Before officially becoming a Bilerico.com contributor, Bil asked me to send him the link to my summer reading list blog to check out my work and make sure my voice was appropriate for Bilerico. After reading my entries, the first thing Bil did was ask if I was a lesbian. After saying no, and that I was in a serious relationship with a man, I asked him what had led him to think that.
"Are You a Lesbian?"
"I just thought you really didn't like men."
This knee-jerk reaction is interesting to me on a few levels. First is the perpetuation of male-induced dogma designed to keep women from getting silly ideas in their heads. If we can turn feminist and feminism into terms that no woman wants to be associated with, then the male-favored status quo will endure. This is just what has happened, and as Moya Bailey points out in her article Pride or Prejudice, it's been highly effective. By giving feminism a negative connotation, lesbianism also recieves a negative connotation. Many heterosexual women fear being labeled a lesbian so much that it keeps them from being active in movements for social justice like feminism. I myself, in the beginning, didn't want to be labeled a "feminist" or "bra burner" or a "radical" because I didn't want to be alienated or ostracized by both men and women.
The second striking element of this typical knee-jerk reaction is the "man-hater" part. It is very telling that speaking up about the horrors some men are capable of apparently means I'm spewing an anti-male campaign. Can nothing ill be said of men without it being turned around as my problem or issue? If all feminists/lesbians hate men then shouldn't gay men hate women? I don't find either to be the case, yet we perpetuate the stereotype that to be a feminist means to do away with men. And this in turn contributes to a lack of male and female involvement or interest in the movement.
How do we retrain our phyches to ignore the conditioning of an entire society or to even recognize it in the first place? Is it possible to do away with these preconcieved notions that are not our own, but are rather historical institutions in place to ignore and disable the idea of "independent and equal woman?" And how do we refuse to be programmed by such subliminal forces?