Category Archives: racism

White women and racism

I’m writing this on June 2, 2020, during a Week of Action called by the Movement For Black Lives, after a series of racist murders and incidents including the horrific police murder of George Floyd, whom they initially approached over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill and who was unarmed. His murder was captured on video by Black teenager Darnella Frazier and others, taking place over eight minutes while he slowly asphyxiated complaining he couldn’t breathe.

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year old African American EMT, was murdered in her home on by police who fired several shots rapidly, after her boyfriend Kenneth Walker shot at them in self-defense. They had entered after midnight with a battering ram without identifying themselves as police, executing a ‘no-knock’ search warrant based on allegations that a drug dealer had used the apartment to receive packages.

Amy Cooper, a white woman, called police on Christian Cooper, an African American man (no relation), who had told her to leash her dog and took out dog treats when she refused. She told police that she’s a white woman and a Black man is threatening her life, dramatizing with her voice to give the impression of intense fear. Christian’s videotaping may have saved his life, and showed the incident to the world. When police came, both of them had left. Amy lost her job and had to return her dog to the shelter she had gotten it from.

As a white-privileged, Jewish woman I grew up with and internalized a lot of racist tropes and attitudes. I was conscious of white privilege mixed with upward class mobility, as protection from the horrors that I knew Black people and other People of Color were subjected to, in my segregated New York City (neighborhoods were pretty much one ethnicity or another, not very mixed): poor housing and schools, violence that comes out of poverty; later I understood that police were an occupying force in those communities. My family were marginal in Jewish communities we lived in and in the Yeshivas I attended, neither being religious nor materially successful, but being Jewish was the identity I most related to. In some sense it created a shelter that itself amounted to white privilege, though it was also a root of heritage that entailed good and bad I would have to sift through. Anti-semitism was not a daily or current matter and adults placed the Holocaust, pogroms, their own earlier poverty in the past along with the Yiddish language, though some horror images and stories percolated through.

I was also the favored child in my family, the oldest and the one with whom my mother had first experienced that sensation of falling in love with a newborn. With her injuries and traumas, I had to mother myself a lot but the experience of being favored, along with her real sensitivity to my needs at times, gave me a sense of confidence that stayed with me even after we had an irrevocable breach in our relationship. The privilege was doubled edged, however, giving me a sense of my fragility – caution, deserving to be protected in some way – and of not needing to be accountable. This family privilege linked to white privilege through my blond hair as a child, unusual in a Jewish family, and in my school I was viewed as pretty as well as smart (the latter of which I feel confident that I was in fact).

As an adult I’ve had hardships and needed to unpick and unpack all of that. But it stays with me as what I bring to a conversation about white women and racism. It’s not enough to proclaim solidarity without feeling personally implicated. As a Facebook friend posted, in the fight against racist violence there are no bystanders. Witnessing the murder of George Floyd, witnessing Amy Cooper’s blatant racist weaponizing of the police, just the latest in an unending onslaught since the first slave ships, white people have to choose justice or else be swept up in evil whether by deliberate choice or indifference. We are personally implicated either way.

I have been dismayed and horrified to see the large numbers of gender critical radical feminist white women who are turning to racism as, apparently, their true ‘identity’, looking to the extreme religious far right to save them from what they see as the greater evil of gender identity or as they say ‘transgenderism’. (I consider ‘transgenderism’ to be a slur as no transgender people use it about themselves; we can discuss the boundaries and ideological disputes between feminism and transgender activism without denying that there are people who identify as transgender and it has a particular meaning. We do not have to, and I do not, accept the view that being transgender changes a person’s sex.) Let’s think about that for a minute.

If the transgender ideology ‘won’ and transwomen could legally identify as no different from me, female, for all purposes – if that legal fiction were to be fully and dogmatically enforced in every area of life – it would make it potentially unsafe in some circumstances for me to get health care (it being important to me to have female providers for most kinds of care, and especially gynecological care), and potentially make body searches (at the airport, or if I am under arrest or in jail or prison) even more abusive and traumatizing. It would – it already has – silenced me and deprived me of solidarity among LGBTQ communities that treat me as a pariah. It could – in London and San Francisco it has – resulted in violence against lesbians and other women who profess that ‘lesbian’ and ‘woman’ are material identities and not subject to appropriation by anyone born male.

