conform to male dictates. For example, if they weren’t specifically for women, feminine shirts wouldn’t be called “blouses.” This isn’t a word game—clothes designated for women have fewer pockets, are less well-made, and often more expensive. Even “unisex” clothing reserves better quality, convenience, and comfort for the men’s and boys’ versions.

I call feminine clothes “drag” because they’re a game-playing het costume. Het women’s lives are based on lies that are repeated and acted out so often that the truths about themselves as women and potential Lesbians are deeply buried. Het women are dead to themselves as true females as long as they choose to remain het. They don’t know what the needs of a female soul are, or they wouldn’t be het; they wouldn’t be nurturing their very enemy. Then why are so many Lesbians imitating het women? Or in some cases, going back to values they had when they themselves were het?

Hets often assume that feminine-looking Lesbians are really bisexual or het. I don’t think that assumption is 100% het ignorance. Feminine clothing, hair styles, behavior, obsession with dieting and with male-approved appearance are all forms of social communication that say, “I’m willing to please men,” or at the very least, “I accept men’s dictates in dress and behavior. I’m not as queer as a Butch. I’m really rather normal.” Generally, Fems can pass as het more easily than Butches. But Fems who reject feminine values and try to be visibly out are treated as more queer than other Fems. We’re in a position to be oppressed by Fems who are selling out, and we’re more natural allies for Butches.

Some Fems enjoy the fact that men and/or het women like their Femness. Some ex-het Fems are still caught up with male approval, even if it takes the form of thinking, “You men like what you see, but you can’t have me anymore.” I’ve actually read that written by a Fem in a “Dyke” publication, and I’ve heard Lesbians talk that way. Lesbians who play those sexual games with men are making both the games and the men more important to them than Lesbian identity and solidarity. Other Lesbians use feminine clothes and behavior simply to make themselves safer from queer oppression, trying to blend in more with het ways. Whatever the reasons, it’s all at the expense of Butches, who by being the most blatant and public resistance fighters against heterosexist values, by not catering to het approval at all, become the targets for the most intense punishment from the het world. After all, if even other Lesbians (Fems) are willing to play that part of the het game—are willing to dress and change their bodies (dieting, shaving, altering their hair) as men dictate—that supports the het pressure on Butches to do the same, not to mention the racism, ageism, looksism, and fat oppression involved in doing those things.

Femininity isn’t a harmless diversion or form of self-expression. It’s not creative, it’s not “freeing,” it’s not daring or sexy. It’s just the same phony heterosexist crap. It means spending time, energy and money on nail polish, perfume, hair styles, dresses, diets, body-shaping exercises, poses and games; fantasizing yourself as the center of sexual attention, making everything into a sexual game, getting yourself further and further away from female reality, from real female Lesbian power. It means identifying more and more with het values and choosing to see yourself through men’s eyes. Shit, you could be that woman in the lipstick commercial: Just substitute a Butch Lesbian for the man that’s panting after her. If your lover or friend doesn’t want to play that game, you’ll teach her how much “fun” it can be. How much time and interest does this leave for forming truly loving Lesbian relationships, building strong Lesbian communities and fighting patriarchy?

I don’t understand the pleasure some Fems claim to get from feminine drag, but I know it’s connected to heterosexist privilege — that is, it’s het-created, het-approved, het-rewarded and anti-Lesbian. I don’t know why most girls accept feminine training when it’s possible to resist it as Butch girls do, but I do know from experience that Fem Lesbians have the choice and ability to recognize the lie for what it is and to reprogram ourselves. Our politics change our feelings about a lot of things. Think of certain movies or books you enjoyed before you became more politically aware — ones that disgust you now, because your gut feelings respond to your present knowledge. I feel that way about the feminine clothes I admired as a little girl. I feel angry about the clownish, yet sexually suggestive crap pushed on unknowing little girls — miniature versions of what adult het women wear to advertise their availability to men to be fucked.

Living with Integrity

Feminine clothes and games aren’t something that can just be tacked onto a Lesbian’s otherwise-political life without affecting her and other Lesbians in deeply damaging ways. Those feminine things began as, and continue to be, male-oriented signals and symbols. They’re the results of female submission and collaboration. We can’t transcend or reclaim them. They’re in no way neutral, they’re loaded with meaning. They’re actually masculine in the extreme. Any pleasure that’s gotten from femininity is enjoyed at the expense of Lesbians who are oppressed by it, especially Butches, who are made to feel like misfit minorities in their own communities. Fems reveling in femininity also oppresses Lesbians like me who’d feel miserable and degraded in feminine drag, and who’ve experienced the queer-baiting game-playing of Hard Fems.  Fems who glorify femininity also make it harder for Lesbians like me to be understood and respected when we identify ourselves openly as Fem and discuss Fem privilege and Butch oppression. We’re less likely to be considered genuine Fems who know what we’re talking about. Not all Fems want to cultivate femininity. Many of us are resisting it wholeheartedly. We’re trying to strengthen our Lesbian identities, not weaken them.

Lesbians who dress and act feminine also make life harder and more dangerous for the rest of us in relation to the het world. They make blatant Lesbians an even smaller minority who are therefore easier to discriminate against, harass, scapegoat, and brutalize. It makes it harder for us to get and hold jobs, welfare or disability income, to be rented apartments, to attend schools, to get medical care, to go anywhere, to even just walk down the street. If all Lesbians were obvious Lesbians, we’d all be safer. There’s a hell of a lot of us, and we’d be a force to be reckoned with.

Most importantly, choosing to be an obvious Lesbian is about living with integrity. A Butch’s choice to resist femininity is the choice of a female who’s being true to herself, choosing to be as alive to her female self as possible, regardless of the punishments inflicted on her as a result. I find in that resistance a key to Dyke power, Dyke beauty and Dyke love.


The original version of this article was published in the Fall 1985 issue of the journal Lesbian Ethics. I have not updated it, except for one bracketed paragraph. Many thanks to Alix, my lover, for helping me revise it for clarity in 2011.

                                                                       Part 3

“Roles” = Butch Oppression

From the beginning of patriarchal rule, women who accepted the feminine role devised ways to manipulate the male oppressor through that role, as much as they could within the narrow limits of an oppressed position. What’s appropriate when dealing with the oppressor is, however, inappropriate and cruel when used against other Lesbians. It’s particularly cruel towards Butches, who are at the bottom of the heterosexist hierarchy.

Fems begin oppressing Butches in girlhood, which is why we have some of the same painful experiences with each other now as we did with other girls in the past. Beginning in girlhood, the most feminine little girls are at the top of the heterosexist hierarchy among their peers, and are already active in punishing Butch and less feminine girls through the many hostile games we all remember from our own pasts. They form exclusive cliques to ostracize and attempt to isolate the undesirables, and they ridicule the less feminine and the determinedly unfeminine. They slander less privileged, less feminine girls, deliberately damaging those girls’ chances for friendships and acceptance by others, and they show off their feminine accomplishments and attributes in ways that make everyone else feel clumsy and inferior.

