What started as another student Instagram page has become one of Western Washington University’s newest LGBTQ+ clubs.
WWU Lavender Menaces is a new club that provides a community for queer women and non-binary people at Western. According to the club’s Western Involvement Network page, club meetings include discussions about the experiences of queer women and non-binary people, watching movies and planning events.
The creator of the club, Samantha Craig, is a third-year student and said she started WWU Lavender Menaces because she struggled to find a community of sapphics in Bellingham.
She said when she sent in a listener write-in question to the podcast “Dyking Out,” she was encouraged to start the community herself.
“They said, ‘You have to start [the community] yourself. You’re the one that has realized that there is an absence of it. Start a club, run a Facebook page, do something,’” Craig said.
The advice from “Dyking Out” led to the formation of the Instagram account @wwulavendermenaces on Sept. 23, 2021. Eventually, Craig also organized a potluck for other sapphics in October. Craig said all these events led her to create the club on campus and organize its first meeting on Jan. 27.
The term ‘lavender menace’ was created in the 1960s by Betty Friedan, a feminist activist and writer, and was originally used to negatively refer to lesbians in the feminist movement, according to Josh Cerretti. Cerretti is the interim director of the women, gender, and sexuality studies department at Western and has a Ph.D. in Global Gender Studies.
Cerretti said while Friedan intended to silence lesbians in the feminist movement, lesbian feminists instead began to organize under the ‘lavender menace’ name and used it to protest against homophobia in the movement.
Cerretti said this organization of lesbian feminists caused the feminist movement to include sexual liberation in their advocacy and tackle patriarchy in different ways.
“Male dominance, patriarchy and misogyny are problems in LGBTQ+ communities and everywhere,” Cerretti said. “I think it manifests in a lot of different ways that are very similar to how we see patriarchy everywhere.”
For its first official meeting, the club had a showing of the film “But I’m a Cheerleader.” The film was released in 1999 and is a satirical comedy about a teenage girl who is sent to a conversion camp.
Craig said 60 people showed up at the first meeting and multiple people messaged her about their experience at the meeting.
“A lot of people have messaged me and said, ‘thank you so much for doing this, I’ve never felt more safe,’” Craig said. “That is something that makes me super happy because that is what I want the space to be. I want it to be a safe space for queer people to be and exist.”
Brynn Vogel, a third-year student and member of WWU Lavender Menaces, said she felt immediately safe and welcome when she came to the first meeting. She said that though Western has a lot of LGBTQ+ clubs on campus, sapphic voices can often be drowned out.
“To have a space that I can go to that's exclusively sapphic people that have very similar experiences to mine is really important,” Vogel said. “It's important that [sapphic] voices are heard as well on campus.”
Sol Vandeman (they/he) is the campus life editor for The Front this quarter. They’re a sophomore currently pursuing a major in journalism with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies. Sol would describe themselves as the “Elle Woods” of The Front. As a reporter, they focused on art and social justice at Western. Outside of journalism, Sol enjoys doing drag and religiously listening to pop music divas. Their Instagram is @solasinthesun.