W S 203 Chapter 9: Notes from Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers

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Women's Studies
W S 203
Alissa Kristine Stoehr

Chapter 1-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers • Romantic friendship in Western society among women seemed to increase in the th 19 century due to the emphasis on women’s suffrage and more educational opportunities; middle class women no longer needed to resign themselves to marriage in order to survive • Early 20 century: love between young middle class women was considered the norm; romantic friendships; if sexual activity occurred, it was not a big deal • Most women could support themselves; no longer economically constrained to give up their female loves in favor of matrimony; they had plausible excuses to resist social pressure toward marriage—they could not be plausible wives if they were also engaged in education and their own professions • Rich women during this era still has to deal with stereotypes and had to marry “appropriately;” Poor working class women found these romantic friendships to not be economically feasible because they needed income; if they were in a relationship, one would try to “pass” as a man and make a man’s wage • Education was the phenomenon that helped lesbianism grow. There was an increase in the number of women’s colleges and career opportunities; a lot of women created settlement houses • The first women’s college, Mount Holyoke, was built in 1837. • Women wanted to continue their relationships with “kindred spirits:” same sex households were called “Boston marriages” • Marriage was not for all women o Could not go to school, run a home, and bear children o Men would not sacrifice their patriarchy and privilege o Young college women escaping domesticity • Sarah Josephine Baker-p. 21 • Jane Addams-founder of Hull House Settlement & winner of Nobel Peace Prize p. 25 • Charlotte Wolf-Romantic friendships were not about homosexuality, but homoaffectionality p. 31 o Kinsey statistics-p. 32 • Emma Goldman-p. 33 • Just because two women had sex with one another did not automatically make them a lesbian; Most of them did not hate men; very narrow definition of “lesbian;” label of “lesbian” implies sexual identification-p. 35 • There were a lot of conservative views during this era about romantic friendships, and women getting an education. o Education would render women unfit for the traditional roles that were believed to be vital for the proper functioning of society. o Dr. Edward Clarke-Sex in Education: A Fair Chance for Girls (1837) p. 13 o Racist and classist theories of eugenics-“race suicide” p. 14 o Higher education, especially at women’s colleges “masculinized” women, made men dispensable to them, and rendered women more attractive to other women o Scribner’s Monthly (1870) p. 14 o Marriage statistics-Most men during this era feared educated females and did not want them as wives o Double standards about sex-p. 16 Chapter 2-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers • Romantic friendships for working class women-very difficult; required leisure time and some degree of social privacy o Female prisoners-issues of race; Black women took the “male” role o Psychologist Margaret Otis • Sexual inversion o Inappropriate sex role behavior o “deviant sexuality” ▪ female prisoners ▪ mentally ill women ▪ poor women ▪ working class women • masculinity of working class women o suffered in silence o few problems with detection o economic necessity o desire for adventure ▪ Real life experiences • Harry Gorman-p. 43 • Lucy Ann Lobdell-p. 43 • Charles Warner-p. 44 • Babe Bean-p. 44 • Mary Fields-p. 44 • Ralph Kerwinio-p. 44 • Feminists as sexual freaks o Masculine appearance of the female invert (Krafft-Ebing) p. 45 o Connection between sexual inversion and feminism (Havelock Ellis) p. 46 o The term “viragint”-Dr. James Weir p. 47 o William Lee Howard-p. 47 o Havelock Ellis-women’s colleges were “the great breeding ground” of lesbianism p. 49 o Articles in medical journals about wild sexual practices between females-p. 51 ▪ Everything needs to be classified (taxonomy) ▪ Religious and cultural motives ▪ Eugenics-lesbians were seen ad morally and physically abnormal • Why Some Lesbians Accepted the Congenital Invert Theory o Romantic friendships would not have to give way to heterosexuality and marriage with the addition of a credible male suitor o If they were born into the “intermediate sex,” no family and/or social pressure could change them o Love for women determined by God or nature-not seen as moral lepers • Stories of Natalie Barney, Esther Newton, and Frances Wilder-p. 58 • Barbara Gittings (1950)-p. 60 Chapter 3-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers • 1920s-introduction of bisexuality->”lesbian chic”; lesbians and others were seen as “heterosexual spinsters” • Katherine Bement Davis-sociological study of 2200 mostly middle class females; 50.4% admitted to intense emotional relations with other women and approximately 25% of those relationships were considered “sexual”; seen as more experimentation • More and more women were starting to prefer art and literature that was untraditional, resisting laws such as Prohibition, adopting new fashions such as bobbed hair and short skirts, and rejecting societal ideas about sexuality • There was an assumption in society that everything was sexual; everything went back to “normal” after experimentation=”conventional sexuality” • “Guardians of morality” were still outraged; Drag balls became very popular • “One had to see oneself as a lesbian to be a lesbian.”-p. 67 • Areas started to emerge across the country that were considered “lesbian/bisexual friendly; Harlem and Greenwich Village • Why did White women go to Harlem? o Particular appeal to Whites who wanted to indulge in “rebel sexuality” o Harlem as a free-for-all party; o Whites used Harlem as a commodity and a stimulant to sexuality; sexual colonialism o Whites acted out their enchantment with the primal and erotic; fascinated with Black naturalness and exoticism o “Lower class” had something to teach them about sexual expression that their own culture wasn’t giving them o Whites believed Harlem gave them permission to explore what was forbidden in the White world; seen as a refuge; They could do in Harlem what they dared not do anywhere else o Whites saw themselves as “minorities” for the first time; could “relate” to Blacks o ISSUES OF RACE • Harlem needed to encourage tourism for economic reasons o Cabarets at The Cotton Club o Speakeasies o Marijuana parlors • Black lesbians in Harlem-p. 73 o Black lesbian subculture in Harlem ▪ Black women who had been to jail-“butch/femme” relationships ▪ Already felt like outsiders in White America ▪ Tolerance in Harlem permitted Black lesbians to openly socialize in their own communities • Buffet flats • Sex circuses • Some women married men during this era because they were bisexual or their male partner was gay; also married for economic reasons; “front marriages” • Real sex was penetration by a penis; love between women was just fooling around-p. 75 • Blues lyrics o Satirical and funny o Present extreme lesbian stereotypes o Did not talk about bisexuality; not a lot of humorous caricature o Satirically probed male uneasiness that women might know how to “do it” better than men o Lesbians were ridiculed for their unorthodox sexuality, but were also seen as outlaws/heroes o Understanding of stigmatization-race and sexuality o Teasing and titillation within the lyrics-use of language • Working class lesbian subculture (1920s) o Greenwich Village ▪ Bohemian lesbians ▪ Lesbian experimentation was chic ▪ Men did not take lesbians seriously-just a phase • Lesbianism was blamed for some women’s inability to transfer their libido to their husbands and the resulting failure of marriages; ambivalent intrigue • Freud, children, and homosexuality-p. 89 o If a woman refused a man, she was repressing a natural urge and blocking her libido which would cause her to be neurotic o Without heterosexual intercourse, nothing of value would be produced since the glands that heightened the desire for intercourse also supplied the energy for work; intercourse supposedly helped broaden social sympathies and acted as moral inspiration • The 19 century excesses of heterosexual repression had been replaced in the 1920s by the excess of heterosexual expression-p. 90 • Only true happiness could be found in heterosexual fulfillment; men needed to strive for companionate marriages (balance of companionship and cooperation, but no real social equality); men needed to perform sexually to attain happiness; lesbianism stood in the way of marital happiness Chapter 4-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers 1930s-increasing hostility toward independent females in the midst of the Depression; continued spread of medical opinion regarding the abnormality of love between women (p. 100); subcultures were more hidden; more lesbians married men and compromised their same-sex affections because they had no way to support themselves financially and financial independence was difficult (front marriages) • Female hoboes (p. 94) • Work for wages came to be seen not as a human right, but a privilege connected to gender; it was a woman’s patriotic duty not to work (p. 96) • Even rich women who identified as lesbians were having to deal with issues o Eleanor Roosevelt o p. 101-“Loveliest of Friends” • Lesbian novels o Moralistic disapproval of lesbianism o Bizarre and exotic portrayals of lesbians to help people forget about the Depression o Depictions of lesbian suicide: feelings of self-loathing and hopeless passion ▪ Authors were either heterosexuals who saw lesbians as