[Socialist-Feminist Conference: Lesbian Panel, Antioch College 1975]

The Lesbian Panel at the Socialist-Feminist Conference, July 1975 at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

00:00Copy video clip URL A group of women sitting about in outdoor setting waiting for a conference to begin.

00:10Copy video clip URL Static. Women continue milling about at an outdoor conference. An exhibit on table reads: Building Our Movement: the First Socialist-Feminist Conference, Thanksgiving 1972, Durham, North Carolina, and displays photos from that event. The women talk among themselves casually. A speaker announces over a PA system that a caucus for women working in healthcare will be held 12 noon in front of Antioch Hall.

00:57Copy video clip URL A woman named Janet tries to introduce herself over the PA system, but the microphone is not working.

01:10Copy video clip URL Another speaker in mid-speech. She is saying conference planners are excluding sectarian groups. (A crowd of women clap.) The speakers says we encourage discussion of this decision as well as other decisions that shape the conference to be discussed in regional meetings. She gives basic info about starting times for the conference.

02:10Copy video clip URL The speaker talks among conference organizers.

02:45Copy video clip URL The speaker answers a question: “can you specify which groups I meant when I said sectarian groups?” She notes the groups that came up in the conference planning committee like various workers party and leagues. She announces that the older women’s caucus will meet at lunchtime and at 7.30 am tomorrow morning. Other announcements include a call for the return of a lost book.

05:06Copy video clip URL Janet Gallagher of the American Civil Liberties Union addresses the crowd, apologizing for the delay of the start of the conference. She notes the upcoming panel will be on lesbian issues, to share perspectives, problems, points about the relationships between lesbian communities and outside groups. The panelists introduce themselves: Chris from Chicago Liberation Union. She says they’d like to address two primary questions in this discussion: What is our understanding of lesbian oppression and what is our practice around it? She adds that very little is known about class analysis and lesbian class position. The information they have comes from the work being done with lesbians. It suggests lesbians come from all classes and races. Since they do not identify with a husband, a traditional bread winner, their class identification is determined by their own position in life. Given this, lesbian oppression is due to sex role expectations, because gay people don’t fit into society’s roles. Lesbians pose a threat to the stereotype of women and the role of women as family caretaker. This is the basis of our oppression. The oppression takes form of “the closet.”

10:57Copy video clip URL Video stops and re-starts later in Gallagher’s speech. She is in mid-sentence talking about freedom for women. Lesbian liberation is based on dispelling stereotypes of women in general and ideas about family. We must put this analysis into practice. They must end sex, class, and race oppression to be truly free. This is the basis for organizing in the lesbian community.

12:05Copy video clip URL Video cuts. Another panelist, unidentified, is in mid-sentence. She is talking about lesbian political history. It’s important to know why we were separatists. Many lesbians feel there’s no room for them in the women’s movement to develop their politics.  The question is: What unity under what politics? We need to develop a recognition of what the politics is and how it should be incorporated. The heart of it is recognizing heterosexuality is a cornerstone to male supremacy. We must fight heterosexual domination if we are to end female oppression. This is the problem of a political basis of all women’s oppression. The domination of heterosexuality is the basis of our oppression in the work place. Women are defined as secondary and marginal workers in the work place, and that assumes we are attached to  men. Assuming that heterosexuality is basic to self hatred women have in society. Heterosexuality means men first. It assumes women are defined by men. If she doesn’t accept that definition you are considered queer. Heterosexual privilege, if you don’t know what this is, then live life for one week as a lesbian and you’ll find out. We know about white race privilege; heterosexual privilege is the method by which we are given a stake in male supremacy, in our own oppression. This is not in our self interest. It means we are tied to men. It separates us. We have to recognize how heterosexual privilege ties us to male supremacy. Lesbian politics is not for lesbians only. It’s a political fight against a major institution that upholds women’s oppression. The connection between lesbians and class is also crucial to discuss. We have to create our own world. There’s no place in this world where we belong. We have to support ourselves for the rest of our lives. It was when I came out and had to survive on my own that I learned about middle class assumptions and how they hold us back.

24:09Copy video clip URL The woman continues. The intimate contact that occurs across class lines in the lesbian community is something else we need to discuss. We can’t underestimate the impact of this. The experiences lesbians struggle with on a day to day basis epitomize class oppression.

26:34Copy video clip URL The woman concludes by saying the reality of lesbian life makes political consciousness possible. I’m not saying the only way to have this analysis is to be lesbian. We have to make it not the only way. Lesbians are the minority. We won’t survive alone. Our survival is linked to the survival of heterosexual women. The politics of what we understand from our daily experience must be integrated into the politics of socialist feminists and the women’s movement. I want to see patriarchy and capitalism changed. We must work with other groups committed to seeing this same change and that’s what I’d like to see come out of here. The crowd cheers and applauds vigorously.

30:18Copy video clip URL The woman announces an upcoming workshop later that day that will address things she said and Chris had said.

30:36Copy video clip URL Vicki Gabriner from the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance introduces herself. She proposes talking about the Equal Rights Amendment. She describes one possible mode of action and how what they’re doing in Atlanta helped build a movement for passing the amendment and create a place for lesbians that didn’t exist before. She says that part of their oppression is they don’t deal upfront with issues.

31:53Copy video clip URL Videographer cuts. B-roll of audience listening to speakers.

32:20Copy video clip URL End tape.

 

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