Authentic women, menacing authorities
Poirot, Kristan Ann
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Growing from an interest in the various conflicts centered on the relationship between lesbian and second wave feminist politics, I explore the ways that rhetorical processes of authority and authenticity functioned in discourse from and about the women’s movement from 1966 to 1975. Identified as “menaces” by liberal feminists and truly “liberated” women by radical feminists, lesbians occupied a unique rhetorical place in feminism’s second wave. The dialectical tensions between being at once feminism’s “nightmare” and movement women’s “fantasy” exacerbated considerable conflicts within the movement, and such conflicts are emblematic of the second wave’s broader concerns over identity—both public and personal. In this project, I argue, what was at stake for both liberal and radical feminists was a political identification of “woman” that would remain consistent with the movement’s commitments. As radical feminism theorized the liberated woman and liberal feminism strategized a credible woman, lesbian sexuality threatened and promised the sustainability of feminism’s identity commitment. Although the political nature or “woman” was questioned, the ontological was not. As such, this project seeks to historicize a poststructural critique of the subject through three analyses, which point to humanism’s constraining and dangerous influence on feminism’s sexual politics.