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Erasure

October 19, 2010

It has always been very obvious to me that lesbians have led the way toward women’s liberation from male tyranny.  It just makes sense that lesbians would understand more intimately than straight women exactly how female lives are constricted by male supremacy.  It certainly isn’t lesbians, after all, who have argued most stridently that a woman’s “choice” to fuck, mother, visually titillate, and serve males is as free (“liberated”) and legitimate as the choice to do the opposite, which train of thought belies a willingness to see freedom in the slavery so obvious to even the least politically aware lesbian.   Among women who have chosen not to fuck males, mother males, or truss and decorate themselves in whatever attire has been designated female/feminine for the male gaze, lesbians are and always have been over-represented, regardless of whether their contemporaries obscured this fact by calling such women spinsters, old maids, maiden aunts, inverts, or nuns; and by calling their relationships with one another immature, lifelong “friendships,” and substitutions for “real” love.

The notion that to be feminist is to be a lesbian is based in truth, despite the wishes of so many straight “feminists” not to be “tainted” in this way.  I find the compulsion to proclaim oneself not-a-lesbian, ostensibly in response to society’s attempts to degrade feminist efforts by way of pointing out the disproportionate presence of lesbians within its ranks, to be not only lesbian-hating but counterproductive.  Rather than embrace the notion that to reject male supremacy is quite frankly synonymous with rejecting male “love,” straight “feminists” would rather dilute what *lesbians*, for the most part, have written and done on behalf of our sex by giving succor to the very same males from whom they claim to desire freedom.  Straight women are more afraid that they will be mistaken for lesbians than they are to be positively identified as willingly available to males!  What could it be other than blatant misogyny?  They’d rather males see them as undeniably interested in sex/rape with males than that any man ever mistake them as women who love other women.  It’s really very sad when you think about it.  And it’s counterproductive not only because it’s misogynist, of course, but because this particular hand of female-hatred stifles the voice for female freedom, makes it instead conform to what males want to believe about femaleness – that it desires maleness even when it says it does not.  It’s a bit of obvious reverse psychology to which straight women are very predictably susceptible.  Males say “feminists are lesbians,” and straight women play right into their hands with squeals of “no we’re not!”  Well, what about those who are, those who were?

I think this lesbian-hatred is particularly harmful to the movement when applied retroactively to our foremothers.  If straight women can’t even allow that now-dead women who flouted the feminine conventions of their time were as likely to have been lesbians as contemporary women who do the same, how useful can these women possibly be as allies to anyone other than straight women?  It sickens me to see heterosexual women contribute to the erasure of lesbian existence by denying even the possibility that some of the few women history has deigned to honor were lesbians.  I mean, straight women (and feminine lesbians, for that matter) don’t even reject femininity in large numbers NOW, when the sanctions are so mild compared to what they would have been in, say, Joan of Arc’s time.  Rejecting femininity in the west these days might mean that you have to take one job instead of another, might mean that you’re talked about behind your back, might mean that you don’t have as many friends as the “glamour girls,” and feminine women will still cry you a river over their hardship (when they aren’t outright championing women’s “right” to be feminine). Yet I’m to believe that straight women were the ones rejecting femininity in times when it could get you burned alive?  No!  I refuse to participate in male historians’ invisiblization of lesbians.  And I have no time for ex-het femininity-loving, and/or boy-mommying lesbians who consort with those who would.

8 Comments
  1. October 20, 2010 2:15 am

    Mulan was probably a lesbian. Of course Disney had to go and gussy her up.

  2. October 20, 2010 2:35 am

    I was mistaken for a lesbian last May. A man and two cops assumed I was a lesbian. When I caught on, I asked myself, “Do I need to assert that I am not a lesbian?” Then I decided that I wouldn’t. Why should I dissociate myself from lesbians to pacify these assholes. For what? For those three men to think differently about me? I didn’t need or want anything from any of them, but to be left alone. I can say I was scared. A different fear than I’ve had in the past when I believe it is assumed that I am a heterosexual. Although the same could have happened to me regardless of what they thought of me, I felt like it would be less risk if I was perceived as hetero. That is not to say many hetero women have not suffered, it is just that I didn’t feel like I had a defusing technique at my disposal to fall back on. i.e. feminine wiles. Again, not saying that is an automatic protection, just saying.

