How Patriarchy Uses Heterosexual and Bisexual Women against Lesbians —
Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory
(This is the latest update of what had been our original Chapter Two, by Bev Jo with Linda and Ruston, which included The Crimes of Mankind, now updated to be our new Chapter One. https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/chapteronethe-crimes-of-mankind/
Het Feminism Is a Contradiction in Terms
This chapter is not meant as a personal criticism of women who are heterosexual and/or bisexual, but as a response to the dilution of feminism by liberals/right wing women pretending to be Radical Feminists who are spreading myths and lies in order to promote heterosexuality and bisexuality for women. Decades ago, Lesbian Feminists who had previously chosen to be het claimed that “heterosexuality is compulsory” for women, ignoring the existence of Lesbians and other women who had chosen to never be het. (One of the main proponents for this propaganda was upper class and had chosen to marry a man before coming out through feminism.) All the reasons they gave for their faulty and harmful political analysis have been disproved, yet the myth continues to harm women. Radical Feminism is about finding and naming the truth.
Radical Lesbian Feminists do have a few good, trusted allies who are het women, but most het women are hostile to Lesbians, even if it isn’t obvious at first. Feminism used to challenge all aspects of heterosexuality, but now is so liberalized that many “radfems” follow the Gay male and genderqueer lie that we have no choice about one of the most important decisions we make in our lives: who we choose to love.
To find truth instead of confusion, ask, who do these politics ultimately serve? Do these ideas challenge male supremacy at its core, or do they benefit men and help continue male rule?
How did one of the most revolutionary truths of basic Feminist and Lesbian Feminist politics, which has the potential to change all girls’ and women’s lives forever, become so hidden, denied, and lied about? Learning how and why our original inspiring politics were diluted and destroyed explains everything. True feminism is about choosing courage and the obvious truth, instead of choosing the path of fear and denial of reality.
We need to understand our history to know what happened to our wonderful, hopeful, and exciting Radical Feminist and Lesbian Feminist movement and culture. And that means learning our real history rather than the distortion which men posing as Lesbians are re-writing. (These men have far more money, power, and media access than we do, and of course are supporting male supremacy.)
No, we never joined with Gay men or the much later genderqueer movement. We said no to, and fought, the porn and sado-masochism disguised as “feminist” that invaded our communities in 1979 and later. We also always said no to the few men who posed as Lesbians. We built proud, creative communities where female-only space was the norm.
Most importantly, we fought the horrific Lesbian-hating we grew up with, from the time when there was nothing but hate and lies about us in any media, when we were told we were mentally ill and even dangerous. Rare Lesbian characters in films and books usually died at the end, and real Lesbians often hid who they were, in fear and/or shame. As a people, we were ignored, lied about, and despised.
So when Lesbian Feminists created our culture and movement, it was essential to say proudly that we chose to be Lesbians, to counteract the lies that we were born queer or made “perverts” by some girlhood trauma.
I (Bev) found Lesbian Feminism in 1970 when I was 19, and it was a dream come true. That was when a larger percentage of Lesbian Feminists were Lifelong Lesbians and Butch, having become Lesbians out of our love for other females. Also, more of us were class-oppressed. Our community reflected that strong Dyke identity. Soon the newly-out women who became Lesbians as a result of becoming feminists, and who often loved women less than they hated men, and who were majority white and middle-class, outnumbered us and changed our culture. But at the time, it seemed as if all women would soon come out. We knew that the psychoanalytical propaganda that pathologized us was lies and that all females are born Lesbian, while it’s the choosing to be het or bisexual that goes against our nature.
It wasn’t until the Eighties, that the seemingly liberal, but actually reactionary politics of “born this way” invaded our communities, having come from Gay male politicians. We were pressured to join in asking for equal rights by appealing to the pity of lawmakers – of course we “queers” (in the original insulting use of the word) would prefer to have boring, empty het lives if only we could. If Gay men said it was a choice, those in power would tell them/us to stop complaining. The entire structure of the campaign for equal rights is built on Lesbians and Gay men agreeing we are deficient in relation to heterosexuals, which is not far removed from the old American Psychiatric Association’s assertion that we are mentally ill.
But our Lesbian Feminist community had not been connected to Gay men at all. Some who had tried working with Gay men had quit in disgust at their female-hating and Lesbian-hating.1 Most Lesbian Feminists we knew were never around Gay men and had no reason to be. Our communities were completely different, which was obvious in the male porn ads we were subjected to if we got the “Lesbian” and Gay newspapers we relied on for information about events. Their focus is on sex rather than love. Men choosing to be het appear to be more relationship-oriented because they have to be if they want access to women, but in reality, few het men are monogamous, and most would live similarly to Gay men if that were possible to do with women. (Perhaps Gay men do feel they are born gay, but many more het men would choose to be gay if it weren’t for the stigma.)
Gay men have almost nothing in common with Lesbians or other women anyway, and did not experience what we did with the enormous influx of previously het women into our Lesbian Feminist communities. Only later, when Gay men formed Gay rights groups with access to media and enormous amounts of money, and needed token Lesbians to get even more money, did their politics influence Lesbian communities. And, even though Gay men publicly expressed disgust and hatred of Lesbians, the AIDS epidemic, though clearly a sexually transmitted disease, activated Lesbians to choose to support men instead of Lesbians. Even then, very few Lesbians joined with them.
What happened to the Lesbian pride we had when we said, “We do have a choice, and we choose to be Lesbians”? Returning to our original politics and knowledge makes it clear that het and bisexual women choose to collaborate with patriarchy, and also frees the many Lesbian Feminists who spend their lives working to help “free” and protect het and bisexual women from their men. It also enables Lesbian Feminists to finally make our own people a priority.
The Heterosexist Myths that Manipulate Lesbian Feminists
We could move forward if certain women would just stop lying and playing games. (This seems to be the predominate tactic when unable to answer honestly and directly.) If you really want to be Radical Feminist, stop oppressing the women who are saying no to patriarchy, and stop lying about us. Stop pretending you are not playing both sides if you are still invested in males. Just be honest, whatever your choices are.
1. The lie that almost all girls and women are naturally heterosexual.
If this were true, why is every aspect of the media bombarding us with increasingly pornographic propaganda, from schools, books, television, films, magazines, peer pressure, and even “radfem” online groups? It starts much younger than it used to, with five year old girls policing other girls as well as adults about whether they have a “boyfriend” and, if they don’t, why not? It’s shameful for girls to admit their first feelings of love, which is for other girls, and which would continue if most did not decide later to choose boys and then men. (Some do stay following their hearts, while others regret decades of their lives wasted trying to make themselves love men.)
Every once in a while there is an extremely revealing interview, such as in television news “magazines” where a young woman, asked about her “first time” says “It was horrible, but it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?”
Privileged women riddled with STDs, some of which, like herpes and HPV, are incurable, still call themselves “hopelessly heterosexual.” If women say similar self-destructive things about being addicted to drugs or sado-masochism, friends are likely to talk about having an intervention on their behalf. Instead, the pressure from most women is to keep staying with men, no matter how abusive the men or how dangerous the consequences. When women break ranks about choosing heterosexuality, other het women try to pull them back into line.
When “feminists” insist heterosexuality in inborn and not a choice, they are supporting women to be hurt and abused by men. And they are keeping patriarchy going.
2. The lie that woman have no choice but to be het.
Well, then what about all the ex-het Lesbians who return to men for privilege?
I certainly remember the Lesbian Separatist lover I held as she told how abused she’d felt by the men she’d let fuck her, crying with her, for her. And only a few years later, she told me in graphic detail how much she loved being fucked by her new boyfriend.
It’s ignored that girls and women make thought-out choices about this. Some of us remember our teenaged friends talking with us about how they were repulsed by boys and men, but decided they had to learn to flirt to attract them or they would lost status. We remember this, even if the women who did it pretend not to.
3. The lie that it’s ‘misogynist’ to say that women can choose to not be het since they are victims.
It’s misogynist to deny women have the strength and intelligence to choose. It’s infantilizing them and is for more dangerous for them to stay with men.
It’s interesting that the strongest proponents of “Stockholm Syndrome” as the reason women stay het are women with their own husbands or boyfriends. Who else wants women to not think about any of this? Again, het women are threatened when other het women want to break ranks.
4. The lie that Lifelong Lesbians are “lucky” to always have been a Lesbian and to never have been fucked.
Saying no to men and their women our whole lives doesn’t mean not having been raped. How is being marginalized and oppressed as a Lesbian our entire lives, in patriarchy and even among “feminists,” “lucky?” Many Lifelong Lesbians remember being taunted and even physically attacked when they were girls by the girls who chose boys and men. Have some of those abusers grown up to be feminists spreading this insult?
5. The lie that het women are more oppressed than Lesbians.
The Power of Women to Choose Who They Love
So, how does male supremacy succeed, when females outnumber males and are longer-lived than them? The answer is that het women support it. Males couldn’t continue their crimes against the earth if women didn’t collaborate with them. Patriarchy couldn’t exist without them. Males need females for their very creation and for their survival.2
Dyke courage built the International Women’s Liberation Movement. Yet the focus of mainstream feminism, including Lesbian feminism, remains reformist — a way for het women to get a better deal from male rule — not a way to change patriarchy. Enormous Lesbian energy goes into working for het women to gain more rights from their men.
Feminist goals are primarily het-identified: contraception and abortion (to make fucking easier), divorce and alimony, support for battered women’s refuges, pay for housework, childcare (with the emphasis on the father’s role), and the creation of a “men’s movement” to help “free” men from their own sexism. (Of course we support women’s rights to contraception and abortion, but we think fighting for them is het women’s responsibility, not Lesbians’.)
Yet most feminists show their ingratitude by denying the existence of Lesbians in their organizations. They’re Lesbian-hating personally and politically. They’re willing to sell out their Lesbian “sisters” in order to not disturb their men. The few het feminist groups that do recognize Lesbian existence tokenize and objectify us, and still expect us to make their het concerns primary.
Why are het feminists like this? It’s because they don’t really want to challenge the basic foundations of male supremacy. They’d rather gain acceptance into male power structures and share the roles of prime ministers, presidents, and executives with men. The less privileged het feminists who have no hope of such goals want to at least share their own men’s male privilege and to receive heterosexual privilege instead of Lesbian oppression.
(After writing our book, I do want to say that I have some het women friends who I love dearly. Interestingly, most aren’t feminists and it probably makes it easier that we don’t have political discussions. I met them in the Rat Community, which is an international community of people, about 99% women, who love and work for the acceptance of rats, and who do rescue work on behalf of rats. Maybe these women are special because they’ve opened their hearts and minds to these gentle, intelligent, loving little animals who are feared and hated simply because of who they are without being known as individuals, just as Lesbians are.)
The Heterosexist Hierarchy
Besides the unequal hierarchy among females that are based on racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, classism, imperialism, ableism, ageism, fat oppression, and looksism, there’s also a heterosexual-based hierarchy created by men and perpetuated by het women. Females at the top most fit the male-defined feminine role, while those at the bottom are furthest away from what men say females should be.
This hierarchy was not created by Lesbians. We’re naming it in order to be able to fight against it. Wherever oppression exists, there are intricate hierarchies within each group which make a great difference in the quality of life of each individual. The older the oppression, the more complicated the hierarchy. Those at the top of any hierarchy get the most social and economic rewards, and therefore get to feel better about themselves at the expense of those considered “beneath” them. This is also true about other hierarchies.
With classism, for example, there are dividing lines between those who grew up poor, working-class, middle-class, upper-class, and ruling-class. If you’re over the line from a poorer to richer group, you’re generally more socially acceptable, more culturally visible, and more arrogant. Poor Lesbians have less power than working-class Lesbians, but both have less power than all middle-class Lesbians. And within each broad division there’s an internal hierarchy. Lower-middle-class Lesbians from non-professional backgrounds have less power than Lesbians whose parents are professionals. And then there are what our lives are like now, though class identification is based on how we grew up. All the details are important. To say otherwise would over-simplify and deny women’s realities.
Men hate Lesbians because: 1) We love females in a female-hating world; 2) we refuse to let men fuck us; 3) we refuse to marry and look after men; 4) we refuse to breed and raise families; and 5) many of us refuse to look and act feminine. Het women, by obeying these male dictates, gain privilege. The more rules they obey, the more privilege they get, and the higher up the het hierarchy they are. But the fewer rules Dykes obey, the more Dyke-hatred we get, and the further down the het hierarchy we drop.
Since marriage and motherhood (preferably together) are the most valued female roles in patriarchy, married mothers are at the top of the hierarchy. Even if someone isn’t a wife or mother, she’s still expected to be fucked by men or to at least want to. What male supremacists never forgive is females loving other females instead of males. Lesbians are a serious threat to male rule, so we’re at the bottom of the heterosexist hierarchy. And the less feminine a Lesbian is, the more she’s oppressed, and the less het she’s been, the more she’s despised and treated as alien.
The het hierarchy goes like this, starting at the top: het wives who are also mothers; wives who are non-mothers; divorced mothers; unmarried het mothers; married bisexuals; unmarried het women; unmarried bisexuals; celibate het women (women who aren’t fucking men but are still heterosexual in their thoughts and feelings). Although those at the top have more power than celibate het women, all are heterosexual and so have the power to oppress Lesbians, and all do so. (Unfortunately, this het hierarchy also continues among Lesbians, which we talk about in our chapter on heterosexism among Lesbians.) The het hierarchy is affected by all other hierarchies, so how much racial, ethnic, class, and national privilege a female has affects her power, as does her age, size, looks, and abilities. But when females are similar in these other aspects, those further up in the het hierarchy have more power than those below them.
We’ve heard many Lesbians describe other Lesbians as “male-identified,” but we’ve never heard het women, no matter how devoted they are to males, being called male-identified. That slur is reserved for Lesbians. Yet no female is more male-identified than het women. How could het women seriously want to fight patriarchy when they live with it, nurture it, love it, and are fucked by it? If they have sons, they’re literally creating patriarchy and are deeply invested in its future. Heterosexual women are the scab labor that sabotages female resistance.
Even the few het women who befriend Dykes usually still feel superior to us. They patronize us because patriarchy says only het women, particularly wives and mothers, are truly adults. No matter how old we are, Dykes are still treated as children who never quite grew up. That’s because we refuse to be part of what hets define as “real,” “adult” life – being fucked by men. (Lesbians participate in continuing this stereotype when in Lesbian novels, het women characters are portrayed as older, wiser, and mature, while Lesbian characters are portrayed as young and naïve.)
By refusing to let the passion of Lesbianism into their lives, most het women keep female relationships on a limited, superficial level, and focus instead on their shallow, empty, numbing relationships with men. After all, other females are competition for their men. Everything and everyone is sacrificed for the males in their lives, usually including their own daughters’ well being, because heterosexuality is based on the betrayal of females by females.
(Since writing our book, we’ve read some very strange accusations, such as that Radical Lesbian Feminists want to recruit het women to come out so we can have sexual access to them. Our response is: Don’t flatter yourself and don’t confuse us with your own male attitudes. Unless het women coming out are very careful and thoughtful, they actually damage our communities, and the Lesbians they become lovers with, because they usually bring their female-hating, Lesbian-hating male and het attitudes, including their tendency to sexually objectify and pornify Lesbians. It would be far better for such women to simply stop being het and stop continuing to support males, and to be celibate or become involved with each other.)
Lesbianism challenges the foundation of male supremacy. No matter how much a Lesbian tries to identify with and support patriarchy, no matter how much she’s sold herself out, her very existence threatens male rule at its core. The essence of patriarchy is maleness, and Lesbians, by definition, refuse to feed, nurture, and intimately support males. Some Lesbians support males in other ways than het women do — except they don’t welcome men or their semen into their bodies. Lesbians are therefore much less likely to support males in ways that het women take for granted. And Dyke Separatists refuse to nurture males at all, which is why we’re such a threat to anyone involved in patriarchy, including men, boys, het women, and even non-Separatist Lesbians.
Dykes Are Oppressed
Part of the shock I (Bev) had when I first went online and saw how Radical Feminism had been gutted, was seeing the combination of the virulence of het women hating Lesbians combined with het women denying that Lesbians are even oppressed. Our history of being ostracized and attacked, tortured and killed, is clear to see for anyone who cares. Any het woman who doubts this could try going around announcing to everyone she knows and meets that she’s a Lesbian and see the effect. (Start with your family….) One of the primary reasons that women stay with males is their fear of being considered a Lesbian, a freak and a queer.
