Before I begin I must at least attempt some semblance of a disclaimer. Not gonna lie, talking about homosexuality in this context makes me uncomfortable. On a political level, I am somewhat more at ease with expressing my ideas. On a religious level, I can dictate my beliefs. However, on a cultural level, inhibition makes its presence very much known within my conscience. Put simply, I simply don’t know much about the gay culture. Sure, I know stereotypes, which I try my hardest to avoid, but I fear that in my lack of understanding only stereotypes will appear. The most I can do is simply attempt to look at this form of criticism from the only way I can, the perspective of a white, middle-class, suburban heterosexual woman (and you guessed it, I have conservative values).
This classification of myself brings me to a train of thought which I had not anticipated addressing. Stereotypes abound in any identity, and with our multiple, hundreds of identities, we each possess multiple, hundreds of stereotypes, and we each force multiple, hundreds of stereotypes on everyone else. How do we escape? Our culture dogmatically endorses the eradication of any sort of creation or perpetuation of stereotypes, which I am not trying to condemn. However, these psychological schemas are, at least to some extent, inherent. Yes, we confront them. Yes, we fight them. But I wonder, and I hope no one sends the dogs after me, if such a constant focus on only the most controversial stereotypes marginalizes others (at least to some extent), rather than only revealing the marginalization of the more frequently discussed victims. In other words, when will society address the stereotypes placed on white heterosexual women in addition to addressing those of white homosexual women? I’m not here to play the victim or to cry foul for every situation in which I become aware of another’s misinformed expectations of me. But, on which stereotypes do college courses on cultural studies and identities in the media focus? Minorities. I am not refuting the validity or necessity of this practice, but I question whether or not this in itself perpetuates stereotypes of those perceived to belong to the dominant or mainstream identity. Is our society’s goal to battle stereotypes of minorities, or stereotypes?
But, I finally digress.
Barry acknowledges that feminism “found it difficult to accommodate difference, whether racial, cultural, or sexual, and tended to universalize the experience of white, middle-class, urban heterosexual women.” African American and lesbian critics were among the first to critique this homogenization. I am quite sure that any critic could qualify this hegemony within feminist criticism and thought. Furthermore, minority groups’ identification and refutation of this practice is not incomprehensible.
However, Barry goes on in his explanation of lesbian criticism’s roots to state:
“Feminism assumed, [lesbian critics] argued, that there existed an essential female identity which all women had in common irrespective of differences of race, class, or sexual orientation.”
Through the gender-identity of female, regardless of the extent to which this result is environmental or biological, don’t we share an essential commonality? I’m sure it sounds redundant, but we are all women. By the mere fact that we are female, we do in fact share this identity with all other females, irrespective of race, class, sexual orientation, beliefs, eye color, or taste in music.
Finally, I want to at least comment on the notion of a “lesbian continuum.” While I understand the proposed arrangement of all forms of relationships between and among women, I disagree with the name. Female relationship continuum? Sure. Female interaction continuum? Okay. Lesbian continuum? Not really. This title immediately recognizes only a portion of women, those sexually attracted to other women (and perhaps those residing on the island of Lesbos). On some level I can appreciate the meaning illustrated through such a comprehensive evaluation of the many, complex types of relationships and interactions between and among women. But “lesbian” only encompasses a small portion of that continuum. An “acquaintance continuum” would not garner wide support, but “acquaintance” would accurately describe a segment of this continuum in the same way that “lesbian” does.