Friday, August 25, 2006

Lake Placid was Serene, even placid

We spent two days in Lake Placid, which was long enough to relax, take in the town, and enjoy a fabulous dinner at what must be the best restaurant of Lake Place, the Brown Dog Cafe. It seems like a small place and it is. They serve a small deli menu which appears to be a favorite for lunch, but the dinner, with it's more elaborate though still modest in size menu, was incredible. I had a pumpkin-apple soup to start, which Kim enjoyed their crab-corn tortilla soup. Then we split a lobster salad. For our entrees, I had filet mignon and Kim had the roasted chicken. The best part is that they served three ounce pours of wine, so I had a different one with each course. If you're in Lake Placid, this is the best place to eat dinner. We watched the sunset on Mirror Lake throughout the meal, ate at a leisurely pace and then walked the "strip" of Lake Placid. Even after the fabulous wine from the Brown Dog Cafe, we picked up a little Bailey's from a local purveyor of spirits and made coffee back in the room. Even though it was still August, it was cold when the sun went down, but we sat on our porch at the hotel, warmed by Bailey's and coffee. It was a perfect evening.

Here is the view from our room at the Hilton.

From New York to Montreal, everywhere we stayed were pro-choice signs. Perhaps in anticipation of the stunning new availability of "the Morning After" pill for U.S. women.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Top Ten Essay Collections by Lesbians

I believe that essays are an important literary tool to talk about our lives and reflect on what is happening in the world. One of the things I think that we are missing more in our lesbian culture right now are journals and magazines that publish longer essays about our lives and our analysis of what is happening in our communities. We need that dialogue, written and recorded, to share with one another and build greater understandings between and among us. I thought about this today, in part, because of the article on the front page of the New York Times Style section and the lesbian communities' response to female-to-male transgender people. Where do we go to talk about the issues that it raises? I'm going to post it separately on my blog for that purpose, but I also want to take this opportunity to put together the list of the top ten essay collections by lesbians. It was more difficult than the list of contemporary lesbian poetry. The essay is an underutilized tool for our community. Hopefully, we can change that.

1. The Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power by Audre Lorde
2. On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose by Adrienne Rich
3. Rebellion, Essays 1980-1991 by Minnie Bruce Pratt
4. My Mama's Dead Squirrel by Mab Segrest
5. My Lesbian Husband by Barrie Jean Borich
6. Skin: Talking about Sex, Class, and Literature by Dorothy Allison
7. A Restricted Country by Joan Nestle
8. Forty-three Septembers: Essays by Jewelle Gomez
9. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
10. My American History by Sarah Schulman

A few notes:

1. I included two by Audre Lorde, there are others, particularly the essays of A Burst of Light, after her cancer diagnosis, but I think these two listed are most significant from a lesbian perspective.
2. I only included one by Adrienne Rich, but there are three or four others that could be included.
3. The most recent one on the list is Barrie Jean Borich's My Lesbian Husband--where are the current books of essays by lesbian feminists?
4. The Crossing Press and Firebrand Press are the most represented publishers on the list. Crossing Press is now out of business and Firebrand struggles and is only publishing a few books a year, I believe.
5. I think that all of these writers are not at least over forty, with Sarah Schulman and Barrie Jean Borich being the youngest--who are our new lesbian essayists?

