Lesbian and Feminist Activisms in the Americas: Contested Notions of Solidarity and Citizenship in the Neo-liberal Reagan Era

AHA Session 96
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 3
Friday, January 7, 2011: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Suffolk Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Margot Canaday, Princeton University
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel will compare lesbian and feminist activisms, transnational organizing, and Cold War Politics in Mexico and the United States during the late 1970s and the Reagan era. Focusing on activism in the San Francisco Bay area and in Mexico City, both respective national centers of lesbian and feminist organizing, presenters will address contested notions of lesbian sexual citizenship, questions of transnational ties, as well as divisions within lesbian and feminist communities and within the broader left in both locations. Responding to the perceived threat of the Nicaraguan revolution as well as to global economic recession during this conservative time period, the U.S. and Mexican governments cracked down on both socialist/communist and sexuality activisms. Yet, some feminist and lesbian activists sought accommodation through the nation-state while others challenged mainstream conceptions of feminism and lesbianism and worked in solidarity with Nicaraguans and gays and lesbians organizing against political repression in Mexico. International organizations for lesbian and gay rights formed and gained ground throughout the late 1970s and 1980s despite the global preponderance of conservative politics as well as internal disagreements within lesbian and gay communities over political priorities. Presenters will consider the racial, national, gender, sexual, and class dynamics that arose within these lesbian and feminist struggles for solidarity, both on national and international levels. Aimed for an audience of scholars of Latin American, U.S., and gender/sexuality history, this panel will make contributions to the transnational history of lesbian and feminist activism and to the study of the Reagan era and the resurgence of Cold War politics. In her paper, “Re-Thinking Second Wave Feminism's ‘Sex Wars,” Claire Bond Potter will offer a revisionist perspective on the “sex wars” of the late 1970s and early 1980s in San Francisco, focusing on questions of lesbian sexual citizenship under Reaganism. Also examining solidarities and conflicts within lesbian activist communities in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1980s, Emily Hobson will discuss the dynamics of lesbian participation in solidarity activism with Nicaragua, giving particular attention to race and class tensions and their effects in her paper “Embracing Our Sisters in Solidarity”: Revolutionary Nicaragua, Reagan-Era San Francisco, and Transnational Lesbian Possibility.” In “Challenging ‘Moral Renovation:' Lesbian Activism and the 1982 Economic Crisis in Mexico,” Lucinda Grinnell will also consider Mexican lesbian activists' participation in international revolutionary social movements and global organizations for gay and lesbian rights. Within this context, she will focus on lesbian responses to Mexican “moral renovation” campaigns begun in 1982 that specifically targeted lesbian and gay activism as dissident. Finally, this panel will benefit greatly from both audience comments as well as those provided by the panel chair Margot Canaday and esteemed commentator, Jim Green. Canaday and Green's expertise in transnational gay and lesbian history will add regional breadth to the panel as well as legal, socio-historical perspectives on these political/movement histories.

See more of: AHA Sessions