The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Feminist Theory Ruins Everything: @AmyGoodloe’s Lesbian Sedative

Posted on | May 3, 2014 | 81 Comments

 

“Allison eased herself carefully across the slippery sheets to the edge of the bed. Her feet dangling off the edge, she groped for the floor. She felt the slick, fur-like material of the rug between her toes. For a moment she played with it, enjoying the sensual tickling sensation on her barefoot. Then she sat up slowly, careful not to wake the girl sleeping on the other side of the bed.”
– first paragraph of Unnatural, by Sloan Britton (1960)

“One of the fundamental tenets of postmodern theory is that all identities are socially constructed, and that, throughout history, dominant groups have had the power not only to construct their own identities, which they disguise as ‘innate’ or ‘natural’ rather than created, but also to construct the identities of groups the dominant group has a vested interest in marginalizing. The appeal of postmodern theory lies in its method of ‘deconstructing’ the power relationships inherent in constructions of identity so that it becomes possible to articulate a counter-ideology which has as its aim the liberation and de-objectification of marginalized groups. The irony in this is that those most often attracted to and who are in a position to utilize postmodern methodology are themselves members of a dominant group, even if only in terms of level of education, and in the attempt to give voice to those who have been historically silenced and oppressed, they frequently run the risk of further marginalizing some members of these groups.”
– first paragraph of “Lesbian Identity and the Politics of Butch-Femme,” by Amy Goodloe (1993)

It is probably unnecessary to say that, given the choice between a lurid pulp novel about lesbianism and an academic treatise about lesbianism, most of us would choose the novel. Academia is overcrowded with bad writers, so it may be unfair to single out the field of Women’s Studies, and even more unfair to pick on the University of Colorado’s Amy Goodloe, simply because hers was one of the first articles that turned up on a Google search: “lesbian + feminist + butch + gender + role.”

(This was utterly random, Ms. Goodloe, and my apologies at your shock to discover your 1993 paper made the subject of online mockery, compared unfavorably to a steamy 1960 pulp novel. After writing about the butch “gender role” thing on Friday, I had in mind to do a follow-up, and you drew the short straw, so to speak.)

Goodloe is clear that her “postmodern” critique is about power. Because “all identities are socially constructed, and . . . dominant groups” possess the power to construct not only their identities but also “those who have been historically silenced and oppressed,” therefore the “method of ‘deconstructing’ the power relationships” aims “to articulate a counter-ideology which has as its aim the liberation and de-objectification of marginalized groups.”

This is less interesting than the plight of Allison, the good-girl-gone-wrong protagonist of Sloan Britton’s 1960 novel Unnatural. Her story — as tacky, vulgar and stereotypical as it may be — is about human emotion. Goodloe’s treatise is about political power:

For the past two decades [i.e., 1973-93 ], the dominant form of feminist discourse has, in attempting to “liberate” lesbian identity from patriarchal control, instead imposed its own identity politics on the lesbian community, with the result that those lesbians whose behaviors or “styles” do not conform to the feminist agenda have been doubly-oppressed — once by the dominant patriarchal culture, and again by the movement that claimed to seek the liberation of all women. This is perhaps most obvious in the feminist critique of role playing among lesbians, which is considered by the dominant feminist discourse to be a barrier to one’s “true” identity as a woman (assuming that there is such a thing). . . .

(Again, this is about who is “dominant” — not in the sexy sense of “dominant,” but in the less interesting political way.)

[I]f theorists make the whole notion of lesbian identity so problematic as to suggest that there can be no such thing, on what grounds then are lesbians to come together in the fight against oppression and homophobia? Deconstructing lesbian identity in such a way perpetuates the “divide and conquer” strategy of the dominant ideology, which has historically been used to deprive oppressed groups of the unity needed for power, by failing to recognize the agency of lesbians in resisting dominant constructions of their identity in favor of ones that more accurately reflect their lived experience.
It is the task of lesbian theory, then, Wolfe and Penelope argue, to both resist a kind of deconstruction that would render lesbians even more invisible, and to work towards the (re)construction of a lesbian identity as it is “experienced through a collective history and culture” . . .

(Checking Goodloe’s curriculum vitae, I don’t see any awards for “Most Boring Thing Ever Written About Lesbianism,” but . . .)

