Feminism is a broad multi-disciplinary field involving politics, economics, culture, history, and sexuality just to name a few. In the context of this particular post, I will critically analyze how the common stereotype in popular culture addresses ‘all lesbians as feminists.’ This is blatantly not true. We live in a predominantly post-feminist era. Take a moment to think about how womyn are being depicted in entertainment such as pornography, Cosmopolitan, FHM, Maxim, popular American sitcoms, etc. Post-feminism is a transformative, cunning, and resourceful (for patriarchy) way of maintaining and strengthening male dominated values, ideas, and opinions in society. Also, it reinforces power structures in society keeping man as the dominant one.
In my opinion, post-feminism is an illusory concept forced upon womyn in order to reinforce mass consumerism, patriarchal standards, and the sexual submission of womyn as a whole. As a critical theorist of media, the entertainment industry, popular/mainstream music, film/cinema, and American sitcoms all sexualize, degrade, or place womyn in a state of submission. In a raunchy pop cultural, post-feminist era, female characters in these varying channels of media may take on a position of being in a dominant role through the use of their sexuality or as Ariel Levy states ‘sexual opportunism.’ The illusion that womyn can have power, or rather, a piece of the corporate pie by living through the hypersexualization of their bodies. This is what post-feminism is simply about — womyn being tricked into using their bodies as a commodity for the good of capitalism in primarily westernized culture.
Girly girls: womyn who use their bodies and attractiveness to get attention, who maintain their physical appearance (as they are told/constructed to do so), and who are stereotypically classified as sexually compliant. These girly girls in westernized society continue to be the victims of corporate capitalism and denigration to both men and womyn. During one of my many independent psycho-social research endeavors, I decided to go to an exclusive lesbian bar/club in London. I was watching a stripper (probably heterosexual) paid to expose and exploit her body for all the self-identified lesbians in the bar. She brought a womun onstage to perform a mild performance of S&M (sadomasochistic performance). I looked around the room and observed that most of the womyn were awed, happy, or content. Some had a hint of being uncomfortable (I count myself) and others were neutral. (This was solely based on the observance of face expressions and body language). One particular womun asked me what I thought about the scene. Before I could answer she says, “You’re straight, aren’t you”? She suspected I was because I didn’t appear as if I was enjoying myself. Later, I spoke with some confident, identifying lesbians who looked quite physically masculine from afar. I told them I was a feminist to instigate a discussion on the topic. They simply gave me blank stares, and told me they were not very radical at all. This is one example of the multitude of experiences I’ve had conversing with lesbians about feminism.
In my research and experience, the two concepts are not simultaneous. Ironically, the lesbian in popular culture is very similar to the heterosexual girl. The girly girls are the victims and entertainment whilst the more stereotypical masculine womyn poke fun at them; yet also wish to sexually engage or denigrate them. In continuation of this particular experience at the lesbian bar, I wasn’t able to find anyone who just wanted to get to know me or talk about something other than sex and hooking up. Again, very similar to the popular culture, heterosexual scene. Most popular lesbian scenes include very feminine, sexy womyn dancing on poles, on video, and/or stripping. The space offers lesbians the sexual opportunity to hook-up with other womyn based solely on the physicality of the female.
Feminism advocates for political, social, legal, and economic rights for all womyn. It strives for an egalitarian system with men. Unfortunately, our society has created post-feminism to fabricate what feminism stands for and regressed into a political and social realm of denigration, hypersexualization, and commodification. Guess who conformed to this? Womyn themselves. Although there is a ‘higher power’ working against us, we still have a choice in the matter. Feminism and lesbianism are not necessarily congruent. The conceptual framework of post-feminism and capitalism have coerced self-identifying lesbians into the ideologies of a male-dominated society.