Lesbian Political Lesbianism

Separatism and Women’s Community

Separatism and Women’s CommunityDana R. ShugarUniversity of Nebraska Press1995

From University of Nebraska Press: The energy spent on all sides of debates about women’s separatism demonstrates the vitality of separatism as an important issue. Excited by the prospect that changes in their personal lives could reverberate through the nation, many women have organized rural communes and urban business collectives, putting ideas into practice. 

Separatism and Women’s Community reviews debates in separatist theory, historical narratives by members of separatist collectives, and utopian novels that envision how collectives might be formed. Shugar compares the ideas and proposals of theorists—including Robin Morgan, Shulamith Firestone, Joyce Cheney, Joan Nestle, Ti-Grace Atkinson, and the Radicalesbians—with the experience of women from collectives as diverse as Cell 16, the Combahee River Collective, the Gutter Dyke Collective, the Seattle Collective, the Bloodroot Collective, and the Lavender Woman Collective of Chicago. 

Despite the attempts to connect action and thought, many women were ill-prepared for the problems they found in collective life. Women who theorized that oppression based on difference was a man-made phenomenon were confronted by other women who challenged their racism, classism, or homophobia. The community had to respond to these confrontations in ways that would strengthen, rather than destroy, their tentative connections with other women.

Table of Contents

PART ONE: The Development of Separatist Theory and Ideologies of Female Community
Chapter 1: Radical Feminism and the Safe Space of Female Community
Interstice: Bloodroot One
Chapter 2: Beyond Sexuality: Woman-Identification and New Definitions for Women’s Community
Interstice: Bloodroot Two
Chapter 3: Lesbian Separatism and Revolution through Community
Interstice: Lesbian Herstory Archives One

PART TWO: Narratives of Separatist Collectives and Problems of Community
Introduction: Separatist Collective Endeavors
Chapter 4: Are We There Yet?: Separatism and Separations in Female Community
Interstice: Bloodroot Three
Chapter 5: Excommunicating the Patriarchy: Oppression, Paradox, and Barriers to Community in Joyce Cheney’s Lesbian Land
Interstice: Lesbian Herstory Archives Two
Summary: The Community Work of Separatist Historical Narratives
Interstice: Bloodroot Four

PART THREE: Separatist Utopian Literature and the Re-vision of Community
Introduction: Fantasy and the Revolution
Chapter 6: ‘We May Not Be Together Always’: The Community Work of Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground
Chapter 7: Femmish or Womanist? Conflicts between Communities in Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines

Conclusion: Separatist Discourse and the Continuing Search for Female Community