“She Who Shouts Gets Heard!” Lesbian Learning and Societal Learnings

What do lesbians learn from one another? How do we learn from each other? What is the role of learning in our lives? The current issue of Sinister Wisdom grapples with these questions. As the issue has published, in addition to these questions, I have been thinking about what society learns about lesbians and lesbians’ participation in and contributions to our communities over time.

The patriarchal model of learning is that children learn from elders. There is truth and value in that model; children do learn from elders and there is much for children to learn—and for young people to learn from people who are older than them. A fundamental insight of feminism, however, is that the patriarchal models do not tell us the full story.

Learning is a reciprocal, life-long process. Elders learn from young people who bring new experiences and new knowledges to us all. Learning is multifaceted and continuous; all of us at every different age learn together and from one another. Sinister Wisdom 115: Lesbian Learning embraces this feminist insight and brings together voices that invite us to think, learn and grow together. 

In the late spring of 2019, we learned that Sinister Wisdom was a finalist for a Firecracker Award. The Firecracker Awards for Independently Published Literature “celebrate books and magazines that make a sparkling contribution to our literary culture and the publishers that strive to introduce important voices to readers far and wide.” The awards are given by the Community of Literary Magazines and Publishers (CLMP). I have been submitted all of the issues of the journal each year for the awards.

In part, I want to support CLMP, which is an important advocacy organization for the small press community, but also because I believe in the excellence of our publishing, and I believe that it is as excellent as many of the other august literary magazines that are recognized each year. This year, Sinister Wisdom was a finalist. I was thrilled and deeply honored.

Being recognized as a finalist puts Sinister Wisdom in a longer and larger conversation with feminist publishers and the independent publishing organization. In 1979, CCLM (the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, the predecessor organization of CLMP) awarded an editor fellowship to the iconic lesbian-feminist journal Conditions. In a letter to readers of Conditions, the three editors, Elly Bulkin, Jan Clausen and Rima Shore, noted that the “feminist protest following the announcement of the 1979 awards no doubt had an impact on the decision-making process.”

The first round of editor fellowship were awarded to all men; Maureen Owen, the only woman on the CCLM board of directors, received appeals from Adrienne Rich and Ellen Marie Bissert demanding change. For the Conditions editors, the award “represents the only substantial payment we have received, or seem likely to receive, for our editorial work, and we were greatly encouraged by it.” Owen acknowledged the importance of the protests saying, they “strengthened my position on the board at CCLM and the position of women editors and writers in general. She who shouts, get heard!”

Forty years later, Sinister Wisdom echoes these sentiments, and appreciates this acknowledgement of our work from the community of independent publishers. Owen’s words remain true: “She who shouts, gets heard!” Women, lesbians and other marginalized voices shout to be heard; we also whisper and sing and write and publish.

Sinister Wisdom is pleased to be a part of this literary community, thrilled for the recognition of being one of the ten finalists—in such amazing company. This award also reflects societal learning about the value of lesbian literature and arts not only for lesbians but for everyone. 


Julie R. Enszer is a scholar and poet. She's currently the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. Julie's research has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern CulturesJournal of Lesbian StudiesAmerican PeriodicalsWSQFrontiers and other journals; she is the author of the poetry collections AvowedLilith’s DemonsSisterhood and Handmade Love and the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry.