Stone Butches and Lipstick Lesbians: Gender Role Construction in the Works of Ann Bannon

butchbannerBefore the days of Facebook and Twitter, lesbians were largely confined to meeting in bars or in secret, and they had few sources to link them to a broader community. Logging onto the Internet these days, one can literally find thousands of websites and social media groups dedicated to helping lesbians from across the country and around the globe forge a sense of virtual community.

Although we live in an age of hashtags and electronic tablets, many of us still read bound stacks of paper called books. Lesbian pulp fiction still has meaning for both young queers who are just coming out of the closet, as well as with lesbians from an older generation. What is it about these dated stories that both younger lesbians and those who made the journey to Stonewall find compelling?

One explanation is that younger lesbians are turning to these artifacts of the 1940s and 1950s to gain a sense of a separate lesbian history. In particular, what these books teach us about the construction of gender roles within lesbian relationships is a key component in that history. One of the most pervasive questions that helps one to identify her place within the lesbian community is “are you butch or femme?” Although these gender roles are hotly contested (some say they don’t even exist), it is my contention that they still serve an important function for lesbians of all walks of life. Lesbian pulp, then, is a means of tracing the development of butch/femme roles that is difficult to find outside of oral histories. [Read more...]

Feminist Conversations: An Interview With Lesbian Icon Ann Bannon

Ann Bannon, the queen of lesbian pulpFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists For Choice. Ann Bannon, in my opinion, is the queen of lesbian pulp fiction. Her books in the Beebo Brinker series served as a roadmap for many lesbians in the 1950s and 1960s. I was introduced to Bannon’s work in a Women’s Studies class at ASU. Bannon’s novels helped me navigate my own coming out process. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to interview her.

1. What was your initial inspiration for writing the Beebo Brinker novels?
I began by falling in “fascination” with the first original lesbian pulp novel, Spring Fire, by Vin Packer. It’s a story of two young women who meet in their college sorority house and fall in love—not a terribly original premise these days, but a dangerous and thrilling one then. The consequences of being outed in the 1950s were appalling, and I had been close enough to a similar disaster in my own sorority to empathize with the girls in Packer’s novel. I knew I wanted to write, and it turned out that this little pulp paperback I had found on a newsstand shelf was the creative trigger. [Read more...]

Book Review: Perilous Times by Fran Moreland Johns


Available on Amazon

YBK Publishers has released a new book entitled Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before—and After—Roe v Wade, by Fran Moreland Johns. Johns shares the story of her own abortion and uses this narrative to connect with other women who have shared similar experiences. While I was reading Perilous Times, I was often reminded of the film Dirty Dancing, where one of the dancers is taken for a back alley abortion and almost dies. I was also reminded of the film Jane: An Abortion Service, where women in Chicago took it upon themselves to help women receive safe, albeit illegal, abortions before Roe v. Wade. Needless to say, I was very drawn into the book, and couldn’t put it down all weekend.

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Fran Moreland Johns. I hope you find her motivation to write the book as inspirational as I did.

1.  In the introduction you say that you never shared your story with anyone (except for your friend Trish) before you started writing Perilous Times. What prompted you to “come out of the closet,” so to speak?

Trish and I had talked often about how those of us who survived abortion in those grim pre-Roe days are dying off fast, and so many stories will never be told. Then I began to see abortion access being denied – particularly this is the case for women without money or resources – in state after state, and I thought this is all I can do to slow that backward movement: tell the stories of women today who are suffering just as much as we did before 1973.  [Read more...]

Emily Kane Talks About The Gender Trap

GenderTrapImageFeminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Emily Kane, Professor in Sociology and author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls.

1. You have written extensively about gender and childhood. How did this interest come about?
My research had previously focused on how adults think about gender inequalities, and their interconnections with inequalities of race, class and sexuality, mostly in the contemporary United States but with a bit of international comparative work as well. My focus there was on inequalities in the adult world- in workplaces, the division of labor in households, etc. I’d been interested in what kinds of people are more likely to recognize gender inequalities as existing, how they evaluated those inequalities (i.e., whether they thought they were problematic or not), and what- if anything- they thought should be done about them. Then I had children, and that experience brought more of my attention into children’s worlds. As I spent time at day care centers and preschools, on playgrounds, in play groups, and as I visited children’s clothing and toy stores, as I read children’s books and watched children’s movies, I became more and more interested in how deeply gendered young children’s worlds were. And I become increasingly interested in how that early gendering helped build the foundation for gendered patterns in the adult world. [Read more...]

Book Review: The Pill Problem


Before I started reading The Pill Problem by Ross Pelton I had just finished Drugs for Life by Joseph Dumit. I was slightly apprehensive about the message of the book, thinking that Pelton would promote solving one problem by perhaps encouraging the use of various drugs, but I was wrong. Pelton acknowledges the fact that the pill plays an important role in the lives of women, but states that the side effects are many and varied. Pelton’s mission with this book is to educate women on the side effects of the pill and hope that they will switch over to safer, healthier forms of contraception.

We often hear about side effects associated with the pill, but we are rarely told why women taking the pill are more likely to have blood clots for example. Pelton states that research has shown that nutrient depletion is common for the majority of women taking the pill, and that nutrient depletion can cause a range of undesirable symptoms and illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, depression, birth defects, cancer, osteoporosis and more.  [Read more...]

Book Review: Generation Roe

Sarah Erdreich has been very busy, ya’ll. She has published a book called Generation Roe: The Future of the Prochoice Movement. I admire Sarah’s tenacity and her ability to get so many abortion patients and providers to talk to her. Many of them were willing to use their own names.

