Lesbians, as women-identified women, are an invaluable perspective in the fight for gender equity.
Woman-identifying woman is a lesbian feminist theory. By forming an identity based on connections to other women, denying male approval and pursuing things purely for their own approval — women can identify themselves on their own terms.
Ultimately, rising above male dependency is the path to liberation.
There’s a social hierarchy that expects women to dress a certain way, to have children, to take care of the household, and so on. This social order champions men as more intelligent and competent, and compulsory heterosexuality imposes an expectation for women to partner with men.
Lesbianism is the antithesis of these norms. Lesbians represent a life full of success, love, joy and community — entirely devoid of men. They are living proof that women are incredible and capable in themselves — women don’t need men.
And it really doesn’t have much to do with sex. Lesbians aren’t powerful because they don’t have sex with men, but because they don’t prioritize men. Their energy is focused on themselves and fellow women. When men aren’t afforded this attention, they lose power. And women, uplifted by each other, gain it.
Lesbians fought for women-only spaces, which are crucial for community building and safety. Now, there are women-only gyms, rideshare apps, community centers and hotels. One in four women will experience sexual violence, according to the Center for Disease Control. Women-only spaces are a potentially life saving opportunity for survivors and supporters alike to come together in safety and solidarity.
I don’t think we realize how much of our lives are directly or indirectly affected by men. Created by a lesbian artist, the Bechdel test is a cultural barometer for determining whether women in media exist independently from men. A piece of media passes the test if it features two women who have a conversation without mentioning a man. Some iterations of the test require the women to have names, too.
And you’d be surprised at how many movies or shows fail the Bechdel test – from “Avengers” to “Ratatouille.” The result of the test doesn’t impart any quality or moral judgment on the media (“Ratatouille” will always be a cinematic masterpiece to me.) Instead, the test simply points out whether or not women have their own personality, unrelated to a man.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying heterosexuality is intrinsically evil. I just want to point out there is a power imbalance in heterosexual dynamics and female (in)dependence, one that I think we should be taking note of.
We all know there are double standards, and the lesbian feminist strategy is to take notice of them, and not accept less than you deserve. It is critical to remember to put as much – if not more – energy into your girl peers as you would put into a man.
In 1972, a woman could be institutionalized for being lesbian. Lesbian visibility week just passed, and lesbians were openly celebrated with panels, parades and parties. We ought to pay homage to lesbians who have paved the way for gay and women’s rights. Progress has come so far, and there’s no end in sight. In the encouraging words of Billy Eichner, “let’s go lesbians, let’s go!”