Saturday, April 30, 2016

Jecheon City Library

Jecheon, South Korea
Jecheon City Library

Location: North Changcheong Province, South Korea

Opened: ?

Closed: 2012

I sincerely doubt that the fellow who filed the complaint had any interest in using this women-only library at all. He was merely interested in finding a useful tactic for destroying it.

From The Korea Times:

Updated : 2012-02-07 18:56

Women-only library violates human rights


By Yi Whan-woo

The nation’s human rights agency said Tuesday that a provincial library open only to women violates basic human rights.

Its ruling came after a male resident filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in June concerning the lack of access for men to the  in North Chungcheong Province.

The commission took note of the fact that the library was built with the main purpose of serving women’s welfare. But the human rights agency ruled the restriction on men was still discriminatory.

“The provincial government had limited space at that time to build a library large enough to accommodate an influx of visitors, including men,” it said.

“But restrictions on men should be abolished as only 15 percent of the city’s population use the library,” it said.

“It can still serve its purpose to serve women by specializing services and using its resources and programs to promote female issues,” it added.

The library said it has kept the library open only to women in line with the wish of the person who donated the funds to construct the library. It also said that since the facilities were made to serve only women, it has been difficult to allow males.

Officials from the library, however, said they will consider whether they can take steps to allow male access.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Macy's Ladies Restaurant

Macy's Ladies Restaurant

Location: New York City, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1880

One of my very favorite blogs is Restaurant-ing through History. In a post on 1880s restaurants, the following is mentioned for 1880:

On the second floor of its newly expanded NYC department store, Macy’s restaurant for shoppers seats 200.

I'm not sure where this would have been in NYC, since the Herald Square location (still there today) didn't open till 1902.

But this was clearly a ladies restaurant. Check out the illustration below!

Though it was very common for men to crash "other" ladies restaurants of that era, perhaps one located in a department store failed to attract much interest. However, notice that it was not male-free. If you look carefully, you can still pick out a few fellows who just couldn't help themselves from barging in, though the New York of that era had tons of restaurants that were strictly male-only.

Macy's Restaurant (c. 1880)

London's Feminist Library


A volunteer browses through the books at The Feminist Library.
A volunteer browses through the books at The Feminist Library
Feminist Library
Location: London, England
Opened: 1975
Closed: Not closed yet, but endangered




From a longer piece at Womens Enews:

London’s Feminist Library Faces Eviction, Fights to Preserve History

LONDON (WOMENSENEWS)—When Sheila Hanlon was given the signal she began reading from Zadie Smith's "The Embassy of Cambodia." Magdalena Oldziejewska recited text from an academic book on women's leadership. Others in the crowd of about 80 also followed the conductor's prompts, sometimes reading in unison, other times not; loudly and then quietly.

They read together in protest outside the Southwark Council office, a local city council in central London, in late February to try to save The Feminist Library. The small, 41-year-old volunteer-run library boasts a large collection of women’s liberation movement literature, especially second-wave materials from the late 1960s to the 1990s.

"The Feminist Library is a dream space, a really special space," Hanlon recently told Women's eNews. "The idea of it is so powerful. It's something that everyone who identifies with feminism wishes they had in their city."

But now the library is feeling the same kind of economic pressure that is making London uninhabitable for many. Late last year the Southwark Council, which oversees the library’s borough, said the annual rent would rise to around $43,000 from $17,000.

In response, rally goers were asked to bring feminist books for a "read in" to protest the major rent hike. Those arriving empty handed could choose from a suitcase of books. Some also brought homemade banners, reading "Save the Feminist Library, Save Our Communities" and "Don't Erase Our Herstory."

Earlier that day Gloria Steinhem voiced support for the library, tweeting for it to "keep its home." Margaret Atwood tweeted support the week before.

The demonstration, part of a campaign that includes a petition and appeal for donations, worked. It won the library some time. But the fight for the library's future is far from over.