posing a significant social threat to society or lesbians who did not question these “truths;” some lesbians did not want to stand up for themselves because they either did not want to publicly “out” themselves or they were so “few” in numbers that it would not make a difference; were they gullible and/or self-loathing as well? • “In The Life” o Lesbianism was different than the outside view and the outside view did affect some lesbians’ inside views o Slang came from women’s communities like women’s prisons ▪ Dyke; Bulldyke; Bulldagger ▪ Butch/femme: poppa/mamma ▪ Spook-women who had lesbian experiences and stayed in these relationships because they liked it better than heterosexuality o Lesbian life was lonely in the 1930s ▪ No personal ads ▪ No political organizations ▪ Few special-interest groups ▪ Few bars-seen as scandalous (p. 107) • Mona’s • Nucleus Club-weekly parties ▪ Summer camps and colleges/universities (p. 109) • Despite all of the controversy surrounding being a lesbian in the 1930s, why stay true to that identity? o Women found aspects of lesbian life and love more rewarding than heterosexual relationships o Able to make their own lives even without a large support network o Public images of lesbians had nothing to do with them; remain covert and society would have little or no effect on them • Lesbian sex in the 1930s (p. 112) o Did “lesbian” always mean “sex?” o Romantic friendships v. sexual relationships Chapter 5-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers • Lesbian life in the 1940s-1950s o Lesbians and military service ▪ Over 30,000 women served in WWII ▪ Public impression during the war years was that a woman’s corp was “the ideal breeding ground for lesbians” ▪ The war caused men to leave women to fend for themselves; made women feel independent for the first time; brought females of all classes into a group of women where they were able to both expand friendships and learn to appreciate women as serious and self- sufficient human beings ▪ Larger lesbian communities could be created because the war brought large numbers of women to big cities • Helped women with their feelings and the coming out process ▪ Women found themselves in an environment where women worked together in areas they considered important and where they could become “heroes” to one another o Spring 1942-Women’s Army Corps ▪ War progressed and need for personnel grew; military policies become more lenient towards homosexuals ▪ Military needed women who wanted to do work that was traditionally masculine ▪ Military officers were warned to not expose or punish lesbian behavior • Sex Hygiene Lectures (p. 123) ▪ Military could not afford to lose woman power at the height of the war. Lesbians did not cost the military time and money because of STDs or pregnancy. They also did not disrupt the functioning of the service. o Government-sponsored subculture ▪ Military life fostered some tolerance regarding lesbians among young women who for the first time in their lives came in contact with sexuality between women in close quarters ▪ A lot of women, lesbian or not, adopted a “who cares?” attitude. The war made it easier to create a distinctive lesbian style because pants became acceptable for women. Pants became a permanent part of American women’s wardrobes because of wartime jobs. ▪ Butch/femme relationships became more prominent ▪ The military contributed to creating a larger lesbian subculture when it became less lenient in its policy towards homosexuals once WWII ended • “queer ships” filled with “undesirable discharges” sailed to the nearest American port; many of these individuals believed they could not go home again, so they stayed where they disembarked: New York, San Francisca, Los Angeles, Boston, etc. • “The government sponsored a migration of the gay community.” ▪ Because of the growth of lesbian subcultures, the number of bars that catered to lesbians increased. These businesses fostered a sense of community, especially among working class and young lesbians. Lesbians could also more easily conceptualize lesbianism not simply as a secret and forbidden love, but as a lifestyle shared by many other women. o Lucky’s-Harlem (1942) o 181 Club-New York (mid 1940s) o Music Hall-Portland, Oregon ▪ Lesbian political consciousness started to develop-p. 128 o The lesbian “sicko” ▪ After the end of the war, society took a more conservative view against lesbians • Mandating conformity through “mental health” • “Curing” lesbians became big business ▪ The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Women-Sigmund Freud (1920) • Feminism is a chief manifestation of a lesbian’s “abnormality” • Even where there was no sexual indication of lesbianism, a woman’s failure to be passive or timid, her ambition, and even her athletic interests were enough proof of her homosexuality ▪ Clara Anderson (1949) • A woman who accepts