PEOPLE: Liza Cowan Feed

DYKE A Quarterly No. 6. Separatist Symposium. 1978. Part one

Separatist symposium, dyke a quarterly, 1978, title illustrationTitle graphic, Separatist Symposium, DYKE A Quarterly, No. 6 1978

 

NB: If  you are reading this for a course, please make sure to click on the scans of the magazine pages for full text. 

The following are excerpts from "Separatist Symposium" in DYKE A Quarterly, published in the Summer of 1978. You can read the full article on the scans below, which you can enlarge by clicking on them.  The articles by Penny House and by The Gorgons will be posted later

This section was written by Liza Cowan.

 

 

Cover letter for separatist symposium dyke a quarterly 1977
Cover letter for Separatist Symposium. Click to enlarge
Last Fall, Penny and I made up questions to send to self-defined Lesbian Separatist groups around the country. We had hoped that the answers to these questions would help to clarify just who exactly Separatists are. In our cover letter we said, “The non-Separatists, and those who are quietly unsupportive, have hundreds of false and destructive fantasies about Separatism. Because we know that Separatism is not a monolithic ideology, but a collection of many women’s years of hard work and consciousness raising, we have decided to send the questionnaire to you.” 

 

We sent this questionnaire to approximately ten groups and/or individuals. One group wrote to tell us that they did not want to answer the questions because straight women and men might see the magazine. Another group, the Gorgons, sent us a collection of previously written essays which speak to many of the points we raised. We received no other answers.

 I have worked on my own answers to the questionnaire on and off for about three months. The questions we posed were difficult and requite a great deal of time and thought. We tried to ask the questions in such a way that would elicit responses not so much about the ideology of Separatism, but about who separatists are.  We have been feared, scorned and most of all misunderstood. We thought it was important for all Lesbians to understand that Separatists are not a bunch of hard-line weirdoes, women with no feeling and no doubts. This is the impression given by anti-Separatists. We hoped to show what a diverse group of Lesbians call themselves Separatists; to show that Separatism has no centralized laws, no rules and regulations. Unfortunately, since I am the only one who has responded to the questionnaire, we are not able to show our diversity. We hope that those of you who call yourselves Separatists will write your own answers to the questions and we will print them in a future issue.

 In answering these questions, I have tried to be as open and honest about my life and my feelings as possible. I have done this to help explain what Separatism means in my day- to -day life; how my beliefs and politics affect my dealings with my family, my community and my work. 

DYKE A Quarterly, no. 6, Separatist SymposiumDYKE A Quarterly, summer 1978, No. 6. Separatist Symposium

 

How do you define Separatism?

 Lesbian Separatism is a vague title that explains only about 1/1000 of the way I think and behave. Last year Alix, Penny, Janet and I decided to quit calling ourselves Separatists because it was too imprecise, it seemed to mean too many different things to different women. Unfortunately, when word got around that we were no longer calling ourselves Separatists, , many women began to think that we were no longer going to be stubborn about having women-only spaces, it meant that maybe we no longer hated men, that we were going to be nicer and not so threatening to be with. It was quite terrifying to get the feeling from all over the country that we used to be monsters but that now we were going to be “good.” When, on a concert tour, Alix announced from stage that she was no longer calling herself a Separatist, some women actually clapped and cheered. It made us realize that it was our duty to call ourselves Separatists because the word had become identified with issues and emotions that touched a raw nerve in the women’s community – gender and sexual politics.

 It seems that it is still too frightening for many Lesbians to realize that they have the right to be exclusively with women, whether it is for a concert, a conference or a business, and that it is a right that must be fought for. I have travelled around the country meeting Lesbians who live in a more Lesbian world than I do, Lesbians who live, work and socialize almost exclusively with other Lesbians, who will say to me that they are not Lesbian Separatists, and they do not agree with Lesbian Separatists. The “personally” prefer to live with women, and to socialize with women, and yet they will not call themselves Separatists. The are not willing to commit themselves even to the idea of working to maintain the life they enjoy so much. There are Lesbians who will fight, lie, get sick or leave town rather than commit themselves to such a seemingly simple act as claiming a concert is to be for women only. Why is this so? The label “lesbian separatist” has become the hot line to everyone’s flushing-boy-babies-down-the –toilet fantasy, and they run away from it screaming. How did Separatism get such a terrible reputation?

 When I say Lesbian Separatism I am talking about the analysis and observation that there is a profound difference between male and female, and the understanding that women have the need and right to be together without males and to define the world in our terms. Men “rule” the world, but Mother Nature is a Lesbian. Men try to control Mother Nature and they try to control women. Lesbian Separatism is an analysis which shows women that it is possible to withdraw support from men, and a belief that withdrawal of women’s support will dissolve the patriarchy.

  CONNECTING THE DOTS between patriarch and climate change. 1978 dyke a quarterly. graphic by liza cowan 2012

 Connecting the dots between patriarchy and climate change. Design Liza Cowan


Men, and most women, do everything in their power to make life uncomfortable for women who challenge the patriarchy. Most women do not really want to rock the boat; it is too frightening, and we are taught thoroughly to be passive. It is hard not to cooperate with the patriarchy -  everything is involved. Every single piece of information, every action has to be understood and frequently challenged. Everything sent from the patriarchy tells us that this world was created by, for and about the male. All information from the patriarchy is colored by a male point of view. Challenging and dissolving the patriarchy means withdrawing support from male assumptions. Take for example, the energy crisis. Men have decided, and informed the world via all their media, that there is a terrible shortage of energy, that is a crisis. There is no shortage of energy. The sun can give us an abundance of never-ending energy, and there are at least 25 other simple, organic solutions to the “energy problem. “ Rather than explore these possibilities -most of which women would probably utilize in about fifteen seconds if we had the learning and access that men have - men prefer to fight each other for the money, power and domination that comes with scrambling for oil, threatening out health and our lives with nuclear power plants, spilling wastes into the waters and throwing junk into outer space. It is clearly and S&M power game that they would prefer to play to the end of their days. By accepting the assumption that an energy shortage exists, we allow, even help, the “crisis” to continue. That is just one example of how we support the patriarch by giving power to their beliefs. We can begin to withdraw support with as simple an act as saying “I don’t believe it; I refuse to give “power” or “energy” to this assumption. Without women’s energy and power men will truly have and “energy crisis”

Dyke A Quarterly, Separatist Symposium, 1978 p 33, 34DYKE A Quarterly No. 6. Separatist Symposium, 1978

 Another assumption that must, I believe, be challenged is the assumption of “human being.” When I first became a feminist, I rejected the notion that there was any basic difference between men and women. I saw how the patriarchal analysis of the difference between women and men only served to keep women enslaved, and I believed that women and men had just been socialized badly…that the world could be a better place if men and women were socialized differently. But I also realize that it is men who have been in control of the socialization, no matter how often or how loudly men scream that it’s  “all mom’s fault.”

 After I came out and started to spend more time and energy in exclusively female company, I began to realize just how different men and women really are. I realized, too, that seeing everybody as “human” would help men stay in control and would keep women enslaved. It is in the interest of the patriarchy that women not realize that it is men, and not “human nature” that have created pollution, racism, the energy crisis, agribusiness, fast food, and every other symptom of the agony of life in the patriarchy. Men and women have known all along that there are enormous differences between the sexes, but t I think that when it seemed clear from the first and second waves of the women’s movement that women were going to make public this best known secret, and were actually going to do something about it, that men quickly realized that they had better hide behind the collective title of “human”, thereby not having to take the blame for their crimes. Women, for many complex reasons have, for the most part, accepted this and are frequently grateful for being recognized as “human, too.”

 Once I became conscious of the fact that men and women are so different,  - a realization that came from feelings, observation, analysis and support from other Lesbians who were making similar discoveries - it became clear that we know very little about what it actually means to be a woman. In order to explore the difference, to learn what it means to be a woman, and to exorcise that which is male from our own patriarchally trained brain-patterns, it seems obvious that we have to remove ourselves from men. Hence the title, Lesbian Separatist. The natural separation between male and female. The separation is as much emotional and intellectual as physical withdrawal. In order to take control of my own life, I separate myself in varying degrees from men and their influence. I try to be constantly aware, on guard, alert to recognize, understand and challenge all patriarchal assumptions, attitudes and actions, whatever their source. This is a full –time job.

DYKE A Quarterly, Separatist Symposium, 1978 pp 35 36DYKE A Quarterly, No. 6nSeparatist Symposium. 1978

 

How do you act with the men you have to deal with in everyday affairs, such as supers, shopkeepers, servicemen, neighbors, men at your job? How do you feel about them?

 Sometimes I surprise myself at how well I get along with so many of the men I have to deal with in my life. But I have had to spend more time and energy on men since I moved to the country four years ago than I had to in the city. I have heard from women who say that it is easy for me to be a  Separatist because I live in the country. I guess they thought that I could isolate myself on my own land and never have to deal with landlords or supers or men on the street. This common fantasy is wrong in two ways: first of all you can be a Separatist and still speak to men; second, being in the country does not mean moving away from men, since men live in the country too. When I rented an apartment in the city all dealings with trades people were taken care of by the super, but now that I own my own house and land, everyone has to deal directly with me. When our furnace starts choking and farting I know one or two things to do to relieve it, but usually I have to get on the phone and call the plumber. Our hundred year old house had wiring that was almost as old and we were afraid that all the extension cords and old wires would start a fire, so we had to call an electrician man to rewire the house. When the car breaks down we have to call the garage, which is run by men. The gas for our stove is delivered by a man, the fuel for our furnace is delivered by a man, the UPS driver who comes t our house a few times a week for pick-ups is a man. When the roads are covered by a foot of snow and we haven’t seen the plow all day, we have to call the highway department, which is run by men. All these men have to be dealt with.

...The same man delivers the fuel oil each time, the same man delivers the bottled gas, the same plumber comes, etc. Soon we learned that this one was born right down the road, that one went to school with one of our friends, another one’s wife works in the post office and so on. We have developed a nice, courteous, friendly rapport. We have, after all, joined their community.

...At first we were not sure how people would take to us. Being Jewish Lesbians in a straight white Christian community could cause some problems. Much to our relief and delight, we found that as far as we can tell everyone has very nice feelings about us, and we discovered we have very nice feelings about them too. They like us because we keep our house and yard looking clean and neat and we are working to improve the land. We are polite, courteous, and respectful of them. We are “good girls.” We don’t live with men. We are not hippies. We help each other in times of trouble. We are nice people and they are nice people. We don’t intrude in their lives and they don’t intrude in ours. We have managed this without betraying our principles and we are very happy about it. We love our neighborhood. 

What is your relationship with your family?

 ….When I was first a Separatist I thought that  to be consistent with my politics, I had to abandon the notion of blood family. I learned years ago that the nuclear patriarchal family is bad for women, bad for society, bad for the world at large. Nevertheless, no matter what system we have for propagating the species we will always have relatives. Family, after all, is not man-made, it is woman-made. Having a family satisfies a great need in me, a need I suspect we all have, Separatist or not. Because I was born into a patriarchal world I make due with what I have. I can be friends with my siblings and cousins and uncles and aunts and still be a good Separatist. I don’t bring my Lesbian business to my family and I don’t bring my family business to Lesbians. Each satisfies a need and can remain quite independent of one another.

 

Is there any political work you do or would do with men?

 In a crisis, for a short- range project I would work with men. Otherwise, no. I want to change the world to a place where femaleness is the primary assumption. It is not possible for men to create this change.

Dyke a quarterly, Separatist Symposium, 1978 pp 37 38
DYKE A Quarterly, No. 6, 1978. Separatist Symposium

 

Is there any political work you do, or would do, with straight women?

Yes, I am currently working with a local Planned Parenthood group to design and erect a pro-choice abortion billboard in a local town. A few months ago we were driving on a road not too far from our house and we saw a billboard showing a baby with the headline, Never to laugh….never to taste sunshine…fight abortion. It was at that moment that I realized that something had to be done, and that I had better help. Right To Life and anti-ERA forces are powerful and destructive and must be stopped. A while ago Alix and I went to Albany, NY to lobby to keep Medicaid abortions and there were women from all over the state. It was the first time in years that I had done anything political with straight women and it was very interesting. It think it is vital to work with whichever women want to work on such issues. If women lose the right to abortion we are back to square one.

Do you, or would you, do Lesbian work with non-Separatists?

 My main Lesbian work is DYKE. Not everyone who works for DYKE is a Separatist, so the answer is yes. I would not, however, do Lesbian work with a group that was anti-separatist. I have found that I prefer to do most of my work via the US mail, and basically I only work with my close friends, who are all Separatists. I am not a group joiner anymore, because all the groups I have ever been involved with ended with horrible fights, mainly over Separatist issues.

 How is Separatism expressed in your Lesbian work?

 My main work is DYKE A Quarterly. DYKE is sold only to women and only at women’s and gay stores. We do not sell subscriptions to men. We are aware that once in a while a man sees it, but after a certain point there is nothing that can be done about it.

 As important as directing our circulation only to women is that fact that we write directly to Lesbians. DYKE is a magazine for Lesbians and we have never had, nor will we ever have one that is written for straight women, although we do not mind if straight women read the magazine. In all the articles is the presumption that a reader is a Lesbian. We think that this is revolutionary. Women-only space is a fight I am willing to dedicate my life to.

 

Separatist questionnaire dyke a quarterly original questions  1977
The questions we sent for the Separatist Symposium. 

 

 


DYKE A Quarterly No. 6. p.32: Connecting the dots between Patriarchy and Climate Change

 

Dykes lead the way connecting the dots between Patriarchy and Climate Change. Earth Changes we sometimes called them. Here is a redone and ever so slightly annotated pull quote from Separatist Symposim, response by Liza Cowan.

Published in 1978.


CONNECTING THE DOTS globe butterfly dyke a quarterlyThere is no energy crisis. We have a patriarchy crisis. Graphic and text Liza Cowan 2012, exerpted from DYKE A Quarterly No. 6, 1978


"Men have decided that there is a terrible shortage of energy, that it is a crisis. 

There is no shortage of energy.  The sun can give us an abundance of never-ending energy and there are probably at least twenty-five other simple, organic solutions to the 'energy problem' that women would probably utilize in about fifteen seconds.

 Rather than explore these possibilities, men prefer to fight each other for the money, power and domination that comes with scrambling for oil, threatening our health and lives with nuclear power plants, spilling wastes into the waters and throwing junk into outer space. It is clearly an S&M power game that they would prefer to play to the end of their days."    

 Dyke, A Quarterly No. 6, Summer 1978, Separatist Symposium p. 32

 

The original page:

dyke a quarterly 1978 No. 6, p. 32. separatist symposium, liza CowanDYKE A Quarterly. No. 6, 1978 Separatist Symposium, Liza Cowan's response



SIDE TRIP: What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, Liza's interview in the blog Dyke Duds

A few weeks ago I approached the blog, Dyke Duds, (which has since changed its name to Qwear ) to interview me about What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, the series of essays I wrote for Cowrie Magazine and DYKE, A Quarterly. I thought that the young readers of that blog would be interested in what I had written decades earlier. I hope they were. 

Sonia Oram, the editor of Dyke Duds/Qwear, edited my original answers so the version that appeared in Dyke Duds was a bit shorter. She has space considerations that I do not, so I've decided to run my orginal answers.

Big thanks to Sonia for being interested in what this old Dyke had to say about clothing way back when.

 

What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, Cowrie Magazine, Liza cowan, morgan Zale, lesbian fashion 1973Cowrie Magazine, What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. Photo © Barbara Jabaily 1973. Clothing by Morgan Zale and Laura.

Q: What topics in fashion did you cover in DYKE A Quarterly?

 A: My column was called What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, and it started in another, smaller, Lesbian magazine I published called Cowrie, which ran from 1973 to 1974. I had just come out the year before, at age 20, and had started to dress like my Lesbian peers. I wanted to know why we dressed as we did, and what were the social and political implications. Mind you, this was decades before fashion, or even culture theory, was considered worthy of study as an academic discipline. Now you can get a PhD in fashion theory. In those days, it was considered trivial. I knew it wasn’t and that clothing carried a message. I wanted to decipher it. My inspiration was James Laver, the only historian I knew of who was interested in the meaning of clothing in terms of social status.

 In the seven part series, I covered general observations, history of Lesbian clothing - including ancient amazons- contemporary Lesbian clothing designers, hair and shoes.  In every one, I was trying to decipher the political and social consequences and meanings of our clothing choices.

 In addition to writing about Dyke clothing for my magazines, I produced a slide show, also called What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. I made this for the Lesbian History Exploration, a conference that  took place in California in 1975. I spent a couple of months taking my camera to Lesbian events, photographing what the women were wearing.  I also used photos from biographies of famous Lesbians like Gertrude Stein, Radclyffe Hall, and others of that era, to show the evolution of that genre of Lesbian Style.  The slide show is at the Lesbian Herstory Archive in NYC.

My main theory was that contemporary Lesbians didn’t want to look like men - as we were constantly accused of trying to do - but we wanted to look like Dykes and other women-loving-women to invoke the styles of at least some of our foremothers. We wanted to honor our history and to wear clothes that would signal our identity to other Lesbians. It had nothing to do with wanting to look like men. 

Why did our foremothers, some of them, dress in men’s clothing? Because of the power and freedom that men’s clothing both symbolized and allowed.  Through the ages men have dressed for freedom, for comfort and for power. Women have been forced to dress as second- class citizens and sexual objects. From shoes to corsets, our clothing has confined and constricted us. Lesbians didn’t want to look like men…we wanted to be free, to catch the eye of other women and to mark ourselves as off- limits to men. That’s what I believe to this day.

[I highly suggest reading Esther Newton's classic 1984 essay, "The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and The New Woman" from the journal Signs, Vol. 9 No. 4, The Lesbian Issue. HERE]

Clothing, in addition to being necessary, is about power and class. It always has been.  Clothing is deeply symbolic. That is my interest. Writing about clothing was always an intellectual pursuit. I was not interested, or able, to tell women what to wear or where to shop, or what accessories to buy. I wanted to explore the meaning. Always the meaning.

In the first article I mused over why I wanted to look Dykey.

“The clothes I wear help me to know my own power. So does being a lesbian. I love the way I look. I love the way other lesbians look. I’m learning to rid myself of all straight patriarchal values and build my own world. So it’s a combination of clothes and attitude that make a woman identifiable as a lesbian.”

 In the second article, I wrote about Morgan Zale and her partner Laura, who designed and made clothes for Lesbians in New York City. 

The third article was about ancient Amazon clothing, not just because Lesbians of my generation were obsessed with Amazons as role models, but to find inspiration for contemporary clothing possibilities.

The fourth article was more general history. For this article I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Costume Institute to talk to head curator, Stella Blum, although the article is not an actual interview.  This was before Diana Vreeland made the Costume Institute the hugely popular hit-generating department it became.

Quoting Stella Blum,

“ ‘It took the vicissitudes of World War 1, which forced women into the male world and in turn permitted them activities and freedoms previously denied them, to reduce their costumes to functional simplicity and put a male cast to their appearance. Towards equality with men and to resemble them, in the 1920’s women flattened their bosoms and hips and cut their hair.’ ”

This is me, Liza:

“We know that men, the patriarchal rulers, take what is best for themselves, at least materially, including clothes. So, to dress in “men’s” clothes is not to imitate men (who wants to be a man!) but to wear what is least oppressive. When World War II was over, and women were no longer needed to support the country, the fashion market was flooded with incredible gowns, full draperies and lush fabrics. During the war, materials were severely rationed. This is usually the reason given for the simpler clothes during the war, and for the return of the luxurious post-war fashions. But I know the real reason to ensure that, once again, women would be forced to resume their roles in the all-consuming patriarchal culture.” 

The seventh article was about hair, including a short history of hair styles.  Hair, like everything else, has social meaning.

 “ Melba Tolliver, a black newscaster for ABC-TV, was not allowed to wear her hair in an afro. The network deemed it too militant. It was too threatening. It’s easier to get a job with long hair, or very neatly coiffed short hair worn with appropriate makeup and clothing. It is much safer to pass as a straight woman than to look like a Dyke.

 

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 22Evolution of a haircut. From DYKE A Quarterly No. 1. Photos by photobooth.

Q: How have you seen these styles evolved and can you draw parallels between the 1970’s Dyke world and the styles you see on Dyke Duds today?

A: Today we have an intellectual phenomenon termed “transmasculinity,” which I think is bullsh*t, and is thoughtlessly applied to Lesbian style. It has muddled the thinking of many an otherwise intelligent woman, and I grieve. 

Whatever clothing a woman wears is feminine, womanly. If I wear something, it is woman’s clothing, because it is mine and I’m a woman, even if it is a suit and tie. A man wearing a dress is wearing man’s clothing, because it is his. I do not think that any item of clothing itself is masculine or feminine, or male or female, except as a symbol of power or powerlessness. So while a style may co-opt, or translate, or borrow even, the article of clothing itself has no sex or gender. The meaning resides in the viewer as well as the wearer.  I will never be transmasculine or anything masculine. As a woman, everything I do is womanly.

The styles I see on Dyke Duds are not that hugely different from what we’d see on Lesbians in the 70’s…perhaps a bit more preppy.  Looking over your posts, it seems the women and clothing you feature would slip into any of our events pretty successfully without looking like time travelers. Is it just that the 70’s are fashionable again?

The Dykes I wrote about in the 70’s consciously tried not to overplay their clothing. I used to get mad at women for refusing to dress up for events, because I believed that we owed it to ourselves to show up looking great for each other. What you’d see mostly were jeans, t-shirts or button-down shirts. T-shirts with screen printing by dykes for events or venues were popular.

Frye boots, work boots,  converse sneakers were in fashion. Sensible shoes. Shoes you could run away in. There were always lots and lots of bandanas, tied around the neck or the head mostly. In my slide show I divided the Lesbian look into two sections, “Dyke Schlep” and “Dyke finery.” They weren’t that terribly different, frankly. Blazers and vests were popular. For a while, it was out of fashion to wear a bra, no matter how big your breasts were, so vests were a good and stylish way to cover up.

 

Dyke a quarterly ad which shoe fits you circa 1976Controversial ad for DYKE A Quarterly, circa 1976, in which shoes become a symbol of the reader's interest in Lesbian Feminist analysis. We thought it was funny. Some of our readers were not amused.

 The other accessories that you’d always see were buttons - political buttons. I had a business making them, so I was always aware of them, but they were very popular for decorating clothing and bags. I think of them as little billboards.

 Q: Where did you shop for clothes?

A: I really don’t know where other Lesbians went shopping. I mainly went to thrift stores and to army-navy stores, which was where you could get jeans and work clothes. There weren’t the zillion brands of jeans available now. You could get Wranglers, Levi’s and Carharts. That’s all I remember. Some jeans were made for women, with zippers on the side. I loved wool sailor pants, the kind with lots of buttons. You could find those used, along with pea coats, at army navy stores. I bet they don’t even have army navy stores any more. It’s also where you’d get denim work shirts and bandanas and sensible shoes.

I’d sometimes cruise Bloomingdales looking for clothes, but mainly because that’s where I’d shopped as a kid, and was familiar with it.  I’d sometimes shop in the men’s department, which was kind of scandalous, but amusing. Sometimes I’d get cast offs from my father or brothers. My very favorite suede vest was a gift from my dad’s closet. I got some ties from him too. He was puzzled, but generous. 

 

DYKE A Quarterly original shot for publicity flier 1975From the contact sheet of the photoshoot for DYKE IS OUT flier. 

Q: Can you tell me more about the fashion magazine image?

 A: The photo shoot you refer to was for our very first publicity flier. My partner, Penny House, and I had read fashion magazines ever since we were young girls. We both came from upper middle class families in New York City, where fashion -and the fashion industry - was part of the air we breathed. We had one school chum who moved to England and became one of the world’s first supermodels in the 60’s, and other friends whose parents were photographers, fashion editors, or were featured in magazines like Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, and the like.

 

We thought it would be hysterically funny to do a photo shoot of Dykes as a fashion image. You know, Dykes - the famously “ugly” and badly dressed. We found a Lesbian photographer who had access to a fashion photography studio. Her dad owned it and she was one of his assistants. Her name was Michelle, but I don’t know her last name. I’m hoping that one day she will contact us and let us know who she is.

 So Penny and I gathered a couple of women to join us in the shoot. The now-famous singer, Alix Dobkin, was my girlfriend, so of course she came. And Penny’s tall model-esqe friend Val came too. And the photographer’s girlfriend, Deborah Glick, who is now a New York State Assemblymember, was in the shoot as well.

 Alix and I were wearing jeans. I had just shaved my head and was wearing a bandana and a blue work shirt…the kind I’d loved since I was a “folkie” teen. Blue work shirts were emblematic of 60’s folkies, as were bandanas. Laborers outfits, appropriated by middle class kids, up trended again by a  subcategory of Dykes who had grown up as beats and folkies.

Penny, Alix and I are all wearing vests. Alix and Penny’s were traditional, woolen “men’s” vests, which we used to buy at thrift stores. Mine was blue cotton with tiny white flowers on it… a kind of a vestigial hippy item.  Val had on gorgeous tall leather boots with a folded over top. I have no idea where they came from. Alix and I were wearing workmen’s  boots and shoes, another leftie/folkie appropriation - that was quite popular. Debbie and Penny seem to be wearing Frye boots, which were all the rage.

I don’t know about Penny’s white scarf. It is typically her style, but was not something you’d see all the time. And we all had short hair. I was bald, but you can’t see that.

More than anything, though, it is our posture that says “We’re Dykes!”  Ladies just did not stand like that; hands on hips, standing squarely on two feet, balanced and ready, staring straight at the camera with no smiles. It would never be unusual to see a group of men with this body language, but a group of women? Highly unusual, and only could be read as Lesbian.

To juxtapose this on the seamless paper and studio lighting?? Hysterical, right? We thought so, anyway.

We picked this image from dozens – some of which are viewable on the DYKE A Quarterly website here. Using Letraset press-on letters, I designed our flier, and we sent it out. On the back was the copy describing our project. We had maybe 100 printed at a print shop, and sent them out. Very few exist anymore. If you own an original it is highly collectible. I don’t even have an extra copy to donate to the DYKE A Quarterly collection at the library of The Museum Of Modern Art in NYC.

 


DYKE A Quarterly, No. 4, front and back covers

In issue No. 4 we broke form to publish a poster instead of a magazine. Along with the gorgeous 4-color poster, designed by Debbie Drechsler and printed by Tower Press, we sent a magazinelette, envelope sized, with letters and responses. Our readers were baffled. 

 

Dyke a quarterly, no.4, front and back coversDYKE A Quarterly, Issue No. 4. cover. Illustration by Debbie Drechsler.

NOTE FROM THE ARTIST

I was halfway through college, studying graphic design, when I started doing drawings for the New Women's Times, the feminist paper in Rochester, N.Y. It wasn't a conscious decision - I still don't know what I was thinking when I called them, but within six months, I developed a strong feminist consciousness, declared myself a Lesbian and left school. Now, I do odd jobs to make money and spend as much time as possible trying to visually describe what it means to be a feminist Lesbian.

Doing a poster to celebrate DYKE magazine's first anniversary felt as natural as doing more personal drawings. Basically, I wanted to say that any and all of us can be Lesbians, and are. Also, I wanted to show the real strong pride that we should all feel about ourselves. 

Debbie Drechsler.

 

Typewriter marks end of original story
 

Debbie Drechsler is still working as an illustrator. See her website HERE


Signed dyke a quarterly flier for poster issue illustration by liza cowan
Flier for DYKE A Quarterly,Wanted: Poster Design. Illustration by Liza Cowan

More about our decision to change format HERE


SIDE TRIP: 1970's Lesbian Separatism, Fashion, and the Women of the Left Bank. Margo Hobbs Thompson

 

1970s Lesbian Separatism, Fashion, and the Women of the Left Bank

by Margo Hobbs Thompson, Muhlenberg College

presented at a seminar at The Modernist Studies Association Conference, 2011

Images here supplied by Liza Cowan, not part of original presentation.

 

Caroline Evans and Minna Thornton propose that fashion spreads break the male gaze’s circuit to allow feminine gazes to linger pleasurably on pictures of women: “Fashion…generates images of women for women, a system of representations that one might suppose to be cut to the measure of female desire” (10; emphasis in original). Liza Cowan analyzed the evolution of lesbian fashion in a series of articles titled “What the Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear” that ran from June 1973 to early 1976 in the lesbian feminist magazines she edited, Cowrie and Dyke. Cowan bucked the tendency among radical feminists at the time to disparage fashion as inevitably an instrument of female oppression, to explore rather its subversive, seductive potential. Fashion spreads, according to several feminist scholars, invite the feminine gaze and also establish “a paradigmatically lesbian viewing position” (Lewis and Rolley, 181). In this paper, I want to sketch my preliminary observations about the interlocking issues of the gaze, fashion, and the representation of sexuality.

