Friday, September 19, 2014

Women-only space is threatening precisely because it's powerful

Great posting from the Life is Suffering blog. Only part of it is reproduced here.

September 17, 2014

Women-only space is threatening precisely because it's powerful

   ➞ womensliberationfront:

"In one flash, I realised that the centres of power in this country – the boys schools, the bullgingdon club, the golf clubs, the gentleman’s clubs, they were male only spaces that consciously and legally excluded women.

This was when I realised why women only space is so threatening to men. And threatening is the word – if it wasn’t threatening we wouldn’t have to spend so long explaining why we want it, justifying why we want it, and being forced to give it up because we’re ‘discriminating against men.’ Women only space is threatening because men know that male-only spaces are spaces of power. They’re the spaces where men make the decisions that govern society. Women only spaces are spaces where women are creating their own power.”

Female-only space is vital to feminist organizing and women’s safety.

Yet another reason we trans women need to leave women only spaces, like mitchfest, alone.

We’ve all had access to various men’s only spaces. Some of us may have chosen not to join any. And yes some of us may not have been allowed to because of our behaviour or clothing (or race, but that’s another issue), but we could have acted differently if we really wanted in. I mean come on, how many of us were boy scouts?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Club Metro

Club Metro
Club Metro ad (1999)

Location: 733 Pierce Butler Route, Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota, USA

Opened: April 1992

Closed: November 3, 2001

Club Planet says the following about Club Metro:

Club Metro Saint Paul, Venue Description Club Metro - This friendly gay bar offers its patrons a place to dance, get sweaty and play pool. Customers skew a little more lesbian here, hence the popularity of the drag king shows and often a larger number of women than men.

And from eHow:

Club Metro is a popular gay and lesbian bar in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Club Metro is a casual bar that is geared towards lesbians -- all people are welcome, however. This lesbian bar offers entertainment for all, including a dance floor, a pool table and a runway. The runway features drag king shows -- women who dress as men. For lesbians or gay men looking for a more women-friendly environment, consider going to Club Metro.

Here's the write-up from City Pages when Club Metro won the Best Lesbian Bar award in 2000.

No one wanders into Club Metro by accident. If you can find the place, squatting off the main streets on what looks like an industrial service road, you can't miss the neon rainbows. And if you miss the neon rainbows, it's difficult to overlook the out clientele (which makes the large population of het couples there on a recent Saturday night a very curious thing, indeed). Women tend to congregate in the Underground, the downstairs poolroom with an upside-down pincushion bar. This bar of one's own, which boasts a leather shop in the basement, drag-king shows every other Friday, go-go girls on Thursdays, and vast numbers of friendly, attractive (and forward) single gals, provides the very best kind of one-stop shopping for a girl on the make--which perhaps explains the consistent and utter lack of competition in this category.

Notice how "het couples" were taking over the space though--not a good sign.

And here's the write-up for the Best Lesbian Bar award in 2001.

A good lesbian bar should be like the one in the Jonathan Richman song: It should take a few moments for you to realize that's the kind of bar you're dancing in. Although Club Metro's location makes it a difficult place to stumble into by chance, the neighborhood-hangout vibe and jovial crowd guarantee you'll need at least one beer before you figure out what makes this place different (and better) than your local Champp's. The Metro has long been praised for its relaxed, accepting atmosphere and attitude-free staff. On a particularly spirited Wednesday Karaoke Night, people of all genders and orientations were rocking the mic and cheering one another on. A talented Gap-type girl performed a hit from Evita, a transgender Donna Summer belted out Motown hits, a drunk guy in a sweat suit stumbled through "Love Shack," and a brave young woman delivered a rendition of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" that could have peeled paint off the walls. Drag-king and go-go girl nights are hugely popular: The shows are always racy, often raunchy, but never disgusting (unlike similar shows at other clubs which will go unmentioned). Metro's popularity can also be attributed to the near-absence of a rude, novelty-seeking frat-boy contingent (unlike at other clubs which will go unmentioned). Weekend nights are packed, weeknights are laid-back, and although actively searching singles can be quite successful, unwanted advances--of any variety--are pleasantly rare.

