¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 While the idea of a shared culture based on sex raised concerns from the very inception of the women’s liberation movement, over the decade of the 1970s a fragile coalition of women inside and outside of academia explored the idea and its relevance to power and politics. That coalition fragmented in the face of controversies that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 I date the start of the women’s culture wars to the conference Feminist Perspectives on Pornography  organized by Women Against Violence and Pornography in the Media in San Francisco November 17-19, 1978. Major battles included The Second Sex – Thirty Years Later Conference* in New York September 27-29, 1979, and to The Scholar and the Feminist IX Towards a Politics of Sexuality April 1982. Women’s culture became conflated with “cultural feminism” a pejorative label from early women’s liberation movement rhetoric, typically applied to some feminists by others who wanted to distance themselves from perceived essentialism or universalism. Ultimately the situation ignited into a “war” of sorts that centered on culture.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 By 1985, the date of The Dark Madonna Conference, I argue that the concept of women’s culture had fallen into such disrepute in academic circles that the group that once met at conferences and published in the same journals, now divided. Women with positions in academia published and worked in academic venues, while activists worked in communities and increasingly found themselves excluded from academic conferences and journals.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 When they attempted to revive former coalitions, as in The Dark Madonna (1985-6) co-sponsored by the Woman’s Building and the Center for the Study of Women at UCLA or Art Criticism for Women In the Nineties, co-sponored by the Woman’s Building and a range of UCLA departments and centers, the differing discourses of the two groups resulted in charges of racism and essentialism being levied at activists by scholars, or in the marginalization of scholar-activists. I conclude by arguing that the historical narrative of culture, power and feminism must be revisited in order to re-situate activists in both women’s movement histories and in women’s history as a field.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0  I draw on archival documents of the Women Against Pornography conference (San Francisco 1978) the Second Sex Conference (NYU 1979) and The Scholar and the Feminist (Barnard 1982), as well as the published debate in the women’s liberation movement periodical Off Our Backs and in academic journal and books.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0  Although for a brief time in the early 1970s, cultural feminism meant culturally based forms of feminist activism,because the term had a negative connotation in women’s liberation movement literature, it was never widely adopted by activists themselves. The term has almost exclusively been used to refer to a strand of feminist theory associated with essentialist, ahistorical celebrations of values ascribed to female gender roles in Western society.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0  while it is typical to refer to the “Sex wars” I see these battles as part of a longer conflict around culture. I date the start of the women’s culture wars to the conference Feminist Perspectives on Pornography organized by Women Against Violence and Pornography in the Media in San Francisco November 17-19, 1978. Major battles included The Second Sex – Thirty Years Later Conference in New York September 27-29, 1979, a 1980 roundtable published in Feminist Studies, and to The Scholar and the Feminist IX Towards a Politics of Sexuality April 1982.