Now You See Her

How Lesbian Culture Won Over America


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About the Book

Over the past thirty years, queer women have been coming out of the media closet to enter the mainstream consciousness. This book explores the rise of lesbian visibility since the 1990s with in-depth historical analyses of representation in sports, music, photography, comics, television and cinema. Each chapter is complemented by an interview: soccer player and coach Saskia Webber, singer-songwriter Gretchen Phillips, photographer Lola Flash, cartoonist Alison Bechdel and filmmakers Jamie Babbit and Anna Margarita Albelo discuss the societal transformations that shaped their careers. From the “riot grrrl” movement of the early 1990s punk scene to screen representations of queer culture (The L Word, Orange Is the New Black), this book discusses how lesbian presence successfully infiltrated several patriarchal strongholds, and was transformed in return.

About the Author(s)

Anne Crémieux is a professor of American studies at the English department of the University of Montpellier Paul Valéry. Her writings focus on the representation of minorities in American popular culture. She is a founding member of Le 7e Genre, a film club that focuses on questions of gender and sexuality.

Bibliographic Details

Anne Crémieux
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 252
Bibliographic Info: ca. 60 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8581-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4816-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1

1. Hidden in Plain Sight: Lesbian Athletes Taking the Spotlight 11
Too Strong to Be ­Hetero-Normal  12
When the Best Defense Is Offense, and Taking None  17
Lesbianism in Sports and the Cutting Room Floor  21
Conclusion  25
An Interview with Saskia Webber  27

2. We Are Family: Tuning in to Lesbian Music 35
It’s a Man’s World—Sexism and Homophobia in the Music Industry, and the Women Who Fought Back  36
“I Kissed a Girl”—Lesbian Chic and ­Coming-Out Shocks  43
Are We Not Femme? Beyond Femmes and Butchies  51
Conclusion  54
An Interview with Gretchen Phillips  56

3. Looking Straight at the Lens: Lesbian Photography, from A. Leibovitz to Z. Muholi 64
Photography as Evidence, Photography as History  65
Picturing a Lesbian Aesthetic  68
Visualizing the Genderqueer Revolution  74
Conclusion  83
An Interview with Lola Flash  83

4. Drawing the Line: How Lesbian Comics Put the Sapphic Back in Graphics 92
Living in a Bubble: ­Self-Publication and Graphic Communities  93
Watching Out for Mainstream Success  100
What Fun Home Did for the Lesbian Funnies  107
Drawing Outside the Lesbian Box  10
Conclusion  116
An Interview with Alison Bechdel  118

5. It’s Showtime! Lesbians in TV Series 123
The L Word Before The L Word  124
Is It OK for Males to Gaze?  135
The TV Lesbian as Other, and the Racial Ramifications of Lesbian Representation  141
The L Word Hub on the Global Chart  145
Conclusion  148
An Interview with Jamie Babbit  149

6. From Subtext to Sex Tape: Lesbians on the Big Screen 156
Spotting Lesbians on the Big Screen: Crossdressers, Vampires, Ghosts, and Villains  157
Sex, Lesbians, and Videotapes: New Queer Cinema and the Lesbian Revolution  168
Soft Porn for the World to See: Lesbian Sex Goes Mainstream  175
Conclusion  185
An Interview with Anna Margarita Albelo  186

Conclusion 195

Film and Videography 199
Chapter Notes 203
Works Cited 227
Index 239

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Now You See Her is a comprehensive look at how lesbians and queer women have both influenced and been impacted by American culture. Anne Cremieux’s detailed record offers a nuanced perspective and intersectional overview that’s long overdue. From athletics to art to performance in music or on screen, Now You See Her accurately reflects the ways in which LGBTQ+ women have experienced themselves and each other.”—Trish Bendix, author and journalist, former editor-in-chief of

• “This ingenious and spirited exploration of modern lesbian culture from the 70s to the present links representation to culture to politics with knowledgeable ease. Cremieux has created a scholarly guidebook, alternating her analyses with interviews and reviving a powerful sense of lesbian life at a moment when it’s in danger of disappearing. Now You See Her deserves to be assigned to every gender studies class… and every Girl Scout troop, too. I am grateful.”—B. Ruby Rich, author and film critic, Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement and The New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut

• “How wonderful to have this gift from Anne Crémieux, a book as generous in its scope as in its attitude. Richly informed by lucidly deployed theory and brilliantly responsive to the particularities of a wide range of media, Now You See Her is also a celebration of the exuberance, diversity, gorgeousness and importance of lesbian visibility. Anne Crémieux is not afraid to confront awkward questions or political complexity—porn, trans, butch, negative images, they’re all here—but, with its inspiring interviews with a range of practitioners, this is above all a book full of joy.”—Richard Dyer, professor, film scholar and gay critic, Now you see it: studies on lesbian and gay film, The Culture of Queers.