One of the problems with the construction of lesbian identity that is often noted by theorists is that it most often takes place within the terms of the dominant discourse, which has established heterosexuality as the “natural” or normative expression of human sexuality against which all other expressions are considered deviant and deficient. One of the first academics to challenge the naturalization of heterosexuality was Adrienne Rich, in an important and controversial essay entitled “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1980). Rich’s main argument is that heterosexuality is not only not natural or innate, it is in fact an institution designed to perpetuate male social and economic privilege, which means that the ideology of difference as the natural basis for sexual attraction is, in fact, a construction. . . . Rich goes on to argue that it is the primary bonding between women that is, in fact, natural, but which is disrupted by the imposition of compulsory heterosexuality in all women’s lives — or rather, in all but those few who resist heterosexuality in favor of the more “natural” state of woman-identification, which is the broader definition Rich gives to lesbianism. . . .

(We hashed out Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality” argument at great length here last weekend.)

The critique most often leveled against role-playing in the lesbian community comes, as we have just seen, from the feminist belief that all role-playing replicates the very (hetero)sexual structure from which lesbians are supposedly free. The idea that one’s sexual identity might depend on or evolve from such role-playing is considered “unenlightened,” and a sign of one’s successful socialization into the dominant ideology. But there is also a growing body of lesbian-feminist scholarship that attempts to shed new light on our understanding of the function of role-playing within the lesbian community, arguing that lesbian roles not only challenge the constructed nature of heterosexual roles but are, in fact, subversive of the sex/gender system as a whole. . . .

(Here we are getting to the core of why feminism ultimately requires lesbianism. Feminist theory holds that it is “the sex/gender system” which is the source of women’s oppression under patriarchy. If, as Goodloe says in summarizing Rich, “heterosexuality is not only not natural or innate, it is in fact an institution designed to perpetuate male social and economic privilege,” then this “dominant ideology” of heterosexuality is key to women’s oppression. That which is “subversive” of the system — i.e., lesbianism — is therefore liberating.)

According to [feminist Esther] Newton, in “The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman” (1984), the figure of Stephen Gordon [in Hall's novel, The Well of Loneliness] “was and remains an important symbol of rebellion against male hegemony” . . . because of the way she challenges the “natural” relationship between sex and gender. . . . According to Newton . . . the character of Stephen Gordon is not “mannish” because she wants to be a man, but for the more complicated reasons of resistance to the dominant construction of “femaleness,” and decision to publicly announce and act on her desire for other women — which, in a phallocentric culture, means appropriating the male role.
The claim Newton is making for Hall’s character is that, rather than capitulating to the dominant construction of lesbian identity as a defect of nature, she instead destabilizes gender categories by exposing them as roles that can be assumed by either sex. Masculinity then becomes nothing but a social role, albeit one accorded power and dominance in the culture, and therefore women who reject the prohibitive and dehumanizing role of “femininity” symbolize this rejection by “cross-dressing,” appropriating the codes and symbols of masculinity while remaining fully female. Role-playing then becomes, at least for the “butch” woman, a challenge to heterosexuality rather than a replication of it. . . .

OK, enough with the italic interpolations. You can go read the whole thing. Where you see Goodloe’s article going — and the destination was clear from the start — is toward justifying butch-femme roles among lesbians as an attack on male “power and dominance.” Women who exercise “power and dominance” in their relationships with other women, however, are OK because they’re women, and if femininity is “prohibitive and dehumanizing” for heterosexual women, somehow being submissive toward a butch lesbian is also OK, because it “destabilizes gender categories.” Amid the academic jargon, Goodloe makes this pretty clear:

Because it is butch women who visibly disrupt the dominant ideology of gender roles with their seeming appropriation of masculinity, scholarly attention tends to focus on “butchness” when addressing issues of lesbian identity. The equally important role of femme women in the construction of lesbian identity is ignored, often because of the misconception that femme women are attempting to disguise their homosexuality by “passing” as straight — which is to say, by buying into rather than rejecting the dominant culture’s construct of “femininity.” What [feminist Joan] Nestle suggests, however, is that the femme role is just as threatening to the institution of heterosexuality because of the way it co-opts the conventional female role in order to signal desire for other women, which of course runs counter the very purpose behind the social construction of femininity. What the femme role makes perhaps even clearer than the butch is the performative nature of all roles, which makes it possible for a biological female to “play at” being a woman by exaggerating what the culture has defined as “womaness.”

