Liberalism will never succeed at eliminating patriarchy or any other system of oppression. Never. This is because liberalism is inherently assimilationist. The entire purpose of modern Western social liberalism is to forge a more comfortable position for minorities and the oppressed within the existing sociopolitical structure (economic liberalism is even worse).
Radicalism, on the other hand, is emancipatory. Once one examines the roots of a system and finds them unacceptable, there is no other solution but to oppose that system. It is not consistent with radicalism to find that a sociopolitical system is fundamentally oppressive, then proceed to pursue solutions solely or primarily within that system.
Liberals, then, taking the existing system(s) for granted, tend to form sociopolitical opinions within their context, adopting values that share a bias similar to that of the system in which they are formed, and, unsurprisingly, often seem to have great difficulty even understanding ideology which lacks this bias. The radical is often then left wondering how in the hell the liberal can hope to achieve anything significant for the oppressed while clinging to the ways of the oppressor.
From the pages of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet comes a useful guide to differentiating between liberal and radical ideology (commentary mine):
|Individualism||Group or Class|
(whence the fruitless attempts to talk men out of their violent, misogynistic ways)
(whence patriarchal gender gets revamped as the supposedly internal “gender identity,” and the white supremacist “colored people” is upgraded to “people of color”; liberals adopt the oppressors’ social constructs as reality)
(for example: constantly trying to re-frame even the most blatant acts of lockstep conformity as “agency,” re-framing all criticism as people “trying to tell me what to do,” and generally adopting versions of the ideology of the oppressor with seemingly no sense of context, etc.: a simplistic, choice-based morality)
(such as myopically hoping to achieve some type of social change by treating individuals with “equality” in their personal lives (sometimes ignoring class-based power differentials in the process, like the “transfeminists” who want “transwomen” on an even footing with womyn regardless of the existence of male privilege), when in fact only “equality” as practiced by those in power would have any significant effect; preaching non-violence even in the face of brutality, etc.)
(basically the gold-standard of liberal sociopolitical success, ignoring that the law exists to protect the powerful and at best can only redress grievances/does nothing to prevent violence, especially hidden-from-view crimes such as domestic abuse; reliance on the state for personal validation like the gay marriage lobby, etc.)
And here is an the first in an excellent series of videos which goes into greater detail:
Well. Notwithstanding having plenty of things to say, I haven’t been posting on my blog because it seems pointless. There’s the choir that I can preach to, and then there are the permanent Stockholm Syndrome sufferers who will cling to men’s ideas and the societal structures men have built and call it individuality and “gender identity” and “agency” and anything else they can come up with to obfuscate their various levels of conformity, while asking men for “equality.” If they even admit that men are the problem.
But today, I read something by a young woman who has autism. She can’t read social situations, and men, young and old, have been repeatedly taking advantage of her, everything from creepy staring to rape. I’m feeling like my head is going to explode. “Equality” isn’t going to do a damned thing for her. What shall we do, liberals? More useless askivism? More blogs and websites and wikis about “geek feminism” and “queer feminism” and goddess-knows-what-other sub-feminisms/pseudo-feminisms, onto which men invariably descend with everything from glib dismissal to overt rape threats?
I decided that it’s better to spend my time thinking about what womyn can DO. Frankly, I think it’s about time we moved straight on to violence and destruction. Sudden violence and destruction. I know. It sounds bleak and ugly and dangerous. Well, things are already bleak and ugly and dangerous for womyn. How much worse could it be, really? If you spend enough time thinking about it, enough hours fuming in impotent rage, perhaps you’ll find that risking your life, oh, say, bombing a men’s prison starts to seem worth it, for the future if not for yourself. What else is there? Imagine this: what if nearly every woman on Earth killed a man in his sleep tonight? How nice could tomorrow be? Imagine taking the offensive for once. Playing defense isn’t working. All the damage control in the world doesn’t prevent damage. Personally, I really like taking long walks alone late at night. Ever think about how men destroy even the simplest pleasures in life? Tired of it yet? Tired enough? I am.
