LGBTI – is the L silent?

Guest post by Liz Waterhouse

When an article on Germaine Greer was posted by the Star Observer recently, I noticed that the comments were aggressively misogynistic. Distressed by how much this excluded and insulted women in the LGBTI community, I asked posters to stop using such hurtful and upsetting language. As a lesbian, I expected that my community would be a relatively safe place, and I expected a degree of solidarity. What resulted was hours of increased insults, ridicule and finally personal abuse. It left me wondering why the community would attack a request for basic respect and why any woman would speak out if this is how they were treated.

Most responders were male and they used crude, aggressive and dismissively sexist language to attack first Greer, and then me, in post after post, correctly assuming that their comments would be tolerated by other posters.

Eventually, the Star Observer intervened and deleted the worst of the comments, but there remained a steady stream of insulting posts, eventually escalating to personal messages of abuse and lesbophobia.

Particularly upsetting were comments like this one:
 dicking

I wonder how this poster thinks women, particularly lesbians, would feel reading this. Lesbians here and elsewhere can face corrective rape and many of us have been coerced into heterosexuality at some point, with many more facing ongoing harassment. To propose rape, in essence, as a measure to bring women in line, is to show deep disregard for us, and channels centuries of misogyny and lesbophobia. How would men in our community feel about this kind of hatred being directed at them in our community, where they should feel safe? I can’t even find an equivalent insult for men because society is so gendered and this kind of aggressive sexual threat is largely reserved for women.

This incident demonstrated what many women, online and in real life, know – that the first line of attack against women is sexist, and often sexually aggressive, abusive or threatening. When you speak up, the abuse gets worse and complaints about it are most often ridiculed, or at best ignored.

The hypocrisy of those who chose to use hate speech to condemn what they considered to be Greer’s harmful speech made me wonder how they would like to be told “shut up faggot” every time they voiced a complaint. We know such intolerable slurs to be obscene and hateful, yet I was persistently ridiculed for protesting similar abuse when it was directed at me.

Moreover, women were blamed for community disunity – the abuse of women wasn’t seen as a problem, just the act of rejecting it. Not only are we subjected to the ill-treatment itself, but we are also accused of doing harm when we speak out on our own behalf. The message is clear: STFU.

It is devastating that some of the most directed abuse I have received as a woman has been from our community, and that when I spoke out it intensified. This, and other experiences, suggests that there is nothing that women can say about misogyny that is mild enough to spare us from insults, threats and hatred, even from those who should have solidarity with us.

I ask – can we have a united community if women, and women alone, are seen as abusable and unimportant within the LGBTI community? What can unity mean if it requires silencing women?

Allowing anti-women hate speech and the suggestion of sexual violence against lesbian and bisexual women not only calls into question our representation within the community – whether we are valued at all – but must certainly undermine our participation. Who would want to stand up and speak for women when they see what happens to women who do?

In allowing women to be treated like this, we are told that sexism is acceptable, women’s boundaries don’t matter and that we should learn to put up with it, because to speak out is to invite more abuse. We are closeted by enforced silence – unable to speak safely about how we are treated and what it means.

This was not an isolated incident – from Gatergate to British academics requesting open debate, women’s speech is punished by online abuse and a torrent of hate in response to our daring to express an opinion. Our community knows about facing hatred and bigotry – is it too much to ask that we do better ourselves?

If the LGBTI community truly seeks to be a community, we need to support, not silence, all of our members. What you say to and about us makes a difference. We didn’t come out of the closet as lesbians and bisexual women only to be put back in it, by our own community. Please, don’t condemn us to the closet we have all fought so hard to escape.

Liz Waterhouse is a lesbian feminist and anonymous blogger. This piece first appeared in the Star Observer

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9 comments
  1. Thank you for this post. This has also been my experience in our “community” as a woman, born woman. Particularly troubling are the MTF trans community that seeks to re-define womanhood to their definition, calling us bigots if we want our own space, with no inkling of what it means to live the experience of being born a wombyn. They want to rename us “cis-women”, so they can claim our name! Even creating space for women is controversial in the “community”. They have sought to destroy what they could not conquer (in typical male fashion), and created divisions and heartache in women’s hearts.

    It seems to me that the “community” is more like the island of Lost Toys, as the interests of gay men, lesbians and transgendered/queer are so very, very different. Without judgment only observation.

    Women’s rights ARE human rights, and we are finally awakening to the loving power of the feminine.

