But Which Females First?

An article, linked below, was sent as a reply to one of my posts.  I don’t think it fits, so I’ve discarded it as a response.  But the article itself is interesting, and possibly a space for establishing common ground.  I invite the author, Cathy Brennan, to engage with me here.

The article.

An excerpt:

The last thing Females want to be called is “Feminist” – because that might mean “Man Hating.” That’s bad for Straight Ladies, because then someone might think them Lesbian. Even though Lesbians don’t want to couple with Males, Lesbians are “supposed” to be socially available to them and not “Man Haters.” (I know I‘ve been called “Man Hater” before!) So heaven forfend if you’re Feminist!

Yes, heaven forfend!  I certainly agree that there is a great deal of feminist-baiting — and -hating! — in this culture.  And, yes, Lesbians not willing to avail themselves to every man must be “man haters” in that same-old view.  I love the old Lesbian duo comedy skit where some guy in the audience heckles them for being ‘man-haters.’  One of the duo stops, looks shocked then skeptical, and asks, “So *you’re* the alternative?”  I love it, not because I see Lesbians as alternatives-to-the-norm, but because it bolsters the framing of Lesbianism as a logical, sensible choice.  Hate?  Maybe, but not always, because even that level of energy and attention to men puts other women last.  Nope; ignoring the fools, and then shaming them if necessary to back them off is fine.  Or, if you need a stand-in man-hater, send me.  I volunteer.

I also agree that patriarchy socializes us to distrust one another.  And to devalue our own.  And so, yes, feminism is full of male-apologists.  (There’ve been times I wanted to propose that mixed-sex conferences ostensibly about feminism have dual name tags for het couples:  Her Name, and Her Name’s Nigel; I wondered if that’d get men to not dominate ‘feminist’ discussions quite so much.)  And son-enablers.  And men-firsters or patriarchal apologists (which is what the lines, ‘What about the men?” and “But women do it, too!” seem to mean).  I agree, as a het woman, partnered, that to give energy to males beyond what is received in return is too much.  Way too much.  We can do an even share in this human exchange of my participation — and know my extra energy goes to women and to female children.  In part because way too much extra energy is being demanded by boys and men.  Way too much is given.

Because of our socialization, Females resist coming together, or even identifying, as a class. Accordingly, Females are the most dissolved, invisible ingredient in the Great American Melting Pot. We hear of White, Gay, Black, or Poor People. When discussing Poor People, nobody asks whether they are Male or Females (even though – as a class – the Poor are Female and the Rich are Male). Only when discussing Females do concern trolls come calling to ensure you discuss Poor Females, Brown Females, Vegan Females, Gay Females, and (fill in the blank) Females. That’s no coincidence. Patriarchy places these filters in front of Females to prevent us from perceiving each other as members of the same oppressed class. These obstacles destroy the need for further derails by Patriarchy because Females don’t talk to each other as members of the same class. It divides Females.

I even agree that it is important for us as women to see ourselves as a class, the sex class ‘female.’  I simply disagree on how this vision is to come about.  I don’t believe that we can mandate that those we oppress just shush and join us, because we claim we’re all the same, we’re all just women.  Some of us are not just women.  Some of us are Lesbians, Radical Lesbians, even proud and honorable Lifetime Lesbians … and this complexity of womanness brings its own rich and textured history, its values and ideals, a depth of love for women that is boundless and without equal.  To lose this in the flattened het-washing of the dominant culture would be devastating.  Some of us are Latinas, with gorgeous, proud and colorful cultural traditions that we would never wish to lose, in the bland whitewashing of the dominant culture.  Some of us grew up working class or working poor, and before we’d shed our directness and plain speech, our integrity, our ability to laugh at the ironies around us, and our roots in the warmth of community, we would fight to retain these proud markers of this part of our identity.  To simply name us all women denies the rich tapestry of female existence we weave when we connect with one another as we are.

