this shirt is bright

The ironically named Second Congress to Unite Women took place at an intermediate school in Chelsea during the weekend of May 1-3, 1970. I will never forget the intensity of the emotions that were released at the Congress—some of them directed specifically toward me.

Two dozen “Lavender Menace” T-shirts had been dyed and silk-screened at Ellen Broidy’s apartment. Even counting the Vassar students who were coming down for the action (Rita Mae had read her poetry at Vassar to great effect), the Radicalesbians did not expect to exceed that number. Ellen Shumsky got a shirt with scrunched-up letters. Artemis March, arriving with her cartons of “The Woman-Identified Woman,” got stuck with a shirt that came out bright fuchsia. On Friday morning Michela Griffo and Jessica Falstein talked their way into the school, claiming they had been sent by NOW to check out the auditorium’s light board.

Four hundred women were in their seats for the Friday night opening session, listening to the welcoming address, when Michela, hiding backstage, shouted, “Jessie, the lights!”

The auditorium was plunged into darkness. When the lights went back on, seventeen Lavender Menaces were on the stage and Martha Shelley had grabbed the microphone. Posters lined the sides of the hall: TAKE A LESBIAN TO LUNCH. LAVENDER JANE LOVES YOU. WE ARE ALL LESBIANS. LESBIANISM IS A WOMEN’S LIBERATION PLOT.

Jennifer Woodul, one of the Vassar students, watched in amazement as women unknown to the planners climbed onto the stage to join them. Others, some very well known to them, simply got up from their seats and formed an orderly line down below at the open mike. Sidney Abbott watched Ivy Bottini of NOW slowly made her way down the aisle. Then she spotted Kate Millett.

“I know what this oppression is all about—I’ve lived it,” Millett said softly when it was her turn at the microphone.

The Lavender Menaces held forth for two hours that night, and conducted consciousness-raising workshops during the next two days of the conference. Artemis March sold out her supply of “The Woman-Identified Woman.” A bunch of women, straight and gay, caroused happily on Saturday night at an all-women’s dance at the Church of the Holy Apostles. Lesbians would be silent no longer in the women’s movement.
—  Susan Brownmiller, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution

Monday 8:27am
I woke up with you on my mind.
You called me babe last night —
my heart is still pounding.

Tuesday 10:53pm
Today I realized we won’t work.
What we are is hurting her.
And I think she matters more to me than you do.

Wednesday 11:52pm
I broke things off with you today.
She barely said a word.
I’ve never regretted anything more than this.

Thursday 4:03pm
I shouldn’t have sent that message.
You shouldn’t have been so okay with receiving it.

Friday 9:57pm
I almost messaged you today.
I didn’t.

Saturday 8:49pm
I’m walking around town in search of alcohol.
They say that liquor numbs the pain of having a broken heart.
I want to put that to the test.

Sunday 2:32am
I heard you texted a girl you’ve never spoken to before.
I wonder if it’s because you’re trying to replace me.
I can’t help but wish you weren’t.
I thought I was irreplaceable.

—  a week with you on my mind, c.j.n.
Move on, leave, run away, escape this place… but don’t forget about me, about us, about this town. Always remember where you come from so you can appreciate how far you’ve come.
—  c.j.n.