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Reviewed by:
  • Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism
  • Georgina Hickey
Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism. By Anne Enke . Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. Pp. 392. $84.95 (cloth); $23.95 (paper).

Anne Enke's study of feminism in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-Saint Paul), Chicago, and Detroit in the 1970s places the movement in a new light. In Finding the Movement, Enke spatializes and localizes feminist activism and the gender and sexual identities bound up with the movement, arguing that space was both a goal of the movement as well as a determinant in its development. Looking at local environments where feminism happened, according to Enke, also opens the door to seeing the "less explicit, uncanonized, popular activism" that fueled the movement (13). This is a book about women who wandered in and out of the feminist movement, about women who felt welcome and those who did not, and about the institutions and spaces that connected, grounded, and shaped the movement.

Much of the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s was about "intervening in established public spaces and . . . creating new kinds of spaces" (5). Feminists challenged many of the gendered norms of public space, created "women-only" commercial and alternative social spaces, and demanded access to institutions, civic space, and public accommodations that had formerly excluded women. Feminists sought an end to dress codes, created women's coffeehouses, and fought their way into the formerly male domains of public ball fields, for example. That feminists both sought to open up the marketplace for women (such as claiming bars as lesbian space) and hoped to build an alternative marketplace in the form of institutions that served women testifies to the nonunified nature of the movement overall. In carefully constructed chapters that juxtapose similar issues and institutions in different cities, Enke ably demonstrates how much place mattered in how these efforts unfolded and the way in which laws, neighbors, property rights, zoning codes, neighborhoods, architecture, and transportation shaped feminism as much as abstract ideology. [End Page 623]

The specifics varied markedly by location, but women in all four cities battled for inclusion into the existing urban marketplace, particularly sites of leisure. Similarly, women also embraced the creation of new businesses to meet women's (and the movement's) needs. With more idealism than business sense, most of the women who stepped bravely into the world of entrepreneurship did so out of the belief that "the existence of feminist commercial venues would benefit women, improve their status in the public world, and even change the marketplace itself" (63). These commercial ventures often served as vital resources in nurturing networks of movement activists, disseminated the ideology of the movement, and obscured traditional boundaries when it came to goods and services, public and private. The Pride and Prejudice bookstore in Chicago, for example, sold printed material but also offered pregnancy testing and referred women to Jane, the local underground abortion service. In Detroit, where there were many feminists but few spaces for meeting and socializing, a small group of women created Poor Woman's Paradise, a commercial coffeehouse but one that drew upon a leftist tradition of voluntary and transitory coffeehouses.

Challenging the scholarly literature that has taken an identity politics approach to 1970s feminism, Enke argues that personal, organizational, and ideological tensions did not happen in the abstract but in particular spaces and where the movement actually "took place" (220). Rather than merely accept the whiteness of organized feminism, for example, Enke looks at the physical location of key movement institutions, such as the Feminist Women's Health Collective in Detroit, to explain how existing uses and perceptions of urban space helped to re-create racial hierarchies within feminist organizations. Even when the feminist activists involved generally hoped to create "free space" or "women's space" for women, the process of articulating the function and audience for the place as well as the physical location of the space privileged some sexual, class, and racial identities over others.

Similarly, Enke uses a spatial analysis to shed light on the "gay-straight split" in 1970s feminism. By looking at the spaces where the movement happened, it becomes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-3605
Print ISSN
1043-4070
Pages
pp. 623-625
Launched on MUSE
2011-08-31
Open Access
No
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