I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that I support male genocide. But I know that any liberals who may be in the audience think that is very mean, and wonder: what about the “good men”? All seven of them, three of whom just haven’t been caught killing or abusing women or children yet. The answer is: collateral damage. And men agree with me.
Yes men, who will bomb an entire country to smithereens and murder thousands of non-combatants to smoke out a handful of terrorists, agree that human collateral damage is acceptable for a “good cause.” Men, who will pay other men to risk their lives rooting about in a huge hole in the ground to mine the metal, and dump toxic waste by-products in poor neighborhoods to keep their corporations producing your iCrap, are ok with human collateral damage. Men will risk exposing thousands to radiation and making whole cities uninhabitable for generations so that we can have electricity, even after witnessing the fallout of other nuclear meltdowns. Who cares about dozens of possible cases of leukemia and mutations in the local wildlife? Men think we need lights, dammit. Etc.
Goddess. Mentally ill man just showed up. Enough for now.
When I was about twenty years old, I was waiting at a bus stop on a main road in my hometown one day on my way to college. Suddenly, a car that was literally full of men (somewhere between 5 and 7 of them) drove up to the curb and offered me a ride. I was extremely confused, then I was scared. I mumbled no thanks and the guy who had spoken to me told the driver to drive off.
This has been a very creepy and disturbing memory to me. After it was over, I assumed that I had survived an attempted kidnapping, but over the years, I hadn’t been able to reconcile certain facts of the situation. I assumed that they thought they could simply talk me into the car because I looked younger than I was. I assumed that they hadn’t bothered to jump out of the car and try to grab me because the street was rather busy, and they knew that they would surely have been identified if not stopped. But they hadn’t seemed aggressive at all, and they made barely any attempt to talk me into anything. Then, a couple of days ago, I was looking at the run-down houses on this same street and thinking that it’s an awful place to live, especially with the prostitution that goes on a couple blocks up, and it occured to me that those men assumed that I was a prostitute because I was standing not far from where prostituted women usually are. This explains why they were so casual about inviting me into their car. On that day, I was also wearing a femininity costume, one of my few “successful” ones, one for which I’d received compliments.
It was about noon; I was eating a snack, wearing a backpack, and standing next to a clearly marked bus stop. Not the typical setting of prostitution. But I was standing in prostitution alley, and that was enough for them to assume that I was sexually available to them. Not to imply that even that much is necessary for men to assume that random women are sexually available to them.
The point is that the existence of individual instances of prostitution, all types of prostitution, whether it be tele-prostitution/e-prostitution (aka porn) or escort services, do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in, and contribute towards, the context of patriarchy, specifically, men’s attitudes towards and expectations of the sexual availability of women. And there is absolutely no reason to assume that they would exist without men’s ever-present expectation and demand of the sexual availability of women. And this is the thing that women who claim to “choose” to be “sex workers” need to understand: You can claim to choose to sell your body all you want, but you can’t choose the context that has created the demand. You can’t control it, and you don’t control it. You can claim that it is a respectable profession, but you can’t really control whether or not your “customers” actually respect you. The evidence that men’s consumption of any sort of prostitution inspires ZERO respect for the prostituted is OVERWHELMING. The physical danger involved in prostitution wouldn’t exist if prostitutes were respected. Men who respect women don’t put them at risk for STDs, vaginal tearing, anal prolapse. They don’t whip them or ask them to act out violent fantasies under ANY circumstances.
I once watched a documentary about the effects of e-prostitution, in which a guy took a camera and asked men what they had “learned” from porn. One man said he learned that women will “do anything.” Men have already formed, have had formed for centuries, their own enduring narratives about women and prostitution. The tiny portion of women who “choose” (aren’t sexual slaves or economically forced into) prostitution are not putting a dent in that. There is no evidence whatsoever that men will interpret this “choice” in a way that is favorable to women in general, nor to the “sex worker” in particular, no matter how badly you want them to. Rest assured, men will find a way to interpret it in a way that confirms the lies they tell themselves about women, along with having their entitlement to access to women’s bodies re-enforced. So it is literally impossible to believe that “sex work” is in any way positive or neutral and still be in touch with reality. Either one goes into “sex work” knowing this and not caring, or one goes into it blindly.
