A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[LINK] “Who’s Killing the Women’s Land Movement?”

Vice‘s Allie Conti looks at the reasons for the decline of the women’s land movement, a back-to-the-earth movement started by lesbians in the 1970s that now seems to currently be on its last legs. The general drift of non-heterosexuals to cities, as well as the declining popularity of traditional lesbian identities among the young, are equally responsible.

[A]fter the Vietnam war, as thousands of Americans moved away from cities to adopt an agrarian lifestyle, scores of lesbians simultaneously became disenchanted with the emerging women’s liberation and gay rights movements, which many perceived as being either homophobic or misogynist. They reacted by forming closed-off, utopian societies—farms and communes where women often took on traditionally male activities like mechanics and engineering, in what would come to be known as the women’s land movement. But like religious sisterhoods and lesbian bars, these male-free communities, which once boasted thousands of members, are in clear decline today.

Young queer people who want to get back to the land today have more options than women like [Susan] Wiseheart, who decades ago relied on the women’s land movement to provide safety in numbers and reclusion from a society once hostile to their sexuality.

Terri has long since moved on from Aradia, but Wiseheart has remained, and says she never plans to leave. It is, after all, her life’s work. But once she’s gone, it’s unlikely that anyone will be willing or able to continue her mission. Signs of that are written across Hawk Hill—where chickens, dogs, donkeys, guinea fowl, cattle, horses and a flock of sheep once roamed its fields, calling it a farm today would be a categorical misstatement. Wiseheart now lives there with a few friends, also in their sixties and seventies, and a straight woman helping to pay the bills while they seek out a lesbian renter.

“We’re still sometimes nervous, because we live in a fundamentalist Christian area,” she explains. “We’ve managed to be safe and fine so far. We just don’t want to be advertising it widely.”

Meanwhile, there may be few modern women left willing to live a relatively cloistered life on a lesbian-only tract of land in the Ozarks. Young queer people who want to get back to the land today have more options than women like Wiseheart, who decades ago relied on the women’s land movement to provide safety in numbers and reclusion from a society once hostile to their sexuality.

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Written by Randy McDonald

December 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm

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