Essential Feminist Quotes: ‘Lesbianism and Feminism Have Been Coterminous’

http://theothermccain.com/2014/09/29/essential-feminist-quotes-lesbianism-and-feminism-have-been-coterminous/

“Is there some commonality among ‘women’ that preexists their oppression, or do ‘women’ have a bond by virtue of their oppression alone? Is there a specificity to women’s cultures that is independent of their subordination by hegemonic, masculinist cultures? . . .
“Is the construction of the category of women as a coherent and stable subject an unwitting regulation and reification precisely contrary to feminist aims? . . . To what extent does the category of women achieve stability and coherence only in the context of the heterosexual matrix?”
— Judith ButlerGender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990)

“[Charlotte Bunch’s 1972 manifesto] ‘Lesbians in Revolt’ argued one powerful and uncompromising principle: because sexism is the root of all oppression and heterosexuality upholds sexism, feminists must become lesbians and lesbians must become feminists if we are to effect a revolution. . . . To state that feminists must become lesbians assumes that lesbianism is a matter of choice and conviction, not biological conditioning or sexual behavior. Moreover, lesbians must also become feminists, that is, they must ground their sexuality in a political discourse if any social change is to occur. . . .
“Lesbian criticism of any and all varieties was constructed by flesh and bone lesbians starting in the early 1970s. For us, feminism was not a distinct discourse that spoke ‘for’ lesbians but an epistemology used by lesbians to speak for ourselves. . . . I believe it can be shown that, historically, lesbianism and feminism have been coterminous if not identical social phenomena.”
— Bonnie Zimmerman, “Confessions of a Lesbian Feminist,” in Cross Purposes: Lesbians, Feminists, and the Limits of Alliance, edited by Dana Heller (1997)

“Heterosexuality is a category divided by gender and which also depends for its meaning on gender divisions. . . .
“The view that heterosexuality is a key site of male power is widely accepted within feminism. Within most feminist accounts, heterosexuality is seen not as an individual preference, something we are born like or gradually develop into, but as a socially constructed institution which structures and maintains male domination, in particular through the way it channels women into marriage and motherhood. Similarly, lesbianism has been defined not just as a particular sexual practice, but as a form of political struggle — a challenge to the institution of heterosexuality and a form of resistance to patriarchal relations.”
— Dianne Richardson, “Theorizing Heterosexuality,” inRethinking Sexuality (2000)

 

Many people wrongly believe that the anti-male/anti-heterosexual ideology that prevails within Women’s Studies curricula doesn’t have any real impact on the larger culture: “That’s just a bunch of academic eggheads talking to each other. Who cares?”

However, many students are clearly internalizing these radical feminist theories. Critiquing a popular song by Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass”), University of Pennsylvania junior Katiera Sordjan condemned the dance hit because “it sends a very problematic message . . . framed in the views of the ever-present male gaze”:

Girls shouldn’t have to justify their body types by pointing to what men find attractive. Women also have various sexualities that should not have to be constrained by heteronormativity or a stereotypical view of what femininity should be.

The idea that women are generally heterosexual and therefore wish to be viewed by men as attractive — well, that’s “very problematic” for any college student who has paid attention in her Women’s Studies classes, and who therefore can’t enjoy a Top 40 song because the lyrics are “constrained by heteronormativity.” Or how about Texas State University sophomore Brandon Sams?

Heteronormativity is a detrimental concept and bias that asserts that all people fall into distinct and complimentary genders — man and woman. Many people wrongfully adhere to heteronormativity, which has historically been the impediment to gendered progress and feelings about sexuality. These falsely idealized institutions need to be questioned, indicted and convicted for their problematic manifestations. Heteronormativity also asserts that these purported two genders have naturally determined roles in life. Therefore marriage and sexual relationships, among a multitude of other things, are only befitting for people within these two genders.

 

Your idea that “men” and “women” are valid categories, and have natural roles? That’s an “impediment to gendered progress”!

Feminism and the gay rights movement are basically the same thing — “coterminous,” as Bonnie Zimmerman says. She is not an obscure fringe figure, but one of the most influential feminists in America, as her biography at San Diego State University makes clear:

