There always was something incongruous about the location of the Douvre Club. The magnificent Women's Building at 18th and Guerrero is famous both for its progressive politics as well as the extraordinary, many-hued mural which covers every inch of the huge building with images celebrating womankind. Squatting in one corner of the ground floor is the Douvre Club, an old Irish bar which looks a trifle sleazy but holds nothing more unnerving than a few mellow-faced men, a busy pool table, and a couple of flyers tacked to the wall remembering Bobby Sands and

the H-Block 4.

But now the women want them out, declaring through their director that the club's presence is "not consistent with the goals" of the building and withdrawing the club's lease. One can't help but feel sorry for the men. They have taken a leaf out of their oppressors' book of tactics and organised a protest, mainly consisting of a two-hour extension to Happy Hour. But the women won't be stopped, and it's the same story all over Valencia.

It had to happen. Segregation comes naturally to American cities - in San Francisco, Pacific Heights is white, Western Addition is black, Castro is gay and, until recently, Mission/ Valencia was Latino, with a sprinkling of old Irish. But now, the girls want their own 'hood.

The march has been led by the lesbians. In the old days, gay men and women colonised the Castro together, but that locality has become more exclusive and excluding. Exclusive because so many people want to live there, and men on average earn more than women. Excluding because lots of bars no longer welcome women, gay or otherwise. So the girls moved down the hill.

Now the rainbow flag is flying high above Valencia. And the neighbourhood already has a new flavour. There is a discreet and unthreatening sex shop, a bookstore, and a brand new coffee shop, all catering to the distinctly Sapphic, as well as a health-food store and a bath house. The women are cleaning up the neighbourhood more effectively than the local police, successfully ousting a couple of Latino street gangs along the way.

On my corner, The Lexington Club was for years an obnoxious eyesore, blasting out tunes until 2am and providing a round-the-clock home to a group of half-drunk men. There were regular fights and, on Halloween, an attempted shooting. Now it's a popular and reasonably sedate dyke bar. Except last Saturday, when a couple of Cro-Mags with zero powers of social observation, wandered into The Lexington, drawn by the sight of so many seemingly available women. One can imagine the exchange after the pair's attempts to score a hit were rebuffed. "What are you, a bunch of dykes?" the men shouted angrily, whereupon the women replied that, indeed, they were just that. The two retired to a safe distance from where they hurled invectives until the police came and took them away.

Thanks to les girls, ordinary women like me walk the streets feeling, on occasion, almost giddy with power. Not a familiar feeling, but a nice one.

Comments