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.

Waves of Feminism Explained

Hopefully, you have heard about the three different waves of feminism. They each have significance for women and attempt to remove women from the box they were kept in. These first three waves of feminism lead us to our current position in the world, which is the fourth wave of feminism. 

For those who don’t have a clear idea of what the different waves of feminism entail, here is some information about what each of wave meant for women. The women in the first wave of feminism wanted equal contract and property rights for women. They wanted to provide women with the right to vote and to be more independent for their husbands. This wave also removed the ‘ownership’ over the wife by her husband. In 1919, the 19thAmendment was passed in the US Constitution that granted women their human right to vote. This is not the first example of women attempting to gain their equal rights, but this was a successful movement that set women up with tools of success for the next waves of feminism.

The second wave of feminism began as an action against the expectations of returning to a ‘domestic lifestyle’ after the men returned from World War II. Prior to this time period, women were left at home to raise the children, take care of the house, and other duties that the men were not expected to take part in. Being stuck at home, and expected to do so, created a sense of isolation from economics, careers, politics, and other outside-world activities. A highlight that started the wave was the book ‘The Second Sex’ which was written by Simone De Beauvoir. This book revealed the male-ideological world that these women were stuck in. She put an emphasis on the fact that women were the child bearers, they menstruated, they lactated, but in no way did that make them the “other” or “second sex” to men.

1961 was also a big year for women; this is when the Food and Drug Administration distributed oral contraceptive pills. This provided freedom for women to choose careers without the worry of having an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy. This showed that women were not under the wing of their husbands or tied down by children, they were individuals with aspirations and the will to get there. The second wave of feminism put an emphasis on attaining the rights that men had and eliminating the ‘men rule the world’ mentality. They put a focus on integrating women into once male dominated areas. 

The early 1990s marks when the third wave of feminism began. This wave centered around diversity, which the second wave didn’t account for. Intersectionality – the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage – was explored during the third wave. The layers of oppression explain that someone which a diverse background can be discriminated again in many different ways. So, an example of this would be how an African American female can have a different experience than a white female living in the same era. “The third-wave sees women’s lives as intersectional, demonstrating how race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, and nationality are all significant factors when discussing feminism. It examines issues related to women’s lives on an international basis,” a quote taken from an article explaining what the third wave of feminism centered around.  

The women focused on a few aspects that would improve the lives of the intended audience. They focused on LGBTQ rights, body positivity, fat positivity, sex positivity, environmentalism, and the brain and beauty stigma. The activists in this wave realized that many communities were left behind during the second wave of feminism. This was their opportunity to bring these communities to the forefront of the activism. 

Now we are experiencing the fourth wave of feminism. This is driven by the development of technology, social media, and open communication. The internet provides tools to empower women. Many of the female activists push for more female leaders, business people, females in politics, and other male-dominated fields. Not only does the influx of information provide women with the tools to break through glass ceilings, these women are focusing on revealing maltreatment to light. The #MeToo movement brought out many harassment stories of women, that they were urged, forced, and blackmailed to keep quiet.

The internet provides a sense of mobility that allow women from all over to gather on certain platforms to support one another and trade stories to empower others in those situations. This Women’s Center Blog is a feature of this wave of feminism. We have writers elaborating about topics to educate others about women; it is a platform to share information to others. 

Other campaigns that come from this wave of feminism include: Everyday Sexism ProjectNo More Page 3Ni una menosStop Bild SexismFree the NippleSlutWalk, the 2017 and 2018 Women’s MarchesTime’s Up, and One Billion Rising.

Each wave of feminism builds on the other. They each address a different aspect of life that women didn’t have the basic rights to. The waves of feminism have progressed to where we are today and it is continuing on. 