The New York Times: The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack

August 20, 2006

The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack
IN the most recent season of the lesbian soap opera, “The L Word,” a new character named Moira announced to her friends that, through surgery and hormone therapy, she would soon be a new person named Max. Her news was not well received.
“It just saddens me to see so many of our strong butch women giving up their womanhood to be a man,” one friend said.
The sentiment was a tamer version of what many other women wrote on lesbian blogs and Web sites in the weeks after the episode was broadcast last spring. Many called for the Max character to be killed off next season. One suggested dispatching him “by testosterone overdose.”
The reaction to the fictional character captured the bitter tension that can exist over gender reassignment. Among lesbians — the group from which most transgendered men emerge — the increasing number of women who are choosing to pursue life as a man can provoke a deep resentment and almost existential anxiety, raising questions of gender loyalty and political identity, as well as debates about who is and who isn’t, and who never was, a real woman.
The conflict has raged at some women’s colleges and has been explored in academic articles, in magazines for lesbians and in alternative publications, with some — oversimplifying the issue for effect — headlined with the question, “Is Lesbianism Dead?”
It has been a subtext of gay politics in San Francisco, the only city in the country that covers employees’ sex-change medical expenses. And it bubbles to the surface every summer at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a lesbian gathering to which only “women born as women and living as women” are invited — a ban on transgendered people of either sex.
Barbara Price, a former festival producer, said the uneasiness has been “a big topic among lesbians for quite some time.”
“There are many people who look at what these young women are doing, and say to themselves, ‘Hey, by turning yourselves into men, don’t you realize you’re going over to the other side?’ ” she said. “We thought we were all supposed to be in this together.”
Beyond the political implications, the sense of loss is felt most keenly in personal relationships.
“I am a lesbian because I am attracted to women, and not to men," said a 33-year-old woman who broke up with her partner of seven years, Sharon Caya, when Sharon became Shane. The woman, who asked to be identified only as Natasha, to protect family members who are unaware of her lifestyle, said that she was ultimately faced with the reality of her sexual orientation and identity. “I decided I couldn’t be in a romantic relationship with a man.”
The transgender movement among men is at least as old as the pioneering surgery that turned George Jorgensen into Christine Jorgensen in 1952. Among women who wish to become men, though, the movement has gained momentum only in the last 10 years, in part because of increasingly sophisticated surgical options, the availability of the Internet’s instant support network, and the emotions raised by the 1999 movie “Boys Don’t Cry,” based on the true story of the murder of Brandon Teena, a young Nebraska woman who chose to live as a man.
The word for the process is “to transition,” a modest verb for what in women usually means, at the minimum, a double mastectomy and heavy doses of hormones that change the shape of the face, deepen the voice, broaden the upper body, spur the growth of facial hair, and in some cases, trigger the onset of male pattern baldness.
Politically and personally, the change has equally profound effects. Some lesbians view it as a kind of disloyalty bordering on gender treason.
The Census Bureau does not try to count the number of transgendered people in the United States, and many who make the transition from one sex to another do not wish to be counted.
A European study conducted 10 years ago, and often cited by the American Psychiatric Association, says full gender reassignment occurred in 1 in 11,000 men and 1 in 30,000 women, a ratio that would place the number of men who have become women nationally at only about 13,000 and women who have become men at about 5,000.
Transgender advocates, however, say those statistics fail to reflect an increasing number of people, especially young people, who call themselves transgendered but resist some or all of the surgeries available, including, for women becoming men, the creation of a penis. Some delay or avoid surgeries because of expense. For women especially, the genital surgery is still risky.
“There are tens of thousands of us, probably more than 100,000,” said Riki Wilchins, the executive director of GenderPAC, a lobbying group in Washington, citing the looser definition of being transgendered.
Dr. Michael Brownstein, a surgeon in San Francisco, said he had performed more than 1,000 female-to-male surgeries in the last several years, and transgender advocates say there are a dozen surgeons specializing in the work in the United States.
The numbers are slight, considering the estimated five million gay men and five million lesbian women in the United States. Still, coupled with a simultaneous trend among the young to reject sexual identity labels altogether, some lesbians fear that the ranks are growing of women who once called themselves lesbian but no longer do.
