Comments on: The Van Dykes, and the generation gap among lesbians History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Wed, 24 Sep 2014 01:35:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: Monday roundup: no more pencils, no more books edition : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Mon, 29 Aug 2011 16:41:11 +0000 [...] Belkin about the pR0nification of college life that even high-achieving women collaborate in.  (Ariel Levy wrote about this in much greater detail in Female Chauvinist Pigs a few years back, as some of [...]

By: Monique Fri, 15 Jan 2010 23:36:07 +0000 Hi,

These comments are a bit old but I hope that you and other posters here like Satsuma will read me.
Unfortunately but of course for their own peace, separatist communities are secretive, but for average lesbians like myself although having been an activist in a lesbian-only feminist group in my youth, at only 17, and even if I am striving to join or to create such a community, I was really believing they did not exist anymore anywhere, and this secret has been more than a catastrophe in my own life.
Because in the 80′s I was reading some newspapers, was it Clit007 or Vlasta, or maybe, yes certainly Lesbian Connection, can’t remember well, but a list of lesbian communities was advertised there, now these newspapers have disappeared, you see the point ?
I have been living for almost 20 years totally isolated, only committing to lovers as to comfort me versus this lack of meaning in my life (but it was not useful!), to studies, to survival and jobs, moving countries, loosing bonds to lesbians that could have helped me to stick to my dreams, and I was feeling totally depressed because of the lack of women-only places or lesbians-only places, events, politics, other than just entertainment, where I was staying, I would name Geneva in Switzerland or worse London in UK..
And I did not know what to do with that, I did not meet any other single lesbian who would agree with me about this lack !
And even now, I feel I am struggling to find other lesbians like myself (I could put a word on it that was separatist).
I quit my job some 5 months ago to think about the meaning of life and maybe to commit suicide thereafter, thanks I quit UK and could discover more political life when back in France, and once there I even began to struggle to start a visible lesbian political discussion group again like in the 80′s (anti-queer, feminist (non-mixed feminism), radical and separatist, or all that -to be) and to come in touch with what remained of activism..
And eventually, with the help of forums, much more than with the help of the quite insignificant political movement I discovered in France, I could meet a lesbian separatist community, and some other lesbians disappointed by some kind of guru-like conflicts in this precise community but real separatists as well and good persons (totally depressed because they lost their dream and the meaning of their lives by deciding to quit the community, they were not so depressed while in the commmunity but harrassed for no reason by a nevrotic lesbian and too much was too much, and now they are frightened at the idea to start a community again because of the trauma, even if they would like to.. And even them who lived 18 years in a separatist community, they don’t know of any others, only a couple of lesbians separatists or lonely separatists here and there!!!)
And now indeed, where are any periodical, blog, held by separatists actually living in communities, even small ones, that could make us know about them ?
I don’t know about the existence of any community worlwide, even if I am now guessing there are a lot of small ones..
And the best but frustrating solution I have found is to simply try to rent a house (because no money to buy) with other separatists or certainly lesbians separatists-to-be, beginning from scrap, knowing few, being supported by nobody, and in link with almost no one..
It would already be a good start but the clock is ticking (for me at least) and this project will be less lucky if it remains isolated.
So if you want to help me with advice, contacts, networks, here is my email,, my phone number is in the white pages directory in France, you can call me too or I can call.


By: zarf Sun, 26 Apr 2009 08:29:59 +0000 I would like to show all respect due. While I know nothing personal about lgt and felt that I had learned rather a lot from the article, I was shocked to see a comment here dissing the peep show.

Anthrophology 101, prereq for 102 requires showing enthusiasm for the subject. As I recall the NY piece, a distinct set of the Van Dykes were lesbian, because they thought they they ought to be, not because Nature called. There is kin here to the “lesbian sex show/dvd” . Get out a fresh blue book and discuss.

By: Judith Thu, 19 Mar 2009 13:11:28 +0000 Woo! How exciting. I love my New Yorker, but I’ll love it more now.

I read a book not too long ago about Victorian female friendship/eroticism/marriage that was pretty interesting. It’s called Between Women, by Sharon Marcus. I tend to consider lesbian history kind of “boring,” and parts of the book confirmed that assumption, but others were interesting. The separatism idea is interesting – I have to admit that living in a lesbian commune sounds kind of fun!

By: Heart Sun, 15 Mar 2009 01:58:49 +0000 I have to agree with what Satsuma has had to say. A friend who is a long-time lesbian separatist from the 60s and 70s and knows many of the Van Dykes and Gutter Dykes collectives was disgusted by the article, feeling as though it was peep-show like, yet another instance of mainstream people pimping out a movement that has nothing to do with them and that they cannot possibly know anything about. Why is a man, for example, interviewing Ariel Levy (who is not a separatist and has never lived as one)? Why is a man anywhere in this picture? How is it that the only separatist Levy could find to interview was a sadomasochist? It’s too long a topic to get into in a comment, but separatist communities that floundered — when they did — did so in large part not because of sexual jealousies but because of the way sadomasochism, in particular, divided the lesbian/radical feminist community, with fallout that persists until t his day.

The land dykes movement is alive, well and thriving in the U.S. with over 100 womyn’s lands in existence and more every day. I own one such land. I know a woman in New Zealand who, with a female partner, owns 250 acres designated wimmin only. There are two women within a 50-mile radius of me who own and live on lesbian separatist lands. About 100 miles away is an ocean-front trailer park that is lesbians only, with just one “token het woman” in residence– she is someone’s aging mom. Susan Powter, a lesbian separatist these days, has bought an island in the Pacific Northwest intending to make it a wimmin’s land. I have stayed on wimmin’s lands, know many land dykes, and know that this is a thriving community, full of good energy. It is not a movement on its last legs. This did not come through in the article in the New Yorker.

