what’s the world coming to?

February 1st, 2009 | Uncategorized


A whole buncha people emailed me yesterday about this article in the New York Times about womyn’s land. Yes, with a ‘y’. Yes, in the Times. Also, I just noticed Ready2agitate linked to it on the last post. Thank you all.

It’s a pretty cool piece. True, it’s about the increasing rarity of womyn’s rural communities, and their aging and dwindling populations. And true, it’s in the “Fashion and Style” section. But whatever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thoughtful, respectful look at real lesbian lives in such a mainstream forum. And I’ve certainly never seen the idea of lesbian separatism given any air time whatsoever unless it was to skewer it. There’s a little bit of a “quaint and outmoded” vibe to the article, but it doesn’t poke fun at these women.

Also, there’s a great slide show with narration by the dykes who live at Alapine, a lesbian-only community in rural Alabama.

73 Responses to “what’s the world coming to?”

  1. Mabel says:

    Yeah, and let’s not forget there is now a lesbian Head of State. The Prime Minister of Iceland. The world sure is strange these days…

  2. Ellen O. says:

    Thanks for posting this Alison. I saw this article on the Times website too and was moved by the honesty of these women and what they’ve accomplished.

    At 47, I feel very much between generations. Emotionally, I relate to their desire for women-only space. (The natural setting speaks to me too.) I know there is a part of me that comes alive only in all-lesbian space.

    At the same time, in my work, in my cohousing community, and at my Quaker Meeting, I value being part of a larger community of men and women with a variety of sexual orientations. Still, I often feel somewhat an outsider. I don’t know if this is because I’m queer or because I’m a writer or because lots of people feel like outsiders, that it’s part of the human condition.

  3. Dharma Kelleher says:

    I agree with a lot of what Ellen O. said.

    For many of us who are minorities of various sorts, there is a need to connect with others of our kind in a strong and nurturing way. I myself have been a part of a women’s circle for nearly 13 years. They have been my lifeline so many times.

    At the same time, I feel it is important for us to interact in the general population. Without this, our thinking can become toxic and cruel. “Us versus them” attitudes replace love and compassion, ultimately leading to suffering for everyone.

    Finding the right balance of the two (our community and the general population) is the key to claiming our power without losing ourselves to egomania.

  4. M-H says:

    Thanks Alison, That is a really interesting article. Excellent journalism: looks at the people and reports the issues as they see them without any snide undermining comments. The tension that Ellen and Dharma talk about are very real and, while I do understand the attitudes of the women in the article (and I’m coming up to their age group) I personally don’t want to to live my life out in such a circumscribed way. And (from a distance of thousands of miles!) I think they’re too worried about local backlash if they were more open. To be brutally honest, local people probably wouldn’t think of ‘old women’ like them as sexual beings. (heh) However, given their life experiences, I can understand their concerns. Power to them for keeping their dream alive for so long!

  5. shadocat says:

    I loved that article. I live in an inner-city community, once known as “Womontown”; sadly, most od the “womons” have left, due to crime, age of the neighborhood, etc. How wonderful it would be to have a rural community like that nearby. The world could use more Alapines…

  6. Ready2Agitate says:

    I know – fashion and style, right?!

    The best part was the slideshow. I love those womyn! I also get the distinct feeling that they’re pagan (I’ve got pagar?) — although the article doesn’t really know what to do with that aspect of Alapine. (They also appear to be all white, able-bodied womyn.)

    I, too, could relate to the feeling of being somehow caught between generations (at age 43, even as a bisexual woman). I hope the article gives Alapine the publicity it needs to keep going into the next generation…. The most moving aspect for me was one comment that “I have no curtains on my windows.” Now THAT’s liberating!

  7. Elara says:

    I really liked the article too, and was pleased with the respect they treated the women with. I did have a bit of a problem with it though. I believe and support the idea of lesbian separatists being able to create their own community. They obviously feel a lot of love, understanding and freedom living together like that, and I think any community based on those principles is great. However, for at least some of the women, part of what they want is to exclude men not just because they’re trying to build a supportive lesbian environment, but because they believe something is fundamentally wrong with men as human beings (i.e. blanket generalizations like “Men are violent”). I think it’s just fine to exclude men because you’re trying to build a loving lesbian separatist community, I have trouble with the idea of excluding men or indeed any group of people, like gays, lesbians, African Americans, whoever, because you believe here is something fundamentally wrong with them as human beings. But, at the same time, I’m 25, I haven’t had to face nearly the kind of challenges these women have had to face just to be able to be true to themselves, so who am I to judge?

  8. Kate L says:

    Women who were young in the 70’s, dressed for the outdoors life and living in the country? OH MY GOD, I’M ONE OF THEM! 🙂 And I have lived in the deep south – New Orleans and Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi (both destroyed by Hurricane Katrina).

  9. Suzanonymous says:

    I think the first picture in the article, at the top, could be traced in ink (by AB, who knows how to do it) to form a typical panel from DTWOF. The people, the expressions and body language, the household clutter. Makes me miss the strip (I mean sort of — not if AB really doesn’t want to resume it, of course).

