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Pre-2008 Posts

Come Together Women’s History Month Blog Carnival, March 12, 2008: On Being a Heterosexual Feminist

p-midwife.jpg 

“Midwife” by Marianne Sexton

by Donna Mitchell

A few years ago due to a traumatic event I suddenly found myself going from committed married life in a religious cult to being a single mom questioning everything I had ever believed. In the Christian group I was in, being female automatically made me less important than males, and I was expected to be submissive and quiet on most matters of importance within the group. 

The question of why I was there and stayed there for 15 years is a subject for another essay. My point is, I was suspect because of religious definitions based solely on my sex: female.  While I had been mentally leaving this group and their beliefs for many years without realizing it, it took me a lot longer to rid myself of the effects of living in the hold of a strict patriarchal mindset.  Finally I renounced it all– the Christian beliefs, the lack of tolerance to others, the beliefs about God and who that was or was not.   I then joined the women’s movement wholeheartedly. I joined feminine divine email groups, found feminist internet blogs and womyn’s rights websites and immersed myself in all of them. I read articles and book reviews on everything from the beginnings of feminism, the Religious Right’s cruel tactics, violence against women, pros and cons of legal sex work as well as how womyn’s health care is simply not an important issue to the government.I begin to realize how far feminist ideas had advanced, but also how much work was still needed.  I was becoming more and more informed about the state of feminism now and deciding my place in it.As I explored the internet for reading material, I also found festivals and cool womyn’s get-togethers and I felt a desire to go and be with womyn and enjoy womon-centered activities, thoughts, conversations and rituals.  It seemed the next best step in my new attempts at feminism to actually be in the company of these amazing activists.As I started tentatively stepping into feminist circles and speaking out and asking questions, it became apparent on some levels that my sexuality would become an issue. Not being a lesbian seemed to be proof I wasn’t a true feminist and that to love a man as a sexual partner meant I wasn’t truly in step with feminist ideals.  In talking with lesbian friends I know locally as well as new friends met at festivals, it became apparent that there was distrust between hetero and lesbian feminists. On one level I understand the issue as I found out many lesbians felt that when things got tough and someone needed to stand up, hetero womyn simply wouldn’t back them up.The belief seemed to be that hetero womyn had more to lose and would not support true lesbian issues, since they could move back into a heteronormative lifestyle and not be grouped with lesbians. img31443449702e700330.jpg

Midwife and mom

I pondered this as I tried to reach out and see what I could do as a new feminist still trying to find my way, but also living in the trenches as I believe I am, by opposing the patriarchal medical system here in a very anti womon, anti-child and anti-freedom Southern state. Helping womyn birth at home seemed to me to be the epitome of feminist activism — doing what is our right as womyn even when the male system has enacted laws against us.  (As a side note, by profession, I am a homebirth midwife in a state that does not sanction or legally allow midwifery as an option.  I encourage womon- centered and womon-controlled choices about pregnancy and birth. For years I have loved being around womyn in all stages of their empowering births.)

I do know about the inequalities and injustices I face as a womon. I know the fear and trepidation of just walking out at night alone in the city, being in a restaurant without a partner or criticized when it is known I am not a Christian anymore.  I know the feeling of rage when a pregnant woman’s right to birth with a midwife is viewed as “abuse towards the baby” or “a selfish need for a candlelit birth above safety” by the state.  I know how it is to be treated by a male doctor who believes women do not need all the information on any procedure-just sign on the dotted line and trust him.  I know what its like to look back and see the herstory of the way the medical (patriarchal) system has always treated womyns health care as if womyn were guinea pigs.   I am a womon who is treated as all womyn are.

But I admit I don’t know what it is like to be lesbian womon in this culture, or an African American womon or a Latina womon or disabled womon or disabled womon. I don’t have those experiences at all. But I believe I don’t need those experiences to stand up for cruelty to womyn or to be a feminist. The bottom line is that womyn’s rights are womyn’s rights, and I am fighting for them in my own way in my own community on a daily basis.

I do consider myself a fledgling feminist. I won’t claim to know all the issues, the herstory of it all, the key womyn who have been involved or even with whom I am primarily politically aligned so far as what I stand for.  I can sit back for now and watch and observe the feminist movement and learn from some powerful women, both lesbian and hetero. It is something I fully intend to do at this point as well as continue to subvert the patriarchal system as much as possible in my own small way in my community with my group of womyn companions.

I enjoy the company of womyn. If being a lesbian is truly a sexual orientation and not a choice, then I am not lesbian.   Still, I am womon-centered in everything I do.  My life’s passion/work is still about womyn. I go to womyn’s festivals and womyn’s events. But so far as sexual orientation, I am hetero.  I know it would be easier to “fit in”in some places if I just chose to be a lesbian, but I am not willing to deny who I am for anyone else ever again. Trying to become what others think I should be is no longer an option for me. Becoming who I am meant to be is what I am striving for as a feminist.

I hope to make a difference in my community in whatever way I can, but I am standing in opposition towards what I believe to be the only true enemy of womyn’s rights- patriarchy.

Donna Mitchell is a homebirth midwife, single mother of nine children, herbalist, aromatherapist, and women’s health practitioner.  She lives in a state that is hostile to anything that empowers womyn in areas of education or health care. She is a recovering Christian and a worshipper of the goddess Hecate and Morrigan.

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Comments are open.

Discussion

22 thoughts on “Come Together Women’s History Month Blog Carnival, March 12, 2008: On Being a Heterosexual Feminist

  1. I once visited The Farm, an intentional community in TN, and the people there said that female ob/gyns often come there to have their own babies since their midwife program is so excellent!

    And, the heterosexual world always needs a good strong dose of radical feminism, so keep on being yourself! We all have our part to play.