Actually none of us is ‘just a woman.’  We are women, individually, in a complex weave of privileges and dispriveges — lived oppressions and the lived ability to actively oppress other women.  And so I concur, then, that the poor we need most to concern ourselves with are the female poor.  There are poor men; there are oppressed men.  And yet in most cases it is the females of the group who are overlooked.  Females first:  here I do agree!

And yet, is this what divides females, really?  Obstacles of ‘difference’ thrown down by patriarchy?  Isn’t it actually done by other women — isn’t it the insistence that we ignore the characteristics that mark us as different from class-privileged, white, het, moneyed, college-educated, comfortably “normal” women?  Isn’t it the expectation that we will behave by their standards, speak and write and negotiate by their standards, and meet their standards in our appearance as well, when we are together?  Isn’t it the expectation that we wish to be like them, that we could, if only we tried appropriately hard, be just as awesome as they are?  And isn’t it the expectation that the issues of multiply-oppressed women are not really women’s issues, unless they also impact white, privileged women?

So why the need to demean us with the label “concern trolls”?  We are your sisters; we’re not trolls, and connection, building community, is a hallmark of women’s ways of being.  Concern is not a bad thing.

Cathy, I don’t feel arrogance from you in this writing.  But I would say that this is the cost to those parts of my identity not privileged, when I buy into this argument:  I find arrogance and entitlement and abuse, put-downs and dismissals.  I am not welcomed in as ‘female-and-whole’ but rather as ‘female — conditional (and please try to speak unemotionally, and please dress conservatively so as not to offend the more middle-of-the-road women we seek as members).’  I can be a movement workhorse, I can be passionate and full of activist joy; I can be persistent and persuasive.  What I cannot be is anything other than my whole, complicated self.  I’m not ‘female-but-‘ … as in ‘female-but-working-class.’  I am ‘female-AND-working-class,’ and in being so, I think I bring a depth to feminist perspectives that is lacking without this ‘difference.’  It is certainly lacking in welcome for women like me!  Ditto for feminists who are also Black, also Latina, also Lesbian, and so on:  we are oppressed as women, yes, but our oppression is not at all identical to women who are not-Black, or not-Latina, or not-Lesbian or any combination of these and others, legitimate others.

I don’t feel arrogance from you, but rather a longing for a strong sisterhood, a feminism united and moving forward.  I share this longing.  I agree that this is a noble goal.  I even agree that identity groups are more safety-ensuring than change-making.  In the long run.  But don’t we need to ask ourselves why women who are marginalized still form into identity groups first, and repeatedly?  Don’t we have an obligation toward creating safety before we demand coalition?  And it’s in the long run — forever forward — that I want radical feminism to endure, to thrive.  The only way I see to get to there is to build comfort enough here so that we can build that coalition, and move us — together, equal, and as we are, whole — forward.  We still retain our full identities — and we can work together within an atmosphere of acceptance of these differences.  I cannot see a future for feminism unless we honor each woman as the whole, wondrous being that she is.


26 thoughts on “But Which Females First?

  1. Thanks. I am sure I am arrogant. But I am also sure of this – life is too short to focus on topics that do not advance a females first agenda. Food politics doesn’t advance rights for females and has been weaponized among some feminists (vegan bashing, paleo bashing) much like the het bashing (which, seriously, can we stop doing that?). It’s uninteresting – a variant of “purity politics” that I gave up in my 20s when I realized life is complicated. Rejecting identies as a basis for organizing doesn’t mean I reject anyone’s identity in personal interactions. This is one case where the personal is not political. I’ve written about what I think of identity politics here: http://bugbrennan.com/2011/12/13/solidarity-of-interest/

    Lierre, I called you back today – sorry it took a while, I have been dealing with other derailing junk. Call anytime.

    • Well, this isn’t exactly discussing. I had hoped you’d look beyond the discounts (“concern trolls,” and “purity politics”) to actually consider what I wrote. Instead, you’re firm on the personal not being political, and I can go read your article to be further apprised of your view.