“It’s as if the category of lesbian is just emptying out,” said Judith Halberstam, a gender theorist and professor of literature at the University of Southern California, San Diego, whose books include “Female Masculinity.”
Leaders of some lesbian organizations dismiss the idea of a schism or contend that it has been resolved in the interest of common human rights goals among lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.
“The view in some lesbian corners that we are losing lesbians to transitioning is absurd,” said Kate Kendall, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Given our history of oppression, all lesbians should encourage people to be themselves even if it means our lesbian sister is becoming our heterosexual-identified brother.”
But in private conversations and in public forums like women’s colleges, the questions about how to frame the relationship among lesbians, former lesbians and young women who call themselves “gender queer” rather than lesbian at all, seem largely unresolved.
“There is a general uneasiness about this whole thing, like ‘What are we losing here?’ ” said Diane Anderson-Minshall, the executive editor of Curve, a lesbian magazine. The issue stirs old insecurities about women being “not good enough,’’ she added.
Koen Baum, a family therapist in San Francisco who is a transgendered man, said the anxiety some lesbians feel has complicated roots. Some, he said, believe that women who “pass” as men are in some ways embracing male privileges.
Ben A. Barres, a professor of neurobiology at Stanford and a transgendered man, recently provided fodder for that view in an article in Nature and an interview with The New York Times. “It is very much harder for women to be successful, to get jobs, to get grants, especially big grants,” he told The Times.
The idea of male privilege was also part of “The L Word” plot: When Max learns he is to be offered a job that he was rejected for as Moira, he promises that he will refuse it and tell off the would-be boss, but he later decides to take the job and say nothing.
Mr. Baum said the anxiety also stems from fear over the loss of an ally in the struggle against sexism. “The question in the minds of many lesbian women is, ‘Is it still going to be you and me against sexism, you and me against the world?’ ” he said.
There are also practical questions: What place should a transgendered man have in women’s spaces such as bathhouses, charter cruises, music festivals and, more tricky still, at women’s colleges, where some “transmen” taking testosterone are reportedly playing on school sports teams?
Laura Cucullu, a freelance editor and recent graduate of Mills College in Oakland, Calif., phrased the question this way: “When do we kick you out? When you change your name to Bob? When you start taking hormones? When you grow a mustache? When you have a double mastectomy?”
The fact that there is no apparent parallel imbroglio in the gay community toward men who become women is a subject of some speculation.
“There is the sense that a transman is ‘betraying the team,’ joining the oppressor class and that sort of thing,” said Ken Zucker, a clinical psychologist and a specialist in gender research at the University of Toronto.
Despite the tangled set of issues involved, the survival rate of lesbian couples seems higher than among gay couples when one partner changes gender, advocates say.
After Susie Anderson-Minshall became Jacob several years ago, he and his partner of 15 years, Ms. Anderson-Minshall, the Curve editor, decided to marry. Their March 19 wedding was actually their second union. The first had been a partnership ceremony as lesbians; the second was as legally recognized husband and wife under the laws of the state of California, where they live.
Other couples, like the former Sharon Caya and Natasha, found the transition much rougher. Sharon’s decision to become Shane coincided with Natasha becoming pregnant, having conceived with donor sperm. “When the baby came along, I wanted to become myself,” Mr. Caya said. “I wanted the baby to know me as I truly am.”
She began taking testosterone about three years ago, then had “top surgery” — a double mastectomy — and is now a muscular 42-year-old of medium height with long sideburns and a goatee.
For financial and practical reasons, Mr. Caya, the legal director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, decided to forgo “bottom surgery,” which could cost as much as $100,000 and would involve two or three operations to graft on an ersatz penis.
According to the standards of the European study, Shane Caya would not be counted as a transgendered person.
Natasha, a financial manager in San Francisco, still cries when describing Sharon’s decision to become male.
“You’re in love with a person, but there is something about gender that is so central to identity it can be overwhelming if the person changes,” she said.
“When she told me what she wanted to do, I was completely blown away at first,” Natasha said. Then, “I thought to myself, ‘All right, we’re good lesbians. We should be able to figure this out.’ ”
But after a month of struggling with the idea, Natasha said she could not make the adjustment. The breakup occurred when the child was 5 months old. The couple remain on friendly terms and share custody.
And when Mr. Caya attended a lesbian organization’s lunch recently, he recalled, he was welcomed by a woman who said she was “pleased to see a man supporting us lesbians.” His reply, he said, was quick and to the point:
“Of course I support lesbians,” he said. “I used to be one.”