    Posted by Myrrh | March 13, 2008, 11:43 pm
  2. I’ve had a lot of guilt in the past about being heterosexual, some from others and some self-imposed. Radical lesbian separatism always deeply resonated with me on a theoretical level, but I can’t – or won’t – put it into practice in my own life for several reasons, including the fact that I’m attracted to men. I agree with Myrrh that there are still plenty of ways to shake up the status quo while being hetero, but I also want to acknowledge the real alienation our differences can cause in situations like these. I’m quite young, Donna, but I empathize as much as I can at this age, and I respect that you took the time to write about your feelings so honestly. I have felt left out of young activist communities for years because I seem aligned with The Man because I also happen to live with one. It’s been particularly hard to live in a big city where much feminist activism seems to center around LGBT groups that are of course friendly in theory, but I can’t exactly show up with my male partner (believe me, I’ve been the straight girl at the party), and I’m not going to commit to activism that alienates a person I love and who is aligned with my battles as much as I’m aligned with his, a sensitive male in an increasingly insensitive world. It isn’t as radical as some would like, but separatism won’t work for me, and so I’ve found the best possible partner, for me, for the revolution. I don’t think anyone should be asked to do more, regardless of sexual orientation or preference.

    I’d also like to add that I’ve never been involved with a carnival before, but this one has been so particularly enlightening and inspiring because of these kinds of stories, speaking from the heart and really digging deep to talk about how we can move forward. This is the stuff.

    Posted by b | March 14, 2008, 3:18 am
  3. I must admit that this carnival is the first place I have personally encountered the idea that individual men are not to be trusted and that alliance with them, in partnership, marriage, friendship, is suspect. For me, that does not resonate.

    Drawing on my experiences as a black woman, it seems a lot like radical black activists who would have me believe that all partnership, marriage and friendship with white people is suspect.

    I can’t imagine being guilty about the sexual orientation I was born with, or making someone else feel guilty about hers. This seems like another way that we as women hurt each other by trying imposing litmus tests based on our personal choices. I think it is unfair and ultimately damaging to women and the movement.

    Donna,

    Your story was beautiful. I think if we all fight oppression in the best way we know how, then we are doing the right thing.

    Posted by Tami | March 14, 2008, 11:55 am
  4. Your story resonates with me. Women are unstoppable when working together. Why don’t we stop trying to figure out who makes the best feminist and just get on with changing the world. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted by chrysalis | March 14, 2008, 12:17 pm
  5. b, a couple of things stuck out to me in your comment. One was your thought that feminist activism centers around LGBT where you are. I think among young activists/progressives and on college campuses, LGBT has supplanted feminist groups and feminism, which is just completely wrong because a lot of what is included in “LGBT” is not friendly to women, and many times those who primarily identify as LGBT activists are misogynists. Within LGBT, there is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. Three out of four of those letters are at least half men, many of whom just are not concerned with feminist issues other than very occasionally and very marginally. I have encountered many in the lgbt movement who are just sexist. One of my daughters was dismayed to find out, when she entered college a couple of years ago and participated in the feminist group there that the only topics of conversation or activism in the group were transgender issues or vegetarianism(!). When she introduced issues around rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, prostitution, pornography, there was little to no interest. So when you say LGBT groups are “friendly in theory,” you are definitely correct, and many, many lesbians would share your views and experience, i.e., LGBT is not necessarily friendly to lesbians either! And many lesbians do not identify at all with the “L” in these “LGBT” groups. The other thing is, many of the women who comprise the “L” in these “LGBT” groups are very much male-identified, even though they are lesbians. They don’t identify as feminists and do not have feminist sensibilities.

    I have said before but think it’s worth saying and noting regularly, I think it’s one thing to focus on women, spend one’s time with women, all the way to living as a separatist because you want to be with women, enjoy women’s company, and are deeply committed to women’s issues, in a way that leaves little to no room for men. It’s quite another thing to focus on women, spend one’s time with women, live as a separatist because you are afraid of men, you dislike or hate men, you don’t trust men, and so on. The motivations are completely different. I have met a number of women, sadly, who seem to be separatists not because of their commitment to women, but because of their aversion to men. That aversion is no basis upon which to build anything, let alone a movement, that is healthy or nourishing, and cannot forge any sort of lasting solidarity among women. Worse than that, though, are alliances between women which are primarily centered in aversion to men and in which the women who are allied don’t particularly enjoy the company of women either! Since becoming a feminist some years ago now, I always rejected the idea of feminists as manhating and thought that accusation was just antifeminist propaganda. I just didn’t believe there really were feminists who actually hated men. For the most part, I still believe that’s true. I think that women’s rage, women’s anger over injustice and violence against women gets read as “manhating” or is dismissed as manhating because it’s easier to dismiss it than to face it head on. But recently, over the past couple of years, I have encountered women who, I finally have had to admit, really do simply dislike and hate men. And for these women, often it has seemed to be their hatred, more than anything else, more than commitment to women, that is the energy fueling their activism. I can’t be around that, at all, once I recognize it. For me, feminism is about love, not just for women, but for all humanity, for the earth, creatures, the skies, mountains, seas.

    Donna, I love your post! I especially love this:

    I am not willing to deny who I am for anyone else ever again. Trying to become what others think I should be is no longer an option for me.

    This needs to go on one of those samplers you and I used to make or appreciate in our old world. So true! In our old world, we were told what to be, what we had to do to be acceptable, and we were relentlessly evaluated on the basis of how well we were performing (cast as obeying God or husband). There was no room for coloring outside certain lines, no room for certain kinds of nonconformity. If we conformed and “obeyed” or “submitted”, we were rewarded with acceptance by the community. It was always conditioned, of course, on our continuing obedience and submission. That kind of thing is poison, and I know when I recognize those dynamics of control or power-over operating in a group I’m part of, or in someone who wants to be part of my life, I have to get away, distance myself, sometimes I have to straight up flee. And it operates a *lot* in progressive circles, and including in “LGBT,” where if you do not tow a very strict party line, you will be attacked, hated, targeted in various ways.

    The thing is, being a lesbian, again, doesn’t make anyone a feminist. It doesn’t make a woman committed to women or to women’s issues. It doesn’t make anyone woman-centered. A while back I was part of a discussion of what it meant to be a lesbian and of whether specific women were “really” lesbians. Frustrated, one of the women burst out with, “Yeah, but does she f*** women?!” All I could think was, yeah, cause that’s what it’s really all about, huh. My experience is, where I see someone with that attitude, many times, she does “f***” women– in every destructive way it is possible to imagine.

