by Eva Isaksson
What resources, if any, exist for lesbians exploring the Internet? All the general gay newsgroups and mailing lists are open to lesbians, too, and serve for many as an important source for information.
If we keep in mind that while Internet is not hierarchical in the sense we have grown used to, and while your sex or gender do not always carry the same meaning that they do in 'real life', the fact remains that women are still a minority among Internet users. Lesbian voices are not always very noticeable in the areas with high volume of general discussion where anyone can join.
As a result, Usenet News remains the net space without a very visible lesbian presence. On the other hand, mailing lists are the preferred way by which many lesbians choose to communicate.
It is certain that there are some national traditions. In countries where lesbians are used to existing separately from the mixed gay movement, they tend to avoid the Internet altogether as a 'male dominated' medium. In other countries, the lesbian activity on Internet might have grown noticeable, once it has been started.
The women only mailing lists have played an important role. The first of those was started in 1987 by a straight woman who wanted to offer lesbians a place of their own. The sappho list has since grown to a very well known list, with some 700 subscribers at the moment. It remained the only major lesbian space on the Internet until a couple of years ago.
In the early 1990's, some smaller mailing lists were started as outgrowths from sappho. In fact, every lesbian mailing list now in existence can consider the original sappho as the space where it all began. These outgrowths include lists with focus in a wide variety of areas:
Lesbians in science, political dykes, lesbian mothers, European lesbians, lesbians into s/m, k.d.lang fans, bisexual women, older lesbians, lesbian academics, and so on.
All of the lists listed above are international: any lesbian with an Internet account can subscribe to them. However, the U.S. origins of Internet and the large participation by U.S. users has influenced the lesbian Internet a lot. While there are lesbians from all over the world, the discussions have tended to be dominated by U.S. concerns. For example, while the 'politidykes' list is a forum for general lesbian activist discussion, the topics are often of interest mainly to U.S. American lesbians.
There have been attempts to make the lesbian Internet more international. Euro-sappho is a list which focuses on topics of interest to European lesbians. In Finland there is a national lesbian mailing list called saffo-list with 100 subscribers. It has been active since 1993.
The function of a lesbian mailing list is usually social: the messages might be chatty, or intimate, or have an erotic tone to them. They might also contain news items, announcements about local events or campaigns. International lists can be a way to keep an international lesbian dialogue alive in such a way that few other media have achieved so far for equally large numbers of lesbians.
It takes some effort to start and maintain a mailing list for lesbians, but once it has been started, it can offer great potential for exchanging information and ideas very quickly.
Other lesbian Internet resources include materials stored in information servers, and lesbian channels on the Internet Relay Chat, to mention the best known existing net spaces.
Here's how you can subscribe to two lists mentioned above.
To subscribe to Euro-Sappho:
Send to the address:
The request: subscribe euro-sappho
To subscribe to Politidykes:
Send to the address:
The request: subscribe politidykes First Lastname
You can find more lists by looking at the WWW home page: