The Furies periodicals also react to popular culture in relationship to the lesbian-feminist movement in America. Although it may not seem as important as the ideology that the Furies forward in their writing, the popular culture that existed in the time of the Furies is vital because it contributes to the formation of their cohesive ideology. The Furies react to popular culture due to its sexism and failure to represent marginalized groups. Understanding the Furies’ approach to popular culture in the early 1970’s is, therefore, important in understanding their ideological perspectives.
One way in which the Furies oppose popular culture is their rejection of “youth culture.” Youth culture in the 1970’s was anti-establishment, anti-capitalist, and often involved drug use and abuse. Helaine Harris berates youth culture for the hypocrisy of the idea of “free love”; this idea was often mistaken by men in the youth culture as an invitation to regard women and their bodies as open-access and “easy” rather than as autonomous.1 She says that, “Looking at the youth culture today, I see it as destructive to women— a new white male culture equally oppressive to women— but more subtle and therefore, more deadly. Women see in the freak culture a freer life but the freedom is still defined by white men.”2 While men in this culture may have supported access to birth control, their support was conditional on their ability to have easier access to sex. This stance was still inherently misogynistic to the Furies, and thus was a strong reason to oppose the “youth culture.”
Young people involved in youth culture were supposedly rejecting everything that their middle-class parents taught them, and yet, they possessed a very middle-class way of lacking class consciousness. “The very idea of choosing poverty comes from sheer middle class arrogance and blindness to the brutalizing effects its has on people who have no choice about the way they live,” Tasha Peterson writes.3 While actual working class people starved, those who partook in youth culture would either give up their status for some self-gratifying cause or forego food in order to afford drugs. It seems that the main problem that the Furies had with the youth culture was that although they claimed to be progressive, their ideals were still deeply rooted in both sexism and classism. Therefore, they were no better than the mainstream culture that the Furies rejected in their collective.
The Furies also criticized media and its negative influence in popular culture. In particular, movie reviews were a way in which the Furies were able to criticize misogyny and lack of representation in mass media. For example, Charlotte Bunch is critical of the movie The Trojan Women because it “sees women only in terms of their relationships to men (dead fathers, husbands, sons) and… shows women’s relationships to each other as filled with bitterness, jealousy, and conflict.”4 The implication here is that by representing women who should be, by all means, strong and independent, the movie leaves an impression on its viewers that women are petty, reliant on their male relations, and in opposition rather than united. In her review of “The Last Picture,” Rita Mae Brown shows a similar discontent for the film’s representation of women and minorities alike: “They give us versions of what women are, what Blacks are, what people are who are not like themselves.”5 For both Bunch and Brown, the film industry fails to do women and minorities justice because of the white-male domination within. Therefore, popular film fails women and minorities because it represents marginalized groups as exactly how the filmmakers see them: inferior.
Although the Furies’ inclination to oppose popular culture may lead to the perception that the Furies are a counter-cultural movement, it is important to clarify that much of which they oppose, including “youth culture,” is counter-cultural in itself. The Furies separate themselves not just from mainstream society, but also from counter-cultural movements, further solidifying their status as a separatist group.
1 Helaine Harris, “Out of the O Zone,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 2, February 1972, pp. 2.
3 Tasha Peterson, “Gimme Shelter,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 2, February 1972, 4.
4 Charlotte Bunch, “The Trojan Hoax,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 2, 18.
5 Rita Mae Brown, “The Last Picture Show,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 3, March/April 1972, 10.