Yesterday at work my attention was drawn to this Guardian article which resulted in a very interesting conversation about feminism and extremism. It certainly made me think, as it touches on a number of issues that have emerged during my own research.
My thoughts, in no particular order (apart from the first two):
* Can I just say that all men aren’t bastards? Thanks – needed to get that off my chest. The notion in the article that heterosexuality = a copout, a diminishing of the fight against domestic violence, is nonsense.
* A very striking thing for me was the argument that sexuality as a choice not as something you are born with could be liberating. Every day it seems I am reading people jumping up and down saying sexuality isn’t innate (or to be more precise homosexuality isn’t), that homosexuality is nothing more than a sinful choice. Also, I’m well aware that the “lifestyle choice” argument pushes lots of buttons and is something that is rejected by many (most?) LGBT people/communities/theorists. The argument here seems to be that the author feels she has chosen to be a lesbian as an empowering experience, rather than being a prisoner of her genes/chromosomes/biology/etc. I need to think more about this – I was reading recently about the taking of previously shameful epithets and concepts and reclaiming them as a positive identifier (in a book by a queer theorist about shame) and have a feeling that here is something I can’t quite put my finger on but is something important to do with the tensions emerging in my own research. On the one hand the author seems to be agreeing with the bigots that sexuality is a choice not innate, but on the other hand her celebration of this is turning the bigotry on its head. I wish there were fewer holes in her argument though.
* The comments below the article were also interesting (in parts). The “if everyone chose this we’d be wiped out in a generation” argument seems very unsophisticated (and also reflects the demographic arguments being used as a very very blunt instrument to bash gay people in eastern Europe) – I hadn’t really come across them in the west (or not that I’d particularly noticed anyway).
* Other comments reflected the general debate I had with my colleague yesterday, the notion that this type of argument sets back “sensible”, “moderate” feminism and (just like it’s the noisy loopy Christians who are the only ones who seem to get in the papers) this is the type of article “that gives feminism a bad name”. I think my colleague was surprised that I didn’t just dismiss the article, but hit on the “sexuality as choice” argument as something interesting and worth thinking about more. Feminism (and queer theory and praxis) is much more subtle, nuanced and often contested, there isn’t just a homogenous list of beliefs and practices and a tickbox form to complete and that’s it, you’re ‘in’ or ‘out’ (if you’ll excuse the pun, it wasn’t intentional!). Just as Christianity isn’t a list of boxes to tick either, but much more sophisticated and contested and ‘rich’ and complex, and it’s not the like of Christian Voice who have the monopoly on definitions of who is and isn’t a Christian. So I think if this is the only article that people read on feminism they will have a very distorted and one-sided view of what being a feminist (or a lesbian for that matter) means. But just because it appears to be on the more extreme end of things, doesn’t mean that it should be completely dismissed out of hand – at least not without further thought, debate, dialogue. I think that’s what I find so so frustrating in the reading I’m doing for my research – the essentialising, the ‘othering’ of the different, of those with whom the conservative authors don’t agree. I think it’s unfortunate that this article, which I could have found refreshing (and I’m really pleased it has given me useful things to think about), seems to be doing exactly the same thing. There are as many holes in this argument as in the arguments of the anti-brigade. I’m really sad about that. It’s so frustrating that important issues for debate so often get cloaked in bigotry and loopiness.