By Alix Dobkin (First published in Alix’s Minstrel Blood Column of Windy City Times, 9/16/1998)
Challenges to women-only space are as old as women-only space itself. We’ve seen its many forms and heard its many tongues. Some people still wonder, “What’s the big deal about a man going to a women’s concert?” or, “What difference could one man make?” “Men need to learn about feminism”, they insist, and, “Boys are not ‘men’ and should be freely allowed into women’s space”. For over twenty years now, men have declared themselves “women”, manipulated their bodies via experimental surgery, and then demanded the feminist seal of approval from survivors of girlhood.
Passover is about liberation. It’s about not being slaves. Slavery requires uninterrupted access. The Jews in ancient Egypt tried everything they (and God) could think of to be free, but were finally forced into the desert to get away from the Egyptians. But where can women go to escape men?
– When women figured out their personal and global relationship to men and then conferred value upon their own lives, it was called “feminism”
– When women focused their heart’s desire upon women, it was called “Lesbianism”
– When Lesbians became political, and when feminists became personal, it was called “Lesbian-feminism” and came immediately under seige
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
– Lesbian-feminism, like freedom, must be constantly re-invoked, restored and defended!
If you think about it, patriarchs do not enjoy rebellion any more than Pharoh did, and men will act exactly the way he acted. That is, they will do every possible thing to perpetuate their rule. Pharoh dispatched recognizable armies to pursue the Jews who found refuge beyond Egypt’s reach. But man’s shadow extends everywhere, and we must abide always in the land of our master. A world in which even recognizing, let alone naming, his forces becomes half the battle, made particularly difficult by sisters and brothers mobilized and outfitted to fetch us back.
Memories of a millenium reeking with the most brutally effective penalties devised by man fester deep within women’s bones to infect the very molecules of women’s being. Logical and compelling as our analysis of patriarchy is, not one of us truly escapes.
Nor do we escape those centuries of training to nurture and put others before ourselves. Three decades of Lesbian-feminism cannot hope to dismantle the terrible, unrelenting lessons, daily reinforced and re-programmed. No wonder then, that few will go the theoretical distance, let alone follow through with perilous ethical choices. Especially when seduced by attractively less rigorous, more comfortable alternatives.
Those sly old fellas who wrote the book on punishment, intimidation and bribery did not log eons of dominion for nothing. The second wave of Lesbian-feminists momentarily took them by surprise by appropriating the age old battering rams to use as props. Fresh scare tactics were essential to turn a generation of “Lesbians” and “Dykes” against each other, so the philosphical reference point, “Separatist”, was at once targeted as the replacement of choice and issued to their special forces. So effective was it, that to this day, otherwise disobedient Lesbians fall all over each other distancing themselves from that paralyzing label. “Bra burning” and “Man-hating” were likewise invoked to terrorize would-be renegades. (although the term, “woman-hating” is rarely applied, even to known misogynists)
When that failed to wipe us out, they tried “racist”, and when Separatists of color protested being made invisible, not to mention the racist assumption that only white women were able to live independent of men, our accusers reverted to “divisive” and “exclusionary”. The very same Rich-White-Men-Who-Rule-the-World- Inc. know that subtle distortions designed to tickle our best instincts and trigger our sense of justice might inspire wellmeaning folks to do their nasty job for them. It’s the way skewed jargon like “equality” has been used by racists to destroy affirmative action in California’s higher education.
Remember when “politically correct” started appearing in progressive vocabularies? I do. And when “Gender Studies” started replacing “Womens Studies”, “reverse” was fixed onto “sexism”, and useful concepts like “diversity” and “inclusion” mutated before our eyes into weapons to sabotage women’s autonomy and set us up, within our own ranks, for the kill.
As we remember the ancient history of Jews escaping from Egypt, we should also remember the recent history of “women-only” space. And during the Passover season, while visions of liberation dance in our heads, while Jews and Lesbian Separatists alike enjoy our hard-won riches and congratulate ourselves for withstanding these ageless assaults, it behooves us to remember that the old lessons still resonate, and that exclusive women’s territory is still radical as hell.
Alix Dobkin; Passover, 1998