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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Donate at: vidaweb.org

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”

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”

How to Make your Instagram a Positivity Haven

A design depicting drawings of nude, female bodies in all shapes, sizes and colors.
All Bodies are Beautiful
Image taken from: Creative Commons

By Bailey Brockett

When I cut my hair, I spent a solid hour trying to take a picture of it with one goal in mind: Instagram. I needed the likes and comments to validate essentially everything, or at least temporarily remind me that I had friends. I eventually, and quite reluctantly, gave up due to several thoughts passing through my brain, the first being that my new haircut made my face look much rounder than it used to. You could clearly see the Jimmy John’s sandwich sticking out in the overalls I was wearing, which led to the certainty that if I posted this picture, everyone would know that I was the kid that got fat after high school. My relationship with Instagram has always been similar to this process, and I realized then that maybe it wasn’t healthy for me to be partaking in it, or social media in general. It is safe to say that Instagram is one of the first platforms to pop into our heads when we think about social media, and while it can negatively impact our mental health, I also believe it can be used as a tool to remind us that we are all human. Here are five ways to make your Instagram a positivity haven.

1. Unfollow People

I know this is the one that you hear constantly, but you hear it for a reason. It works. Unfollow the people from high school whose posts bring nothing but annoyance or jealousy. It doesn’t matter if they always leave nice comments on your posts. Unfollow accounts and celebrities who endorse unhealthy dieting products, or who make you feel insecure. Unless you are truly serious about fitness, unfollow those accounts as well, especially if seeing their posts makes you feel guilty rather than inspired. Go through the list of people you follow and take time to make a truly honest purge.

2. Follow Accounts that Inspire You

What hobbies or activities bring you joy? What would you like to learn more about? Science, art, poetry, aligning your chakras? There are accounts for everything! Follow accounts that add value to your day by teaching you or inspiring you. Follow accounts that make you laugh or post encouraging quotes. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. The Awkward Yeti – A comic artist who humorously personifies body parts.
  2. Introvert Doodles – A comic artist who portrays the struggles and benefits of being an introvert.
  3. Heikala – A relaxing watercolor artist.
  4. Feminist – Inspiring and informative posts related to women and feminism.
  5. The Just Girl Project – An account dedicated to inspiring women.
  6. Reveal Mission – Chad Estes is a photographer whose photos tell stories of women and their body image journey.
  7. Artwork Paradise – An account that shares a variety of artwork from artists globally.
  8. Period Movement – A non-profit organization dedicated to ending period poverty, and the stigma surrounding menstruation.
  9. Strange Planet – A comic artist who portrays aliens experiencing mundane, human tasks.
  10. Michael James Schneider – A balloon artist, but not in the way that you would expect.

3. Follow People Who Inspire You

Following celebrities on Instagram certainly has its perks. Followers can feel a closer connection with their favorite musicians, actors, etc. However, sometimes we follow celebrities simply because they are just that, a celebrity. Ask yourself: Does this person bring any value to my scrolling? Do I feel insecure after having seen this post? If so, unfollow them and find people who you feel represent you in the media. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Jameela JamilThe Good Place actor and body acceptance advocate
  2. Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda) – feminist, author, and body positivity influencer
  3. Lizzo – Singer and body positivity advocate
  4. Ashley Graham – Plus size model
  5. Greta Thunberg – A young climate activist
  6. Abi’s Blog – A fashion and lifestyle blogger who refers to herself as “midsize”
  7. Charlotte Price – Fashion, travel, and body positivity vlogger
  8. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – New York Congresswoman
  9. Lucy Wood – YouTuber who runs a series called #averagegirlsize
  10. Jazzmyne – Buzzfeed producer and body confidence promoter

4. Take Breaks

Something I’m starting to see consistently is people posting on their stories that they are taking a break for a week or two and I always think to myself that it’s a fantastic idea. There are countless benefits from taking a few weeks off from Instagram. Social media inevitably leads us to compare aspects of ourselves with others, many of whom have a job to post and look fantastic. This allows for even more insecurity to wreak havoc in our lives, which, honestly, who has time for? A break from social media would also allow individuals to have authentic human interaction, which can lead to new friendships and healthier relationships!

5. Make Sure Your Posts are Also Contributing to the Positive Atmosphere

When you are posting a picture, make sure you ask yourself the reasons for doing so. Don’t do the, “Felt cute, might delete later.” If you feel cute, post it and be confident! If you don’t, don’t post it simply for the purpose of receiving compliments from others. Don’t post pictures or videos that may be offensive to particular groups of people or make passive aggressive comments toward others. Post your art, writing, poetry, photography, and don’t worry about what the response you may receive. Create a platform of what inspires you and brings you joy. Put into social what you want you get out of it.

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”