Separatism, which we would define as a movement in which people form an alternate group with the intention of separating from greater society, is a debatable topic with many groups. For example, if a group that claims to be separatist still remains a part of a greater society, then is it possible to define their group as separatist, or are they just counter-cultural? For the Furies, we argue that they are, in fact, a separatist group because they possess ample reason for separation and cohesive internal ideologies for enacting their separatism.
The Furies cite a few reasons for their separatism. One, lesbians are “isolated in a brutally hostile world” in which they must depend on one another to survive.1 Through history, lesbians have faced scrutiny, ridicule, and even outright violence, all because of who they choose to love. From this statement, one may assess that a reasonable response to this treatment would be grouping together. Second, lesbians have not only faced backlash from greater society, but also from smaller groups that claim they are against that very society. The Women’s Liberation Movement reacted to lesbians, generally, by dismissing their thoughts and struggles within the women’s movement. “No one wants their Lesbians—not the rich, not the poor, not the Black, not the White…” Rita Mae Brown asserts.2 By defining the Furies as a separatist group, we recognize that the Furies have made a break from greater society, as well as groups such as the Women’s Liberation Movement and the New Left. In order to do so, the Furies needed to create their own cohesive ideology through which to work.
Similar to many religious-separatist groups in history, the Furies relied on cohesive ideologies within their group in order to define their separatism. The Furies realized that they could have worked in isolation, but working as a group would allow them to develop and solidify their ideologies more quickly and extensively.3 They universally believed that “all humans suffer from sexism”4 and that the only solution was for women to separate themselves from men by becoming political lesbians. “Although the lesbian like other women is oppressed by America’s political structures… she does not have an individual ‘oppressor’ in her home,” Brown says.5 Although the Furies were not completely isolated from society, as they lived in Capitol Hill and held normal jobs, they created a mentality that their group was separate from larger groups and that they had to rely on one another in order to further their cause. Their particular ideology unified their group as a political force that opposed mainstream American society.
The Furies, as stated elsewhere, did not survive as a separatist group. In their articles, they have recognized the problems that exist in socially-motivated separatist movements. One problem with separatist groups in their movement is that they tend to raise awareness for social problems but fail to provide strong leaderships and solutions to those problems.6 They also “tally up how much each person suffers” in order to gain control over one another.7 Charlotte Bunch remarks, “[The Furies] problems came not from our separatism per say, but the impression we gave that only lesbians could fight male supremacy, rather than that lesbian/feminist consciousness was crucial to the struggle.”8 Their brand of separatism tended to be too exclusive, so they also forgot that their fundamental goal was to unite women against male supremacy. With these criticisms in mind, Bunch does state that separatism “can only remain useful if we constantly re-examine it and recognize its limits as a strategy more clearly.”9 Separatism is not flawless; neither are the Furies. However, their efforts can be viewed as a prototype for future political-separatist movements.
1 Sharon Deevey and Coletta Reid, “Emotionalism—Downward Spiral,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 2, February 1972, pp. 11.
2 Rita Mae Brown, “Roxanne Dunbar: How a Female Heterosexual Serves the Interests of Male Supremacy,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 2, February 1972, 6.
3 Ginny Berson, “Only by Association,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 5, June/July 1972, 5.
4 Rita Mae Brown, “Women Who Love Men Hate Them: Male Supremacy Versus Sexism,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 7, Fall 1972, 15.
5 Ibid., 14.
6 Charlotte Bunch, “Perseverance Furthers: Separatism and Our Future,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 7, Fall 1972, 3.
8 Ibid., 4.
9 Ibid, 3.