Saturday, 19 May 2012

Lesbian feminist or feminist and lesbian?

I'm fond of saying that everyone should be a feminist, because everyone either is a woman, loves a woman, is queer* or all three; which is why lesbians make such good feminists.  When I told my friend B this, she saw right to the heart of the matter, and asked if I had a girlfriend.  Astute friends like that make coming out easy.

I'm not a lesbian because I'm a feminist, and I'd always presumed the contrary was true as well; but B made me think about the link.  Am I a feminist because I am a lesbian?

Six months earlier I'd been expounding on a feminist point with another group of friends, and K asked me, whether, being a feminist, I was also a lesbian.  I denied this with the fervour of the still-in-denial-but-slowly-watching-my-certainty-fray-at-the-edges self-closetee.  Looking back two years later, I know I was wrong about me being straight, but was I also wrong in saying that there is no link between being a woman loving woman and fighting for gender equality?

Lesbians experience the power of the patriarchy in real terms.  Sex without men baffles a society which is deeply uncomfortable with female sexuality, and society's response may be seen in the prevalence of girl on girl porn and erotica for male consumption -- it functions as a way of bringing men into an act in which they are otherwise absent.  The pop culture norm of performative and male centred lesbianism is something that lesbians encounter regularly in jokes, but also in the inevitable straight man at the gay bar, looking for hot threesome action/creepy staring.

See what I did there?
The fact that women earn less than men,  even after factoring in pregnancy and children, has a greater impact in a household made up of two women.
[see for a persuasive breakdown of the American pay gap.  I can't be bothered looking up the Australian stats tonight, but last I saw they were pretty similar]

Gender studies classes are commonly prescribed methods of meeting girls.

Gay women may find it easier than straight women to live out feminist relationships, and are less likely to dismiss sexist behaviour with a fond, "boys will be boys."

Not only this, but while straight women might linger at the dangle-the-toes-in stage of feminism for fear of being labelled a lesbian, lesbian and bi women are more likely to jump right in upon hearing that lesbians await the intrepid voyager into feminism.

This last was probably what snatched my interest.

I was 14 or 15 the first time I called myself a feminist.  I had no idea that my ideal family structure would involve two substandard female paychecks.  I was largely unaware of the extreme objectification of the female form in lesbian sex as packaged to straight men.  I had no reasonable prospects of meeting gay ladies by venturing into feminism, did not know that I might even desire to.  But something in my adolescent brain started jumping around excitedly when I discovered the idea of lesbian feminists.  Something caught my eye, so to speak.  Inspired me to take a closer look.

My mother told us about lesbians when my sister and I were 9 and 10.  Someone had slung the word at my sister at school, and on the way home that day she asked what it meant.  Mum told us that gay means happy, and that homosexuals adopted it because people were insulting them and they wanted a word that described, but did not insult them.  She told us that our uncles T and D were gay, and that women could be gay too.  She didn't make it sound exciting.

There was absolutely no mention of this:

I immediately dismissed the possibility that I might be gay; I wasn't special or lucky.  I'd never be able to be so cool as to be an actual lesbian.  I'd just be a wanna-be lesbian feminist.

But I could be a feminist, and I got right on to that. 

So, maybe, my early feminism was a result of seduction by the sexy, sexy lesbians; sure, elements of my personal situation heighten my awareness of the patriarchy, and empower me to act on that awareness.  But largely I am a feminist (who happens to be a lesbian) and not a lesbian feminist.

*I see links between feminist causes and LGBT rights causes beyond any incidental alliances.  

1 comment:

  1. can you please remove the copyrighted image:

    yours, the stolen face