  10. Rob W. says:

    Politics aside, from what I see of the slides they’ve done some very cool things with their homesteads – I particularly like the roof with turf over it. I hope I can live in a similar community someday.

  11. RevLez says:

    Loved the comparison between the wymen’s lands and communities of women religious. The comparison is closer than the writer might imagine! Sign me up for their retirement community!!

  12. The Cat Pimp says:

    My straight single women friends have often talked about setting up a co-housing situation for our old age. Not one of those exclusive communities where you must be over 55, etc. but a group of women friends to keep an eye on each other.

    The pictures in the article reminded me so much of my aunt’s convent and her fellow nuns. Back in the day, the safe place for lesbians was the convent. They were purportedly celibate, but who knows? There’s an interesting book – I don’t know if I still have it – “Lesbian Nuns: Breaking the Silence.” The stories were all very similar. It seems very clear to me that the integration of gays and lesbians into larger society is a disincentive for either kind of all-women community. (BTW – I do have stories of the small northern midwestern town my grandfather and great-grandfather lived in – the gay folks were not talked of overtly, but everyone knew who was in what pair, for example the town pharmacist was a gay man – and were not harassed in the early 20th century. Some small towns protect their own.)

  13. Suz (Bklyn) says:

    I’ve had the co-housing discussions with other straight women as well.

    I wonder whether part of the cause of the diminishing attraction of womyn-only physical spaces is the availability of predominantly-woman (or woman-only) communities, as it were, online.

  14. Ng Yi-Sheng says:

    I can only access the slideshow. But it’s interesting that this coverage is only happening when the women are (yikes! ageist term ahead!) quite old.

    ‘Phobes would’ve been freaked out by the image of young, ball-bustin’ chicks with short hair proving that they didn’t need men. Now, they’re older, milder, less threatening to the eye, so when they hold hands people don’t see sex, they see comfort.

    Here in Singapore we don’t really have any old, settled gay couples. At least none who’re willing to brave the media’s glare. 🙁

  15. Ready2Agitate says:

    Quick topic-hijack re: Iceland’s new lesbian Prime Minister, from Monday’s NYT:

    Although Ms. Sigurdardottir’s rise has drawn widespread attention on Web sites for gay men and lesbians outside Iceland, her relationship is considered unremarkable at home. In 1940, while still a dependency of Denmark, Iceland decriminalized gay sex. It approved civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples in 1996, one of the first countries to do so.

    “Iceland is a small society, and the public knows what Sigurdardottir stands for as a politician, and that’s the only thing that is important,” said Frosti Jonsson, a spokesman for Iceland’s National Association of Queers. “Nowadays, not only does Iceland have one of the most progressive legal environments for gay people, there have also been changes in public attitudes towards gay people. It simply isn’t an issue anymore.”

    {And now back to womyn’s land…}

  16. Leda says:

    What an amazing article and even more so for the fact it is in the mainstream press. Being with your own is such a strong pull but I know that for me that sometimes I find out the most about myself when I am with people who are not like me. I agree with Ellen O, outsider-ness is part of being human, everybody has groups they are on the outside off as well as the inside of, what I like is to move between the two and I need no-one’s permission for that but my own. I do tend to be wary of anyone who rigidly sticks to only groups they are only the inside of even if its one of mine, but sometimes thats all I want too, everyone needs shelter from time to time.

  17. jgp says:

    When I was a student at Ohio University, one of my English professors showed a slide show about her brief stay at a womyn’s community. I was dumbfounded and enchanted. I still routinely threaten to quit my day job/real life and move there. It still exists, so the threat’s not entirely empty: The Susan B. Anthony Memorial Unrest Home. http://home.frognet.net/~sbamuh/

    They advertise in the LC!

  18. Eva says:

    Is there still womyn’s land in Vermont, does anyone know?

  19. Therry says:

    One of the interesting things about the Sunday Times was that in the magazine, there was a huge spread about a bunch of single mothers by choice who live in a chosen community looking after each other and their largely adopted Chinese daughters. Look for it here:


    It was an amazing parallel piece to the story about Alapine. For some reason, the mainstream press chose to let it all hang out this weekend, probably as a counterweight to the Superbowl. (which was a fabulous game, BTW)

  20. Squiggle says:

    I remember a strip where Toni was pregnant and she and the midwife were having a convo about Clarice.
    Midwife: She sounds like my husband when I was pregnant with Alex.
    Toni: What did you do?
    Midwife: Left him and moved into a lesbian commune.
    Toni: I’m not going to leave her! Besides, I don’t think there even are any lesbian communes anymore.

  21. Erika says:

    I share some of your concerns, Elara. My heart hurt when I read the “men are violent” comment. I understand where that feeling comes from, but it is offensive and counterproductive, too. I understand and support the need for safe spaces for women, but I question what separatism based on such beliefs does for the greater good. That said, I agree with everyone who noted it *was* great to see this article, along with the one about single mothers’ communities, in the NYT.