    Having said all of this, women are often brutalized in this world, and our brutalization is often at the hands of men. My first husband almost took my life. He beat me with a tire iron, fractured my skull and eye sockets, left me bleeding, a mass of bruises crumpled on a stranger’s doorstep, and fled. Over the course of my 55 years, I have been battered, I have been raped, I have almost been killed, I have been emotionally, verbally, and spiritually abused, all of this at the hands of men or by the decrees of men. This being so, even if I wanted to be different — and sometimes I do, and wish I could be, wish my life had been different — out of my own experiences and my commitment to my own self preservation, I have to walk wide circles around any man I do not know extremely well. To do otherwise would mean, again, denying myself, trying to be what others and what patriarchy expect a woman to be– eternally forgiving, eternally trusting, the eternal dispenser and giver of the second, third, fourth and fifth chance, ever nurturing, setting aside my own concerns and misgivings, always, in favor of what someone else wants or thinks I should do or be. And I can’t do that anymore. I did that for decades, and over and over again, I was betrayed or harmed. Beyond that, I value myself too much these days to ever let myself do that to myself again. I know that I am worth more than that.

    So, those are some thoughts for now.

    Posted by womensspace | March 14, 2008, 2:39 pm
  6. It needs to be said that many, many of us who love women and Femaleness, hate men for that very reason.

    Do the math.

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 14, 2008, 2:56 pm
  7. An upcoming feminist blog is always a cheering prospect to me, but I think this this one will be particularly interesting and will deal with some of the issues that we’ve seen addressed in this blog from time to time, sometimes with hurt feelings on all sides.

    If feminism is to be defined as only the province of lesbian women with “lesbian” basically coming down to women who have sex with other women, it will be excluding the great majority of women in the world–women needed to develop greater consciousness of the existing power inequities and to effect change, even if “little by little” in their particular corners of the world. As women who care about women, we don’t need more exclusion.

    I’ve been intimately involved in group dynamics in a number of very different environments, and the tendency of people to divide into smaller and smaller cliques is one that particularly frustrates me. “Hurrah!! Let’s ‘other’ someone!!” Othering our fellow beings is how we, as a species, have produced some of our most horrendous disasters–oppression of women, war, racism, slavery, inquisitions, you name it.

    Let the love of women for other women and girls ever grow wider, deeper, and more enriching. Don’t parse it until it is reduced to infinitesimal and totally ineffective little stand-alone pieces.

    Posted by Level Best | March 14, 2008, 5:10 pm
  8. I think it is perfectly acceptable to hate your enemies, and men are often enemies. I see their behavior every day as absolutely awful. I watch as they degrade and make fun of women, and I see men as largely clueless. They could learn and grow and study, but they are lazy creatures.

    I think it is dishonest to say that women don’t hate men. Of course many women really hate these beings. The most manhating words I ever come across a lot of the time are straight women talking about men or their husbands and boyfriends. Women have a great deal of suppressed rage over how they are treated on a daily basis by men. The only thing that seems to change the balance of power is when women become the vast majority of any given social or political group. Then I see men becoming more silent; they just can’t get away with their knee jerk sexism in the form of “jokes” and “humor” the favored weapon of most men. Turn the very same humor against men and they start getting really mad. Shutting sexist men up is called being “politically correct” by men. It means they no longer have the “freedom” to degrade women.

    In lesbian’s groups and settings, we actually forget that men exist and are busy doing other things.

    I don’t know what heteosexual life is like. I do know that individually, heterosexual women are very good feminists and progressives, but personally, I don’t see them really working that hard on lesbian issues at all. They sort of want us for the ride, and they’ll put us to work on the endless activism over “reproductive” issues. I don’t get involved in any of that.

    There is a narrow range of issues I believe that lesbians and straight women can work on together, and this is a great thing. I’m deeply in favor of working together on work place equality issues, building women’s economic power, creating wonderful arts institutions like “Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company” and the women’s building, and seeing women conduct orchestras etc. I fully support almost all women running for elected office as long as they don’t say anything really stupid about lesbians, and as long as they are not right wing idiots. I’m ok with moderate republican women if there is no other viable choice.

    All of this stuff is fine. Over the years I’ve just become more blunt. I don’t do anything related to children and don’t care about them. I stay away from reproductive anything, and I have no particular expertise on health care issues. Go to the doctor, excersize, etc. etc. I like alternative health like homeopathy and Asian medicines etc.

    I see all kinds of examples of women who love each other and work together. Feminism has really changed the way women see each other and the world, and largely we’ve been very successful with this.

    The challenge of heterosexuality itself and lesbian identity is really about how to share space. I like either all women’s environments or all men’s environments. But I rarely if ever go to mixed groups. I’m not interested in the socially constructed world of heterosexuality; it frankly bores me to tears.

    Anytime social justice groups arise, they may start out as lesbian inclusive but over time if lesbians are not vocal enough they sort of gradually “heterosexualize.” A good example of this is “Leaven” in Lyons, Michigan. It’s a retreat center commited to racial, sexual, feminism and respect for spiritual traditions. A great place! But over time, the lesbian content disappeared. I used to contribute money to Leaven because they had great programming for lesbians AND straight women together, as well as lesbian only spiritual groups. When they changed executive directors, the word “lesbian” disappeared from all their mailed brochures and fundraising appeals. That’s right, they had a big fundraising event and I didn’t see one word mentioning lesbian anything in the brochure. We weren’t even on the laundry list of “oppressions” anymore. The phrase “sexual justice” I guess is inclusive, but it doesn’t say the word “Lesbian.” That’s what straight women often do.

    As a radical lesbian feminist I am a blunt driven very very aggressive woman. That means I am willing to go to war if women are attacked by men. It means freedom is something I am willing to FIGHT for if necessary.

    Women often complain about LGBT here, but really, you have to ask yourself, “how did LGBT begin?” and why has LGBT become such a force on college campuses? You have to look at the herstory of how lesbians and straight women have interacted in women’s studies departments. You have to see a bigger picture.

    I actually don’t know the answer for straight women. I often feel sorry for them. They are stuck with men in their personal relationships. They marry men, then men turn on them and beat the hell out of them. Go to women’s shelters and see the worst. Walk city streets and see the gang infested areas — all these young men who delight in harrassing honest hardworking street vendors. If it’s a mess or it’s violent, men will be there. They seem to bring out the worst in each other.

