Clip from the new documentary, Left On Pearl, about the women's occupation of a building at Harvard University in 1971.
Letters To The Editor
Illustration by Tee Corinne
DYKE NO 2: Letter Salad
Dear Liza and Penny,
I hope you print this so other lesbians who feel the way I do will know someone agrees with them.
I am really angry about a lot of what is in your magazine. One thing is that it costs $3.00!!! I can't believe you really care about most lesbians reading it if you charge so much.
Another thing I can't believe is that the Red Dykes from Detroit wrote how fucking classist you are and how oppressive and you didn't even respond!!! How can you not respond to a letter like that?? Its obvious that you don't have to worry about jobs or money, and that you don't care about Lesbians who do! And you won't even admit that money separates us us from each other as lesbians and that we have to learn to deal with it. I wouldn't expect you to write articles about jobs, etc, if its not in your experience, but the least you could do is get articles from other lesbians about these things, so that those of us who have to deal with daily survival would have something to relate to in your magazine.
The other main thing that made me real angry was the shitty review you, Liza, did of Linda Shear's tape. I experience Linda's music as very powerful and beautiful, both musically and what she's saying. I can't believe how much you put her down in that review - saying something good about everything else except the music itself. Her songs are not at all difficult for me to listen to, and I think it's really destructive to all Lesbians to say the things you say. I am not saying that you should pretend to like something if you don't - but the way you say what you think is really insulting and putting her down. It is also infuriating to me that you don't at least say that linda is a separatist and her songs are about that vision, instead of saying her ideas are interesting! That means nothing!! If you cared about Linda or the rest of us Lesbians, you could have said what you had to say in much more positive and accurate ways. (Not that I can understand at all why you don't like her music in the 1st place.)
It's very clear to me from your magazine that you are upper class snobs who don't care what effect you have on other lesbians and are not really serious about putting out a good lesbian magazine.
Yes, $3 is a lot of money, but to produce a 86 page magazine that has been typeset and printed is expensive. The printers and typesetters are Lesbians. The contributors are all paid, except us, plus for every magazine that is sold by a bookstore, the store gets a full 40%, which in this case is $1.20. Since we're a quarterly, we wanted to make each issue quite long and of high quality so that it would last a long time. The cost of a subscription is $8.00, which is $2.00 per issue, which is quite reasonable, we thought. For every copy we sell individually through the male (mail) system, we must pat 34¢, now raised to 50¢. About one quarter of the time, the Post Office "loses" the magazine and we have to send another.
We're not breaking even let along making any profit from the magazine. However, since many women felt the price was too high we are lowering it and reducing the number of pages per issue. Please see Criticism, Feedback and Changes for more on price.
As for not answering Red Dykes' letter as well as some of the other letters, we agree that it was the wrong decision to make. We are now answering letters of criticism in print. Please see Criticism, Feedback and Changes for more explanation of this.
Where did you get the idea that we don't "admit that money separates us from each other as lesbians and that we have to learn to deal with it." We do "admit" it, we never said otherwise and we certainly never meant to imply otherwise. I'm sorry if you did. The CLIT papers 1 and 2 did contain a certain amount of discussion about class and money and we did print them.
We have, including this issue, only produces three issues so far, so of course we have not covered every topic of interest to every Lesbian. Obviously we can write only our of our experience. We can and actively do seek articles written by other Dykes. And now that we have put out a few issues, we have been getting a lot more in the mail. We started DYKE with the idea that the general themem would be Lesbian experience, and we hoped and still hope that logs of Lesbians would write about anything they were interested in from a Lesbian perspective. We are now switching to theme issues in an effort to make it easier for Lesbians of all different classes, races, ages etc. to write. Again pleas read Criticism, Feeedback and Changes for more details.
Almost all the women who have written for DYKE have to work for a living. Does having a job really preclude you from relating to the articles that have been printed? And if so, which ones? You say in your letter that we are "upper class snobs who don't care what effect you have on other Lesbians, and are not really serious about putting out a good lesbian magazine." What a lot of assumptions in one sentence. If we didn't care what effect we had on other Lesbians, we wouldn't bother putting out a magazine, a medium that can't survive without readers and participants. And you can you possibly think we are not serious about making a constructive magazine? Whatever you think of the content, it should be obvious that many women worked very hard and very seriously to put out these magazines.