I recently reminded someone that males aren’t women, and was subsequently asked for “beginner radfem” stuff to read. This person wanted to understand the “radfem reasoning,” but was bothered by reading stuff that “denies the realities of my friends and loved ones…” these friends and loved ones apparently being queer or trans.
So, let me explain this as clearly as I can for anyone reading this blog who doesn’t get the “radfem reasoning.”
NOTHING in feminism denies your “reality.” Unless you were hallucinating or something, no one in their right mind is going to try to tell you that whatever you saw or felt or whatever didn’t happen, certainly not under the banner of feminism. HOWEVER, there is a HUGE difference between what you experience, and how you interpret that experience. Your experiences are not up for debate, but your interpretations are. Your interpretations are up for debate because they are arguments, which are subject to being true or false. Your interpretations may be based on your experiences, but they stand independently, and the fact that someone criticizes them does not mean that they deny you had the experiences they are based on.
Here is a handy example of queer interpretation, from my own personal experience:
A young woman has PCOS. She is hairier than most other women. She has been told that, if she were to ever try to get pregnant, she would have more difficulty than other women. When she gains weight, it tends to distribute itself in a pattern that is more prevalent on male bodies than on female bodies. She also feels uncomfortable with her breasts.
This is her experience.
Based on the experience of having PCOS, the young woman says to me: “Maybe I was meant to be a man.”
This is her interpretation. Notice that she could legitimately adhere to this interpretation without even having had the experience; she could say, “maybe women who have PCOS and don’t like their breasts were meant to be men.” Thus, the interpretation is logically independent from the experience, and this ridiculous idea that those of us who don’t experience dysphoria aren’t qualified to criticize how people interpret dysphoria is bullshit.
Also, notice that, even if I outright reject the interpretation (by saying “no, your experiences do not imply that you were meant to be a man!”), I have expressed no attitude whatsoever, least of all denial, of the reality of her having PCOS and feeling uncomfortable with her breasts.
And besides all that, everybody’s interpretation of everything is going to get analyzed and possibly criticized by feminists. Turns out that damn near everyone on Earth has been interpreting their lives without the conscious knowledge that they live in the context of misogyny! And once the misogyny context gets factored in, maybe your interpretations need to be revised. No one escapes analysis, even if they get their feelings hurt or experience a relatively rare and poorly understood condition such as dysphoria.
So, the short answer to this person’s question is this:
Learn to tell the difference between your reality and your interpretation of it, accept that your interpretations may be wrong, and, as for that radfem reasoning, it flows from the fact that everything gets analyzed through the lens of whether or not it perpetuates and/or is a product of female oppression.
I am surprised that so many people keep subscribing to this blog even though it’s been forever since I last posted anything. Well, queerspeak is something I love to complain about, so here is another post. If you don’t know what queerspeak is, it’s my term for all words/terms made up by queer/alphabet soup people that have to do with identity, as well as all pre-existing words/terms they appropriate and try to change the meaning of or suck the meaning out of altogether. Alphabetsoupism is the fantasy that all the letters in the alphabet soup (LGBTQQIA, and whatever else has been tacked on since I stopped paying attention) are one big happy family, have the same perspectives and goals, support each other in those goals, and NEVER question each other on anything even tangentially related to personal identity, and any one of the letters who dissents is a random hater who is automatically wrong without discussion.
Some moron called me cisgender yesterday. First of all, anybody who uses this word should know that it is a term that only a small minority are familiar with, and explain themselves accordingly, but this discussion took place in an alphabet soup (LGBTLOL) forum, and one of the epidemic assumptions of alphabetsoupism is that everyone thinks alike, so it was instantly assumed that I not only knew what this meant, but that I actually accepted it as a valid concept.
I have an idea of what this person meant (not trans), but so many alphabetsoupists can’t tell the difference between biological sex and gender roles that I couldn’t tell if I was being called not transsexual (as in not unhappy with my sex) or not transgender (as in not happy with my gender, which creates more confusion because, despite everyone in alphabetsoup expecting that they all think alike, they actually all seem to have their own definition of gender, all completely vague, of course).