These are the girlhood versions of Hard Fems. As Lesbians, Hard Fems don’t always wear extremely feminine clothes and trappings, though they’re the most likely to. It’s their behavior that most distinguishes them as Hard Fems. Because their femininity makes them more acceptable, more normal-seeming by het standards, and because most Lesbians have deeply internalized het standards, Hard Fems’ power and manipulations are seldom recognized as such. An Hard Fem usually has many friends and staunch defenders, some of whom are hurt by her over and over. Somehow she’s seldom perceived as being responsible for the pain, ruined relationships, and damaged political work she leaves in her wake. The Lesbian we knew who said, “It really is different with Lesbians than it is with men, isn’t it?” was an ex-het Hard Fem who left a swath of heartbreak and self-hatred among Lesbians she had manipulated and abandoned. Despite this minimal realization that Lesbians aren’t men, several years later, she’s still up to her old tricks, is considered very Lesbian-identified anyway, and still has friends who feel she’s a fragile soul who needs their protection. Lesbians don’t have to keep being vulnerable to this kind of heterosexist abuse from other Lesbians. If we can analyze and understand what’s going on, we can refuse to participate in it.

Although not all Fems are Hard Fems, all Fems do identify with each other as being other than Butch. This kind of bonding occurs within every privileged group, because there can’t be an in-group without an out-group, and it takes in-group cooperation to maintain the lie of superiority. That’s why a Fem who calls attention to Fems’ oppression of Butches, and is determined to fight that oppression, angers other Fems and is subject to their efforts to silence her. Fems who break Fem bonding get punished.

Even less feminine Fems always have the option of “pulling rank” and engaging in an occasional Hard Fem display, and many do so. The unquestioning, arrogant, smug assumption of superiority over Butches is an oppressive quality shared by almost all Fems, and that alone supports Lesbian-hatred among us to a degree that’s damaging to all Lesbians and devastatingly cruel to Butches. This is similar to how classist attitudes are ingrained in many class-privileged Lesbians. They may not consciously think they’re superior to poor and working-class Lesbians, yet they act condescending and authoritative.

           The Original, Real Role Players: Men and Het Women

It’s men and het women who truly play roles. Their roles are so much a part of the dominant male culture that they’re taken for granted and considered to be natural. Men project onto women all of their own deficiencies (such as cowardice, illogic, inanity, dishonesty, treachery, and pettiness), and they push onto women an array of male-invented feminine mannerisms and styles that encourage weakness, dependence, submissiveness and general fuckability. Such is the role of “woman,” yet we’re supposed to believe it’s natural to want to mince along on stilted shoes, face masked with stinking, lurid chemicals, nails bloody talons, dieted-jazzercized-depilated-plastic surgeried bodies encased in exposing dresses, voices unnaturally high, gestures “cute” and aggressively flirtatious, and minds focused on pleasing men at any cost.

Meanwhile, men, who are raping female-kind, destroying life on the planet, and in quieter moments simply boring everyone to death, pretend exclusive possession of all valued qualities: strength, courage, nobility of heart, directness, honesty, wit, loyalty, intelligence, and independence. They also steal all comfortable, freedom-giving, attractive, and dignified clothes for themselves.

These are truly grotesque, exaggerated roles, reversals of reality, invented by men to maintain control over women, and accepted by their collaborators, het women. Lesbians don’t “play roles” like hets do. We’re not “like men and het women.”

The fact that male drag queens (including MTFs) can pass as women should convince all Lesbians that femininity’s not natural. Some models in women’s fashion magazines are reputed to be men in drag.6  Some drag queen entertainers have said they “make better women” than any woman could. [Interestingly, in 2011, many men claiming to be women are saying the same thing.] It’s possible that men’s wish for women to look feminine reflects their own secret desire for themselves and other men to look like that. We suggest that if men so love dresses, makeup, and high heels, they should all wear them. (Just don’t claim to be female.

                                  Question Fems, Not Butches

Feminine women, accepted and rewarded for cooperating with male dictates, are given the job of teaching and enforcing male-invented womanliness in other women. So het women praise femininity and punish resistance to it, on behalf of men. They protect men’s exclusive access to dignity, safety, comfort, and physical freedom. Fems, as part of the Fem role, carry on this policing behavior in Dyke communities to varying degrees, punishing Butches and pressuring us overtly or covertly to become feminine.

Asking why Butches are Butch is the same as asking why Lesbians are Lesbians.

This question treats the Butch as an alien, incomprehensible being in a side show, to be psychologically analyzed. It’s like Lesbians’ families asking, “What did we do wrong to make you that way?” — as if they deserve the credit for our turning out so wonderfully. It’s insulting, oppressive, and patronizing for anyone to say they know what “caused” us to be what patriarchy considers bad or wrong about us. It’s the old, standard, “some terrible thing must have happened to cause that girl to become a sick queer.”

The theory that we’re shaped only by forces outside ourselves denies that we have power to make decisions and be responsible for our own actions. Asking “what caused Butches?” comes from the attitude that Butches are “abnormal” and Fems are “normal.” For instance, some Fems become obsessed with thoughts of male hormones when they see a Butch with facial hair, and forget that just as many Fems have beards or shave, not to mention all the het women who’ve had electrolysis. Why don’t those Fems make the mistake of thinking of male hormones when they see very thin Fems with small breasts? It’s because lack of female fat is admired by men, and female facial hair isn’t.

The only approach that makes sense is to start from the conviction that Lesbianism is every female’s natural, inborn state and that there are relentless attempts to condition it out of us by the greatest propaganda machine in existence: the institution of heterosexuality. We should instead ask “Why do most women become het?” It then becomes obvious that Lesbianism involves not only love for women, but also resistance to, and rebellion against, heterosexual indoctrination.

Heterosexuality is a vast and complex institution, and heterosexual conditioning has many facets. In order to become a successful Real Woman, a girl must reject other girls and become feminine, het, wife, and mother (the latter two preferably, but not necessarily, together). At some time in their lives, most Lesbians choose one or more of those roles. Many were wives, and some are mothers; some chose to be het but resisted marriage and motherhood. Some are never het, but did accept femininity enough to fit in as “normal.” There’s certainly tremendous pressure to be feminine, but the fact that some Lesbians completely resist it makes it clear that it is a choice, in the same way being het is a choice.

If het women didn’t cooperate with the teaching to be het, all women would be Lesbians. Similarly, if no Lesbian accepted the teaching to be feminine, we’d all be Butch. Butches, like Fems, live in patriarchy. We’re not saying Butch is our natural state, but that it’s much closer to our inborn, natural state, and that only a small minority of little girls refuse to let go of their original female essence. We can’t know what we’d be like if we lived in a Dyke-only world but, in the absence of het conditioning, there would be no such thing as femininity, and we’d all be more similar to how Butches are now.