What does the extreme far right threaten me with? Race war. Assault weapons being welcomed into our capitols without a murmur – the building of white militias tolerated with a wink as ‘free speech’. Creating a hostile climate against all LGBTQ people – all of us who are same-sex-attracted and/or gender-nonconforming – while allowing some, white, lesbians to occupy a protected space if they turn against others and join the religious fundamentalists in calling LGBTQ pride a dangerous and destructive movement. Lesbian feminists have separated ourselves from ‘LGBTQ’ or previously ‘gay rights’ when it is male-centric and misogynist, and still do. But accepting a protected berth with those who want to return women to male domination (maybe accepting de-sexed lesbianism as a kind of spinsterhood so long as it upholds and doesn’t challenged their authoritarian regime) is not just dangerous for those who do it, it implicates white privilege as fragility and lack of accountability.

For me – though apparently not for all Jewish women – being Jewish puts me emphatically in opposition to white nationalism and religious fundamentalism. Anti-semitism is in resurgence, and though we’re not the main target this time, it’s not just about ‘us’ as Jews in particular, it’s knowing what this is and needing to put ourselves in the way of it – to stop it and to give it no breathing room, no aid or comfort, not an ounce of allegiance. Being confronted with the Amy Cooper video puts it very starkly to all white women: are we going to be that, or are we going to stand with women and men of color and say ‘no more genocide in my name’?

There’s a process that any white woman has to go through, to examine her own thoughts and feelings and unpick racism from what she really needs in the world. We need to defend ourselves against violence or abuse from any man, and too often we don’t get what we need – we are overpowered and the abuse happens, the police don’t come or we choose not to put ourselves through their further abuse in case of rape, too many injustices – like forced psychiatry – aren’t even criminalized. We have a ton of injustices to confront and combat. But taking power that is the power of racism and of a racist, male supremacist state, of anti-woman and anti-gay religious fundamentalists, to bring in bigger guns against someone we have a dispute with, is only empowering what is racist, complicit with a genocidal state and misogynist religions, in ourselves – it cannot empower us as women of the world, as lesbians of the world, as dykes of the world. It doesn’t stop violence, it escalates and accelerates it.

Sally Roesch Wagner, a white second-wave feminist who has studied Haudenosaunee culture and the influence of that culture on first-wave feminism in the US, recounts that a Haudenosaunee friend commented to her that white women look at their culture and think women have significant power, but to her, it was a matter of responsibility rather than power. White women need to think about the relationship between responsibility and power, and that it might be different from our own accustomed starting point – in our lives there might have been responsibility imposed on us without power, so we focus on gaining power – but in doing so, remain within our own frame of reference which is a racist, male supremacist, capitalist one. When we start from responsibility we may think we have to give ourselves up – but we can start from inside, quietly. What are we accountable for, and how can we turn that around, show up for ourselves and others in an exercise of responsibility?

And responsibility has to turn outward to the world as it is, not to an imagined one where the white enclosure is all that matters.

Join the Movement For Black Lives and participate in this week of action; see also Bend the Arc: Jewish Action to join with other Jews for Black Lives.


Thinking about relationality, in many dimensions.  As a lesbian married to my partner, living in a rural area in the woods of northern New York State, there are times when loneliness is very intense.  Online work and activism, combined with periods of travel, connects me to community; my marriage and the home and land we live on connects me to a place in the world where I know I belong.  There’s no other home that is my home, no other woman I am bonded with as with my wife.  These are intimate things and new to me, or unexpected that it could be so powerful.

Nevertheless thinking about getting older (both of us now over 60), and participating in the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing, I started to think about the need for positive and strong relationships with more people beyond my partner in real life, as they say, as we both age.  Desire for community and search for community has always been with me, but I have been confronted with barriers at almost every turn, some of which I have written about in this blog.

At the International Academy for Law and Mental Health 2019 conference, I was most interested in certain philosophical papers and sessions.  A session on ‘The second-person perspective in medicine and bioethics’ especially drew me.  While I had some disagreements with each paper in that session, the power of a second-person perspective in how we understand any issue of law and policy is worth exploring.  That’s something I still need to look at – there’s both the issue of intersubjectivity as an ethical approach to relationships (e.g. in context of respect for legal capacity, and decision-making support) including collective relationships (e.g. policymaking processes subject to contesting structural oppression), and more deeply, as a value to be promoted for human community and our community with the non-human world.  (This is a strong thread in justice practices and ecological practices of indigenous communities that have inspired me, that I’ve written about also on this blog.)

