RAZZ Pride Icons: Liza Cowan and Penny House

Liza Cowan and Penny House had been best friends since they were four, and in their mid-twenties in 1975 decided to launch DYKE magazine – a quarterly of lesbian culture and analysis. Living in 1970s New York at the time, the pair were in the midst of explorative conversations around lesbian culture, with their magazine following the lesbian separatist ideology. Lesbian separatism mainly followed the ideal of living without men entirely in patriarchy-free, women-only communities. The magazine said “We want to publish a magazine that fulfils our need for analysis, communication and news of Lesbian culture. We believe that “Lesbian culture” presumes a separatist analysis. If Lesbian culture is intermixed with straight culture, it is no longer Lesbian; it is heterosexual or heterosocial because energy and time are going to men”.

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This obviously contained its own issues, namely the inescapability of patriarchy and the prejudices rooted in the movement such as transphobia, racism, and classism when failing to recognise that patriarchy is also an elitist, white supremacy, cis-normative, Western construct. To grow the LGBTQ+ movement today though, it is worth acknowledging the strides that past activists made and evaluating how they fell short in terms of accessibility and inclusivity. To explore this through publications also creates a wider discourse and enables documenting of LGBTQ+ history. The editors of DYKE realised that their community needed a dedicated outlet, and have provided a precedent where we now demand better.

The magazine closed after six issues and now a majority of DYKE’s archives is online, including material on “theoretical politics, live events, place, current and past history, media, fashions, music, home economics, literature, animal lore, health, applied sciences and gossip”. DYKE contained largely personal writing from those relatively inexperienced, showcasing how political writing has a necessity to involve the personal perspective and that publications have an obligation to help develop people’s voices. Oh – and Liza Cowen and Penny House also popularised the phrase “The Future Is Female” which you may have seen on a few t-shirts, insta graphics, and notebooks in recent years…

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Read More: Our Legacy: Six Lesbian Magazines From The Then Before Now – https://www.autostraddle.com/six-lesbian-magazines-that-changed-the-world-and-then-disappeared-140806/ (Quote and Image Source)

DYKE, A Quarterly: Blogging an Online Annotated Archive – https://repository.brynmawr.edu/greenfield_conference/papers/saturday/13/

casting spells for a female future with 70s lesbian separatist liza cowan – https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/kz8k43/casting-spells-for-a-female-future-with-70s-lesbian-separatist-liza-cowan (Image Source)

Charlotte ‘Fozz’ Forrester

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