The 2019 U. S. Women’s Soccer Team is Remarkable for Both its Wins and its Radical Feminism

 

Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team, this year’s World Cup champions, are using their public platform to speak out about economic and racial issues, in addition to their demands for equal treatment relative to the men’s U.S. soccer team. Indeed, they sound like the radical feminists of the1960s joining all these issues together. Making clear the idea that none of us is free as long as one woman is unfree.

Amy Goodman, host of the news program Democracy Now interviewed two women about the feminist politics expressed by members of the U.S. women’s soccer team. The guests were Shireen Ahmed a writer, public speaker, award-winning sports activist focusing on Muslim women in sports and Dr. Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at Penn State. Both women are involved in creating the weekly Burn It All Down sports podcast.

In discussion of the lawsuit the team has filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation Shireen Ahmend said, “So, effectively, the players of the U.S. women’s national team are unhappy, and setting an incredible precedent for women around the world to say, ‘We want equal pay. We want fairness. We want to talk about rights, maternity leave. We want to talk about healthcare. We want to talk about anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-oppression.’ That’s what they’re doing. So it’s a really important case.”

At one point in the interview Amira Rose Davis commented on the whiteness of the team. Goodman asked her to say more about that, to talk about “how the team is constituted, and [about] the women’s activism around the issue” of whiteness. Dr. Davis responded, “in the United States the access issue to soccer is vast. It takes a lot of money, very early on, in youth sports. And one of the consequences of that is that we don’t see a large amount of diversity and lower-income players represented on the team. … But this team has been very vocal about all of their intersecting identities. When asked to put names on the back of their jerseys to honor various women, for instance, Rapinoe chose Audre Lorde and said, ‘She’s an intersectional feminist, and that’s what I want my politics to be.’ Christen Press, one of the women of color on the team, said, ‘This is about pay equity. It’s about gender equality. But we also are talking about racial equity here. We’re also talking about what’s going on in terms of why Rapinoe chose to kneel.’” Davis goes on to say about Rapinoe that she’s “clear about being an ally, in saying, you know, ‘Yes, these are my fights, and I’m bringing a lot of clear visibility, and I’m talking a lot about pay equity, but I also am acknowledging the fact that I’m not policed in the same way, and I’m not dealing with relatives being shot dead in the street.’ And even when asked how she felt about patriotism, she’s like, ‘I feel deeply American, but we have to reckon with the fact that this country was founded on slavery.’”

The whole interview can be watched and/or heard here: https://www.democracynow.org/2019/7/8/seg_1

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Reportback from the Boston Dyke March

by An Anonymous Dyke

Friday, June 7th, 2019. The Boston Dyke March. Before it began, an anonymous group of lesbians dispersed stickers throughout the Boston Common and surrounding area, site of the Boston Dyke March.

DOWNLOAD AND PRINT YOUR OWN STICKERS here at https://feministstruggle.org/2019/05/18/dont-disappear-the-l-campaign/

Going to the Dyke March again since I went for the first time a number of years ago, all the memories of the experience of lesbian erasure flooded back. It is obvious (to me, at least, as a lesbian who is indigenous to this continent) that the playbook of colonialism is being used on lesbians. I won’t say it’s 100% the same, but I can’t unsee the parallels. I saw a sign that said “all white people are immigrants”, which was a relief to see and is true: all europeans are colonizers, invaders — “immigrants” is only a euphemism, if only they were immigrants it would be so much easier. But the invaders run the show. They tell indigenous people south of the colonial border that they’re the outsiders. That the europeans are the true “natives”. This is a settler colonial state that tells indigenous people that we are foreigners on our own land, and works hard to erase indigenous people through many different means that I won’t get into here. The irony of having anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, pro-brown and pro-black signs, while promoting the colonization of lesbians by heteropatriarchy, is lost on the organizers of the Boston Dyke March. Do they think that black, brown, and indigenous lesbians don’t know what sexual dimorphism is, what female biology is? Do they want to tell us that the dinosaurs aren’t real and humanity is only 2,000 years old, too? Do they not realize that they (like many others) drive a wedge into the communities of the most marginalized lesbians? The colonization of a people (lesbians) who have existed here for thousands of years and since the beginning of time, by separating the youth from their elders and indoctrinating the youth with self-hating beliefs that promote our own eradication, encouragement of the appropriation of our cultural space and customs by straight people, enabling the rape of lesbians through compulsory heterosexuality with males “identifying” as lesbians, turning our selves against our selves, and losing touch with our selves. Gay conversion therapy in colonial form — tools of the patriarchy. Because if the patriarchy can’t convince us to stop loving women, then patriarchy does everything they can to keep us from saying no to men even if we say yes to women.