      Let me repeat myself carefully: when I buy into this argument that identity politics divides feminism, I find arrogance and entitlement and abuse, put-downs and dismissals — all based on other feminists’ view of my identity. I am not asking other feminists to not reject my identity; I don’t concede that power anyway. I am asking them to understand how they can oppress me, marginalize me within our shared feminism, and to learn to move beyond that into a levelness of diversity. A levelness of acceptance.

      What you’re demanding is that we not talk of marginalizing behaviors done by feminists within feminism — that we ask the oppressed to shush and take it, for the sake of the club … or, more to the point, for the sakes of those not hurt by it. To create coalition, at more-marginalized women’s expenses. To ignore the hierarchy that women bring into feminist spaces because *you* find it more important that the movement go forward. (That just might meet my definition of arrogance, yes.)

  2. I agree with you, forest. As we keep seeing, we don’t have to say a word about who we are on feminist threads to be put down and censored because we are not part of the privileged club. If we object to how we and other women (who happen to be the majority) are treated, then we’re subjected to a barrage of insults and lying accusations designed to humiliate and shut us up. (As I always say, I have examples if anyone wants to see them.) This creates a segregated community that is the opposite of radical feminism. And it is not “females first” because only a select few are really welcome.

    Talking about how we are oppressed among feminists does not increase status. Most of us who are treated as inferior just accept it because the price to pay for fighting it is often not worth it. We are forced to be in a culture that is not ours and that isn’t even the majority of women, so that those with more privilege won’t be uncomfortable, or, god forbid, bored. (Though usually the most privileged are the most boring and unimaginative.)

    Criticizing “identity politics” is good for those with the most privilege and power, so they can continue feeling superior (which is only possible while they treat other feminists as inferior.) The tactics used are similar to how men try to silence women — ridicule and humiliation. Right wing tactics. And typical of right wing tactics is to pretend they are doing the opposite of what they claim. Those who want equality among us are accused of being divisive, narcissistic, and vain. But doesn’t that better describe those who will use any dishonest tactic to prevent equality? And, really, why is equality so threatening?

    We can’t have a strong, inclusionary, cohesive Radical Feminist movement as long as some women refuse to stop using classism and other issues against other women. Even just getting them to stop using ridicule seems impossible. Feeling superior is more important to them than anything, including having a powerful Feminist movement.

    Those who don’t know their history are condemned to repeat it. Radical Lesbian Feminists worked this all out years ago. Knowing our cultures is not an “LGBT” thing. It’s Radical Feminist and Lesbian. Lesbians were not allied or worked with gay men. We are our own culture.

    • Bev, thank you for this: “We can’t have a strong, inclusionary, cohesive Radical Feminist movement as long as some women refuse to stop using classism and other issues against other women.” Yes!

      And I, too, remember feminists hammering out definitions of oppression so that they made consistent, logical sense. And so much of this work has been completely undermined by privileged prats who wanted their hurts nurtured with the big words — so white men and women could scream “reverse racism” and think it meant something. That and the push to “colorblind” this culture, pretending to negate race though racism continued on.

      I just finished Cordelia Fine’s “A Mind of Its Own” on brain functionality. I found a rather chilling section for women who don’t fit the stereotypical (het/”feminine”) ideal — others will actually work hard to undermine them! To sabotage their success. In a work setting they’re judged to be inept socially (while they’re being sabotaged). And yet women who do conform are automatically seen as less competent! Het privilege still adds up, though, with far kinder treatment, what she calls a benevolent sexism. Being Lesbian is living outside of the prescribed sex role, and so the culture responds with a multiplicity of mistreatment. Feminism is no place to leave that unexamined!

  3. I don’t know how anyone can have been a feminist for long to have witnessed the insults and even threats that are aimed at any woman who refuses to be vegan or vegetarian. This issue has been harming our movement for almost 40 years. Where has anyone seen “vegan bashing?” I ignore the issue, but it invariably comes up on threads and blogs. I have been called “ignorant,” “uneducated,” “as bad as a rapist,” and “not a Lesbian or feminist” because I refuse to obey the vegan policing.