  2. Hecuba said:

    What is actually happening is open male hatred/male contempt for women because women are female not male. Add on the fact those vile women-hating men believe it was their male right to direct vile sexual insults at a lesbian woman only compounds the issue. Irrespective of whether or not any woman or girl is lesbian or not – the fact she is female is sufficient male justification to demand she be silent because no woman has right (sic) to challenge men and their vile women-hating beliefs.

    The LGBT etc is no longer a safe place for lesbian women because it has become another Male Supremacist organisation wherein it is acceptable for men to engage in women-hating propaganda because lesbian women are primarily female which means they aren’t human or have any right to be accorded dignity and respect from the men.

    ‘Sexism’ is a euphemistic term which men have co-opted because this term does not define precisely what numerous women-hating men are engaging in and that is misogyny. Misogyny means hatred/contempt for women and this is why misogyny must not be applied to those men who openly hate women.

    What is happening is a swift return once more to male supremacy over women and a concerted effort by men to silence any and all women who dare to utter/write any opinion/view which does not correspond with the mens’ stance. It matters not if a woman declares she is a Feminist or not – the fact she is female means males will threaten her with male sexual violence because women and girls must be silent and only speak/write as and when her subject matter has been approved by the men.

    Guess who is benefiting from this male blitz of male hatred/male contempt for women? Hint it isn’t women – it is men – all men because even the ones who do not publicly utter vile women-hating insults are benefiting because men know they all do not have to participate to maintain their Male Supremacist System of male dominance over all women.

    Men continue to lie that pandemic male hatred/male contempt for women and girls doesn’t exist so therefore said male hatred of women is not a ‘hate crime.’ Reason is because men continue to believe default human is the generic male – never us females because we aren’t the default human male!

    I do wonder why men get ‘their knickers in a twist’ whenever they are subjected to insults from other men instead of ‘ignoring said insults and moving on!’ After all men claim words don’t cause any harm – that is true when it is women who are the targets of mens’ hatred (because we aren’t human say men) but insulting a male(s) is one of the worst crimes women can commit because men believe they must be accorded dignity; respect and deference from us non-human females!

    Learn from herstory and remember an individual woman cannot silence those vile women-hating men but women collectively can and this is why the men work very, very hard to divide women from each other. Men are terrified that if women en masse were to rise up and hold men to account then mens’ world would indeed be turned upside down. Womens’ Liberation from male oppression does not happen without women collectively challenging and holding those vile women-hating men to account.

  3. ybawife said:

    It is not shocking to me any if this ve misogyny . Gay males in general think being ‘gay’ is all about them! They dislike womonkind Who ever they are and will support Teans acts ahead of the rights of theedbisn community. The confederacy of men has no alligences to any womon they despise us!
    Time to take the L out of this unequal misogynist band of bros!

  4. I find it very troubling that so soon after we finally started to be heard, we are again fighting for respect.

    Lesbians are particularly vulnerable to male supremacy and this is evident when we are both subjected to male violence, and that violence is then neither noted by the community nor held to be abhorrent.

    On reflecting on this piece, and the response I got to it, I realised that a large part of the problem is that we are simply not audible, we are invisible. We experience the silencing and abuse of lesbians as individual stories, as mere anecdote. We don’t have collective information and we then struggle to show the pattern of abuse.

    I have started a blog to collect lesbians’ stories of the abuse and silencing we are subjected to, both within the LGBTI community and in the broader community.

    http://listening2lesbians.com/

    Please come and have a look, and share your story.

    It’s very new still but I hope it will take off and help us raise our voices and be heard, as a group.

    If you have any questions about the blog or what I plan to do with the information, please PM me on facebook or contact me via the blog.

    Liz Waterhouse

  5. Dana said:

    A comment here: “lesbian women are primarily female…”

    Lesbian women are always female. It’s homosexuality, not homogenderality.

    A MTF who says “she’s” a “lesbian” is at the most basic biological level a straight man, especially if “she” hasn’t gotten hormones or surgery. I especially like the MTFs who expect lesbians to want to have sex with them when they *haven’t* gotten the surgery. Very unclear on what “lesbian” means, rather like the men who think “lesbian” means “man-hater.”

  6. thebewilderness said:

    It astonishes me still when me openly advocate the rape cure for uppity opinionated women.
    Then I think, ok. That is good that you are telling everyone exactly who you are, and that you are not safe to be around. People need to know.

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