Monday, February 2, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Why are strong, aggressive, non-submissive and powerful women called "Dykes?"


J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It"
iconic poster from WWII, of an empowered,
strong woman working in a factory.


I think it's the same reason most of the put-downs guys use against other guys involve comparing them to women. Think of guys calling each other:

"girly"


or

"bitch"


Because our culture is so fixated on the power of men, and perpetuating and guarding that power, women who threaten to attain power must be put down...

But the culture's male guard can't put down a woman (the way they belittle an unempowered man) by calling her "effeminate."

If she was a "good" girl, she'd be in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, as they saying goes.

So they attack her for being a "bad" girl. For being a not REAL woman.

And so they call her a
"Dyke."


Which leads me to realize that women - ALL women - and the GLBTQ community - are natural allies in our quest for equality and in our bucking the status quo. (Remember, we are a country that couldn't even pass an equal rights amendment to our nation's constitution to say that WOMEN should get equal pay for equal work!)

So, what's going on? How come women and Gay people aren't joining forces?

What do you think?

4 comments:

fairyhedgehog said...

I am joining forces. I'm not gay (or lesbian) but I am a woman and I was born in the 50s, so I've been at the receiving end of enough unthinking sexism to have a passion for equality. I hate the jokes and the subtle put downs because they're the hardest to deal with.

I'm reading The Accidental Time Traveller by Sharon Griffiths and although it's chicklit and very light it's fascinating the ways she shows what it would be like for a 21st century woman to go back to England in the 50s. She captures the unthinking racism, sexism and homophobia perfectly.

SMD said...

I'm on the team! When I served in the military I was called a dyke many a time (usually by a soldier who wasn't getting anywhere) and one of my male peers referred to e as "120% man" because he saw me as too agressive. My first marriage, to another soldier, fell apart because I was better at the job than he was. My support of the gay community absolutely stems from those experiences, and I think you're absolutely right that all women should be allies in this fight.

Kimberly @ lectitans said...

I wonder if marginalized groups don't see themselves as part of a spectrum, from least to most marginalized, and if maybe sometimes a group that perceives itself as slightly less marginalized than another group is reluctant to form an alliance for fear of losing their own chance at equality.

Just speculation on my part about why there aren't all kinds of alliances.

The notion that there is something wrong with a woman being strong or powerful has always been absurd to me; likewise the notion that being feminine is inherently inferior. We are who we are, and you're right - we should all work together for equality.

Lisa said...

I'm very much of the We're All in This Together mindset myself. But I also wanted to put out there that I've met a fair number of misogynistic gay men in my time. There's got to be mutual respect and cooperation all around for this kind of progress to be made.