  22. ksbel6 says:

    I agree with the comments above about excluding any particular group. Like the idea that competition only shows up when men do. Believe me, I have been around many women who are more competitive than many men. I’m quite certain there are alphas in any group.

    I’m curious about the mention of such a place in Missouri. We have an eco/bio commune just outside of Kirksville (about 10 miles) that is completely self-sufficient, but it is not only lesbians. Does anyone from Missouri know where the article was referring?

  23. Ian says:

    I found that very moving. I sometimes feel the need to set up a community. We still have ‘straight’ eco-communes in Britain and, of course, the town of Hebden Bridge!

    It’s very hard work and you have to put so much effort into your relationships and finding the right people to live with. It is amazing how similar the place looks to female-only religious communities. I wonder if that’s how the Baptist people living around Alapine rationalise the settlement – sort of relating it to a convent?

    It is hard finding a balance. I can really understand the desire for separatism, but it’s hard not to see it as a retreat from (an admittely often unpleasant) reality. Safety and respect will only come from engaging with non-members of the minority.

  24. Jude says:

    I thought it was impressively even-handed, especially for a mainstream straight publication. I know some of the women in the article, and my impression is that they agree that it was pretty even-handed, though there were some inaccuracies in reporting, and a number of oversimplifications of the politics.

    There are something like 120 womyn’s lands still active in North America, and there are also a number in places like New Zealand, Central America, and Europe.

    M-H: These womyn are still concerned about community backlash because they lived through the backlashes in the 70s and 80s, when some land dykes had their children taken away from them by the police and experienced ridiculously invasive police raids. And certainly there has been little improvement on violence against women — and lesbians — in this country, cf. the violence against gays and lesbians that has broken out with the Prop 8 war in California.

    Elara and Erika: I suspect the “men are violent” statement was removed from context. There is almost always extensive context and discussion around these politics, and naturally the straight press would simplify it.

    jgp: SuBAMUH is gorgeous! I was lucky enough to stay there a few years ago for one of the Land Dykes Gatherings, and I still dream about going back sometime. Being on the land for just a week made such a difference in my world; it really cemented my desire to be part of a land community myself someday.

    Eva: Last I heard (2006), there was womyn’s land in Vermont with only 2 women living on it, but I can’t recall which one it was.

    ksbel6: The thing is, with competition, that yes, there are plenty of women alphas and a good deal of competition. But the basic tenor of the competition changes when men are involved, and many women, no matter how alpha they may be, will automatically defer to men who are present.

    There are several womyn’s lands in the Ozarks in MO. I’m not certain where they are located, I just know that I’ve met a number of wimmin who are from there.

  25. Dr. Empirical says:

    Without wanting to derail the current discussion (which I find fascinating although I don’t feel qualified to participate) I had an irrelevant insight recently that I’d like to share.

    I recently had my chest shaved for a medical procedure, and was astonished at the change in my appearance. I’m not buff by any means, but I’m in reasonable shape for my age.

    Covered with hair: Big, Burly Guy
    Shaved: Puffy McDoughBoy

    I really look awful.

    Suddenly, I’m a lot more sympathetic to Women’s body issues. I’ve listened to women tell me how fat they were all my life, even though they looked fine to me. Now that it’s me cringing when I look in the mirror, I’m hearing them with different ears.

    To what extent can male/female differences in body image be explained by the presence or absence of concealing hair?


    (But please don’t stop also discussing female separatism, empowerment and community!)

  26. Tone says:

    Interesting point Dr. Empirical. I wonder if my G-cup breasts would look more modest and respectable covered in curly chest-hair? I guess somewhere on some womyn’s land would be the only place I would dare to test it out.

  27. Kate L says:

    Two lesbian women lived openly in my neighborhood in a small Kansas town for a year back in the 1960’s. They were so shunned that they were finally forced to leave. I now live in the house I grew up in, and whenever I see the house they lived in, I still think of it as THEIR house.

  28. Another Thea says:

    My mother and a group of women founded a women’s collective called “A Woman’s Place” in upstate New York in 1974 when I was 10, and I spent the happiest year of my childhood there. The New York Times actually published a piece about the collective back then, though I doubt they mentioned the word “lesbian” or the concept! The collective also got some local news coverage and my fifth-grade teacher asked me to make a presentation to the class about what living in a collective was like. The local community was a bit wary, but we also made some friends, including one who confided that at first people assumed “A Woman’s Place” was going to be some kind of brothel!

    “A Woman’s Place” had a business model- the women bought an old lodge and marketed the cabins as a weekend “womyn-only” retreat spot, with sliding scale fees. We residents, children included, cleaned and cooked for guests. I really loved meeting all the interesting adult women guests, although I do remember being upset and bewildered about the resentment that some guests had about the male children who were also part of the collective. My mother also had some connections to a Vermont women’s collective called “Red Bird” near Burlington, an area we briefly lived in later on.

    The last I heard, the remaining women in the Woman’s Place collective were unable to make payments on the lodge, and it reverted back to the former owners.

