Letter: Lesbians and women's issues

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Sir: In her review of Sally Cline's award-winning new book Lifting the Taboo: Women, Death and Dying (14 October), Polly Toynbee takes issue with an idea that at the moment of death men and women might not be equal. It is an idea entirely her own. She has misread the book's argument, which suggests that it is the lead- up to death, the responses to terminal illness and the experiences of bereavement that are different for women and men.

Ms Toynbee's second distortion is in suggesting that the major focus of the book is on lesbians and that their inclusion is unwarranted. The book in fact focuses on the experiences and responses of dying women, bereaved women and women carers, who include mothers, daughters, widows and partnerless women from many different cultures and classes, whose sexuality may be heterosexual, bisexual, celibate or lesbian.

More critical is her penultimate sentence:

Nothing wrong with lesbians, it is just that they have no place in studies about women per se. The issues are utterly different.

Lesbians, like female heterosexuals, are women and therefore patently have a place in studies about women. Had Ms Toynbee written: "Nothing wrong with blacks ..." the evident racism would, one hopes, have prevented her review from appearing.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Beswick

Editorial Director

Little Brown

London, WC2

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