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As a group, women have long suffered many of the same acts of oppression endured by LGBT individuals. Women have experienced countless inequities and injustices over the years. Women have been the victims of discrimination, harassment, and violence. Issues of women's rights are very much parallel with LGBT rights.
Lesbian feminism is a cultural movement and critical perspective, most popular in the 1970s and early 1980s (primarily in North America and Western Europe), that questions the position of lesbians and women in society. Some key thinkers and activists are Charlotte Bunch, Rita Mae Brown, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Marilyn Frye, Mary Daly, Sheila Jeffreys and Monique Wittig (although the latter is more commonly associated with the emergence of queer theory). Historically lesbianism has been closely associated with feminism, going back at least to the 1890s. "Lesbian feminism" is a related movement that came together in the early 1970s out of dissatisfaction with second-wave feminism and the gay liberation movement.
In the words of lesbian feminist Sheila Jeffreys, "Lesbian feminism emerged as a result of two developments: lesbians within the Women's Liberation Movement began to create a new, distinctively feminist lesbian politics, and lesbians in the Gay Liberation Front left to join up with their sisters".
Sheila Jeffreys defines lesbian feminism as having seven key themes:
--Emphasis on women's love for one another
--Community and ideas
--Idea that lesbianism is about choice and resistance
--Idea that the personal is the political
--Rejection of social hierarchy
--Critique of male-supremacy (which eroticises inequality)
Isis International: Feminist Concerns & LGBT Issues
IGLHRC: International Women's Day
Lesbian.Org: Resources for Lesbian & Bisexual Women
How Sexuality is Used to Attack Women's Organizing
Womyn: Feminist and Lesbian Separatism
"Womyn" is an alternate spelling of the word "woman." The term is sometimes used by some feminist and lesbian separatist groups as a nonsexist spelling of "woman" in order to deliberately avoid the suffix "man." The term has been tied to the concept of feminism as a form of the word "woman" without patriarchal connotations. The term is sometimes used in labeling certain academic programs, categories of literature, concert events, festivals, interest groups, support groups, and communities/communes related to feminist or lesbian issues.
Sappho: Ancient Greek Lesbian Poet
Sappho (c612 BCE - c510 BCE) was a Greek poet, who lived on the island of Lesbos. Sappho is the most famous female poet of antiquity, but only incomplete poems and fragments remain of her work. Most of Sappho's lyrical love poems were addressed to women. The Greek philosopher Plato called her the tenth Muse.
Facts about her life are scant. She was an aristocrat, who wrote poetry for her circle of friends, mostly but not exclusively women. She may have had a daughter. The term lesbian, her presumed sexual orientation, is derived from the name of her island home, Lesbos. The ancients had seven or nine books of her poetry. Only fragments survive; the longest is an invocation to Aphrodite asking her to help the poet in her relation with a beloved woman. Her verse is a classic example of the love lyric, and is characterized by her passionate love of women, a love of nature, a direct simplicity, and perfect control of meter.
"Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" is a 1980 essay by Adrienne Rich, published in her 1986 book Blood, Bread, and Poetry.
Rich argues that heterosexuality is a violent political institution making way for the "male right of physical, economical, and emotional access" to women. She urges women to direct their energies towards other women rather than men, and portrays lesbianism as an extension of feminism. Rich challenges the notion of women's dependence on men as social and economic supports, as well as for adult sexuality and psychological completion. She calls for what she describes as a greater understanding of lesbian experience, and believes that once such an understanding is obtained, these boundaries will be widened and women will be able to experience the "erotic" in female terms.
In order to gain this physical, economical, and emotional access for women, Rich lays out a framework developed by Kathleen Gough (both a social anthropologist and feminist) that lists “eight characteristics of male power in archaic and contemporary societies”. Along with the framework given, Rich sets to define the term lesbianism by giving two separate definitions for the term. Lesbian existence, she suggests, is “both the fact of the historical presence of lesbians and our continuing creation of the meaning of that existence. The other, lesbian continuum, refers to the overall “range - through each woman’s life and throughout history - of woman-identified experiences, not simply the fact that a woman has had or consciously desired genital sexual experience with another woman” . Below are the characteristics in which male power has demonstrated the suppression of female sexuality.
1. To deny women their own sexuality: destruction of sexuality displayed throughout history in sacred documents.
2. Forcing male sexuality upon women: rape, incest, torture, a constant message that men are better, and superior in society to women.
3. Exploiting their labor to control production: women have no control over choice of children, abortion, birth control and furthermore, no access to knowledge of such things.
4. Control over their children: lesbian mothers seen as unfit for motherhood, malpractice in society and the courts to further benefit the man.
5. Confinement: women unable to choice their own wardrobe (feminine dress seen as the only way), full economic dependence on the man, limited life in general.
6. Male transactions: women given away by fathers as gifts or hostesses by the husband for their own benefit, pimping women out.
7. Cramp women’s creativeness: male seen as more assimilated in society (they can participate more, culturally more important.
8. Men withholding attainment of knowledge: “Great Silence” (never speaking about lesbian existence in history), discrimination against women professionals.
Wikipedia: Compulsory Heterosexuality &
LGBTQ Encyclopedia: Feminist Lesbianism
Essay by Adrienne Rich: Compulsory Heterosexuality & Lesbian Existence
AutoStraddle: Female Friends Forever
Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama