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The Lavender Menace
The Lavender Menace

"Ida," a member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Lavender Menace, 1970. Photograph by Diana Davies.
NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Diana Davies Papers. Copyright Diana Davies.
Digital ID: 1582182
Feminist author and activist Betty Friedan warned members of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1969 of the "lavender menace" threatening the women's movement. According to Friedan, the presence of lesbians in the women's movement would destroy the credibility of feminists, who would then be written off as a bunch of "man-haters." A group of GLF women, including author Rita Mae Brown and Karla Jay, decided to disrupt the Second Congress to Unite Women in May 1970. They crashed the conference wearing t-shirts emblazoned "LAVENDER MENACE" and distributed copies of a manifesto entitled "The Woman Identified Woman." The manifesto placed lesbianism at the center of feminist politics as a political, cultural, and erotic resistance to patriarchy. Feminism was never the same again. In the years that followed, many feminists declared themselves "political lesbians" to affirm their solidarity with lesbians and the centrality to their personal and cultural work of a commitment to other women.

A cadre of these GLF women split off to form the Radicalesbians. In these early years, many of these lesbian activists continued to work closely with their gay peers, but in the later 1970s many chose to work exclusively with other lesbian activists to create woman-only spaces. These new spaces provided the ground for the cultural and political work of lesbian feminism.


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