Complicated Inheritance: Sistershow (Bristol 1973-1974) and the queering of feminism

Deborah Withers, Red Chidgey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In complicating feminist inheritance, this article disrupts teleological narratives of ‘second’ and ‘third wave’ feminist activism by locating ‘queer tendencies’—often rooted within contemporary frameworks of Western feminisms—within the British Women's Liberation Movement (WLM). Understanding ‘queer tendencies’ allows a reappraisal of feminist strategies that have operated outside state formations; those feminisms that use disruptive cultural politics to open up conceptions of sexuality, gender and feminist identification. Such strategies, and the groups that deploy them, have not been eagerly assimilated into dominant narratives of feminist historiography.

As such, by ‘queering the historical record’, we aim to move from generational to strategic-based understandings of feminist history. We introduce the queer feminist cultural activism of an agit-prop theatre group called ‘Sistershow’ (Bristol, 1973–1974). Whilst Sistershow was comprised of women with various and fluid sexualities, the show itself created a space for its participants to explore their desires outside heteronormative frameworks. Here, ‘queer tendencies’ form strategic interventions that call on the disruptive power of erotics rather than referring to sexual or gender orientations—be they heterosexual, queer or other. Drawing on life history materials (oral interviews and letters) and historical artefacts (photos, programmes, flyers) surrounding Sistershow, this paper aims to contribute a playful troubling of both one-dimensional understandings of ‘seventies feminism’ and contemporary ‘third wave’ feminist activist strategies, and to queer feminism's recent past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-322
Number of pages14
JournalWomen: A Cultural Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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