The Hyde Collection

Ever since the Barnes, we are in search of small museums with amazing collections. The Barnes, especially in the original home of it's founder, is an experience like no other. First the home is huge, but not by museum standards. It is huge by home standards, but by contemporary museum standards, it is small. Filled with master artworks that were arranged by Dr. Barnes for teaching purposes - to emphasize a use of color, a type of form in art - the house is at one overwhelming and uplifting in its density and great beauty. We were hoping that the Hyde Collection would be like that.

We arrived in Glen Falls, NY at about 11:15 the morning. It is an old and small industrial town. The smell of sulfur was in the air. Most things were closed on Sunday morning, but we found a small coffee shop to have a cup and write out some postcards. The museum opened at 12 noon and we were there. Similar to the Barnes, the Hyde Collection is housed in the home of the original family that purchased the artwork. The collection is similar to the Barnes as well in terms of focus on Impressionists, but the family also collected other masterworks. One of the most stunning pieces was a sketch attributed to Leonardo da Vinci that is an early Mona Lisa, with a number of differences. It was extraordinary. There was also a large collection of furniture that was beautiful as well as French tapestries. Textiles are always a weakness of mine--one of the guest beds was covered in toile. I told Kim, this is the room that I would want to stay in when I visited. Original Botticellis and Rembrants were on display. As well as Degas sketches and a thimble collection. It was a lovely visit.

What I missed though at the Hyde Collection was the density of the Barnes. I believe that when Mrs. Hyde lived in the home it had more of the density that Dr. Barnes had, but now, managed by professional museum curators, the collection has been pared down in what is displayed on a daily basis to reflect the aesthetics of the current U.S. museum standards. It was less overwhelming, but also less breathtaking as a result. Still, the security guards indicated that the over 3,000 holdings are rotated regularly in the Collection so it would be the sort of place to visit every other month if one were lucky enough to live close to Glen Falls. Either way, it's worth a stop when driving up I-87 in New York.

Tonight, we are at the Hilton Hotel in Lake Placid. Moving from the high-brow artwork of the Hyde Collection this morning to the popular, Snakes on a Plane, after dinner made it a full and satisfying day in the vacation world.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum

We made an unanticipated stop on our trip to Montreal: the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum. The FDR Memorial in Washington, DC is a favorite monument for us to bring visitors. It is compelling, not only because they have a statue of Falla, FDR's dog, but also because the vision of FDR of government helping people in the United States and around the world is a compelling one and an important one for us to remember in this dark time of US imperialism and selfishness led by the current POTUS. So seeing that FDR's childhood home in Hyde Park, NY was just off the road that we were traveling was too much for us to resist. We stopped. I really wanted to see Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor, especially after Franklin died, but it was closed for renovations. We decided to see FDR's childhood home and the Presidential museum and library instead. It was well worth the time. The guidebooks recommend a minimum of ninety minutes to see the site and it is worth every minute. We started with a film that covered FDR's presidency. Then went on the walking tour of the home and finally went to see the rose garden of FDR's mother, Sarah Delano, and then the library and museum. All were delightful.

There was a video in the library that we only watched for a few minutes as it presented a rather antiquated view of Eleanor as the reclining flower coming to bloom only through FDR's nurturance. We didn't spend long watching it. I have committed to reading Blanche Weisen Cook's two volume biography of Eleanor--long but I hope it will be well worth it. Except for that small quibble, (which would have, I'm sure been much larger and even a rant instead of a quibble had we watched more of the film) FDR's library and museum is a treat.

Triangle by Katharine Weber

The first book I finished on my vacation is Triangle by Katharine Weber. It is a novel about the last survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911. The book is filled with fascinating characters. George Botwin, a character of the subplot is delightful and carefully drawn. His music and artistic vision are wildly creative and compelling and stay with me. Ruth Zion, the feminist historian who was recording the oral history of Ester, the main character and survivor of the fire and who is writing an academic book on the fire, is a funny character who feels like someone that I know. The Triangle factory fire is interesting to me because of how many women died and the safety reforms in workplace conditions that followed it. Chris Llewelyn also used this material in her fine book of poetry, Fragments from the Fire, published in 1987 and winner of the Walt Whitman Award.

Yet, Triangle for me came up short in it's telling. The story was transparent and while that seems to be intended, it had the characters and the narrative to make a powerful and memorable book, but it fell short into a disjunctive narrative utilizing too many styles. Near the end a long chapter is devoted to an ostensible article about George Botwin in a newsmagazine. It's interesting because I find George interesting, but it is not the narrative whole that I was expecting and hoping for with this potent material. I recommend it because it is a fun read and it is unusual to read a story about women and a story with central characters who are feminist, but when I finished it I felt sad that the people in the book and the history behind the book were not given more creative time and attention to form a really stellar novel.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Theory and Queers

My first response to seeing the reading list for Theory and Queers, a graduate Women's Studies class at the University of Maryland, was horror and disbelief. I emailed by friend, Kim, from my Women's Studies undergraduate days at Michigan,
You know, I saw all of that theory stuff and I just wanted to run away. The professor sent a copy of a chapter from Haraway's new book and I lost my nerve for a moment. I thought, there is no way I can do a graduate degree. Ever. I don't dig all of this theory. I can't do this for fun and fancy. I can't do this for money. I have to do something more practical, something that has some real world application. Then I read the Haraway chapter (I think it is Haraway, by the way, but it could be another theory freak, with apologies to you as one). It is about how she is doing agility training with her dog. I kid you not, part of this class is about canine companionship. (And yeah, I just checked the web, it's Haraway). So I was reading this morning. It's  a good article. And I thought, hey, I have a dog. I'm white. I'm a woman. I can do this. There is no way that I am going to be intimidated by some chick in California who just spent three thousand dollars traveling with and training her dog. I mean that is bunk, but it is not bunk that is going to intimidate me out of the PhD. So I got my nerve back.
I still don't know if I am going to stay in the class; it's a complex calculus of what to take and maintain my job performance and make sure I get the requirements satisfied for the degree AND make sure that I am doing things that are intellectually stimulating and fulfilling my larger intellectual goals. Then this post to the class blog:
How do queers do the personal? When is coming out queer? When isn't it?

When did "the personal is political" become essentialist?

When did "coming out" become old gay?

Or are they? Or where are they? Or for whom are they?

Or do "the personal is political" and "coming out" stay vital, and with new meanings?

If so, how?

Or are there better ways to talk about this category of political issues?

These questions are completely in line with the things that I am thinking about, with the things that wake me up in the morning and haunt my dreams at night.

When is coming out queer?

I think that coming out is queer when it involves two or more people of the same sex and those people are in some state of undress - full or partial, I'm not dogmatic about this - and they is desire between them and there is an erotic spark and there is the shared willingness to touch and feel and suck together until these actions lead inexorably to orgasm, together or separately, as I've said, I'm not dogmatic.

When isn't it?

I've heard a lot of people talk about the coming out moment when something unknown about someone that is different from the norm or mainstream is revealed. I don't think that is coming out. Is this traditional? Is it essentialist? I think that coming out is when you tell someone I'm a queer/dyke/gay/biamorous/lesbian/lesbo/queebo and that person that you are speaking to immediately thinks about what it is that you like to do with your fingers, your tongue, your mouth, your mind and s/he knows that this is about sex. What I am talking about is sex. It isn't coming out if it doesn't involve this erotic desire. Yes, I'm sympathetic to the other coming out moments, the times when our identity or behavior transgress the normative culture, but I'm not convinced that is coming out. I'm not yet ready to relinquish that word for broader consumption. Isn't that the dominant paradigm? The oppressed develop some strategy to survive to have it coopted by the oppressor? Am I revealing my feminist hand?

