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date: 21 January 2020

Women’s music [womyn’s music]locked

  • Eileen M. Hayes


“Women’s music,” or “womyn’s music” is productively understood as a site of women’s thinking about music, a context for the enactment of lesbian-feminist politics and notions of community. The term refers to a geographically dispersed network that arose from performances organized and produced by white lesbian, lesbian-feminist, and feminist musicians and activists and was extended through their subsequent founding of Olivia Records and other women’s music recording and distribution companies in the early 1970s. Women’s music was part and parcel of “women’s culture,” fueled by lesbian energies, that was associated with the radical feminist—as opposed to liberal feminist—politics of the period. Women identifying themselves as “radical” and as lesbian-feminists envisioned transformation, rather than reform, of American society.

Toni Armstrong Jr., the editor of HOTWIRE, an important women’s music journal from the mid-1980s to 1994, described women’s music as “music by, for, about, and financially controlled by women.” In the aftermath of the dissolution of the women’s music recording and distribution industry, women’s music festivals are the legacy of what was formerly known as the women’s music movement. These events are open to women identifying variously as lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual; the audiences, as well as the musicians, are mostly lesbian. Among the central figures of women’s music are white musicians Holly Near, Margie Adam, Alix Dobkin, Maxine Feldman, Meg Christian, and Cris Williamson; often, the name of one of these artists is invoked to reference an era that many maintain has passed. Black musicians include Sweet Honey in the Rock, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, and Mary Watkins, among many others....

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