The Furies #1 front cover

The Furies #1 front cover

Edited by the Furies Collective
Published in 1972 by the Furies Collective

Most of the materials I find and review on this site come into my possession in a rather ordinary way – I either purchase them online or at a bookstore. Not so with this radical lesbian feminist newspaper.

After several hours of driving back home from a much needed vacation, I decided that visiting the roadside antique store would be a nice respite from the otherwise dreary drive.  By chance, the store we stopped at was going out of business and had everything on sale for half off.  The store’s inventory was the ordinary collection of old furniture, miscellaneous household items, and so on that make antique shopping a rather rote activity.  As I looked through the miscellany, I did not expect there would be anything that would raise the ire of even the most devoted Pentecostal, so I was completely surprised when I came across this yellowed newspaper.  I couldn’t help but wonder how the paper made the journey through the years and miles to be in my hands.  I came up with no fewer than a dozen possible scenarios some of which bordered on conspiracy theories.

Imagining the newspaper’s journey reminded of the cheesy soft core movie Secrets of the Satin Blues.  I saw it on late night cable many years ago.  The movie’s premise is that there is a magical pair of blue panties that turn any woman wearing them into a sex-crazed nymphet.  The movie follows the panties as they change from woman to woman.  Thinking back on that movie, I can’t help but wonder what sort of woman upon finding a mysterious pair of panties decides to try them on?  I have never seen a used pair of underwear and wondered what they might feel like on.   My thought upon finding used underwear is usually “gross.”

Whether or not The Furies followed a path similar to the skanky panties of Secrets of the Satin Blues I will never know, but I am inclined to imagine the route they took was more than likely rather boring.

But I digress. The Furies newspaper was published by the Furies collective.  In many ways a product of its time, the collective lived communally.  According to one account I read, the collective practiced a unique form of free love where everyone in the collective had sex with each other.  The collective also strove to be at the vanguard of a new lesbian feminist movement that rejected middle class hetero-centric patriarchal values.

One of the more interesting things about The Furies is that it is undeniably the product of all the values its creators strove to reject.  While the tone should rightly be regarded as a reaction against the prevalent culture of women’s magazine, the content mirrors women’s magazines throughout time.  For instance, the article “Women: Weak or Strong” while starting out as advocating self-defense for women quickly descends into championing the beauty  of what is commonly known as a butch look. It really isn’t too far afield from the beauty tips a traditional women’s magazine might offer for attracting men.  The article devoted to gossip is similarly predictable.

One very interesting thing about The Furies is how it affirmed (and doubtlessly helped form) many negative stereotypes lesbians and feminists as man-hating crazies.  Consider for instance the following from the article “Such a Nice Girl”:

Only after I had kicked out my husband did I see how much heterosexuality had blocked my real understanding of men and male supremacy.  I could let myself remember the disgust I had initially felt about fucking. I realized that every fuck is a rape even if it feels nice because every man has power and privilege over women, whether he uses it blatantly or subtly.  My “liberated” husband kept me down not by violence but by making me feel guilty.  He wanted me to be a strong woman as long as my main worries were about his feelings, problems, and “oppression”. In a conversation, when the guilt tactic no longer worked on me, he sat in disbelief, and I saw him consider whether to fall back on the male power which he had always had in reserve.  As a heterosexual I had always had to double-think, “well, my man is an exception” every time I got close to the truth, that male supremacy is the source of all oppression, and that every man benefits from it.  As a lesbian I have begun to experience how it will be fundamentally different as women begin to build our own world. As long as I gave energies to my man, I had not experienced that tremendous difference.

“Every fuck is a rape”!?   Really?  There are so many levels of lunacy in that statement that it’s hard to figure out where to begin.  The good news for sick fucks like me is that if every sex act between a man and a woman is a rape, my own predilection for fusing sex with violence is completely normal.  Actually I find the idea of being normal far more disconcerting than I find the idea of being a freak but….

The notion that all sex between men and women is rape raises all sorts of troubling questions.  If a woman cannot have the freedom to make poor decisions how can she ever hope to have any sort of self-determination?  This is really the crux of the problem with The Furies: rather than subverting the paternalism the contributors condemn, they merely want to replace the paternalists with themselves.  One cannot help but be reminded of the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm wearing the farmer’s clothes.

Nonetheless, if you can set aside these shortcomings and read The Furies as primary source that documents the history of the gay and lesbian movement there is much to appreciate.  If you would like to read this issue of The Furies, it and several other issues are available online from the Rainbow History Project at http://www.rainbowhistory.org/furies.htm