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?”
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.