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.”

In Her Shoes

By: Madelyn Starritt

Women’s issues are constantly battled for and against. There are fights to improve policies and situations and, often these issues are not taken seriously and pushed to the side. Things like the wage gap, the focus on a woman’s appearance instead of her knowledge, not including women in decisions and legislation about abortion rights, blaming rape victims, and so much more. These women are considered to just be whining and aren’t taken seriously. That is, until a man brings up the same issues and expresses concern. These things aren’t real or serious when a woman experiences it but once a man finds himself in these similar situations they become important. I can’t even count how many times I have said “I just said that,” because it was ignored when I brought it up but taken seriously when the words came out of a man’s mouth.

This is a problem. Not everyone feels the same way or has the same experiences. There are many people that are more and less fortunate than others. This does not mean we have the right to dismiss others problems and concerns just because we have not experienced them. That is the problem with this situation. Most men don’t experience the belittling, the misogyny, the disrespect that women do, so they don’t think women experience these things. We live in the same world so our experiences should be similar, right? No. This idea is absurd. Every person is different and has different experiences including men and women.

Continue reading “In Her Shoes”

Sexism in the Academic World

By Kali Nelson

 I have always been told that I would one day go on to school after high school whether it be trade school, community college, or a 4-year school, it was always in my sight. I know my parents are setting me up to succeed, but college alone will not help me. I need to put in 110% to whatever it is I plan to do because if not I may be stuck somewhere I don’t want to be. My parents expect all three of their kids to get to college. Maybe they know, maybe they don’t, but the academic world is sexist.

 Throughout this post I will talk a lot about how women face sexism but this does apply to all minorities in the academic life. The main reason for this is because there haven’t been many studies done to see this aspect.

 Higher education has this illusion of being a white boys club. But women have been flooding the ranks of academic life for years now. In 2015, Time magazine reported that 37.5% of women between the ages of 25 to 34 had a bachelor’s degree, while only 29.5% of men did.  Despite these great numbers, women still face sexism in higher education. Let’s look at how many men compared to women get tenure in 2012. According to the American Association of University Professors, 62% were male and 44% of women. This is only startling if you look at what many universities base tenure on: reviews and publications. Reviews are left by students, mostly as the semester has ended, but can also be left on other websites like “Rate Your Professor”. These reviews usually are harsher on the women professors than they are on men. While this is not the students complete fault it has to do with society.

 Women in academia also have to handle the citation gap. This means that articles written by women received fewer citations then articles written by men. While the article I linked to says that the gap may be small it is detrimental to women because if their article is not cited, the women who wrote it cannot get credit for what they have contributed. Another thing that affects women negatively is the baby penalty. The women who want to get to the top of academic life usually must choose between having a family or having a high position. Women who want a family usually become a second tier faculty member. They fill part time positions or adjunct faculty spots. This hurts women but not men, men having a family actually helps their career.

 Women also have the problem of fighting the idea that sexism is dead in academia. It isn’t, women feel they have to work twice as hard to get the same position. While academia is lightening its attitude towards women it is still a hostile environment or them, some women may some of the only ones in their field. This causes a problem because how can women have equality if there are only a few in a huge field then how do they rise up to be equals.

 There is also the imposter syndrome. This is the feeling that no matter how qualified you are at what you’re doing, your colleges will find out that you shouldn’t be there. I suffer from this a lot. I recently got a job this summer and when I got to the meeting and I met everyone else, I felt that there had been a mistake. I couldn’t be qualified for this, I had so little experience, I felt that I had taken someone way more qualified for the job. This also happened when I got the ok for this position on this blog.  I thought that there were so many more qualified people to do this job, who was I a fairly well off, white girl to tell people what I thought about feminism. I know in my head that I am qualified to talk about feminism because I am a woman. Feminism is not just for one group but I still doubted myself about if I could do it. This is the impostor syndrome, now no matter how qualified I am for a position I still doubt. I had so little confidence in myself, I still think that sometimes I must work twice as hard to even compare with my male counterparts. This problem is not just me, it applies to every woman. This is not helpful to women, trust me, it has led to worry and stress and no sleep because anything less than perfect in anything I do is seen as a failure. People think I act like I’m smart because I like to, no I do it because I’m afraid that people will realize I shouldn’t be here. It’s terrifying. It has taken me a semester to get over the feeling that has plagued me for over a year, and I’m still not even close to over it. Every time I apply for something I trick myself to believe that I am not qualified for it, even if I am more than qualified.

 This is not something to be proud of, I work myself to the bone so that I may feel that I am adequate enough for a job. Women do not need all this extra pressure. We have so many other pressures to escape. I cannot speak for my counterparts but I continued on with school to escape this hell. I came to college to get away from the fear that the world put in me and I have found all new problems to face and one of them is sexism in college.

The Period Taboo

A figurine of a womans body in front of bokeh lights.

 

By: Madelyn Starritt

Recently, I talked about the company Thinx and all they do and reviewed one of their products, the period underwear. I want to continue this conversation and talk about periods.

That’s right, the monthly gift women get that ruins our clothes, causes us pain, and tells us we aren’t pregnant. Periods are natural and most of us get them. Yet, for some reason, we aren’t supposed to talk about them. God forbid we actually educate girls about their health but, unfortunately, periods make men uncomfortable so we aren’t supposed to talk about it.

Continue reading “The Period Taboo”