  29. Stinky Jay says:

    As a (gay) (male) Vermont Radical Faerie (although, really, how radical are we these days?) I read the NYT article and thought about our own struggles maintaining Faerie communities. As I’ve grown older with the faeries (I discovered them when I was in my 20s; I’m 45 now), I see the role that permanent sanctuaries (sanctuaries, womyn’s lands) have in creating spaces that allow for temporary events (gatherings) to occur. And those temporary events are what increase and build the community by bringing large groups of people, from all over, together.

    R.F.D. magazine struggles financially, and moves its energy from Short Mountain, TN to Destiny, VT.

    Will our model in the future be more Burning Man-like? Temporary Autonomous Zones, with no permanent home? I hope not. I feel that the existence of the refuges, the sanctuaries, helps change everyone’s lives for the better. They show that we are a *community*, in physical space, in a world that more and more defines its communities virtually.

  30. Kathygnome says:

    It’s an interesting article. I wish there was more connections between these women and the mainstream community. I feel like there’s so many places we’ve gone and they seem so isolated and left behind. And on the other side, I’m sure there is a lot of collective wisdom here about what it really is like to live in an entirely women’s world.

    @Jude Oh, having heard this kind of thing very often I doubt very much if the statements about men were taken out of context. That line of thinking that men and women had inherent differences, spiritual or genetic, was pretty common back when I started to get involved in the community back in the 80s. It mostly oriented around a reinterpretation of the value of traditional gender roles along the lines of men-violent/angry/oppressive and women-collective/peaceful/nurturing. For some people, it was a somewhat overly romantic, but very liberating pro-woman ideology that said boldly that “No, the things women are known for are not unworthy, they are in fact more worthy than the things male society has valued,” but there was always more than a hint of misandry and for some it was nothing but an excuse to hate on men.

  31. Donna says:

    These options are great for the golden years, but I for one would not want to live in a community with solely lesbians at this point in my life, at age 41. I would foresee too many conficts of interest–too many conflicts period. And I’m not sure the lesbians I’m friends with would want to either. Guess we’re just different from most lesbians.

  32. Ruth says:

    Yes I was struck by seeing three articles about women’s communities in the weekend Times. Two have been mentioned. The third was in the City section which none New Yorkers wouldn’t receive. It was about a convent which was working on being more ecologically responsible.
    Nuns, lesbians and single Moms……

    Pretty exciting about lesbian PM in Iceland! I believe we’ll get there culturally..at some point.

  33. j.b.t. says:

    Hi All, I lived in a mixed gender housing co-op in Madison in my 20’s and it was one of the best times of my life – so much learning and growing (possibly just from being in my 20’s…?) I continually miss that kind of community life, despite there being conflict sometimes and my preference for cleanliness.

    I also remember my first time at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival – I’d never been in women-only space before and it was thrilling. I can only imagine what living in that kind of environment would be like.

    Dr. Empirical – funny you should bring up the body image issue. I just had lunch with a male friend who has recently gained weight (in his early 40’s, natch…) and is for the first time understanding what women feel like re: body image. It is a huge difference between the sexes, I think, the pervasive dissatisfaction with one’s self – esp. body-wise, in our culture (most cultures?) – that so many women grow up with. I’ve felt it most of my life, and though I try and fight it, reminding myself that it is internalized sexism and not to be believed, it still rears it’s painful head. Mercifully, less frequently for me now that I am getting older.


  34. Ted says:

    The name Alapine brings back memories of 1970 when the GLF in California came up with the idea of “taking over” Alpine County on the California-Nevada border. The population was only about 400 (yes 400!), 1969 was the year of the Stonewall Riots and the idea of a few thousand Gays running an entire county sounded really sweet.

    Ultimately nothing came of it. You can imagine with a population of 400 Alpine was not exactly a mecca for jobs or anything else for that matter. Now with a population of around 1500 Alpine actually voted against prop 8.

    I live next to “Leisure World” here in Orange County. These folks separate themselves by age rather than sexual preference but in a way the reasoning is like that of the women in Alabama. In both settings you have a group of people who see themselves as vulnerable. They are surrounded by people with the same life experiences who look out for each others welfare.

    I think if I was in a place like that I’d miss too much of the day to day interactions with kids and the myriad interesting people we all come into contact with.

  35. Leda says:

    Tone – genius segue…..

  36. julissa says:

    i saw this! it has been posted in every single blog i visit. yayay! i actually just came back from a very gay conference in denver (where i met a real lesbian separatist, like from the 70s, i almost peed my pants) and it made me happy that the real world is getting gayer 🙂

  37. Calico says:

    Eva – there was lesbian land-space near Burlington in the 1990’s-don’t know if it is still there. I forget the name/acronym for the area.

    I have a question as well-does Kate Millett still have her Xmas tree farm and lesbian living space in upstate NY?