Does the fact that Liza and I don't have straight jobs disqualify us from participating in Lesbian culture. Should we not use our money to put out a Lesbian magazine? Should we not write from our own experiences? Does the fact that we don't have to earn our living off the magazine mean that we are less serious about putting out a good magazine. How many feminist and Lesbian magazines or newspapers suppor the women who are producing them? I am not asking rhetorical questions. I really don't understand what you mena. You seem to be saying that because we have some money that everything generated from that is of no value and has evil intent. Do you really believe this?
As for Liza's review of Linda Shear. Please see her answer to Helen's letter. I think we all have a lot to learn about giving and receiving criticism that is both hones and supportive. I also feel that the tone of a piece is as important as the content. We are trying to be conscious and responsible about this. Destructive tones are a problem of many Lesbians and, as you say, destructive for all Lesbians. As an example of destructive tones of criticism, reread the Red Dykes letter which you mention.
I have tried to answer what I perceive you are saying in you letter. Criticism is hard because we all operate on so many different levels. Making negative assumptions about each other isn't going to help. We all have to overcome the conditioning that teaches us to mistrust each other.
Dear DYKE magazine,
Reading your ads and things I realize that you want nothing to do with the man. I can understand that, the man tells us where and when we can work, eat, sleep and just about everything else. We can oppose the man and not buy his goods, take his jobs, live in his houses. On the outside like that you know its hard unless one has a source of money the man doesn't try to take away. You know the man (or 'lord' these words are interchangeable) gives and the man/lord takes away. Unfortunately the man owns the home I rent for me and my dog, and man owns the company that sends me my chick for the forty hours a week I spend in the office/factory/store/field etc. Anyway I can't seem to get away from the man. But - and this brings me to my point- you want money for your mag. But the only money I got is from the man so I don't know what to do for you. I have a solution: here are some dyke dollars.
So please send me your magazine.
I know that we did not intentionally try ot imply that any Lesbian could possibly exist without relating to men in any way. Our money comes from men most of the time. The source is certainly men. Anyway, we are sending you one issue of DYKE in exchange for you beautiful Dyke dollar. And remember - we pay for all work that we print, that includes graphics, so keep it coming.
P & L
I was absolutely fascinated by the copy of DYKE you recently sent me. When can scrape up the price I'll be sending in my subscription. I wish I were fortunate enough to live in a more advanced place so that I might benefit from the experiences and associations of others like myself. As it is, I'm rather isolated - my only contact being my whole light and life and love. Who also happens to be married. I'm expanding my mind and ever growing (I hope.) She's working on it too, after a fashion I guess. Not fast enough for me, but maybe we'll get there one day. I read everything I can lay my hands on anymore regarding feminism and Lesbianism and etc- an pass it on to her partially digested- Hopefully that won't be necessary soon, but since she doesn't care to read a great deal, I guess it's up to me to garner new ideas.
Being alone and isolated, and weak, I remain under the control of the present system, getting by as much as possible and where necessary and keeping to ourselves the rest of the time. The economic hold over me (at least) is powerful. I'm not strong enough to fight it yet. Magazines such as yours inspire and encourage me, and I need all the help I can get. Please don't give up!! You are reaching people who need you!! I'm not a person who writes to magazines as a rule, but I guess I'm groping for someone who might understand what life is like for me. Sorry for crying on your shoulders.
I realize the magazine and your other business must use up your time quite effectively. I hope you can clear up two things for me, though. If you aren't able to, I understand
First, I'm not sure what you mean by your usage of the term "DYKE." In trying to scope out the philosophy behind your magazine I can't imagine you mean the 'macho butch' type image. Does it apply to all lesbians, or Lesbian separatists, or who?
And second, I'm beginning to comprehend the necessity of separatism. As each day goes by and I run up against the frustrations and heartbreaks I feel more and more ready to separate myself. But aren't men a requirement at least in the propagation of the race? We can't do that by ourselves yet, can we? Maybe it's a sophomoric question, but unless I ask, where do I get an answer?