    And what’s with the “het bashing” comment? Again, it’s a reactionary pressure to accept the status quo, which, by default is pro-heterosexism at the expense of Lesbians. How can any feminist miss the male-worshipping from het women and ex-het Lesbians that is common on most “feminist” threads or blogs? If you object to Lesbian-hating comments, you’re likely to be censored or called “het bashing.” What exactly is “het bashing?” Is that like “male bashing?”

    • I think the het-bashing criticism was aimed at me for mentioning my frustrations at het men, cozy within their couples, dominating conference conversations and such. I’ve noticed that most men just do it generally — and it is rare for women to object to it. I was answering in agreement with Cathy Brennan’s nod to female socialization keeping us from alliance. I don’t think she’d call what I’ve written male bashing, so the het bashing comment does seem odd. Can I not express frustration at the low standards my sisters keep in relation to men, given that I’m het? Lesbians shouldn’t have to do it, but it sure needs done.

  4. bugbrennan on January 3, 2012 at 6:49 pm said: “I am not demanding that you or anyone else do anything. Do what you want. Just leave those of us who want to do something else alone.”

    But you and your friends don’t leave us alone. And you are demanding, by recommending your post. You also do by using privilege to silence other feminist with insults. And you certainly must know that your friends who share those reactionary politics are stalking me and others with harassment.

    bugbrennan on January 3, 2012 at 6:49 pm said: “BTW, no one oppresses you because they are uninterested in your politics.”

    Now that is an example of ridicule. You know we never said that. We said you are oppressing us by your treatment of us, and your political post endorses the right wing politics that early Radical Feminism answered so well.

    I still don’t get it. Anyone advocating for ignoring differences has to be wanting a segregated community with the most privileged dominant. Instead of men in power, the most privileged women will be. So maintaining that sense of superiority in an small elitist group is more important than welcoming and including the majority of women?

    As I’ve said before, if these politics were in place in the early Seventies, you would have driven out our best, clearest, bravest, most radical thinkers and writers who created Radical Feminism.

    No, the “het bashing” comment is the refrain used against me and the other Radical Lesbian feminists who dare to write about being oppressed by heterosexist “feminists.” They don’t even want to acknowledge your existence, forest, because you blow apart their confused theories. They also don’t argue directly or logically about issues, but just fall back on insults and projection.

    You answered so clearly, forest.

  5. This is such an interesting discussion. I know for a fact that lesbian acceptance (with conditions) is greater today, that is has been in the past. That means het women will socialize with you as an out lesbian without too much fuss. However, most het women are skittish about lesbian feminist politics, they are skittish about how butch dykes dress. There are profound energetic differences between all lesbian groups, and mixed lesbian and het groups, for example. To ignore this, is to ignore het privilege which is always exhausting to be around. It is like an energy drain to me. Just like men who show up at conference are an energy drain on women. If we don’t pay attention to genuine differences, understand them, and try to work with them realistically and intelligently, we won’t have a real truth telling feminist movement.

    • Thank you, Sheila. This covers a whole lot in very few words. The skittishness, the drain, and the difference in energies based on privilege.

      It’s really odd to me how incredibly invested USians are, in general, in being perceived as “normal.” I remember the 70s and the feminist task of turning norms inside out to see who benefited, and who lost out. No one really thinks to ask, at least not in the spaces I have access to. Sad. It’s like we’ve been coerced to keep half a mind on the maintenance of privilege … and I see this from a class angle: people who know me either moving away from me when I’m in full custodial uni, or the hesitation, and then recognition, as if I just got them diversity points so I’m worthy of an overt nod.

      Anyway, writing that intentionally challenges cultural norming and privileging is really where I want to spend my time. It well may be draining until I get it right, but I (too) prefer steep learning curves and to not bore or exhaust women willing to dialogue.

