Tag Archives: Jenna Weston

Sign Petition to Make Sinister Wisdom an all Female, Lesbian-Feminist Journal Once Again

By Jeanne F. Neath

XX Lesbian Activists (XXLA), a new activist group, has started a campaign to return the journal, Sinister Wisdom, to its all female, Lesbian-Feminist, revolutionary roots. The group, of which I am a member, has a petition we encourage you to sign at https://www.change.org/XXLesbians.

Sinister Wisdom now maleIf you are incensed at the takeover of women’s and Lesbian spaces by males claiming to be women, take action by signing this petition. Sinister Wisdom’s recent issue #128 on “Trans/Feminisms” features male (“transgender”) contributors, and includes “written and visual images of dismemberment, penises, graphic male sex acts, objectification of women’s bodies, and derision of radical feminists.” (from the quote by JW in the petition) The XXLA petition pressures Sinister Wisdom to return the journal to an all female, Lesbian-Feminist publication.

In addition to signing the petition, XX Lesbian Activists encourages everyone to send a copy of XXLA’s open letter, or their own protest emails, to Sinister Wisdom (julie@sinisterwisdom.org). Let’s see a deluge of emails begin to hit Sinister Wisdom’s inbox on August 26th (in commemoration of the US Women’s Suffrage movement’s victory day). The email campaign will continue until Sinister Wisdom is once again an all female, Lesbian journal. For more information on XX Lesbian Activists’ campaigns or to get a copy of the open letter, you can contact xxlesbianactivists@xxamazons.org.

The petition is printed below. Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/XXLesbians.

Return Sinister Wisdom to its All Female, Lesbian-Feminist, Revolutionary Roots

To the Board of Directors of Sinister Wisdom:

We are Lesbians and Feminists who need Sinister Wisdom to become a Lesbian-Feminist journal again. Sinister Wisdom used to provide us with Lesbian-Feminist writings and artwork that helped us to survive in a world that is hard on Lesbians. Sinister Wisdom did far more than that.

Sinister Wisdom began publication in July of 1976, started by two Lesbian separatists who were part of the revolution in Lesbian and female consciousness of the times. For us, Sinister Wisdom became our cauldron where Lesbian-Feminist thought was rising up and spilling over, creating a world beyond the confines of patriarchy.

Now we are being erased as Lesbians, even by the board of directors of Sinister Wisdom. Our worldview is being denied and decimated. We are isolated and hurting since Sinister Wisdom has abandoned us.

What happened? Earlier this year the Lesbian journal, Sinister Wisdom, published its issue #128 dedicated to “exploring and celebrating transness.”

With Sinister Wisdom’s “Trans/Feminisms” issue #128, we have a complete reversal in which males and male visions dominate in a new twist on the old story of patriarchy.

The result. Lesbians, young and old, seeking that revolutionary Lesbian and female consciousness have had stolen from us a critical link in our web of resistance. We want our Lesbian journal back.

Here are comments from a few Lesbians:

  • “Sinister Wisdom grew from the grassroots of Lesbian-Feminist outrage! Our words fueled our Lesbian-Feminist energies. Stealing our cultural institutions like Sinister Wisdom from women in the name of including ‘male lesbians’ is a cruel joke aimed to destroy our communities. Only women can be Lesbians.” PEM
  • “Issue #128, ‘Trans/Feminisms,’ was appalling to me with its written and visual images of dismemberment, penises, graphic male sex acts, objectification of women’s bodies, and derision of radical feminists. I found nothing Lesbian in this issue of Sinister Wisdom, which still claims on its cover to be a Lesbian Journal.” JW
  • “Sinister Wisdom, one of our last Radical Lesbian-Feminist journals, published my name in a slanderous attack on me. This happened in an article by Mr. Susan Stryker in the ‘Trans/Feminisms’ issue. The Sinister Wisdom editor, Julie Enszer, refused to print my response.” Bev Jo
  • “And that’s why this issue is such an insult to radical Lesbian Feminists. Our space has been diminished if not completely obliterated. Let the trans folks, Feminist or not, have a journal of their own. They can laud the penis as much as they want to. But keep it out of our space!” RG
  • “Julie’s intro, with its Orwellian tones of revising history—’we have always been trans-friendly’—told me what I would find in the contents. Sadly, I would recommend removing ‘Wisdom’ from the title. ‘Sinister’ says it all.” CW
  • “I feel such profound sadness that Sinister Wisdom has fallen to the bullying and finances of the men who now say they are women. This once-beloved publication, along with so many others, both publications and organizations, has lost courage in a way that harms all actual woman.” SW
  • “This issue overflows with deception, falsification, and grotesquery. But the true horror is that its Lesbian supporters don’t (or pretend not to) feel and see a boot to the face of Lesbians.” RMG

Sinister Wisdom a queer journal? Males, male thought, and male violence have no place in a Lesbian journal. Lesbians have always defined Lesbians as females in same sex relationships. Why would Sinister Wisdom embrace queer/trans ideology and define Lesbian to include males?

