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Why is feminism so closely intertwined with lesbianism?

(27 Posts)
werewolvesdidit Tue 06-Nov-12 22:26:34

I have started going to a feminist group and pretty soon I realised that about 90% of the group are lesbians/bi. We seem to discuss gender issues etc a lot from a lesbian point of view and it only occurred to me the other day that it doesn't really make sense to me. Surely one's sexuality is irrelevant in the sense that the important thing is that all women experience sexism under the patriarchy and that one's individual sexual preferences are actually irrelevant. I am genuinely interested to know if I am missing the point of something here. All replies gratefully received!

KRITIQ Tue 06-Nov-12 22:47:44

I suppose there are all sorts of reasons for the connection between Lesbian sexual identity and feminist ideology. Not scientific, but perhaps a few reasons . . .

- If you aren't in or have no interest in a romantic relationship with a man, it may be easier in some ways to identify and acknowledge examples of sexism in wider society (and then feel moved to do something about it!)

- Feminists generally reject the idea that women should be constrained by gender stereotypes and male-defined sexual identities. Therefore, Lesbians and bisexual women may feel they will be more accepted within feminist groups than say other groupings.

- Some feminists, particularly those who identify as radical feminists, choose not to have romantic/sexual relationships with men because they feel this is incompatible with their political views. If they identify as straight, they may choose to be celibate or choose to have relationships only with other women.

- Some women will have lived much of their lives influenced by patriarchal social conditioning and conforming to gender roles, including sexual relationships with men. When they increase their awareness of feminist ideals, they may discover that they were in hetero relationships as a function of that conformity, but when not so constrained, realise they are attracted to women.

legosaurus Wed 07-Nov-12 14:56:43

werewolves, you have asked a really interesting question. I am new to feminism but I have just started to understand the concept of intersectionality, which is what I think you might find useful to look up. Yes, all women experience discrimination under the patriarchy but a woman who is gay will experience discrimination because they are a woman AND also because they are gay. The two are inextricably linked.

Feminism is a movement that seeks social justice: equality for men and women. However, when we are looking at issues surrounding social justice there is a term that is very useful to learn about that is called privilege. You can enjoy privileges in society if you belong to the norm or the dominant group. White males, for example carry lots of privileges, such as ease of access to opportunities, power and status. However, a white homosexual man might not carry all of the privileges as a white straight, male, as homosexuals are often discriminated against.

What can often be a difficult but useful exercise is to think about what privileges you carry and then listen to your other group members and try to recognise that their concerns are just as valid as yours, except they are different where sexuality is concerned. Instead of switching off and thinking ''This is irrelevant to me as I am straight, when can we get back to talking about stuff that is just about us all being women'' try thinking ''Gosh, I did not know that gay women have to think about this. I never have to worry about out that because I am straight.'' ''Or, why is it that just because a woman is not straight she has to suffer x type of treatment''? Frame it differently.

I think, if your group consisted of straight women all over the age of 65 you might have found that you ended up discussing issues faced by that age group. Ultimately, a group tends to be led by the make up its members.

Again, we come up against the same issue in feminism where if another -ism comes into the equation it is often deemed as ''irrelevant'' or ''splintering'' to the feminist cause.

Their concerns and issues they face are still relevant to you, as you are all women but they just also have additional discrimination to think about.

By the way, I admire you for actually joining a feminist group!

legosaurus Wed 07-Nov-12 15:01:58

I forgot to post a link to Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Knapsack. This has now become a standard checklist that can be applied to the invisible knapsack of male privilege, straight privilege, class privilege, cisgender privilege.

This blog has a few lists

LineRunner Thu 08-Nov-12 00:06:23

When you don't 'need' a man to complete you (!) you start to look at life, politics and power afresh.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Thu 08-Nov-12 00:10:09

Some feminists are lesbians, some aren't. Some feminists are lesbians for more ideological reasons than deep-rooted sexual preference (though everyone's on a sliding scale, really). It's possible that you have happened on a particular group with more lesbian/bi women than there might be in another feminist group.

SingingSilver Thu 08-Nov-12 00:13:38

Many straight women, especially young women in our society, seek approval from men for whatever reason, and don't want to do anything to displease them or make themselves look unattractive. I know several women like this. They hate it when I discuss feminism with them in front a man, they can't disassociate themselves quickly enough! I suppose lesbians don't have that social pressure.

SomersetONeil Thu 08-Nov-12 07:44:39

I can't speak for lesbians since I'm not one, but I agree with Singing and was going to come on to say similar.

Many straight women kowtow to the patriarchy as part of their daily life far more than lesbians maybe tend to. Women in partnerships with entitled men. Women pressured by beauty standards, etc. I'm absolutely not saying that lesbians aren't also marginalised by the patriarchy - overall, they probably are much more so. Which is perhaps why more of them identify as feminists.