Although most Fems we’ve talked with say they don’t remember choosing a feminine identity in girlhood, most Butches clearly remember rejecting femininity and being punished for it as early as three years old. We’re not trying to blame little Fem girls for making bad decisions. After all, we had no political support and couldn’t know the full meaning of our choices. We’re saying that Fems must stop scapegoating Dykes who refused the easier path of “normality” and who’ve been viciously punished for that. We’re saying that ex-het Dykes (both Fem and Butch) must now act responsibly about the consequences our choices have meant for Never-het Dykes, and Fems must face the consequences our choices have meant for Butches. Ex-hets and Fems shouldn’t wallow in guilt or self-recrimination—we should change our politics and truly support Never-het Dykes and Butches, who’ve been forced to pay for the acceptance we bought.

“The Lie That Rape Causes Roles”

“Lesbians who were raped when they were girls become Butch” / “Lesbians who were raped when they were girls become Fem.”

We’ve heard each of these contradictory theories from Lesbians who were trying to explain” in the same way that Lesbianism is often “explained” by psychiatrists. The first lie reinforces the stereotype that it takes something horrible to create a Butch. It’s difficult to disprove since most Butches are victims of family rape and other assaults. The fact that most Fems also are victims makes the second lie sound plausible, but that’s also offensive because it implies that Femness is created by oppression and Butchness is created by having more privilege. The fact is that both Butches and Fems are attacked as little girls, as are most het women. To focus on one denies the experiences of the other, and obscures the reality that most girls are sexually assaulted.

Passing As Het

We have a responsibility to not pass for het, especially in places where hets are more liberal about queers. It’s privileged arrogance to throw away the chance to help build Dyke community by being out. Many Lesbians manage to look acceptable enough to men and het women to get jobs, yet are still recognizable as Dykes to the Dykes who see them at work. There are other choices that make it possible to keep a job besides looking like a draq queen Hard Fem. The Lesbians who go out of their way to look het get benefits from men and het women that are won at the cost of oppressing Dykes who are less willing or less able to pass. Meanwhile, many Hard Fems and het women eagerly dress up like drag queens, old sexist dress codes are reinstated, and both Fems and Butches who can’t or won’t pass are unable to get or keep jobs. (And yes, there are a few Butches who do try to pass as feminine for jobs, but they don’t really convince anyone.)

Lesbians who choose to pass as het sometimes act insulted and falsely claim to be “oppressed” if other Lesbians don’t recognize them as Lesbians. But it’s not safe for us to make that assumption about them. Lesbians exist in every culture in the world, and we find each other by looking definably different from het standards. Those of us who are clearly out are more likely to be disowned by family and het friends, evicted, fired from jobs, arrested by police, beaten, raped, and/or killed for being Lesbians. We face huge risks, but to be closeted feels like a form of suicide to us. If every Lesbian refused to pass as het, our tremendous numbers would make the world safer for us. And those Dykes who can’t pass, no matter how hard they try, would be in less danger.

It’s no coincidence that in every country we have information about, whatever the traditional local style, the look that’s forbidden to women is the same look that’s widely recognized as Lesbian. This is the appearance that’s reserved only for men, and is considered “cross-dressing” for women. Since it belongs to men, it is more dignified, practical, and comfortable that the styles that men demand women conform to.

One of the most common identifying characteristics for being a recognizable Lesbian is to have short, natural (neither permanented nor straightened, dyed nor bleached) hair. We mean the type of hair that even oblivious hets identify as Lesbian, not “crew cuts.” It’s Lesbian-baiting to act like being out means you have to adopt a ludicrous male military appearance. Critics of short hair accuse us of focusing on “trivial issues,” yet their outrage makes it clear that hair style is anything but trivial to them.

Femininity pressures women to be obsessed with their appearance in time-consuming and self-hating ways. And women pay an enormous amount of money to maintain feminine hair styles. Racist attitudes pressure racially and ethnically oppressed women with tightly curled hair to have their hair straightened, or at least made more loosely curled with burning, corrosive, carcinogenic chemicals. And, although the oppression is far less, women with more “acceptably” straight hair are sometimes expected, depending on current styles, to make their hair curly in order to be more feminine. Very few women have escaped having their hair drastically altered when they were little girls, so that they could “look their best,” and most have chosen as adults to alter their hair.

There are fashions which have been called “Lesbian” or even “Separatist” when they’re just another counter-culture kind of femininity. One of these is the “tail,” “fag tag,” or mullet, where the hair is worn short in the front and long in the back, either all the way across or with just a narrow section hanging down. This fashion is popular among Gay men (who originated it), punks, and now mainstream het men and women. It’s become so trendy that even young boys in nuclear families wear it. (By 2011, the mullet has become a mainstream media joke.) The Lesbian who has it may think she’s being blatantly out, but the style says, “I may be a Lesbian, but then again, I may be het or bisexual. Either way, I don’t want anyone to get the impression I’m a Dyke.”

It’s a symbol of rebellion against male directives for Lesbians to refuse to change the natural appearance of our hair and to refuse to grow it long, preventing men from easily grabbing it. It’s also a symbol of ethnic and racial pride for Lesbians to refuse to straighten their hair in imitation of northwestern European hair texture. Some racially and ethnically oppressed Lesbians wear their hair in longer styles that reflect their culture but still make it possible for themselves to be recognized as Dykes. They do this by wearing styles of hair and clothing that aren’t specifically feminine.

                                                 “P.C.” and “P.I.”

Politics that support femininity either assert that Femness is an oppression, which makes it difficult for politically responsible Dykes to argue against it—or they assert that femininity is simply a matter of personal taste and preference, which implies that anyone objecting to it would have to be a dictatorial power-monger. (No Dyke has the power to stop others from selling out. As the oppressed, all we can do is object.)

Heterosexist Lesbians aren’t usually content with being oppressive—they like to boast that they’re “P.I.” (“Politically Incorrect”). That way they can pretend they’re original, brave, and revolutionary, instead of passively conforming to male rule. Lesbians who admire and follow such male-defined politics as femininity, “Lesbian” porn, sado-masochism, passing as het, supporting “Lesbian” pregnancy, or protecting boys’ and men’s “rights” to be in Lesbian space often pride themselves on being “Politically Incorrect.” Those who protest the selling out are considered boring bullies. After all, it’s easiest to silence someone by turning them into a joke. Interestingly, these are the exact same tactics that European-descent men and het women use to ridicule anyone who protests the status quo, whether by fighting racism or objecting to people wearing fur coats made from the bodies of endangered species.7

The few truly brave Dykes who are fighting the patriarchal onslaught against our communities are treated as if we were in power, even though encouraging and supporting our Dyke looks and behavior is far less common in our communities than criticism of Out Dykes. This is a typical male mind-fuck. It’s the Lesbians who are following men’s directives who are “Politically Correct” in a male-run world, and they derive privilege from that correct role. It’s as if they came into radical Dyke communities wearing crosses and other right-wing symbols, saying, “We’re so brave to stand up to you all.” There’s nothing courageous in wearing the feminine uniform (whether the old conservative or the newer trendy styles), repeating the ancient heterosexist propaganda, and doing just what women are supposed to do in patriarchy.