Cowan returned repeatedly to the French, British, and American women of the Paris Left Bank before World War II as exemplifying a liberated style to which her readers could aspire. Romaine Brooks’s portrait of Una Troubridge, lover of Radclyffe Hall who authored the lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness, illustrated an article on lesbian designers that also cited bookstore owner Sylvia Beach and Natalie Barney, as well-known for her a literary salon as for her own writing. Barney had her portrait painted by Brooks in 1920; in it, her talisman is a horse statuette that alludes to her persona, “l’Amazone” in reference to her repuration as a horsewoman, her striking riding habit, and her identification with the mythical Amazons who like Barney rejected traditional gender roles (Crane 154-5). The centerfold of Cowrie 1, 4 (December 1973) incorporated a quotation from Gertrude Stein’s sensual poem “Lifting Belly”: “Cow come out” played on the title of the magazine. The accompanying illustration from a vintage advertisement depicts a vibrant woman with bobbed hair at the wheel of a car. She is dressed in a cap that rolls up at the brim, a coat with dramatic plaid shawl collar and deep cuffs, and snug gloves: she is the height of fashion and modernity circa the 1920s. The juxtaposition of a fashion plate with the Stein poem is apt: Stein took fashion seriously as a cultural expression, an opinion shared by New Yorker correspondent Janet Flaner (Benstock, 110). The following issue (Cowrie 1, 5, February 1974) featured Suzanne Valadon’s The Blue Room (1923) in a double-page spread. It is a painting of a heavy-set, dark-haired woman wearing a camisole and striped trouser bottoms, reclining on a day bed. Valadon’s model is endowed with a life of the mind as the artist represents her with a stack of books at her feet, an abstracted gaze, and a cigarette that suggests thoughtful absorption. There is a tension between mind and body, masculine and feminine in this painting, whose subject is at once odalisque and intellectual.

ValadonSuzanne_BlueRoomSuzanne Valadon.The Blue Room

These references posited for Cowrie’s readers a lesbian history, a self-sufficient women’s community, and a style by which lesbians could recognize each other. Cowan shared her interest in the Left Bank circle with other lesbian feminists, who in the abundance of lesbian periodicals that flourished in the 1970s profiled, pictured, cited, or reviewed Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Brooks, Barney, Troubridge and Hall, Renée Vivien, and Djuna Barnes. Talented and stylish women, living in a self-sustaining society of their own, their fascination for Cowan and her lesbian separatist peers is no surprise. I am interested here in drawing out the implications of this perceived connection: there are provocative similarities in their fashion choices, and these encoded a position with regard to sexuality.

What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear,  Cowrie Vol 1 no 3Cowrie Magazine, 1973. What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear

In the Brooks portrait of Una, Lady Troubridge that illustrates Cowrie 1, 3, she wears a charcoal jacket, striped trousers, and a crisp white shirt tied with a black scarf at the neck. Troubridge is very slender and gamine with indistinguishable breasts and narrow hips, and the cut of her jacket accentuates her lean limbs and torso. She sports a short haircut that smoothly covers her ears, with sleek bangs. Her accessories are minimal: pearl earrings, a monocle, and two dachshunds. She fixes the viewer with a fierce gaze and unsmiling rouged lips. This portrait and the reclining woman in Valadon’s Blue Room reflect Cowan’s preference for women who reject feminine fashion. It is a selective view of the Left Bank: as Shari Benstock writes, not all the lesbians in Paris wore trousers and cropped their hair. Colette, for example, did not regularly dress that way, although her lover Missy occasionally did, and she imagined a community of women from which the masculine would be excluded (58-9). Cowan favored Troubridge’s look and Colette’s separatist vision of a women’s world.

In their 2003 analysis of the modern woman, art historians Whitney Chadwick and Tirza True Latimer observed that “the lesbian expatriate crystallized much of what it meant for a woman, in 1920s and 1930s Paris, to be modern: uprooted, mobile, urban, enterprising, culturally ambitious, professionally competent, sexually active, intellectually (and often financially) independent, à la mode—and, finally, visible” (14). Troubridge’s mannish style as represented in the portrait signified these qualities, and had a parallel in straight women’s fashion in the 1920s: la mode garçonne. La garçonne was the title of a popular novel about a woman who has sexual adventures, and demands sexual equality with men as her right. La mode garçonne represented liberation and modernity. (Chadwick and Latimer, 7) Coco Chanel was a proponent of the style, adapting clothing from the (male) British aristocracy and laborers alike (Benstock, 111). Thus a woman in masculine clothing read as modern, heterosexually forward, or lesbian depending upon the context and her audience. The inclusion of sexuality was crucial to Troubridge and her peers: it differentiated them from their 19th century predecessors involved in romantic friendships. Natalie Barney was one who made no secret of her serial romantic entanglements (Crane, 153, 155-6), and sexuality was a crucial aspect of the new generation’s sense of themselves as modern.

What the well dressed dyke will wear, Cowrie magazine vol one no 2, p 11, moregan and laura  . Photo by Barbara Jabaily, text by liza cowan, clothing by Morgan ZaleWhat The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear Cowrie Magazine.

The most chic straight women adopted male clothing again in the 1970s. Yves St.-Laurent designed a tuxedo for women, called “le smoking,” in 1966. Bianca Jagger wore it in 1972, and Helmut Newton memorably photographed it in 1975 for Vogue. Newton’s image of a woman wearing St.-Laurent’s suit, smoking, in an empty street at night attended by another woman nude but for a pillbox hat with veil, heightens the sexual charge already there in “le smoking.” Other fashionable women of the day, like actress Charlotte Rampling, were photographed wearing clothes purchased from men’s departments or boutiques. Surprisingly for someone so current with popular culture and fashion, Cowan did not make reference to these iterations of contemporary men’s fashion-derived styles. Instead, she referenced historical models who had donned the look of la garçonne and in the process claimed for themselves a sexual identity that was as modern as it was untraditional. Cowrie’s editor promised that by aligning herself with a hidden history of glamorous, sexy, independent lesbians, the reader could discover and represent her authentic self.

The authentic lesbian identity that the historical fashions Cowrie featured did not exclude sexual desire. Contemporary lesbian identities did, when they were aligned with feminist politics. Since 1971, the woman-identified woman had been the model lesbian whose sexuality was downplayed to serve a political purpose: it made straight women activists more comfortable allying themselves with lesbians. Poet Adrienne Rich reformulated woman-identification as a lesbian continuum in 1980, on which any woman could locate herself even if she never acted on same-sex desire. To Cowan’s generation of lesbian feminists, butch-femme role-playing was suspect: butches were taken to be “male-identified” while femmes were gullible narcissists consumed by “the beauty ideal” (Scott, 293). Furthermore, the lesbian butch was a working class identity: it was not only gender politics but class estrangement that made the butch unappealing to a privileged cohort of lesbian feminists (Case, 286). Yet Teresa de Lauretis writes in her theorization of lesbian desire and sexuality that it is difference above all that allows desire to move between subject and object; too much alikeness breeds an absence of desire and, implicitly, lesbian bed death. She observes that the most common sign of lesbian desire “is some form of what is coded as masculinity” because masculinity almost inevitably suggests desire for the female body (de Lauretis, 243). The fetish of masculinity is “the lure of the mannish lesbian,” de Lauretis writes: it resists the loss of the female body, and the prohibition of access to it (243).

By reviving the look of the Left Bank lesbians, Cowan brought sex back to her readers: The man-tailored suits worn by some lesbians in pre-war Paris presented a style that foregrounded the difference so crucial to the expression of desire even as it negotiated butchness. Associating her sense of style with theirs, Cowan promoted her preference for clothes that were both comfortable and expressed creative individuality; she described a suit she had made by a lesbian designer that was made of velour and had a flying horse appliquéd across the back. While eye-catching, it was not designed to attract male attention like the high heels and skirts that Cowan believed literally fogged a woman’s mind and made her uncoordinated (Cowan 1975-6, 21). Garments such as this one were “liberating, physically and psychologically, and…beautiful” (Cowan 1974, 22). The lesbian style, or “dyke fashion” as Cowan preferred, was a sign by which lesbians recognized each other (Cowan 1974, 22).