Anyways, someone had started a discussion about “dropping” the B and T from LGBT, so I made a comment that T had nothing whatsoever to do with LGB, and that all these groups of people should not be lumped together willy-nilly, especially since some of them have totally incompatible sociopolitical goals (such as LG vs. homophobic and lesbiphobic trannies). Someone replied that they all belong together because they are all atypical in terms of sexual orientation, “gender identity,” or both, so, in order to drive home my point that we don’t all think alike, I let the person know that not everyone even believes “gender identity” is real.
But of course, EVERYONE MUST BELIEVE IN GENDER IDENTITY, so someone rolled out that old queer argument standby (or stand-in, I should say), comparison to conservative Christians. Apparently, everything that every conservative Christian ever said, every idea they ever had, is completely wrong, so it is somehow possible to “prove” someone else is wrong just by comparing them to conservative Christians, no matter how dissimilar the ideas being compared!
Think males can’t be females? You are just like a conservative Christian! Claim you don’t have a “gender identity”? You are just like a conservative Christian! Discussion over!
That’s when I was called cisgender. I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m cisgender, apparently. The problem with that is that it doesn’t just mean not-trans. It implies something about my relationship to either my sex or the feminine gender role (depending on how being used) that the other person could not possibly know anything about. Ironically, it is a projection of the trans experience onto everybody else; they are unhappy about something, therefore, everyone else must be happy with it. Not true. There is this thing called indifference; not everyone thinks it is hugely important to be or appear to be either male or female. Of course, the response to this is invariably, “you don’t care because you are cis and don’t experience any mismatch between mind and body,” but these people don’t know how anyone is going to feel or act under any given set of circumstances.
With regard to gender roles (and yes, despite queer gospel that trans people are the most progressive people on Earth, there are some that actually support gender roles and want society to enforce them), the “cisgender” assumption is that people are either happy with their assigned gender role, or want to live in the opposite gender role; either trans or cis. Which of course ignores or pathologizes those of us who want all gender roles to disappear.
I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the word “butch.” I had never been able to figure out why. It hadn’t made any sense to me, because I liked butches, liked them a lot. Since I couldn’t figure out why I felt that way, I had decided that it must have been some irrational love/hate thing or something, and kept on using that word when I wanted to talk about certain women. I even started this blog to talk about them. It’s sort of a handy word, or at least it was for me, because I’ve always felt that I had trouble making myself understood when I tried to describe or discuss the sort of women it refers to.
I was googling this evening and trying to find some information about these women, and using another, clunkier term that I don’t like, “non-feminine,” and in one of the search results I found this quote by Margaret from AROOO on a post by Undercover Punk:
I completely agree about “female masculinity,” Amy. Anything that makes “unfeminine” (ie, not submissive in behavior or dress) a MARKED form of femaleness is anti-radical-feminism. For me, the word “butch” does the same thing, and is built upon the same model of “feminine” (submissive in behavior or dress) as “normal female.”
…and that is a large part of what had been bothering me about the word all along. I don’t know why that was so difficult for me to figure out.
Another thing that bothers me is the use of the word as a distinguishing descriptor, i.e., these women are butch, as distinguished from womyn in general. Womyn who are referred to as butch aren’t different from womyn in general in any way that is notable (except to the patriarchy). They don’t have some special inherent characteristics that no other womyn have. They have simply rejected society’s role for womyn, and, on an intellectual level at least, any other woman in the world can do the same (although they may have more or less trouble living their lives in accordance with that).
So that’s it for me. No more rattling on and on about “butches.”
I recently had a womyn ask me what I meant when I used the word “queer” because I used it in a negative way, and she thought it simply referred to gay men and lesbians. This is a response to that.
It is true that some gay men and lesbians refer to themselves as queer, but self-identified queer people also include transsexual people, transgendered people, genderqueer people, people who are into BDSM, polyamorous people, cross-dressers, and people who are willing to have relationships with some or all of these people.