These anti-political politics aren’t just anti-Lesbian—they’re usually oppressive in every other way as well, as this excerpt from a Lesbian personal ad shows: “Politically Incorrect and proud of it … 5’4”, 135 lbs, green eyes, platinum blonde hair, good-looking, very intelligent … Dislike: … stereotypical dykes … man-haters. Seek women who is: Caucasian, pale-skinned, slender, 25 to 30+, … physically fit … pretty … Okay if you wear a pound of mascara … The more exotic you are, the better.

                                      Who’s Calling Who “Male”?

Looking like a Dyke does not mean we’re trying to look like or be men. Dykes who aren’t trying to gain privilege by looking het are often mistaken for men or boys because we don’t look like men’s definition of “women.” Even Fems are occasionally called “sir” by hets if they’re wearing Dyke clothes, short hair, no make-up, no earrings, etc. Yet it’s Butches who are accused by Fems of “trying to be men.” Fems, as well as Butches, have sometimes tried to pass as men when traveling or out walking alone at night because it was far more dangerous not to. This is just common sense, and Lesbians often approve a Fem doing it, but not a Butch. Why the double standard? Something unfair is going on when there’s one standard for Butches and another for Fems. Feminists admire women who take traditional male jobs, especially “professional careers,” and don’t accuse them of “wanting to be men.”

Butches are clearly, visibly Dykes. We’re sometimes mistaken for men not because we want to be men, but because no one believes women should be so solidly, sturdily ourselves, the way men are allowed to be. And also, people are trained to just not think – Lesbians who refuse to look feminine shake most men and het women to their foundation. We frighten men, and we remind het women of whole other worlds of possibilities.

It’s ironic that many Lesbians who accuse Butches of “being like men” actually like some men. They just don’t think women have the right to be any of the positive ways patriarchy reserves for the male image.

Being taken for a man is deeply insulting and queer-baiting. It doesn’t mean that the Dyke is getting any male privileges or power. Butches live under female oppression as well as under the worst of Lesbian oppression. If Fems defend themselves against the “Lesbians are men” attack by explaining that it’s one of the many anti-Lesbian stereotypes, why can’t they defend Butches in the same way? Why can’t Fems understand that Butches get more of this treatment because Butches have always been the most obvious Lesbians?

Many Fems, particularly Never-het and other Dyke-identified Fems, are treated as more queer/Dykey by Hard Fems. And even the most Hard Fems know what it’s like to be treated as perverts by het women. That gives them a little taste of Butch oppression. Any Fem who says she doesn’t understand at all what it’s like to be Butch reveals how much het privilege she has, and how much she considers Butches as Other, alien, and beneath her.

Butches are not like men. Butches don’t think, look, or act like men. Butches don’t have the privileges and power of men. In terms of the heterosexist hierarchy, we’re the least privileged of all Lesbians, and therefore of all women. Men, het women, and Fem Lesbians never treat Butches as if we actually were men, because that would mean giving us privilege. When they call Butches “male,” they’re being extremely cruel, smug, arrogant, dishonest, and oppressive. The Lesbian-hating of this stereotype is outrageous. Most Fems take part in this mass, community abuse of Butches, which has disastrous consequences, causing Butches emotional pain, deprivation, isolation, fear, illness, and death. By 2015, there is a much higher percentage of Butches we’ve known who have died – way out of proportion to their numbers.

Butches are treated as the queerest of the queers. In the patriarchal hierarchy, men are at the top, next are wives/mothers, single het women, celibate het women, next are bisexual women, then Hard Fems who emulate and identify with men and het women, next are Dyke-identified Fems, and finally Butches are at the bottom. (As we said in Chapter 3, this hierarchy is also affected by how long we’ve been Lesbians, when we came out, and past het privilege. Also, we’re in no way minimizing the significance of racial, ethnic, class, nationality, physical ability, fat, looks, and age oppression. Dykes who are oppressed in any and all of these ways are additionally oppressed if we’re also Butch.)

Just as, among Lesbians, the “normal” Lesbian image is a middle-class stereotype, the “queer” Butch image is often classist. When Butches are said to be “like men,” the image presented certainly isn’t that of the male lawyer, doctor, or business executive. It’s more likely to be the stereotype of a working-class truck driver who hangs out in bars, is uneducated, uncultured, rude, tough, cold, and violent. These aren’t just anti-Butch and anti-Lesbian lies, but classist lies as well. Meanwhile, the model for femininity is based on the upper-class WASP het woman ideal.

A few Butches may appear to have a fractional share of something that’s usually reserved for men, such as a non-traditional job, but the vast majority of women who’ve moved into such high-paying work are het; a few are Fem Lesbians. The very few Butches in those jobs are much more oppressed on the job, just as we are everywhere else. The only women who seem to have attained executive, upper-class positions as the heads of companies and high status in governments—often by being daughters or wives of powerful men—are, again, het women.

Butches who’ve tried to pass as men, or who are taken to be men, or who’ve done any or all of the things used to “prove” Butches are “male-identified,” don’t prove anything except that, in patriarchy, if you don’t accept the role of “womanly,” you’re labeled “manly,” whether you like it or not. Parents, relatives, teachers, and other girls who treat a Butch girl as an imitation boy aren’t causing her to be Butch; her resistance to femininity was chosen by her much earlier in life. What they’re doing is abusing her by refusing to acknowledge her as a female. She’s never given the privilege a boy has —she’s just treated as an abnormal girl.

In what way is a Butch girl thinking she’s “not a woman” different from adult Dyke Separatists and radical Lesbians rejecting the term “woman” for ourselves as a political act? (Except that choosing to reject a mis-definition is easier when you’ve had a chance to acquire a clear analysis and political support.) Can’t the young Butch’s early rejection of femininity be seen as an intuitive awareness that “feminine” usually means “heterosexual” and all the other disgusting things that go with it? Isn’t she instinctively realizing much earlier, and without political support, that all the outward symbols of womanliness and heterosexuality, and the internalized values that support them, also mean fuckable, dependent, unthinking, submissive, and ultimately passive? Young Dykes who perceive that crap for what it is and rebel against it without support, in spite of constant punishment, are to be admired and respected. That’s courage!