"What we achieved in a short time is amazing, but in six months what's going to happen?" said Caroline Smith, a volunteer and writer in residence at The Feminist Library, in an interview in the library's cramped office.

Housed on the first floor of a low-rise brown brick building that bears the sign "Multi-Purpose Resource Center," the library over 7,000 fiction and nonfiction books and 1,500 periodical titles from around the world. The library, which has been in this particular space for 30 years, is also an event and meeting space, runs a weekend bookshop and supports research, activist and community projects.

The Feminist Library is unique, Smith said, as it's used by both international researchers and local community groups. It's also fully accessible. "This is a safe space for women that exists in the public realm," she said. "These spaces are so few and far between."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Women only communities: feminism's past or future?

This article doesn't refer to "lost" space per se. But it's an interesting read, though the author seems not entirely enthusiastic about the subject.

From Buzz:

Women only communities: feminism’s past or future?

Lottie Gross

The only sound to be heard is the clack of my shoes on the hard floor as I step inside the chapel - twenty Carmelite nuns stand before me undisturbed and immersed in prayer.

The only sound to be heard is the clack of my shoes on the hard floor as I step inside the chapel for Vespers. Twenty Carmelite nuns stand before me undisturbed and immersed in prayer. They live in silence and upon entering the order they vow to let go of their material possessions, to be obedient to God, and to submit themselves to a life of chastity.
Stainglass windows tell the story of Carmlite nuns in the Quidenham chapel
Stain glass windows tell the story of Carmlite nuns in the Quidenham chapel

No, I haven’t travelled back in time to meet these women but in fact to the tiny village of Quidenham in Norfolk. Sister Shelagh broke the rule of silence for me as I asked her what it’s like to live in such an intensely female environment.

“There is a deep bond of unity between us and it’s very supportive, living in a community. I know I couldn’t live this life on my own, so I’m very grateful for the support of the community.”

Sister Shelagh was married before she became a Carmelite nun. After ten years in her relationship she says she still hadn’t found contentment. She said turning to a life of monasticism, without our sexual counterparts, gave her a sense of contentment and comfort.

“It’s very rewarding and it gives full scope for human relationships, there’s no sense of having to cut bits of ones self off in order to live this life.”

Echoes of a patriarchal past

I’ve spent seven months investigating women-only communities, how they live and the issues they face. From Kenya to Brunei and now the UK, this convent is my last stop.

While I won’t disagree that all of the Sisters at the convent seem tranquil, I can’t help but think that chastity, obedience and silence echo past expectations of women in our once patriarchal society.

In today’s culture feminism and gender equality are two pressing and widely debated movements for the development of society and have been gaining momentum for over 100 years since the struggles of the Suffragettes in the late 18th Century. While all-female communities seem to be empowering women I wonder if they are holding women back.

This is not the case says Kat Pinder. As an organiser of RadFem 2013, a radical feminist conference in London, Kat considers herself a women’s liberationist and gender abolitionist. She says that all-female communities are essential for women’s liberation, “they are spaces where women can find themselves and remember themselves and understand who we are outside of male society”.

“A group of nuns, for example, who are based around a patriarchal religion, may not brand themselves as feminists initially but I have spoken a lot of women who have spent a lot of time in women only spaces and that’s how they’ve ended up coming to feminism, even though what they were doing was not necessarily organised around feminism.”

Jenny Eaton, from the Eos personal development programme for women, has seen this theory in motion and she says that women often become conscious feminists as a result of women only environments.

Active feminists

“Women who have never thought like it before begin look at the world in a different way because they have a different experience of being in groups of women because, with the odd exception, I have found that women learning and training together bond and they bond very quickly.

“Women who have a positive experience of personal growth in a group of women it actually makes them a feminist in a more active way.”

Of course, it’s not just religion that brings women together and not all these women are feminists. So what makes them want to be part of a world without men?

Clinical psychologist Bhavna Negandhi says that, as women, it’s in our nature to thrive in all-female environments:

“If you look at it from a biological and historical perspective, an evolutionary perspective, that’s what women did. Men used to go out hunting and the all female community was left behind to help each other out with children, companionship, emotions, and have general chit chat.