Dr. Zimmerman became a founding member of the Women’s Studies College at SUNY Buffalo in 1970, where she created and taught numerous courses in women’s studies, women’s literature, and feminist theory. In 1978, Dr. Zimmerman accepted a position as a temporary lecturer at SDSU’s groundbreaking Women’s Studies department — the first Women’s Studies program in the country. As her career bloomed, she went on to become a professor and eventually chair of the department, and came to be recognized as one of the nation’s top lesbian scholars. Dr. Zimmerman became especially known for her published articles, the best known of which, “What Has Never Been: An Overview of Lesbian Feminist Literary Criticism,” has been anthologized in the Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism. Dr. Zimmerman has published extensively, including the books, Lesbian Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia; The New Lesbian Studies: Into the 21st Century; Professions of Desire; Lesbian and Gay Studies in Literature; andThe Safe Sea of Women: Lesbian Fiction, 1969 to 1989. She has also been an active member of the Modern Language Association and the National Women’s Studies Association, of which she served as president in 1998 and 1999. From 2003 until 2010, she was associate Vice-president of Faculty Affairs, having previously served as the chair of the university senate. Dr. Zimmerman has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the Most Influential Faculty Awards in English and Comparative Literature in 1982, and in Women’s Studies in 1985, 1990, and 1999. She was also the recipient of the Lambda Literary Award and Emily Toth Award in 1991, as well as the Positive Visibility Award from GLAAD in 1996. Her contribution and service to the university have been recognized in such honors as the Alumni Award for Outstanding Faculty Contribution to the University in 2003, and the Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award in 2004.

What Professor Zimmerman says about the radical lesbian vision of Charlotte Bunch — “sexism is the root of all oppression and heterosexuality upholds sexism” — is echoed in Judith Butler’s description of women’s “subordination by hegemonic, masculinist cultures,” whereby the identity of women is formed “in the context of the heterosexual matrix.”

Professor Butler should need no introduction. Her biography at the University of California Berkeley notes among her honors the Andrew Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities as well as the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Cultural Ministry. Her book Gender Trouble is one of the most widely assigned texts in Women’s Studies (currently ranked No. 6 bestseller in the “Gender Studies” category at Amazon).

The feminists who are saying these things are not marginal figures within academia. They are among the most prestigious and influential professors in the field of Women’s Studies, among whom there is widespread agreement that heterosexuality is “a socially constructed institution which structures and maintains male domination,” to quote Professor Diane Richardson. She has been head of the department of sociology and director of the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies at Newcastle University in England, also holding visiting fellowships at Columbia and Harvard universities. She and her colleague Victoria Robinson are editors of Introducing Gender & Womens Studies, a widely used textbook in Great Britain.

What you see consistently in the writings of Women’s Studies professors are a set of core ideas: Women are oppressed by men; heterosexuality is the context within which that oppression occurs; and “gender roles,” the expression of common beliefs about the nature of men and women, are necessary to the system of male supremacy (patriarchy) that employs the “heterosexual matrix” to controls women.

Oppression, domination, patriarchy, male supremacy, gender roles, heteronormativity, the male gaze — this is the rhetoric of radicalism, describing the anti-male/anti-heterosexual worldview promoted by Women’s Studies programs at our colleges and universities.

In the two university newspaper articles quoted earlier, both students used the words “problematic” and “heteronormative” together. Why is this? Professor Stevi Jackson, Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of York in England, provides a clue in her 1999 bookHeterosexuality in Question:

[L]esbian feminists began, early in the 1970s, to mount an attack on heterosexuality as a patriarchal institution.
My focus here is on feminist critiques of heterosexuality . . . I am particularly interested in problematizing heterosexuality from within and hence in the ways in which straight feminists have engaged with — or distanced themselves from — this project. . . .
I am situating myself within this narrative as a heterosexual feminist, although that label is in some ways problematic; like others in the same position, I would not want to define my feminism by my heterosexuality. . . . [I]t is impossible to live within a patriarchal society as both a feminist without being aware of contradictions . . .

This is amazing: Although identifying herself as heterosexual, Professor Jackson is “problematizing” her own sexual preferences, because it is “impossible” for her as a feminist to ignore the “contradictions” between her political theory and her sexuality.

Heterosexuality is inherently problematic from a feminist perspective.

 

Here we return to a basic point that has been confirmed in my research for the “Sex Trouble” series about radical feminism, namely that the theories promulgated in Women’s Studies programs are fundamentally incompatible with heterosexuality. There is a reason, after all, whyCarmen Rios said she became a “raging lesbian feminist” after enrolling in Women’s Studies, and why she called these programs “Lesbo Recruitment 101.”

Most people believe feminists are wrong about heterosexuality being “socially constructed” and lesbianism being “a matter of choice and conviction,” so what happens when young heterosexual women at colleges and universities are indoctrinated with the feminist worldview? If they are unlikely to become lesbian, neither will they ever be able to find happiness in a normal life of men, marriage and motherhood.

Taught to view men as their oppressors, and to consider marriage and motherhood the negation of their own identities, how can these women reconcile their feminist beliefs with their own heterosexuality? As Professor Jackson admitted, they can’t.

Feminist theory, you see, tells heterosexual women that their attraction to men — their normal sexuality — is both inauthentic and contrary to their own best interest. Insofar as any heterosexual woman adopts a feminist belief system, therefore, she must hate her male partners (who are oppressing her) and hate herself for her own weakness, being unable to resist this male oppression.

Of course, God help any guy stupid enough to date a Women’s Studies major. One shudders to imagine the feminist’s boyfriend constantly forced to apologize: “I’m sorry for having a penis!”