  6. Yes, it is hard to unite women, because so many women don’t see themselves as an oppressed class. I talked to a Marxist lesbian recently, and she said it was hard to get working class people to realize their class enemies, because they were filled with fantasies of being rich themselves, or famous (a huge problem in Los Angeles).
    Why can’t we be honest, that het women and radical lesbian feminist truly are different? What’s wrong with acknowledging het privilege and being direct about it.
    There will be an inherent conflict between radical lesbian lives and het women’s lives, because het women have divided loyalties to husbands and children. It means they are largely unavailable even for ordinary feminist social events. They will be serving men, and raising the future rapists of the world. That is a fact. Now what can we do about this? Honesty is the best policy. It is not het bashing to point this out, nor is it het bashing to point out that lesbian bonding is powerful and compassionate, and that het women don’t know how to do this, because their energy is being drained in having sex with men. I can tell almost immediately, anytime I meet an non lifelong lesbian, for example. I can tell that they used to be married to men, they have that energy about them. I also feel a powerful connection to lesbians who have always been lesbians, lesbians who don’t conform to slave-like gender expression codes, lesbians who don’t conform period. It is noticable and real.
    We have a huge political problem that no other group on earth has— women, the sex class, the subject class actually live with and have sex with their class oppressors.

    • Honestly I think there are ways that we in the het world can urge or gently pressure other women to (or create a new feminist norm to) give to sisters. As I said before, it’s possible to live within an awareness of how much giving is going on, and to stop over-giving when it’s not reciprocated. If het women can’t routinely and consistently get back what they/we give, then at least be honest about it! Face it. And ponder whether or not that’s any way to live. Hets can handle this yuck in all-het groups; it’s bound to be draining even for those on the inside!

      All human communities that I’m aware of have had some children in the mix, and this is certainly still true of Lesbians. For those who can stomach them, Lesbians’ and het women’s sons are better off in communal, strong-women settings, where they can be monitored for masculinist behavior. But certainly there need to be plenty of Lesbian spaces that are child-free or at least male-child-free — really there ought to be (trusted) het women offering childcare so that Lesbian events can be female only, and Lesbians can attend. My ideal world, and I don’t live near a big enough population center to help; too bad.

      We do have this huge political oddity, in that some of us do live, even intimately, with our oppressors. A similar situation happens in all mixed relationships, to some extent — Lesbian couples where one is racially disprivileged and one is privileged; ditto for classism. And yet there’s a difference there, too, because women still aren’t of the full oppressor caste that men of the same group are.

  7. I don’t know how women can stand to be married to their oppressors and rapists. I’ll never understand this. But if we don’t deal with this realistically, and talk about sex and social class, we will ignore information that truly could bring more women together to overthrow patriarchy.
    Those of us who are butch dyke, know that het women often let men dominate, and that het women will sit passively and watch men do awful things. I witness this passivity all the time. They seem amazed when I stand up against it, because they feel unable to do it a lot of the time. It’s why I need my dyke only spaces, to recharge my batteries, to reclaim myself, the very self that het women erase, pretend doesn’t exist, or pretent that my reality doesn’t exist. We are not going to get rid of a 5000 year old woman hating system in 40 years, we know patriarchy has clever ways to hook and control women– largely through childbearing. If they can keep women on the hook with children or always having to fight for basic birth control, het women will be on the patriarchal hook. If you have children, you are on the hook, they’ve got you!

    • Het passivity? Yes. Amazed when someone stands up against it? Yes. Me, too. I think it can be a little more complicated than the view you’ve laid out (and I’ve already explained me elsewhere in this blog) … but usually it’s not. Overwhelmingly it never is. And women deferring to men, no matter where or how or when or why, undermines female solidarity.

      The one huge difference we have in perception, I think, is that I see it as possible to be relational without being deferential. I live it. But because I do, I can attest to its rarity — I know a few women who come pretty close, but I, too, flinch as the times they step back, give in, defer. Patriarchy is insidious, relentless, and most women don’t really seem to question what is, and what should be, what could be — nor are most women willing (or supported enough) to fight that hard. Certainly most het women aren’t.

      It’s interesting, too, that most het women don’t understand that most men rape. The majority of men rape and/or batter their female partners, or molest their children or stepchildren. And if you include threats and other forms of violence, it becomes the vast majority of men. It’s pretty amazing heterosexuality happens at all! And yet most women don’t seem to question it. For the majority of women, sadly, het’s still the norm. Normal. Usual. Customary. And because it’s the majority of women and because we want to build a sisterhood that is inclusive and strong, we do have to bridge these differences somehow. Lesbians and hets. Working together, building together, without draining all the energies from Lesbians (and other disprivileged females).