Style is the preeminent subcultural marker. Referring to fashion, style aligns its wearers with a particular group, distances them from a mainstream trend, and conveys shared values. (Freitas et al., 85) With her articles in Cowrie and Dyke describing the well-dressed dyke, Cowan defined a style that suited her ideal audience. With reference to the Left Bank lesbians, she attributed a history and continuity to that subculture. And with guidelines and exhortations to her readers, whom she imagined to be much like herself, Cowan invited them to participate in a lesbian separatist subculture.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Benstock, Shari. Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.

Case, Sue-Ellen. “Toward a Butch-Femme Aesthetic.” In Making a Spectacle: Feminist Essays on Contemporary Women’s Theatre. Ed. Lynda Hart. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989.

Chadwick, Whitney and Tirza True Latimer, eds. The Modern Woman Revisited: Paris Between the Wars. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

Cowan, Liza. “What the Well-Dressed Dyke Will Wear.” Cowrie 1, 5 (February 1974): 21-2.

_______. “What the Well-Dressed Dyke Will Wear.” Dyke 1, 1 (Winter 1975-1976): 20-5.

Crane, Sheila. “Mapping the Amazon’s Salon.” In Gender and Landscape: Renegotiatinig Morality and Space. Eds. L. Dowler, J. Carubia, and B. Szczygiel. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.

Evans, Caroline and Minna Thornton. Women and Fashion: A New Look. London and New York: Quartet Books, 1989.

Freitas, Anthony, Susan Kaiser, and Tania Hammidi. “Communities, Commodities, Cultural Space, and Style.” Journal of Homosexuality 31, 1 /2 (1996): 83-107.

Lauretis, Teresa de. The Practice of Love: Lesbian Sexuality and Perverse Desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Lewis, Reina and Katrina Rolley. “Ad(dressing) the Dyke: Lesbian Looks and Lesbians Looking.” In Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures. Eds. Peter Horne and Reina Lewis. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.

Scott, Linda M. Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

 


DYKE A Quarterly, no. 3. 1976. pp 6-12 Letters

Letters To The Editor

Dyke No 3 p 5

Dyke a quarterly no 3 1976 pp 6,7 letters to editor

Dyke a quarterly no 3 pp 8,9 letters to editor

Dyke a quarterly no 3 pp 10,11 letters to editor, illustration by Tee Corinne

 Illustration by Tee Corinne

Dyke No 3 p 12

 

DYKE NO 2: Letter Salad

Dear Liza and Penny,

I hope you print this so other lesbians who feel the way I do will know someone agrees with them.

I am really angry about a lot of what is in your magazine. One thing is that it costs $3.00!!! I can't believe you really care about most lesbians reading it if you charge so much.

Another thing I can't believe is that the Red Dykes from Detroit wrote how fucking classist you are and how oppressive and you didn't even respond!!! How can you not respond to a letter like that?? Its obvious that you don't have to worry about jobs or money, and that you don't care about Lesbians who do! And you won't even admit that money separates us us from each other as lesbians and that we have to learn to deal with it. I wouldn't expect you to write articles about jobs, etc, if its not in your experience, but the least you could do is get articles from other lesbians about these things, so that those of us who have to deal with daily survival would have something to relate to in your magazine.

The other main thing that made me real angry was the shitty review you, Liza, did of Linda Shear's tape. I experience Linda's music as very powerful and beautiful, both musically and what she's saying. I can't believe how much you put her down in that review - saying something good about everything else except the music itself. Her songs are not at all difficult for me to listen to, and I think it's really destructive to all Lesbians to say the things you say. I am not saying that you should pretend to like something if you don't - but the way you say what you think is really insulting and putting her down. It is also infuriating to me that you don't at least say that linda is a separatist and her songs are about that vision, instead of saying her ideas are interesting! That means nothing!! If you cared about Linda or the rest of us Lesbians, you could have said what you had to say in much more positive and accurate ways. (Not that I can understand at all why you don't like her music in the 1st place.)

It's very clear to me from your magazine that you are upper class snobs who don't care what effect you have on other lesbians and are not really serious about putting out a good lesbian magazine.

Melanie

North Hampton

Dyke a quarterly no 3 1976 experpt from letter

Dear Melanie,

Yes, $3 is a lot of money, but to produce a 86 page magazine that has been typeset and printed is expensive. The printers and typesetters are Lesbians. The contributors are all paid, except us, plus for every magazine that is sold by a bookstore, the store gets a full 40%, which in this case is $1.20. Since we're a quarterly, we wanted to make each issue quite long and of high quality so that it would last a long time. The cost of a subscription is $8.00, which is $2.00 per issue, which is quite reasonable, we thought. For every copy we sell individually through the male (mail) system, we must pat 34¢, now raised to 50¢. About one quarter of the time, the Post Office "loses" the magazine and we have to send another.

We're not breaking even let along making any profit from the magazine. However, since many women felt the price was too high we are lowering it and reducing the number of pages per issue. Please see Criticism, Feedback and Changes for more on price.

As for not answering Red Dykes' letter as well as some of the other letters, we agree that it was the wrong decision to make. We are now answering letters of criticism in print. Please see Criticism, Feedback and Changes for more explanation of this.

Where did you get the idea that we don't "admit that money separates us from each other as lesbians and that we have to learn to deal with it." We do "admit" it, we never said otherwise and we certainly never meant to imply otherwise. I'm sorry if you did. The CLIT papers 1 and 2 did contain a certain amount of discussion about class and money and we did print them.

We have, including this issue, only produces three issues so far, so of course we have not covered every topic of interest to every Lesbian. Obviously we can write only our of our experience. We can and actively do seek articles written by other Dykes. And now that we have put out a few issues, we have been getting a lot more in the mail. We started DYKE with the idea that the general themem would be Lesbian experience, and we hoped and still hope that logs of Lesbians would write about anything they were interested in from a Lesbian perspective. We are now switching to theme issues in an effort to make it easier for Lesbians of all different classes, races, ages etc. to write. Again pleas read Criticism, Feeedback and Changes for more details.

Almost all the women who have written for DYKE have to work for a living. Does having a job really preclude you from relating to the articles that have been printed? And if so, which ones? You say in your letter that we are "upper class snobs who don't care what effect you have on other Lesbians, and are not really serious about putting out a good lesbian magazine." What a lot of assumptions in one sentence. If we didn't care what effect we had on other Lesbians, we wouldn't bother putting out a magazine, a medium that can't survive without readers and participants. And you can you possibly think we are not serious about making a constructive magazine? Whatever you think of the content, it should be obvious that many women worked very  hard and very seriously to put out these magazines.

Does the fact that Liza and I don't have straight jobs disqualify us from participating in Lesbian culture. Should we not use our money to put out a Lesbian magazine? Should we not write from our own experiences? Does the fact that we don't have to earn our living off the magazine mean that we are less serious about putting out a good magazine. How many feminist and Lesbian magazines or newspapers suppor the women who are producing them? I am not asking rhetorical questions. I really don't understand what you mena. You seem to be saying that because we have some money that everything generated from that is of no value and has evil intent. Do you really believe this?