Does this involve a strap-on dildo by any chance, Ms. Goodloe? Because we’re all tired of theory about butch-femme roles, which we are certain must be less interesting than the reality. But the same is true, actually, when feminists write about heterosexuals — all they see is male patriarchal hegemony and the presumed victimhood inherent in “the conventional female role.”

Has no feminist ever considered the possibility that not all heterosexual women are clueless? Are there no happily heterosexual women who are as aware as any feminist of “the performative nature of all roles,” and who take an unembarrassed pleasure in performing “the conventional female role” with conventionally masculine men?

Once you discard the power-obsessed collectivist ideology of feminism, what purpose is served by this demonization of men and this contemptuous disdain for “conventional” women?

Feminism’s critique of gender roles (“all identities are socially constructed”) is fundamentally an ideology of selfishness, embraced by perpetually disgruntled women whose inability to find happiness in traditional relationships is turned into a “sour-grapes” rationalization — the argument that traditional relationships are inherently bad. And to hell with Goodloe’s claim that “the dominant discourse” is what “has established heterosexuality as the ‘natural’ or normative expression of human sexuality.” If heterosexuality is not natural, why are there more than 6 billion people on the planet? Maybe Ms. Goodloe wasn’t paying attention in biology class when mammalian reproduction was explained, but her ignorance of the procreative process is not our fault.

Meanwhile, back in Sloan Britton’s 1960 world . . .

She had often thought of leaving. There were too many times when Lydia made life hell for her. Nothing was worth those hours and days of anguish and despair. Lydia was a sadistic bitch who delighted in tormenting Allison.
But Allison would never leave her.
Allison loved Lydia.
She loved her so much that sometimes she thought it was wrong. Human beings weren’t supposed to love each other so much. There must be something sinful about a love so strong it blotted out everything else, including decency and self-respect.

Yeah, that’s hot – and I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet!

Oh: Sixth annual National Offend a Feminist Week begins Monday and continues through May 11 — Mother’s Day, because where would the heteronormative patriarchy be without dear old Mom?

 

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Comments

  • Regalo

    Thanks – guess I have lurked long enough to be able to distill some of that crap.

  • maniakmedic

    I still can’t get over how easily these people who will accuse Christians of being anti-science can believe that heterosexuality isn’t natural. There is no god, we’re all animals, but apparently we are the only warm-blooded animals for which heterosexuality is not normal. Makes perfect sense. If you’re a freaking leftist idiot.

    But let’s all remember: us Christians are the science deniers. *eyeroll*

  • Wombat_socho

    I seem to recall that he endorsed Romney in 2012, for what that was worth.

  • Wombat_socho

    Speak for yourself, mate.

  • Cactus Ed

    Exactly right.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    The key word is ‘rationalize’.

    We all do it to varying degrees, but these types take it to the Manic Level because they are, in fact, mental misfits who have given-up on trying to solve their psychological problems. In fact, they have taken the exact opposite path and have embraced their illness [Psychosis], proclaiming it as a badge of honor.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Such is the way of all Leftists.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    -The Left is always opportunistic, willing to make whatever argument will gain them power.

    ‘By any means necessary’.

    -…disappointed the hopes of so many idealists in the 1960s and ’70s.

    You mean the Dupes, of course.

    From Masters of Deceit (1958) by J. Edgar Hoover:

    The dupe, a person who is obviously not a Communist or a potential Communist but whose views serve to enable Communists. Examples are a prominent religious leader calling for pacifism or a prominent jurist opposing red-baiting tactics on civil liberty grounds.

    -You’ve given me the opening to offer Lenin’s most telling quote:

    We’ll ask the man, where do you stand on the question of the revolution? Are you for it or against it? If he’s against it, we’ll stand him up against a wall.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Actually, as Stacy has pointed out, Feminism has always been a subsection of Leftism.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Along with Stacy, I say ‘bullshit’, sir.

    [A is A]

  • maniakmedic

    Menopause is no respecter of gender identity. On the plus side for the butcher feminists: if they can hold out that long, they won’t need hormones to grow a beard. That’ll show the patriarchy! And then they really won’t have to fear any man wanting anything to do with their uteri.

  • maniakmedic

    Wait, you mean TV has been lying to us all this time portraying only attractive women as lesbians?

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    THIS.