Practicing in my own relationships I have come to understand a difference between background relationality and a more deliberate intersubjective relationality.  I have often talked about intersubjectivity in an abstract sense, perhaps in a more cognitive sense of negotiation.  But in reality intersubjectivity – an I-I relationship – is something deeper, it’s interpenetration and mutual reflection to infinity, seeing the other in oneself and oneself in the other.  It’s an encounter between two beings, giving myself to the other directly in her presence and as presence.  I see this as being related to the fourth chakra, the heart chakra.  When I intentionally lift a response into that place, intentionally act from that energy center, I relate differently.  I see the other’s wellbeing not only abstractly as connected to my own, but experientially and literally inseparable from my own.  This doesn’t mean having no boundaries, it means talking about needs and boundaries through the heart and as part of this space of interconnectedness.

Related on the collective level, on the plane going to the conference, I watched the movie ‘The Best of Enemies‘, about a process in the civil rights movement era for a community to decide about school integration, that brought together Black activist leaders and Klansmen with an unexpected result (spoiler) that the central Klan leader was changed and became friends with the leading activist in the Black community.  I am naturally and politically skeptical of such a thing, but it was based on a true story.  At some level in most of what we do, oppressed people have to risk ourselves in processes that involve those of the oppressor class, and when any of us seek to become allies to oppressed people (e.g. for me as a contingently white (Jewish) person to be anti-racist), we have to risk ourselves in facing truths that require us to reorient our loyalties and our view of the world.

I’m not sure how this is going to relate to my conceptual policy framework to address support and non-discrimination in crisis situations as a positive alternative to the violent practice of forced psychiatry.  The practices that will lead to the right kind of support will have this genuine approach and value of an I-I relationship.  Looking into and through one another to a truth that is found and not made.  The IPS concept of co-creation and also intentionality in relationships fits here.  It’s not a cognitive intentionality I think, but a deliberate shift of consciousness in relation to the encounter and the moment, that can be especially brought into play when any of us feels challenged in a relational context that is nonetheless important to honor and preserve.  But it seems to go further, and I’m not sure where it will lead.

I had the opportunity to talk with Sarah Knutson about the conceptual framework together with what I’m thinking about relationality.  Sarah has worked out a way of thinking about high-stakes situations and the stress response that is an alternative to the psychological and medicalized model of ‘mental illness’ and crisis in particular.  Through that conversation I could refine my understanding of crisis as being composed of an objective situation that I don’t know how to deal with, and a stress response that makes me feel a great deal of physical and emotional discomfort.  Support for decision-making as well as practical support for comfort, safety and well-being from the person’s perspective can address both of these components, e.g. the stress response can be addressed through bodywork, calming or meditative exercises or in the process of talking about things in a heart-focused way or in an intersubjective I-I way that relates to the other person’s pain with deliberate ethical empathy and accompaniment.

It’s hard to talk about this without using the ‘heart’ reference, and I would not have found that at all meaningful or useful without the direct subjective experience.  I don’t know how it can be communicated in policy discussions or human rights language.  Maybe it can only be pointed at, and communicated directly in experiential contexts.  Interested to explore further, and welcome feedback to know if this makes sense to you or not, and why (or why not).

Edited postscript: Another aspect of this has been reading about African conceptions of the person, in writings by African and non-African philosophers and ethnographers, who  address the existence of a social as well as (and distinct from) personal self (see chapters in parts 1 and 2 of African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry).  The social self sounds similar to what one of the authors at the IALMH session talked about, in relation to our being constituted by our relations.  That was meant, as I understood it, in both a wide social-cultural sense relating to the transmission of worldview that determines who we think/feel we are and also in a more direct interpersonal and present-tense sense that I was surprised the author was prepared to take for granted.  I recall a conversation I had with a much younger fellow student in law school (as I was in my early 40s) who said he saw himself as an isolated bubble trying to form relationships with others; I saw myself as a node in a web of interconnections but his view seemed to me more common.  I would now describe that view of myself as amounting to background relationality.  There is more to how I see myself now, but that background relationality is still important.  For me it’s essential to become conscious of those relations and become more deliberate in affirming them, sometimes loosening or strengthening them; it is possible to sever them and one needs the option of distance but in some constitutive way they remain part of me through my past even if I have no need or desire to interact with the person again.  And I can see the value of what’s sometimes called forgiveness as a way to make peace with severed connections.