  38. cresmer says:

    HOWL: Huntington Open Womyn’s Land. That’s the space you’re thinking of, Calico. Pretty sure it’s still there. Last time I visited, to drop off a friend, there was a Solstice celebration going on. Must have been a year or so ago…

  39. Andrew B says:

    This article obviously meant a lot to many people. I only want to comment on the question, what does it mean that the NYT ran such an article? I’m less happy about it than many people. First, Alapine is no threat to anybody. In addition to Yi-Sheng’s subtle observations, there’s the simple fact that a community that’s not drawing younger members will not be able to sustain itself for long. And in the short term, although I believe the members’ political views are strongly and sincerely held, they do not lead to action. One of the founders is quoted as saying that it’s discouraged, and even allowing for context/misquoting, it’s clear that the members go out of their way to stay on good terms with their neighbors. This could be an article about an eccentric kind of gated community. Given the existence of a development company with limited ownership and legal privileges, and a literal, locked gate, one could argue it really is an article about an eccentric kind of gated community.

    The second discouraging thing the article emphasizes is the way that gated communities have become acceptable in 21st century America. At one time the idea of locking yourself up away from other people would have been regarded as inherently suspicious. Now it’s accepted. I don’t think that’s progress. Progress is gays and lesbians being accepted as part of society, not locking themselves up behind gates.

    I realize that communities like Alapine have all sorts of meanings that I have ignored here. I wanted to address the specific questions of why the NYT ran an article like this, and what that means.

    Dr E, society generally expects women to make themselves less hairy than they would naturally be, with razors and waxes and so on. The biological fact that men are generally hairier than women can’t be the primary cause of poor body image. Books have been written about this. Without writing another, surely the basic reason why poor body image is more common among women than men is that there is much more pressure on women to make themselves appealing to other people than there is on men (on average, of course). Going out on a limb, I wonder if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your body for doing whatever it’s doing that requires this procedure. If you are, looking at your shaved chest would remind you of that. Anyhow. I hope your procedure went well.

  40. Calico says:

    Yes, that’s it, Cresmer! Thank you.
    I was thinking of an acronym like WOLF – I was pretty close in an associative sense, I guess.
    Merci Beaucoup! : D

  41. Eva says:

    Oh, yes. Thanks Calico & Cresmer. I was trying to think of the acronym myself. Glad to know it’s still there.

  42. Maggie Jochild says:

    Hey, Another Thea — I moved to a lesbian land collective outside Durango, Colorado in 1977, and later lived collectively in San Francisco, but I very nearly moved to Red Bird instead. Later, in the 1980s, I was roommates and friends with a number of women who had lived in Red Bird or were friends/lovers with women who did, and heard a great deal about it. I wish one of them would write the unabridged version of life there. Some of the women I knew (I won’t give last names to protect privacy) were Joyce, Donna/Dvora, Gail, Vicki and son Jeremiah, Caren Renee, and Helen, all of whom moved to the Bay Area. They were a great bunch, each and every one of them.

    Gated community is not, I think, an accurate way to describe those who seek deliberate refuge from being targeted for a particular kind of oppression. The Bohemian Club in the Bay Area, a bastion of white male (only) privilege, does not compare to a blacks only supper club, for instance. It’s all about access to power and privilege, not about whether or not at that particular point in your life you need separation or exposure.

    And, let’s be honest — whether you live in a commune or the so-called larger world, we’re all choosing our community, usually on the basis of not just shared beliefs but (whether you admit ir not) because of comfort around race, class, gender, religion, physical ability, and age categories. None of us are living completely open to whoever might want to engage with us. Human culture tends to stratify itself. The issue is whether privilege accrues to the strata you select.

  43. Kate L says:


    “where i met a real lesbian separatist, like from the 70s”. Bless you, my child. 🙂

    Btw, today was my “igneous intrusions to watch out for” lecture in intro. geology. LOTS of knowing chuckles this semester. I attribute this increase to the fantastic success of Fun Home introducing more young ones to A.B. and her great work!

  44. Ready2Agitate says:

    I’m with Maggie here, although if I were to parse it, I’d say society tend to stratify people — that is, the institutional structure of society — not human culture… unless we think “power over” dynamics are innate to humans. For the most part, I believe it is learned. But that’s whole nother thread. I appreciate both Andrew’s and Maggie’s thoughts on the NYT article.

    Smiles to Kate L. and her igneous intrusions!

  45. HGD says:

    Hey, Alison, one of the books I had to track down at work today was Laura Doan’s “The Lesbian Postmodern.” I was so excited and charmed to see your cover art on it- from ’93! Classic Bechdel.

  46. meg says:

    “And, let’s be honest — whether you live in a commune or the so-called larger world, we’re all choosing our community, usually on the basis of not just shared beliefs but (whether you admit ir not) because of comfort around race, class, gender, religion, physical ability, and age categories.”

    Not to mention the pressures of economy and physical ability… in my ideal world, I’d be living on 60 acres in the country, or on my own island. In reality, I live in a duplex on the edge of the Old North End in Burlington. I can’t afford 60 acres, and couldn’t manage it physically any more.