The space is now a vacant lot.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Hour

Happy Hour
The Happy Hour location in a later

Location: 12801 Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove (Orange County), California, USA

Opened: 1962

Closed: 2003

From the OC Gay Timeline:


The Happy Hour, a lesbian bar, opens in Garden Grove. It remained open until 2003, marking it as the oldest continuously operating lesbian bar in the county.

More information is found in a Lesbian News article from September 2003:

On September 20, The Happy Hour, a friendly neighborhood lesbian bar located in Orange County, California, will celebrate their fortieth anniversary. The bar has had a tumultuous and colorful history. The club first opened in the early sixties as a beer bar. Many gay clubs opened up and down Garden Grove Boulevard during this decade, including DOK West, Rumor Hazzit, the Iron Spur, the Knotty Keg, the Hound's Tooth, the Ranger, the Tiki Hut and The Mug. Most of them catered to gay men, and the Happy Hour was a haven for lesbians who looked for a safe place to meet and relax. In 1968, Jo Moore look over The Happy Hour and has been running it ever since.

Unfortunately, Happy Hour wasn't a safe place for all women. In fact, it appears that at least some of the patrons were right-wing, nationalist, zenophobic @$$hats. This story from October 2001 is particularly blood curdling:

I recently moved to Orange County, and went to the Happy Hour -- a lesbian bar -- this past weekend, October 27, for a Halloween party. One woman there was educating the women in the bar about what it is like for women in Afghanistan. She was covered in a bloody burka with signs that said, "Oppressed by the Taliban, Murdered by the U.S.A." She was giving out information about RAWA and the Afghan Women's Mission to people.

Unfortunately, some of the white women there were very racist. One woman pulled a chair out from under her as she was sitting, causing her to fall. Several racist women in the bar laughed. Two other racist women pulled her burka costume off of her and threatened to kill her. When she told employees she was assaulted, they in essence told her she deserved it because of her costume, and refused to stop others from assaulting her. All night, people kept talking about her being a "terrorist towel head" and "rag head" and one woman told a bartender she would kill her if she didn't leave.

Someone had written on the chalkboard in the bathroom, "Equality for all women worldwide," but others crossed it out and wrote, "USA - love it or leave it, motherfucker!" White women kept walking by the burka-wearing woman and yelling, "GOD BLESS AMERICA!" When I made a comment about their racial hatred, a white woman told me to "shut up wetback!"

The blatant racims there was extremely appalling! The woman in the burka was doing well educating people, but was completely outnumbered by the racists ganging up on her. A lesbian space should be a safe place for women, not a threatening, racist and anti-woman place to be. The employees at the bar are at least partially responsible for allowing this hatred to exist and people of color to be attacked.

Please call or write the Happy Hour and tell them your are appalled at their racism, and tell them you refuse to patronize their place unless they apologize for their racism, and until they guarantee all patrons, especially people of color, that they won't tolerate racist attacks. Or just tell them you are disgusted at their racist attitudes. Tell the bar employees to inform the bar owner, too.

Call after 2 pm: (714)537-9079

or write:

The Happy Hour
12081 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92864

I've been told that Orange County is known for its racism and lack of political activism, so please, everyone who is able, no matter where you live, just take a few short minutes to write or call! Even men, please call. I saw a few men there that evening. It doesn't matter what you sexual orientation is. Racism is racism, and it takes all of us working together to end it!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Front

The Front
San Francisco waterfront (late 1940s/early 50s)

Location: Front and Jackson Streets, San Francisco, California, USA

Opened: 1951

Closed: ?

In the Encyclopedia of Lesbian History, Bonnie Zimmerman states that The Front was the first lesbian bar on San Francisco's waterfront. It was founded by Charlotte Coleman (ca. 1924-) in 1951.