    So I don’t know the answer. I really think that a lot of people are so heterosexually indoctrinated that it almost is like a cult. Marry men, date men, have babies, serve men, my hubby, my boyfriend, my role playing social structure… heterosexuality is the huge world wide one size fits all system. It is so all pervasive that a lot of lesbians don’t even know they are lesbians. The other day I met two gay men in their 80s, who were married to women for decades, and only after their wives died did they realize they were gay! Now these lovely gentlemen have a place to go, because of activists like me!

    I meet women all the time who were married to men for 10, 20 and 30 years, and then came out later in life. It’s not that uncommon. This is how effective heteronormative brainwashing really is. I’d call myself a really extreme lesbian, a very aggressive and radical version of a woman who really hated the living guts out of male dominated culture ever since kindergarten. I well remember my resentment at boyism and boy privilege and boys getting everything, and I was determined to take over my territory, and to conquer the worlds I wanted to be in. If boys got in my way, I thought nothing of beating them up on the playground. If they were picking on other girls, I hauled off and smashed them. Straight girls were often terrorized by these beastly bullies when I was in gradeschool, junior high and high school. I didn’t get what made girls so docile, and I wondered where their anger was.

    I often wonder this about straight women — the suppressed or non-existent anger, the fear of being angry, the fear of being labeled “manhating.” Would you label all black civil rights activists as white hating? I never got that from even the most extreme black activist groups. I simply understood this to be rage at oppression, and I didn’t think their hatred was directed at me personally. But the minute women show rage, well that’s a different story.

    It is an ideal that all feminists will get along, and we can in selected settings. But I hold no illusions that straight women are going to say LESBIAN front and center, and they’ll just keep chipping away and erasing our names in the feminist organizations they run. It just is going to happen again and again, which is why I do like lesbian only space, that straight women are welcome to be in. In my opinion, lesbian only space is about the purity of our identity, which I am happy to share with all straight feminists. It’s my cultural orientation, and has little to do with what straight women think of as lesbians. I’m indifferent to the “sex” “f-word” nonsense of non-feminist lesbians, and there are tons of the “S & Mers” out there. The very sleaziest of these “sex lesbians” as I call them are women who were married to men. I am a political lesbian, and that means I do have a woman partner, but I am not interested in sex as a political issue, I am interested in the passion of the lesbian liberation dream. A woman’s country, a woman’s territory free of the contaminating influence of men.

    In my world all women are welcome, all feminists are welcome. I’m throwing a big lesbian party and all women are invited to attend. I’m cooking the best food, and we’re going to have a lot of fun. We’ll have late night conversations on the back porch, maybe a little chamber group playing in the background, and not once will you have to deal with men at all.
    This is my idea of a utopia, but it will be made clear that lesbians are there, and that we will be named and honored.

    It won’t be about “my kids” “my sexually liberated marriage” “my straight world” it will be about the power and intellectual capacity of women for the benefit of women.

    Just once, I’d like to go to a straight women’s group, and have a leader get up and say, “lesbians you’re welcome here, stand up and we’re going to clap and cheer.” Now that would be something, and I’ve never ever seen it happen.

    Posted by Satsuma | March 14, 2008, 7:19 pm
  9. Spam a sailing across the salten sea….. watch out for the octopus on the right🙂

    Posted by Satsuma | March 14, 2008, 7:20 pm
  10. Another thought came to me. Feminism is not an exclusive lesbian idea, but also I want a feminism that completely eliminates heterosexual bias and the automatic lean toward “woman = straight” just as black women don’t want feminism = white. Pretty simple explanation, but if lesbians aren’t put front and center along with straight women, straight women will automatically avoid the word “lesbian.”

    Radical feminism has been an important territory for lesbians. We are the strong writers and cultural warriors. If you look at the best and brightest of the radical lesbian feminists you get Mary Daly, Janice Raymond, Sonia Johnson, Andrea Dworkin, Lillian Faderman, and many many more — Sheila Jeffreys, Audre Lorde… June Jordan, bell hooks… Adrienne Rich — it is mind boggling just how many radical lesbian feminists have been out there creating the best writing we have. There are many straight women who don’t even know how large a contribution all these women made to feminism.

    Even a straight male colleague had a poetry book that Adrienne Rich had written back in 1979! He didn’t know she was a lesbian!

    It stands to reason that a lesbian feminist mind will automatically reject the very atmosphere of heterosexual oppression. Even when I am talking to gay men, I have the feeling that they’ve experienced the same kind of oppression I feel, and the same anger I feel, that is absolutely not the same thing that heterosexual women experience in DAILY life.

    Daily life is where I see outrage and listen to outrage. Just go into any hair dresser’s salon, and you’ll see what this looks like through lesbian feminist eyes. It gets to the point where you just have to laugh at it all. But inwardly you feel a kind of explosive fury. You can see how I get on this blog sometimes!! We’ve all been there and we should all be there now and then.

    So solidarity between straight feminists and lesbian feminists is very possible. I don’t know if this is common or typical or just case by case, but usually when women get the stuffing beaten out of them by men, or get raped by men, or get dumped by men in an evil divorce… something along these lines, then they tend to really “get” radical lesbian feminists. Now I am not overly generalizing here, I’m just pointing out that the most passionate lesbian feminist allies I’ve ever met are women who have had these experiences with men PERSONALLY.

    Women really do get the PERSONAL! Women live in deeply personal universes a lot of the time — especially middle class or upper middle class straight women. These are the women who really fear lesbians a lot, and in women’s groups like these I find the most closeted lesbians ever. I am never closeted, and I move everywhere socially. I really enjoy meeting people and networking and I always enjoy women’s groups– businesswomen I really like a lot.

    I really enjoy my absolute personal power of being an OUT radical lesbian feminist in the world. I move in the worlds of very “straight” “very wealthy” women, and I move in the worlds of LGBT, and I move in feminist activist circles. I like to be in all these places. Straight women are very at ease with me because I am very at ease with myself. I often think a lot of docil women like my aggressive and fearless unmade up self. They get to see what this looks like, and I do this with great style and a lot of fun.

    I enjoy being the “sterotypical lesbian” so “feared” within “liberal feminism” and upper middle class worlds. I like confusing the hell out of them by quoting William Blake or commenting on the beauty of flowers. I invite them to join me in a taste of the lesbian personna of Paris circa 1916, or experience the idea of the lesbian salons of Europe. I love complexity and contradiction in life, and I often wish that I could fully have my straight women friends, colleagues and allies come along with me to see lesbian self at its charming best. There’s that smile between lesbians in the lobby of a theater! There’s that direct gaze that straight women never have! It is the power of freedom from men, freedom from all the household male violence, freedom from boys, freedom to have a house all to ourselves!

