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The Lavender Menace was a lesbian activism group that was created as a result of backlash against lesbians being excluded from feminist movements at the time of the group's creation.[1][2][3][4][5]

History[]

The first known use of the phrase "lavender menace" was in 1969 by Betty Friedan,[1][2][3] the at-the-time leader of the NOW (National Organization for Women).[4][5] Friedan claimed that lesbians were a "lavender menace", claiming they would ruin the reputation and destroy the credibility of the feminist movement.[1][2][3][4][5] The use of the color lavender in particular was because of its association with the gay right movement in general.[1]

Thus, the Lavender Menace group was formed in 1970 as a reaction to the dismissal and exclusion of lesbians in feminism, and in particular to Friedan's statement in 1969.[1][2][3][4][5] The group organized themselves and planned their protest out of the apartments of two of their members.[4] They were even able to create custom t-shirts for the members to wear during their upcoming protest.[1][2][4][5] Known members of the group include Rita Mae Brown,[1][2][3][4][5] Karla Jay,[1][3][5] Ellen Broidy,[4] Lois Hart, Barbara Love, Artemis March, and Ellen Shumsky.[1]

The group was able to protest during the second NOW congress, which was held in New York City on May 1, 1970. The purpose of the protest was to bring attention to the NOW's exclusion of lesbians in their feminist movement, as well as in feminism overall, and to demand recognition and respect as lesbian feminists.[1][2][3][4][5] During the protest, the group also handed out a lesbian feminist manifesto known as "Woman-Identified Woman".[1][5] In total, there were 17 members who were a part of this protest.[5]

Due to their protest, the Lavender Menace was able to convince the NOW to acknowledge lesbians as a valid part of feminism.[1][4] NOW itself even passed a formal resolution to acknowledge this.[4] However, Betty Friedan herself did not fully acknowledge the participation of lesbians in feminism, nor apologize for her initial statements, until the National Women’s Conference in 1977.[1][4]

Unfortunately, Lavender Menace as a group did not continue for much longer after their protest in 1970. The cause of the collapse of the group is often attributed to the group focusing on militant separatism, blatant lack of support for bisexuality, and exclusion of anyone not a lesbian to the group itself. Eventually, Lavender Menace was formally disbanded by the end of 1971.[5]

After the disbandment of the group, a spin-off group called Radicalesbians was founded by former members of the Lavender Menace group. This spin-off group would continue to focus on lesbian activism into the last 1970s.[2][3] Some claim that Radicalesbians were created before the Lavender Menace group was formed, and that the two groups had instead a sort of collation between themselves and other lesbian groups for the NOW protests.[4]

Trivia[]

  • There are some groups and pieces of media that have taken on the name "The Lavender Menace", possibly inspired by the initial use of the term by Betty Friedan or the group itself. However, these usually have no direct relation to the original group besides being something that is focused on the LGBTQIA+ community, or the lesbian community in particular. Examples of this include a book archive[6] and a podcast.[7]

References[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 "Lavender Menace: the Phrase, the Group, the Controversy" by Napikoski, Linda on <thoughtco.com>. Published 2021-02-16 by ThoughtCo. (Archived on 2022-06-23)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 "Lesbian Rebellion and the Lavender Menace" by Medhurst, Eleanor on <dressingdykes.com>. Published 2020-09-18 by Dressing Dykes. (Archived on 2021-12-02)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 "Radicalesbians" on <web-static.nypl.org>. Published by New York Public Library. (Archived on 2021-10-04)
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 "Lavender Menace Action at Second Congress to Unite Women" on <nyclgbtsites.org>. Published by NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. (Archived on 2022-06-24)
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 "How the Lavender Menace Fought for Lesbian Liberation in the 1970s" by Goodman, Elyssa on <them.us>. Published 2019-06-19 by Them. (Archived on 2022-03-07)
  6. "Welcome to Lavender Menace" on <lavendermenace.org.uk>(Archived on 2022-08-12)
  7. "The Lavender Menace" by Renaissance & Sunny on <rss.com> (Podcast). Published by RSS America LLC. (Archived on 2021-06-13)
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