LOVE AND POLITICS: Radical Feminist & Lesbian Theories

by Carol Anne Douglas

"Love & Politics: Radical Feminist & Lesbian Theories," by Carol Anne Douglas. Oil-stick painting, "Landscape/Wilbur Springs," by Kim McCloud.

Critical survey of radical and lesbian feminist ideas from the 1960s through the 1980s. Carol Anne Douglas examines diverse theories on the roots of male domination; love and sexuality; lesbianism and friendship between women; lesbian separatism; sadomasochism; strategy and tactics for women's liberation — and more.

Douglas probes the divergent roots of radical feminist theory. In her chapter, "Lesbianism as a Politics," she observes: "Definitions of lesbianism and heterosexuality may be related to a woman's position on the question of whether there are inherent, inevitable differences between women and men. A woman who does not believe that most behavioral differences between women and men are biologically caused, is not likely to believe that lesbianism is determined genetically or during infancy. However, a woman who believes that there are significant, lasting biological differences between women and men may believe that there are inherent differences between lesbian and heterosexual women  or that differences between women and men are so great that all women, given a real opportunity, would choose to be lesbian."

From diverse currents in radical feminist theory, Douglas glides her analytic lens to examine diverse currents in radical feminist practice. While some radical feminists emphasize confronting the enemy (patriarchy and/or capitalism), others emphasize building alternative women's communities to achieve radical feminist goals in the here and now. "In the early and mid-1970s," Douglas observes, "there was a turn by radical and lesbian feminists not only from working for legislated reforms but also from any sort of demonstrations or direct confrontation with the male power structure... Creating independent projects  whether these were publications, bookstores, restaurants, record companies, credit unions or rape crisis centers  was seen by many as a more productive way of opposing the system. Creating an alternative system was seen as more radical than directly confronting the power structure. The alternative strategy is derived from the 1960s counterculture, but also ultimately from anarchist and utopian socialist principles.

"Some radical feminists saw the turn to establishing alternatives as a diversion from radicalism and as triumph for liberals. However, even these feminists saw the need for an alternative press..." Douglas draws on her vast knowledge of radical feminist writings and practical experience in women's movements to bring clarity to the maze of radical feminist currents and cross-currents since the 1970s. 363 pages, with 18 photos. Bibliography, index.

"Douglas provides a lively and coherent overview of radical and lesbian feminist ideas over the past few decades, reminding us of their creativity and diversity," writes Charlotte Bunch, director of the Center for Women's Global Leadership. "Love and Politics should be on the reading list of all activists and academics seeking to understand how feminist theory gives perspective and power to strategy and action."

CAROL ANNE DOUGLAS joined the staff of the ground-breaking radical feminist monthly off our backs in 1973, working and writing prolifically for the paper until it ceased publication in 2008. She earned her master's degree in political science at UCLA, studying international affairs. She has taught women's studies and feminist theory courses in the Washington DC area.

Paperback • ISBN: 978-0-910383-17-2 • Price: $12.

Hardcover • ISBN: 978-0-910383-18-9 • Price: $18.

ism press books • ISBN prefix: 978-0-910383-

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