“Even now, while men turn to women for emotional support, women don’t seem to get the same from men. Women prefer to get their emotional support from other females and maybe wanting to be a part of all female group is probably for that emotional and even practical support.”

 A Kenyan cooperative

Judy Umoja
Judy came to the village four years ago
and has since learned attended school and
learned English
It was in the Kenyan Chalbi desert where I met a group of women who do just this. Having escaped from forced marriage to a HIV positive man three times her age, twenty-year-old Judy, pictured, found the Umoja Women’s Group: a community of women working and living together, where there are no men allowed.

She told me how when she arrived in the small town of Archer’s Post the women here took her in as their child and looked after her.

“When I came here, I heard that the village called Umoja was for women with problems, so when I arrived the women here took me in like their child and now I am ok, I am happy.”

Since its modest beginning in the 90s, when the village was just one mud hut and handful of destitute women, the community has grown enormously. Now the 48 women who live here, belonging to many different tribes, make and sell traditional tribal jewellery to tourists in order to keep the village running and have recently built a preschool for their children.

Bhavna says that when it’s not religion bringing women together, it’s the need for support of some kind like that of the women of Umoja, but there will always be competition and rivalry, there will always been bitchiness.
They WRAC Association meet each year to
catch-up with old friends and celebrate their
contributions to the British Army.

Surreptitious sabotage and sisterhood

As an American teen, writer Jillian Lauren lived in an opulent palace in the colourful city of Brunei occupied by over 20 women who were all competing for the attention of one man: the Prince of Brunei, Jefri Bolkiah.

In this modern version of the traditional harem there was fierce competition, surreptitious sabotage and shifting alliances among the girls. But even while they were contending with one another, it wasn’t always a mean girls act.

“It was a really competitive environment in terms of the relationships between us girls, but there were some real friendships that arose out of it and I do think that women will take care of each other and that we did on some level.”

It is this consistent theme that runs throughout the groups that I have met in this investigation: this sense of sisterhood. Gender segregation has been a habitual part of society in the past, from single-sex education to the units in the armed forces, and men and women have fought for equality and integration in such environments. The Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) was disbanded in the 90s after women demanded they be treated equally to men. Now both sexes live and work together throughout the military but some are still not happy. Ex-members of the WRAC say they often preferred the single sex structure, leading to questions about whether it is actually gender integration rather than segregation that is holding women back.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

British Rail "ladies only" train compartments

Women at a train window, 1940s
"Ladies Only" Train Compartment

British Rails "ladies only" train compartments

Location: United Kingdom

Opened: 1840s

Closed 1977

From the BBC News Magazine:

The era of 'ladies only' train compartments

By Jon Kelly
BBC News Magazine
26 August 2015

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says he would consult on introducing rail carriages exclusively for women. But "ladies-only" compartments were once a familiar sight in the UK.

Today India, Indonesia, Japan and Mexico all offer female travellers their own sections of trains. And there's now much discussion over whether the UK should consider it. But for more than a century, British women did have similar facilities.

In March 1977, The Times reported that British Rail was phasing out its remaining "ladies only" compartments. At the time around 100 still existed on services between London and Essex.
Ladies Only sign on Southern Railway 4-sub S8143S
A "Ladies Only" Sign on Display at the
National Railway Museum

They operated from as far back as the 1840s, and by the 1850s South Eastern had a rule that a "carriage is always reserved for ladies if required".

In October 1874 they were introduced on London's Metropolitan Railway following a series of highly-publicised attacks on women travellers - according to York University railway historian David Turner, who has researched the subject.

Calls for the carriages grew after 49-year-old Col Valentine Baker was convicted of indecent assault on a 21-year-old woman on a service from Portsmouth to Waterloo in June 1875.

The victim was forced to flee through the compartment's only door, which opened externally, leaving her balancing on the running board outside the moving train and clutching the door handle until the train came to a halt.

