Can You Be a Willy-Loving Feminist?


Back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s when I wasn’t yet a teenager,  radical feminists were pondering on the idea of heterosexuality as a political institution (“compulsory hetrosexuality”)  and that choosing to be a lesbian was the ultimate act of liberation from that institution.

And as Julie Bindel reminded us recently, the mantra of the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist group was “all feminists can and should be lesbians.” [Emphasis mine].

The pamphlet produced by this group at the time was called “Love Your Enemy – The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism.”   (LYE – i.e., lie – for short. Get it?) If you read it (and I am always up for reading something which purports to be radical and revolutionary) it takes about 5 seconds to see the inherent flaw and not much longer than that to notice the complete absence of anything remotely resembling an analysis of the patriarchy that considers the problem of gender oppression in terms of class, race, disability, gender binary, trans*gender and bi-sexuality. (The heterosexual anger at Bindel on twitter this last couple of days has been interesting – ask the trans*gender community what it is like to be on the receiving end of Bindels ill-aimed anger).

Bindel asks us to think about these ideas in the comparatively acceptable terms of ‘choosing sexuality’ as an intellectual idea rather masks the fact that this whole idea was deeply unpleasant from the start and it did – and does – absolutely nothing to dismantle the very patriarchy it rails against. And let me clear – it isn’t the notion of choosing your sexuality that’s the problem: no body but you decides who you are. 

Penises are not evil. The patriarchy does not exist because of penises. And if we are going to end bigotry then suggesting that heterosexual women are ‘collaborators’ is just.. well, stupid. All women are equal except for the ones who are heterosexual because they just are or choose to be?  I can’t quite decide if this is the natural result of the dehumanising way they think of trans*gender women or vice versa,  but either way, I am not prepared to dance to the bigots tune.

Yes. You can be a willy-loving feminist.