When I was a kid I always thought feminists and lesbians were the same. When I discovered my own sexuality and finally, at 15, began the grueling process of coming out, I realized how wrong I was as a kid. To gain a little more perspective on the subject, I did search the net for some resources. I took a women’s studies course about a year ago and loved every minute of it. When I was younger I assumed that all women in women’s studies courses were lesbians and all girls who went to all girl’s schools were lesbians as well. I was SO wrong. My freshman year of college, I only met ONE lesbian from the all girl’s school across town from my school. And in my women’s studies class, I was the only lesbian.
When I did the internet search, I found a page on Lesbian Feminism at Wikipedia. I got a hit for “Lesbian Feminism.” Here are the 7 key themes of lesbian feminism as defined by Sheila Jeffreys.
1. An emphasis on women’s love for one another.
2. Seperatist organizations.
3. Community and ideas.
4. Idea that lesbianism is about choice and resistance.
5. Idea that the personal is the political.
6. A rejection of heirarchy in the form of role-playing and sado-masochism.
7. A critique of male supremacy which eroticises inequality.
While a few of those are great like numbers 1 and 3…there is a big problem with others, especially number 4. In this view, homosexuality is a choice or conscious response to man-made organizations. I completely disagree. While some girls may choose it because it’s in the media and it’s “cool” to be bi…I can’t understand why someone would consider sexuality a choice. My sisters did not choose to be straight. They just are. I did not choose to be a lesbian. I just am. Why would I choose such a hard path in life if I could just choose to love men instead?
I see feminism as a movement that seeks to create equality between genders, stop sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and discrimination based on sex. I also can see a problem with gender-roles. As children we are socialized to fit into one specfic role, either man or woman. Even in lesbian relationships people ask, “Who is the man?” Why does someone have to be the man? When we were little, I played army and Power Rangers with my brother and he played house and barbies with me. I played baseball and football with the boys, but I also did ballet, tap, and jazz until I was 11. In my last relationship (we just broke up), I dressed more like a boi, but she drove everywhere, she paid most times, and she was the more dominant person. In bed though, I was more dominant. I considered us equal partners.
So it isn’t that lesbians and feminists are worlds apart. More often than not, we have the same goals. But there is a distinct line between the two groups. A lot of feminists would not agree with gender roles in lesbian relationships, or one of the women dressing more masculine and acting more masculine. While it isn’t the social gender role the butch lesbian fell into, she still is conforming to a gender role.
I have a hat that I like to wear that says “I <3 Bikinis.” I think it’s funny. Plus, I get some weird looks when I wear it. I love it. I love that it defies social norms and upsets people. One person it upsets is my middle sister. She says the hat “objectifies women.” Yeah, it does. But men wear hats and even shirts like that with little or no objection from the general public. Some would say that by wearing that hat, I am rejecting feminism. Maybe I am. So what? Other ways I defy feminism are: shaving my legs and wearing a bra. Not all feminists refuse to shave or wear bras. But those two things are classic examples of oppression by men. A man invented the bra. We shave our legs to be attractive, most of the time, to men. I, however, do not. I don’t like body hair at all–on anyone. That is why I shave, to be more comfortable in my own body. Is that unfeminist of me?
90% of the time I completely defy social norms and pre-set gender roles. When I have children, I will not force my son to play with boy toys if he wants a doll. I won’t force my daughter to be a princess for halloween if she wants to be Batman. I want a son named Shannon and a daughter named James. I completely respect the feminist movement. I respect activist lesbians. I, however, am content just to be me. I don’t have to go out and fight for legal abortion, birth control, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, or many of the other feminist causes. I do have strong opinions on all of those issues, as well as strong opinions on lesbian issues like gay marriage/civil unions, adoption, sexual orientation based discrimination, and the general lack of education about gay/lesbian issues.
I don’t think that marriage should be defined by the government. I don’t believe that it should only be reserved for heterosexual couples. Marriage is about love, not gender. Love is the same between two women as it is between a man and a woman. I don’t think that there should be a glass ceiling in some industries to stop women from advancing. I don’t believe that some fields are more suited for men. A woman can do anything a man can. We are all created equal. No man, or woman, has the right to tell me who I can or cannot love, whether or not I can get an abortion if I want, whether or not birth control is available to me, how I should dress, act, or think. So yes, most of the time lesbian issues and feminist issues go hand in hand. But both movements are completely seperate.