  8. P.S. I have yet to really see an honest dialogue online between het radical feminists and lesbian feminists. Clearly, we have issues to talk about.

  9. So much to respond to here!

    About the Marxist — I don’t trust anyone really who identifies as a Marxist and certainly not their comments about working class people, considering that every Marxist I’ve ever met in the US has been middle class and classist — patronizing to us, saying we needed educating, recruiting, etc. It is a bizarre US phenomenon that the Left is primarily class-privileged and classist. They ridicule the poverty class and working class. I don’t really know why they are Leftists except that they have some political awareness and it’s a way to for privileged people like themselves to feel superior (which is what I observe with the vegans who are mean and bullying.)

    I really agree with and understand what you are saying, Sheila, about the feeling you have of being very different with most het women and most ex-het Lesbians. And yes, I really like “We have a huge political problem that no other group on earth has— women, the sex class, the subject class actually live with and have sex with their class oppressors.”

    At the same time, we have an interesting situation here. Sheila, I and a few other Radical Lesbian Feminists/Separatists have been called “het-bashing” by some women who I’ve seen be incredibly cruel to het feminists — I think they are playing games and using that charge to silence and censor us, and that they know we are not “het bashing” at all. Enough het feminists have said they find that clique bullying and dishonest, while they feel supported by me and my politics challenging heterosexuality.

    So here we have a rare example of who I believe to be a real friend and ally — forest — who is a het woman, and who has been incredibly supportive to me and other Radical Lesbians. I have never met forest in person, but feel I know her well. She’s a strong, courageous, working class Radical Feminist who deeply supports Radical Lesbian Feminists and Separatists. She’s been a good friend. Together, we have been attacked, censored, and lied about. It’s been interesting to see how that clique has used classism (ridicule and taunts implying we are too stupid to understand them when their games are quite clear) (I have quotes for proof) to try to silence us both. They try baiting me by calling my and my friends’ politics “het-bashing” and then they don’t know how to deal with forest who reminds them she is het and allied with me. So then they kick us out of their feminist group (very interesting to see who else they have kicked out.)

    Forest has also been one of the only non-Butch women to bring up the issue of Butch oppression and Fem privilege and to seriously try to discuss how girls choose to be male-defined feminine and to try to undo it. She started a blog to support Butches, but sadly was derailed by an ex-Lesbian het woman who had a vendetta against her old Lesbian Separatist community.

    Anyway, I didn’t know if you knew all that, Sheila, so I wanted to let you know. And if forest can be such a good ally to Butches and Lifelong Lesbians and Separatists, what is the excuse of any Lesbians to be hateful to us?

