Abstract

With the publication of the first paperback originals and the founding of the first lesbian civil rights organization in the first half of the 1950s, the lesbian politics of representation emerged as a distinct and articulate political discourse. Ann Aldrich, probably the most widely-read lesbian non-fiction writer of the 1950s, and members of the Daughters of Bilitis, the most visible lesbian organization of the era, engaged in a lively debate that spanned nearly ten years, from 1955 until at least 1963. Emerging from the exchange, which often was quite contentious, were new ideas about how lesbianism should be portrayed to the mainstream American public. But, as this article proposes, from the debates also grew a shared understanding of the complex relationship of media representation to the social processes of identity acquisition and community formation, what is called in this article the politics of communication.

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