Posted by: kwiser | November 1, 2007

Heterosexuality: The Role it Plays in Feminism and Lesbianism

Something that seems to be missing in the discussion of Feminist theory is the entire role that Heterosexuality plays in society. According to feminism the role of heterosexuality is what structures the male-female relationship. Heterosexuality is the structure that keeps sexist oppression in place in the private realm; where sexism in general operates to also oppress in the public sphere. In other words heterosexuality reinforces the hierarchy established by sexism to keep women dominated in “sexual interaction, romantic love, marriage, and the family” (Calhoun, 350).

On can see how this is logical; that heterosexuality binds women to men in this private sphere and that sexism again keeps the power dynamics skewed. Therefore it is imperative that feminism fights against sexist oppression and works for equalizing the power in these personal areas in which it takes up residency (this is in addition to fighting sexist oppression in the public sphere).

Consider these two sentences:(1) heterosexuality is a container for sexism; (2) lesbians are not involved in the internal structure of heterosexuality, they are homosexual. It can be understandable to see why some would then conclude that Lesbians therefore do not truly experience sexism because they are not bound to heterosexuality; they escape this situation. This line of thinking is what caused Charlotte Bunch to conclude that then all women should become lesbian in order to escape sexist oppression from men.

This conclusion is flawed. What is happening is that one is assuming that the only experience in dealing with heterosexuality can be if you are a “member” so to speak. What is being forgotten is that heterosexuality is the basis for heterosexism. And heterosexism is an oppressive structure towards homosexuality. This means that oppression is perpetuated through heterosexuality by promoting sexism from within, and its dominance in relation to homosexuality.

This is why it does not make any sense for Lesbianism to be fully bound to Feminism when it comes to theory or operation. Lesbian’s experiences of oppressive nature of heterosexuality is in an entirely different way and  because of this their approach to extinguishing assumption of compulsory heterosexuality needs to be separate from the Feminist approach. This means that combining the two in a group where everyone is politically lesbian, especially in the scenario Bunch dictates is neglecting the alternative issues with heterosexism.


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