homosexuality as an overt way of life has a weak superego, and is “unable to control the direction of her libido drives” ▪ Sigmund Freud • Neuroses can always be traced to disturbances in sexuality, and lesbianism was nothing more than a symptom of illness ▪ Frank Caprio (1950) • Lesbians only have “a surface or pseudo-happiness;” They are lonely and unhappy, and are afraid to admit it. They are ambivalent about life situations. ▪ Edmund Bergler (1950s) • Any attempts that lesbians make to be happy would be self- defeating because they had an unconscious wish to suffer that was only gratified by “self-created trouble-making” and “injustice collecting:” Lesbians made both themselves and other miserable ▪ Charles Socarides • Connection between homosexuality and paranoid schizophrenia is “striking;” Still had this view even after the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973 ▪ Most in society accepted these views without question • Youth with adolescent crushes on members of the same sex were sent to psychiatrists • Some youth were locked up in mental institutions for being “uncontrollable” because of their lesbianism • Intense feelings for another woman could become costly due to “getting professional help” • Some also thought that bisexuality automatically led to lesbianism • Loving another woman meant that one had to live with the fact that some in society considered them a “lesbian sicko” o Curing Lesbians on the Couch ▪ After the war, people wanted some “normalcy” in their lives, and began a disdain for same-sex love ▪ Dr. Frank Caprio (1950s)-“This new found freedom that women are enjoying serves as a fertile soil for the seeds of sexual inversion” ▪ The medical community promoted heterosexuality all throughout society ▪ Richard Robertiello (1950s)-“Voyage From Lesbos: The Psychoanalysis of a Female Homosexual” ▪ Some suggested that homosexuality was really a manifestation of cannibalistic fantasies ▪ Because of the demonizing of lesbianism by the medical community and most of society, no one wanted to come out • Public image of lesbians as “sickos” • Found mentally unhealthy solely because of their lesbian identity • Discredited in all other aspects of life • Lesbianism was also seen as unpatriotic Chapter 6-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers • As mentioned last week, after WWII, society was looking for “normalcy” and “balance.” Homosexuals were hunted as supposed “Communists” were, and became targets of extreme persecution. They were seen as challenging morality and a detriment to the country’s image and standing in the world. • Between 1947-1950, 4,954 men and women were dismissed from the armed forces and civilian agencies for being homosexual • Senator Joseph McCarthy and the era of McCarthyism-pp. 140-143 • In one of his first acts in office, President Eisenhower signed an executive order that mandated the investigation for homosexuality not only of persons in “sensitive” positions, but of any government employee and of all new applicants for positions. There was no judicial review. A person could be fired merely on the basis of anonymous accusations. • The role of the ACLU during the McCarthy era-pp. 144-145 • All eras of society were impacted by this government witch hunt. People did not want to lose their jobs, and blamed activists who they thought were putting too much attention on lesbianism, which was creating suspicion on all married women. o Educational institutions-p. 145; p. 156 o Media-p. 145 o Lesbian pulp novels-p. 146 ▪ “Moral” literature that warmed females that lesbianism was evil ▪ Confirmed social prejudices against homosexuality ▪ Lesbians learned to read between the lines • First public images of women loving women • Daughters of Belitis (DOB)-founded in the mid-1950s; first lesbian organization in the United States; originally was found as a private social group; wanted to “improve the lesbian image” and demand lesbian rights; secret membership; “The Ladder” was the official DOB magazine; informants infiltrated the DOB in the 1950s and were supplying both the FBI and CIA with members’ names; FBI stated that “the purpose of the DOB is to educate the public to accept the lesbian homosexual into society.” • Military o Love between women in the military was viewed as criminal ▪ This led to some lesbians having problems with authority ▪ Other lesbians were afraid to not follow the rules because they did not want to run the risk of losing their veteran’s benefits o Women’s branch of the Navy (WAVE)-p. 151 o Air Force-pp. 151-153; p. 155 o Marines-p. 154 • The 1950s were perhaps the word time in history for women to love women. Chapter 7-Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers • Lesbians were without a geography or space • Wanted to have more places to meet than bars o Positive characteristics of bars
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