It’s important to be clear about definitions. Oppression isn’t simply the same as misery. Oppression has clearly defined boundaries measured by such things as discriminatory laws, physical attacks, verbal insults, threats, cultural invisibility and stereotypes, deletion from historical records, discrimination in housing and work, and ostracism by family and other heterosexuals. Lesbians are more oppressed in these ways than het women. And we are also forced to live in an alien society that we find repulsive and terrifying, that tells us we don’t exist now and never did in the past.
Our refusal to be fucked by men doesn’t mean men aren’t constantly oppressing us. Unlike Lesbians, all het women receive some degree of honor and respect from patriarchal societies. No matter how little, it’s more than any Lesbian gets. Het women’s lives and reality are acknowledged every day, at our expense, while Lesbian reality is denied and distorted. The price of that damage can never be measured. And one thing het feminism ignores is that, unlike oppression, the hardships of being het can be avoided — by choosing not to be het.
No matter how oppressed a het woman is, she’s still given more political and personal rights than any Lesbian from her same background.
Men and het women oppress Lesbians every day in ways het women escape. Het women are more likely to be treated better anywhere in the world than Lesbians are, whether it’s at jobs, on the street, in stores, prisons, courts, hospitals, or mental institutions. That difference in treatment at times means the difference between life and death. Het women are also treated better in feminist women’s centers, clinics, bookstores, and even in specifically Lesbian places. The more out a Dyke is, the worse treatment she receives. Dykes who can’t or won’t pass as het are attacked by hets and scapegoated by many Lesbians. Yet Lesbian apologists for het women still talk about how much luckier, “freer,” and fulfilled we are as Lesbians — therefore het women’s lives must be “harder.” But luck has nothing to do with it. They should remember that just as we chose to come out, so also can het women.
Money means survival, and het women have access to more money through their husbands, boyfriends, sons, and male relatives. Females still earn only a fraction of what men earn, but het women are more likely to get jobs, including non-traditional and highly paid work, than Lesbians. They’re more likely to advance at work and are less likely to be fired, harassed, or threatened into leaving their jobs.
All government and private organizations discriminate against us, and het women participate in this. There’s no claim on any territory in the world by Lesbians as a people, nor is such a claim a possibility. Because we’re Lesbians, we’re more likely to be incarcerated in prisons or mental hospitals than are het women. Insurance, tax deductions, and health care all benefit hets. We’re forced to be separated from our lovers and friends by anti-Lesbian immigration policies. Even our dead bodies are often forcibly taken from our loved ones by family and other heterosexuals. Lesbians are rejected by our families, cultures, and nations, while het women ally with all these structures. We’re especially isolated when we’re very old, young, ill, or dying.
We’re social outcasts and targets for hate — either made invisible or ridiculed and caricatured in the media. Stereotypes of Lesbians are very damaging: “inverted,” alone and lonely, ostracized, disowned, hated and self-hating, sick, crazy, desperate, pathetic, ugly, violent, suicidal, molesters, and murderers. We aren’t even considered to be females. In films and books, we’re most likely found in bars, mental institutions, and prisons.
Het women proudly announce they’re het to any stranger. It’s almost impossible to meet one without her immediately making a point of mentioning her husband, boyfriend, or children. Meanwhile, Lesbians are expected to stay silent. Such het talk isn’t casual, random conversation – it’s an assertion of het privilege and status, and a reminder that they’re not “old maids” or Lesbians. They do it to get approval and acceptance. It if wasn’t so important to them, they wouldn’t do it so obsessively. Just like rich women bragging about their possessions, it’s hierarchical behavior. And when they know we’re Lesbians, they say “your private life” or “your sexual preference” “doesn’t matter to me.” That means they don’t want to hear about our lives, but they assume that they’ll talk about theirs and get support. Calling our entire life choice of who we love a “sexual preference” trivializes us into absurdity. How dare we complain about oppression that’s caused by a mere sexual choice?
Central to Dyke oppression is that it’s not taken seriously by anyone, including many Lesbians. Most politically-minded Lesbians focus more concern on fighting for the rights of almost every group of men, boys, and het women than for their own kind. When any of us dares to say males are the enemy and het women are collaborators, we face not only men and het women’s rage but also that of most Lesbians! Our Dyke pain, oppression, and lives don’t matter to them — only non-Lesbians are important. That’s why feminist health collectives, which exist and function only through Lesbian energy and commitment, focus primarily on het women’s and even Gay men’s needs. If any of us object because there are many Lesbians who are sick and are dying and need help, and we point out that we have far fewer resources than either men or het women, we are called “selfish” — by Lesbians. Unfortunately, the self-hatred of internalized Lesbian oppression often turns into active hatred of those of us who dare to speak out for Lesbians.
If Lesbian oppression were treated seriously, het women would be less effective in pressuring Lesbians to take care of them — whether it’s het feminist groups demanding Lesbian support, or het families demanding Lesbians’ time and energy. Het feminism mirrors families in interesting ways — when they want to disown you and deny your existence, they do — when they want your life’s blood in caring for them and keeping them going, they feel justified in demanding it. When more Lesbians clearly understand the privileges that het women have over them, it will be easier to say no to their demands. It will also be easier to rebuild Dyke communities presently weakened by het-identified Lesbians who perpetuate the het hierarchy among us. Perhaps we could finally have truly Dyke-identified political movements and communities where we take care of our own kind and not our oppressors.
Part of the problem is that only het women are considered “real women.” Lesbians suffer female oppression in addition to Lesbian oppression, in ways no het woman can ever experience or understand unless she becomes a Lesbian. Lesbian-hatred is the most extreme form of female-hatred. Women’s Liberation Movement politics, which say women are oppressed by men, but ignore Lesbian oppression, have been carried by into our Lesbian communities with no revision to fit Lesbian reality. Het feminists’ attitudes are: “Females are oppressed. All females are het, so Lesbians aren’t female. Therefore, Lesbians are not oppressed.” This extreme Lesbian-hating exists in our communities as well as among het feminists, because Lesbian values reflect het values unless consciously changed.
It’s true we perceive Lesbianism as more ideal, sensible, independent, strong, attractive, and wonderful than hetness. It’s also true that we’re made to suffer terribly for our choice. Many het women who left their husbands and boyfriends and became Lesbians after joining the WLM spread the lie that Lesbians have easier lives. They often don’t want to think how oppressive they were to us in the past or even now. Certainly no other oppressed community has had to face the onslaught of being outnumbered by their previous oppressors as Lesbians have. Rather than form groups or classes to “Unlearn Heterosexism,” which feminists and other women have done about other privileges they have, the recently out ex-het women tend to get more respect as more “normal women.”
As long as Lesbians are slandered, insulted, controlled, imprisoned, deprived, hunted, hidden, forcibly isolated, forcibly separated from each other, attacked, and murdered for being Lesbians, none of us are free. Legislation outlawing Lesbianism or discriminating against Lesbians exists in most countries. Only in a few very liberal places are there laws protecting Lesbians from discrimination — yet there are now laws in many countries outlawing sexist discrimination.3
Lesbians also suffer intense internalized oppression, without the shielding of “normality” that het women have. The suicide4 and addiction rate of Lesbians is very high. Being hated and slandered, and not represented in most of the media, has an effect. Lesbians are more vulnerable to illness than het women are. The cancer rate for Butches, and especially those also oppressed by racism and classism, is extremely high. Oppressed groups’ health suffers because of the daily tension of living with danger, deprivation, and hatred. This is known to be true of people oppressed by racism, ethnicism, classism, ableism, ageism, and fat oppression, and we know it’s true of Lesbians.5
Many Lesbians went through hell as girls. Some were thrown out and made homeless as young teenagers, while others were locked up in mental hospitals and given drugs, with lifelong consequences. Rebellious het girls still usually get strong support from friends, but Lesbian girls are often afraid to tell friends or are ostracized. Lesbian girls who are the most visible, like Butches, are also physically attacked by boys, men and even het girls and women.
