By Bad Seed
"My Little Madam"
Calling an historical figure a lesbian can be misleading. Women who have written about their affection for each other, along with spinsters who lived together for years, have often been viewed without much hint they had intimate relationships. With the coming of second wave feminism in the later 20th century a tendency to view all women in more or less heterosexual terms stirred a rebellion in which the definition of lesbian was challenged. Some groups widened the definition to mean any woman who didn't live a traditional heterosexual life. In 1970 the Radicalesbians stated, "A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion." In 1980 feminist writer and poet Adrienne Rich proposed a continuum of lesbian relationships ranging from sexual to platonic. Rich wrote that instead of genital or sexual relationships between women, lesbian can mean any woman who skirts a conventional married life and resists male tyranny. Rich suggested lesbian relationships can happen between women who live or work together, even within the same family.
An updated take on this wider definition has to do with the girl crush as written about by Stephanie Rosenbloom in The New York Times. Rosenbloom defines a girl crush as "that fervent infatuation that one heterosexual woman develops for another woman who may seem impossibly sophisticated, gifted, beautiful or accomplished." Such girl crushes may trigger the same kind of feelings involved in a romance and although not sexual in nature, these feelings may sway relationship dynamics if the object of the crush learns about them. This broadening of the meaning for lesbian as any woman who bonds with another woman became known as woman identified woman. However, this usage has been criticized as desexualizing lesbians. Cheshire Calhoun wrote in 1995 "When feminist woman loving replaces lesbian genital sexuality, lesbian sexual identity disappears into feminist identity.