Response to Butch Lesbian Bashing and Erasure in the “RadFem Community”
February 1, 2013
I don’t have a ton of time for this, but I am so disturbed by the recent bashing and erasure of butch lesbians (and lesbians in general) in the radical feminist “community” that I feel compelled to respond to the nastiness posted yesterday by Allecto on the Liberation Collective website. Apparently there was “coincidentally” an identical post put up on Brennan’s blog today with an unfortunate photo of bisexual dominitrix Pat Califia as an illustration of a “butch lesbian” (wtf?). Coincidences aside, I’m going to address the original post at Liberation Collective. My comment was censored there so I am posting here. Males are not welcome to comment on lesbian community dynamics here.
My response to:
“Gender by any Name Always Stinks” by Allecto [My comments in bold-GM]
Having been educated into radical feminist analysis by a group of incredible Australian lesbian feminists who collectively have a very clear view that the butch/femme hierarchy in the lesbian community as one that is unhealthy to lesbian relations,
[Lesbian relations are non-hierarchical based on sex. There is no butch femme “hierarchy”, because there is no sex-based power imbalance between women. Jendur coded personality characteristics are not privileged among women. There are power imbalances in lesbian relations due to race and class and (dis)ability and conditional power based on ability to “pass” as heterosexual. There is no “hierarchy”, no patriarchal authority which grants power to a lesbian who disconforms to femininity over a lesbian whose presentation is socially coded as femininity conforming. Lesbians partnered with women who have seemingly opposite personality traits (you're bookish, I'm pop-cultureish) are not “unhealthy”. In fact, when calling lesbian relations “unhealthy” I'd be DAMN sure what the hell you are talking about considering the monstrous degree of oppression rained down on homosexual females . Lesbian relations are NOT unhealthy, even between women who have seemingly opposite personality traits that are erroneously coded as “masculine” and “feminine” in a sex hierarchy.] it surprised me to discover, both online and in real life, a push to incorporate butch/femme ideologies into lesbian feminist practice and theory.
[Ideologies? Lesbian feminist practice and theory? What sort of classist fuckery is this? Lesbians, including those working class lesbians historically termed butch or femme don't need to be “incorporated” into lesbian feminism. We fucking invented it! And we did it without a women's studies degree- or any fucking degree. We were the lesbians having bottles thrown at us while you were deciding how to let your parents know you liked sticking your mouth into vagina. Holy shit. You can have your practice and theory. We'll be doing the lesbianism and feminism- without any practice! Feminist “theory” was built on the backs of lesbian lives, especially lesbians targeted and ostracized for being walking billboards for the existence of female homosexuality.]
The push seems to be from a strong concern that women classified as ‘butch’ are a class of women who are specially oppressed under male supremacy and that they are being transitioned out of existence. [No shit. Being a walking billboard for lesbianism and female non-compliance tends to single one out for oppression. Fancy that! I'm reading your whole tone here as snide dismissal of corrective rape, murder, abuse of working class lesbians – and lesbians of any culture- who are “clocked”. And women like you who “other” us and seek to invisibilize us are stomping on our graves! Women like you who try to shame lesbians who fail to perform femininity and who you frame as somehow receiving hierarchical POWER for doing so. Women like you who frame us as “pseudo males”. It is YOU that inform the transification of butch lesbians, which you actually frame as a “strong concern” rather than an undeniable genocidal FACT that the rest of us have been witnessing for the last fifteen years. ]
So what is ‘butch’? There seems to me to be two different definitions of what constitutes a ‘butch’ woman within some rad fem circles. One definition is that a ‘butch’ woman is a woman who has never engaged in behaviours that are considered feminine; ie wearing a dress, or being fucked by a man.