This is too long already. In eager anticipation of a repy, at at least issue #2. I'll sight off.
Keep your presses rolling! I wish you love.
an emerging infant sister,
Your situation sounds unfortunate. I hope that you will be able to find more satisfactory conditions for yourself. As to your questions: We use the word "DYKE" to mean strong Lesbian. This does not mean 'macho' or 'butch' although straight people might think that we are macho or butch. "Dyke" is a word that has been used to insult and intimidate Lesbians for a long time. Its origins are obscure, but contemporary Lesbians are reclaiming the word to use with pride about oourselves. We chose it as a title for our magazine because it is simple, direct, powerful and easy to remember. Our full title is DYKE, A Quarterly because a spiritualist told Penny that we should use the letter "Q" to help us financially.
About propagation: Some women say that Parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, is possible and, in fact, does happen sometimes. You can read more about that in The Lesbian Reader published by Amazon Press. Even without parthenogenesis though, it is not necessary to build a lifestyle around a few minutes of impregnation. As dairy farmers know, it is not necessary to have a bull for every cow. It is not even necessary to have the bull at all, anymore. Just call the artificial inseminator. Also, many Lesbians choose not to have children at all, while others come out after they have children.
I hope this answers your questions satisfactorily. I am glad that you like DYKE so much. It is very gratifying to hear that.
Whew! I just read your "Letters From My Mother." They are word for word what my female parent's (cant stomach the word 'mother' suddenly) reaction would be if I came out to her. I've tried to fantacize her reaction many times - your article saved me much fantasy time - not to mention months and years of shit if I actually did come out to her. I"m surprized to find another parent who plays exactly the same games mine does - Reading your article made mine's games crystal clear - more clearly than I've been able to on my own....
Polly & Georgine
The Lesbian Tide, a magazine from Los Angeles, really hated us! Here's their review of Issue No. 1:
Dyke purports to be a separatist magazine reporting "analysis, communication and news" of Lesbian culture. What it is in fact is a vehicle for the personal ramblings of its two editors (high-school diary style) and a mishmash of politically naive thinking they call Dyke Separatism.
Separatism, as espoused by Dyke, is a luxury item for the privileged few. For those that can afford it, the best I can say is "Gee whiz, you lucky dykes sure do have a great life". For the rest of us, its crucial lack of awareness of lesbian and women's oppression is classist, ignorant and infuriating. Two examples of this are chronicled in the section called "California Diary."
One is an incident where the two right-on dykes ask a stewardess if she wouldn't be more comfortable in pants, instead of her mini-skirt uniform, and are surprised at her taking offense. She's probably be most comfortable being independently wealthy and quitting that oppressive job where she has to grovel to travelers all day long for crumby money. The issue of pants does not exactly speak to her oppression, since she can't control PSA's requiring stewardesses to dress like sex objects, nor change the fact that she needs the job to survive. How'd they miss the point?
We were both angry and highly amused by this review. Puzzled too. How could the author not get that the one of the things that made the stewardesses job oppressive was that she was forced to wear hot pants? Meanwhile, unbeknownst to The Lesbian Tide, stewardesses themselves were claiming their own power, organizing and changing the rules
Another interesting misuse of separatism is their report of visiting a local feminist bookstore and finding a man (of all things) shopping there. They harass him and finally make him leave. What that accomplished was that it lost the bookstore some money. Six women's livelihoods depend on that bookstore, and in these pre "Lesbian Nation" times men's money has the same buying power as women's. The bookstore is glad to rip it off and re-filter it into alternative jobs for women.
Well, as a retailer myself, now, I don't think I'd appreciate my customers harassing other customers, which is certainly what we were doing, as reported in "California Diary." It was interesting, though, that the author felt that selling things to men was "ripping them off" but selling the same things to a woman was not a ripoff. Interesting attitude for a retailer.
The worst part of the critique, however, was that the author failed to mention that she was a co-owner of Sisterhood Bookstore. Because we believed so strongly in situated knowledge and transparency, this kind of false - if implied- claim to objectivity really stunned us.
Here's our (rather hot headed) response, which they probably published, or published some of. Click on the thumbnail image and the bigger page will pop up. You can double click to enlarge even more.