    I see radical lesbian feminism as my true religion or my true spiritual “path” (although I truly hate that dumb sounding Santa Monica / Woo woo word).

    Straight women who have been beated or really taken advantage of by patriarchal creepo men I think enjoy the lesbian created spaces of women’s land, Michigan, and the various “women’s” read lesbian invented spaces all over the world.

    Go to Tubingen, Germany and enter the women’s book store where men are not allowed! Lesbians run it, straight women are welcome. Go to a women’s free clinic — lesbian doctors all over the place. Go to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, and it is overflowing with loving lesbian and gay nurses who take care of their lesbian patients through a medical crisis. Or talk to the lesbian heart surgeon in the cafeteria and see the real face of compassion. You get the best health care and the best education when lesbians are there. Straight women’s children have gotten the world’s best high school teachers in lesbians. The education system declined when “single” women left education to move to law, finance and medicine — “single = lesbian.” Ever wonder why public education went to hell? Three guesses, lesbians like me didn’t want those low paying jobs and moved into finance. In the past, when we couldn’t get the top jobs we taught all those lovely little heterosexual children. And the thanks we get?

    I know I’m ranting a bit here, but I really do believe we can all come together, and we can all be very very honest about who we are and what we are.

    We all long to be our most authentic real non-patriarchal selves out there. Heterosexual feminism in not at all like lesbian feminism, but we have cross over themes and variations. Lesbian mothers might love to hang out with straight mothers at Starbucks, for example. You wouldn’t catch me dead in those settings🙂

    We have a lot to learn from each other. I like knowing that women are awakening all over the place. I really love seeing women get free from evil right wing cults, or I love it when women escape really abusive men and come into their own.

    The hard work of feminism is that women are at their “nicest” when oppressed and then they can become the meanest in feminism. You all know what I’m talking about here.

    We need to identify the stages of feminism — the steps we all go through to get to the love, but first we have to face the anger… work through it, try to come to terms with unbelievable daily homophobia… or really awful racism… or really bad marriages or whatever the really bad is….

    When we understand the really bad and the volcanic anger, which is the fuel of lesbian feminist renaissance, then we can create a whole new sense of being.

    The straight women can bring the liberal men along, and the liberal men can really learn from feminism. Equality in straight marriages or relationships is possible, and I am fine with really well educated very very feminist men. They’re great! But I am also interested in women’s country, in winning the presidency, in creating women’s lands or in ending women’s terrible cycle of poverty and money repelling consciousness… Suze Orman lesbian multi-millionaire to the rescue of straight women! Yeah team!

    Everything is possible, and I’ve seen miracles believe me. It’s fun, it’s delightful, it’s exciting and all of it makes my day WOMEN!!

    Posted by Satsuma | March 14, 2008, 9:25 pm
  11. More spam a coming, spam spam burning bright in the forests of the night🙂

    Posted by Satsuma | March 14, 2008, 9:26 pm
  12. Heart, I’m hetero to a ridiculous degree.

    I’m partnered to an apolitical man who does not even identify as feminist.

    I’m constantly frustrated by how not-feminist I’m being by being and staying with him, though I love him dearly, and deeply. You know this from reading my blog, you’ve commented on it before.

    I think he’s my soul mate. I didn’t even believe in such things before. I do now. I believe he’s the other half of me I’ve been looking for since I was old enough to be cognizant of such a thing.

    He’s not a feminist. But he’s kind. He’s smart. He loves me for exactly who I am, right now. Even though we disagree strongly on several issues. He’s funny and playful. He’s as open-minded as he can be at this point in his evolution. He’s just as far from perfect as I am.

    And that’s how we love each other. Imperfectly.

    And that’s what feminism is made up of, much of the time. Imperfect human (often hetero) women who are learning and growing in their feminism, in their lives, as young women and middle-aged women and old women. Who are not checklists. Who’s emotions do not respond to checklists, but to people. To people they may very well have been *taught* to be attracted to, but who in their actual lives and in their actual hearts, are nevertheless attracted to. Who couldn’t change it to save their lives (or wouldn’t if they could). Who just love men.

    I value that. I value my own experience and desires and instincts over and above any ideology. Most people do, I think.

    I’m really, really rambling. Just laying out what’s in my head, in my heart at the moment. You can love both. You can do both. It makes matters complicated and messy and more difficult than you could’ve ever imagined, but it’s possible. I’d even venture to say it’s absolutely necessary.

    Men have been raised to hate and hurt us, it’s true. There’s no getting around that. But under it, past it, over it, beyond it, there’s still human there. In all of them. Just like there’s still human in all of us under all of our respective conditionings. In a sense, if we give up on them, we give up on ourselves. They are us, we are them. We are all human…men, women, and every variation thereof.

    Humans can love other humans irrespective of society, values, upbringing, political affiliations, race, class, creed, nation, any and every boundary I believe love can surpass. Not always of the slushy ‘romantic’ variety, of course.

    It’s like you said. Feminism should be about love. And learning to love even a man can have value in it, can be good and healing. When both are in in for the long haul and are trying to see the good in each other, love every part, survive every misfortune.

    Blah. The ravings of a hetero, middle class, white, loony woman in love.🙂

    Anyway, I loved this article. Love to all the women here, hetero, gay, other, whatever and wherever they may be.

    Love and sisterhood,

    CJ.

    Posted by CJ | March 14, 2008, 10:55 pm
  13. I also think we can do both…i LOVE women. and i work with women every day. My ex-husband left me because he said i was lesbian..why? because i am woman centered, woman caring and can express my emotions with other woman. I hug and kiss and just hang around some powerful women… both lesbian and hetero. I dont care about who they are attracted to..i do care about them.
    Yall have shared yourselves and i am awed…and i have one more thought……
    I have 2 teen daughters who claim to be lesbian and i love them for being so open about whatever the sexuality is..but For ME i am in a hetero life and thats is where i am.. that may change some day but if it doesnt i want to make life better for my daughters and yours and every woman who makes a choice to be who she is.
    I dont believe sexuality is stagnant..i believe it can change and be fluid or encompass all passions and attractions… and just be what it is for the moment.
    So how do i go from here? I am in a relationship with a very pro feminist pro woman man.. but i want to foster more relationships with strong women in my life and become more active in whatever ways i can.
    Thanks to all the comments.. they are awesome!!!