    And no before anyone asks, I don’t want a cookie for not correcting an assumption that I am a lesbian.

  3. October 20, 2010 3:28 am

    Thanks for this, Margie. Thanks for being on the side of feminist lesbians, always.

    And Kitty, your comment made me think about how – I don’t even know if I can aptly explain why – it just delighted me no fucking end the first time I heard a straight woman say that she told pestering males that she was a lesbian to get them to fuck off. I think it was just, finally someone I knew being like, not only is lesbianism not something bad to be associated with or mistaken for, but it is also not a bad thing to purposefully try to disgust and dismay straight males who are pressuring you for service. Like, good, I hope you all think that, instead of, oh no I’m not gay I’m just not into you or [some non-male-rejecting excuse in its place].

    Not to say lesbianism is to be used as a shield, and hey lesbians, thanks for providing cover! Just that I grew up in a really lesbian-hating town. And I never thought it was a bad thing. And lesbians themselves were certainly not safe enough to be crowing about being lesbians out loud. And I just loved that first adult woman I met who said out loud that she preferred some man think it of her, than that he think she might be at all interested in him, even/including if it made him think she wasn’t interested in ANY man. That there was nothing wrong with wanting males to not-be attracted to you, for any reason, including mistaking you for a lesbian.

    Of course, I loved it more when I finally met women who were actually out-lesbians.

    And of course, men thinking that some woman is a lesbian is sadly NOT an automatic man-repellent, and many males purposefully force themselves on lesbians because they are disgusted by the idea that any female person should have the gall to not want to suck males’ dicks, and they won’t stand for it.

    Anyway, I don’t know if that was off topic, it’s just what your comment made me think of Kitty. And again, loved this post. Especially this:

    “Straight women are more afraid that they will be mistaken for lesbians than they are to be positively identified as willingly available to males!”

    Ain’t it the fucking truth.

  4. October 20, 2010 9:21 am

    I agree it should be natural to assume that any femininity-rejecting females, in any period of history, were lesbians, and should be called lesbians. I once wrote a short story about two nuns who had been abandoned inside a walled convent. They had an intimate and to some extent sexual relationship with one another, though this was not the point of the story. It amazed me that amongst the people who read this story, about half were outraged that I would suggest that two ‘holy’ women, who had chosen to separate and be with each other, would have any kind of physical intimacy. The other half literally could not see that there was any sexuality there, even though it was quite explicitly on the page, in words. They couldn’t see it at all.

    Joan of Arc was also described as an ‘Amazon’, I believe, which is surely a code-word for ‘lesbian’. I am sure that if anyone bothers to read the history of Joan from a lesbian perspective, i.e. not actively seeking to erase her lesbianism, it would be obvious that she was a lifelong, femininity-rejecting, lesbian.

  5. Mary Sunshine permalink
    October 20, 2010 9:33 am

    I read the “classic comic” version of Joan of Arc when I was a kid (less than 10), and was ecstatically convinced she was a lesbian. Nobody had ever told me the word at that point, but I knew.

  6. October 20, 2010 11:31 am

    Yet I’m to believe that straight women were the ones rejecting femininity in times when it could get you burned alive?

    That says it all right there, doesn’t it? Fab post!

  7. Level Best permalink
    October 20, 2010 5:29 pm

    The first wave of feminism, which brought about most of women’s rights in the western world, was largely comprised of lesbians. We all owe a huge debt to these women who suffered ostracism, imprisonment, attack, and sometimes death in order to push for the rights that should have been our human rights all along. The second wave’s socially orchestrated panic over lesbianism was extremely misplaced and detrimental to the movement remaining cohesive. I have great hopes we’ll get it right this time.

    • October 20, 2010 5:41 pm

      I agree about women’s movements being largely comprised of lesbians, only I wouldn’t limit it to just white western waves of feminism. Women’s interests, wherever and whenever they’ve been seen to on the planet, and whatever the proponents have called themselves or their ideologies, have always been taken up by lesbians.

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