Happiness for het women is having the status of normalcy, husband and children, acceptance by family, money, a house, careers, possessions, and power. They pay for it through loss of integrity and lack of true love and intimacy, but that’s their choice. For Lesbians, happiness means having loving friends and lovers, integrity, self-respect, Dyke culture, creativity, and intimacy. We pay for it through severely increased oppression, forced on us by both men and het women.
Lesbians are called “privileged” if we show pride in being Dykes. Yet when feminists go on about how strong women are, their pride is not used to disprove the fact that het women are oppressed. The strength and pride Dykes have developed through fighting persecution are turned against us instead of admired. Dyke strength and pride do not equal “freedom” or negate our oppression.
What Is the Cause of Heterosexuality? Is There a Cure?
Many Lesbians ask,” Aren’t some het women’s lives just too hard for them to come out?” No. This argument implies that it’s a luxury to be a Lesbian. In trying to trivialize our oppression, defenders of heterosexuality completely reverse the truth. No matter how difficult and painful a het woman’s life is, there’s always someone from her same background and experiences who chose to be a Lesbian. (We are everywhere!) And that Lesbian is not only more oppressed than that het woman — she’s oppressed by that het woman.
What about an uneducated woman who was virtually sold by her father into marriage with an older man when she was 13 years old? She lived poor and isolated in the country, was beaten by her alcoholic husband, and had her first of eight children by age 14. What choice did she have? That woman was my grandmother. She did choose to leave her husband and kids and run away to the city, where she cleaned houses for a living. But instead of becoming a Lesbian or even being celibate, she married another alcoholic who was later sent to prison for burglarizing a house where she worked. (After I wrote this, a cousin suggested that her husband took the fall for her. She was ruthless and often got into bar brawls, and even shot a woman in one, though she was said to be aiming for a man.) When rid of her husband, did she decide to at least be celibate if the idea of becoming a Lesbian was too repugnant? No, she got herself yet another drunken boyfriend.
It certainly wasn’t her poverty that prevented her from coming out or being celibate, since she economically supported her men, as do many poor and working-class women. My grandmother’s life was very hard, but the fact is that there are females from her same background who chose to be Lesbians. And she was treated better as an ex-married het woman than she would have been if she were a single het woman (who’d only be able to get approval by talking about wanting a man) — and she would have been treated far worse than either if she was a Dyke. For all the hardship in my grandmother’s life, she still had the power to oppress me as a Dyke, and she made it clear she hated Lesbians.
Why is there such a pervasive belief that it’s a privilege to be a Lesbian? Why are the lives of upper-and ruling-class het women conveniently forgotten, even though some of them have the power of life and death over many people?
Many class-privileged, European-descent Lesbians don’t want to recognize the existence of millions of racially-oppressed Lesbians or to acknowledge that the majority of Lesbians of all races are from poor and working-class backgrounds.6 (Similarly, anti-Separatists deny existence of Dyke Separatists who are racially and/or class-oppressed.)
Most upper- and middle-class females are het. Women often gain in status and money when they marry, while Lesbians usually lose what economic privilege we got from our families. (That’s why so many women are against females getting equal pay for equal work. They know that their men will get paid less if other females are paid fairly.) Working-class women can get some middle-class privilege or at least stay working-class through their association with men. Working-class Lesbians often become poor because females not living with men have fewer economic options. Although a class-privileged Lesbian can use her privilege to treat a class-oppressed Lesbian badly, even the most oppressed het woman still considers both Lesbians scum.
Many Lesbians also claim that het women become het because of self-hatred resulting from being victims of rape by male family. This is particularly ironic, since it’s been wrongly said for years that sexual assaults on girls cause Lesbianism, as further “proof” of our being “sick.” The fact is that rape by male relatives is so rampant that both Lesbians (including Lesbians who were never het) and het women are equally likely to have been victims of sexual assault as girls. This can make each lie sound plausible, since both lies are Lesbian-hating. One lie makes us seem less oppressed than het women, while the other supports the theory that it takes something horrible to create a Dyke. Both obscure the truth that most girls are sexually assaulted.
Many Lesbians say, “But what about societies where Lesbians don’t exist? Some women have no choice.” Since when does any Lesbian believe propaganda spread by men? How many Lesbians’ lives have male biographers and historians distorted and lied about until our existence throughout history has been completely denied? Dykes have had to do a lot of research and read between the lines to find the few Lesbians from the past that we now know about. When we hear of cultures where every female is said to be het, we should be skeptical about where such “information” comes from –especially if the sources are European or European-descent male anthropologists. Such “scientists” are notoriously racist, sexist, and heterosexist. Likewise, we should be wary of patriarchal governments and leaders within any culture. Every patriarch declares: “There’s no Lesbian in my family, my town, my society, my country. It’s an insult to even ask!” In capitalist societies men lump us together with leftists, while in socialist and communist societies we were explained as “evidence of capitalist decadence.”
Lesbians exist in Iran and Bangladesh. Even Butches, the Lesbians who rejected male-identified femininity from girlhood, are in every culture with the same recognizable look, including where Lesbians are executed by the government. So why are Lesbians in the most privileged countries denying their existence? The fact that Lesbians exist even in countries with forced child marriages proves that heterosexuality is clearly a choice.
Lesbians who refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of Lesbian oppression are still identifying primarily with het women. Ex-het Lesbians who identify with het women are doing so at all Lesbians’ expense.
Heterosexuality Is a Choice
Many Lesbians repeat common fallacies as their reason for having been heterosexual: “Becoming het isn’t a choice. I didn’t know any different. Everyone does it. I didn’t know Lesbians existed.” They continue to use these same excuses to support het women’s present choice of heterosexuality.
Saying “everyone does it” is used as an excuse for almost every oppressive act, making it acceptable to be Lesbian-hating, racist, anti-Semitic, ethnicist, imperialist, classist, ableist, ageist, fat oppressive, and looksist. It’s a cruel lie, because it denies the existence of anyone who doesn’t fit into the privileged “norm” of “everyone.”
You’d expect that Lesbians who believe that the majority of men are well-meaning would think that het women make an understandable choice to be het. But instead, they insist that women are incapable of making such a choice and are the victims of the terrible oppression of “compulsory heterosexuality,” suffering far more than any Lesbian. Why the inconsistency? The same Lesbians who defend men as being no different from females suddenly sound as if they’ve become Separatists when they talk about how het women are forced to be het by brutal, cruel men!
Why do these Lesbians patronize het women by saying they’re incapable of making the major choice of their lives? And why do they ignore women who brag about making that choice?7 As Separatists, we don’t think males treat females fairly at all, but we do acknowledge het women’s ability to make their own decisions, and we do hold them accountable for those decisions. No one chooses her race, age, or class background. But heterosexuality and Lesbianism are clearly chosen. We’re born into het and male cultures, but we are not born het.
If you think het women don’t make a choice, try a random sampling on the street and ask them. If you think they’re more oppressed than we are, try asking them if they wouldn’t have happier, more fulfilling lives being Lesbians.
Do women who insist no choice about having been het think we don’t remember? I’ll (Bev) never forget being asked to leave the bed I shared with the first lover I lived with because her boyfriend was coming to fuck her… and then seeing her playing her het woman flirty little-girl games with him in public. I’ll also never forget visiting a new friend when I was 16 and her introducing me to a male friend who put his hand on her belly and looked pleadingly at her. She then laid down on the floor and let him fuck her. No emotion visible, just whatever he wanted. It didn’t matter I was there. Later she was worried she might get pregnant, which would have destroyed her life. Rather than seem embarrassed when back at school, she clearly felt superior to the other girls who hadn’t yet been fucked.
Some Lesbians even say that the middle class euphemism for getting fucked “PIV” – penis in vagina) is “rape.” Equating chosen fucking with rape is more cruel female-hating. It denies the horror of actual rape. Baby girls who can’t run away are raped. Imprisoned women are raped. Females of all ages are held down and raped by gangs of men, or raped at knife or gun point. How can these experiences be compared to women willingly letting their husbands and boyfriends fuck them? Why are the lives of rich, ruling-class women, for instance, who can leave their husbands whenever they like, and who have money, servants, etc. ignored when women are said to not be choosing to be het? What about the choices of millionaire het women who spend tens of thousands of dollars on each of their designer dresses? Yet even the most oppressed het women can and do leave their men. Again, for every het woman existing, there are females from her same background who refused to be het and others who chose to be Lesbians.