[I have never heard a single butch lesbian in my entire life define herself as a woman who has never engaged in any behavior that is sexistly coded “feminine”. EVER. And let's get real here: neither have you. EVER. How ridiculous. This is total bullshit. Pure, butch-bashing bullshit. And what misogynistic homophobic bullshit. Gay men fuck each other all the time. There is nothing “feminine” about a man fucking you. This is some crazy tranz gendery bullshit that you are spewing at butch lesbians. Trans-parent! As for the dress: a butch lesbian is clockable in a dress and lipstick for christsake. Still readable as a bulldyke!]
According to the women who use this definition, ‘butch’ is not relational to ‘femme’. A ‘butch’ woman theoretically exists outside of male supremacy and ‘butch’ women prefer to socialise with and have relationships with other ‘butch’ women.
[Wha?? What butch claims to exist outside of patriarchy? Answer: None. Ever. In the history of the world. And LMAO about butches prefering to socialize with and relate to other butch lesbians. Why on earth would we find solace and comradery with similar women and avoid marginalizing transifying misogynist homophobe contact with women like YOU?]
However, in practice, ‘butch’ is relational to women classified as not-’butch’, that is, women who do engage in behaviour that is considered feminine. ‘Femmes’ become necessary in order for ‘butches’ to differentiate themselves from, and hold themselves above.
[EWWWWWWWW. Just fucking ewwwwwwwwwww. How dare those uppity bulldaggers acknowledge a distinct experience, different from women who can mainstream themselves. They must think they are “above” other women by being walking targets. Let's fuck them uppity bitchez up. UGH. Disgusting, horrific lesbian-bashing here. Same EXACT rhetoric of corrective rapists worldwide.]
I find this definition of ‘butch’ problematic for many reasons. Firstly, there is no such thing as a woman (or man) who has never engaged in behaviours considered feminine. Under this definition, no woman on earth is ‘butch’, as no woman can exist without engaging in behaviours falsely categorised as feminine. Pretty certain that every butch woman has cried at some point in their life, or held another being tenderly etc.
[Strawman argument. No butch lesbian has ever claimed any such thing. EVER. In the history of the world. Pure, butch lesbian-bashing bullshit here. Actually bizarre assertion. No butch lesbian has ever asserted such a thing. EVER.]
Universal human behaviour has been falsely split into masculinity and femininity. To paraphrase Mary Daly, a person who has been socialised into masculinity is a person who has lost half of themselves. As feminists we seek to destroy the hierarchical gendered categorisation of human behaviour so that behaviours classified as feminine are not devalued or lesser than… but part of normal human behaviour, not relational to gender.
[On what planet have you seen any woman, ever, socialized into traits coded as masculine? Answer: None. Not even on StarTrek. Also, horrible bastardization of Mary Daly- in use to bash lesbians, no less. Horrible.]
If the radical feminist idea of gender is that it is universal human characteristics that have been falsely categorised and placed into a hierarchy of masculine over feminine is true, then a practice which seeks to eradicate behaviours that are perceived by society to be feminine would potentially render a woman masculinised, therefore a woman who has lost half of herself, not a true woman in the sense of free from male supremacist thought and action.
[OMG. Again, just ewww. Disgusting conflation AGAIN of butch lesbians with MALES. Butches are working class lesbians who don't “pass”. All humans have various characteristics. Butch lesbians have characteristics which are falsely categorized as masculine. We have fought, figuratively and literally, not to have these characteristics beaten out of us. Yet sexist genderist homophobes like you claim we are LESS THAN HUMAN. You claim we are ONLY HALF HUMAN, having “lost half of ourselves”. FUCKKKKKKKKKKKK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU. Seriously, fuck you and every butch-stabbing hating nasty-ass fucker who ever stomped on a dyke.]
Though in theory these women claim to exist outside of relation to women they see as conforming to femininity, [LIAR!] I often notice self-labelled ‘butch’ women talking about ‘other’ women in a disparaging and very superior manner. To me, it seems obvious that these women see ‘butch’ as better than other women who are not perceived as ‘butch’ essentially keeping the false categories and hierarchy firmly in place.
