Posted on | August 19, 2014 | 35 Comments
Lesbian actress Ingrid Jungermann (left) and director Stewart Thorndike.
Working on “Sex Trouble,” my continuing series about radical feminism, I routinely search Twitter for relevant news and commentary. Searching for “lesbian feminist,” this headline popped up:
We will proceed to criticism of Ms. Thorndike’s film Lyle, but first this thought: Does anyone else notice how “lesbian” and “feminist” go together so naturally that the writer who did this interview, Kelcie Mattson, sort of took it for granted? Because I’ve spent so much time researching the subject, I’m beginning to take it for granted, too. Just a couple of quick examples from Twitter:
What you see here is young women spontaneously associating the terms “lesbian” and “feminist,” occasionally to defend these terms, occasionally as a sort of joke. As we have seen, however, this association is not accidental; since the early 1970s, radical feminists like Artemis March and Charlotte Bunch have insisted that lesbianism is essential to women’s equality and liberation. And if you accept their premise — that heterosexuality involves a condition of subordinated inferiority imposed on females by the male-dominated patriarchal society — it is impossible to dispute their lesbian/feminist conclusion.
For more than four decades, so-called “mainstream” feminism has attempted to marginalize (or at least to conceal from widespread public scrutiny) the outspoken advocates of this radical ideology, despite the fact that lesbian feminism is the logical conclusion of the basic feminist theory, which views men and women as collective groups that have inherently hostile interests. However, in the Women’s Studies programs that have proliferated on American university campuses, enrolling more than 90,000 female students annually, the curriculum invariably features lesbian feminist treatises, and the professors who teach these courses are often themselves proudly “out” lesbians. Graduates of Women’s Studies programs are employed in key roles at “mainstream” feminist organizations, so that the radical agenda and the mainstream agenda have steadily merged over the years.
All of this was sort of “inside baseball” within the feminist movement until the past decade. The 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision and the 2013 Windsor v. United States decision, however, have legitimized homosexual equality, meaning that gay adulthood is now a socially acceptable and legally protected condition. From this “emerging awareness” (to quote Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision in Lawrence) it is logical to assume that one purpose of education now is to prepare young people for their lives as gay adults. Post-Windsor, you will be condemned as a homophobic hater if you disapprove of gay advocacy in public schools, and all opposition to such advocacy must be swept away in the name of “social justice.”
The general trend is unmistakable, if you pay close attention, and the teleological meaning of “equality” becomes apparent, the conclusion of the radical syllogism being implicit in its premises.
While much conservative criticism of the gay-rights movement has focused on male homosexuals, however, few conservatives noticed that lesbians actually bring greater ideological resources to the battlefields of the Culture War. They are both gay and women and, in terms of the Competitive Victimhood Derby that is modern progressivism, this places lesbians in a position to claim that they are suffering from double discrimination. Because feminism has always been a movement of the political Left, and because the Left is fanatically committed to gay rights, no woman who considers herself a feminist would dare disparage the militant lesbians who increasingly dominate the official institutions of feminism. Heterosexual women concerned about workplace harassment or abortion rights might not publicly lock arms in solidarity with lesbian radicals. The “mainstream” feminist may quietly ignore the angry dykes ranting about the heteronormative patriarchy. Yet no woman could hope to maintain her status as a feminist if she were to publicly denounce the academic radicals who relentlessly strive to teach girls that lesbianism is the feminist ideal. Professor Daphne Patai, who spent a decade teaching Women’s Studies classes at the University of Massachusetts, saw this trend emerging, and described it in her 1998 book Heterophobia:
Something very strange happened toward the end of the twentieth century. Heterosexuality went from being the norm to being on the defensive. By calling this phenomenon “heterophobia,” I am not speaking abstractly. Rather, I am referring to a distinct current within feminism [since the late 1960s], a current that has been “theorized” explicitly by feminist scholars and agitators alike as they attack men and heterosexuality.