Older women used to admit they hate fucking, but with the modern co-option of feminism in the phony “sexual revolution,” many women now proudly say they love to be fucked, as often and by as many men as possible. That means some women’s choice to invite men to fuck them affects how all of us are thought of and treated. (The STDs in women increased dramatically as a result of this, including incurable ones like HPV and herpes.)
One example proving choice is the two women who started a business called “Wear And Share,” making and selling earrings for women that are simply condoms on cardboard.8 Stores that carried them sold out immediately. What better way for women to publicly say they want to be fucked? Another example is the introduction of high-cut bathing suits that expose the pubic area, requiring women to shave their vulvas. If women hadn’t bought those suits when they first appeared in stores, they would have “gone out of style.” Instead, they’ve become so popular that it’s almost impossible to buy the more protective old-style suits. They’re even made for little girls, and mothers buy them for their young daughters. (Since writing our book, women buying breast implants, labiaplasty, etc., have made self-mutilation into big business for surgeons, and many women even buy them for their teenaged daughters, making their daughters more inviting targets for boys and men.)
Similarly, many women not only choose to wear clownish make-up but choose styles that look like bruises on their cheeks and eyelids. Violent anti-female porn and, later, even “family” television shows made this popular. The porn industry itself could not exist if women didn’t agree to be its models. A few women have been abducted to be used in porn films, but the majority choose their jobs.
Some women write and film porn, no matter how much liberal feminists deny this. For example, Lena Dunham, a producer, director, writer, and actor with media power, who identifies as a “rabid feminist,” has gotten rave reviews for her popular television series, Girls, even though she writes unbelievably female-hating, pornographic scenes — such as the one showing the boyfriend of main character (played by Dunham), fucking a woman while her “whore,” “bitch,” etc., even though she is protesting, making it clearly change from consensual fucking into a rape scene. He finishes by wanking off on her chest (shown in pornographic detail), further humiliating her. And then he is back with Dunham’s character, and presented as her wonderful, kind, caring boyfriend. Similarly, Miley Cyrus, is making a fortune by displaying herself on stage in repulsive pornographic ways, and prostituting other women, like the little person who she hires to perform at her concerts in a grotesque pointy bustier. When Sinead O’Connor wrote to Cyrus, telling her she could be rich and famous without doing such female-hating things, Cyrus responded with a nasty dig at O’Connor’s history of mental illness. Instead of liberal feminists telling us to stop protesting such female-hating and instead focus on men making money from selling women (even though men will never stop and we would be wasting our time), wouldn’t it make more sense to try to reach women who can potentially change?
And then there’s Joan Kelly, a “radical feminist,” who (in 2011) had a blog called “Chicks Dig Me.” She seems to be accepted by some of the most radical feminists online, in spite of the fact that she’s still selling her book, The Pleasure’s All Mine. The Village Voice gave her a glowing review in Big Bucks for Pain Sluts:
Over the course of her career, Joan Kelly has been strung up and splashed with freezing water, had her labia sewn shut, gotten caned, and taken countless bare-bottomed spankings — and has loved almost every minute of it … Byron Mayo, co-owner of the BDSM advertising hot spot Eros-Guide.com and former owner of a commercial San Francisco dungeon, has nothing but praise for the skills pro subs bring to their trade … “In a world of political correctness, confusing role models, and enforced ‘equality,’ the ability to tell a beautiful, intelligent, and demure woman to get on her knees and do what you say is a fantasy come true.” Kelly goes into more detail in her book: “I had a client sew my vaginal lips shut … I had another client who took 18-gauge needles, heated them until they were red-hot, and used them to pierce the insides of my butt cheeks. I could hear my skin sizzling as the needles penetrated me.”
Liberal feminists most likely would call Kelly a victim, but Kelly herself identifies not just as a feminist, but radical feminist. She didn’t become a prostitute out of desperation, but for fun. She’s from a very privileged background.
When will het women be held responsible for making their own decisions? When they support the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi party? Radical Lesbians don’t excuse women who choose to be right-wing racists in the same way they excuse the most Lesbian-hating het woman, about whom they say, “It’s not her fault. She’s powerless. She’s just doing what she’s been taught and doesn’t know any other way to live.” Again, this is about Lesbian oppression not being taken seriously. “Self-hatred” is no more of an explanation for Lesbian-hating than it is for classism or racism — nor is it an explanation for het women’s choice to be heterosexual.
The “radfems” most vehement about trying to silence discussion about women being able to say no to men, insisting het women are “victims of Stockholm Syndrome,” while branding Radical Feminist who disagrees as “misogynist,” usually turn out to be women who themselves have husbands or boyfriends. Who else besides het women are so invested in the myth that no woman can say no to men? Men.
Some Lesbians say het women don’t give “informed consent” — “If women aren’t given positive descriptions of Lesbians, how can they be expected to become Lesbians?” – ignoring the obvious third choice of celibacy. Saying no to men doesn’t have to mean choosing Lesbian oppression. Besides, patriarchal societies don’t tell any girl that Lesbianism is an option, but that lack of support plus the stigma attached to loving other girls certainly didn’t stop the millions of us who came out before feminism. It’s an interesting contradiction that Lesbians who talk about how difficult it is for women to come out usually have little concern for Dykes who did come out without the support of the WLM.
What does inform us? Aren’t perceptions, observations, feelings, and instincts our deepest knowledge? It’s true that though many of us didn’t grow up with any positive images of Lesbians, we still all knew “queer” girls existed, and we certainly all knew about “old maids.” Every family and neighborhood has at least one. But celibate women are pitied and ridiculed, even if they aren’t as viciously despised as Lesbians are. Newspapers, radio, television, libraries, and families are full of horror stories of brutal, cruel men, yet most het women are grateful and proud to have a man. The privilege of heterosexuality is a powerful incentive to collaboration.
Linda: Throughout my teens and twenties I was devastated by the loss of one woman friend after another as they began dating men, fucking, getting married, and having babies. I wasn’t a Lesbian, but neither was I actively het until my late 20’s (I finally became a Lesbian at age 30.)
The worst loss was my best friend, who I’d been in love with since we were both 18. We had a close, confiding, and playful friendship. She prided herself on being a gutsy rebel who resisted authority. We both swore we’d never get married and have children. Then at age 20, she suddenly changed. That year, I attended her wedding, shaking and dizzy from the intensity of my “inappropriate feelings.” I was reeling from the impact of seeing her contract herself publicly, legally, and ritually to a man she hardly knew.
I knew then that I was losing my friend to a system that was destroying me — my life was filled with grief and loss, and she was choosing to do this. She had told me she didn’t love this man, but she was worried about being an old maid, didn’t want to work, and he had a steady job and would “take good care of her.” It was the same reasoning I’d heard from a half-dozen other friends: a cold, economic decision. On her way back up the aisle, she winked at me. Shaken to the core, I thought I had no right to feel betrayed, no right to feel rage and grief.
We stayed friends for a few years afterwards, but the closeness was gone. She had the status of married “grown-up real” woman, and then of mother (authoritative “grown-up real woman”). Her main allegiance was to her husband and children. I became her old maid friend who she saw only when her husband was away. (In our working-class community during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, women were expected to be married by ages 18 to 20.)
While my friend was accepted and helped along by her family and friends because of her valued position as a man’s helpmate, I was treated as a misfit. Anyone who’s experienced that unspoken, bland ostracism knows it cuts deep. Rejection and isolation are some of the worst social punishments. They engender loneliness, fear, self-doubt, grief, and sometimes despair. The victim becomes shut out of the everyday exchanges that sustain life, like information about jobs and apartments. The misfit is last on the list, and she’ll hear about the job or apartment only if no one else wants it. It doesn’t matter how endearing, helpful, or admirable she is, she’s then just an admirable misfit.
My friend was a lot better off than me, because the het world was rewarding her for fucking, marrying, and breeding, and it was punishing me for not doing any of those things, nor showing any desire to do so. That is privilege and oppression: hierarchies institutionalized for the purpose of maintaining hetero-patriarchy. The system runs so well that hets play their roles without even thinking about it: “That’s just the way things are.” “That’s life.”