[RIGGHHHTTTT. Bulldaggers OPPRESS WOMEN. Butch Pride HURTS women. Because= POWER! MAGICK BULLDAGGER POWER! Fucking disgusting lesbian bashing here. ]
The second definition of ‘butch’ is in relation to ‘femme’ within the context of lesbian relationships and the wider lesbian community. These feminists believe that gender is damaging only within a heterosexual/heterorelational context. [IE: SEX-BASED OPPRESSION. HELLO?] They put forward the notion that gender is not only safe within the lesbian community, but necessary, and an intrinsic part of every lesbian relationship.
[ WHOA. Wait. You just conflated TWO things. SEX-BASED OPPRESSION (which is a HUGE, actual thing) with an entirely invented, ficticious, demonization of butch lesbians claiming we think Jendur: sex-based hierarchy- is good. And Needed. And INTRINSIC. WHAT A REVERSAL. What a transparently false association you have created out of thin air to try to back up your bashing of butch lesbians. What a horrible misrepresentation of lesbians you have constructed here. It is so fucking distgusting that you would tack this shit onto butch dykes. You say this is the “second definition of butch” : what is that definition? You never say. Outlining the difference between sex-based oppression and inter-female relationships doesn't offer a “second definition” of butch lesbians. Just stringing total crap together to shit on working class daggers. Nice. Lesbians who have characteristics coded under patriarchy as masculine are shit because whut?? JUST BECAUSE, apparently.]
From a brief discussion with a proponent of gender role playing/identity within lesbian relationships it seems like a very convoluted way of tacking gender onto lesbians with little rhyme or reason.
[Butch lesbians aren't playing a role. But you had a brief discussion with someone who likes roleplaying? WHAT?? You shit on bulldykes because Whut???]
From what I could gather, the butch/femme thing in this definition is largely about appearance. A woman who wears a dress is ‘femme’, a woman in pants/short hair is ‘butch’. [You are not a lesbian if you think this. You just aren't. This reminds me of a “political lesbian” (straight woman) who recently claimed assembling an IKEA table was a butch act.] I don’t really understand how categorising women into gendered identities because of clothing choices is in anyway meaningful or necessary for lesbians seeking liberation. Also, surely any relationship forged upon, and beholden to, the aesthetic appearance of the women involved is an incredibly shallow way of relating. [Do you think lesbians are retarded? Butch lesbians are clockable regardless of what they wear or don't wear. This is disgusting homophobia and misogyny.]
It seems that within this community a lot of attention is paid to ‘loving the butch’ and women classified into ‘femme’ will often exclaim about how much they love ‘butches’. I find this quite disconcerting as it reads like the worship of the cult of masculinity, which is surely something that we, as lesbian feminists, are trying to escape. And this again shows up the hierarchy involved as it is less often that I see ‘butch’ women exclaiming about how much they love ‘femmes’. When this occurs, I find it disturbing for similar reasons. We should not be worshipping the cult of femininity either, as it is a building block upon which women’s oppression is founded.
[Women's oppression is NOT based upon naturally occurring variations of female characteristics. Women's oppression is based on biological sex. Women whose personal characteristics are coded “feminine” or “masculine” under a sex-based hierarchy DO NOT OPPRESS OTHER WOMEN DUE TO THEIR PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS. HOW FUCKING OBVIOUS IS THIS. Women-hating, lesbian-hating women like you and Cathy Brennan CANNOT MAKE IT SO. ]
As I was writing this article, a young woman wrote the following post in a feminist facebook group. I feel like this exemplifies the problems caused by engaging with gender, even within the lesbian community.
i had a run-in with a lesbian who was butch/”trans” … and very condescending and abusive towards feminine women. she liked to walk around with a strap-on under her pants, admitting she liked to feel “above” women because of it, and practically used it as a weapon against her girlfriend. i also recently got out of a relationship with another butch who was very abusive in a similar way. i was bullied by her for my previous experiences with men, but she had the same experiences as me. i felt like i was shamed for being feminine as well.