  10. I actually don’t know where the term “het bashing” comes from. Most of the time, my opinions are erased. It is very hard for a lot of het women (not all by any means) to really hear what lesbians are talking about.
    I know IRL, het women constantly erase me. They just have a great deal of difficulty dealing with a radical lesbian butch feminist, who doesn’t adhere to fem enforced standards of anything, and also they have a lot of difficulty with intellectual lesbians. Since most het women do not know lesbians well on a personal level, we come as quite a surprise to them.
    Incidently, the marxist lesbian I talked to recently, grew up poor in the south. I don’t think she is a marxist anymore, but again, I think there might have been a socialist/marxist component of feminism in the late 60s or early 70s–trying to appropriate lesbian feminism. Bev would know more about that.
    I don’t know why a lot of women go around attacking Bev or anyother lifelong butch lesbians out there. Perhaps they are uncomfortable in their choice to fit in to the feminine norm… and that really is most women out there.
    Since I am not very interested in social conformity of any kind, I find this fear perplexing in women. But then again, I’ve never been raped, and I have defeated men in hand to hand fights. They don’t fare well, and I had the good fortune of studying martial arts at the age of 9.
    I thought girls needed to learn how to fight, and bash the bashers back. It was very unusual behavior for a girl of 9, but nevertheless, I knew those jackass boys only understood fists.
    What we really have to get down to is the idea of constant hetero indoctrination of women, or get at the idea of how much energy het women intend to devote to men. This is a hard subject for them to negotiate with men, because male theft of female energy is so stealth all the time. It is so engrained in het women to give give give to men, that I don’t believe they often are aware that they are doing this. The male identification is strong in women who claim to be feminists, but again, when you are in the home with the male day in and day out, it is almost impossible to see this stuff.
    Since I come from a lesbian home, and have never lived with men since the 1970s (my biological family at the time), I can really see this starkly. I can see the economic trade off het women do with men. I remember years ago meeting a very radical lesbian feminist whom I admired. Hard worker, kind, devoted to the lesbian national cause. Then she invited a bunch of us over to her house, and I was blown away by this seeming mansion. I had never ever seen a lesbian home that luxurious, that huge, that filled with antiques etc. Movie stars and Ellen don’t count 🙂
    Wow, how did she do that? I wondered. Many months later another dyke explained that the home was a part of a divorce settlement, the woman had once, ages ago, been married to a hollywood big wig, and she used the divorce settlement to advance dyke nation. Her marriage to that man was so horrific, and she told me years later how she always knew she was a lesbian but was too afraid to buck the hetero- track. She was direct, and did respect the lifetime lesbians who really did have to work very hard for about 1/4th the resources of het women. Now that the recession has hit with a vengence, a lot of het women have been laid off, but to me, my whole life has been one of hard work in what seems a non-stop recession. It just meant that I had to constantly work a lot harder than the average het woman out there. But this built up a kind of power of mind that stood me in good stead when times got rough. So now, four het women I know have almost lost homes, are stuck in lawsuits, got wiped out in divorces… for het women in their 50s it comes as a rude shock that feminine charms no longer work as a cash cow, and they have become more human and less lesbian hating as a result.
    So we have to deal with this male energy theft of het women, we have to identify ways that all women can share energy with each other. I’ll never know why het women sell their bodies to the enemy, and even a lot of lesbians throw in the energy to gay male causes… we all know the “A” word and what that did to lesbian feminist businesses nationwide… wiped them out….
    How can all women really share energy, learn from power positions, and pirate back the stuff the males stole from us in the first place? That is the challenge. We need to know exactly what women as girls fear from being lesbian, and what type of subtle or not so subtle forces coerce girls into giving up their natural affection for girls, to trade this in to having sex with pigs. We don’t know what causes little girls to so fear butch, or non-conformity to slave-like codes of dress. We do know that whole nations are held hostage by Hitlers and Stalins and such… but every girl is held hostage in the eastern europe of patriarchy, and we need a women’s and girl’s spring worldwide.

  11. Hi, Sheila. So it’s been almost two months, and I’ve begun a number of responses to your thoughtful comment, but none seemed adequate. Today I’ve got some time, and your words still wait, unacknowledged. Not that they need anything of mine; they stand nicely, courageously, on their own. Only that it’s rude of me to not at least thank you!

    Nor have I thanked Bev for her kinds words — or her glossing over what actually happened: I tripped over my own fool privilege and made some serious blunders, had to be pulled back pretty forcefully to just shush. Problem with allies is that we forget what’s ours and what’s not. Entitlement masks reality and obscures others’ valid hurt … still a painful memory, but vital lesson to learn!

    Female heterosexuality as its practiced has always seemed strange, dangerous, demeaning, even oppression-reinforcing to me.

    Hetero indoctrination is overwhelming, and the abuse normalized within it becomes invisible. When I talk about giving no more than 50% I get blank stares from other het women. How can we change anything when so very many women expect themselves to be all-giving, all-forgiving … when the very definition of ‘mature female human’ is to serve? Where is the energy for women and girls, the ones who need it most? And we (hets) need to negotiate this ground with one another before we can ever muster the strength, as a group or as an alliance of women, to negotiate it with men. So I talk incessantly about withdrawal of energies from men, even as other hets work on communication with them (more extra work and energy not available for the women and girls who need it most!).

