Quite recently, we all stepped forward and expressed our support and happiness at the SCOTUS Judgement with our rainbow coloured display pictures and #lovewins hashtags.
Let’s do a quick reality check!
Below is a statement lifted from a brochure spreading awareness about discriminatory housing practices. Before starting to read this article, you have to honestly analyse how right or wrong you find it and why?
“Refusal of housing to a tenant who is biologically female but exhibits male mannerisms. Refusal to lease to a gay man…”
Amidst all the discussions and debates about/around homosexuality, there is a need to analyse how we see lesbianism even today.
Now, I say “even today” because this perception of female homosexuality essentially comes from an essay, The Psychogenesis of Female Homosexuality by Sigmund Freud, written in 1920. The interesting irony present in this essay is that it intends to talk about female homosexuality, but the female homosexual is absent. She exists only as a subversion.
Freud’s core argument stands on the much controversial notions of “femininity” and “masculinity.” The feminist debate about ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ makes the argument absolutely futile. In a patriarchal set up, certain traits of men and women are considered as given just because of their sex, completely overlooking the fact that gender is a social construct. This is also one of the legacies that continues even today. We are in a habit of assigning a stereotypical baggage to both the sexes; blue for boys whereas pink for girls, boys don’t insert all negations: can’t, shouldn’t etc cry whereas girls cry all the time and so on and so forth. One of these is, boys are/ should be/ can be desiring beings whereas girls aren’t/can’t be/ shouldn’t be desiring beings. The problem with these stereotypes is that once a person tries to (intentionally or unintentionally) step out of these expected or assigned behaviour traits, they are mocked/ teased/ bullied or laughed at.
The above mentioned way of addressing female homosexuality sounds like one of the ways of mocking them. Isn’t it rather absurd? Freud interprets the desiring woman as a “male homosexual”, the arena of sexual desire being a completely male dominated space. In this sense, the female adopts the ‘masculine’ pattern of behaviour and the woman is non-existent. Therefore, it is rather alien for him (and for a lot of people even today) that first, a woman can desire as a woman (and not as a ‘manly’ woman), and second, that a woman can function totally well without a male companion, stepping outside the heteronormative patriarchal equation. As such, asking a lesbian couple “Who is the man amongst the two of you?” is absolutely senseless and unnecessary.
According to Luce Irigaray, in her critique of Freud’s essay, she notes that female homosexuality is admitted only as long as it fits in the patriarchal order. It can only exist as a subject of masculine fantasy (as lesbian porn) and under the surveillance and whims of men.
Finally, not ignoring the fact that the way we use words, tells a lot about the way we feel about things. Using “…biologically female but exhibits male mannerisms” to refer to lesbians denotes the discomfort in coming to terms with female homosexuality. Also, the intention behind using “male” mannerisms as an adjective to explain lesbians implies that female homosexuality can’t exist without this suggestive male presence.
This is one of the cases where ‘just’ passing the laws and celebrating them isn’t enough. There is still a long battle to be won. Making sure that there is a conscious and well thought out social discourse is paramount too. And, that is our responsibility!