Charlotte Coleman is mentioned in a number of other books including Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. Here is part of the chapter by Roberta Bobba about Charlotte:

Charlotte Coleman was more or less forced to resign from the Internal Revenue Service because of her suspected lesbianism, and, deciding to become more open about her same-sex preferences, she opened the first lesbian-owned bar in San Francisco, the Front. This was the first of many gay bars and restaurants she established; when one closed one she moved on to another, including the Golden Cask and the Mint. She was not a passive owner but an active one, and her bars and restaurants hosted many a fund-raising event in the gay community and served as a safe meeting place for others. She was among the founders of the San Francisco Tavern Guild, which, aided by the wholesale liquor dealers, served as an effective political force in opening up the bar scene in San Francisco. She was instrumental in the founding of the first gay bank, was important in the development of the Gay Olympics, and was a strong supporter of the Daughters of Bilitis.

Also see Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America and Ask and Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out (Charlotte was in the Coast Guard during World War II.) The last work is written in Charlotte's voice and is particularly vivid and interesting.

As of December 2013, Charlotte Coleman was still alive at 90 years of age. See this touching video and article. Other than this video, I haven't found any visual images of Charlotte or of The Front.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Woman's Prerogative Bookstore

A Woman's Prerogative
A Woman's Prerogative Bookstore

Location: 179 West Nine Mile Road, Ferndale, Michigan, USA

Opened: 1992

Closed: 2005

One of the many women's bookstores that have been lost over the years. From PrideSource Between the Lines:

A Woman's Prerogative to close after 13 years
By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

Originally printed 6/9/2005 (Issue 1323 - Between The Lines News)

FERNDALE - After thirteen years, Ferndale's women's bookstore will be closing its doors this month.

Authors Auden Bailey, Therese Szymanski,
Marianne Martin, Karin Kallmaker, and Kelly Smith
at A Woman's Prerogative Bookstore 
"My first priority was to find someone to keep the store open as 'A Woman's Prerogative Bookstore' in order to continue serving the community," said owner Amy Blake. "If there was anyone in the community who was going to step up to the plate, they had six months to do it."

Blake said she originally decided to sell the store because it was time to move on.

Stephanie Newman, the events coordinator for the Triangle Foundation, was disappointed by the news.
"I'm upset about it because it's been such an icon to our community and such a place of refuge to the women of our community," she said. "It's been a pivotal point of feminism, and it's just this amazing place."

Though saddened by news of the store's closing, Newman had kudos for Blake.

"I'm happy for Amy that she is going on to other things that she wants to do in her life," Newman said. "She has dedicated her entire life to that store, to this community. She has been a shining example of involvement - she's not been partisan at all to any group. She's been involved in everything, and she's helped all of us so much that we all owe her an enormous debt of gratitude."

"You can't even fathom the amount of money she has raised for this community," Newman added.

Alice McKeage, a long-time customer and community activist, was also upset by the news.

"I am deeply distressed to see A Woman's Prerogative close. It has been much more than a bookstore to many of us," she said.

Both Newman and McKeage have fond memories of the store.

"It was the first gay place I ever walked into," Newman said. "I had no idea where gay people hung out or where I could meet another lesbian, and Amy was there with a welcoming smile, pointing me in the right directions. I'm sure many people bought their first rainbow sticker there."

McKeage added, "It was always a source of community information, and of course a place to run into friends and get those much-needed hugs. It was also a good place for me to get support. I bent Amy's ear on a number of occasions, and she always made time for me and offered encouragement."

"We'll never get that personal touch at Borders or Barnes & Noble. Nor will we get the selection of lesbian and gay literature carried by A Woman's Prerogative," McKeage added.

As for her plans for the future, Blake said she would be "spending the next three and a half months in Maui and will be deciding from there."

An exact closing date has not been set, but the store will begin selling off inventory and furniture this month, Blake said. She added that gift certificates will be honored until the store closes, and asked that anyone with items on consignment make arrangements to pick them up.

A Woman's Prerogative is located at 175 W. Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale. For more information call 248-545-5703.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Peg's Place

Peg's Place
4737 Geary Blvd. today

Location: 4737 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco, California, USA

Opened: 1972

Closed: ?

