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Friday, February 17, 2017

When We Were Outlaws

Jeanne Córdova’s memoir is beautifully written and provides a powerful insight to the early stages of the feminist movement during the 1970s. It’s clear that feminism and queer politics are different now, however, credit is due to outspoken activists who sought for a more intersectional approach for the movement during this time. One aspect of feminism in the 1970s that I found particularly intriguing was the synonymity of gender and sexuality. In various passages, Jeanne refers to herself as a lesbian, dyke, lifer, etc. She asserts her sexuality in many instances through her mannerisms as a butch and a “catch” for many womxn. This strong inclination to wear her sexuality on her sleeve makes me believe that Jeanne’s gender identity was in fact her sexuality. To clarify, if I were to ask Jeanne, “What’s your gender identity?”, I am almost certain that she will say “lesbian.” I only say this because it seems like for her, being a lesbian describes the kind of womxn she was (a womxn loving other womxn). This further extrapolates the notion that sexuality is profoundly interconnected with gender during the 70s.

This is an interesting concept given that near the beginning of the book, Jeanne asked Angela Davis about her sexuality during a conference based on Davis’ politics. Jeanne was let down (or maybe even confused) when Davis dismissed her question about her sexuality. She noted that it was Davis’ “obligation” to come out (22), as a feminist figure that many womxn look up to. This scene powerfully illustrates Jeanne’s stance on how the personal is political. For her, Davis’ dismissiveness of her (assumed) lesbian sexuality was also a negation to her gender – more importantly, her politics. This is most definitely a notion worth challenging but an interesting topic of discussion nonetheless.

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