When I speak of the queer community, I am referring to the subset of these people who subscribe to certain bullshit ideologies. One of these is the ridiculous idea that people are whatever they say they are. This is why it is considered polite to play along when males say that they are female, females say that they are males (i.e., some trans people) and a genderqueer person says that they are male one day and female the next (I’m not making up this example). People who don’t play along are assumed to be ignorant and/or considered to be transphobic.
Another facet of the queer community is the support of body negativity. If you log in to a queer community and make a post about hating your body and wanting your breasts lopped of, people will not be horrified and exhort you to love yourself. The queer community is filled with so much body hatred and body-negativity that such feelings are commonly accepted as part of someone’s “identity.” Similarly afflicted women will sympathize, people will suggest you get a binder (a breast-flattening device that continues to be used despite its tendency to dislodge ribs
and constrict breathing), people will give you advice about getting the surgery (called top surgery). You don’t even have to say that you are trans aka “really” a man or give the by now standard narrative of being born in the wrong body. Even people (almost always women) who are not trans are jumping on the surgery bandwagon. No one asks why you dislike your body. Who cares? If that’s what you want, book a surgeon!
Part of the reason for the body-negativity is the heavy focus on androgyny in some queer subcommunities, particular the genderqueer community. The ideal androgynous body is generally closer to male than to female (not to mention being young, skinny and white), so genderqueer males don’t generally express the need to change the bodies, while genderqueer females want to loose weight, get rid of curves, and get rid of breasts.
One issue that particularly gets on my nerves is a serious misunderstanding or misuse of the concept of gender or gender identity. Whereas gender in everyday speech is sometimes used as a synonym for sex, and in the context of feminism, psychology, etc., is spoken of as gender roles, which society forces on individuals, certain queer people seem to think gender is some sort of choice about expressing themselves and/or how they want to be treated by society. Sometimes the phrase “gender identity” is used to express this idea, when in fact gender identity is a term used in the social sciences to refer to one’s awareness of the gender role one is expected to fill. In short, there is no choice about it. It is not some facet of someone’s being or personality or a choice of style, it is some made-up bullshit used to keep people in line, a tool of oppression. They are muddying this important issue with their self-indulgent nonsense.
Another “polite” convention in the queer community is that one does not question another’s identity, EVER. Identity in this sense is a relatively vague, amorphous mass of concepts that may include things such as how one feels about being male or female, the pronouns by which one wishes to be referred, the gender role one prefers to live in, and the style of dress and grooming one prefers (usually in terms of being stereotypically male, female, purposefully androgynous, etc.) The result of this is that people are not challenged when they build “identities” based on self-hatred, stereotypes, and maladaptive attempts to deal with the various pressures of heteronormative conformity. For example, I was reading what someone wrote about being an FTM a while back. She was talking about how she had hated to wear the Sunday school dresses her mother forced on her as a child. Obviously, this doesn’t have a goddamned thing to do with being a man except in this poor woman’s warped mind.
Questioning the morality of some dude
identifying with appropriating womanhood, the identity of an oppressed group (womyn) probably wouldn’t go over so well in many queer circles either. Of course, being primarily composed of white, American, middle- to upper-class liberals, many in the queer community will be right at home with appropriation. Thus the endless trotting out of the two-spirit phenomenon (an appropriated facet of a Native American culture) and the appropriation of the experience of the intersexed community (some trans people are convinced that they are afflicted with a sort of brain-based intersexuality, and some just want to lump as many people as possible under the queer umbrella) against the wishes of many intersexed people. And let’s not forget all the “transwomen” appropriating lesbianism on top of appropriating womanhood.
It should be obvious at this point that queer ideology butts up against womyn’s liberation in a million different ways. We can’t even agree on what a woman is. Feminists are trying to delineate a group (womyn) so that they can point and say, “this group is being treated like shit and something needs to be done about it.” Queer people are saying, “but these males (transwomen) are in that group, too!” They are so focused on validating the “identities” of a bunch of men that they can’t or won’t see the difference between throwing on a dress and wanting to be treated as a feminine person with being expected to be a fucktoy for men, a baby-making machine, a cute, submissive airhead, and generally oppressed as a female from birth onward. The misunderstanding of/glorification of gender, the body-negative preoccupation with surgery and hormones, the overlap with the pro-BDSM, pro-prostitution, pro-porn “sex positive” community, and the general unwillingness to analyze anything anyone does are other anti-feminist issues.
