I am aware that a good few feminists are lesbian. But is it normal for feminism to be intricately entwined with LGBT theory and activism to the exclusion of almost anything else?
I follow a few feminist pages on Facebook, and it seems that they post way more stuff on LGBT theory than feminist theory. Loads of posts and outrage about trans women being forced to use male restrooms and loads on equal marriage rights, but very little about FGM, the millions of lost women in India and China, the very rare post about women being lashed/stoned for extramarital sex after being raped in the Middle East.
Of course I understand there are some overlaps between the groups, but surely feminism is first and foremost about issues that are peculiar to women?
At risk of a flaming, to focus on trans and gay issues to the exclusion of women suffering horribly at the hands of men, particularly in the developing world, just smacks of first world privilege and frustrates me.
This Mumsnet topic/group seems to be focussed first and foremost on women, which is why I'm asking here. Have any of you noticed similar on Facebook? Are there any feminist groups I've missed which keep women front and centre? As a straight feminist, I just don't feel like I belong on some of the groups I follow.
I think there's something of an age difference. Broadly, younger women I know (in their 20s) are often keen to get into what I would call queer theory/gender studies rather than feminism. Though obviously there is often a lot of overlap, and obviously some women in their 20s (mostly that I know from MN) are into feminism as well.
I have quite often come across the attitude that feminism has mostly succeeded, and therefore it's time for women to concentrate on the issues where there is still a lot to do. I don't agree this is true, btw.
Incidentally, the lesbian feminists I know myself seem to be split pretty evenly between those who are feminists first and foremost, and those who're interested in queer theory (ie., including 'gender queer' and trans as well as 'queer' issues). I don't know much about it but a mate of mine who is a lesbian is really not keen on being associated with queer theory.
Facebook isn't the world and Facebook certainly isn't the be all and end all of feminism.
If it's like most discussion boards, mailing lists and real-life gatherings of people in any way, folks discuss issues that are topical. That doesn't mean that they aren't interested in or also working on other issues that aren't being discussed at the time.
Marriage equality is very much a current political issue in the US and in the UK, and one that will impact on many women, so I'm not terribly surprised that this is being discussed. Also, because the rights of Lesbian, bisexual and trans* women were not included in the Agreed Conclusions of the most recent UN Commission on the Status of Women, some will be discussing that omission.
The interesting thing is so often, those who oppose feminism in any form often resort to that old chestnut of, "Why are you spending so much time blethering on about X when clearly, there is this other issue over here that is so much more important that you are ignoring." The response generally given is that feminists are able to multi-task. I think the same answer applies to your question as well!
Mmm. It's the lack of multi-tasking that bothers me. That 'exclusion of women suffering' that annie mentions. Not on facebook, but at a university feminist group I've seen people really not want to discuss anything except a particular range of issues. Of course that is fine - free country - but I am curious too about why and how this happens.
LRD, it's interesting how you describe the Lesbian feminists that you know - that half see themselves as feminists primarily and half see themselves as Lesbian/queer.
My question would be really why should they feel compelled to make a choice between two intrinsic aspects of their identity? I'm not saying that you specifically do that, but I just find it interesting that you put it that way.
The issue sort of mirrors alot of comments I've heard recently from Black feminists/womanists about feeling compelled by (predominately white) feminists to prioritise their identity as women over other aspects of their identity.
I don't know that they see it that way? I'm only going on what's been said to me.
But I know at least one person who finds it insulting to be seen primarily as 'a lesbian' and she frequently identifies as 'a feminist'. I think it is a difference between an identity you're born with, and everyone should accept without comment, and a political ideology you choose.
Of course, not everyone will feel like that, but I can see her point.
I wouldn't know enough about black feminism/womanism though I would like to.
I'm curious now! I'll ask around a few women about uni feminist groups as I'd not been aware this was perhaps the case. I'm thinking more about advocacy and campaigning groups that I have more contact with, and feminist academics and researchers covering issues as wide as they are long.
Gah ... triple posting, sorry ... but, FWIW, some people I know object to 'queer' and 'lesbian' being used synonymously.
I'm curious how the term 'queer' seems to have expanded its range hugely. I have mates in the US who use 'queer' to characterise anyone from someone who is gay, to someone bisexual, to someone who acts in a way that doesn't fit with the gender they were born. It's very inclusive but I'm not comfortable with it for myself. Not acting in a feminine way doens't make me 'gender queer', its part of my feminism. But for others it would be part of being 'gender queer'.
KRITIQ - that's hardly fair. I can see how queer theory relates to feminism, and of course I don't think that these groups should stop talking about it. But feminism is more broad than queer theory and as a non-queer, I'd like to explore other aspects of feminism.
And of course Facebook isn't the world, but I like to use Facebook and it's one way that I enjoy interacting with other feminists.
It's not that I want to change the group I'm following; it's their choice on what they discuss. I'm simply not finding it relevant to me and so I'm asking if this is common and if I'm likely to find other groups where I fit in better.
Of course feminists can multi-task. And I'm open to a range of feminist theory, including queer theory. It's all very interesting. I would welcome a range of topics. But surely if a group is concentrating solely on queer theory, it ceases to become a feminist group and becomes a queer theory group?
Can anyone post a link/name of a more woman-centric group please?
I'm not at all comfortable with this idea of feminism being "swallowed up" under the umbrella of queer theory. It makes the idea of feminism more "other" than it already is, if that makes sense. Surely feminism is about inclusion and equality for everyone being mainstream - the norm rather than the exception? Not sure I'm explaining myself well.