I also agree with Satsuma that especially as women near retirement age, more and more will be drawn to these communities. Many may well turn to them as a matter of survival.

I certainly celebrate these wimmin and these communities. You would have to know them and what they have built. They are absolutely on the cutting edge. I stayed on one wimmin’s land a couple of years ago and was amazed by the beautiful homes, designed and hand-built by wimmin, heated by solar energy, solar heated water, composting toilets, green in truth as well as in spirit. It’s frustrating to read articles that erase this amazing work and these thriving communities. I’m not mad at anyone here, but frustrated, again, with this mainstream pimping of work that has been done by and that belongs to lesbian separatists.


By: Historiann Thu, 12 Mar 2009 18:03:38 +0000 Emma–thanks! To me it seems obvious, though–and many others much more informed than I have made the connection between the (hetero) hippie communes and American utopians of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Interestingly, just for fun I’m reading The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, and the comparison with the Mormons is strong, too. Of all of the groups mentioned above, the Mormons are the only movement still thriving. (I think the Sabbathday Lake Shakers still have 1-2 left, but I don’t know for sure.) So it seems to me that builiding your utopian movement around two not-so-progressive or innovative ideas (patriarchal privilege and private property) is one way to ensure a movement’s survival in the United States. If you give up either one–or both–it’s curtains after a few generations, usually.

By: Emma Thu, 12 Mar 2009 17:53:51 +0000 It’s a familiar story to anyone with any familiarity with American utopian movements–from the Shakers, to the Oneida community, to Battle Creek, and so on: idealism and a real hope for a different world succeeds for a while, but then fails because they lose the zeal of the founding generation and/or they’re driven apart by sexual jealously.

Thank you for this wonderful view of lesbian separatism as one of many different utopian movements. It’s not a contextualizing I’ve ever seen done and it makes me see lesbian separatism in an entirely new light. It was a wonderful click for me. This type of thoughtfulness and insight is what I love about your writing.

By: Satsuma Thu, 12 Mar 2009 00:44:52 +0000 I believe that if lesbian separatist communities were widely reported on, and well known to all women, that more women would join them. Separatism has a very bad name. Women aren’t honored for wanting male free spaces and it’s not cool to say this.

We need to honor these truly brave and imaginative women.
I’ll check out the Levy book too. Camp Sisterspirit came to the rescue of Katrina victims, by commandeering a bus and delivering water and much needed supplies to the locals. They took charge and saved lives. Camp Sisterspirit was attacked by local men, they had their property shot at in drive by type intimidation, and we had many fundraising drives to help them maintain a viable spiritual lesbian separatist property. There are many rural lesbian separatist communities, but they are secretive. Separatism is still very much alive, and not only among older women. When you see the term “women’s” in a certain cultural context, this is a code word for lesbians.

I suppose these communities are unknown to a lot of women, but we know of hundreds in the U.S. and Canada alone. All hard core radical lesbians I know have this passion for separatism that I believe confounds most women. It’s kind of how white people freak out at black separatist movements, for example. People who want separatism or the opportunity to leave majority-conformist land, which is American feminism these days, are many but often unappreciated.

I think we need to take a good hard look at just how many women will need communities as they reach retirement age, and how women coming together could create incredibly great living spaces and grounds where women will feel safe, loved and free of the daily indignities lesbians often experience in the straight world even today. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of this kind of hatred and discrimination, you really don’t know what it’s like.

Reporting and honoring the separatists, and respecting a separatist viewpoint and a radical feminist viewpoint is key to more women having true options in the world.

I know I am happiest in women only groups, and I look for more opportunities to just enjoy the company of all women. This is still a radical viewpoint, one that makes a lot of women uncomfortable. I believe it is a valid thing for women to want freedom from men, and that our life experience should be celebrated in this desire for freedom. Separatists have always been my heroines, I love them the best, I worked with them for years, it is thrilling to be in a roomful of separatists or strong Dykes, all with grey hair and unpainted faces, always that serious direct gaze that is so classically lesbian.
Straight women just don’t have that direct look, I can’t explain this, it is something that you see in another woman’s eyes.

We shudder at the make up, and the more we celebrate options, the more they will be available to the next generation of women starved for heroines, pioneers, the dreamers and the visionaries.

I’d love to see a herstorical celebration of all the lesbian separatists come online. I know I am who I am because I was lucky enough to know these women when I was younger, and they understood the struggle of a young Dyke dealing with very hateful homophobia and womanhatred. They are the true heroines of feminism, the true Amazon warriors!

Is leabian separatist passion marginalized by mainstream feminism? What would happen if it was celebrated and encouraged?

By: susurro Wed, 11 Mar 2009 22:56:10 +0000 this is so timely. It seems that several of the lesbian separatist run campsites and retreat centers are on the verge of closing down due to lack of funds/lack of interest. There is one in bama that was essential to helping Gulf Coast victims of Katrina when FEMA didn’t that is on the list.

I’ve passed Levy’s book many times in the mainstream and feminist bookstore assuming it was more of the same but to know it is actually rallying against the mainstreamers who have taken over feminist publishing with their celebration of spray on tans and preteen sex with tennis instructors makes me excited to know I can get the book readily around here. (Unlike History Matters, which is still on order)

I’m adding it to the list.

By: Ink Wed, 11 Mar 2009 22:18:17 +0000 Staff writer at The New Yorker? I’m *thrilled* to hear this and thank you for posting the news.