As for Liza's review of Linda Shear. Please see her answer to Helen's letter. I think we all have a lot to learn about giving and receiving criticism that is both hones and supportive. I also feel that the tone of a piece is as important as the content. We are trying to be conscious and responsible about this. Destructive tones are a problem of many Lesbians and, as you say, destructive for all Lesbians. As an example of destructive tones of criticism, reread the Red Dykes letter which you mention.

I have tried to answer what I perceive you are saying in you letter. Criticism is hard because we all operate on so many different levels. Making negative assumptions about each other isn't going to help. We all have to overcome the conditioning that teaches us to mistrust each other.

Penny 

 

Dear DYKE magazine,

Reading your ads and things I realize that you want nothing to do with the man. I can understand that, the man tells us where and when we can work, eat, sleep and just about everything else. We can oppose the man and not buy his goods, take his jobs, live in his houses. On the outside like that you know its hard unless one has a source of money the man doesn't try to take away. You know the man (or 'lord' these words are interchangeable) gives and the man/lord takes away. Unfortunately the man owns the home I rent for me and my dog, and man owns the company that sends me my chick for the forty hours a week I spend in the office/factory/store/field etc. Anyway I can't seem to get away from the man. But - and this brings me to my point- you want money for your mag. But the only money I got is from the man so I don't know what to do for you. I have a solution: here are some dyke dollars.

So please send me your magazine.

In sisterhood

Jacqueline

Washington,DC

 

Dear Jacqueline,

I know that we did not intentionally try ot imply that any Lesbian could possibly exist without relating to men in any way. Our money comes from men most of the time. The source is certainly men. Anyway, we are sending you one issue of DYKE in exchange for you beautiful Dyke dollar. And remember - we pay for all work that we print, that includes graphics, so keep it coming.

P & L

Dyke a quarterly no 3, 1976, p. 6DYKE A Quarterly, No. 3, 1976. p. 6. Dyke Dollar by Jacqueline. "This is good tender for all Dyke debts public and otherwise."

 

Hi,

I was absolutely fascinated by the copy of DYKE you recently sent me. When  can scrape up the price I'll be sending in my subscription. I wish I were fortunate enough to live in a more advanced place so that I might benefit from the experiences and associations of others like myself. As it is, I'm rather isolated - my only contact being my whole light and life and love. Who also happens to be married. I'm expanding my mind and ever growing (I hope.) She's working on it too, after a fashion I guess. Not fast enough for me, but maybe we'll get there one day. I read everything I can lay my hands on anymore regarding feminism and Lesbianism and etc- an pass it on to her partially digested- Hopefully that won't be necessary soon, but since she doesn't care to read a great deal, I guess it's up to me to garner new ideas.

Being alone and isolated, and weak, I remain under the control of the present system, getting by as much as possible and where necessary and keeping to ourselves the rest of the time. The economic hold over me (at least) is powerful. I'm not strong enough to fight it yet. Magazines such as yours inspire and encourage me, and I need all the help I can get. Please don't give up!! You are reaching people who need you!! I'm not a person who writes to magazines as a rule, but I guess I'm groping for someone who might understand what life is like for me. Sorry for crying on your shoulders.

I realize the magazine and your other business must use up your time quite effectively. I hope you can clear up two things for me, though. If you aren't able to, I understand

First, I'm not sure what you mean by your usage of the term "DYKE." In trying to scope out the philosophy behind your magazine I can't imagine you mean the 'macho butch' type image. Does it apply to all lesbians, or Lesbian separatists, or who?

And second, I'm beginning to comprehend the necessity of separatism. As each day goes by and I run up against the frustrations and heartbreaks I feel more and more ready to separate myself. But aren't men a requirement at least in the propagation of the race? We can't do that by ourselves yet, can we? Maybe it's a sophomoric question, but unless I ask, where do I get an answer?

This is too long already. In eager anticipation of a repy, at at least issue #2. I'll sight off.

Keep your presses rolling! I wish you love.

an emerging infant sister,

Susan,

Wyoming

Dyke a quarterly letter dont give up
Dear Susan,

Your situation sounds unfortunate. I hope that you will be able to find more satisfactory conditions for yourself. As to your questions: We use the word "DYKE" to mean strong Lesbian. This does not mean 'macho' or 'butch' although straight people might think that we are macho or butch. "Dyke" is a word that has been used to insult and intimidate Lesbians for a long time. Its origins are obscure, but contemporary Lesbians are reclaiming the word to use with pride about oourselves. We chose it as a title for our magazine because it is simple, direct, powerful and easy to remember. Our full title is DYKE, A Quarterly because a spiritualist told Penny that we should use the letter "Q" to help us financially.

About propagation: Some women say that Parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, is possible and, in fact, does happen sometimes. You can read more about that in The Lesbian Reader published by Amazon Press. Even without parthenogenesis though, it is not necessary to build a lifestyle around a few minutes of impregnation. As dairy farmers know, it is not necessary to have a bull for every cow. It is not even necessary to have the bull at all, anymore. Just call the artificial inseminator. Also, many Lesbians choose not to have children at all, while others come out after they have children.

I hope this answers your questions satisfactorily. I am glad that you like DYKE so much. It is very gratifying to hear that.

Liza

MOTHER LETTERS

Dear Penny,

Whew! I just read your "Letters From My Mother." They are word for word what my female parent's (cant stomach the word 'mother' suddenly) reaction would be if I came out to her. I've tried to fantacize her reaction many times - your article saved me much fantasy time - not to mention months and years of shit if I actually did come out to her. I"m surprized to find another parent who plays exactly the same games mine does - Reading your article made mine's games crystal clear - more clearly than I've been able to on my own....

(exerpt only)

Thanks, 

Polly & Georgine

New York

 


SIDE TRIP: White Mare Buttons

I just ran across this image of White Mare buttons by Liza Cowan (that's me.) My hands holding a bunch of the buttons I produced while Penny and I were publishing DYKE, A Quarterly. White Mare was, of course, a regular advertiser in the magazine. Buttons cost a mere 50¢ each and I sold quite a few. When Penny, Alix and I would go on tour I always sold them, and I sold in women's bookstores as well.

 

feminist and lesbian Buttons by White Mare, Inc. Liza Cowan archives

White Mare Buttons, ©Liza Cowan/White Mare, Inc. Image made on Mita 500D copier circa 1978.

I wrote about my buttons in SeeSaw, my art blog. Here's what I said.

Many lifetimes ago, in the 1970's, I used to design, publish and distribute buttons. Not sewing buttons, but the kind you pin onto your coat, or shirt, or backpack. Badges, they call them in England. I'd collected political buttons as a teenager and had quite an impressive bunch of them. I loved the smooth roundness of them, the graphics, and how they had to deliver their message in an instant. Like little billboards for your clothing.

I liked to use symbols from Greek and Celtic antiquity, probably because they were accessible in books, and because the education we got in the nineteen fifties and sixties presented Mesopotamia and Greece and Egypt as the only places that existed in ancient times. Africa didn't exist- except for Egypt - in our racially biased educational system, even in the private progressive school I went to. Robert Graves' highly annotated book The Greek Myths led me to his book The White Goddess, A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, and those were my two most insprational sources.

The first button I made was "A You're An Amazon" based on the song by Alix Dobkin (which was, in turn, a riff on "A You're Adorable" by Buddy Kaye and Sid Lippman) The moon and stars connected it to imaginary Amazon space. At the time, Amazons occupied a huge portion of Lesbian imaginary space until the other Amazon (.com) colonized the name and the pretty much corrupted the powerful symbolic association to an all woman civilization.