Girls fear and hate boys. They’re harassed and assaulted by boys in their families, schools, and neighborhoods. Many girls love other girls and are Lesbian in their hearts and spirits. It’s not until later, when the privilege of heterosexuality becomes more obvious, that many betray their best girlfriends in favor of boys — sometimes even the same boys who’d been their tormenter and attackers.
Becoming a “real” woman in patriarchy means deciding to forget and reject the girl you once were. It also means rejecting the girl in each of us. This loss of the self is chosen. It results in privilege, not increased oppression. We still have these feelings and memories, deep within us, of knowing the differences between females and males. We can be true to our inner selves or we can reject ourselves, which means choosing heterosexual privilege and female-hating. It’s male and het lies that call remembering our choices and lives as girls “immaturity” and “childishness.” It’s Lesbian-loving to keep that innate female wisdom that others have abandoned.
Men don’t want us to know that we do choose, because that would increase (as it already has) the numbers of het women who become Lesbians. The idea of heterosexuality as the norm would be challenged and rejected. Het women continue these lies because it gives them an excuse to not question their choices. Lesbians then participate in these lies to protect het women and also to excuse their own past choices. But by continuing the lies, they end up participating in the vicious oppression of Lifelong Lesbians, Never-het Lesbians, and Butches, viewed by the ex-het Lesbian majority as “those freaks/queers” among the more “normal” Lesbians.
Even if women choose to subject themselves to abuse for the privilege of being considered normal, it’s criminal what horrors many are willing to subject their daughters to (including rape and clitorectomies and infibulation in some countries). Most het women would like to be able to force all females, including Lesbians, to be het. If heterosexuality is so “oppressive” to women, why do most mothers aggressively pressure their daughters to be het?
Lesbian apologists for het women don’t believe they’re making a choice even today in countries where there are beloved Lesbians on television and films, pro-Lesbian books in public libraries, and mention of Lesbians in national news reports. When we wrote our book, media images of Lesbians were mostly hideously anti-Lesbian, yet countless Dykes still managed to come out under those circumstances. In addition, millions of Lesbians who’ve come out through Women’s Liberation have come out to their female relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors, and co-workers, and have portrayed Lesbianism as positive to them all. So millions of het women have knowingly had contact with Dykes in a way not possible before.
What of the het feminists who work politically with Lesbians and yet choose daily to stay het? Some Lesbians don’t even hold accountable het women who used to be Lesbians and have gone back to men. Instead of considering them traitors, they say “How did we fail them? What’s wrong with our communities?” Blaming heterosexuality on Lesbians is extreme Lesbian-hatred. The fact that many “Lesbians” have returned to heterosexuality makes it even more clear that hetness is a choice.
Het women hate females so much they can’t bring themselves to be intimate with them. Many have never even been friends with other females except in the most shallow ways. Female-hatred explains why many mothers treat their daughters cruelly, while loving and encouraging their sons.
Because we suffer Lesbian oppression in addition to female oppression, Lesbians are subject to much more hatred, which then causes self-hatred. We’re more likely to have low self-esteem and to doubt ourselves, which is why Lesbians are so thrilled when a het or bisexual woman declares she’s a Lesbian. Certainly het women don’t similarly rejoice when a Dyke declares herself a woman.
What is often ignored in discussions about het choices as well as male-identified femininity is that one of the reasons that women stay het and are so hating of other women is that they are in competition over men. And sadly, when many women come out, they bring these male attitudes right with them into Lesbian communities.
What other group of oppressed people so sympathizes with, looks after, and welcomes collaborators into our lives and communities as Lesbians do? What other group of freedom fighters so “respects the choices” of traitors? If Lesbians don’t care enough for our own kind to hold het women accountable, we should at least care for their other victims.
“A Mother Knows”
Although many het women are upset when male strangers attack females, the majority silently condone what their own men do. Some even actively participate. In 1984, the U.S. news media reported that a multiple rapist in Oregon had been sheltered by his rich mother who claimed all his victims were lying. In 1988, a man convicted of “indecently assaulting” his six-year-old daughter for a year and giving her an STD was publicly forgiven by his wife, who wanted him returned to the family.10 In spring, 1986, in Santa Ana, California, a 10-year-old girl had the courage to bring her mother’s boyfriend to trial for raping her, even though her mother pressured her not to report it. The mother married her boyfriend just before he was taken to prison. We can only wonder what revenge she’ll take on her daughter, who’s still her legal possession. In August, 1986, a mother was jailed for participating with her husband and son in the rape and sexual molestation of her four daughters who were all under the age of six. The little girls were also hired out as sexual slaves for other men’s use.
Some women may say they “didn’t know” what was happening, but how many really care? When the majority of little girls are sexually assaulted by their fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and male cousins, often over a period of years, how can their mothers not know? Even if they don’t directly witness the attacks, how can they ignore the girls’ terror, nightmares, illness, and utter misery? Little girls are incapable of completely hiding their reactions. Even if the mother herself is a victim of family sexual assault, she has no excuse to fail to protect her little girl. In fact, her experience should make her more protective towards her daughter, not less. No truth is so shocking and no adult woman is so powerless that she can’t try to prevent her daughter from being repeatedly raped, or at least give her the healing support of knowing her mother is doing everything she can to protect her. It’s the girl who’s utterly powerless.
The same woman who would immediately leave her husband if he brought home another woman to fuck will usually stay if she finds out he’s raping her daughter. And that includes rich women who can easily leave.
There are a few het women who are horrified when they find out what the men they love have done. A few mothers leave or fight their men in order to protect their daughters, but, unfortunately, the majority don’t. We’ve heard many stories of adult Lesbians telling their mothers years later about being sexually assaulted and raped as girls by male relatives, and not once did their mothers act concerned for the victim. In every case, the mother denied the attack occurred and defended her husband, sons, brothers, or father. The mothers then pressured their daughters to not tell anyone because “what would people think?”, and told them to behave like a “proper” daughter, granddaughter, sister, or niece to their attacker.
One of the worst responses we know about was from a het mother who was renowned in her community as a feminist. She continued supporting her son after her adult Lesbian daughter (our friend) told her that he’d raped her when she was little. Several years later, our friend discovered that her other brother was raping his 18-month-old daughter. When she said she was willing to testify in court to prevent him from having further access to the baby, her mother supported her son and told her daughter, “I wish you’d never been born.” Thus the het feminist betrayed both her daughter and baby granddaughter in her effort to protect a rapist. But after all, he was her son. This woman had received dozens of humanitarian awards, including a local “Woman of the Year” award, and was also nominated “Mother of the Year.” She was even elected as a delegate to represent women at international feminist conferences.
Another friend was betrayed by her mother when she was 17. Her mother invited a military man to stay at their house, in her daughter’s bedroom, where he raped her throughout the night, leaving blood all over her bed and walls. Clearly her mother’s goal was to stop her daughter from being a Lesbian. Later she imitated his accent, saying he could easily climb in their windows to “visit” her again.
We also know of a case where a Lesbian mother participated in keeping secret her 12-year-old son’s rape of another Lesbian’s 9- and 7-year-old daughters — in order to “protect the boy.” The girls’ mother participated in the cover-up, and the boy is still in that community, having access to Lesbians’ daughters.
Lesbians find it difficult to hold women accountable because male authorities often blame mothers in order to excuse rapists and murderers, and because men have always blamed everything bad on females. By refusing to participate in the lie that society “causes” men and boys to be brutal attackers, we’re saying something that few females have ever dared to say before. Mothers aren’t to blame for what their sons do, but they do share the blame if they protect their men and boys by keeping the attacks secret. If they continue to support males they know are dangerous, they do become partly responsible for the violence those males commit. This is true not only in the het world, but also in feminist communities where mothers have fought battles to win boys’ access to female-only space.
“But I Love Him”
Some women’s allegiance to men is unbelievable.11 Lawrence Singleton raped 15-year-old Mary Vincent, cut off her forearms, stuffed her into a drainage pipe, and left her to die. Bleeding profusely and in agonizing pain, Mary ran for help and survived. Singleton was arrested and convicted. When he was released from prison after just eight years, nearby towns protested, demanding that he not be paroled in their area. But two women invited him to live with them. One was his ex-wife, who said, “I’m not scared of him. He’s served his time.” The other was his girlfriend, who said, “I’ve got no reason to doubt Mary Vincent. He may have blacked out. I don’t know.” When asked if she knew for certain if Singleton was guilty, she said, “It wouldn’t matter one bit, not one bit. There is the other 99% of him that is good.”12 Singleton later moved to Florida where he was convicted of killing a woman. No one knows how many other girls or women he may have otherwise raped and killed.