This is plainly visible when taking in my surroundings of what is supposed to be Lesbian Cultural Space. All the straights are taking over. Straight men are appropriating in the most blatant and offensive ways, but straight women are doing it too. Actual lesbians don’t feel welcome at Dyke Marches and other Pride related events. Having signs at an anti-corporate “grassroots” march that is supposed to be for you while people carry signs like “gender =/= genitals” and “terfs are lame” etc, is DEEPLY troubling for lesbians who should otherwise expect to be welcomed into that space. In reality, the word “lesbian” is rarely mentioned if at all (IT WAS NOT the first time I went!). Young lesbians coming to terms with themselves find this erasure re-traumatizing, on top of the emotional process of coming out, as this so-called “Dyke March” stigmatizes the core of what makes us lesbians: our exclusive same-sex attraction, our exclusive desire for females. I know that simply being there brought back a lot of anger and pain for me. This is supposed to be a LESBIAN march!

The Boston Dyke March reacted quickly to Boston FIST members stickering up the Boston Common and surrounding area. Calling it “graffiti”, they claimed that FIST is a “known transphobic group”, and well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“Hey Friends! We’re already setting up for our 24th March! As we’re getting ready for all of you on the Common, some TERF graffiti has been popping up. We are doing our best to remove any stickers and signs from FIST, a known transphobic group. If you find anything while attending The March, please inform one of our volunteers. We unequivocally believe that trans women are women. If any TERF harassment happens at the March, find a volunteer immediately and we will deal with it with the ferocity of a thousand burning suns.”

FIST — Feminists in Struggle — is a group that has lesbians as some of its primary organizers. It was lesbians who planned this intervention of our own march. We had no plans to “harass” anyone. Contrary to the Boston Dyke March’s accusations, it’s worth noting that at no point have Boston FIST members (who proudly claim responsibility for this action and hope that more new members will join us) EVER mentioned anything about trans people, at any point! Our stickers simply said: “Don’t Disappear the L! Lesbians are XX-female-symbol who love XX-female-symbol”! Two things:

  1. Our principles of unity clearly state that we want human rights for all people, including trans and gender nonconforming people! Everyone deserves basic human rights. But we want to say that lesbians matter. Do they think that we don’t love gender nonconforming lesbians, all lesbians, for existing? Do they not realize that many lesbians are gender nonconforming, aside from the fact that simply existing as a lesbian is inherently at odds with gender roles?
  2. We were talking about LESBIANS. A lesbian is a female human being with exclusive same sex attraction (to other female human beings). THIS is what the so-called “Dyke March” of Boston has claimed is “transphobia”. They want us to think it’s wrong to be a lesbian. They’re also afraid to admit this fact, and have their followers see that they took down these shamelessly pro-lesbian stickers, which is why they never specified what was on the stickers nor did they include photographs. They had to deceive their followers into thinking that what they took down was “anti-trans” instead of pro-lesbian. Their response only confirms what we already know, which is that Boston Dyke March is a HOMOPHOBIC, LESBIAN-HATING astroturf group that needs to cut out the bullshit and let real lesbians exist. Maybe even fucking celebrate our own existence, for once? Hence the need for intervention — and maybe the start of some accountability within the lesbian community. We need lesbians who are brave enough to live and love as out lesbians, in the full meaning of that word.

Where is your warrior spirit, lesbians? Are we going to let straight people take our march? Or will you join us and co-create? You can start by downloading and printing these stickers to distribute and place everywhere.

Remembering the Lesbians in Lesbian/Gay Liberation

Remembering the Lesbians in Lesbian/Gay Liberation
By Ann Menasche 

Under patriarchy, lesbians are not supposed to exist. Women – “normal” women at least – are supposed to need men to be complete, for love, for sex, for economic survival, for family, for legitimacy. In such a world, there is no place for lesbians; if a few manage to exist, they are seen as freaks or pariahs. Not surprising that we rarely appear in history or when we are named at all, we are portrayed as lonely spinsters pining after some man. (Remember the lies told about 19th century poet Emily Dickenson, who had a lifelong passionate relationship with her sister-in-law.)

In the mid-to-late 20th century, ideas of traditional womanhood began to be challenged as women as a sex gained increased independence. By the height of the Second Wave of feminism in the late 60s and 70s, lesbians had begun to emerge from the shadows and establish themselves among the leadership of the newly emerged Feminist and Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movements. And as the synergy of Lesbian/Gay Liberation and Radical Feminism freed more women to be able to pursue a lesbian life, a vibrant culture of Lesbian Feminism emerged.  That culture produced socially conscious music, poetry, books, publishing houses, newspapers, feminist theatre, coffee houses, and festivals run by and for women that inspired and sustained us and helped fuel the political activism of the time. And in this environment we began to rediscover the lesbians that came before us. We no longer felt so alone.

But times have changed again and lesbians are being rendered invisible once more. Even the contributions lesbians made to the Movement for Lesbian and Gay Liberation are being forgotten. Many factors have contributed to this disappearing of lesbians from history, from our public consciousness, and often from ourselves and each other. While lesbians have won some mainstream acceptance through marriage equality, the accumulated losses have begun to be greater than the gains. Hard economic times, a conservative political climate, the growth and increased power of the Christian fundamentalist Right and a growing backlash against feminism have conspired to make lesbian existence harder once more. Independent lesbian culture has been destroyed. Even the lesbian bars that, despite their flaws, provided a place to meet and find community with other lesbians are now gone. In their place is a sense of utter isolation and despair among many lesbians. And there is often no place to turn for support except perhaps online forums.