When did "the personal is political" become essentialist?

Did it? Or was it always essentialist? I think that the entire feminist notion of the personal as political reflects the loss of a Marxist analysis in which are bodies are tools of the capitalist system. It formed the intellectual foundation for the "Mommy Wars," the falsely dichotomized construction of the female body, the female life torn between parenthood, motherhood, and work. We need to do both. Or at least we need to do one. Not reproduce, though that is being compelled more and more, not chosen, compelled, but still some, like me, can refuse, but we cannot, without the familial history of privilege, refuse to work, to make money. Saying the personal is the political denuded the political perpetuating our female isolation with a feminist theory, equally isolating. Was it essentialist though? That I don't know. Did it become essentialist? It could have been expanded to validate all personal experience, but we cannot rely on that filter alone. There are things we cannot experience. Things we do not experience. Things we must observe and learn from others. Does that make it personal? No. It is still political. We can understand it through that filter of social constructionism, but really I don't have the time to rehash this debate, this theoretical opposition once more. Fifteen years later, I have this mish-mash of experience, observed, lived, analyzed. I'm an essentialist. A social constructionist. A separatist. A realist. An optimist. I'm defying the categories that are reified.

When did "coming out" become old gay?

When did gays become old? Sometimes I wake up and I see my nipple which was once so pink, so translucent, almost gossamer, and it is wrinkled and old and tired. Only I am not old. So what is "old gay." The dykes and fags from Stonewall? It happened before I was bore (barely), is that old gay? What about Del and Phyllis in the butch-femme bars of yore. Old gay? Old dyke? Or is old gay the coming out celebrations we had in Detroit in the early 1990s which filled people with pride and power? I remember them fondly though now I reject them. Personal action when what we need is collective, communal action to solve societal problems. Or is that just the rhetoric of an old socialist? Could I be old? Could I be a socialist?

Or are they? Or where are they? Or for whom are they?

The nominative pronoun in the final question makes me swoon. Is that like coming out as a grammarian? As a person who believes that language matters when written, even on the web? Who is they, though from the first question? I like it because it rhymes with gay, but I am lost in the language, which has detached from the meaning. Perhaps that is the point, a point which I must resist because this theory, for this queer, must root itself in action that delivers a vision and a pragmatic plan for a future without oppression. Call me a feminist/activist/essentialist/pragmatist. I dare you.

Or do "the personal is political" and "coming out" stay vital, and with new meanings?

A year ago I saw a young woman on the train reading Rubyfruit Jungle. She was probably nineteen, the age I was when I first read it. The other day someone online was talking about Oranges, as in Oranges are Not the Only Fruit. She had just read it. I don't know how old she is. She was so happy. So happy to find those books with those lesbian characters. They are still vital. Perhaps they still have the old meanings. The same meanings that they had to me when I first discovered them. Perhaps they have new meanings. Either way, they are vital to those women at that moment. Perhaps "the personal is political" is anachronistic. Perhaps it is like the postcard I still have in a collage from the late 1980s that says, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Perhaps I reject coming out as the personalization of our problems, which Betty Friedan, no matter how many vile things she said about lesbians, rejected with that book of hers in the early 1960s. I can do that, but there are still generations of us who will tell stories: when I first was coming out to myself, when I told my parents, when I came out, came out, came out. We know the moment and we mark it. How can that not have meaning?

If so, how?

Is how the way forward? Is describing how we keep something vital, how we imbue it with new meaning our way of describing a future? I cannot see it. I'd like to. I try to. Sometimes. Really, though, how it happens, how it will happen, is yet to unfold in the lives and minds and words of the queers around us now, the queers that will live in this mythical future. We'll describe what they did. We'll theorize ex post facto. They will do it though. It will be beautiful. It will have a name and a slogan and a movement and a feeling. We will write a book. They will live it.

