The Herasure of Lesbians

By Madeleine Clow

Lesbians are defined through the dictionary as, a woman who is sexually attracted to another woman. I would define lesbianism as any queer AFAB (assigned-female-at-birth), AMAB-trans person, non-binary/gender-nonconforming/gender-fluid, self-identified woman/female, who is attracted to another queer self-identified woman/female.

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According, to Kate Manne’s definition of misogyny, in her book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, lesbians are ‘bad women.’ Manne defines misogyny as enforcing sexism bypolicing women in society, in order, to keep them subservient. Every woman is a ‘bad woman’ in Manne’s definition because they haven’t become ‘good women.’ A woman can become a ‘good woman’ by provide feminine-coded goods and services for men. Lesbians are incapable of ever becoming ‘good women,’ because our existence makes men irrelevant and unnecessary, rendering them powerless.

Not only are lesbians failing to be ‘good women,’ but we are in competition with men,

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Kate Manne

because misogynists require women to provide feminine-coded goods when lesbians are presenting masculine-coded goods by simply living without men. Manne writes in Taking His Out, “In view of differential norms of giving, a woman may be held to owe characteristically feminine-coded goods to some man, ideally, or at least to society; and a man may be held to be entitled to lay claim to them from her with impunity – women may be effectively prohibited from competing with him for, or otherwise robbing him of, certain masculine-coded prizes; and he may also be deemed entitled to prevent her from so doing.” When lesbians have masculine-coded goods, men are threatened to the point of needing to punish us as the ‘bad women’ we are. Nora Berenstain writes in her Book Review on Down Girl, “On Manne’s account, the primary function of misogynistic acts and behaviours is to punish women who deviate from patriarchal norms and expectations. Under these norms,

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Nora Berenstain

women are expected to provide men with feminine-coded goods, such as deference, attention, care, and sympathy. When women do not provide such goods or request masculine-coded goods like status or authority, they can expect to be put in their place as ‘more or less subtly hostile, threatening, and punitive norm-enforcement mechanisms will be standing at the ready.’ Misogyny is thus construed as the series of ‘coercive enforcement mechanisms’ that ensure that women stick to their assigned patriarchal roles of providing emotional labour and that those who deviate from the script are swiftly punished.” Lesbians are punished into ‘herasure,’ resulting in undervalued women and the erasure of lesbians.

 

Society is complicit in the ‘herasure’ of lesbianism by the public acceptance of gay couples and families more than lesbian couples and families. The L versus G controversy is subliminal in our society. But it is consistent in its ‘herasure’ of lesbianism. Gay men and the word ‘gay’ are widely more popularly accepted than lesbian. Many women

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Brie Larson

would rather identify as gay or queer when coming out, than as lesbian. Lesbian has become a charged label with a negative connotation, I believe this has stemmed from misogyny. According, to Out.com and their timeline of Nearly Every Queer Couple in TV History, there is less than half as much lesbian representation than there is gay. Many companies would rather skip around the idea of female queerness rather than outwardly make a character lesbian. Captain Marvel and Elsa are perfect examples of sexual identity ambiguity for character depth. Elsa had meet-cute moments with 

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Honeymaren and Elsa from Frozen 2

 

Honeymaren in Frozen 2. Many queer people believe Elsa’s new solo in the movie, was a queer anthem. Almost every queer woman has a crush on Brie Larson, her strength and style. Yet these characters are given no labels, when there have been many more explicit moments of gay male relationships on TV. Lesbian families are also rare to see in popular culture unlike gay families with children. Two lesbians mothering children threaten men’s masculine-coded prizes of a nuclear family, therefore resulting in misogyny.

Popular Culture celebrities are also playing around with sexual ambiguity to entice fans and hopefully gather support from the LGBTQIA+ community. Stars like “Madonna, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande have used lesbian/bisexual hints to titillate fans and sell more records,” according, to Spectator UK. These hints of lesbianism are called ‘lesbian tourism.’ When it is popularized for heterosexual women to display

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Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande (Getty)

queer woman-on-woman flirtations this furthers the ‘herasure’ of lesbians. Examples of queer women love that are inaccurate to the truth of lesbian love is harmful to lesbian women. It creates an inner-misogyny along with battling compulsory heterosexuality. This inner-misogyny comes from concepts created within the lesbian community to validate true ‘lesbianism.’ Labels like ‘gold star lesbian’ are harmful to the community and the perception of there being guidelines to identifying as a lesbian. A ‘gold star lesbian’ is a lesbian who has never been intimate with a man. Identifying as ‘gold star’ creates a hierarchy within lesbianism and therefore makes women who identify as lesbian who have previously been with men, experience ‘herasure.’

