Sinister Wisdom

Sinister Wisdom is a lesbian feminist quarterly that was founded in 1976 by Catherine Nicholson and Harriet Ellenberger with two burning questions in mind: “How does a woman survive when she steps out from the death process of patriarchy?” and “How does she think without thinking ‘their’ thoughts, dreaming ‘their’ dreams, repeating ‘their’ patterns?” ( These are questions that were not being answered in popular publications at the time due to the lack of diversity in the world of publishing. So, like many periodicals of the time, Sinister Wisdom was born out of the desire to diversify. However, unlike many of its contemporaries, the founders of Sinister Wisdom strived for diversity beyond gender and created a periodical specifically for lesbian feminists. 

Founded with these values in mind, Sinister Wisdom is also dedicated to representing the diversity within the lesbian community. Sinister Wisdom has been publishing thematic issues in the pursuit of intersectionality since its second issue, which had a focus on Lesbian writing and publishing. Other issues with highlights on specific demographics include Issue 39: “On Disability,” Issue 45: “Lesbians & Class,” and Issue 54: “Lesbians and Religion” Some issues featured works by activists in the fat liberation movement, such as Elana Dykewomon who later was the editor from 1987-1994. Issue 28, pictured here, has a special focus on fatness and body image as well women in the workplace.

The cover art depicts a sketch of a fat woman, presumably a classic working woman at a diner. There is more art centered around fat women that unashamedly depicts their bodies throughout the issue. Depiction of fat women as the subject of these art pieces is uncommon in popular and mainstream art so its placement in this magazine is important because it is representation for fat women in a form of media that often denies them visibility.

Along with the art, there are several poems and essays surrounding the fat body and body image issues but there was one article in particular that connected specifically with the Fat Liberation Movement. It is a thought piece by Susanna J. Sturgis on a question she overheard at one of Elana Dykewomon’s readings: “Is this the new thing we have to be politically correct about?” The “thing” she is referring to is Fat Liberation and the discrimination fat women face. In this question, the unnamed woman who sat near Sturgis trivialized the everyday struggles fat women have to deal with. She, like many other mainstream feminists, dismissed the movement, making her complicit in their oppression. Out of this dismissiveness arose a movement of fat women to validate themselves independently of the opinion of their thinner counterparts.

Source: “History.” Sinister Wisdom: A Multicultural Lesbian Literary & Art Journal,

Sturgis, Susanna J., “Is this the new thing we have to be politically correct about?” Sinister Wisdom, Issue 28, p.16-26