No One Wants to Live on Womyn's Lands

Screenshot: HOWL Facebook

The brutally expensive cost of housing in many American cities means that more young people than ever are living with roommates or even in dorm-like setups, which begs the question, how come communes aren’t making a comeback?

A recent New York Times piece asks that question specifically as it pertains to lands across the US owned by and designated specifically for womyn-centric groups created, primarily, as “rural lesbian utopias in the 1960s.” As the founding members of these communities age, they’re having a difficult time finding new members to keep the communities alive. A couple of the younger visitors to these spaces interviewed in the piece are around 35 years old and report often being the youngest in their groups by about two decades.

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The Times interviewed many of the proprietors and residents of the spaces, who provided a lot of possible answers: The communes that once eschewed social media and self-promotion out of privacy concerns are now too behind and too cash-strapped to know where to begin. In places like Vermont, some residents of these international communities believe that not as many people are looking to escape the patriarchy as they once were. Others say it’s easier for lesbians to connect with one another in the world at large than it was 50 years ago.

But one current that seems to run through a lot of the answers given to the Times seems to be that the residents feel cast off and ignored by younger generations of women: “Young women have never wanted to learn from old women,” one resident, who was forced to remain closeted for fear her children would be taken away, told the Times. “We are invisible to them. They’ve always been told that old women are worthless.”

However, the Times doesn’t mention an obvious problem for the communities until the very end of its coverage, most people need money to survive:

And it’s not just about age. These communities were primarily founded by white women, and they continue to occupy them in the greatest numbers. According to Dr. Keridwen Luis, an anthropologist and the author of “Herlands,” some feminists called the alternative living structures a “middle-class response” that low-income women of color simply didn’t have access to.

Women were really, really trying to get away from a capitalist-minded mentality,” Dr. Luis said. “But it does come down to the fundamental problem of, how do you get the land in the first place? That kind of thing shapes the kind of end result of the community that you’ve got.’

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And the article, titled “Why Doesn’t Anyone Want to Live in This Perfect Place?” does not really fully explain who can and cannot live in these communities:

Others take issue with policies that exclude bisexual and transgender women, or fear a group of older women won’t be welcoming. “Younger demographics tend to assume that older generations are less forward-thinking,’” Dr. Luis said.”

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And while the piece names one community that welcomes “anyone who identifies as a woman” and mentions another that has “no formal policy regarding trans women” it doesn’t specifically explain these policies or speak to why they might be detrimental to communities desperately seeking new members. Excluding a longer discussion of these ideas seems like a pretty big oversight in a piece that declares these spaces “perfect” and purports to be investigating why younger people don’t visit them.

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