    Posted by moon goddess | March 15, 2008, 1:45 am
  14. Hi,

    I thought I would get in my few cents (goddess knows how many I have in me!) before time is up. The original posting was so important, and clearly sparked many inspiring writings following it.

    But it is the original writing, by Donna, I would like to go back to.

    Donna, I can only infer why some lesbian women few heterosexual women with suspecion. I will say, if I ever met you, I would gladly embrace you. I don’t, personally, have a problem with women-identified het. women.

    I have been hurt, terribly, by some non-women-identified het. women. I am generally talking about either women raised in a religious environment that they had not yet come out of, or younger women who didn’t want to loose popularity points by supporting lesbians (but would support bisexual women, as bisexuality is “hot.” ). Mostly it was the ones raised in religious homes that did the emotional stick-beating, though. So, if I heard a womyn had once been part of a fundie or was raised fundie, I would be super, super cautious.

    And yet…I have found that often womyn coming out of fundimentalistm are most willing to re-examine the beliefs they were taught. They have a chance for growth, spiritual growth I would say, though that term does not sit-well with everyone, that not everyone has.

    It seems this has been the case for you.

    As far as whether lesbianism is a choice…well, for some womyn it obviously is–they clearly say so. But for other womyn, like myself, I don’t believe it was biological, but I don’t believe it was an outright choice. I mean, I really don’t know. I was definitely attracted to men at one point; then I spent some time (24 hours, seven days a week) in one of the most gay accepting environments in the country….and I realized it really was a possibility for me to be with a lesbian. I realized that was what I wanted. I realized I was attracted to womyn emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

    And over a period of several months I lost nearly all physical attraction to men, which to me, was what heterosexuality had been all about.

    I came to feminism, actually, because I had such bad experiences coming out, and I really wanted to read about lesbian issues but was too afraid to check books out of the local library as my mom is a librarian who definitely does “snoop” on my library card! So, I decided to check out general books on feminism, in the hopes they would talk about lesbianism.

    To be honest, they didn’t. Not really. (Though they didn’t have any of the books that I consider my favorites–Radical Feminism by Barbara Crow, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, and many more).

    But, I found I was much more interested in *women’s issues* than in issues concerning just lesbians–which were inevitably NOT issues concerning just lesbians, but the whole GLBT propaganda.

    Speaking of which….all the lesbian groups that I am part of in my area–and there are many–also do things with men, or are LBT, just mostly lesbian. And lesbian is always, always, always defined by who you fuck!!! I had to smile when I read Heart’s comment re: women who are just into fucking women actually *fucking* women—so true!!

    satsuma, do you know how “LGBT” began? I am not sure, and if you do know, or could direct me to reading on that issue, I would appreciate it.

    How did it become a force on college campuses–and in the mainstream “gay rights movement”, I would add? I don’t know. But to be honest, it REALLY seems to be the only alternative that lesbians have if they want to be part of a movement; it is what’s “out there.” Lesbian-feminism is underground. Totally.

    And the womyn in these LGBT or LBT groups have been so brainwashed into thinking men MUST be an important part of our groups, even how we word things.

    I was actually told in an intro to women’s studies class that the feminist movement does not need to concentrate on “lesbian issues” because “there is another movement for that.”

    And yet would choose “women’s issues” over plain lesbian issues anyday. It is important to me, though, just to be in an enviornment that’s very supportive of lesbians, whether that is an environment that is almost entirely lesbian inhabited, or a mixture of both straight and gay men and women, who don’t give a damn about who you feel most affectionate to.
    And that’s not to say I don’t enjoy–or even need–very lesbian-centric writing and womyn sometimes–I love that/them! Just like sometimes it is easier to be with people or read writing by people who identify with you or your background on certain issues, sometimes I just want a break.

    Mostly, it doesn’t matter whether that break is with womyn who are lesbian or heterosexual womyn who I will listen to and will listen back.

    satsuma, I really didn’t “get” your comment re: heterosexual women not experiencing the oppression that lesbian womyn and gay men experience. It is true that there are differences, and gay men are definitely oppressed due to their sexuality, but my main fear when I’m out walking or taking public transportation or on a college campus is getting raped. And this has to do with me being a woman, not me being lesbian. I personally feel I have much more in common with womyn, whether lesbian, bi, or heterosexual, than I do with gay men. I don’t know that you are disagreeing, but I really don’t think hetersexual womyn have it easier than gay men…or at least it is fair to say neither of them have it easy.

    There was something else–a lot of something’s!–I wanted to say–but I am going through an experience now that is really effecting my memory (too much information?), much to my grant disgruntle, so I cannot even recall what it was.

    But Donna, thank you for this post. If I had the chance to get to know you, I’d love to hear about your experiences, especially in the religious group you were in (something not really touched upon in the comment section).

    I’ll end with a quote from a spoken word artist I’ve been listening to quite a bit lately–Alix Olson. It’s from her song, “Witches.” She says, “real Witch magic is just Sister’s loving each other.”

    I love that line–we really ARE unstoppable when we stop believing that, yes, sticks, and stones, hurt, but words can leave damage, too, and we all must work together to dismantle this male supremicist knot.

    Posted by Laur | March 15, 2008, 3:38 am
  15. I need to own being deeply offended by this kind of comment, a lesbian attitude about straight women I’ve encountered so many times that it made me write a response here in the first place (this being from part of what Satsuma said above):

    “I often feel sorry for them. They are stuck with men in their personal relationships. They marry men, then men turn on them and beat the hell out of them.”

    I’m nowhere near perfect, but these are not the types of things I say about lesbians. I see us all in the same struggle *in some ways*, in that we’re female and with that comes some inherent subordination that we all have to figure out how to navigate sometimes daily or by the hour. I may partner with men, but that doesn’t mean I need pity – I could choose to be alone or live with women in non-sexual relationships and my life would be fine, probably even quite nice. For me, I see that kind of comment as leading into dangerous territory. Can people of color then not partner with whites without needing our sympathy?