"Women were travelling alone and they were worried about being attacked as they went through tunnels," says cultural historian Fern Riddell. Women at a train window, 1940s

Turner says the compartments were "rooted in the Victorian archetype of women being meek and submissive, who should know their place".

But much of the impetus for them came from women themselves, says Riddell. It was a period when women were commonly subjected to verbal and physical harassment in public places, she says, and, just as today, many demanded protection from it.

There were grumbles about the new sections from the outset, however. "Why will not ladies, especially when alone, travel in the carriage set apart as 'The Ladies' Carriage?'," wrote one correspondent to The Times on 25 June 1875, who complained that it was frequently empty while the rest of the train was full.

"A British Mother" replied in a letter to the editor that these compartments were "very frequently occupied by nurses and children" and that there was continuous "baby talk". She continued: "All ladies are not prepared to encounter the desagrements incident to the crying, feeding of children not their own."

Indeed, take-up was never as high as anticipated. "They were never that popular," says Bob Gwynne of the National Railway Museum.

During trials conducted in 1887, Great Western found that just 248 of 1,000 female-only seats were taken up, while more than 5,000 women used the smoking cars, says the NRM's Oliver Betts.

Newer trains were built with doors that opened on to internal corridors rather than out into the open air. Changing social attitudes, too, meant lone female travellers were less of a novelty.

But the "ladies only" compartments remained, generally denoted with green signs to distinguish them from smokers' sections, which were red.

During World War One, the Liverpool Echo reported (perhaps fancifully) that a student travelling to London in a women-only compartment had sat alongside two nuns. On the way, the young woman noticed that one of the sisters "disclosed a masculine wrist". The student informed the guard and when they reached their destination, the nuns "found themselves under arrest as dangerous German spies".

A 1936 Great Western Railway rulebook required guards to inform any unaccompanied women that the "ladies-only" compartments were available.

But women did not always take them up on the offer. In November of the same year, Transport Minister Leslie Hore-Belisha was asked in the Commons about them. "I am informed that there are carriages marked 'ladies only', but that the ladies prefer not to use them," he told the House.

By the 1960s they were a rarity, persisting mainly on suburban lines, and the replacement of compartments with open carriages rendered them impractical, says Gwynne.

But since then there have been calls for their reintroduction. In 1999 it was reported that ministers were planning to introduce women-only carriages on London Underground trains. Last year Transport Minister Claire Perry told the Conservative party conference she was open to the idea of bringing them back to the wider rail network to reduce sex attacks.

However, a report last year for the Department of Transport, by Middlesex University, said this would be a "retrograde step" that "could be thought of as insulting, patronising and shaming to both men and women".

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Last Call: Columbia's Queer Women and the End of the Lesbian Bar Era

Very sad what's going on.

The women in the article below are vaguely nostalgic for the old days, but can't seem to imagine anything better (much less work towards anything better) than being a marginalized woman in a gay male bar, a straight club, or a (basically male-dominated) "queer" scene.

And notice how many women quoted below are closeted! Since I read a lot of historically related material, I wouldn't have found this surprising in a lesbian-related newspaper article from the 1970s or even the 80s. It would have been pretty unusual after that, though. Looks like those times are back.

I honestly wonder whether young lesbians are self-camouflaging now--either because they are consciously aware of some real sh** coming down the road, or out of some unconscious self-preservation reaction. Maybe they're just calling themselves "queer" so they don't get a lot of crap from hyper-aggressive, MRA-like transwomen and others who have made it taboo to call yourself lesbian. At any rate, the result is the same: Lesbians (and lesbian places) leave the public realm and start to disappear, dissipate, fade into the background, go private.

Let's put all this in historical perspective.

Lesbian bars in "the old days" often had men that were admitted--who typically either masturbated around the dance floor, sexually harassed women, provoked fights, or worse. There wasn't much done about it because these bars were almost always owned by men (in many U.S. states, women couldn't own a bar or get a liquor license before the second wave feminist movement). And a lot of these male owners were connected to mobs as well, who paid off the police, and so forth. So in reality, "including" men in lesbian bars is nothing new. It's actually very old.