Ted Bundy confessed to murdering 23 young females in four U.S. states, and is suspected of actually murdering over a hundred. He usually vaginally and anally raped his victims before murdering them, and in at least one known instance he forced one girl to watch while he raped and murdered another, before killing her also. Many of the bodies were found decapitated and otherwise mutilated. It’s believed that his first victim was an 8-year-old girl who he killed when he was 14. After he was in jail for two years, a woman named Carol Boone married him.13 The night before his execution for murdering 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, his mother told him, “You’ll always be my precious son.”14
Some women who are beaten by their husbands or boyfriends use their daughters to draw away beatings from themselves. Six-year-old Lisa Steinberg was beaten to death by her illegally adoptive father, Joel Steinberg. He had severely beaten his girlfriend, Hedda Nussbaum, for years before they “adopted” Lisa. A friend said she believed “… Nussbaum thought adopting the little girl was going to be an answer — a protection from Joel Steinberg.”15 Yet the feminist media has greatly sympathized with Nussbaum, even while knowing that Lisa was beaten and neglected for years with Nussbaum’s knowledge.
In 1987, Robert Chambers strangled Jennifer Levin, his 18-year-old girlfriend, and left her half-naked body in Central Park in New York City. He claimed she was forcing him to have “rough sex” with her and he killed her “accidentally”! Since his family is rich, Chambers was let out on bail. In December, 1987, before the trial even began, he went to a “slumber party” consisting of just him and four women. A videotape showed the women wearing pajamas, laughing, dancing, and playing sado-masochistic games with each other and with Chambers. At one point, he holds a Barbie doll up to the camera, twists its head around and says, “Oops, I think I killed her.” In another scene, one of the women plays at being a baby crying and tells him, “I’ll tell everyone.” He says, “I’ll say you’re lying. I lie and they believe me.” The women were laughing throughout these scenes, even though they were also Jennifer’s friends. One of them, Chambers’ new girlfriend, was interviewed on TV. She said she “loved” him, that he was “warm and funny,” and that everyone at the party knew he’d confessed to the murder. She said he’d received over 400 letters of support, many from women. When asked how she felt about the murder, she said, “I don’t feel it’s really my business.”16
In 1984, college student Brad Page beat his 21-year-old girlfriend, Bibi Lee, to death. He later went back and raped her corpse. It took authorities five weeks to find her body, while Page pretended to help search for her. In 1988, he was convicted of “voluntary manslaughter” and was given only six years in prison. He was released on bail awaiting appeal and the judge set his bail relatively low, because, Page “… does not pose as a threat to another person, with the possible exception of his wife.” Since his arrest, Amy Hacker married Page, and she cried brokenheartedly as he was sentenced. Page’s lawyer asked that he be freed on probation because of his new “family responsibilities.”17
Het Women Hate Lesbians
Some “radfems” say that we should love all women, and that women aren’t our enemy. But as long as het women attack us and support the males who attack us, they are our enemy. It’s healthy to hate those who do you harm. “Love your enemy” is a christian, suicidal platitude that keeps the oppressed from protecting ourselves. We can’t love ourselves if we don’t fight those who hurt us. Recently at a march, Lesbians were shouting “Lesbians Unite!” when a het woman yelled “Kill Lesbians!” – which sums up the attitude most het women have towards us. Some despise us as a group, but are more respectful towards het-identified Lesbians who use credentials that establish them as having been successfully het in the past, such as being wives and mothers. But even the most “loving” het woman is likely to reveal her hidden Lesbian-hatred if questioned closely. A “caring” het mother, in one conversation, says she’s glad her daughter is a Lesbian, yet at another time asks, “What do you think went wrong, to make you be ‘that way’?” Another het mother says she’s proud her daughter is a Lesbian, but then warns her to not tell other relatives because “what will people think?” These mothers aren’t acting this way because they’re “powerless” or “unaware.” In fact, they were each given devoted feminist support for years by their Lesbian daughters.
Contrary to what many Lesbian feminists believe, het women do feel superior to Lesbians. Deep down, we’re just perverts to them, no matter how they profess to “love” us. After all, if they really loved Lesbians, they’d be Lesbians.
As a group, het women are deeply resentful of females who refuse to support patriarchy and heterosexuality. They participate in many of the crimes men commit against us, from ostracism and name-calling, to denying us work and housing, to physical attacks. Het women neighbors have gotten Lesbians evicted. Friends of ours were harassed by het women yelling “disgusting perverts” and “you need to get fucked by men.”
The power of hetness is clear when even het girls are capable of being oppressive to adult Lesbians. Young girls who haven’t yet become physically het are still het if that’s their identification and goal. Het girls can make Lesbian girls’ lives hell. Some Lesbian mothers’ het daughters have made insulting, anti-Lesbian comments to adult Lesbians. That means we aren’t protected from Lesbian-hatred even in the rare safety of female-only gatherings, one of the few places we have any hope of really relaxing. Although het girls may feel understandable anger at adults’ control of them (especially their mothers’), any Lesbian-hating oppresses us. There’s tremendous pressure in schools and het youth culture for girls to fit in with het standards. Those of us who remember our own school years know how cruel girls can be to anyone who’s different, and girls who don’t fit standards of male-identified femininity are ostracized and tormented.
Some het women give obvious Dykes dirty looks or smirk at us while on the arms of their men. At Dyke Marches, het women join their men in videoing half naked Lesbians in what seems like a freak show to them. It’s not uncommon also, for some of these women to have played at being bisexual, including for the benefit of their men.
Het women channel their suppressed fear, anger, and hatred of men onto Lesbians. Men are the rapists and attackers, but some het women act scared of us. At the same time, some are drawn to Dykes by our strength, realness, intensity, and attractiveness. Their own lives are empty of feeling in comparison, so they flirt with Dykes, using us, while reserving their primary energy for males. Men say Lesbians “prey” on het women when it’s het women who prey on Lesbians. We know of a Lesbian who was actually slapped by a het woman because she tried to stop the het woman from kissing her. There was a story in a Gay San Francisco paper about a Lesbian fired from her job because of being a Lesbian, while the christian het woman who was behind the firing had previously made repeated sexual overtures to the Lesbian. This is sexual harassment.
Het women play games with Lesbians in order to “spice up” their fucking with men, treating us as sex objects. Some of the het women most likely to share intimate information about our lives with men, feeding men’s voyeurism and providing titillation for het couples’ amusement and pornographic imaginations, are those who seem on the verge of coming out for years.
Meanwhile, as attention to males’ sexual harassment of females grows, the male media tries to divert our attention by reporting so-called harassment of women by women. A 1988 article on sexual harassment of women in the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, and a 1987 television show about harassment of women actors in Hollywood both mentioned women being “sexually harassed” by women. Of course, the het public is led to the “obvious” conclusion that Lesbians are “harassing” het women. Again, the feminist political awareness that Lesbians brought to public attention is co-opted and turned against us. The truth — that het women sexually harass Lesbians — is given no attention anywhere in the mainstream media, and only rarely in the feminist, Lesbian, or Gay media. Because of this distorted co-option, it’s even more important that Lesbians not be afraid to speak out about our experiences of sexual objectification and harassment by het women.
Het Women Betray All Females
Rather than be ostracized, hated, and ignored by their families and het culture, many het women let themselves be fucked night after night, year after year, by men they detest, giving up their own passion, and essence, and live lying lives, selling themselves cheaply. Unfortunately, they sell the rest of us out too, rather than risk their own economic and social position.
Heterosexual supremacist women’s arrogance and selfishness protects and excuses men, even while men are exterminating entire species, because het women benefit from male rule. Those who claim to care about the destruction say, “Save the earth for our children,” meaning boys, the future patriarchs. Other creatures and plants have a right to exist for their own benefit, not for men’s or women’s enjoyment. The earth is being destroyed now and entire life forms are already gone forever. Het women’s choices do affect all of us. Male supremacy could not continue without het women.
