A False Sense Of Well-Being

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.

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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.

10 thoughts on “A False Sense Of Well-Being

  1. I have some thoughts about the issue of “eschewing femininity.” And I will speak for myself here as someone who considers herself a “feminist, not the fun kind” but is genuinely attracted to women. I had to separate two different versions of “femininity” in order to understand who I am. There is a fake, artificial version of femininity that consists of stereotypes and superficial things like wearing makeup and high heels and talking about diets and shoes all the time. Some elements of the cultural construct of femininity are sold to us by companies and presented to us in things like sit-coms where people behave like stupid caricatures. But there are also real personality traits that are natural to human beings that are considered “feminine” personality traits such as empathy, sensitivity, nurturing, and good interpersonal/communication skills. I’ve been really pondering the meaning of butch and femme since I read your posts about them and I’ve come to realize that even though I feel very alienated from women who squeal about purses and shoes and makeup, I actually am pretty feminine. My natural personality traits are those that are considered the “feminine” traits. I’m just not a shallow, superficial idiot, that’s all.
    So when talking about radfems who reject femininity I think it’s important to look at what exactly are they rejecting: are they rejecting harmful stereotypes about women and being themselves, or are they rejecting their natural personality traits and trying to be someone else? What they should be doing is rejecting harmful stereotypes and being themselves. If anyone is deliberately trying to erase their personalities and act like someone else then I agree that’s wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree with what you are saying here.

      I don’t know the motivations of ALL people who use that phrase, clearly…but from all the times I personally have seen various women refer to “eschewing femininity” (in blog posts, comments, tweets, in person, etc.), it has ALWAYS been from the context of rejecting the physical attributes associated with so-called “femininity” (such as hair styles, clothes, not shaving, etc.).

      While I am totally supportive of women’s rights to ANY sort of physical appearance they want, the implication that these particular individuals are suggesting regarding myself and anybody else who is more stereotypically “feminine” is a condescending, superior attitude that they are soooo much more “evolved” by having allegedly “eschewed femininity”.

      Which is nonsense. Shave or don’t shave, cut your hair short or don’t, wear whatever the heck you want to, but don’t be arrogant enough and misogynistic enough to look down on other females by assuming that their version of “eschewing femininity” is preferable or brilliant. It’s not. It’s just another way for some women to feel smugly superior under the guise of feminism (which is ironic).

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      • There are some women who are really enthusiastic about feminism but don’t grasp the difference between making material changes to society to benefit ALL women and policing individual women’s choices. Feminism should not be about bullying women who shave their legs, it should be about making it possible for women to stop shaving their legs if they don’t want to, by eliminating policies that mandate women look and dress a certain way. Those women who are overly focused on individual people’s choices are missing the point. Just because women don’t *have* to have long hair, doesn’t mean they *can’t* have long hair, etc. There is a big issue in radical feminism right now with women treating radical feminism as a political identity that one either is or isn’t according to whether they meet certain criteria. Radical feminism is supposed to be an analysis of women’s oppression and an action plan to change things for the better, it’s not supposed to be an identity that people can lay claim to.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, exactly! Well said. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with women doing whatever they want with their own appearance; but when anybody starts to try to tell ME what to do (or acting like they are somehow superior or right), then I have a problem…and those are the specific types I am referring to with the examples of “eschewing femininity”.

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    • PS: I also understand and totally agree with what you are saying because I feel alienated myself from women who focus on shopping, shoes, purses, clothes, fingernails, etc. I have always been an outsider re: those kinds of things; but yet, based on my overall appearance and mannerisms and personality traits, etc. I am considered to be “stereotypically feminine”. (I wish there were better words to describe what I mean, which is why I put “feminine” in quotation marks, ugh!).

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  2. Thank you for another insightful post.
    “Would they have excluded a straight woman for something her husband did?”
    Perhaps this is off topic, but this one sentence gave me a lot of food for thought.

    I think a lot of straight radfems have theorized themselves into a corner where they can’t openly talk about how “special”/”exceptional” their man is without inviting scorn, they can’t admit the ways in which they benefit from their straight privilege without giving up the “women are perpetual victims” line, and they can’t follow through on political lesbianism like they say they want to in order to make their lives better. Instead, their own investment in heterosexuality and patriarchy is obscured beneath “global sisterhood” rhetoric and any lesbian who points this out is accused of misogyny and divisiveness.

    But, as I’ve finally admitted to myself, it is not our duty as lesbians to tolerate this for “the greater good” or for the benefit of the majority. Especially with the current sistuation in the US, I’m going to be putting my dollars and my political energy into lesbian causes – because nobody else will.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Again, you have really said clearly exactly what I am feeling — yes, it is not our duty as lesbians to take care of everyone else’s needs first. The time has come that it is imperative to put our own issues and needs first.

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