    I’m definitely not trying to pick out little issues, and I understand I’m taking one comment of many and dissecting it, but it was the thing that stood out to me the most, something I couldn’t stop coming back to. I’d love to come to the best feminist party with the best food but not if some people will shake their heads and think “poor thing” because I go home to a man, who, as Heart pointed out, may be more aligned with those of us in these kinds of spaces than many of the men in the LGBT movement. I firmly agree that straight feminists, myself included, do not do enough work on lesbian issues, and I don’t personally know how hurtful that must be, though I believe it is and respect Satsuma’s very real thoughts on the matter and will continue to digest them nondefensively. I just want to be honest that in having these kinds of conversations, we all may say hurtful things before we come to some sort of resolution.

    Posted by b | March 15, 2008, 4:09 am
  16. Whoops! My comment was meant for another thread and seems way out of place here. Heart can you please delete. When I post, my computer does wacky things. Sometimes I get an error message. Sometimes I get taken back the home page. I end up sending multiple times and (clearly) getting all confused as to what thread I started in. My humble apologies.

    Posted by Tami | March 15, 2008, 5:30 pm
  17. Tami, I deleted the one in this thread and approved the one you commented to the right thread that ended up in spam. I think WordPress might be wonky right now– a couple times I’ve ended up double-commenting and I have no idea why, and I’ve read that there is some issue in the WP forum. Anyway, it’s in the right spot. 🙂

    Posted by womensspace | March 15, 2008, 6:09 pm
  18. Satsuma, you make a lot of good points, and I agree that hetero/bisexual women need to work on lesbian issues. Especially since lesbians are, as you explained, the driving force of the feminist movement. But, I want to point out that reproductive justice is important for all women. I know two lesbians who have needed abortions. One was raped by family members during her childhood and teenage years, and the other knew she was a lesbian but was “experimenting”. There are also other ways lesbians can have unwanted pregnancies. Teen lesbians sometimes feel pressured to escape bigotry and violence by hiding their identity and having sex with boys. Sometimes lesbians realize or accept that they are lesbians after they have been married to a man, and a woman might get pregnant at just that point and need an abortion to leave the relationship. Really, any female who is fertile might need an abortion at some time.

    Posted by Myrrh | March 15, 2008, 8:36 pm
  19. Lar,

    I agree with you about radical feminism. We think there may have been a golden age of it, but really it has always been the least popular of all the feminisms out there. And radical lesbian feminism is hated by all the groups, except a few very brave women on here, and occasionally at a lesbian archives open house🙂 We are actually relics of a past even most straight women know little about.

    How are gay men and lesbians oppressed far more than straight women? Well, let’s see — we have the worship of hetersoexual marriage, we have gay men who have their children taken away from them in divorces, and we had and are still having the AIDS epidemic. Remember how many gay men died of AIDS before straight people gave a damn? Remember all those deaths that you were too busy to care about?

    If you were living under a rock in the early 80s to the early 90s, then you might have missed a small contingent of women in New York City who were fighting to get AIDS information out to women. Gay men were helping with this.

    When lesbians needed funding, gay men were often there with the funds and the inside muscle.

    How did LGBT take , when women’s studies was just getting off the ground, lesbians were marginalized by straight women not wanting to endanger their chances of tenure. They thought researching Abigail Adams would get them a little farther than supporting Mary Daly. I’m being a little tongue in cheek here, but look at what actually happened.

    In many gay and lesbian organizations, women and men have 50-50 in terms of control and numbers in groups. We have buildings and centers that required a combined effort to buy the real estate in the first place. Straight people were not handing out money to gays and lesbians back then. Bill Clinton was the very first presidential candidate who even came and talked to our community directly and openly. His timing was good; it was just before AIDS cocktails came on the scene and saved the lives of a lot of my friends. When I mention all those funerals on this site, I am met with silence always.

    Back in the days when most straight churches would not perform commitment ceremonies for lesbians and gay men, UFMCC -Metropolitan Community Church was doing this — a gay and lesbian denomination that has been on the forefront of fighting the religious right, and creating a gay and lesbian theology. Nancy Wilson was leading lesbian activists in MCC.

    Straight women have a very hard time with out lesbians. I have trouble with them all the time. They are fearful and timid.
    Is rape the same issue for radical lesbian ax carrying women like me? No it’s not. I’ve beaten men to pulp, I make a very scary person to encounter in parking garages at night, and most men are quite afraid of me. When I’m out walking in the woods, men just move out of the way, or go down a different path. They do not want to cross me. I don’t think straight women are able to display the violence and aggression that I show men to make them get the hell out of my way on dark streets at night. Straight women often don’t even know how to access anger; they seem numb to it or just plain too afraid to make a scene in public.

    LGBT arose out of the AIDS epidemic I think. The horror of it and what I saw in straight people during it, probably has a resonance with all the white civil rights workers in the south in freedom summer who encountered the KKK.

    Lar says:
    “Speaking of which….all the lesbian groups that I am part of in my area–and there are many–also do things with men, or are LBT, just mostly lesbian. And lesbian is always, always, always defined by who you fuck!!! I had to smile when I read Heart’s comment re: women who are just into fucking women actually *fucking* women—so true!!”

    I am not a “sex lesbian” I am a militant political lesbian. There is a huge difference. We are a different species entirely.
    Militant meaning I am not afraid to plain out offend everyone if that’s what it takes for my freedom. It means I won’t bow down to heteronormative reality. It means to a certain extent that I’ve grown indifferent in the face of such unexamined homophobia on the part of straight people in general.

    We have lesbian only groups, and we have mixed LGBT groups, and there are some all gay male groups where I am welcome as well. I tend to think that the ideal is single gender settings. Probably because this was the social norm in Japan, and I really liked this. We have private meetings now. Lesbians have to pass muster before they get to come to the private groups. We had trouble with straight women “experimenting” with lesbians and infiltrating lesbian space, just as we’ve had problems with pre and post op MTF “lesbians” who seem to think having sex with women is the ultimate goal in life. Lesbians then have sex with these altered men! Sickening but it actually happens more than you’d think. So that’s why a lot of women are having difficulty finding the lesbians these days. A lot of us got sick of the watering down of our issues by women who weren’t educated or didn’t have much political experience.