what the hell is this? self-hate? they both seemed to kiss their male friends’ asses too, all while blatantly emotionally abusing their female friends. i love butches, don’t get me wrong, but i’m a little apprehensive now. both of these women said they were feminists, albeit the first one subscribing to queer/trans BS. the one with the strap-on dealio actually graduated with a women’s studies degree (tho that doesn’t account for much), but she was also involved with radical politics so i don’t know how the hell she thought this shit was ok. she loved BDSM and literally beating the shit out of women, especially drunk women who found themselves at her place. i had to take a woman she was sleeping with home once, who was way too drunk, who she tied up and did God knows what else to. after that i refused to be anywhere near the abuser. my ex, though, seemed more put off by feminine images or “beauty”, whereas the first one seemed put off by body or sex.
i feel a little traumatized from what i’ve been through with these two. to make matters worse, they lived together at one point and the strap-on chick liked to hit on me and touch me without my consent. i was scared to defend myself because of her anger and passive aggressive attitude, so to not cause any trouble i just kept my mouth shut and asked my girlfriend to say something to her. considering my past experiences with men and how they guilted me, shamed me, buillied me into shit i didn’t wanna do, i kinda attributed that to this person because she was so aggressive and obsessed with her strap-on or whatever. but my ex didn’t care to do anything to make her stop touching me. she would literally say “i don’t want to mess up my living arrangement”. so you’re practically offering me to your friend?!
[HAHAHA! What a disgusting bizzare butch-bashing quote conflating us with trans, pseudo-males, and demonizing us. Dear lord. Oh GOOD GOLLY! Some women are all “yay porn”, “yay trans” SO WHAT??? FUCK YOU for you butch lesbian-bashing and FUCK every commenter in support of your post. Women-bashers and Lesbian-bashers like you and Brennan ARE A DIME A DOZEN.]
I want lesbian feminism to be a safe place for lesbians, like the young woman above, who have been harmed by gender within the lesbian community. We need to be providing young lesbians with the tools to be able to sort through the damage that queer and pomo ideas have had on lesbianism. The idea of ‘butch’ will not protect women from transitioning, but a vibrant, healthy, loving anddiverse lesbian community will. There are as many genders as there are people which renders gender completely meaningless to lesbians, feminists and women in general. As lesbian feminists we want to make gender meaningless to the world and we will start with our communities. True sisterhood is loving women, without recourse to ‘butch’ and ‘femme’. Not ‘butch’, not ‘femme’: WE ARE WOMEN!!!
“There are as many genders as there are people” WHAT???? Shitting on, demonizing, bashing and seeking to invisibilize butch dykes is NOT a progressive idea. Just ask South Africa! Or Iran! “Recourse” to butch? FUCK YOU!
Here’s the definition of a Butch Lesbian:
Butches (and Studs!) are the dykes you will NEVER SEE on the L-Word or any other fucking TV show.
Is there any dyke ever on television that vaguely reminds you of yourself? YOU are NOT a butch lesbian.
We are the dykes that FTMs call “failed to launch”
We are the dykes being put on puberty-blockers and sterilized
We are the dykes that “political lesbian” straight women and bisexuals call pseudo-males
We are the dykes that rich white college women’s studies majors call distasteful due to femininity=fail
We are the dykes bashed by “radfem leaders” because: working class
We are the dykes our community refuses to call by female pronouns
We are the dykes conflated with males and FTMs by women who call themselves feminists
We are the dykes who will continue, unflinchingly, in the face of all your marginalization and hate, to champion the rights of all females, everywhere, through ACTION every minute of every day, using ourselves as a weapon against female-hating BULLSHIT.
Also, FUCK YOU. (if that wasn’t clear).