I went to a lesbians-only party this weekend. I thought maybe it was time to bring back the lesbians-only idea. It felt like 2000 again, when people started to bring back the 80s—maybe lesbian-only space had been "out" long enough to bring back in.
I met a woman there, a lesbian journalist, who greeted my claims of male-identity first with "but you do identify as a lesbian, right?" To which I said, teasingly, "of course, or else I couldn't be at this party." Then I gave a more earnest answer and she said "that's so interesting."
I'm guessing it was an "interesting" like those my colleagues and I at Mother Jones utter when pro-life activists and American Enterprise economists tell us about their views. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The conversation began by being about gay and lesbian journalism. She made a point about it being a male-run show. (I've made a similar point here.) She attributed that to women not having had enough chance to put their sistahs in power. I added "or they don't always hire women." That's where the fun began. She claimed that women are better than men; women help a sister out.
I wanted to make the point that women can be real assholes too. They don't always run the show in a feminist way. (I've made a similar point here.) And I wasn't sure that shoehorning your friends into power was a particularly good quality to emulate. I said prioritizing your people over another people never really helps anybody on either side. She disagreed. She said she was a "radical feminist that way" because she didn't give a shit how white men felt. She said that, as an Asian woman, she had suffered double oppression for thousands of years, and if evening it out meant turning the shit-stream the other way for a while that was fine by her.
So I decided to make it personal, too. I said that as a trans-identified dyke, who was ever going to take me under their wing? This isn't just about white men.
She encouraged me not to see myself as such a victim. Up to this point, dear reader, I had been very friendly in my disagreements. But being told I was acting like a victim by someone who, at age 30, was claiming thousands of years of double oppression was just too much. I called her bluff. She didn't like it much, replying "I think we should end the conversation, Cameron, because it's getting really fucked up."
She needed to see my disagreement about the nurturing benevolence of women as sexism. If I didn't identify as a "woman" and I didn't agree with her 100% about the sweet superiority of women, I must be a sexist. And sexists really piss her off. It was a fascinating experience—and one I probably wouldn't have gotten to witness had my interlocutor not been drunk—to watch someone construct a box around me and then work herself into a frenzy that yet another person fit in that box.
My question is, who is teaching her to hold so true to an outmoded ideology that isn't working for her? And how can she steer so clear of third wave feminism when she (a) lives in San Francisco and (b) works as an online journalist?
I don't know many women under 30 who still think that way. (To support my woman friend Ann, I send you to Feministing.) Sadly, those who do are usually lesbians.
Just to be snarky (it must be the man in me), I will add that this woman works for a lesbian entertainment website, and I work at Mother Jones. Maybe she thought that was a maternity magazine?