There has been a nebulous feeling fluttering at the edges of my consciousness lately, something that I haven’t been able to put into words until now. This bewildering feeling has nagged me every time I log into Twitter; it is a vague sense of apprehension, a certain wariness that I wasn’t even fully aware of until very recently.
For one thing, I have been super-busy lately, so I haven’t had much time to contemplate my thoughts and feelings (thank goodness for an Election Day holiday today!). For another thing, I have been sick, several times in a row now, so what little energy I’ve had has been focused on getting well.
Dirt and I recently wrote Portraits of a Straightbian and writing that started to bring this ill-defined feeling I was having into a clearer focus. But it wasn’t until we published that post that a bigger picture was revealed to me; sort of like when I first wake up in the morning and I can only see the blurry outlines of shapes, but then I put my glasses on and BOOM! I can see.
The clarity happened when joannadeadwinter and Mint Leaf, both commenting on Portraits of a Straightbian, articulated precisely what had been nagging at me, finally bringing the actual underlying issues to the forefront of my consciousness ~ please see the “Comments” section of that post for details.
So, in essence, here is a basic list of some of what has been nagging at me:
Lesbians, in our eagerness to support our straight feminist “sisters”, often willingly jump on their bandwagons and spend our precious time and energy fighting for causes that do NOT directly affect Lesbians (abortion; male domestic violence; etc.).
In fact, Lesbians spend so much of our precious time and energy supporting Straight feminist causes that we fail to notice that it is not reciprocal; Lesbian-only issues are typically ignored and we are often too depleted from fighting other people’s battles that we have nothing left over for our own battles.
When Lesbians speak out against this omission of our needs, or about other issues affecting Lesbians only, we are typically ignored, muted, blocked, mocked, minimized, and/or outright excluded by the very people we mistakenly thought were our “allies”.
Furthermore, Lesbian solidarity with our straight feminist “sisters” allows Straightbians a wide open door into Lesbian space and lives, often with devastating consequences for Lesbians. As Mint Leaf said so well in one of her comments: “I think lesbians believing that they share fundamental values and a worldview with feminist Straightbians is actually a common way for these damaging relationships to get started. It’s not hard to confuse being really passionate on behalf of women’s rights with being passionate for women themselves.”
A lot of radical feminist rhetoric is actually shockingly anti-lesbian; for instance, the common phrase used about “eschewing femininity” is not only inaccurate, fake, and ridiculous (as joannadeadwinter‘s comment said: “…when you go out of your way to avoid anything that might be considered feminine…that’s an act.”)…but even more importantly, it is also deeply misogynistic, because it displays an underlying disrespect for so-called “feminine” women, and reinforces the patriarchal idea that the so-called “masculine” is preferable. As joannadeadwinter said: “It reinforces men as the default human, which is supposedly what rad fems are trying to oppose.”
There are a LOT of mistaken assumptions and underlying straight privilege that leads to often-seemingly-subtle lesbophobia among straight feminists, something that I have been noticing for some time while trying to put my finger on exactly what was bothering me. Mint Leaf summed the main issues up excellently in her comment: “The really upsetting part is the underlying assumptions which fuel all of this: that heterosexuality is a relentless shitstorm for women, chosen out of social pressure; that lesbians are fortunate to escape men, and lead some sort of charmed, misogyny-free existence; and thus, that it’s a positive ‘lifestyle choice’ for straight feminists to become lesbians.”
I will likely think of more issues later, but those are the basic points that are at the forefront of my mind at the moment.
The underlying lesbophobia that exists underneath the shiny surface of “sisterhood” is illustrated well by something that recently happened to me:
After doing a guest post, I was initially included by some straight feminist “
allies” in conversations and in the possibility of future projects together. It seemed like a good opportunity to bridge the gap between lesbian and straight feminist interests, and I was excited about being a part of a group of (what I thought were) like-minded individuals.
However, when Dirt spoke out against a particular straight woman who is associated with them…someone who has publicly admitted to having previously called herself a
Lesbian and to having gained attention for it, by the way…I very quickly found out where I stood with these individuals who I had mistaken as “ allies“.
I was blocked immediately by the majority of these straight feminist “
allies“, without any conversation…I was excluded from their clique more quickly than you could say “Adios, Lesbo!”
I was immediately and firmly (though very politely) informed by the one (one!!!) individual who would even still speak to me that it would be better if we parted ways.
Would they have excluded a straight woman for something her husband did? I don’t know…but I highly doubt it.
And, the thing is, I agree that it is actually better that we parted ways. Better for them to rid themselves of the pesky Lesbians with our Inconvenient Truth(s), and better for me to have seen clearly that the initial excitement at being included was really just an illusion, much like the warning on some medications:
A false sense of well-being.
Because that is what happens to Lesbians…all the time. We are often lulled into a false sense of well-being by various people who we mistakenly think are on our side, but when the high wears off, as all highs inevitably will, that false sense of well-being is replaced by the dull ache of cold, stark realization that we were always outsiders.
The major lesson here is it is up to Lesbians. It is up to us to fight for our own rights; speak out about our own issues. We are on our own, as we really always were…but that is okay, because we are stronger than we have given ourselves credit for. We don’t need others’ approval, friendship, or help. We just need to stop diverting our valuable attention and resources and begin ALWAYS putting ourselves and our LESBIAN sisters first.