1. How were you able to gather so many statistics to support your arguments?A lot of research!
I spent hours falling down the research rabbit hole—reading a paper to get information on one specific issue, but then learning about something else that I wanted to include, so going to the footnotes to find that source, and so on. The biggest challenge was finding sources that were reputable and nonpartisan, and for that the Guttmacher Institute and Centers for Disease Control in particular were really invaluable.

2. How were you able to get so many doctors to share their stories? You mention that many of them have received death threats at their homes. How did you convince them to speak out? [Read more...]

Feminist Book List

Now that we are celebrating women’s history month we wanted to acknowledge and share some great books on different feminist related topics.

The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation (Updated Edition) Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames

This is a great book that discusses disability rights activism over the last few decades and describes the struggles of disabled individuals and their fights to gain access to a number of institutes and buildings. The Disability Rights Movement is at times truly disturbing and effectively highlights discrimination and prejudice.

Pray The Gay Away – The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays – Bernadette Barton

Pray The Gay Away is an amazing book which critically discusses the impact of homophobia on the lives of homosexual individuals. Bernadette Barton has interviewed gay men and women across the Bible Belt and shows how devastating homophobia is on the well being of homosexual individuals. Pray The Gay Away is very critical of homophobia and the role that religious beliefs and Christianity play in the treatment of homosexual people.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Histories of Sexuality in Australia from Federation to the Pill – Lisa Featherstone

Featherstone traces the history of Australian sexuality from the “start of the new Australian nation in 1901” to when the pill came out  in Australia (in 1961). As such, Featherstone touches on the issues of gender, ethnicity, marriage, women’s reproductive rights, and just about everything surrounding sexuality in Australia. The book can at times be rather sexually graphic and detailed, but it is a very interesting read.

The Richer Sex: How the new majority of female breadwinners is transforming sex, love, and family – Liza Mundy

According to Mundy, the percentage of female breadwinners and stay at home dads is on the rise. Therefore, the changing nature of breadwinning brings about fundamental changes in the gender structure, with “role”switching occurring more often than before. Mundy uses research from the past decades to discuss female breadwinning. Even though we do not necessarily agree with everything Mundy says, the book is an interesting account of women’s changing roles.

When Mars Women Date – Paulette Kouffman Sherman

Even though we are not big into dating books, When Mars Women Date is quite different. It questions and takes a critical look at gender stereotypes and dating tips that are often aimed at women. Paulette Kouffman Sherman writes that: “These dating rules proposed by female authors include things like telling women not to talk too much, not to return a man’s calls or ask him out, only to see him twice a week, not to have sex too early, not to go dutch on dates, to ignore your dates and seem disinterested, never to be overweight, to always wear makeup”. (p. 36). The book is refreshing because it tells women that they do not need to “act” in order to find a good partner and that men do like strong, independent and successful women.

Book Suggestions for the New Year

Now that the New Year is approaching, we’ve compiled a list of books that we’ve read this year and found interesting, valuable, or controversial.

The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution, Faramerz Dabhoiwala

Dabhoiwala describes and analyzes the way that people viewed sex between 1660 and 1880. The focus is on in England, but European nations and the United States are mentioned regularly. At close to 500 pages, reading this book is quite an undertaking, but readers will learn about the role of religion, about hospitals or asylums for women, and why it is that women are now considered less sexual than men, when this was not always the case.

[Read more...]

“Assault by Leer” or “Leering While Black”

When cleaning out the garage I found a copy of Quick News Weekly from November 24, 1952. On page 49, in the crime section I came across the short article titled Assault by Leer, describing how Mack Ingram was sentenced and jailed for simply leering at a 17-year-old white girl. According to the article, in North Carolina “assault by leer” was a possible offense in 1952, even though there was no actual physical contact. There seems to be no coincidence that Mack Ingram was Black and Willie Jean Boswell white.

To put the article into perspective, in 1952 Dwight Eisenhower was President, cold war tensions were beginning to brew and public schools were separated based on skin color. It was not until two years later that Brown v Board of Education was decided on. De jure (by law) discrimination is said to have ended after Brown v Board of Education in the 50s, but de facto (by fact) discrimination is still persistent in various forms, such as in the racial profiling of Blacks, often described as “Driving While Black” or “Walking While Black” (the killing of Trayvon Martin comes to mind). Other forms of societal racism are further called “Hailing While Black” (as Danny Glover puts it), “Learning While Black” or “Eating While Black.” If the persecution of individuals based on “Driving While Black” and “Walking While Black” is common de facto, then it seems safe to say that Mack Ingram was convicted of a de jure crime based on “Leering While Black.”

This picture was taken by Hennie Weiss and is shared under a creative commons license. You are free to share, copy and redistribute the work as long as attribution is given. You may not make commercial use of the work. 

Book Review: The Good Girls Revolt

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Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revolt tells the story of a class action lawsuit that was brought against Newsweek in 1970, by a number of the women then employed at the magazine. In their groundbreaking suit, the forty-six women charged Newsweek with discrimination in promotion and hiring; this was the first female class action lawsuit, and the first brought by female journalists.

One of the leaders of the suit, Povich deftly ties several narrative threads together in this fast-paced account. She simultaneously details the relevant history of the magazine; introduces the reader to a large cast of characters, including editors, researchers, attorneys and reporters; and paints a vivid picture of the work environment at the magazine in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While the story can become complicated at times, particularly when it comes to discussing the lawsuit’s aftermath, Povich’s writing style is straightforward and engaging.
It would be nice to think that Povich’s experience is one that resides safely in the past. But while great strides have been made for workplace equality – and gender equality in general – Povich makes it clear that women are still encountering workplace discrimination today, albeit in more subtle forms. She bookends her tale with the story of three young female Newsweek employees who, almost forty years after the lawsuit, navigate an environment that, in some ways, may not have changed as much as one would expect – and hope.
[Read more...]