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The lesbians strike back

Where did all the lesbians come from? asks Professor Tiina Rosenberg.


[gender] The Book L word is written in the rage of the hindsight, after the media run Tiina Rosenberg was exposed last fall in connection with her involvement in the Swedish party Feminist initiative. Killing threats and accusations of research cheating were just some of the ingredients in the campaign against the theater scientist and gender scientist, who has meanwhile become a professor at the University of Lund. But first and foremost, the "problem" for both the media, voters and some of the party members was that she was so overly lesbian.

"Actually, I was in hell pissed off, but instead of writing some slanted lubrication about everything that's happened, I'd rather look into this with lesbian and lesbian feminism," she explained in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Worker this summer.

Bad conditions

Therefore, Rosenberg has dug into the history of the L-word, which has poorer conditions in Swedish than in Norwegian, for better or worse. While here on the mountain we generally live well with the terms "lesbian" and "lesbian", female homopolitical activists in Sweden in the 1990s chose to scrap the word "lesbian" and instead use the word "flat". It is a concept that embraces not only lesbians, but also bisexual and transgender women. A more open, more inclusive term, in other words – queer, more "queer". But maybe also more invisible, less dangerous?

Precisely the relationship between "lesbian" and "queer", and next, the relationship between lesbian feminism and queer activism, is one of what Rosenberg discusses. That makes the L-word a thought-provoking and engaging book. It is also a brave book, all the while Rosenberg himself has been one of the gurus of the large crowd of young homo-political activists who began to call themselves queer-

feminists after reading Rosenberg's Queer Feminist Agenda from 2002. Now she has chosen to stop to ask herself and others: Are we moving in the right direction? Where do we want to go? And who really is "we"?

The queer years

In early 2003 I did an interview with two of the young activists from the Stockholm group Queer Dykes, both on the brink of burnout. There were so many lectures they wanted to bring, so many books to read, so many new thoughts to think, and so little time.

"The queer years", Tiina Rosenberg has christened the decade 1995-2005. They began with the first articles, lectures and discussions about queer theory in Swedish, continued with Lukas Moodysson's film Fucking Åmål and Europride in Stockholm in 1998. Since then, it has sewn in Sweden. Stockholm Pride has only grown and grown – this year there were 30.000 who went to the parade. At the same time, the political part of homouka – all the workshops, lectures and seminars at Pride House – has become an increasingly important arena for discussions about gender and sexuality.

And along the way, the queer feminist phalanx has been in constant clamor with both parts of the (hetero) feminist movement, but also with parts of the gay movement. The quarrel has primarily been about the three usual PPP issues (porn, prostitution, pedophilia), as well as transgender access and speech rights at the various events and meeting places. The Swedish trans-gender queer activists may not be many, but only with their mere presence do they raise fundamental questions about what gender and sexual identity really are and create political baluba.

The myth of the 1970s lesbians

So where's the link between lesbian 1970s feminists and transgender 2006 feminists? Rosenberg highlights a different story than the one we are used to hearing about 1970s lesbian feminism, and shows how important it was for the emergence of queer feminism. Through conversations with key voices in Swedish feminism – Pia Laskar, Ulrika Dahl, Mian Lodalen, Diana Mulinari, Stina Sundberg and more – Rosenberg dispels the myths of the 70s lesbians as uterine-worshiping, man-hating fanatics with one goal in mind: to convert everyone else women to «lesbianism».

The dream of sisterhood is just as much a heterosexual women's feminist utopia. "The bad reputation that lesbian feminism has earned completely deserves to be nuanced and re-analyzed," Rosenberg demands. Now it's namely "payback time": Heterosexual feminists have a debt to pay back to lesbians and other non-heterosexual feminists, after the latter has for all years supported the support of heterofeminism and its eternal equality projects.

May only Rosenberg's well-founded rage be heard as parts of the Norwegian left now begin to talk about forming a new, feminist party.

Reviewed by Siri Lindstad

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