As for the BDSM community, I’m sure I don’t have to explain the problem with people who get off on beating the shit out of and/or psychologically dominating each other.
I could probably go on.
If there are any women out there who are still operating under the delusion that feminist spaces or lesbian spaces are safe spaces with regard to race, ethnicity, or nationality, this is your wake up call: DO NOT TRUST WHITEY.
White feminists and white lesbians can be some of the shadiest white supremacists (yes, that reads “white supremacists,” not “racists”) out there. The KKK knows that they are white supremacists and will be straight up with you about being white supremacists, but these women DO NOT EVEN REALIZE THAT THEY ARE WHITE SUPREMACISTS, AND DON’T WANT TO SEE IT WHEN YOU POINT IT OUT.
I know this stuff has probably been said before, but it needs to keep being said, again and again until everyone has read it 57 times and actually get’s it. I’m going to make this simple for all the white people out there whose IQ suddenly drops to -12 when it comes to issues of race.
If you are talking about a group of people, and randomly mention the race of the non-white people, especially while not saying a damn thing about the race of the white people in the group, YOU ARE SUPPORTING WHITE SUPREMACY.
If someone calls you out on your white supremacist bullshit, and your first/only response/thought is that you are “not a racist!!!” THEN THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE THAT YOU ARE RACIST.
If someone tells you that a white woman said something that blatantly indicates that she is a racial fetishist, and you say that women don’t fetishize others, YOU ARE SUPPORTING WHITE SUPREMACY.
If you also jump to pull out the good ole’ “it’s just a preference for certain physical characteristics” bullshit with regard to that white racial fetishist after being told that she fetishizes racial minorities in general, YOU ARE DOING DOUBLE DUTY SUPPORTING WHITE SUPREMACY. Just what the fuck kind of physical characteristic preference is “all ethnic minorities”?
If you mean that someone doesn’t speak English very well, but what you actually say is “this person is X nationality,” YOU ARE RACIST FOR CONFLATING NATIONALITY AND ENGLISH-SPEAKING ABILITY.
If you don’t think white supremacy is an important issue with regards to feminism and women’s liberation, or don’t think it is within the purview of feminism or women’s liberation, YOU ARE SUPPORTING WHITE SUPREMACY.
If you are supporting white supremacy, you are not helping women, and you are not showing love of women, so think carefully about what you mean when you call yourself a lesbian or a feminist. If you are supporting white supremacy, you are also supporting male supremacy – by supporting white males specifically, by condoning and applying hateful, divisive, dehumanizing tactics and attitudes that males in general use, and by remaining blind to the ways male supremacy affects women who aren’t white..
I am a lesbian.
There is power in typing those words, and there is power in saying them. There is power in living them. Living a life without sexual and romantic dependence on men sharpens the vision of a feminist utopia in our mind’s eyes like it can for few others, and, the clearer the image, the greater our motivation to fight for it’s realization. Our energies are free to fight the feminist fight when we banish potential patriarchal oppressors from our beds, when we organize our lives so that we aren’t coming home to them everyday. Just by living our lives, we send society the messages that start revolutions: messages of individual agency, of rejection of patriarchal religious conceptualizations, of flouting sociocultural pressure, messages that shatter the illusion of universal heterosexuality, that weaken male supremacy, that embolden young and questioning lesbians, that open the eyes of potential allies.
Without question, there is great power in proclaiming one’s status as a lesbian. The patriarchy, however, is no two-bit villian. It has a clever organization, it does, and has molded the world in such a way that even the power of out-and-proud lesbianism can be transformed into a sort of weapon.