From what I understand LRD, part of it is "Americanism," (like "person of colour" where many in the UK would say Black/Black & Minority Ethnic/Black, Asian & Minority Ethinc/Politically Black.) Part of it has been an attempt to come up with a succinct term to cover Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*gender, Questioning, which you've got to admit, is a pretty long descriptor!
Like most words, I think the meaning of "queer" (which in itself was a reclaimed slur, and still used as a slur by some,) is evolving and may mean different things to different people. I get the sense that sometimes younger people prefer it because they feel Lesbian, Gay and/or Bisexual are terms that are "outdated" and don't relate to their experience, or are too narrow to describe what they feel is their identity.
I'm aware of a piece of research done by an LBGT young people's organisation in conjunction with an education project. They did anonymous equal ops monitoring at the end of the programme, once they knew young people had an understanding of what the sexuality and identity concepts were. They were surprised to find fewer saw themselves as Lesbian or Gay, but chose Bisexual, queer or trans*, suggesting that they saw their sexual identity as more "fluid" than fixed. That could be either because as teenagers, this is the sort of thing that is an evolving process for many young people. It could also be that there is now a broader "spectrum" of concepts and terms to describe one's identity than before, and perhaps in some quarters at least, a "climate" where not fitting into a neat box is more acceptable. The latter is something I've found myself in work with young people - but stressing this isn't universal and I don't suggest that homophobia isn't alive and (sadly too often) kicking.
I don't think it's a good idea for either queer theory or feminism to be put under the same 'umbrella'. It's one more way for the patriarchy to pretend all minorities/marginalized groups are the same. The way that if you have a group, some people seem to think that having four spaces for white men and one for a woman/ethnic minority/LGBT person is somehow helpful.
Of course often there will be loads of common ground between groups, but it is insulting when a broad range of issues are reduced to a smudge of letters.
Incidentally, I think this is why some lesbians aren't wild about calling themselves 'queer' - but I will ask if I'm right there as I'm not a lesbian and don't want to speak out of turn.
Sorry if I sounded harsh Annie, but I just wanted to be clear that there IS alot that goes on outside Facebook, and Twitter for that matter. I don't genuinely think either are representative of thinking on most subjects.
I honestly don't see that feminism is being "swallowed up" by queer theory or any other theory, other than perhaps human rights, of which it should be a part (but that's more of a legal thing than a philosophical thing.)
What I think IS challenging for feminism is the complexity of human identity. That means, for example, for a woman of colour, a woman who has relationships with women, a disabled woman, a Muslim woman, etc., feminism HAS to be about much more than just liberation of women as a generic, homogenous group of people. I don't think that kind of challenge is a bad thing at all though.
Yes, I agree, it seems to function very much as you describe, as a term, kri.
My reluctance to use it is that I feel that I've never been much discriminated against for my sexual orientation (I'm bi, but married to a man). And I know men and women who have been, and I grew up associating the term 'queer' with them - in the context of them being proud to reclaim it. I would feel as if I were kind of being an activist tourist on that if I used the term, you know? Like some terribly earnest people will tell you how very aware they are of the struggles of such-and-such group, which they're not part of, but somehow have spiritual kinship with. It's a bit patronizing, even if it's good-hearted.
I would like to get to the point where we could all accept very fluid definitions of sexual orientation (or, better, no need to comment on it at all, with it being accepted that anyone might like anyone else).
Yep, I getcha! The thing is, if one is picking a term to describe one's personal identity, it's got to feel comfortable - got to be right, because it IS something so personal to the individual. There can be a whole plethora of reasons some terms don't feel right - maybe even if they don't have a logical explanation. I suppose that's an issue with labels generally - meanings can have different connotations, can change over time and aren't always clear to others. I'm always more interested in the meaning behind labels, but of course there isn't always the opportunity for finding that out, so terms become the short-hand that we use. The trade off is sometimes there is confusion, misunderstanding and conflict (which I think is worse using a textual medium alone, like Facebook, Twitter or even here!)
Like you, I'd like to get to that place where we can accept the fluid definitions and identities - not just of sexuality, but other ways human beings see themselves. That's not going to be easy though if we already have strong feelings ourselves about the descriptors other people use, but maybe one day, we can get beyond all the language stuff and just be!
This is the second feminist group I've fallen out with [shame]. I'm starting to think it's me.
Last time I called out the mods for posting a VERY triggering picture in an attempt to highlight Facebook's tendency to not delete images of DV under thinly disguised veils of "controversial humour", and found myself blocked from posting. I messaged them and was told I had no right to "tell them off" on their own page, and that they would unblock me if I promised never to challenge them again. I told them to get stuffed.
If only everywhere was as tolerant as Facebook of differing opinions!
Oh, absolutely kri. That was the point I was making - that the people I know who choose these terms do them for reasons that are personal, and to do with personal feelings (as well or instead of the political identity I guess I'm more used to thinking about with feminism).
annie - oh, that's interesting then. Very different from my lot - who don't think of it as queer theory at all, but think it's all part of feminism.
I have noticed that it's often easier for young women to be upset and fight for other's rights - like gay (male) rights and animal rights - than their own (issues that are specifically about women) Perhaps this follows them into feminism. Sad if it overshadows the feminism if that's what the groups are supposed to be about.