 

Living in the patriarchy, as a lesbian, results in hostility and punishment from men and misogynists for not being gender compliant women. Lesbians aren’t capable of ‘giving’ any ‘goods’ to men. Lori Watson adds in her Comments on Down Girl, “One aspect of

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Lori Watson

patriarchy’s reliance upon a gender binary to ensure conformity to binary gender roles, and thus secure a set of reliable givers from whom men can take, is the “benefits” compliant women secure within this system. For as Manne carefully argues these gendered roles work to subordinate women as unequals in a binary gendered system and make them targets for violence and hostility.” Watson’s argument relates to how lesbians are not only incapable of ‘giving’ to men, but because we are ‘bad women’ we will never be deserving of social goods and standing. Therefore, misogyny villainizes lesbians because of our perpetual ‘badness.’ Watson describes this phenomenon, “Sometimes that includes being read and treated as a “failure” as a woman.  Instances of being perceived as a “failed woman” can be illuminated by the idea that in failing to conform to dominant standards of femininity, I have stepped out of line.” Lesbians being perpetual ‘bad women’ results in being ‘failures.’ Lesbians are ‘failures’ as women.

 

Because lesbians are ‘failures’ as women, lesbian can be an ‘insult.’ Being a lesbian can also be a place of power, because we disregard gender roles, misogyny, and the patriarchy, for what we want. That is why Hillary Clinton made headlines on NBC last

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NBC News Dec. 4th (Paul Morigi/Getty)

week for once again reiterating that she is not a lesbian. This came as a shocker, considering she has been married to a man for many years, had children with him, and is still married to him.

 

If being lesbian is regarded by, the majority, of society as negative, it is easy to deepen the demonization and propaganda against us. Clinton being accused of lesbianism is one case of portraying lesbianism asnegative. TERFs are an extreme case of negative propaganda against lesbians. TERFs, also known as, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, are not a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. TERFs believe only a woman born a woman can be a true lesbian. This is transphobic and not in accordance with the queer community’s beliefs. The world’s leading publications for lesbians came together to send an unapologetic message of support and solidarity to the trans community.Screen Shot 2019-12-14 at 3.32.02 PM.png

This public condemnation of male-owned businesses who are profiting off the misrepresentation of lesbians is a positive step towards social understanding. Because lesbians are consistently living within going against the grain of society, we are a perfect example of ‘bad women.’ Lesbianism has been around since women have existed, we are not going anywhere. The patriarchy cannot sustain expecting women to serve to their needs through misogyny when we are no longer fitting the definitions they want to put on us.

Women in Writing Today

By Madeleine Clow

Female writers are still fighting for equal representation in the literary world today. As a writer, myself, I think it is important to understand the uneven playing field that female authors are finding themselves in today. If these disparities are taken in to account more seriously, we may begin to see a shift in the literary world as we enter a new decade of the twenty-first century.

Although women are the majority of authors and readers today, men writers and reviewers dominate book coverage. Author Carole DeSanti, responded to interviewer Gina Barreca, stating, “It’s all very well (for example) to point out that women authors receive a lower number overall of prize nominations and serious, critical reviews.”

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These facts are recorded by, VIDA, the nonprofit organization dedicated to the women in literary arts with the message of intersectional feminism empowerment. Along with being undervalued, women’s literature is also devalued. Women writers are bashed for writing “women’s literature,” yet male critics don’t bat an eye at the literary history of the world being dominated by male voices for thousands of years. Male critics deconstruct our “women’s literature” down to the sexist ideation of what a woman is, and how she acts. Women are no longer housewives, placating to their husband’s every need. Women experience more than being a mother or a wife. Elif Shafak, author of 10 novels including 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, told The Atlantic writer Helen Lewis in an interview,

“a male novelist is primarily a novelist.

Nobody talks about his gender.

But a woman novelist is primarily a woman.”

Continue reading “Women in Writing Today”

Depression: A Woman’s Take

By Madeleine Clow

Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, the World Health Organization (WHO), estimates 300,000 million suffer worldwide. However, women are twice as likely to experience depression than men. Women also have even higher rates of suicide, bipolar disorder, and seasonal depression than men. Why is this happening? Why are women disproportionally affected by this mental illness? And how can you live with depression, if you yourself suffer from it?Screen Shot 2019-11-29 at 3.24.40 PM.png

I have been living with chronic debilitating mental illnesses since I was sixteen, which is six years now. It has been the hardest part of my life, and I am struggling to work with my mental illnesses daily. I suffer from general anxiety, major depressive disorder, and I’m currently speaking to my psychologist and psychiatrist about navigating the possibility of being bipolar. There is no easy solution to mental illness, it is something that you are working on your whole life. Some days are better than others, and it is about finding a balance so that your bad days don’t turn into bad weeks. Continue reading “Depression: A Woman’s Take”

What Not to Wear: Sexist Dress Codes in the Workplace

by Amy Alfredson

Black silhouettes of three men and two women in business attire.
Business Silhouettes
Image from Pixabay

The apparel for women has always unreasonably been a concern of the opposite sex. We are trained to “dress to impress” from a young age and have our outfits, hairstyles, and accessories judged and ridiculed throughout school. While the topic of academic apparel has been one widely discussed, debated, and, ultimately, still not where it ought to be, the workplace is another location where women encounter constant restrictions and criticism from unwelcome sources. Most of the dress codes are aimed at making women “appealing” for customers to ogle at, and take little consideration into the comfort and safety of the employees. Even attempting to find images for this article proved to be a challenge, as the stereotypes and unspoken requirements for women’s business attire exist at the comic and photo level.