For a brief time, in the initial swell of lesbian feminism, some women were able to open bars that really centered the needs of their customers. But it was a pretty short interlude as these things go. Before long, there was pressure to admit men, starting with your gay male best friend blah blah, and going from there. The argument was all nicey nice about "inclusion" and all. But frankly, the men spent more money (they make more money).  So all the creepers, swingers looking for their "third", cross-dressing hetero dudes, and other similar types started coming around. Women were told it was the only fair to include all these men, who often insisted on taking over the women's bathrooms as well. And that the women were horrible bigots if they objected. Well, of course lesbian bars increasingly became magnets for @$$holes in a very short time. At best, there was just a nominal effort to police their behavior or control them, because frankly, the dudes are profitable. So just look the other way when some guy is groping a woman who has been at your bar every Friday night for the past two years. Right?

With (some) liberalizing attitudes in (some) urban areas, women found they could go elsewhere and sort of blend into the background--whether it be at a gay male or straight place. So they have.

Lesbian bars, in the marketing parlance, gave up their "unique selling point." Yes, I know they served a small marketing niche. But even small niches can be served successfully if you value high quality customer service and develop a loyal customer base. Lesbian bars clearly don't. When push comes to shove, they value the dudes with money, and pretty much gave them free rein. So the lesbians quit going. They voted with their feet, even if going through the motions of affirming "inclusivity" on the Internet. And once they quit going, what was the point of the creepers going if there was nobody to bother but other creepers?

No wonder all these young women just want to keep quiet, stay in the closet, and retreat into the woodwork elsewhere.

From the Columbia Spectator:

Last Call: Columbia's Queer Women and the End of the Lesbian Bar Era

By Malina Gulino | March 29, 2016, 10:03 PM

Earlier this month, the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair in Chelsea exhibited Macon Reed’s Eulogy for the Dyke Bar, a fully interactive installation modeled after lesbian bars, complete with a makeshift pool table and pink neon sign. Eulogy speaks to the current moment of anxiety in the LGBTQ community—one that puts young metropolitan queer women, among them Columbia students, at the crosshairs.

“Most queer people I know are aware that dyke bars are closing all over the place and kind of express some sense of sadness, but aren’t actually doing anything about it or going to them,” explains the New York-based Reed about her piece. “And so I just wanted to push at the head conceptually to the next stage, so that we could sit with what that would feel like.”

America’s lesbian bars are closing. As it stands currently, there are only four operating lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole and Henrietta Hudson both in the West Village, Ginger’s Bar in Park Slope, and Bum Bum Bar in Woodside.

The reasons for lesbian bar closures are as complicated as lesbian identity itself, but Heather Dockray, writing for Brooklyn Based, identifies three major causes: Queer (non-heterosexual) women as a demographic are statistically poorer in a city landscape that is increasingly gentrifying, the LGBTQ community (especially women) is “assimilating” to mainstream culture and bars, and lastly, queer women are largely moving away from the label of “lesbian” entirely.

For Columbians, there are also several logistical factors at play. When it comes to finding queer woman-centric nightlife, Columbia College senior Vanessa Sauter acknowledges that even getting to the bars is an ordeal. “Especially for a Columbia student, it’s very difficult. … Distance is a huge issue, and being able to find that network—being able to get into that community—is very difficult, too,” she says.

Photos from Macon Reed's installation 'Eulogy for the Dyke Bar'

Columbia College sophomore Sam, who has asked to use her first name because she isn’t out to her parents, agrees. She points out that it's challenging to find lesbian bars “that other people want to go to and that are close enough,” since the closest lesbian bar to Columbia is Cubbyhole in the West Village.

And then, of course, there are the legal restrictions that complicate college nightlife in general.

“I’m also not 21,” Sam admits.

Another frustrating reality that impacts queer women specifically, however, is that with only four bars catering to a queer female demographic, the experience range is limited.