  47. Suz (Bklyn) says:

    Ted– I think the comparison between a womyn’s land and a Leisure World falls down in that a number of Leisure Worlds exist basically as a way for the wealthy old to get out of paying school taxes.

  48. Erika says:

    Off topic, but more LGBT coverage from the NYT (sad coverage, though): http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/venerable-gay-bookstore-will-close/

  49. Ted says:

    Hey Suz, I don’t know where you live but here in California School taxes come out of property taxes and everybody pays their share. There is no tax benefit at all from living there.I must admit that they do complain about school taxes because their kids are grown etc. A short sighted view in my opinion.

    Kassie, Monica Goodling is a graduate of Messiah College and got her law degree from “America’s Preeminent Christian University”, Regent, founded by Pat Robertson. She was appointed by Bush to a position way beyond her experience and probably educational level as well.

  50. Anna in Albuquerque says:

    New Mexico’s got two or three lesbian rural communities – WestWind, ARF (which has been around forever), and a place in the Manzano Mts. whose name I forget. Last bastions.

  51. Suz (Bklyn) says:

    Ted– check this link out for a relevant LA Times article. (Apparently in California schools are funded by some combination of state funding and local property taxes–what the specific combination is depends on the locality.)

  52. Jain says:

    And don’t forget OWL Farm, here in southern Oregon, currently fighting to keep a liquified natural gas pipeline from running through the guest house, garden, and parking lot after clear-cutting thousands of acres of old growth forests reserved for (other) rare and endangered wildlife.

  53. judybusy says:

    Kassie, thanks for the link on Ms. Hagen. I vaguely remember that happening.

    As long as we’re being off-topic, we might want to acknowledge our admiration for Alison this way: http://thelesbianlifestyle.com/the-lezzies/

  54. Andrew B says:

    Maggie Jochild, you make important points about power and privilege which I’m not going to pursue only because you and I have limited time and Alison has limited disk space. On the specific question of what the world is coming to when the NYT runs an article like this, I’m less optimistic than others. I think it’s more likely that the NYT has decided to accept communities like Alapine as a group of individuals choosing to separate themselves from society than that the Times has decided to accept lesbian separatism in its full implications.

    Granted that we all choose our associations to some degree and that some associations and separations are forced on us, that is not the same as living behind a locked gate. There is an important difference in degree.

    I think it’s a bad thing that withdrawing behind a locked gate has become a legitimate personal choice. I think it’s a bad thing, aside from questions of wealth and efforts to evade property tax. We SHOULD have to deal with a variety of people, including some we disagree with and dislike. Now, maybe that’s not true if you’re a member of an oppressed group. I don’t want to try to settle that question with you. But again: is it more likely that the NYT has come to accept lesbian separatism in its full implications, including the idea that lesbians are an oppressed group who can only thrive by separating themselves from the broader society? Or is it more likely that the NYT has decided that lesbian separatists are acceptable in the same way as Leisure World or gated communities? If you really believe the former, fine. But if the latter seems more likely to you, then the point I’m making stands. It’s a point about the NYT and broader social attitudes, not a point about lesbian separatism specifically.

  55. Maggie Jochild says:

    Oh, I’m not arguing about the NY Times motivations, I assume they’re corporate driven with rare exceptions.

    The term “lesbian separatism” is loaded, positively or negatively, depending on where you’re coming from. In progressive circles in general, “separatism” is usually perjorative. But — there’s not been a viable cultural/socal liberation movement which has not at some point embraced separatism and continued some outlet for it as new folks reach a point of needing room to deprogram (at the very least) from dominating lies. So, I can’t say it’s a bad or good thing for other people. It’s necessary or it wouldn’t exist, and when it helps people survive/grow without adding to the difficulty of others, I support it. Even when, and often especially when, it excludes me as a member of a privileged group.

    There are particular groups in our culture who are NEVER supposed to separate or create self-defined autonomy, according to the rules of power allocation, because by definition the members of that group are supposed to be of service to those who are non-target. This is true of women and blacks, in particular. Much of the hysterical reaction to the Black Panthers was because of their separatism — that and the guns (grin). POC who refuse to play the forgiving/nurturing/of service role fucking terrify the majority of white people. (Brings up that old Nat Turner kind of conspiracy panic.) Ditto women who simply don’t have a need for men — as Alix put it, “people won’t defend a woman who’s indifferent to men”. So — emotions are engaged on this topic. I was simply trying to point out that defining our own community is what we all do and take for granted, up to the point where it’s labeled deviant by the larger culture.

    As for the fact that this story is getting such widespread attention, my gut says that these women are perceived as (a) too old to be a political threat; (b) too old to be sexually desirable; (c) too poor to matter; and (d) choosing to live in rural Alabama, itself a politically despised region. Thus, they are “interesting” without arousing the anger of those who want to argue, constantly, that genuine self-definition by women must be patrolled and kept in check by those in power and their as-yet-unliberated dobermans. Which is different than the acceptance of Leisure World/Sun City separatism, where many of the inhabitants are probably stockholders of NY Times Corp.