This topic first came to mind upon stumbling across an article explaining the “ban on glasses” of female employees in Japan. The article explains how some employers have prohibited their female employees from wearing glasses and, while in some cases this is for safety (like airlines) or the type of industry (like makeup lines), it is a primarily sexist move based on outdated Japanese traditions. Even the arguments for safety or work performance are inherently flawed, as not everyone can wear contact lenses without harming their eyes or function as they are supposed to without glasses. Like most other nations, the female workers are valued for their appearance, which is why glasses supposedly interfere and make them appear “cold” towards customers. This starkly contradicts the belief that wearing glasses makes one seem smarter, so by refusing to allow women to wear glasses in the work place, they are further stripping them of equal footing with their male counterparts because they will be seen as too feminine and not outwardly reflect their intelligence. The same issue arose due to the enforcement of high heels policies that required women to wear heels regardless of where they worked. The “KuToo” hashtag and a petition against heels was created by Yumi Ishikawa after she expressed outrage at being forced to wear high heels in a funeral parlor despite back and foot pain.

Continue reading “What Not to Wear: Sexist Dress Codes in the Workplace”

Women of Color Created Climate Activism

By Madeleine Clow

Women of color, specifically indigenous women, have been at the forefront of climate activism when it comes to climate change throughout history. Although rarely recognized, their passionate work dedicated to their community’s and other marginalized people in need, has saved lives that are frequently forgotten and erased. Climate change radically affects women in poverty, with eighty percent of people being negatively affected by climate change being women, as well as the fact that seventy percent of people living in poverty are women. Therefore, natural disasters and other climate crises disproportionately affect people in poverty and poor communities. Women also suffer disproportionately for facing violence and domestic abuse due to the stress, anguish, grief, and suffering that comes with natural disasters destroying poor communities because of weak infrastructure and authoritative systems. Although women of color face such adversity in their community’s due to climate change, they have seized the challenge and become the forefront activists in climate change.

However, women in climate change have just begun to receive recognition for their feats. In 2014, women led the first International People’s Climate March. The March drew over 400,000 supporters worldwide, the majority, of them being women. September 20th, 2019 marked the most supported international climate strike in history, with more than 100,000 activists, also predominantly women. The climate strike was primarily dominated by women of color and indigenous groups. Continue reading “Women of Color Created Climate Activism”

Men Aren’t the Only Misogynists

By Madeleine Clow

As a member of modern societal culture, misogyny is a construct that we need to grapple with daily. What is misogyny? Misogyny is the social enactment of policing women through sexism. Men aren’t the only misogynists in our society that perpetuate misogyny. Women are just as at fault for misogynistic beliefs and actions in modern day culture. Women internalize misogyny by believing their success comes from pleasing men. images-1.jpgPleasing a man includes looking and acting how he wants. When what he wants, for you, becomes what you want, for you, that is when misogyny becomes internalized.

I would argue that our popular cultural depictions of beauty are systematically centralized around misogynistic ideals. These misogynistic beauty standards could look like expecting women to have supermodels’ bodies. When women are expected to be thin and curvy, women who do not fit within this construct are then ostracized for their bodies. This erasure can vary from bullying in school for having a different body type, to stores not carrying plus sizes, or make-up brands not selling darker shades. Continue reading “Men Aren’t the Only Misogynists”

Learn Your L, G, B’s

By Madeleine Clow

As a lesbian, I am a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, but there are micro-aggressions that I face as a lesbian woman that are different than those against each “letter” in the LGBTQIA+ community. I have lived as an out lesbian woman for the past four years, and previously identified as bisexual, as well as pansexual in my teenage years.

How can you know you are a lesbian for sure if you identified as those sexual orientations previously? How can you have identified as pansexual and bisexual in the past if you identify as lesbian now? The answer to both of these questions is that

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A variation of the Lesbian flag

sexuality is fluid, in that it is a spectrum and each individual falls on the spectrum of who they are attracted to. Who you are attracted to can change because people change; you are constantly growing. However, when you do find a label to identify with and that you find pride in, it is important to express that to the world. Continue reading “Learn Your L, G, B’s”