Posted on | August 17, 2014 | 61 Comments
One thing you notice if you pay close attention to the autobiographical details that feminists let slip as they’re telling their narratives (because “the personal is political,” y’know, and feminism enthrones extreme subjectivity as “the authority of experience”) is that many of these women have psychological damage they channel into political belief because they can’t come to grips with it any other way.
Her misfortunes can never be chalked up to mere bad luck, nor can the source of her hurt feelings be accepted as “the way of the world.” Still less can any feminist look at her problems and ask to what extent she is responsible for her own failures and unhappiness. Instead, her ideology offers her ready-made rationalization that seem to explain her problems: Whatever is wrong with her life, somehow it can be blamed on men and the patriarchal system of male domination. In any other context, we recognize this as blame-shifting and scapegoating, but when women explain their personal miseries by yelping that they are victims of oppression by the patriarchy, we dignify their rationalization by calling it a political philosophy.
OK, so I’ve been researching feminist “gender theory” as part of my “Sex Trouble” series on radical feminism. And while looking for a certain article I’d read earlier but forgot to bookmark, I was Googling about butch/femme lesbian identities. (Much weirdness out there, folks.) There among the several search results, I turned up this:
Heteronormativity and Homophobia:
A Femme’s Perspective
“But you don’t look gay!”
That is the resounding response I get whenever I come out to people. I vent a lot about how hard it is to be an invisible member of the LGBT community, but my frustration goes a lot deeper than people think.
A lot of people assume that “gender-conforming” queer women don’t experience homophobia and harassment because they often “blend in” with heteronormative society, but I most certainly experience homophobia- just in a unique way. I’m at my breaking point in dealing with peoples’ ignorance and disrespect on a weekly basis — and the worst part is I’m told that it’s not a big deal and I shouldn’t let it upset me. It’s easy for people who have no idea what it’s like to have their sexuality questioned and pried into at every turn to tell me to just relax and get over it. That’s why I’m writing this post: I hope that people will learn to take a walk in the shoes of a sexual minority- particularly an invisible one. . . .
Homophobic people who might otherwise snub me are nice to me because on the outside, I appear conventional. The homophobia often comes later, once I choose to come out. I choose to come out, because to me, being closeted is not an option. If I hide who I am, homophobia wins. I’m also a walking contradiction to many lesbian stereotypes, so I think it’s important to break down peoples’ misconceptions by living my life openly.
Being treated differently than my straight counterparts — being treated like a spectacle, a liar/fake/confused person, an “exception” to someone’s homophobia, a male fantasy — isn’t any less hurtful or discriminatory than being hated on sight for being gay. If you’re a member of the LGBT community who accuses femmes of being privileged or a straight person who doesn’t recognize this type of homophobia, I hope my experience gives you a new perspective.
Hmmm. The whole “femme invisibility”/”femme privilege” thing has been endlessly discussed among lesbian feminists, and this article is by some random girl with a Blogspot site, not from a professor or journalist, but still there was something intriguing:
I’m a 24-year old woman with a BA in Psychology and Women’s Studies, looking to go to graduate school for clinical psychology.
Oh, a young Women’s Studies major! How delightful!
Jessica Clayton-Matthews attended Simmons College in Boston (tuition $35,200 a year) and she doesn’t blog frequently on her feminist site, but she’s got another blog devoted completely to her struggles with eating disorders, from which we learn:
For as long as I can remember I had . . . been a picky eater and generally “weird about food” . . .
I started restricting when I was 12, but I wasn’t diagnosed with an eating disorder until after I was hospitalized at 15. I was dealing with trauma at home and I had severe social and generalized anxiety as well as depression. Restriction and later over-exercise became a way for me to calm my anxiety and distract myself from the trauma as well as confusion regarding my sexual orientation. Restriction also became a form of self-punishment, because I had very low self-worth and felt that I didn’t deserve nourishment.
Another contribution to my eating disorder was going to school in a very wealthy community that placed a high value on appearance — I switched schools halfway through the sixth grade, but the damage had already been done. I was a few pounds heavier than most of my friends simply because I was a year older and started going through puberty sooner and I was made to feel ashamed of that. . . . I developed body dysmorphia as early as 11 years old and felt painfully uncomfortable in my own skin. . . .
My family is very loving and supportive, but it took them awhile to understand the severity of my eating disorder. When I was diagnosed at age 15 I don’t think any of us took the diagnosis very seriously, because my other mental health issues felt like more of an immediate threat (I was suicidal at the time).
Hmmm. Anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, suicidal feelings. You see she had all kinds of mental health issues which can’t be blamed on homophobia or the patriarchy. She had “confusion regarding [her] sexual orientation,” but was that all?
When I was 12 I started having romantic feelings towards women, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was very ashamed and confused and I just wanted to go back to being a little girl with no hormones so I wouldn’t have to deal.
OK, fine. Lots of kids experience “confusion” about their “romantic feelings” without going totally psycho. “Body dysmorphia”? Wanting “to go back to being a little girl with no hormones”? Feelings of “very low self-worth”? These are extreme reactions. One wonders about the “family trauma at home” she was experiencing, but with no further details available, that’s a dead end. Were all her problems psychological? It turns out there’s more to the story:
To give an example of a piece of my internalized patriarchal values that I’ve been working through: I have PCOS (Poly-cystic ovary syndrome), which is one of the major causes of infertility in women. Now, for as long as I can remember, I haven’t been interested in having biological children. I want to be a mother, but I’ve always wanted to adopt and somehow known that it was what I am meant to do. But, when I was diagnosed with PCOS, I felt depressed and broken. I started mourning the possibility of not being able to have a biological child, not because I ever really wanted one, but because I thought it made me “less of a woman”. And I kid you not, this thought crossed my mind: “What kind of woman am I if I can’t have a biological child? I am useless!” My reaction was 100% due to the damn patriarchy convincing me that my most important asset as a woman is my ability to bear children.
This is terribly embarrassing to admit, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that, feminist or not, the ideals of the patriarchy are so integrated into our culture that we internalize certain ideals without even realizing it.
Hmmm. She has a disease that causes infertility, but “for as long as [she] can remember, [she hasn't] been interested in having biological children”? That would seem rather convenient, but she still feels bad about it and, of course, she blames “the damn patriarchy”!
Hey, what do we know about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also called hyperandrogenic anovulation (HA), or Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is one of the most common endocrine disorders among females. . . .
Polycystic ovaries develop when the ovaries are stimulated to produce excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens), in particular testosterone, by either one or a combination of the following (almost certainly combined with genetic susceptibility:
the release of excessive luteinizing hormone (LH) by the anterior pituitary gland through high levels of insulin in the blood (hyperinsulinaemia) in women whose ovaries are sensitive to this stimulus.
Also, reduced levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin can result in increased free androgens.
Ms. Clayton-Matthews, it would seem, suffers from an endocrine disorder involving “excessive amounts of male hormones,” and we may wonder if this in turn explains other problems, including her pubescent “confusion regarding . . . sexual orientation.” But it’s easier to blame “the damn patriarchy,” you see, and to think that this woman has a degree in psychology is astonishing. Guess her double-major in Women’s Studies cancelled out everything else.