Technology and Lesbian Reproduction: Module 10 Response

Technology and Lesbian Reproduction: Module 10 Response

lesbian-couple

Note: For the sake of clarity in this piece, I am using the term “bio-sex female” to refer to people who have a uterus, ovaries, and egg cells, and the term “bio-sex male” to refer to people who have testes and sperm cells. These terms are not perfect and do not account for all possible nuances in bodies and are not intended to make a statement on the gender of the people inhabiting said bodies.

In her “Introduction to Women and Health: Power, Technology, Inequality, and Conflict in a Gendered World, Kathryn S. Ratcliff raises some excellent points about what she refers to as “technological favouritism,” which is the propensity to turn to technology in medicine, assuming that technology is always the best option. Ratcliff points out that this is not always the case and that technology is sometimes overused in women’s health care.

These are very important points, however I would like to talk a bit about the other side of the coin, and discuss how technology actually can be beneficial in women’s health care, namely with regards to two bio-sex females being able to have their own children.

In early 2015 it was reported that scientists could be as close as two years away from using skin cells to create gametes that could be combined with an egg or sperm cell to create a human zygote. This is extremely exciting news as it means that children can be born from two genetic parents of the same sex.

Already two bio-sex females can have a child that is biologically both of theirs. Many lesbian couples, for example, use in-vitro fertilization to use an embryo created from one partner’s egg combined with a donor’s sperm implanted in the other partner’s uterus. The resulting child would therefore be genetically connected to one parent, but would also have a biological connection to the gestational parent. The connection would not be genetic, however the gestational parent’s DNA would control how the fetus’ DNA expresses itself in the child’s phenotype.

This new report, however, would mean that bio-sex females could create a child between the two of them without the need for any donor sperm, and their child would be genetically both of theirs. Bio-sex males could also have a child that is genetically both of theirs without the need for donated eggs, however they would still need a surrogate mother to carry the pregnancy to term.

These advances in technology have the potential to provide great benefit to lesbian and bio-sex female couples. The prospect of being able to create a gamete from skin cells is particularly exciting, as it means that bio-sex female partners would not have to seek donor sperm for their child; in other words, they would not have to involve anyone else’s genetic material to have a child, potentially avoiding messy situations between themselves and the donor. They would already have everything they need between them to create a new life.

Sources:

Image Source: http://www.autostraddle.com/two-lesbian-moms-awarded-parental-rights-almost-as-if-both-are-actually-parents-126824/

http://time.com/3748019/same-sex-couples-biological-children/

Ratcliff, Kathryn S. “Introduction to Women and Health: Power, Technology, Inequality, and Conflict in a Gendered World.” Gender and Women’s Studies in Canada: Critical Terrain. By Margaret Hobbs and Carla Rice. Toronto: Women’s, 2013. 427-35. Print.

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Slurs and Sapphic Girls: Module 8 Response

Slurs and Sapphic Girls: Module 8 Response

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This is a button for sale on Etsy (link can be found in sources below)

For me, reading Marnina Gornick’s piece, “Sugar and Spice and Something More than Nice” was like being repeatedly punched in the face for every single time she used the word q***r. It is true that some LGBT people have reclaimed the word “queer” and use it to define themselves, but this does not mean every LGBT person has reclaimed it. To some of us, being called q***r is just as offensive as being called a f*gg*t or a d*k*.

To illustrate, I have never seen a feminist piece which refers to women as “b*tches,” and refer to women as “the b*tch community,” despite the fact that some women say they have reclaimed the term “b*tch.” And yet this is exactly what we have with the word q***r. LGBTQ+ people are regularly referred to as “q***r people,” “the q***r community,” or “q***rs” (by far the worst use of the term is as a noun, in my opinion).

Gornick frames her piece as an exploration of whether or not q***r girls are “girls” as defined by society. It seemed to me upon reading this introduction that she was alluding to the fact that society’s idea of what constitutes a “girl” is invariably tied to heterosexuality, and indeed sapphic girls do trouble that definition. I think it would have been so wonderful if Gornick’s piece had actually dug into this idea that she introduces at the outset. It has taken me my whole life to even begin to understand why I never felt like a proper girl. The deeply intertwined issues of gender and sexual orientation that Gornick alludes to are, I believe, crucial to understand so that sapphic and trans girls can receive the support they so desperately need. While Gornick does discuss current issues and instances of homophobia and transphobia faced by youth, I was disappointed that she did not, in fact, focus exclusively on girls as her title implies (focusing instead on “youth”), nor did she make any strong connections between what it means to be a girl and how heterosexuality is expected to be present within that framework.

I continue to be amazed that Gornick and so many like her can intone the evils of homophobia and transphobia against youth while casually referring to us with a slur. Referring to an LGBTQ+ person as a slur without their consent is itself an act of homophobia, and it certainly does sapphic and trans girls no favours.