A lot of straight women are too invested in men and in hetero-monogamous relationships to identify with feminism. I also think that a lot of women think that because they like men, like make-up, are SAHMs, don't have a career, wear heels, etc, etc, then they're not allowed to join the club. That if they do join the club, they have to hand over their razors and their MAC brushes, stop tweezing forever and become all shrill and ranty. When, of course, this couldn't be further from the truth.

ChicMama25 Thu 08-Nov-12 07:55:41

Not trying to be provocative but I genuinely feel that the patriarchy (society) tends to pit women against each other in competition mistrust and animosity. When you start to consciously become aware of and reject patriarchal conditioning you start to feel that solidarity with other women a lot more. Perhaps this is what allows closer relationships between feminist women and the freedom for these to develop into something more without worrying about what men will think? Also that kind of closeness is not something you can get with a man (not dissing hetero relationships, I'm in one! But it is v different)

MrsMangoBiscuit Thu 08-Nov-12 08:01:32

There is also the bullshit retort that some men come out with when I woman promotes feminism, or sometimes just when she stands up for herself! "She must be a man-hating lesbian" <sigh>

UltraBOF Thu 08-Nov-12 08:08:54

They're both about loving women- you can see there is going to be some crossover, surely?

namechangeguy Thu 08-Nov-12 08:59:28

Not trying to be provocative but I genuinely feel that the patriarchy (society) tends to pit women against each other in competition mistrust and animosity.

ChicMama, it is also perfectly possible to see this kind of behaviour on here, between women. Competition, mistrust and animosity are not exclusive to the patriarchy. They are part of human nature.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 08-Nov-12 09:43:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChicMama25 Thu 08-Nov-12 11:15:03

Thank you stewie! Better articulated than I could've done. Also, influence of conditioning doesn't stop when there are no men around btw! So namechangeguy's point about mumsnet is completely proving my point rather than disproving

namechangeguy Thu 08-Nov-12 11:58:00

If you don't believe that those traits exist in nature outside of human society, then I think we must be talking about different things. In our primitive state we compete to survive as well as co-operate. As for mistrust - what happens to explorers who discover lost tribes? Are they greeted with open arms or suspicion? Extreme examples maybe, but these incidents occur outside the patriarchy.

ArtexMonkey Thu 08-Nov-12 12:14:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 08-Nov-12 12:23:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

namechangeguy Thu 08-Nov-12 12:24:30

Artex, if that was a serious question, I found the following on Wikipedia;

There are also matrilinear, matrilocal, and avunculocal societies, especially among indigenous peoples of Asia and Africa, such as those of the Minangkabau, E De (Rhade), Mosuo, Berbers and Tuareg and, in Europe, e.g., Sardinian people.

The Hopi Indian tribe (in what is now the U.S.), according to Alice Schlegel, had as its "gender ideology ... one of female superiority, and it operated within a social actuality of sexual equality."

The Iroquois Confederacy or League, combining five to six American Indian nations or tribes before the U.S. became a nation, operated by The Great Binding Law of Peace, a constitution by which women participated in the League's political decision-making, including deciding whether to proceed to war,[59] through what may have been a matriarchy[60] or "'gyneocracy'".

If you were kidding, please ignore.

ArtexMonkey Thu 08-Nov-12 12:39:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

namechangeguy Thu 08-Nov-12 14:44:02

Yes, tons. There is stuff about land disputes, rebellions, caste systems, slavery - it's all in there! Sarcasm noted, too.

ChicMama25 Thu 08-Nov-12 20:56:12

Women make statement about the patriarchy / sexism. Man must find one example to "show them" they are talking bullshit. Yawn. I'm out.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 08-Nov-12 21:08:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

werewolvesdidit Thu 08-Nov-12 21:12:52

Thanks for the interesting and informative replies.

SomersetONeil Fri 09-Nov-12 01:45:57

"ChicMama, it is also perfectly possible to see this kind of behaviour on here, between women."

What is point you're making? Mumsnet doesn't exist in a non-patriarchal bubble. You're simply proving the point.

Chic - your point was actually a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. I hadn't really considered it before. I've been debating for the last few however many weeks of my life on the Guardian/stripclub thread and quite a few of the men - and women on the pro side - have been really keen for we antis to come down as hard on the women who strip, as on the punters who use the establishments. But none of us have - for obvious (to us, at least) reasons.

namechangeguy Fri 09-Nov-12 09:55:29

I have read my original point back, and indeed it is a bit daft. Apologies - I wasn't having a pop, ChicMama.

What I should have said was that society/patriarchy pits person against person. Alpha person syndrome, if you like - the fight to get to the top in business, to have the biggest house, the widest TV etc etc. And certainly in business, it never seems enough just to be successful - it seems that grinding your competitors into the dust is part of being top dog. But I guess that we are fighting each other, those with the real power are left in peace. Not sure what this has to do with lesbians though grin

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