Moreover, though the illusion that we’ve already won our rights is widespread, the reality is quite different. Lesbians in the United States can still lose their jobs, be disowned by their parents, lose custody of their children, and be raped or murdered for loving other women. Anti-lesbian prejudice is everywhere.

One of the most destructive influences on lesbians, which is erasing us from history and undermining the possibility of lesbian existence in the present, is gender identity ideology. As this ideology has become increasingly predominant, overwhelming our lesbian/gay communities and incorporating itself into law and culture, lesbians have felt ourselves surrounded on all sides. We are being pressured and guilt-tripped on the one hand to accept men calling themselves women into our communities and our bedrooms. At the same time, rebellious young girls with same-sex feelings, and lesbian adults are being convinced in growing numbers they are really “men” and are being coerced or swayed into “transitioning.”  As women’s liberation no longer appears to be a realistic goal, some of this vulnerability to the forces of transgenderism and extreme body modification may be summed up by the phrase “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  How else escape the violent heavy hand of misogyny on our bodies and lives but to pass as male?

Without question, Lesbians have become extremely marginalized within the modern LGBTQ+ “alphabet soup” – the corporatized stepchild of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movement. LGBT centers in the name of trans-inclusion, refuse to provide space for lesbians to even meet together outside of the presence of males. We are not welcome at Pride and even the Dyke March has been taken from us by “lesbians” with male genitalia and their supporters. And as lesbians have been virtually disappeared, so has the role we played in the struggles that came before us been disappeared as well.

Our lesbian foremothers are once again gone from the history books, or are posthumously “transitioned,” described as “queer,” or treated merely as a footnote. But lesbians fueled the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movement from its start.  It would not have happened without us. And it is time to give credit where credit is due.

The Stonewall Rebellion on June 28, 1969 was not led by individuals identifying as transgender. Transgenderism barely existed at that time even as a concept. What existed was large numbers of lesbians and gay men, some of whom cross dressed or dressed in drag, but did not thereby deny either their sex or their homosexuality. Drag queens and butch lesbians were among those who found community at the Stonewall Inn in New York, a bar owned and operated by the mafia but one of the few places that same sex couples could dance together. Police raids were commonplace but that historic night as police dragged patrons out of the bar and beat them, one butch lesbian, Storme DeLaverie, decided she had had enough. When a police officer shoved her and called her a “faggot”, she punched him in the face. Four officers assaulted her and one hit her on the head with a billy club.  Bleeding from the head, and dragged toward the police van, she yelled “Why don’t you guys do something?”  The rebellion was on and lasted six nights. Lesbian and Gay Liberation was born.

Martha Shelley, a lesbian with strong left-wing politics, had passed by the Stonewall on the fateful night but thought she was seeing an anti-war protest. She had no idea that the people throwing rocks at the cops were gay. When she realized what she had missed, she contacted the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattichine Society and made a proposal for them to jointly sponsor a protest march. On July 27, 1969, 200 lesbians and gays marched in Greenwich Village, in what was to become the world’s first Gay Pride Parade.  The organizing committee formed itself into the Gay Liberation Front, a revolutionary group that demanded not assimilation but a complete overhaul of the patriarchal, racist, imperialist system. A new movement was launched, initiated by a lesbian.

Almost a decade later in 1978 in San Francisco another lesbian was the central leader in the successful movement to defend Lesbian and Gay Rights then under attack. This was the struggle against the attempt by Christian fundamentalists to pass the Briggs Initiative, a proposition that would have banned gay teachers and all supporters of Lesbian/Gay Rights in the schools. Though everyone knows about Harvey Milk, many giving him credit for the defeat of the Briggs Initiative, it was actually Nancy Elnor, a lesbian-feminist and socialist, someone virtually no one has heard of, who was far more responsible for that victory. I knew Nancy personally and worked together with her in the Bay Area Coalition against the Briggs Initiative.  We were on and off again lovers, our personal interaction often stormy, but my admiration for her never waned.

Nancy worked long hours, doing amazing grassroots organizing work always accompanied by her German Shepherd “Bianca” and put together a mass movement that brought out tens of thousands into the streets against Briggs. She brought in organized labor and every progressive organization in San Francisco to join the cause, and chaired packed meetings of activists.  The Coalition under her leadership, organized a televised debate between Milk and Sally Gearhart on the one side and Briggs and one of his cohorts on the other.  A thousand people watched the debate on a big screen in a local high school auditorium. Nancy’s in-the-streets movement building done through distributing thousands of flyers, making hundreds of phone calls, and attending dozens of meetings (there was no Internet) set an example for the whole state, helped change the political climate, and put us on the path to victory. Nancy died young but I’ll never forget her.

As many lesbians celebrate Pride with varying degrees of ambivalence or else consciously ignore the festivities as no longer speaking to us, it is important to remember and celebrate the heroic leadership of our lesbian foremothers who changed history. If we did it once, we can do it again.