Sources

Image Source: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/235224550/queer-is-a-slur-button

Gornick, Marnina. “Sugar and Spice and Something More than Nice? Queer Girls and Transformations of Social Exclusions.” Gender and Women’s Studies in Canada: Critical Terrain. By Margaret Hobbs and Carla Rice. Toronto: Women’s, 2013. 377-89. Print.

Lesbophobia and Feminist Stereotypes: Module 7 Response

Lesbophobia and Feminist Stereotypes: Module 7 Response

The "this is what a feminist looks like" campaign often ends up showing that you can be the kind of woman the patriarchy dictates you be and also be a feminist. Notice that the woman pictured here is blond, white, thin, and wearing makeup.
Regardless of its intent, the “this is what a feminist looks like” campaign often ends up mostly portrayin women who conform to societal standards of acceptable femininity. In the context of straight feminism, images like these are used to suggest that you can be a feminist without looking “like a d*ke.” Notice that the woman pictured here is white, thin, has long blond hair, and is wearing makeup.

In Supplement 1 of Gender and Women’s Studies in Canada, the author lists the top 10 feminist stereotypes she is “so sick” of hearing. She says that these stereotypes are negative and lead to women wanting to distance themselves from feminism. However, by not acknowledging that these accusations against feminists are rooted in lebophobia, the author is herself participating in that lesbophobia, and is actively involved in marginalizing sapphic women within feminism.

I will be looking at three specific stereotypes that the supplement mentions.

10. Feminists hate men

What the author leaves unsaid is that this stereotype is often stated in conjunction with being a “man-hating lesbian feminist.” When someone makes this accusation about feminists, they are using the term “lesbian” as an insult. They are suggesting that to live a life which does not necessitate the inclusion of men for sex or romance (or anything else, necessarily) is a bad thing. And when a straight feminist’s response to this accusation is “I love men,” (as this supplement implies it often is, or should be) she is agreeing with them.

Our entire social structure already insists that women must love men; because lesbians’ relationships do not exist in reference to men we are seen as a threat to the patriarchy. Therefore when straight feminists make their feminism about men they are playing straight into the patriarchy’s eager hands.

6. Feminists don’t shave, and 8. Feminists are masculine and unattractive

In a patriarchal society which is inevitable all tied up with heterosexuality, the worst thing a woman can be is butch; the worst thing she can be is ugly; the worst thing she can be is unfuckable. It is disturbing to me that (straight) feminists complain about this stereotype, because suggesting that a woman being “masculine” and unattractive is only a problem if you follow patriarchal logic about what a woman should be.

I heard a story once from a lesbian in a Gender Studies class in which the professor said, “Isn’t it ridiculous how people think feminists have short hair, don’t shave their legs, and are lesbians? But we know that that isn’t true!” This was very alienating to the lesbian student in the class who was sitting there with her short hair and unshaved legs, effectively having just been told that she projected a negative stereotype of feminism. Seeing she was clearly unwelcome, she dropped the class.

Perhaps instead of making lists of all the negative stereotypes about feminists and how untrue they are, straight feminists should start asking why these stereotypes are considered negative in the first place? And when they realize that a great many of them are because of lesbophobia, they can start thinking of ways to be allies to lesbians instead of contributing to our marginalization?”

Sources

Hobbs, Margaret, and Carla Rice. “Supplement 1: Top 10 Feminist Stereotypes.” Gender and Women’s Studies in Canada: Critical Terrain. Toronto: Women’s, 2013. 9-10. Print.

Image source: http://www.elleuk.com/now-trending/buy-elle-whistles-fawcwett-feminism-unisex-tshirt

Gender and the Lesbian Woman: Module 3 Response

Gender and the Lesbian Woman: Module 3 Response

Butch women often exemplify the blurring of gender and sexual orientation in a very visual way.
Butch women often exemplify the blurring of gender and sexual orientation in a very visual way.

In her piece entitled “Transgender Rights,” Riki Wilchins explains, “white American culture tends to be one of the few that splits sexual orientation from gender.” I am going to take a closer look at why I understand sexual orientation and gender as intimately linked with each other.

Because so much of being a woman in a patriarchal society such as ours is wrapped up in desiring men, lesbians stand outside of that framework, and therefore outside of gender norms for women. In my personal experience one of the first times I had a crush on a girl was when I was six years old and although I couldn’t put words to what I was feeling, my first thought was, I’m a boy.

Although some like to define gender identity as who one is, sexual orientation as who one is attracted to, and then treat them as though they are wholly separate spheres, I do not think it is so simple. The personal story I give above is obviously a mere anecdote, but I think it helps to exemplify why I do not think gender identity and sexual orientation can be so easily spliced apart from each other. Gender is a construction consisting of, among many other things, prescribed roles which include who one is expected to be attracted to.

