“The class of men oppresses the class of women, and the institution through which they do that is the heterosexual institution.”
– Jill Johnston

This post was written by Meghan, an MLIS student from Dominican University.

To continue our celebration of Pride month, we are highlighting a 1973 interview with feminist author, Jill Johnston.  The main topic of discussion is her book, Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution, which outlines some of her views of feminism and how she became an activist in the “lesbian feminist” movement.  Johnston was a long-time writer for The Village Voice in New York, and after having married, given birth to two children, and divorced realized that not only was she a lesbian sexually, but politically as well.  She explains, “My book is a story of growing up as a conditioned person who was instinctively at odds with the social forces around me, and not knowing that, you see, I was just a naturally acculturated female.”

In Lesbian Nation, she advocates for all women to recognize and embrace their identities as lesbians, explaining:

“I have a political definition of lesbianism and, what it really means is self-commitment, and we know that we have a feminist movement because women have been denied self-commitment and we’re just updating feminism by calling it ‘lesbianism,’ because we feel that total commitment to ourselves would include every phase of our activities…a bonding of women.”

To her mind, revising the current heterosexual norms in society is the only way to succeed in creating a better world.  Toward the end of the interview, she tells Studs, “In the end, you’ll see that we’re right – that this is the really broad approach to the world’s problems.”


Jill Johnston’s views may not have been shared by many at the time, and certainly, over forty years later, we know that her vision has not become a reality, however, it is the tireless work of women like her that has set the precedent for the feminist movements that still exist today.

 

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