The explanation. Sinister Wisdom has lost its Lesbian-Feminist focus, and it now centers on a queer and transgender, therefore largely male, worldview.

Labrys energized and reclaimedBefore resorting to this petition, we wrote to the editor and the board of directors of Sinister Wisdom requesting that they allow us to edit an issue that would focus on gender-critical and Radical-Feminist creative work. Despite the considerable writing, editing, and artistic skills we offered, Sinister Wisdom refused our request for one, gender-critical issue.

We Call upon the Sinister Wisdom Board of Directors – Julie R. Enszer, Editor (2010 to present); Roberta Arnold; Cheryl Clarke; Sara Gregory; Yeva Johnson; Briona Jones; Shromona Mandal; Joan Nestle; Rose Norman; Mecca Jamilah Sullivan; Yasmin Tambiah; and Red Washburn – to return Sinister Wisdom to its all female, Lesbian-Feminist revolutionary roots.

Respectfully, XX Lesbian Activists

Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/XXLesbians.

Intergenerational Lesbians: How Can We Learn from Each Other?

By Jenna Weston

The feminist poet Muriel Rukeyser famously wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?/ The world would split open.” What if a dozen women told their truth to each other? A hundred, a thousand, a million? We did just that in the late 1960s and the 1970s. It was called Women’s Consciousness Raising, and it was a powerful method of shaping radical feminist awareness and political action, as well as building a female cultural alternative to the patriarchy.

In these present turbulent times– with judgement, canceling, and factional opposition all in ascendency– I believe the tool of consciousness raising could offer a way for lesbians of different generations to communicate with each other and find common ground.

Second-wave consciousness raising groups were so effective because they were a balance of the personal and the political. They were not study groups or therapy sessions. They were a way of communicating that was designed to honor each woman’s experience– without interruption, argument or debate. We spoke in the concrete, not the abstract about our individual lives. Then together, we drew insights and conclusions from the common patterns that emerged.

We met weekly, usually with no more than a dozen women. Keeping the groups small nurtured the intimacy and trust needed to open one’s self up to the most vulnerable truths of our personal experiences. It also allowed us ample time to fully share, widely explore, and deeply listen.

I was in my 20s when I joined a women’s CR group, as they were called. I was married to a man but knew somehow I was not living authentically. In hearing the stories of other women’s lives I realized I was not alone, and, over time, this validation gave me the courage to radically change my life. I came out as a lesbian, and became an activist. I also learned that other women could be smart, fierce and passionate—not something I experienced from most of the closed, conservative, gender-role following females I’d grown up around.

Especially in the beginning sessions of our CR groups we expressed a lot of anger about the misogyny and domination we had been subjected to. Many of us had suppressed it for years, for fear of retaliation. In the group we could freely name our oppressions and oppressors. We soon came to value our rebelliousness and were amazed at how words came pouring out, given a supportive environment. We appreciated each other for how honest and brave we were. We came to realize we were no longer interested in procuring “a piece of the pie” or being accepted into mainstream society– things the first wave feminists had fought for. We declared that the whole pie was rotten, and we needed to walk away and come up with a completely new recipe.

Sitting together in circles – usually on the floor of someone’s living room – we strip-searched our souls, digging down deep into previously hidden sources of our own women’s knowledge. We identified and repudiated the agents and symbols of our oppression. By throwing off burdens we had been carrying that weren’t ours, we opened a space for a Woman’s Way of Knowing to enter. From that we built a uniquely women’s culture of books, music, festivals, lands, spirituality and politics. It was intersectional, although we didn’t call it that back then, as we came to see and address how all patriarchal dominator hierarchies were connected, systemic and structural.

For a long time our structures and accomplishments went almost unnoticed by the mainstream we had withdrawn much of our energy from. But then the beauty of our creations began to be seen—and coveted. We could not be allowed to live lives that did not revolve around men. A backlash rose up, and it still continues. All lesbians– of every generation– are living under that backlash now.

I believe this is the perfect time for us to come together again in CR groups and share with each other the truths of our lives. Young and old, telling each other what it is like to be a woman, a lesbian, in these harsh times. Inventing and re-inventing our 21st-century selves together, not following some externally-imposed theories. Replacing dogma with discovery– arrived at mutually. Through the process of each woman sharing in turn her own experiences and observations, we can learn so much from each other. We don’t have to be isolated, or depend on outside sources like the media to tell us how to think, what to believe. Our principles and truths can evolve holistically, from our combined parts, and infuse our new coalition of multiple generations with lesbian empowerment.

Note: Jenna Weston’s article was published originally in Rain and Thunder: A Radical Feminist Journal of Discussion and Activism, Issue #77, Spring/Summer 2021.

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