Because some Butches have bound their breasts, Butches are called “male.” In a world where men and boys stare and grab at women’ breasts on the street, making humiliating comments, it’s not odd that a Dyke would want to conceal and protect her body. Isn’t it more questionable to wear padded, push-up bras in order to elicit sexual attention from men – not to mention implants that destroy the immune system and which now many women are buying for their teenaged daughters, as well as other plastic surgery, to make them more sellable to men? Who but the truly male-identified would: wear apparatus that pushes her breasts out and up into men’s faces; ruin her back, pelvis, and feet by tottering about on high heels; squash her body into a girdle; painfully remove the fur on her body or face; wear make-up that looks like bruises across her cheeks or that mimics sexual excitement; poison herself and anyone within breathing distance with chemicals that disguise her female aroma; or wear a dress that exposes her body and makes her less able to escape from rape? Who else would deliberately starve and torture (“exercise”) herself to look weak, powerless, unfemale, and thin enough to please men? And who else would believe that looking so undignified and ludicrous is being “fashionably beautiful”? One Fem we know was on a local Oakland, California, television show about “Butch and Fem roles.” Even though Lesbians had in the past spent many hours explaining to her much of what we’re saying in this chapter, she wore het paraphernalia and make-up and explained she was a Fem because “I feel like a girl.”

Bev: Using make-up does males’ dirty work in other ways, too. Where do Lesbians think cosmetic chemicals come from? Besides the fact that most cosmetics are “proven to be safe” (which they of course are not) by torturing and murdering millions of animals, Lesbians don’t usually consider what it’s like to work or live near cosmetics factories. I have a higher risk of developing cancer or liver disease because of growing up a half-block from such a factory. My working-class neighborhood was daily subjected to the nauseating, caustic fumes that literally blistered the paint off cars. It’s no coincidence that factories are built only in poor and working-class areas.

Studies have shown that in the U.S., 884 ingredients used in cosmetics have been reported to the government as “toxic substances.” Of these, 314 are reported to cause biological mutation, 218 to cause reproductive complications, 778 are capable of acute toxicity, 146 are reported to cause tumors, and 376 ingredients cause skin and eye irritation. But the U.S. cosmetics industry is a 17 billion dollar business so, “… there are no inhalation tests to determine perfume safety, only skin tests, and neuro-toxic effects are not examined.”8 [These quotes are from 1990. It’s much worse now.

                            The Lie That Butches Bond with Men

This is a particularly offensive stereotype, considering that men are Butches’ enemies. Many of the Butches we’ve known haven’t ever been friends with men, while many of the Fems we’ve known have. Why are the few Butches who are friends with men focused on, when it’s het women as a group who literally, physically, bond with men? What of their collaboration? Het women are intimate with men in ways that no Lesbian could ever be. They welcome men into their bodies, and create and nurture men. Some even collaborate with males in the beating, abduction, rape, and murder of other women. If any Lesbians bond with men, it’s more likely to be ex-het Fems than Butches. Many ex-het Fems maintain close relationships with ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends. Ex-het Fems are also more likely to become bisexual or return to being het. Of the many Lesbians we’ve known who’ve gone het, all were Fems, and almost all had been het. Men and hets are more comfortable with Fems than with Butches, because that’s how they want us to be: the more Fem and het-identified a Lesbian is, the more comfortable patriarchy is.

                                   Butches as Sexual Objects

One of the major stereotypes of Butches is that we objectify Fems. This again compares Butches to men, when the reality is that it’s usually Fems who sexually objectify Butches. Butches are more likely to take the risk of initiating being lovers than Fems are, which is courageously Lesbian. When Fems appear to be more aggressive, they’re often in fact trying to get the Butches to do the initiating. A Fem at a Lesbian forum said about coming out, “You don’t go with men, after you grew up thinking you would. Then you let a woman touch you, and that’s really scary.” What goes on in a Lesbian’s mind when, rather than talking about coming out through desire to love and touch another female, her focus is on letting a Lesbian touch her! This is a common attitude—the Fem is the one who is loved, and the Butch is the one who loves. The way some Fems come on to all Butches and ignore other Fems sexually is similar to the way many het women flirt with all men and ignore other women. It’s also similar to the way men objectify women, viewing them only as things to be used for sexual conquest. It’s personally and sexually invasive to assume Butches welcome this impersonal and inappropriate attention.

One Butch we know was approached at a party by a Fem who’d recently come out. They worked together and there’d been no sexual interaction between them. Our friend thought of this Lesbian as just an acquaintance. Suddenly the Fem said, “Put your hand on my breast.” The Butch was stunned. She had no interest in touching this Lesbian in any way. She felt verbally molested, but presumably was supposed to feel flattered. Another Dyke we know was in a bar when a Fem she barely knew and wasn’t even in a conversation with deliberately rubbed her bare breast across our friend’s arm. These tricks must have worked with men in this Lesbian’s past.

When a Butch and Fem become lovers, the Butch is more likely to make love to the Fem than vice-versa. Some Fems never reciprocate their lovers’ passionate attentions. Many do, but often not with the same intensity and focus that they enjoy from their lover. Is it any wonder that some Butches become reluctant to accept lovemaking from Fem lovers, when all have experienced rejection, indifference, and half-hearted going-through-the-motions? It also doesn’t help that many Fems are attracted by the stereotype of the “stone Butch,” without any awareness that Fems have created and maintain that stereotype for their own benefit, and that it causes a great deal of pain to Butches.

In some places, Dykes sarcastically refer to Fems who don’t make love to their lovers as “pillow queens” or “flat-on-their-back-fairies.”  What is more hateful and cruel than making your lover feel that you can’t bear to touch her? One theory besides just being selfish is that as long as the Fems are not making love to their lover, they can fantasize they are with a man and not face being a Lesbian who is a woman who makes love to women.  Is this a woman who can be trusted to be a Lesbian?

Femininity teaches women to imagine themselves the center of sexual attention, the alluring flower meant to attract rewards from excited, attentive, and loving admirers. Of course, that’s het fairy tale crap. The het woman’s costume and perfume are meant to attract men, and men’s attentions are far from loving. Most Fems don’t want to attract men, but many have internalized that image of themselves as an alluring center of sexual attention, and they simply substitute Butches as those they want to attract.

But Butches are not men. We’re women, we’re Lesbians, and our lovemaking has absolutely no connection or resemblance to men fucking women. A Butch focuses her attention on her lover’s pleasure, and her lovemaking is a way of creating strong emotional, psychic, and spiritual intimacy with her lover. Men don’t make love — they use women’s bodies to masturbate themselves and to establish dominance over them — they fuck women. The physical realities of the two activities are completely different. Considering the profound emotional, psychic, and spiritual differences as well, comparing Butches to men in intimate sensual relationships is glaringly illogical and insulting.

It would be more accurate to say that, in many cases, a Butch making love with a Fem is similar to a Lesbian making love with a het woman. The most het-identified Fem’s lovemaking is like a man’s — her focus is on her pleasure alone, with no concern for her lover’s. When she does touch her lover it’s with the intention of “fucking” her and dominating her. It’s the most insensitive, harsh kind of Lesbian lovemaking. The Butch is set up as The Queer, and her female needs and desires — physical, mental, emotional, and beyond — are ignored, because she’s not perceived as being female. Does this sound like a safe situation for a Butch to say, “I really want you to make love to me the way I make love to you, even though a lifetime of queer and Butch oppression would make it hard for me to believe you really meant it”? Not likely. So, many Butches have accepted being “stone Butches” out of loneliness and desperation, and have given up on ever finding equality and real love.

