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.

Identity Politics

By Vicky Diloné

You are betraying your race.

This statement and others like it have been directed towards me throughout my adult life. I have been called a tool of the patriarchy, an extremist, and yes, someone who hates minorities. Having said that, this post isn’t about me being a victim to hateful comments or discrimination. In fact, it is the opposite.

I am not a victim. I am not oppressed by white supremacy or the patriarchy. My failures or hardships are not the result of nationwide systematic racism. The rise of identity politics seeks to make me a victim, one that can never be saved because of who I am.

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Source: David Klein

Identity politics is defined as “politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group.”

At first glance identity politics doesn’t seem bad, nonetheless people tend to forget the last part of the definition. Claiming to be a part of a specific group does not automatically grant anyone special authority outside of that group. We are all given equal inalienable rights; we should all be seen as human and given fair treatment. If one comes from a different or even problematic culture, they are to be treated with respect.

I’m not saying that fair treatment is always given or that discrimination doesn’t exist. Boxing ourselves into an infinite number of identities and checking our “privilege” does nothing but make us hyper aware of our differences. Continue reading “Identity Politics”

A Symptom of Misogyny

A sign that reads "Grab 'em by the patriarchy" with women's hands grabbing the sign
Grab ’em by the patriarchy

By Sierra Rothermich

Cat-calling, objectifying, sexually harassing, rape. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans say recent reports of sexual harassment and assault are more reflective of widespread problems in society rather than acts of individual misconduct. Because violating women’s rights is a social norm, globally, violence against women is a detrimental public health issue.

 The World Health Organization reported that one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their life. According to the World Health Organization, men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms including attitudes accepting of violence and a sense of entitlement over women. This provides evidence that men are taught to be violent against women due to a society that deems misogyny as socially acceptable. Continue reading “A Symptom of Misogyny”

I am a Feminist. Aren’t you?

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.gendernations.com/

By Samragyee Gautam.

“Oh hey! You are so pretty, but why do you wear makeup?”, “You look so tired, didn’t you get enough time to get ready this morning?”, “You are too pretty to smoke”, “So why do you wear Red Lipstick?” I think most of us know where I am going with all these statements and questions. Most of us women are familiar with these phrases because we have had people talk to us about our make-up, clothing, and even the food we eat . . . frequently, even if it is none of their business.

And the word feminism is so stereotyped. There are some people who believe that feminism is not relevant in today’s world because women already have equal rights, and some even claim that they don’t want to be identified as a feminist because men have rights too. So after this semester of writing for the Women’s Center blog, I wanted to explain why feminism is still relevant and why we need it, even in present world. Continue reading “I am a Feminist. Aren’t you?”

Harassment in Hollywood

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By Alexandria Arritt 

Hollywood is the cinema capital of the nation, located in Los Angeles, California. Actors and actresses, producers, directors and writers all get their start there. Recent sexual assault allegations have brought to light an epidemic in Hollywood. The revelation began with allegations surfacing against Harvey Weinstein. Harvey Weinstein, director and producer, is just one of the many men being exposed as predators. Since the 1990s, Harvey has been accused of over 100 sexual assaults. Along with Weinstein, there are still many men who continue with their careers after allegations surface. The power structure in Hollywood allows men to act as they wish with little to no consequences.

Continue reading “Harassment in Hollywood”

Will Criminalizing the Menstruation-Hut Finally Eliminate it in Nepal?

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A Nepali women sunbathing in front of her Menstruation-hut.

By Samragyee Gautam.

Now most of us, especially for people with limited exposure to ancient Asian culture or Hindu culture in general, must be wondering what a Menstruation-hut is. Even though I was born in Nepal, it was totally foreign word for me until I hit puberty. I was lucky enough to be born in a household with educated parents who didn’t practice isolation during the monthly cycle. But Yes ISOLATION!! Once a month, for four days!

To understand this scenario, one has to understand all the misconceptions and taboos circling menstruation. In Nepal, girls are considered impure during their monthly cycle and are not allowed to be a part of any religious ceremony, take part in cooking, and in extreme cases even touch male family members (father, brother or even husband). “This was a religious malpractice followed by all the people back in the days”, said my grandmother, when she was telling her story related to this practice. But as people started being more educated, the practice got limited to the western-rural part of the country. And the reasons for this are mainly lack of awareness, religious blind-faith, and weak rule of law. Continue reading “Will Criminalizing the Menstruation-Hut Finally Eliminate it in Nepal?”

WOMEN, PEACE AND ENVIRONMENT.

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Author taking a picture with Dr. Shirin Edadi during her book signing.

By Samragyee Gautam.

“When you believe in the gold you have, you get stronger”, said Dr. Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Prize winner and human right activist. Dr. Ebadi was the keynote speaker of the 70th Annual Borah Symposium held at UofI on Monday. As a human rights and democracy advocate, she covered many issues related to global peace and environment including ‘The Role of women in environmental protection.’

Her speech made it very clear that though environmental conservation and global peace is a collaborative effort of all people in the world, the role of women determines how the problem can be eliminated or eradicated. She stated that “Peace is a culture that has to be taught at a very young age”, and one should learn to take care of the environment from the beginning because it is our home. That is why education about peace and environment is not just important to be taught in school but also in our homes. As stated by a popular saying, ‘Home is often our first school and mother is often our first teacher.’ Educating women about the importance of peace and environment, means others will be educated about peace and environment as well. Continue reading “WOMEN, PEACE AND ENVIRONMENT.”