Women have far more power than they take responsibility for, and that power keeps patriarchy going. Men could not do it on their own. (And no, het women are not sacrificing themselves, as some het feminists’ fantasize in order to explain their own collaboration. Het women literally could bring down patriarchy now.)
Het women also police other females for patriarchy. They punish Lesbians for daring to fight against the established order. The vast majority of mothers train us early to hate ourselves and other females, while the privileged ones almost always teach their daughters to continue men’s hierarchies of Lesbian-hating, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, imperialism, classism, ableism, ageism, fat oppression, and looksism, because it maintains their own power and feelings of superiority.
Men as a group are waging a war against all females, and many het women don’t just collaborate passively, but actively support their men’s positions of power, from running governments, death squads, the Ku Klux Klan, right wing politics, religious groups, etc., which couldn’t continue if the wives didn’t physically and emotionally support them. We read about wives and mothers at a Ku Klux Klan gathering happily exchanging recipes, which they wrote on the back of racist hate literature. You’ll rarely see a rapist or murderer brought to trial without a loving woman on his arm. Het women make excuses for men, and Lesbians make excuses for het women.
We’re not saying all het women are horrible or that all Lesbians are wonderful. We’re saying privileged Lesbians can change from being oppressive to being responsible politically and personally, but het women — as long as they choose to remain het — are limited in how much they can change, whatever their good intentions. No one can effectively reject the methods of male rule without rejecting male rule itself.
Some het women have shown great courage in fighting injustice, but they’ve done it within a heterosexual, patriarchal framework, which still keeps females subjugated to males. As long as any so-called “revolutionary” society is heterosexual, men still rule and Lesbians are still oppressed. In fact, that is a good way to find out if any culture or even environmental group that is said to be feminist or matriarchal is truly not oppressive to girls and women: check out their policy on the status of Lesbians and see if Lesbians are even acknowledged.
Our people, Lesbians across the earth, should no longer give our lives to fight in any men’s or het women’s battles, which inevitably preserve male domination. Dykes are subject to every kind of oppression that exists. When we focus on fighting Lesbian oppression, we are also uniting with Dykes everywhere to fight all injustice. That means rejecting all of men’s hierarchies. It means creating justice and equality among all Dykes, and finding ways to ally with Dykes from every nation and background. No one else fights for Dykes, so we must!
1 In 1970, Del Martin wrote “If That’s All There Is” in 1970 to explain why she would no longer work with Gay rights organizations because they were too misogynist.
2 Many het women are so female-hating that they selectively abort female fetuses so they can later have a son. Some even kill their newborn daughters, especially in societies that legally restrict the number of children people can have. M. Lloyd, O. Lloyd, and W. Lyster, “Slugs and Snails Against Sugar and Spice: Changes in the ratios of boys and girls might have profound consequences,” British Medical Journal 297 (December 1988), 1627.
3 In Aotearoa/New Zealand, there’s a government Ministry of Women’s Affairs specifically devoted to “women’s issues.” It’s so liberal that it organizes women-only feminist events and sponsors others. Yet, when it was originally suggested that an open Lesbian be employed to work on Lesbian issues, a heterosexual feminist organization complained, so the idea was rejected.
4 Karla Jay and Allen Young studied 1000 Lesbians in the U.S. and Canada in 1977 and published their findings in The Gay Report in 1979. Thirty-nine percent of the Lesbians stated they had attempted or seriously contemplated suicide. By contrast, 19-26% of het women in an earlier study cited by Eric E. Rofes had attempted suicide. From Lesbians, Gay Men and Suicide (San Francisco, U.S.A.: Grey Fox Press, 1983), 17, 18, 20, 21.
5 One of the few studies on the health of “homosexuals,” including Lesbians, said, “Those living a homosexual lifestyle in our society are at greater risk of ill health …. This vulnerability is predominantly a consequence of social stigma. In this respect homosexuals suffer in a similar way to other stigmatized minorities.” A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg, Homosexualities; a study of diversity among men and women (London: Mitchell Beazley, 1978).
A more recent study says: “… stress related illnesses are what most distinguish Lesbian health from that of the female population as a whole.” Judith Bradford and Caitlin Ryan, Final Report of the National Lesbian Health Care Survey, PO Box 65472, Washington D.C. 20035, U.S.A. From a report by Jamakaya, Hag Rag, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A., September/October, 1988.
6 A Lesbian wrote about the poverty she saw on a trip to India, “I hadn’t believed that people had to live in such conditions! The first coherent thought that hit me was, ‘Shit, what’s the oppression of Lesbians in the West, compared to the oppression of wimmin here, of children here, of people here!!’” “Wimmin in India,” LIP, Tamaki-Makaurau, Aotearoa, July 1988, 6. Her eagerness to rank heterosexuals’ pain as more real than Lesbians’ pain led her to forget the existence of Lesbians among the poor Indian people she saw. If she hadn’t automatically put heterosexuals first in her mind, her immediate thoughts would have been about how much harder it must be for the Indian Lesbians in those communities. She may have privileges that protect her from feeling much oppression as a Lesbian, but that doesn’t give her the right to deny the oppression of other Lesbians in any countries.
7 Feminists are also condescending towards prostitutes. Judy Helfand, a former nude model and topless dancer in San Francisco said, “It makes me angry when feminists lump all sex-industry workers into a pile of poor, exploited, brain-washed victims without minds of their own.” “I was a young woman who needed to earn a living and chose to pursue the highest-paying least-demanding jobs I knew of.” “These women … were not victims.” Quotes from Sex Work: Writings by women in the Sex Industry (Cleis Press), in a review by Tara Bradley-Steck, San Francisco Chronicle, 15 August 1987.
In a review of Working (Dolores French with Linda Lee, E.P. Dutton, 1988), Dolores French is quoted as saying prostitution is “as legitimate a career as nursing or teaching.” She suggests many women have “chosen prostitution because they like the independence, the money, and the satisfaction of providing a needed service.” Review by Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 August 1988.
As Separatists, we’re totally opposed to any female working as a prostitute because that hurts all females, but we do recognize the ability of some to make their own decisions, while also recognizing that girls and women who are literal prisoners are trafficked, which makes it even more upsetting that some women promote prostitution.
8 Newsweek, 28 March 1988, 50.
9 While 25% of a mixed group of male and female voters said they wouldn’t vote for a woman for president, 29% of women surveyed said they wouldn’t vote for a woman. KGO-TV News, San Francisco, 29 September 1987.
10 Evening Post, Whanganui-a-Tara, 30 January 1988.
11 A magazine article describes how the U.S. film Mississippi Burning (a fictionalized account of the murders of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner) erroneously depicts the deputy sheriff’s wife helping break the case by giving evidence against her husband. In reality, deputy Cecil Price, indicted for participating in the murders, was completely supported by his wife, Connor Price. “She has never asked Cecil what happened on that … night. ‘Don’t you love your husband?’ she asks by way of explaining this steadfastness.” People, 9 January 1989, 38.
12 San Francisco Chronicle, 3 October 1988.
13 People, 6 February 1989, 46
14 Tim Swarens, Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colorado, 25 January 1989. Bundy said of himself, “ … I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents … where we, as children, were the focus of my parents’ lives, where we regularly attended church, two Christian parents who did not drink, they did not smoke, there was no gambling, no physical abuse, no fighting in the home.”
Bundy was such an “exceptional” man that he wrote a pamphlet for women on rape prevention while he was assistant director of the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission. “Tears and Prayers: Killer Ted Bundy Executed in Florida,” San Francisco Chronicle, 25 January 1989, A1.
In a television report, Ann Rule, who worked with Bundy as a counselor at a suicide crisis center, said, “He was the perfect young man … the kind of man if I had been ten years younger or my daughters ten years older, I would have thought this is the perfect man for a mate for life.”
Men also were fond of Bundy. Right after he was convicted of clubbing two women to death in their beds in a sorority house, the judge who sentenced him said to Bundy in a compassionate tone of voice, “You’d have made a good lawyer. I’d have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself.” 20/20, ABC-TV, 27 January 1989.
15 People, 23 November 1987, 30.
16 The interview and video were shown on A Current Affair, KGO-TV, San Francisco,18 May 1988.
17 The Daily Californian, 3 June 1988, 1.