If this trend was apparent more than 15 years ago, we ought not be surprised now to see high-school girls declaring themselves lesbian feminists on blogs, on Twitter and elsewhere. The ideas of the 1970 Radicalesbian manifesto and Adrienne Rich’s 1980 treatise “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” have been gradually diffused throughout the culture. And so we return to Stewart Thorndike’s lesbian horror film Lyle.
The movie premiered at New York’s Outfest for gay films. Ms. Thorndike wrote and directed the film, and cast her girlfriend Ingrid Jungermann as the lesbian partner of the protagonist played by Gaby Hoffman. An excerpt (no spoilers) from a recent review:
Lyle stars Gaby Hoffmann as Leah and Ingrid Jungermann as June, a lesbian couple with a young daughter, Lyle, in search of an apartment in New York City. And although somewhat disturbed by an off-kilter landlady, the couple settles into a comfortable dwelling to raise Lyle and the new baby which Leah is carrying. Things immediately go bad in this one-hour horror story that gives the viewer very little breathing room as it makes very good use of every minute of that hour. Hoffmann’s Leah carries the film as her partner is almost constantly away at a recording studio working on an increasingly successful music career. Without giving away too much of the story, simply know that a life-altering tragedy occurs and Leah’s mental well-being is crushed along with the picturesque life she and June were building. Determined to discover just what is truly tormenting her life and how deep the web of deceit goes, Leah turns to researching her new apartment and her strange landlady and begins to put the pieces together. But is the puzzle truly an evil plot, or is it Leah’s fragile psyche playing tricks on her?
Having promised no spoilers — and I haven’t seen the movie — I’m going to take a wild guess that the villain of the movie, the “strange landlady,” is some kind of hateful homophobe. Ah, but what was the inspiration? From the interview with Ms. Thorndike:
The story for Lyle came to me in this one, really clear moment. I was dating Ingrid [Jungermann], who plays June, at the time and was mad at her. I wanted to have a kid, and she didn’t. I was in the shower — angry — and I had this thought: she’s bad. Then the whole story of her preventing me from having all these babies I wanted slammed into my head. I remember jumping out of the shower, jotting the whole thing down, looking at it, and thinking, Oh, I just wrote the story for Rosemary’s Baby a little. But the lesbian version.
Isn’t this interesting? A lesbian couple angrily arguing because one of them wants children and believes her partner is “preventing me from having all these babies I wanted.” You can’t blame that problem on the heteronormative patriarchy, can you?
But notice the way Thorndike answers this interview question:
What do you think your perspective brings to the genre, and to Lyle in particular, with its deliberately female/LGBT-focus?
Thorndike: Maybe Lyle‘s contribution to LGBT stuff is that it normalizes it. They just happen to be gay — it’s not the storyline.
Wait a doggone minute there. The movie is about a lesbian couple having babies together and the director has declared that it was inspired by a quarrel with her girlfriend, who is cast as one of the partners in the movie, and yet “LGBT stuff” is “not the storyline”?
Do people like this actually understand what they’re saying? Or is it the case that their worldview is so prevalent in elite culture that they are accustomed to never having their ideas criticized?
Also, I’m guessing Ms. Thorndike isn’t a fan of Disney movies . . .
- July 14: Radical Feminism and the Long Shadow of the ‘Lavender Menace’
- July 26: Feminists Worry That Disney Movies Are Making Girls Heterosexual
- July 28: Feminists Against ‘The Unnatural, Yet Universal Roles Patriarchy Has Assigned’
- Aug. 2: How to Become a Lesbian, Step One: Watch Cable TV While Depressed
- Aug. 3: #DearFeministMen Illustrates a Fundamental Problem
- Aug. 6: Hey, Moms: Feminists Think They Know What’s Wrong With Your Children
- Aug. 10: ‘Hi, We’re Lesbian Feminists and We’re Here to Talk to Your Daughter About Sex’
- Aug. 15: ‘Wacky Conservative Hit Piece About Raging Lesbian Feminist Carmen Rios’