  • maniakmedic

    Someone needs to remind our resident Sock Puppet Master. He seems to have all sorts of opinions about things he has no business having opinions about because he lacks a vagina. Though I do wonder if he thinks his abdication of his man card has bestowed upon him an honorary vagina.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Not so much a reward for irrational thinking as a replacement for traditional rational forms of criticism with a new, formless approach allowing “deconstruction.”

    In clearer language, it rewards the lazy by not requiring them to learn anything to criticize a work or idea, and allowing them to make it all up as they go along, with the insertion of leftist politics into unrelated places encouraged.

    It would just take too long to learn all that Aristotle, Longinus, Dryden, and Frye stuff. They are college professors, why would they bother reading those old white males, most of whom lacked degrees?

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    No, you ARE allowed to have opinions about aggrieved groups – so long as they are the correct opinions.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Nope. He didn’t veer a bit – it was straight on pedal-to-the-metal right over the cliff of kookiness.

    His 2008 “mac Daddy” rant about Obama is priceless stuff, though. “He’s pimping white women AND black women!”

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Actually, it is most of the male parts on TV that are played by lesbians.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    I too have had close contact with several severely disturbed people. A former brother-in-law is schizophrenic, a cousin is functionally “bipolar,” but not by much, and an old customer at the small town paper I ran was the most manic person I ever met (for a while, when he got too upset he would just strip to his underwear, wherever he was, and curl up on the floor).

    I see how the feminists’ tortured logic could appear similar, but theirs isn’t rooted in illness. Some noticeable neuroses, perhaps, but that doesn’t account for the thinking. They are pure, 100% rationalizing their own choices.

    The thought process works backwards for them, but it’s not psychotic. Things in their lives made them unhappy, or angry, or afraid. For them, it is important to “prove” that all the bad things were Not My Fault, making it necessary to find someone Whose Fault It Is. What better Devil than men?

    They probably had problematic or no relationships with their fathers, obviously found no happiness in marriage and likely in no heterosexual relationships, so there are more Bad Men there, and most bosses who are mean are men, and mean people suck, so basically blaming half the population is easy, convenient, and allows an avoidance of direct evidence of causation or guilt.

    And The Patriarchy is the one big bad group that counts us all, we can’t avoid being part of it by definition.

    Once you reach this point as a Given in their world view, the rest is easy (another reason why Wymyn’s Studies programs are a joke).

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Yeah, I shoulda read what you guys wrote before I jumped in, could have cut a hunnert words or so.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    I’ve joined in the analysis of this, but upon reflection, perhaps analysis is not possible here, like gilding the lily.

    Sometimes a bitch is just a bitch.

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    Alas! While our esteemed host would make a commission were I to purchase Unnatural, and I so desperately want to read it, and salivate over every word, all of our family Kindles are on the same account, and if I download it to my tablet, it will also appear on my wife’s and daughters’ Kindles, and that would not go unnoticed.

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    Question: if feminism has a natural inclination toward lesbianism, why doesn’t Teh Patriarchy have a natural tendency toward male homosexuality? Men’s Rights groups, especially, ought to promote having to live without those shrieking harridans, but I’ve yet to see such.

    What have I missed?

  • RKae

    Maybe there was something superior in the idea of actually printing books.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    No. Not when you go back to roots. The word “feminism” was coined after the “women’s movement” had already had success with the vote. It was where co-opting of the movement began. But Susan B. Anthony and Abigail Adams are the original women’s movement, and there have always been women like them all the way through to today, when Phyllis Chesler and even Dana Loesch call themselves the “real feminists.”

    But as I wrote, it’s now a small number, because the co-opting by the marxists and homosexuals is complete.

    Remember, Marxists never invented anything, they co-opt and corrupt existing things.

  • concern00

    Did you really subject yourself to the content of both books?

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    …and most bosses who are mean are men….

    I know a good number of women who, though, would rather work for a man than one of their own – Mrs. B., especially, included.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    How very patriarchal and heteronormative of you both!
    I trust you & the Mrs. are quite used to denouncing yourselves by now, so have at it!

  • RS

    In my career, I’ve noticed that it is the female bosses who are the worst to female employees. It’s as if not having a penis gives one a pass to be a “dick” in other ways.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    You captured my wife’s sentiments.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    We have taught our four cats to speak the words – in Meowish, of course.