    Follow the power. It’s true that ageism has a devastating effect on the elderly, but if you are rich, white and male, you are protected/respected in your separatism. This kind of looking at the big picture becomes increasingly important as Boomers retire and the class/race/gender divisions become exacerbated by access (or lack of access) to survivability.

  56. Maggie Jochild says:

    Re the suggestion from Judybusy above, yes, I too was going to urge we nominate Alison for a Lezzy from The Lesbian Lifestyle annual awards, god knows this blog deserves it and has enough traffic to win one. Here’s how it works: Click on this link http://thelesbianlifestyle.com/the-lezzies/ until February 9 once a day, scroll down to the Nominate button, click on that and fill in the form. You’ll have to have a viable e-mail address because they will need to confirm (no sock puppetry), and you can only vote once a day.

    Only the top three nominees in each category will go on to actual voting on February 11. Here’s the thing, though: In order to be most effective, we need to not disperse our nominations over the several possible categories. Since there is no Cartoon or Literary category, I suggest we all nominate DTWOF for the Culture/Entertainment category (particularly since many of those who run in this category are vapid in the extreme and we deserve the kind of content Alison provides).

    Alison, when you get around to reading this, you can (hint, hint) go to the link and grab a graphic to post here, making it easier for us to nominate you, then vote for you after February 11. In the meantime, we’ll do the grassroots thang.

    And, disclaimer: I’m running my own blog in the Feminism Political category, which will not be in competition with DTWOF (I’m no idiot).

  57. LondonBoy says:

    I’m astonished that in a conversation full of such noted nitpickers (you know who you are!), no-one has pointed out Mabel’s howler in the first post. I guess everyone else is too polite, but let’s just note that Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is not the first lesbian to be Iceland’s head of state, she is the first to be head of government, which is very different. Iceland is a parliamentary republic whose head of state is President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Jóhanna S. is Prime Minister (that is, head of the government). As it happens, Iceland did have the first woman to be democratically elected President (that is, head of state), Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, but she was straight and single (divorcée) at the time (1980-1996). As yet, no openly lesbian or gay man has been elected head of state in any democratic election.

    If I had to bet on the first openly gay head of state, I’d put my money on Bertrand Delanoë, currently mayor of Paris, and viewed by some as a potential president of France in the 2012 election. (Note that since France has a presidential system, rather than a parliamentary republican system, he would become both head of state and head of government on winning the election.)

  58. Alex the Bold says:

    And, sigh, there’s this:


    about the Oscar Wilde bookstore in New York closing up.

  59. Alex the Bold says:

    You say that the article doesn’t poke fun at these women. Okay, I’m coming at it from a man’s perspective, but there were definitely aspects of something close to mockery, at least I thought so when I read it.

    Is Mercury in retrograde affecting communication? The woman who talks to the dead deer. The male infant generating e-mail warnings (which might have been in jest and might not). There’s surely a whiff of not just quaints to this. If the attempt was to show caring people with complex emotional states, the article did succeed (the point where one of the women observes that when she came out there wasn’t even a word for “lesbian” is profound, I once hit a bird with my car and then apologized to its little dead body for about two minutes because I felt so bad about it) in some degree, but it’s almost stereotypical in those other aspects.

    This article has a strong subtext of presenting these women as psychologically scarred victims with a vaguely Scum Manifesto-esque attitude toward the whole male race. It’s almost like: “These women never recovered, and now live, terrified and sheltered, in undisclosed locations.” Is that the normal lesbian experience? I used to live in Northampton, and the one and only time I was on the receiving end of a lesbian’s “I’d prefer a woman to wait on me, not a man,” one of the women I worked with (a lesbian), practically had a fit about it. I can’t imagine any of my lesbian friends behaving like the women in this article.

    Yes, some of these women were really, really screwed over by the system, by the men, by the whole world. But after years of DTWOF, I expected much more boldness from the lesbians. I’m really not trying to be mean or anything about it, but I can’t see how this showed a positive to lesbianism.

    I realize I must be missing something in this. Can someone try to bring me up to speed? Because I’m perfectly willing to be told I simply don’t get it, but I’d really like to try to get it.

  60. Cal says:

    Yes, I agree: the article was very respectful and sweet, even. But when I was coming out I thought that this “weird isolated haven” model was the one I’ld be condemned. Seems so isolated – if protected.

  61. Cal says:

    “condemned to.” is correct.

  62. M-H says:

    I’m not sure how old the last few commenters are, but it’s clear to me, as I age and mix with people older than me, that it can become increasingly difficult to be ‘out in the world’. Of course lesbians should be out and bold in the world. But maybe that’d be the younger ones. Maybe at least some of us older lesbians are really happy to be able to consider retiring into a more protected environment, where we don’t have to fight for a seat on the bus or get pushed in the queue at the grocery store; where we can say what we like without fear of scandalising strangers; a place where ‘everyone knows our name’ and we’re not forced into heterosexual norms in some kind of facility. I’m not saying that’s the case for everyone – certainly not for me yet – but it’s a legitimate choice for some. And if you want to see that as a ‘gated community’, maybe you could suspend judgement and come back to us when you’re 75, and 85, and 95. If you should live so long.