Also, I’m interested in the relationship between the first-person and second-person perspectives.  One of the papers at the IALMH conference rehabilitated the third person as a technique of observation and talking about an external reality; in the example given, a doctor begins with a second-person interaction expressing concern and listening for the patient’s concerns and troubles and needs, what brought him there.  She is also trained to be aware of the appearance of the body and signs of potential illness, and notices that the whites of his eye are yellowed; this leads her to eventually shift the conversation to a third-person perspective in which doctor and patient jointly look at his body from an externalized standpoint.

Two things – his perspective on his body is still different than the doctor’s; she only observes (and does it through her body), while he both observes and experiences.  And when he is engaging with the doctor he is likely to be primarily focused on his subjective experience, rather than on the interaction itself.  There was no mention of a first-person perspective; I suspect because the doctor’s standpoint was the one ultimately being taken as central.  In another paper, the author invoked second-person perspective as a foundation for supported decision-making, somewhat in contrast to a first-person perspective viewed as isolated and decontextualized.  I continue to think that is problematic because it blurs the actual distinctions between one person and another, the existence of two subjectivities however much they may interpenetrate, they are ontologically and physically distinct.   First-person perspective, one’s own direct experience including but not limited to self-awareness of experience and the faculty of directing one’s consciousness and becoming able to shift it, is crucial to the kind of intersubjective second-person perspective that ensures an ethical relation rather than one that ignores boundaries or that denies the presence of self to other, with the effect of dominance and/or subordination.

And (the second thing related to the doctor-patient scenario described) – instrumentalizing another person as an object is not the same as observation, which can be directed towards oneself or another in search of a dispassionate grounding for knowledge.  Witnessing one’s thoughts and feelings is a common strategy for meditation, as is also observation of breath or minute observation of something in the natural world.   Instrumentalizing another person is related to a third-person perspective (subject-object)  as well as an unethical dominance relation within a second-person perspective.  As feminist theorists have pointed out, e.g. Carole Pateman and Gerda Lerner, dominance relations of patriarchy require women’s participation as subordinated subjects.

Where is conflict situated in all this?  Bitter, painful conflicts can’t always be solved by heart-connection, or can they?  Can we value ourselves enough to say no, ‘learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served‘?  Are we trapped by situations where there’s still just a little love left, begging us to hold on or hold out, to keep it going so long as we can?  Maybe the heart-connection helps us to let go.

Reclaiming Public and Private for Women


Feminism in the second wave disparaged the public-private distinction because it was used to uphold male supremacy over women in men’s designated private spaces, to protect male violence and domination of women from scrutiny by the state. Women asserted themselves as subjects of law, who have a right to protection of safety and freedoms against male domination asserted in spaces that previously were claimed to be private and free from state regulation. Women thereby asserted a claim on public protection against men’s claims of privacy.

Catharine MacKinnon also disagreed with the grounding of abortion rights in privacy and saw it as preferable to ground in women’s equality with men. I agree that this would have been preferable, as privacy arguments for abortion and contraception do not adequately distinguish between male and female orientations to privacy, and do not capture either the sexed or gendered nature of women’s right to complete autonomy in our own bodies, including our reproductive capacities.

(Note that I wrote first “over” our own bodies, and I think there is a need in changing to a women’s orientation to privacy, to rethink the property-based conception of autonomy in favor of one based on embodied personhood. I have written about that here.)

Nevertheless, MacKinnon, while she has an analysis of the state as male, does not go further than challenging the aspect of this that relates to the public-private distinction which worked to men’s benefit. She has sought to invoke public power to enforce women’s rights, as the strategy to change the state into an institution more favorable to women. Yet the fundamentally male structure of the state in relation to women remains in place. The state is uniformly further removed from women than it is from men; we do not have equal claims on the state by removing the private sphere from public regulation so that we all stand simply as citizens confronting public power. The legitimation of public power, and the creation of both public and private spheres, is sexed and gendered male, as Carole Pateman discusses extensively in The Sexual Contract.   Public power is neither neutral nor can it be assumed to have the capability to function in women’s interest. Yet, since we have to confront state power as a feature of the legal and political order, we need to look at whether male power externalized in the state can be dismantled from within, through the development of relevant conceptual tools and strategies, or whether there are feasible alternatives to develop alternative forms of society in the modern world.

Perhaps as a step towards this larger project, I am interested in reclaiming both public and private for women, from a woman’s perspective. This interest stems from many sources.