I first stumbled upon Peg's Place in this newspaper article from 1979. Here we see how vulnerable lesbian bars are--and women's spaces in general--to male violence and violation.

SAN FRANCISCO -- On the night of March 31, about 15 young men, most of them rather burly and rather drunk, brought their bachelor party to Peg's Place, a lesbian bar in the city's Richmond section. As they stood on the sidewalk outside Peg's, some of them were overheard talking about "getting the dykes."

Several employees of the bar, all of them women, met the men at the door and asked them to go away. An argument ensued, and one of the men started beating one of the women in the chest. The women threatened to call the cops.
Ad for Peg's Place

"We're the cops," said the man doing the beating, "and we'll do as we damn please."

The men, in fact, were off-duty members of the vice squad, of the San Francisco Police Department. One of them would be convicted of battery for his behavior that night. He would be sentenced to three years probation, fined $1000 and called a "bully" by the judge.

Other than the account above, I haven't found much else about Peg's Place, except other briefer references to the same incident or vaguely fond recollections at various blogs and such.

Most recently, the location has hosted a Chinese restaurant called Dong Bei Mama.
San Francisco, June 24, 1979

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Keep domestic violence shelters separate, not gender "neutral"

One of the very few defenses I have seen of women's space in a mainstream liberal publication. Generally this kind of argument is no longer tolerated by our various lefty "allies," who now see any open advocacy for women as 'bigoted."

Do note, however, that men's rights groups who have pushed "integration" for years as a tactic for shutting down shelters are NOT mentioned. Nor that "integration" in general is a way to water down a victim approach in favor of "family preservation" (i.e. coddling the abuser).

From Salon:

Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014 01:58 PM EDT

Keep domestic violence shelters separate

The way to help male survivors of domestic violence is not to make refuges gender-neutral

Jenny Kutner

The majority of people who experience domestic violence are women — that vast majority. An estimated 90 percent of the victims in severe, repeated abuse cases are female. With such an overwhelming male/female disparity, it’s safe to say that domestic violence is still, generally speaking, a gendered crime. Treating it as such does not preclude offering assistance for male survivors of domestic violence. But attempting to give aid by making domestic violence centers gender-neutral could preclude helping the majority of those in need of help.

As Polly Neate writes in The Guardian, breaking down domestic violence numerically shows a clear need to address the different types of abuse men and women each typically endure:

89% of those who experience more than one incident of physical violence are female; women are more likely than men to experience multiple forms of abuse; more likely to experience sexual abuse; and three-and-a-half times more likely to be killed by a partner or ex-partner. One in three female suicide attempts is related to present or previous domestic violence. …

None of this means that men don’t experience domestic violence, or need support. They do, and there should be provision for men who are affected. It does mean, though, that men and women will need different kinds of support: women are much more likely to need help to overcome sustained sexual abuse, for example. A higher proportion of the men who experience domestic violence than women are in same-sex relationships and will need appropriate support services which will be different to services for men who are being abused by a female partner.

Gender-neutral services make it difficult to offer these varied types of support. Moreover, Neate points out, many women might be unlikely to seek help at a gender-neutral center, which could understandably feel unsafe for people who have sustained abuse by a male:

Domestic violence can be extremely traumatic, and as a result, many women will not feel completely safe in the presence of men when they have just left an abusive partner. Perpetrators can be extremely manipulative, and a gender-neutral refuge poses a risk as a perpetrator claiming to be a victim of domestic violence could potentially access the refuge his victim has fled to. This is of particular concern where there is only one local service.

In Neate’s view, a hurdle that gets in the way of addressing domestic violence is the perception that these abuses are gender-neutral. While it’s not inherently harmful to take this view, it poses practical problems for addressing gendered assaults. But those problems don’t just affect aid for women. Attempting to treat domestic violence cases as gender-neutral limits the depth and quality of assistance that can be offered to women and men, who need specialized refuges of their own. The abuses vary, and so too should the care.

Jenny Kutner is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on sex, gender, love and feminism