“I really honestly don’t like it,” School of General Studies senior Anna Demidova says about Cubbyhole. “It doesn’t really work with my aesthetic.”

Cubbyhole is a small, crowded dive with a cash bar that students say tends to attract an older, more affluent clientele.

“Cubbyhole has been around for a long time, and it’s in a very well-off area, so it tends to attract more like: lesbian, lives in a house, has a good job, et cetera,” explains Anne, a former Spectator staffer and Barnard junior who has asked to use only her first name because she’s not publicly out.

Sauter seconds this evaluation of Cubbyhole.

Unlike many lesbians even one generation ago, Demidova feels more or less comfortable in ostensibly heterosexual nightlife spaces. “For the purposes of partying, it doesn’t really matter,” Demidova shrugs. Although she adds, “In terms of socializing and catching up with people I know already, I would rather probably go to queer events.”

However, when it comes to queer events and spaces, there is always inevitably an element of politics at play.

Out of everyone I interviewed, only Demidova identified herself primarily as a lesbian; everyone else elected to use the term “queer,” a term that reflects gender or sexual nonconformity more broadly. For Demidova, the difference between “queer” and “lesbian” is mostly a matter of the general population’s familiarity with the terms.

“At work, if I’m talking about what I’m going to do on the weekend, if I tell someone I'm queer, they’re like, ‘So what is that? What does that mean?’” she explains. “If I tell them I’m a lesbian, they’re like ‘Oh, all right. I get it.’”

But among today’s LGBTQ youth, the popularity of “queer”—a term that was once a homophobic slur—as an identity label is rapidly increasing. For Anne, that means: “I date anything except cis men.”

Cis, or cisgender, refers to individuals whose gender identity corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth. The language Anne uses to identify herself reveals both her time and place in queer history. In other words, the popularity of terms like “queer” and “cisgender” is relatively new and much more prominent among millennials.

This growth in the language of queer identities both reflects and impacts the changing ways in which queer people, particularly queer people who associate or have associated with womanhood in some capacity, now come together.

“We have had historically a lesbian community, and what’s come up now is a transition into queerness,” Sauter explains. “I think that there’s sort of an expansion of identities, an expansion of experiences. And at the same time, it’s causing a lot of conflict about where we actually belong and how we actually come together.”

This intergenerational and inter-identity conflicts prove major concerns for Reed in her Eulogy for the Dyke Bar installation, which she paired with four days of supplementary programming including a critical panel and a trivia night.

“There’s so much fighting between generations around gender and experience and queerness,” Reed bemoans.“I felt like instead of trying to make a specific political platform, that if I could bring people into a space to just listen to each other, that it would kind of generate a sense of healing and collective experience.”

“I definitely hear some from older queers pretty often that they’re amazed by a lot of the work that young queers have done, and also they’re really sad to see how we’re fighting each other all the time,” she elaborates.

And for all the generational disagreements about gender identity, second-wave feminism, and the term “lesbian,” Columbia’s queer students speak highly of their predecessors and the work they did to create and protect lesbian-centric spaces.

“The former generation went through an incredible amount of violence so that queer women of our generation [can] enjoy the kind of freedom that we have now,” Sauter says. “The loss of these bars is a loss to a site that has historically been so empowering to the community. It’s a tragedy.”

“Whenever you enter that kind of space … you’re at this intersection in a present that is much more accepting to certain identities, but you’re literally standing at the place where that change took place many years ago,” Anne agrees. “It’s honestly just a feeling of gratitude that we can be ‘out and proud,’ more or less, in this space.”

I ask Reed, who is currently 34, how long she’s been going to lesbian bars. She laughs and admits that even she wasn’t hugely involved in the spaces she depicts. “I’ve never been a huge dyke bar-goer. I think that those spaces were already starting to decline as I was coming [of age].”

“Part of this is honestly looking at these spaces and realizing that they’re going out before I’ve had the chance to really, really understand and experience them,” Reed explains. “The generation under me will probably not have much of a sense of what those spaces were like at all.”

