The boy-child in Australian lesbian feminist discourse and community

Rebecca Jennings*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


With the development of second wave feminism and the emergence of an increasingly visible and articulate community of lesbians within feminist circles in the 1970s, an influential strand of radical feminism began to advocate separatism as a political strategy for lesbians. Simultaneously, the Australian women’s movement was opening up a space in which it was possible to acknowledge the dual role of some women as lesbians and as mothers, and a small minority of lesbians were using artificial insemination and other methods to conceive children in the context of lesbian relationships. The coexistence of these two strands of lesbian feminist thought gave rise to a new issue: that of the place of the boy-child in lesbian feminist ideology and communities. Drawing on oral history interviews and archival research, this article explores the debate about boy children in Australian lesbian feminist circles in the 1970s and 1980s. A range of views were expressed, from the suggestion that boy children presented an opportunity to raise a new generation of pro-feminist men, to the view that the boy child threatened women’s autonomy and need for sisterhood. This article traces the development of these arguments and considers the impact of the debate on the mothers of boys, their boy-children and the broader lesbian feminist community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-79
Number of pages17
JournalCultural and Social History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016


  • Australian feminism
  • Boy children
  • Lesbian motherhood
  • Lesbian separatism


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