  63. Ellen O. says:

    I think those of us who live outside a particular group really don’t know what it is like to live within one, the remarks, glances and threats one endures from more privileged, dominant groups.

    Another way of looking at these communities: Are these these women opting out of general society as much as opting in to an alternative. What makes living in cities or the suburbs better, just because it is the norm?

    Finally, here is Boulder, lots of people talk to spirits, animal or human. Is it that much different than talking to God or Jesus? (Can of worms now opened.)

  64. Eva says:

    The women in this collective, it appears, just want to live in peace. And it sounds like their neighbors like them and want them there, even though the neighbors’ religious beliefs would lead one to expect otherwise.

    And so why does everything have to be uphill? Remember the first lines of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”?:

    You do not have to be good/You do not have to walk on your knees/for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting./You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.


  65. Andrew B says:

    It’s interesting what a wide range of responses this article has provoked.

    A the B, I did not read the article as condescending. It was reported in an uninflected way that allowed the reader to interpret in terms of her or his own values. If you think astrology is ridiculous, the article allowed the people quoted to make themselves sound ridiculous. If you take astrology seriously, they sound serious. To my mind, this is exactly how a “centrist” publication like the NYT would report, for instance, somebody who lives in a gated community because he thinks that immigrants are all potential terrorists. If you’re most of us, it sounds paranoid. If you’re Pat Buchanan, it sounds reasonable. This lack of inflection should not be mistaken for either overt condescension or overt respect. It’s because the reader is expected to interpret in terms of her or his own values that we need to ask what those values are likely to be, I think.

    I don’t know exactly what your perspective on this is. I don’t feel like I have the right to expect boldness from any given individual. I don’t know her story. I do, obviously, feel like I have a right to comment on who is represented in a major media outlet, and how.

    MJ, emotions certainly are engaged on this topic, on all sides and for many reasons. At least one of the women quoted in the article was clearly not “indifferent” to men. Also, to say that “movements” have “embraced” separatism or nationalism is to gloss over if not crush quite a lot of internal disagreement. Certainly one natural response of oppressed people is to try to separate themselves from their oppressors. But plenty of members of oppressed or disadvantaged groups have strongly rejected such a course and insisted on recognition.

  66. Maggie Jochild says:

    Andrew, I don’t mean to gloss over internal disagreement. As someone who is writing for a mainstream progressive, male-dominated, racially diverse blog, I don’t just acknowledge the disagreement, I count on it as a source of strength. That’s where I am at the moment.

    But as someone who benefitted enormously from lesbian-separatism (which is where I learned loving kindness, class theory, and the scope of children’s rights, just to name a few examples), I’m not willing to settle for whoever is currently controlling the “community message” as the definer of a given community or movement. My point is that ALL of these approaches and analyses have to coexist and do their separate work for change to occur. There is no One True Path.

    So, separatism and assimilation are both essential. Obama-style efforts at “bipartisanship” and radicals like me arguing for a war crimes tribunal both have their place. You choose your work based on your limits. I would argue that those who “separate” and go live in peaceful harmony somewhere have not necessarily opted out or given up on “action”. I can’t pass that judgment on them and see no value in doing so.

    And — for those who question the very basis of our society’s structure, choosing to seek recognition completel illogical. To quote Carmen Vazquez, “I challenge the notion that attaining ‘equal rights’ in a society that forsakes social and economic justice is worth our while.”

    It’s an argument that all social justice movements contend with, this dissonance between wanting freedom and respect while also rejecting the right of those in power to pass any kind of judgment at all. How do you express that? The answer is “Every way we can”, which as human beings tends to be creative and contradictory.

  67. ksbel6 says:

    Sorry to get off topic, but has anyone heard of a new reality tv show on CBS where they take some folks and have arranged marriages with them? Ah marriage, it is too important to just let anyone do it.

  68. Ian says:

    More off-topic cute/funny cat videos: someone’s solved the problem of indoor/outdoor cats in apartment-type households:


  69. Alex the Bold says:

    Thanks, all. I will have to think these things through some more. I can see several very good points which were raised.

  70. nobody at all says:

    God, how pathetic, the purest form of gay self-absorbtion. 20 aging lesbians move to the middle of nowhere so they can hang out together, just them and their cats, waiting to die, surrounded by lesbianness.

    The thing relish most in life is variety, and understanding other people and cultures. If I had to live in a tiny community of people essentially just like me, I’d kill myself.

    Eh, maybe some of you pushing 50 should move down to ole Alabama and reinforce yee old womyn’s land.

  71. M-H says:

    That’s *up* to Alabama for me, nobody at all. Why do you assume we all live in the US? And why so angry? What harm are they doing you – or anyone else?

  72. […] of separatists in the seventies. Why are august and hidebound publications suddenly having this spasm of nostalgia for lesbian separatism? I haven’t had a chance to read the story yet, but at first glance it […]