The triangle with a little groove etched in it that I found in pictures of carved rocks in Greece became the basis of my second design, "I like older women". I was twenty four  at the time, but the message seemed really important, surrounded as we were, even then, by media images of the perpetual child/woman.

The Labyris, double headed ax, was the ubiquitous symbol of matriarchy, which feminist Lesbians worldwide had chosen as their symbol,  I chose to pair it with the Star Of David, to connect my two identities. If you look closely, the Star of David is in the circle which tops the Labyris, turning the whole affair into a women's symbol. I thought it was quite clever. When jewelers started making pendants with the same design, I took it as a compliment. Several jewelers, when I told them I'd actually made up the design, said they thought it was ancient.

I asked a friend to design "Mother Nature Is a Lesbian" for my company. It was a huge seller, but truth be told, I never liked the design. The trees were nice but too much of a couple. The colors, light green, dark green and light blue, were pleasing, so that was good. But the typeface drove me nuts. There, I've said it.

Medusa, the Gorgon who could turn men to stone if they looked at her, was another ubiquitous symbol of women's rage and power. Greek Goddess Athena featured the head of Medusa on her shield. Greek bakers put Medusa on the oven door to keep people from stealing the bread. I thought it would be nifty if we in the modern world could also wear Medusa as our aegis. I hired cartoonist Roberta Gregory to design this one.

And last is the White Mare, Celtic symbol of The Great Goddess. She was etched large on cliffs in England, I named my company after her. White Mare, Inc. If only I'd started an internet bookselling company we'd be ordering from WhiteMare.com and I'd be rich.

And I'd share it with you.

Support lesbian art button ©Liza CowanSupport Lesbian Art. Handmade button made to sell at festivals. ©Liza Cowan

 

 

 


DYKE A Quarterly, No. 3, pp.50 + inside back cover: ADS

 

Dyke a quarterly no 3 pp 50 and inside back cover ads DYKE A Quarterly, No. 2 p. 50 + inside back cover, ads

TEXT OF ADS in gray, indended. Commentary follows.

Living With Lesbians

Women’s Wax Works A002

An Uncommon Musical Adventure with Alix Dobkin & Friends


Livingwithlesbians Living With Lesbians was the second album from Alix Dobkin. Like her first album, Lavender Jane Loves Women, this one had two versions of a cover. This was the first. Most women found it threatening although we were really just raking apples at the farm. Pictured are left to right, Mary, Smokey, Alix, Penny House and Liza Cowan. Photo by Ginger Legato. Design by Aenjai Graphics.

This album has been blogged about a lot, mostly showing how awful, funny, wierd, it is. Worst record album cover etc. We loved it, but the people spoke and we listened. We made a new cover for the next pressing.

 

266-1 This cover sold well. Photo of Alix Dobkin and the dog Three Maple Betsey Booper (aka Saint Betsey) , photo by LIza Cowan.

Of course, there were always Dykes who loved the first cover, as well as the second. See QueerMusicHeritage

 Also Lavender Jane Loves Women

Women’s Wax Works A001

 $6 Each (includes postage) Make check payable to

Project No. 1 Preston Hollow NY 123469

 

Alix-dobkin-lavendar-jane-loves-women Lavender Jane Loves Women was Alix's groundbreaking first album. Never before in the history of the world had there been an album made entirely by women. The musicians, the engineer, even the vinyl pressers were women (although the vinyl pressing company was male owned - the only part of the whole process for which we couldn't find a woman - owned company. But the actual pressers were women. We met them. And, equally important, the album was conceived for an audience of women. Also groundbreaking.

 

For the first pressing, the abums were shipped to us in plain white sleeves. We had a work party where half a dozen women came over to our apartment and sat around the living room R-150-1490532-1223777275 rubber cementing the 12x12 printed paper of the cover art, which was a drawing by Alix. I'm sure there was lots of food, probably a joint or two passed around and lots of good laughs and hard work. Now that's a collector's item.

The second cover came a few years later. Design by LIza Cowan, photo using Mita 900-D copier and cut-out heart. Liza's hand. I don't remember why we changed the art.

 

 

Dobkin400_10 Alix released her memoir, My Red Blood, in the Spring of 2010. The last chapters chronicle the time leading up to the release of Lavender Jane Loves Women. Published by Alyson Books you can buy it from them if your local bookstore doesn't carry it. Alyson Books

 

 

 

  Limited supply available:

The Flying Lesbians

German record album

Send $6 to : Project #1

Preston Hollow, NY 12469


Logo163X200 The Flying Lesbians was a Lesbian Rock Band from Germany.

You can read about them HERE

When band members Monika Jaekel and Monica Savier came to the States, they stayed with us. Later, Alix toured Europe with them.


 WOMANSPLACE

Feminist Books and Periodicals

Booklist Available

Mail Orders

9 East 5th Street

Tempe AZ 85201

One of the many women's bookstores that peppered the landscape in the 1970's Womansplace no longer exists. Any information about it is welcome. Just drop a line in the comment box.

 

MEGAERA PRESS

A women’s press collective for 3 ½ years- formerly Mother Jones Press

‘wimmin printing for wimmin

lesbian publishing

 

design layout offset printing binding sipping

write or call for an estimate

mail to: c/o WIT Inc P.O.. Box 745, Northampton MA

 

Deliver to: 19 Hawley St. Northampton MA, Rear Building

See Elana Dykewoman, here and here

 

LONG TIME COMING

CANADIAN LESBIAN FEMINIST NEWSPAPER

BOX 128 STATION G, MONTREAL P.Q.

SUBS: $5 YR INDIVIDUALS

$10 YR INSTITUTIONS  5O c SAMPLE COPY

 

I asked asked the CLGA- Canadian Lesbian and Gay archives if they had some infromation on Long Time Coming. They had a response for me within hours. Archivist RULE! Thanks to Elizabeth Bailey at CLGA and Michelle Schwartz who supplied the following information:

From Never Going Back by Tom Warner, page 83

"A few months after its founding, some members of Montreal Gay Women began publishing Long Time Coming, the first regularly produced publication exclusively for lesbians in Canada. Long Time Coming found a receptive readership that stretched across North America. But, in testament to the times, none of the women involved allowed her real name to be published. In all, Long Time Coming produced approximately twenty issues from June 1973 until it folded in 1976."

The citation given for this is: Laura Yaros, "Long Time Coming: Long Time Gone," Amazones d'Hier: Lesbiennes d'Aujourd'hui, vol. 5, March 1988.

From Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada: A Selected Chronology, 1964-1975 by Don McLeod, page 130

"July, 1973. Montreal. The first issue of Long Time Coming was published by Montreal Gay Women. Edited by Jackie Manthorne, this was the first lesbian journal published in Canada. Long Time COming contained news, poetry, opinion pieces, book reviews, advertisements, and listings. It ceased publication in April-May 1976, after twenty issues."

The citation given for this:

Margaret Fulford, ed. The Canadian Women's Movement, 1960-1990: A Guide to Archival Resources/Le mouvement de femmes, 1960-199: guide de resources archivistiques (Toronto: Canadian Women's Movement Archives/ECW Press, 1992), Entry 618.

Don McLeod's book is available for free as a pdf from the University of Toronto website.

White Mare Buttons in DYKE A Quarterly 1976A You're An Amazon button by White Mare Inc


Buttons by white mare inc


For more on White Mare Buttons see HERE

Ad they will know me by my teeth elana dykewomon
ad for Riverfinger Women by Elana Dykewomon

For more on Elana Dykewomon see HERE and HERE