Some Fems are pushed into unequal lovemaking by lovers who are more Fem. These Fems experience some of the pain, frustration, humiliation, loneliness, and self-hatred that unreciprocated passion creates, and they can understand from that what Butches go through all the time.

Passive Fems Avoid Their Own Lesbianness

By being lovers only with Butches or pushing Fem lovers into an oppressed Butch role, a Fem can avoid her fear of her own Lesbianism. When a Lesbian initiates making love to her lover, she directly faces the fact that she’s a Lesbian. But if she’s made love to and doesn’t reciprocate that love, then she can feel less queer. In fact, by being passive in Lesbian intimacy, she is less queer. That makes her lover “the real queer.” This is especially true of Butches but also affects Fems in the Butch role. The common het stereotype of Lesbian couples is that one is “the real Lesbian” (the Butch) and one is a het woman who’s been forced or seduced into the relationship by the Butch. This oppresses Butches, not Fems.

Fems who are involved with Butches and do nothing to fight the oppression of Butches go along with that stereotype whether they mean to or not. When they go out into the het world with their lover, they’re not thought of as being responsible for the relationship — they’re perceived as het and temporarily involved with a Lesbian instead of with a man. As insulting as this is to the Fem, it’s far more insulting and dangerous to the Butch. This unequal situation can be avoided only if the Fem takes equal responsibility for being a Lesbian and for being in a lover relationship, which means acting and looking like a Dyke.

Think about how het women flirt with us, act scared of us, believe and spread Lesbian-hating lies about us, patronize us, treat us like perverts or as if we’re stuck in a childish state” — that’s how many Fems treat Butches. Many ex-het Fems have said that it took them a long time to come out because they met Butches and were terrified, so they went back to men. Now, that’s really taking responsibility for yourself! Weren’t they scared of men? Why not?

While many Fems are passive because of irresponsibility, some have much more destructive motives. Some Fems who lived with or married men when they were het actually want their lover to be in a “male role.” They may push their lover to act like the ex-husband/boyfriend, to make love in a way that feels like fucking, because they haven’t stopped thinking like men’s women. Since Butches have much less social power than Fems, particularly ex-het Fems, they’re vulnerable to being pushed around by them, including being forced into the Fem’s fantasies — especially since part of the Fem role is authoritativeness toward Butches. For example, it’s usually male-identified ex-het Fems who talk about liking to be “fucked hard” and who like their Butch lover to use a dildo. An Old Dyke friend recalls, with pain and anger, being made to feel “like a walking dildo.” She tells of the countless times such Fems have said to her, “I’m a Lesbian at heart, but my body is still heterosexual and wants a prick.”  We believe that this is what dildo use is about. Instead of experiencing the exquisite sensation of your lover’s body or her feeling yours, a silicon prick is used instead. You can certainly feel more by touching and being touched, so the only reason we can think of for using an object that is in the image of what rapes and is imitated in weapons from guns to nuclear missiles is simply lesbophobia/Lesbian-hatred.

When a Butch is told all her life that she’s not really a woman, and is taught to hate herself, is it surprising that she would take a “real” woman’s word for what women like in lovemaking? Some of the ways Butches are stereotyped come not from the ways Butches look or act, but from the fantasies, desires, and pressures of het-identified Lesbians. These are the ex-het Fems who, when they talk about “past lovers,” include men. These are the Lesbians who came out for reasons other than their love of women. They “just happened to fall in love with a woman this time,” or they want power over others that they can’t get with men, or they want to play out a male-pornographic fantasy. (Most Lesbians we’ve known who like to read porn have been Fems.) By never making love to their lover, but only being made love to, Fems like this can fantasize they’re really with a man. Then they turn around and accuse their lover of being “male-identified”! It’s horrible that Lesbians like these, who operate totally out of male and het values, and fuck over Lesbians, are accepted as nice role-free Lesbians while Butches and, to a lesser extent, Dyke-identified Fems, are persecuted for their Lesbianism, by other Lesbians.

Fems sometimes ask, usually with hostility, “Well, why are most Butches lovers with Fems, then? And how come lots of Butches admire feminine Lesbians?” The answer is internalized oppression. It’s not unusual for other kinds of oppressed Lesbians to be attracted to Lesbians from more privileged groups. For instance, some working-class Lesbians are lovers only with class-privileged Lesbians. Resistance to femininity comes at a high price — total lack of support — which breeds self-doubt and self-hatred. In that situation, the more privileged and acceptable are always more highly valued than those who remind you of yourself, and you gain a little protection from oppression by getting their friendship and approval. Also, Butches are in a small minority, so we meet more Fems. Some Butches do succeed in becoming lovers with each other, and those we’ve met have said that theirs was the most equal relationship they’d experienced, and that they’d been able to help each other nurture self-love. However, Butches who are lovers with other Butches are harassed by both Fems and Butches, including being lectured to that they should be with Fems and that they aren’t “real” Butches or are less Butch than the “real” Butches who are with Fems. Sound familiar? Lesbians are told that “real” women are with men.

                                      Who’s “Sex-Obsessed”?

Hard Fems are often remarkably callous towards Butches and Dyke-identified Fems. Many Dykes have experienced Hard Fems’ het-style sexual games, but they can be very difficult to confront. Hard Fems’ sexually suggestive comments and jokes can seem like harmless play. A Hard Fem commenting on the vulval appearance of food or flowers may be considered charming, while a Butch saying the same words is likely to be called “sex-obsessed.”

Any Dyke who directly asks a Hard Fem if she’s flirting is also likely to be called “sex-obsessed.” Meanwhile, the Hard Fem gains popularity through manipulation, pretending attraction to Dykes she’s not interested in. She may “accidentally” rub her breasts or pubic region against a Dyke or place her knee between the legs of a Dyke while dancing, her manner clearly flirtatious. The Dyke may feel vulnerable and confused, wondering, “Am I imagining this? Does this mean she’s attracted to me? If I respond with interest, will she deny what she’s doing?” The Hard Fem will very likely respond with surprise, feigned fear, ridicule, or anger.

This type of covert sexual manipulation borders on molestation, because it’s an uninvited invasion of physical boundaries that’s done in order to gain a power position. It’s especially harmful to family rape victims or any Dyke who’s had her reality repeatedly denied. Yet this intrusive Fem seductiveness is admired by many Lesbians, and falsely thought of as “sexual honesty” and “being daringly out,” when it’s nothing more than the way “liberated” het women act with men. Lesbian sexuality should be genuine, Dyke-loving, and egalitarian.