I am a lesbian, but what is a lesbian? A lesbian is a female whose sexual and/or romantic interests lie with females, and not with males. What is a female, what is a male? Here, we run into the tangled mess that is patriarchal medical science and fear/hatred/ignorance of difference.
Males and females are the two components of a binary system of biological sex that ignores and/or pathologizes (irrespective of whether or not the relevant conditions pose a legitimate physical health risk) those whom it subsequently classifies as “intersexed.” There is no inherent problem with a binary system of biological sex, insofar as “biological sex” refers to reproductive sex. There are two, and only two, human reproductive sexes. The problem arises when we begin to generalize biological characteristics that have little or no bearing on reproduction, such as clitoral length, amount of body hair, or muscle mass, as constituting a part of this binary sex system, as they do not always follow a neat pattern of sexual dimorphism. The problem arises when we take biological sex out of the realm of reproduction.
Insofar as the word “lesbian” is defined by and based on this unrealistic and oppressive sex system, it is problematic. This fact, contrasted with the undeniable anti-patriarchy power of the term, can create something of a conundrum for conscientious lesbians. As a descriptor of attraction, the very concept of a “lesbian” presumes an unequivocally female subject, whereas “female” (as well as “male”) is not a precisely-defined biological category. Are we complicit in sex-based oppression and bad science by using this term? If we are, what can we do to fix the situation?
I do not offer solutions here, only a sketch of a patriarchal double-bind and a lesson on the importance of language.
This post is for the bisexual women (and the same discussion could apply to pansexual or any other non-lesbian women) who wonder why some lesbians want nothing to do with them.
Not all of us think you are lying cheaters. Not all of us are worried that you will leave us for men. Not all of us think that you are sexually confused or trying to dupe us into a threesome with some boyfriend we don’t know about yet.
On the other hand, there is more to being a lesbian for some of us than for others. Some of us think that you being a female is not enough.
Some of us are attracted to women who are only attracted to other women, attracted to a shared sexual orientation.
Some of us are attracted to women who expend as little energy as possible on men, especially something as energy-intensive as a romantic and/or sexual relationship.
Some of us think that being a lesbian is about more than an interest in the female sex – some of us are also lesbians in the sense of being wholly committed to women, and, in a world where men are our oppressors, that commitment to women may include a refusal to engage men on as many fronts as possible, including a vicarious engagement through your sexuality.
How, you might wonder, does a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a bisexual/pansexual/etc. woman force us to engage with men? If we welcome you into our lives, we also invite your attitudes into our lives. We invite someone who enjoys, has sought, or will seek, sex with men, despite the fact that sex with men is a major arena of patriarchal oppression. We invite someone who is willing to invite men into an intimate facet of her life, despite the fact that intimate involvement with men is one of the surest ways to become a victim of violence. We invite someone who remains optimistic that she can find a “good man,” optimistic about dating men in the face of all the date rapes, optimistic about an equal partnership with someone from the class that is raised to think of itself as superior from birth onward, optimistic about honest men in the face of a whole culture of lying and acting to get into women’s pants, willing to trust male strangers in a world where women cannot even trust their own fathers, brothers, and uncles to respect, honor and refrain from hurting them, because they are women.
We may roll those ideas around in our minds a bit, and that’s where the engagement with men (specifically, the bullshit they perpetrate in their romantic/sexual relationships with women) comes into play. Some of us have a little trouble respecting the perspective of someone who is so optimistic. Some of us just can’t understand how you can deal with men. Some of us just think you are crazy for doing so, given that you have a choice not to deal with them, and some of us just find your attractions to be…well, unattractive. We ponder this, we ponder that. How do you negotiate the power dynamics in your relationships with men? How do you go about trusting this guy or that guy, how do you keep yourself safe? Do you care if he’s a feminist? Do you behave differently depending on which sex you are in a relationship with? This stuff is important. If you are in our lives, you and your perspectives are important.
Does the need to entertain these thoughts arise with other lesbian women? Not so much. There’s the lack of those questions, the shared sexual orientation – the details may differ from lesbian to lesbian, but they add up. Sometimes, they add up to us wanting to stick with lesbians.