Or are there better ways to talk about this category of political issues?

There is always a better way. I believe that. I said earlier I was an optimist. I think perhaps that reveals my nationality; the culture in which I am surrounded. We Americans. I hate to say that. I don't accept the magnetic flags on our minivans; the yellow ribbons make me angry, but still, I am an American. I say, we Americans, we believe in progress. That something better is down the road. A new solution. New technology. New ideas. They will help us. They will make our great society great. So yes, there is a better way to talk about this category of political issues. I just don't know what the category is. I do know that it is about me, my body, my life, my sex, my wife. Coming out is what happens between the sheets. Bedsheets. Paper sheets.

How do queers do the personal?

I do the personal by self-examination. It is what I learned from feminism. Mine the personal first. Politicize from my own experience, from my own body. As a frame it has some limitations, but they are the limitations that I can see and understand. Even after the sex wars. Amid racism and capitalism and colonization and homophobia and heterosexism, there is feminism. My person. My body. My life. How do I do the personal? Each day I wake up in this body, with this life. The former was not chosen; the later is chosen daily. Moment by moment I struggle with words, with ideas, with justice. This is personal. I wake up; I live in this body. I can tell you the first day I came out to myself. The first time I came out to another person. The first time I fucked. The first time I made love. The first kiss. The last kiss. The last orgasm. The last moment of intimacy. This is personal.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Feminist Art Foremother

This Sunday, sixty-one years after the first atomic weapon was used in war, Arlene Raven died. I didn't know her, but I know her work. Anyone interested in feminist art over the past thirty years knows her work. It is amazing to look at how her work transformed the world--and the way that this obituary from the New York Times is written.

This post is to acknowledge the work that she did. I, for one, appreciate it each day.

August 6, 2006

Arlene Raven, 62, a Historian and Supporter of Women’s Art, Is Dead
Arlene Raven, a pioneering historian and advocate of women’s art, died Tuesday at her home in Brooklyn. She was 62.
The cause was cancer, said the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, which represents her companion, the artist Nancy Grossman.
In 1973 Ms. Raven was a founder, with the artist Judy Chicago and the graphic designer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, of the Feminist Studio Workshop. It was the educational component of the Woman’s Building, a pioneering center devoted to women’s art and culture in Los Angeles.
In the workshop she introduced programs based not just on techniques for making art, but on feminist consciousness-raising as well. She was a creator and editor of Chrysalis, an influential magazine of women’s culture, and in 1977 she initiated the Lesbian Art Project, in which she took part as a performer. She was also a founder of the Women’s Caucus for Art.
Ms. Raven wrote or edited nine books, including the important anthology “Feminist Art Criticism” (1988), with Cassandra L. Langer and Joanna Frueh as co-editors; a follow-up volume appeared in 1994, with Ms. Raven’s essay, “The Archaic Smile,” a memoir of the women’s art movement. She also wrote monographs on the artists June Wayne, Betye Saar, Michele Oka Doner, and Ms. Grossman. She and Ms. Grossman became life partners in 1983.
She published widely as a critic and essayist. During the mid-1980’s, she was chief art critic for The Village Voice. She was a contributing editor for On the Issues: The Progressive Woman’s Quarterly, and a member of its advisory board. She was also on the board of the United States chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, and she received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for distinction in art criticism from the College Art Association in 2001.
Ms. Raven held a doctorate in art history from John Hopkins University. Beginning in 2000, she was critic in residence at the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, which has established an art history scholarship in her name.
She is survived by Ms. Grossman; her parents, Joe and Annette Rubin of Marco Island, Fla.; a sister, Phyllis Gelman, of Albuquerque, N.M.; and a stepdaughter, Laura Corkery, of Larkspur, Ga.