    I found that most straight women can’t stomach my aggressive political nature, and a lot of lesbians are freaked out by my radical feminism. So I’ve carved out this strange social territory that simply makes me feel wholely myself.

    I can’t speak for other lesbians or other straight women really.

    Straight women just didn’t make enough effort in the lesbian revolution. They wanted our labor on behalf of abortion rights and birth control and battered women’s shelters. They made use of our spaces that were the renaissance of lesbians — Michigan, women’s land collectives, Olivia records and more…
    When lesbians demanded political payback, well, straight women pretty much dropped the ball. Suddenly they were too busy raising children, or too busy with day care, or too busy with a job and a husband. Straight women seem to be awfully busy all the time it seems. They’d get boyfriends and just drop out! We got tired of this. We were committed to women’s freedom and we were not interested in heterosexuality.

    Lesbians simply kept going and refining our politics and building new allinaces.

    Almost every gay man I knew in San Francisco over the age of say 45 had lost a child. They rarely if ever talked about what had happened to them in divorce court. This is an invisible thing. You should see how awful straight women in charge of adoptions are to gay men. Anytime we have a gender non-normative behavior you have two sets of gender police: gay men are oppressed by straight men, lesbians are oppressed by straight women. We each have police to deal with.

    Lesbians are thought to be useful political objects for other people’s battles, and one reason may be because we make good foot soldiers. Once upon a time, every lesbian I knew was taking martial arts classes or opening karate schools, for example. We thought a good way to deal with potential rape was to train for warfare, and to actually take down offending men in battle. This is not something that straight women want to be a part of. They don’t have this kind of anger and rage, and they are too horrified by “violence” to get their hands dirty.

    These stories will be lost to herstory. Straight women will burn these accounts and destroy our journals, and wipe up out of recent herstory. We won’t know this stuff, because the foot soldiers of hertory aren’t really celebrated.

    Where are the parades for the women who punched out men? Where are the statues to the lesbian warriors? Where is the celebration of lesbian labor?

    I guess straight women think that they just want to walk anywhere at night, and not have to fight back.

    Most lesbians today are too horrified by these ideas– young women just wanna have fun these days.

    The whole truth and the whole story has yet to be told.

    There maybe a significant difference in how I see the world, compared to a lot of assimilating lesbians. I am not an assimilationist. I don’t goo goo and gaaa gaaa over babies. I hate the social world that seems to attract so many women these days.

    My worldview is rather unique. I just wanted more freedom than the average woman. I hated my oppressors the straight men, and I thought that women should organize for war. The war on behalf of women. Now how you define war— well let’s get creative here.

    Straight women make very fine feminists. But I do believe you will pull your punches if you have to go home to men in your own home, or raise sons. These conflicts of interest will cause you to pull back just a little, or to not want to fight quite as hard. In all sincereity you will believe you are doing the right thing, and you are. But it’s not the world I want at all. I want so much more than that, and someday, we will get a lesbian country. And men will not be allowed in this land. We’ll build up a new Atlantis, and then some straight woman will beg and plead and we’ll, in a moment of weakness, let the cute little boy in, and then another one will come in, and then….

    This happened throughout herstory women, you were free once…but you have forgotten….

    Posted by Satsuma | March 16, 2008, 12:29 am
  20. “and I agree that hetero/bisexual women need to work on lesbian issues. ” Myrr

    What issues specifically do you want to “work” on?

    As for abortion, lesbians by the gazillions have been in abortion rights activism. Gazillions… reproductive rights is a big issue.

    But it’s not something I have ever cared about, and I’m just being honest here. My abilities are in helping women get promotions, making more money and buying property. My expertise is in the world of work, not the world of the home.

    So I focus on what I’m good at. Anything to do with reproduction bores the living hell out of me. It just does, nothing personal. I’m sure my life would bore most women here🙂 We’re all bores in our own inner worlds to all the outer worlds🙂🙂

    “I know two lesbians who have needed abortions…” Myrr said this. Excellent. Lesbians are working on abortion rights all the time. Heck we work on everybody’s issues all the time.

    Now I am only working on my issues, and they are about work place, taxation, and a male free environment. If straight women want more money and promotions, I’m there to help. Childcare, forget about it. I’m sure other lesbians love doing work with children, but I’m not that type.

    I fight for child free neighborhoods and restaurants. I want them out of my sight.

    I have strong alliances with women who have never had children, and we seem to get along very very well. If women have children, they are too busy for friendship or anything else. Their time is limited.

    Lesbians work for everyone and anything, very few people choose to work on our issues. Out lesbians who have never ever had sex with men and who have never ever had anything to do with men are very rare out there. I consider myself one of the last of the purists.

    Lesbians who work on lesbian issues — it takes a lot of gumption to say Lesbians come first! Just as women freak out here when I say VOTE for WOMEN FIRST— WOMEN first in the election. It’s controversial to say that only women count and only women get our support even here.

    It’ll be a long long time for women to get freedom because we’re so damn busy doing other things for other people.

    Posted by Satsuma | March 16, 2008, 12:44 am
  21. What issues specifically do you want to “work” on?

    The only way I can think of to understand what this question is supposed to mean is that it seems to be an underhanded, sneaky insinuation that I must have just now suddenly decided to start doing activism on issues that affect lesbians. It is one thing to say that heterosexual women as a group have tended to forget or not want to be associated with lesbians in their feminist activism and another thing to say that no heterosexual woman could ever, possibly have done any activism for lesbians. I would say correct me if I’m wrong, that this is what you are saying, but at this point I don’t want to wade into this vicious hatefest again. I could give a laundry list of my activism that has included activism for lesbian rights and promotion of lesbian thinkers over my past 20 years of activism, but I didn’t come here to congratulate myself nor to have my activism judged.

    No, heterosexual (and I guess you’re including hetero-bisexual women too) are not perfect. But, if anyone thinks that we have never, ever done anything to be allies with lesbians, just ask the lesbian women at Camp Sister Spirit. Heterosexual women and men and gay men reached out to them in greater numbers than did lesbians when they were under attack.

    Posted by Myrrh | March 16, 2008, 11:27 pm
  22. So in other words, you went to camp sister spirit and protected them from the local homophobes. Good job!

    Posted by Satsuma | March 17, 2008, 6:05 am

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