First, I cannot accept that disappearance of the private, and a right to privacy, is in my interest as a woman. A professor who taught me Human Rights Law in 1999, Penny Andrews, once said that she considered that her home needed to be protected from state intervention, she saw it as a place where she was safe from external society. I cannot be sure I remember correctly, but I believe she was speaking as a woman of color about safety from racism in particular, in addition to other potential ways that home is a source of comfort and refuge when it is yours alone or when it is not undermined by domestic violence.   For me as a white woman, seeing my home as protection means a place where I am free from male aggression and where I can be myself without fear of anyone carting me off to psychiatry: where no one will ask me in that patronizing tone, “how are you?” and where there is no penalty for shouting or grieving or staying up all night and writing, or for dancing or wearing the same clothes for days.

That privacy is highly contested. The state can in fact invade my home and cart me off to psychiatry, under domestic law both in Norway where I am living temporarily and at home in the United States. I am highly attuned to this because of my early experience with forced psychiatry that I will never forget, that is stamped indelibly in all parts of my body, mind and soul. I can never take for granted my privacy in my home, or my bodily privacy as a human being, as sacrosanct, the unity of self and body in embodied personhood was broken for me irreparably when my body became a place that was invadable, and I had to learn what it meant to be an autonomous self within a body and mind that were coursing with toxic psychotropic drugs administered to me against my will. It was a privilege to learn that, to experience a core self that could not be touched despite that violation and destruction, and it was something that I would do whatever it takes to not be subjected to again.

Thus I come to a defense of privacy, and say to feminism, privacy is not about men, it is about me. If I am a woman whose rights and interests count for feminism, my privacy against the state and against state-legitimated patriarchal chemical rape by psychiatry has to count for something. There is similarly for me a common experience of having my attention, time, personal space, intruded upon mostly by men but also by male-female couples, by groups, by servers, who do not consider that a woman sitting alone in a public space is anyone at all taking up space there nor is she doing anything, whether she is immersed in reading or in her own thoughts. (I have to say this is less true in Norway than it has been in the United States, but still happens.) Also it is common that men interrupt women’s conversations with each other, and male classmates who are young enough to be my sons have presumed to demand my attention to their needs and become affronted when I denied them.

That is privacy too. Women need the vocabulary to talk about this. It is privacy in public space, that men take for granted as the default human beings, and that I value for myself and claim as a human being also. It is precisely by not being able to take it for granted that I notice men have it and that I choose to name it as a value meaningful to me as a woman; it does not mean that I am modeling myself on men or seeking “mere” equality copying whatever men have.

And public space. I mourn the death of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. There we created public space for women. A world in this space for a week, that was all women, no men except the employees of the company that maintained the porta-potties, who came at night escorted by one of the festival’s security crews. Women built stages and outdoor kitchens to feed thousands, ran the lighting and sound systems for concerts, drove the shuttles, created workshops and created culture of all kinds. Over a forty-year span, some girls grew up at Michigan and brought their own daughters. I can’t imagine how they must feel now. I only went a few times, but needed it to be there for me. One of the most important turning points of my life was initiated by a workshop there, that eventually set me on a path of the spiritually driven political legal activism that I am doing now.

Michigan could not consider itself legally public space; it was a private party thrown by Lisa Vogel who could set the terms for who was invited. The festival maintained an “intention” of welcoming womyn-born-womyn, i.e. natal females, and centered on female experience as women and girls. While some transgendered males (transwomen) attended, the festival did not center their experiences or consider them equally a form of women’s experience as those of females. Transgender advocates protested outside the gates and also in the festival itself, and eventually escalated to organizing a boycott not only of the festival but also of festival performers, seeking to deprive them of a livelihood. I had been away from the festival for long years, when I was in law school and then working on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with important meetings being held in August; then I became involved with Diana who hadn’t gone to festivals and we were just doing other things. Living in the Adirondacks I didn’t need to go to festival to be in the country, and I felt I was drawing on my feminist roots but didn’t feel the need to replenish them.

I came back for the last festival, responding to the escalating attacks and getting involved in Facebook discussions before we even knew it was going to be the last, and then attending with Diana. In many ways it was anticlimactic for me; I’m a different person, and large groups even of womyn are harder for me to feel connected to, also being there with Diana made it more of a continuum with everyday life, but it was enough. I also never felt entirely safe at festival, unlike most women who have gone and felt it was home. For me, intrusive questioning and the culture of a kind of mutual negotiation of personal boundaries that can empower most those who already feel entitled by it, means I do not get to let down my guard. The “how are you?” happens, and I know of crazy wimmin who have been given a hard time. It is not, was not, a safe space to claim madness that has been labeled as such by patriarchy, in a way only madness that wasn’t stamped and vilified as such gets to howl.

