That’s another fine mess you’ve got us in, Patriarchy

Oh my, I’d like to say I’ve seen it all now but I am sure I haven’t. I randomly came across an article which featured two white, blonde, thin, heavily made-up women partners stating they are ‘invisible’ as lesbians (article link at the bottom of the blog post)

They know they are invisible as lesbians, they tell us, because men say “You’re too pretty to be gay”

I have news, sisters. We all get these kind of messages, in different ways – it’s called ‘compulsory heterosexuality’. An institution which pressurizes all women to look and behave in ‘feminine’ ways to please men. If we don’t, we’re punished. If we do, we’re objectified in the way you have been.

The article gives no clues about why, despite being lesbians, they have continued to conform to male ideas about how women should look. I just hope it’s not about seeking male approval while leading lesbian lifestyles.

Their white wedding dresses and their wedding day features in the article, demonstrating they have just substituted a woman for a man. That’s clearly how they want their circumstances to be viewed. They said nothing of political interest other than everyone mistakes them for being heterosexual. In an ever-increasing non-politicised lesbian environment, the attitude that women are merely substitutes for men in intimate lesbian relationships is prevalent. The “equal but different” argument. No links are made between the hetero-patriarchy and women’s oppression. The article encourages us to accept a ‘diverse’ ‘inclusive’ approach where those conforming to ‘feminine’ stereotypes must be specifically welcomed so they don’t feel left out. (The old stereotype that lesbians are ‘hot’ (in male-defined terms) is a long, long running porn theme. Hardly ‘invisible’)

Here’s the thing; what conformists are doing amounts to a take-over of lesbian spaces by patriarchal-compliant lesbians. And, at the same time, they argue that, for them to be known lesbians in the malestream, and in lesbian spaces, is political in and of itself.

The whole argument reminds me of ‘diversity’ training. Remember that? Quite popular in the 1990s and the 00s. It was a way of talking about oppression without anyone feeling at all threatened by it. Instead of, as the nasty radical lesbian feminists did, in the 70s and 80s, raising awareness about structural power, ‘diversity’ training emphasized that everyone is unique, different. These decorative women, in their beautiful gowns, are different to butch dykes. That’s all.

And so, we can glide with them, past the fact that marriage is a heterosexual institution which puts women at an inherent disadvantage because “lesbians do it too”. We can skip along with mascara brushes lamenting that women who embrace ‘femininity’, a tool of oppression for women, get mistaken for being het. Hell, how did that happen?

But it’s ok. So long as we’re ‘inclusive’ and recognise the importance of diversity, ‘feminine’ women are willing to forgive and forget that lesbians who suffer oppression based on non-gender conformity might think them het.

That word ‘inclusive’ is such a dodgy word used within post-modernist/queer contexts. I didn’t notice its potential danger until I started reading it every other damned word in libfem/queer texts. Lesbians who conform, in every way, to femininity complain they are ‘invisible’.

This all-encompassing, inclusive, “we welcome everyone through our doors” approach is growing momentum everywhere. Only radical feminists point out the problem with it. Seems we need to spell out what that problem is – welcoming those who are oppressors into our spaces means that our spaces are eroded, destroyed and distorted. It means that reversals about oppression have a legitimate space within the very political sphere set up to oppose that oppression. It’s a double-whammy for women, many of whom experience multiple oppressions.

I happened to glance at a page for a RTN march for Edinburgh while reading this article. Reclaim the night marches – started by radical lesbian feminists to empower women and to fight back against male sexual violence. The Edinburgh RTN march will, you’ll be reassured to know, be inclusive. The goals state: “Reclaim the Night is an inclusive, community-led event aimed at raising awareness of issues surrounding street & sexual harassment, as well as broader issues of sexual violence. It offers a safe & empowering environment for people of all genders to reclaim the public spaces which are rightfully theirs” (my emphasis). The page had replaced a more political, feminist one which referred to male violence against women. In yet more astonishing reversals, this traditional feminist march, is giving space to men who may well have been abusive on the streets and calling it a “safe & empowering environment”. They have unashamedly and disrespectfully demolished the whole meaning of reclaim the night. What meaning does it even have any more? “People can walk down the streets whatever their gender”? For fuck sake. No women, can’t, not without fearing, and facing, objectification from men or abuse for not conforming to femininity. The Edinburgh RTN march decided to have a whole march without naming the problem. They, no doubt, however, congratulated themselves about their inclusiveness. Inclusiveness. Dangerous, depoliticising word in the hands of queers.

Today’s post-modernist, emphasis on ‘inclusive’, masks real politics and replaces it with pretend politics which re-establishes the status quo. And that’s why I find het-looking women, marrying each other in white dresses problematic.

Next, they’ll be saying they can’t help it, they were born that way.


RTN Edinburgh goals:


We are radical lesbian feminists in the UK who are friends and activists in real life.

In the past, lesbians were often at the forefront of political organising, including feminist activism. Now, though radical lesbian feminists still work extremely hard at the forefront, our perspectives are silenced in political spaces. This blog is to counteract our invisibility within the feminist movement, within mixed ‘radical’ left movements, and most urgently, under the Queer LGBT movement.

We recognise that gender is a tool created by Patriarchy to control and subjugate women. We seek to abolish it. We are Queer and Trans critical because these theories seek to reinforce gender, further enshrine it in law. They exist in opposition to gender abolition.

This blog will take a consciousness raising approach, analysing our own life experiences and those of women around us through a feminist lens. When we begin to understand the context of our lived experience and see the parallels and connections, we become politicised.

Some lesbians face multiple oppressions which shape our personal experiences. We are politically critical of individualistic solutions, both within and external to lesbian communities as we know that women’s oppression is institutionalised, built into the structures of society. We are part of a wider movement to dismantle those structures.

Working ethically and with integrity, alongside our political values, is integral to feminist activism. Radical lesbian feminism is, and must be, revolutionary. We have joined that revolution.

We will be blogging regularly. Radical lesbian feminists are invited to contribute to this blog by emailing