For Sam, this disconnect from the history of lesbian bars is painfully immediate. “I want to go to them, but I feel like they might close by the time I’m 21,” she says.

Sam says she is concerned about the difficulty of finding like-minded people in a largely heteronormative world. I wonder out loud about how a queer woman might find her peers without established spaces like bars.

She is not optimistic. “You basically don’t,” she sighs. “In a university setting, there are queer clubs, but outside of that, I don’t see too many ways.”

And while Sam is involved with queer groups at Columbia, she certainly has her qualms with the queer spaces on campus. She thinks that existing resources, like the Stephen Donaldson Lounge, Columbia’s LGBTQ lounge in the basement of Furnald Hall, are inadequate.

“The gay lounge at Columbia is a closet, and we definitely need more than a closet,” she points out.

Sauter expresses concern that the way people communicate in student queer groups—which are in many respects the younger generation’s experiments in creating more inclusive queer spaces—is difficult to access.

“I think that what’s happening in the queer clubs on campus, that are supposed to be open to anyone who identifies or has some sort of experience with queerness, is that we are continuing to use a jargon that is very impenetrable to people just coming in,” she says.

This vocabulary, like the terms “queer” and “cisgender” defined earlier, reflects the rapidly changing ways in which LGBTQ youth are conceiving of their identities. And in that regard, the states of Columbia’s and Barnard’s queer student groups might predict the future of queer identity in New York.

“Barnard used to have a club on their campus that was specifically for lesbians; I think that lesbian is literally in the name of the club,” Sauter relates. “And then, like I said, this sort of solid claim to lesbianism slowly started to dissipate.”

But Reed remains confident in a brighter future for queer identities. “I just trust that queers will do the work to arrive at the language that feels the most right for people,” she says, “we haven't found it all yet, so it's difficult to organize spaces around identities that are in flux.”

In the face of a changing queer geography in New York, female-focused or -friendly queer dance nights, most found in Brooklyn, are growing in popularity among queer millennials. Anne, Demidova, and Sauter all describe the kinds of parties they enjoy as more attuned to their interests than the traditional lesbian bar.

“The parties in Brooklyn tend to attract younger 20-somethings who can be a lot more versatile in the way they express themselves and the way that they live and their professions,” Anne continues.

As perhaps might be expected, word of mouth about these parties spreads mostly via the Internet. For this generation of queer youth, the Internet is forming a huge role in how they shape and navigate their identities.

Reed recalls a moment from the critical panel she organized for Eulogy for the Dyke Bar concerning these new modes of communication. “Shelly Weiss talked a lot about how she mostly only went to dyke bars because she was doing political organizing in them. You’d have a conversation during the day; it wasn’t only about the loud dance party. That is something that maybe you could say is now happening … on the Internet in different forums.”

Are today’s queer youth using the Internet for the revolution and the Stonewall Inn for their downtime? Very possibly, but even this, Sauter regrets, feels like an incomplete experience; for her, having a physical space to rely on for companionship and a sense of home is crucial.

“It’s hard to be on a schedule and really feel like you do need a community. There’s something to be said about just knowing that there’s a place you can go to and be surrounded by people who are like minded,” she explains. “And I think Cubby[hole], to a certain extent, is that.”

The importance of having a fixed space focused on queer women—whatever it means be queer and to be a woman at this historical moment—is about more than community in the abstract political sense for Sauter; it’s also about more mundane sociability.

She compares the need for lesbian (or queer feminine spectrum) bars to sports bars, an institution that seems to be doing all right even in the age of the Internet. “I [might] go to a sports bar because I like sports and I like to drink beer and I like to hang out with my bros or whatever,” Sauter describes. “You want to find a space with like-minded people. And if there is a space with like-minded people, you’re more likely to go there.

In some senses, these spaces are easier to create in the “laboratory” of the liberal arts college than in the hectic and ruthlessly capitalist landscape of Manhattan. Sauter recalls a trip to Vassar College several months ago.