So I need more from public space. I need a womyn’s public space and I need for the public space womyn share with men to be controlled effectively by women. And I need it to be all women including me. I need, broadly speaking, for disability as well as race, and of course sex, to be part of what we mean when we talk about public and private, in terms of space and in terms of law and rights. And for disability to include me, to include all ways that patriarchy sorts us as normal human beings and abnormal freaks who only get the crumbs from the table.

I’m left with intersectionality, which has been given a bad name by the transgender movement using it incorrectly. Intersectionality cannot be used to magically transform members of an oppressor class into members of an oppressed class to confer on them all the benefits of positive measures allocated to the oppressed class to remedy systemic discrimination as well as all the entitlements they have already enjoyed and in many respects continue to enjoy as members of the oppressor class. That is what the transgender movement does by claiming that transwomen are women, and not merely claiming but asserting it as uncontestable fact as a trick of language. Women – you know, the people formerly known as biological females living under a construct of gender that shapes other people’s reactions to us irrespective of our subjective feelings – we women are now facing a similar kind of inside-out transformation of public and private that I faced when locked up in psychiatry 40 years ago. Public becomes private and private becomes public so that there is no definitional boundary or physical space claimed by women that men cannot invade. The boundaries are defined by males, period. We cannot talk about female sex or sexuality, about female bodies and their unique features and capacities, as feminists, it is increasingly culturally, politically, and even legally unacceptable to claim the right to create culture and politics as women, to serve women’s own interests. The transgender movement does not oppose pornography of women – the exploitation of female bodies by men – rather they tend to align with pro-pornography and pro-prostitution, although most of the transgendered males who are killed by male violence are killed in the sex industry, made vulnerable similarly to women by that industry that is based on the hatred and abuse of women.

(I have not made a thorough examination of the radical feminist writings on prostitution but I am convinced that it entails dissociation of women, separation of self from body, in a way that amounts to abuse, and that exchanging money for this abuse does not legitimize it. I do see the complexity in relation to agency under limiting conditions, because women do not have equal opportunities in work, and if we are always expected to give a little extra, if men are always extracting sexualized labor from us anyway, why not do it upfront and make it simple and real? From what I am understanding, the vast majority of women in the sex industry have nothing resembling free choice sometimes in getting in and also once they are in, and so I support structural change to end the industry in this case over the individual rights of women to make this accommodation with patriarchy in preference to other strategies. I do not know how transgendered males relate to the sex industry, if they too dissociate and utilize these feminized strategies in order to make an accommodation in a world that hates them, or if as males there are significant differences. But their interests cannot trump those of women to be free from a particularly destructive form of male abuse and violence.)

Not only can we not talk about women’s bodies as feminists. In addition, when gender identity is made to supplant biological sex, or gender in the sense of identities constructed by society, for the purpose of non-discrimination guarantees, we lose the ability to use law to secure women’s rights as women, since women can have no guarantees that males cannot reverse on us simply by claiming to be women.

It is time for a rethinking of public and private as women, as females, as lesbians, to re-situate ourselves with respect to law, public space, private space, with respect to public vs private as government versus private enterprise, as civil society versus home and family, as social role or responsibility versus personality and subjectivity. Lesbian feminist thinkers like Claudia Card and Sarah Hoagland have given us some ways to look at lesbian relationships and community, as a form of social order outside patriarchy (yet surrounded by it and infiltrated by it). Yet these conversations have mostly taken place as a way of theorizing what might amount to carved-out private spaces within the public orders of patriarchy. What if we move further, as Claudia Card began to do with her theories of friendship, to talk about lesbian claims on public space and all aspects of what public can mean.

This entails situating ourselves in relation to the patriarchal state and understanding it fully as patriarchal and thus not ours, as a coercive order that we do not control though we can influence both by appeal to its internal principles like equality and non-discrimination, and by political agitation. We have to re-problematize the public, the patriarchal state, in relation to all women, to reinstate a value of privacy as women, and to re-conceptualize public and private in ways that start from embodied personhood and bodily autonomy, and female sovereignty in the creation of culture, including economic relationships and systems of trade and production, and including the possibility or a new or different legal and political order.