Hard Fems often set up competition by flirting with several Dykes at the same time and then enjoy being fought over. They may also maintain power by stringing along several lovers at once without giving any their full attention, acceptance, or intimacy, and then harassing their hapless followers for their reasonable jealousy.

The Lie That Butches Are Tough, Mean, Violent, Unemotional

Every Lesbian has to be tough to survive. We’re threatened and attacked, verbally and physically, because we’re Dykes. The more out we are, the more likely we are to be attacked, especially physically. Even when we’re not being overtly attacked, we’re stared at, made to feel like outcasts, and are the objects of angry, disgusted, hating, patronizing, leering, or ridiculing looks. Even if no male or het woman is being horrible at a particular moment, we’re still constantly assaulted by a het, pornographic, male world, with male fetishistic fantasies of women in store windows, on billboards, and in all the male and het media. A Dyke can’t be all fluffy and sweet, with a soft, open face, when she’s walking through a virtual mine-field. Fems also have to protect ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychically against this assaultive het world, although to a lesser extent, and as a result could be accused of being “mean, closed, and tough.” When Butches are similarly self-protective, our behavior is used to prove male lies about Butches being “hard.” Yet the het world is much more hostile and dangerous to Butches, especially to those who are further oppressed by racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, classism, ageism, ableism, fat oppression, and looksism.

It’s a basic political principle that it’s not all right for those with more power to stereotypically label those with less power. A Fem who accuses a Butch of being “suspicious,” for instance, should ask herself instead what it is in her own behavior that the Butch has reason not to trust. There’s plenty, if the Fem is doing nothing to fight Butch oppression, and is making the usual assumption that it’s the Butch with “the problem.” Treating someone as “abnormal” is an excellent reason to not be trusted. Fems treat Butches this way all the time, with very rare exceptions. Butches have more than enough reason to relate to the general world with great distrust, and we also have plenty of reason to not trust Fems the way things are at present in Lesbian communities. While Butches are frequently and publicly insulted in Lesbian publications and elsewhere, with almost no one speaking out in our defense, we would be most unwise to completely trust Fems.

Butches are told we’re “unemotional, tough, and cold,” because we’re not Fems. These accusations have very little to do with what each individual Butch is actually like. Fems, being feminine, are perceived as “soft, vulnerable, and emotionally expressive,” which is often far from the truth. Fems aren’t “oppressed” by this womanly stereotype — they’ve chosen to live it because of the privilege it gives for appearing to be “normal women.” In reality, Fems are more often tough, mean, and less genuinely emotional than Butches are. It’s tough, mean and closed to act oppressively to Butches. Hard Fems who won’t even try to be close to other Fems, and who try to make Butches fill all their needs, are especially emotionally distant. Fems who’ll only be close to lovers or Lesbians they’re attracted to are impossible to be friends with.

Hard Fems sometimes behave in stereotypical feminine ways by throwing scenes, screaming, using tears to manipulate others, and generally acting like drama queens. This doesn’t prove that Fems are “open” and Butches are “closed.” Throwing scenes isn’t real emotion—it’s pushing other Lesbians around, intimidating and silencing them by using theatrical power plays or cruel outbursts that show no consideration for other Lesbians’ feelings. These displays are learned behavior, deliberately used for effect. It’s not from being genuinely upset, which all of us feel sometimes and need to express. The same Fems who use tears to manipulate other Lesbians are likely to ignore or ridicule a Butch who cries. That is the more male behavior.

None of the Butches we’ve met conform to the “tough, closed” stereotype. Butches are often more present, warmer, and more emotionally supportive than many Fems. We’ve met as much or more genuine warmth, sensitivity, and willingness to deal honestly with feelings among Butches as among Fems. Butches’ solid Dyke identity gives them a personal realness that no amount of femininity will ever confer. To be more Lesbian is to be more true to our natural female selves, while to be less Lesbian-identified (more het-identified) is to be further from our real selves. The further you are from your real self, the less capable you are of being honestly direct, and the less capable you are of being really close to another Lesbian.

Portraying an entire group of Lesbians as all having the same characteristics is objectifying and denies individual personalities and differences. Just as there are many sorts of Dykes, there are many sorts of Butches. As long as Fems are projecting stereotypes onto Butches, Fems will never be able to truly communicate and be close to us. This is the Fems’ failing, not the Butches’! It’s also the Fems’ loss, and the Butches’ oppression.

There’s also a stereotype of Butches being drunks, which reflects the common stereotype of Lesbians as alcoholics. In our experience, recovering alcoholic Butches are more likely to be open about being alcoholic and having stopped drinking than Fems. This makes alcoholic Butches more visible than alcoholic Fems, of whom there are many. This stereotype is also used against many other oppressed groups, since using alcohol and drugs is a common way of trying to cope with oppression.

Unfortunately, being bombarded with hatred causes self-hatred. Many Lesbians end up believing Lesbian-hating lies. They may think they’re queer because of emotional or hormonal problems. Some Butches believe the same. A few may even agree with Butch-hating lies, but no one should use Butches’ internalized oppression to believe the lies. No Dykes should be repeating those lies any more than they should repeat stereotypical lies about any oppressed group. Saying, “But some Butches are like men,” is like saying, “But some working-class Lesbians are dirty, lazy, stupid slobs.” Just because someone says something derogatory about themselves or about someone else doesn’t mean it’s true.

Butch Oppression Hurts All Dykes

No matter how often the stereotypes of Butches in particular, and Lesbians in general, are proven to be untrue, the lies are still spread, and damage is still done. Why? Because Lesbians are the only threat to the world-wide rule of patriarchy, and Butches are the most obvious of Lesbians — the Dykes who most clearly refuse to cooperate with male domination of the world. Why do Lesbians themselves participate in the male assaults on our resistance struggle? One of the reasons is that patriarchy is based on hierarchy and inequality, divide and conquer. Women are split up into many different groups and taught to be antagonistic, ridiculing, and hating towards anyone who’s beneath them in the het hierarchy. We learn this as little girls in our schools, families, and religions. Part of the conditioning to become “real women” is being taught to police and bully other girls on behalf of the male power structure. That’s why even young girls can be so cruel to anyone who is different.

Why is it that het women, who exemplify the feminine ideal, are perceived as “emotional, loving, open, soft, and expressive”? It’s because they get close to, are open to, and love males. As a group, they sure as hell aren’t that way with Lesbians. The feminine stereotype is a lie. Het women are closed emotionally, because they won’t be intimately open with other women. Lesbians, especially Butches, are falsely stereotyped as “closed” because Lesbians are not available for intimacy with men. No matter how intimate and warm we are with each other, we’re still called “distant, closed, emotionally frozen,” because closeness between Lesbians doesn’t count—only loving men and boys (especially sons) is counted as “feelings.” Individual het women can be as cold and vicious as they like, but as long as they’re a wife and mother, they qualify as “gentle, warm, feeling,…womanly.”