“I went to a ‘quegger’— a queer kegger—that was exclusively for queer women,” she recounts. “It was a senior house on campus that was full—I mean literally full; there were people waiting outside to get in—of queer women that just wanted to be with each other.”

Whatever the future form of queer female and/or feminine spectrum spaces is, Sauter insists that this future must exist.

“This question that we have of, should we have these spaces?—why aren’t we doing it?” she asks. “I think it’s clear that we do need these spaces.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Simmons College MBA Program

The Main College Building on Simmons campus. (Hadley Green for WBUR).
Simmons College
Simmons College MBA program

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA


Closed: 2015

Somehow I missed this at the end of last summer.

From WBUR:

Simmons College Closing Nation’s Only All-Women’s Campus MBA Program

August 27, 2015

By Curt Nickisch BOSTON

Simmons College in Boston is closing its campus MBA program, the nation’s only graduate management school solely for women.

School Dean Cathy Minehan told students and graduates at a campus meeting Tuesday that other MBA programs are aggressively recruiting women, and that Simmons is not big enough to compete in Boston as a brick-and-mortar business school. Instead, Simmons will offer an online MBA, for women and men, through an outside company, 2U.

Since 1975, Simmons’ School of Management has been giving women business skills, but also an understanding of how gender dynamics shape their opportunities.

College President Helen Drinan attended the Tuesday meeting and says while the incoming undergraduate class is the largest in the school’s history, admissions to the graduate business school have been falling.

One recent alumna at the meeting, Erin McElrath, called it “contentious and emotional” as dozens of graduates and some current students expressed shock at the move.

Some of them say that, considering the dearth of women on corporate boards and in technology companies, shuttering a women-only business school on the ground in the U.S.’ second-largest tech sector is a mistake.

C.A. Webb, a 2006 Simmons MBA and outgoing head of the New England Venture Capital Association, wrote in an email to Simmons administrators: “You’ll ignore the school’s founding mission and the fact that women are still woefully underrepresented in MBA programs and you’ll join the pack offering an online MBA, but with no strong differentiated brand to stand on. Good luck!”

But Dean Minehan, the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, says transitioning to online by next year will help the management school bring its unique education around the country.

And Simmons Provost Katie Conboy said this week in an online message to alumnae: “An ongoing challenge for businesswomen is their very busy schedules, which require balancing many demands and can complicate their ability to travel to a campus to complete their degree. Many men face these challenges as well. In the national context, there are thousands of people who simply have no accessible campus-based options for an MBA. Our new online MBA programs will address this challenge directly.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center

Jianmei Guo
Guo Jianmei
Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center

Location: Beijing, China

Opened: 1995

Closed: 2016

From Shanhaiist:

Chinese authorities have ordered a leading women's legal aid center in Beijing to close down, shocking the country's legal rights advocates.

Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center was established following the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing which took place in 1995. It was during a time when China was struggling for international acceptance after the events of Tiananmen Square a few years previously.

Led by Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Guo Jianmei, the center began its life at Peking University before it later moved to an apartment in northern Beijing.

"It looks like they are trying to crush all people with any influence, as far as well-known people go today, it's ‘kill one and scare 100’ to make sure no one else tries to do anything," said an anonymous source connected to the center. "Controls on thought and speech are intensifying. The repression of lawyers and NGOs is growing.” said a longtime woman's rights campaigner who requested anonymity."

The order comes just months after China expressed its support for women's rights at the United Nation conference in New York, with Xi Jinping's wife delivering a speech in English on women's rights that attracted considerable attention.

Ironically, gender equality is official Chinese government policy. Last September, China's State Council released a white paper titled “Gender Equality and Women’s Development in China,” which outlined the importance of using social resources to promote the status of women.

One might say that a center providing legal aid to female victims of domestic violence and helps resolve disputes over child custody, land rights and employment would be seen as important in achieving that aim.

Despite Guo deliberately avoiding sensitive cases for fear of offending the authorities, the government has still decided to take action and crack down on civil society.

By Kitty Lai