In queer studies, the lesbian feminist often serves as a figure deserving of derision. A too close past, the 1970s and its women’s and gay liberation movements are not queer enough to get us to the queer future. Challenging this historiography, Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s explores how the sign of the lesbian was taken up by 1970s feminists in their creative and cultural work in broad attempts at reimagining gender and sexual existence. Feminist art, literature, music, and films circulated through feminist communities, encouraging the mass imagination of what being lesbian could come to mean. Rox Samer turns specifically to feminist film and video and feminist science fiction literature, finding them to have facilitated this work of imagination in an exceptional manner. In their queer and trans study of the archives of feminist media cultures, Samer reveals that what “lesbian” signified in the 1970s extended beyond tangible and immediate possibilities to signal the potential to completely reconfigure gendered and sexual life. In the lesbian futures feminist filmmakers, science fiction writers, and their audiences and readers imagined, the creation of the meaning of lesbian existence would not cease but would look, sound, and feel entirely different than it did in the 1970s present. In short, the Lesbian, under the purview of potentiality, becomes a heuristic for illuminating the contingency of history. Lesbian potentiality provides queer studies but also transgender studies and feminist, queer, and transgender media studies with a way of connecting potentialities past and present that neither obfuscates, nor reifies their differences. Samer offers a method of illuminating social movement history that also attends to its privations—the what was and the what could have been. Readers across disciplines are invited to think with the Lesbian’s former futures as they imagine their own futures for today.
Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s will come out with Duke University Press in early 2022.