Bisexuality and the Challenge to Lesbian Politics: Sex, Loyalty, and Revolution

NYU Press
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The subject of bisexuality continues to divide the lesbian and gay community. At pride marches, in films such as Go Fish, at academic conferences, the role and status of bisexuals is hotly contested.
Within lesbian communities, formed to support lesbians in a patriarchal and heterosexist society, bisexual women are often perceived as a threat or as a political weakness. Bisexual women feel that they are regarded with suspicion and distrust, if not openly scorned. Drawing on her research with over 400 bisexual and lesbian women, surveying the treatment of bisexuality in the lesbian and gay press, and examining the recent growth of a self-consciously political bisexual movement, Paula Rust addresses a range of questions pertaining to the political and social relationships between lesbians and bisexual women.
By tracing the roots of the controversy over bisexuality among lesbians back to the early lesbian feminist debates of the 1970s, Rust argues that those debates created the circumstances in which bisexuality became an inevitable challenge to lesbian politics. She also traces it forward, predicting the future of sexual politics.
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About the author

Paula C. Rust is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hamilton College.

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Additional Information

Publisher
NYU Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 1995
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Pages
388
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ISBN
9780814776728
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / LGBT Studies / Lesbian Studies
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This content is DRM protected.
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The weather in Moscow is good, there's no cholera, there's also no lesbian love...Brrr! Remembering those persons of whom you write me makes me nauseous as if I'd eaten a rotten sardine. Moscow doesn't have them--and that's marvellous."
—Anton Chekhov, writing to his publisher in 1895
Chekhov's barbed comment suggests the climate in which Sophia Parnok was writing, and is an added testament to to the strength and confidence with which she pursued both her personal and artistic life. Author of five volumes of poetry, and lover of Marina Tsvetaeva, Sophia Parnok was the only openly lesbian voice in Russian poetry during the Silver Age of Russian letters. Despite her unique contribution to modern Russian lyricism however, Parnok's life and work have essentially been forgotten.
Parnok was not a political activist, and she had no engagement with the feminism vogueish in young Russian intellectual circles. From a young age, however, she deplored all forms of male posturing and condescension and felt alienated from what she called patriarchal virtues. Parnok's approach to her sexuality was equally forthright. Accepting lesbianism as her natural disposition, Parnok acknowledged her relationships with women, both sexual and non-sexual, to be the centre of her creative existence.
Diana Burgin's extensively researched life of Parnok is deliberately woven around the poet's own account, visible in her writings. The book is divided into seven chapters, which reflect seven natural divisions in Parnok's life. This lends Burgin's work a particular poetic resonance, owing to its structural affinity with one of Parnok's last and greatest poetic achievements, the cycle of love lyrics Ursa Major. Dedicated to her last lover, Parnok refers to this cycle as a seven-star of verses, after the seven stars that make up the constellation. Parnok's poems, translated here for the first time in English, added to a wealth of biographical material, make this book a fascinating and lyrical account of an important Russian poet. Burgin's work is essential reading for students of Russian literature, lesbian history and women's studies.
“I am part of the generation that came of age when Bi Any Other Name was already in print. This groundbreaking anthology gave me the language, courage and sense of community I needed as a young queer woman.” —Daisy Hernández, A Cup of Water Under My Bed 

The 25th Anniversary Edition

Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out first debuted in 1991.  This groundbreaking book helped catalyze a national movement for bisexual identity, justice and equality.  Often dubbed “the bisexual bible,” Bi Any Other Name was on Lambda Book Review’s Top 100 GLBT Books of the 20th century and became a beloved reference text in many classrooms, doctors’ offices, libraries, and pulpits. A 2007 Mandarin translation was published in Taiwan. The new 2015 introduction of this book updates readers to the enormous changes the past quarter century has brought – for bi people, the larger society and the sexual rights and liberation movement of which we are a part. 

When did you know? How did you come out?  What was your experience?  The coming out stories in this book speak to the many ways bisexuals embrace realities outside rigid either/or categories throughout the passage of our lives.  Everyday stories of women, men, transgender bisexuals, teenagers to octogenarians, from many different cultures and family arrangements.  The fierce truth of these lives made visible puts a check on bisexual erasure, exposing the binary constructions of gay/straight and male/female as oversimplifications that reduce spectrums to mere opposites.

Caught between the mainstream culture’s persistent discounting of bisexuality, the sensationalizing characterizations presented in media, and the sexual liberation movement’s continual disregard of bisexuality as a serious identity, bisexual people are often not seen or heard when they speak out. There is a vital need for these earnest voices to be heard in the new century. Enormous cultural changes have occurred in the past 25 years, yes, but understanding bisexualities has just begun.

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