    Beyond the abuse in this over-giving, there is all the rest: the danger to children and animals that the normalized male sexuality of rape will occur, with or without his exercising his “right” to the inciteful pictures or words of pornography; the danger to women that male control not easily achieved will lead to his physically battering her in order for him to regain his ‘due,’ control over her; his greater earning power within patriarchy being used to excuse his excesses of consumption. And there is all the minutiae in between. No woman should ever enter into hetero relations without knowing where she stands on these issues — or how hard she’ll have to fight for sanity, given the barrage of propaganda by the culture that surrounds them both.

    As far as the fact that Lesbians have lower allowed earning power, complicated further by classism and white supremacy, those of us who are tied to the het world need to create spaces for Lesbians to heal, nurture, build sisterhood, whatever is needed — as determined by the Lesbians within. The only valid benefit to privilege is that it be used to empower those without it as they see best. This is what I see. You write, “we have to identify ways that all women can share energies with each other.” Yes! What’s most needed? What can those of us with privilege here do to really help?

    As to het charms and middle age? This is a funny one, to me. I’m called The Lesbian at work, privately, and while I’m not terribly interesting, I am at least presumed …. Only when it’s overt do I establish it’s an honor, but unearned. The “thank you, anyway, but it’s not deserved” nets shocked reactions, every time. I don’t know how, otherwise to honor Lesbians, and even more, Butches, except by the easy examples — by not heading into ‘femme’ territory. I wear my hair short, very short. I don’t shave anything, including my face unless the bristles there begin to tickle me. I wear shorts, not pants, and in the summers I wear tank tops, allowing my furry pits to vent (and shock the uninitiated, too). And except by example of alliance with strong and courageous Butches, like Bev Jo in groups where we share membership — she is so often attacked, being so brave and so willing to be front-line and direct. And except by writings like those in this blog, where I attempt to nudge women into taking a look at what femmewear and femininity really mean — for all of us, but also for Otherizing Butches. And to really considering how much energy we devote to males, when it’s so much more important to give that energy to women and girls. A female spring worldwide? I like that!

    Thank you, Sheila, for your willingness to communicate, and for your wisdoms shared. (And thank you, Bev, for your generosity and care.)

  12. Thank you too, Megan! You give me hope, to be such a good and trustworthy ally. You show how it is possible and how we can share friendship and support. You don’t seem to have that fear of Lesbians that most het women seem to have. It is so strange to me, but I keep seeing it. It’s like they are afraid of their own minds, hearts, and desires, so they have to “other” us, hate us, attack us. I’ve been shocked at the anti-Lesbian vehemence I’ve seen among “feminists” online. And then of course those who revel in their male-identified feminine privilege and use it to the hilt.

    But you show and explain how it doesn’t have to be like that at all.

    • It is. The idea of women and girls deserving at least equal time, in a culture where women are taught to serve — and to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ (accomplish) — is freakishly weird. And this be-ing (being pretty, feminine, agreeable, the self-effacing hostess, the selfless giver — as mother, as lover, the mirror to magnify the Hims at twice their size, the attentive woman who does not gang up or bond with other women, someone who takes up as little space as possible) is so groomed into females under patriarchy, it’s nearly invisible. And it’s so much a part of female identity that it’s taken as a personal affront to have it challenged.

      Given the way that Lesbians work so diligently as allies to gay men in the AIDS arena, and how willingly young Lesbians trade that beautiful word for ‘queer’ and ‘boi’ and ‘gay,’ it permeates all of femalehood under patriarchy. But hets are the current majority, have the comfort of feeling ‘normal,’ and take up a great deal of space in feminism, so hets are the women who need challenging. By all women, but maybe it’s a place where the het privilege I have can be of use.

  13. This could be an interesting dialogue, but Megan, you just aren’t taking this very seriously. If you don’t have time to blog back in a timely fashion, I really don’t have time for the rudeness.

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