Of course not all het women act hateful. We know some who are dear friends and allies, but still, het women as a group operate this way and all benefit from institutionalized privilege.

Non-Separatist Lesbians, though they don’t hate and avoid men like Separatists do, still don’t fuck with men. That’s basic to Lesbian identity. No matter how nice non-Separatists are to men, they’re still viewed by men and het women as the mean, hard Lesbians of the stereotypes. Even more so are Separatists, who are so “cruel and harsh” as to have the guts to perceive men as the rapists and murderers they are. We supposedly “lack compassion” and are “hard and vicious” because we hate males, while rapists and murderers are the objects of universal womanly loyalty, and love. Het women breed, feed, clothe, clean for, fuck, love, and support those rapists, and so are considered “loving, natural, open, and womanly,” instead of being accurately perceived as the Lesbian-hating, female-hating collaborators they really are. Meanwhile, Lesbians who dare to challenge het women’s hatred towards us are called “woman-hating” or “misogynist — the lie of reverse discrimination.

The world we live in calls hatred and cruelty “love,” while calling courage and wit “cruelty.” Lesbians, especially Butches, are set up by men to be the universal scapegoats for male crime. Understanding this makes it clear why we’re stereotyped as harsh and mean. Stereotypes should always be analyzed to find out who they profit — then we find out why the stereotype exists. That’s more important than picking apart every individual component of each stereotype. Once we grasp why it exists, the entire body of lies automatically loses credibility. So whenever a Fem is tempted to treat a Butch as the stereotype, she should realize that, whether she wants to or not, she’s doing it on men’s behalf. Hopefully that will make it clear to her that she must stop. If she refuses to stop oppressing Butches because she doesn’t want her own Fem privilege to be threatened, she should realize that her actions are ultimately supporting men to go on abusing herself as a female and Lesbian.

Butches need to become more aware of Fem privilege and Butch oppression, not in a self-hating way, but by realizing how we’re oppressed and by caring about the oppression of other Butches. Part of that means developing solidarity with other Butches and unlearning the Lesbian-hatred that leads to valuing Fems more. The old pattern of being attracted to and falling in love with manipulative, game-playing, “attractive” Hard Fems doesn’t hurt only ourselves, it hurts other Butches as well. It’s essential to not fall for the thrill of Fem flirtation that has no love or real caring behind it. That also means fighting the urge to be trusting and protective of Fems who are actually being oppressive to you or others. For some Butches, that means changing a lifetime of believing that the most feminine Lesbians are the most female-identified. It means being true to your own self and to all Dyke-identified Dykes, Butch and Fem.

Dyke-identified Fem friends and lovers can be true and trusted allies to Butches, as the authors of this book prove. Reacting with rage towards all Fems doesn’t help fight Fem privilege. It can make things worse, as well as being unfair. Dyke-identified Fems shouldn’t get the brunt of a Butch’s lifetime of very understandable anger about Butch oppression. Hard Fems usually make sure they’re not around to deal with any of it. It also doesn’t help to insist your lover is Butch when she isn’t. (Both Butches and Fems do this.) Dyke-loving Fems can love and support our Butch friends and lovers best by supporting and encouraging their resistance to Butch oppression, and by rejecting femininity.

Lesbians who haven’t challenged their internalized anti-Lesbian attitudes are less able to be emotionally open and intimate with other Lesbians, because of the fear that Lesbian-hatred causes. Real intimacy with Dyke friends and lovers requires acknowledgment, acceptance, and pride in our Lesbianism. Dyke joy and intensity, love, and well-being are our rewards. To remain lesbophobic is to leave in place barriers to intimacy that no amount of therapy or drugs can ever get rid of. Only Lesbian-identified politics, which means really caring about other Dykes will remove those barriers.


1 Our politics about Dyke Separatism, strong Dyke-identity, and Butch oppression made an international Dyke connection for us and is how Linda and Bev met Ruston.

Ruston: From when I came out, I was aware of a feeling of “similar” or “opposites” in Lesbians’ friendships and lover relationships, including my own. However, I still believed “roles were in the past” and denied Butches’ existence. But several Lesbians courageously came out to me as Butch over the years, and as my understanding of Lesbian (including Never-het and Old Dyke [Lesbians who came out before the Women’s Liberation Movement]) oppression grew, it became clear Butches were oppressed. Even while recognizing I was a Fem, I found that the game-playing of other Fems badly affected me. I met no-one who shared these politics until reading Bev’s article “Roles: Butch and Femme” in 1982 in the Lesbian Insider/Insighter/Inciter (USA).

Bev: In the U.S., with the support of a few other Separatists, including my best friend Linda, I came to the same conclusions. I wrote an article in the original Lesbian Insider/Insighter/Inciter about Butch oppression (No.5, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 1981). Even though I presented the topic in a cautious, exploratory way, the article was met with hostility by many Lesbians. Ruston, who was also a Separatist, saw my article and wrote to me to share support. Ruston dared to say that she knew that Fems were in the privileged position in relation to Butches, which supported my and Linda’s ideas.

Linda: By 1983, I was alarmed by the increase of overt femininity and Butch-hatred among “radical” Lesbians, and by the resulting pain and damage to Dykes I love. I wrote an earlier version of what is now Part II of this chapter, “The Big Sell-Out: Lesbian Femininity,” which was printed in Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 1, No. 3, Fall, 1985. Together the three of us wrote the sequel, (which was partly based on an unpublished article of Ruston’s), printed in Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall, 1986, as “Heterosexism Causes Lesbophobia Causes Butch-Phobia,” now incorporated into Parts I and III of this chapter.

2 Coming Up, San Francisco, California, November 1988.

3 Tracy McDonald, review of “Behind the Curtains,” off our backs, 17:8, Aug./Sept. 1978, 19.

4 Elena Popp, “First Encuentro of Feminist Lesbians,” off our backs, 18:3, March 1988, 32.

5 De Clarke, “Femme and Butch: A Readers’ Forum” Lesbian Ethics, 2:2, Fall 1986, 96.

6 Wilson Key, Media Sexploitation (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976), 24-26.

7 Tony Bizjak, “The Hip Social Manifesto: New Dictums of the ‘Politically Correct.’” San Francisco Chronicle, March 17, 1989, B3. Bizjak includes a list describing “P.C.” versus “P.I.” positions, ridiculing people who say “Persons of Color” rather than “minorities,” and “Asian” instead of “Oriental.” He says it’s “P.C.” to have a “housemaid named Bob” rather than a “housemaid named Maria,” to be for “affirmative action” instead of claiming “reverse discrimination,” and to be for “animal rights” instead of “animal deaths.”

8 Research by Karen Stevens, The Reactor, A Publication for the Environmentally Sensitive 4.1, Jan.-Feb. 1989, (P.O. Box 575, Corte Madera, CA 94925, USA), 2.

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