‘Intellectual Acid’:Cultural Resistance, Cultural Citizenship, and Emotional (Counter)Community in the Freewoman

  • M. Sage Milo York University


This article explores the Freewoman’s relation to culture, as well as its role as a countercultural periodical — one that resisted hegemonic ideas and styles — and in the creation of an emotional (counter)community. It follows Raymond Williams’s understanding of culture as having two senses: one is ‘a whole way of life’ — everyday practices — the other arts and other creative endeavours. The Freewoman was cultivating a view of feminism as a way of life that encompassed both these meanings, as its editor, Dora Marsden, encouraged the expression of both traditional and novel perspectives, working to connect everyday life to a vision of a feminist, perhaps utopian, future. My focus here is on three main ideas of culture and community under Williams’s general framework of ‘culture’: cultural resistance and counterculture, cultural citizenship, and emotional countercommunity. These aspects of the Freewoman were central to its feminist politics, and I offer that attention to emotions and emotional communities can enrich our understanding of periodicals and their political workings.

Author Biography

M. Sage Milo, York University
M. Sage Milo is a PhD Candidate in the Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist, and Women’s Studies at York University, Toronto. Their doctoral research explores the Freewoman’s resistance to and diversification of early-twentieth-century feminism. It examines the periodical as an emotional countercommunity, its discussions of nonnormative
sexualities, and the deliberate and reflexive use of features of the periodical as a genre, to construct an alternative feminist politics. They have also published on the discussions about women’s education in the Freewoman in Feral Feminisms (www.feralfeminisms.com), and on US homophile magazines in the 1950s and 60s in the Journal of Homosexuality and on the public-history website Outhistory (outhistory.org/exhibits/show/us-homophile).
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