Tumblr user lesbiancraft explains, many lesbians feel a disconnect from ‘womanhood’ beyond the political aspect of it because our relationships with each other [don’t] create a constant situation where we are gendered as contrasts to something else; as opposites to men.” That is to say, a lesbian’s understanding of herself as a woman may well be different from a straight woman’s understanding of herself as a woman, and likely the same could be said for a bi/pan/polysexual woman.

It is interesting to me that in Supplement 16, although homophobia is defined, no explanation is given for why people would be afraid of same-sex attraction, specifically attraction between women, as this seems to be what Pharr and Lorde are specifically addressing.* Obviously this is a complex issue, but in terms of why lesbophobia exists in a patriarchal context, the answer is fairly salient, and it is crucial to understanding the intersection of homophobia and misogyny. Lesbians pose a major threat to the patriarchal structure because men are not part of our understanding of ourselves as gendered beings. Our relationships do not exist in reference to men, and we therefore are in no danger of understanding ourselves as their counterparts.

The patriarchy has every reason to be afraid of us.

*Lorde’s quotation is from her work entitles “Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving” and Pharr is specifically talking about compulsory heterosexuality, which is a term exclusive to women’s experiences

Sources

Image is from Shutterstock, taken by Stefano Tinti. Found here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/12/26/do_butch_lesbians_have_cisgender_privilege.html

Supplement 16 Activist Insight: Homophobia and Heterosexism

Transgender Rights by Riki Wilchins

Lesbiancraft’s tumblr post: http://lesbiancraft.tumblr.com/post/129301646599/the-main-reason-why-the-patriarchy-mandates

Subverting the Male Gaze: Module 2 Response

Subverting the Male Gaze: Module 2 Response

From webseries
From webseries “Carmilla.” Laura Hollis gazes at her ex-girlfriend’s breasts.

In Carla Rice’s article, “Exacting Beauty,” she discusses the male gaze and it’s impact on the way women perceive themselves. She notes “the cover image [on a magazine] operates not only as an object of vision for male but also for female audiences. As viewers we might imagine ourselves to be a male or female looking at the model with envy or desire…the model becomes an object of desire for imagined spectators who want her and who want to be like her.” In associating the “wanting her” to be the position of male spectators and “wanting to be like her” to be the position of female spectators. Rice seems to imagine all parties to be heterosexual, or at least opposite-sex attracted. This strain of thought is very prevalent in straight feminism, and  alienates LBPQ (lesbian, bi, pan/polysexual, queer/questioning) women from feminist discourse.

Straight women often unconsciously harbour a lesbophobic bias and see sapphic women as participants in the male gaze because they mistake attraction to women as a position of power. As Tumblr user theomenroom so aptly noted, “‘lesbians have the male gaze’/’lesbians can objectify women too’ is a very convenient way for straight women to dress up ‘I’m uncomfortable with lesbians’ in feminist language.” That is to say, demonizing sapphic attraction is a way for straight feminists to be homophobic in a way that allows them to feel as if they’re actually just being really good feminists. The result is that sapphic women are alienated from feminist spaces. In a world which consistently tells sapphic women that our attraction to women is wrong and predatory, it is beyond disheartening to also be marginalized within a movement which would not exist as it does today without the contributions of lesbians.

In “Body Beautiful/Body Perfect,” Francine Odette discusses disabled women in relation to beauty, and talks about the fact that “women’s bodies are objectified for the purposes of male pleasure and domination.” Whether Odette was thinking about sapphic women or not, this statement emphasizes that the male gaze is not just about who is looked at, but who is doing the looking. For this reason, women who desire women subvert the male gaze rather than participate in it. When a woman looks at the sexy model on a magazine cover and says “I want her,” she is making a radical rejection of everything the patriarchy teaches women about their sexuality.

In suggesting that sapphic women do not participate in the male gaze, I do not mean to suggest that ableism in relation to beauty (as Odette discusses) never occurs among sapphic women; we do not live in a world cut off from ableist standards of what constitutes “the body perfect,” nor are we magically exempt from colonial and racist beauty standards such as the ones Rice discusses. However, I think, in considering the issue of beauty from an intersectional perspective, it is crucial that the axis of sexual orientation be considered alongside those of disability, race, and gender (to name a few).

Sources

Image: screencapped from Carmilla Season 2, Episode 16: “Old Habits”

The Omen Room quotation link: http://theomenroom.tumblr.com/post/123858673580/lesbians-have-the-male-gazelesbians-can

Odette, Francine. “Body Beautiful/Body Perfect.” Gender and Women’s Studies in Canada: Critical Terrain. Comp. Margaret Hobbs and Carla Rice. Women’s Press, 2013. Print.

Rice, Carla. “Exacting Beauty: Exploring Women’s Body Projects in the 21st Century.” Gender and Women’s Studies in Canada: Critical Terrain. Comp. Margaret Hobbs and Carla Rice. Women’s Press, 2013. Print.