Out of respect for the Feminist community, and as a Feminist, I feel obligated to contextualize and reframe this conversation.
In responses to a Who Needs Feminism’s recent submission there was an outcry insinuating that the girl herself was insulted to be identified as lesbian and that her submission was contrary to the purpose of Feminism. I feel this viewing is misguided, but can see how the conclusion would be made from a single vantage point; I hope to expand that perspective now with a secondary vantage.
To be clear, the post does not have the ability to conclude either way whether the girl was/wasn’t insulted by the identity of a lesbian. What can be concluded is that the girl was categorized merely on the basis of her clothing and that lesbian was used on her as an insult, to which she objected. Responses to the post judged that the girl was insulted to be identified as lesbian, but the wording she used was “to be called a ‘Lesbian’” — “to be called” is to be negatively categorized, labelled by the speaker; anyone who has ever ‘been called’ anything should know the phrase relates to slandering, insulting.
Looking at the same situation from another perspective, take the gay man who has ever been called a fag in public, as a means of insult. He is gay, but the usage of the word as an insult acts as a means to belittle him.
Didier Eribon, a French intellectual on sexuality, laments in his 2004 work Insult and the Making of the Gay Self about his own experiences being insulted with gay terms in public:
I discover that I am a person about whom something can be said, to whom something can be said, someone who can be looked at or talked about in a certain way and who is stigmatized by that gaze and those words. … Insult is more than a word that describes. It is not satisfied with simply telling me what I am. … That person is letting me know he or she has something on me, has a power over me.
Although we can’t conclude what the girl’s own feelings are towards lesbians, we see her post as a reaction against her insulters who have categorized her not on her identity but on her clothes.
How was the conclusion of ‘lesbian’ was derived from her clothes? The girl says her shirt featured a female artist, which we can presume she admired: If anyone knows the specific artist (I can’t see the image clearly) feel free to message me. For now, I believe that the girl was categorized based on her objectification as a female.
For instance, to conclude that the girl is a lesbian from the shirt, assuming the insulter doesn’t know the specific artist, several leaps have to be made which objectify both the girl and the artist based on their sex.
First, the conclusion of the girl’s interest in the artist is based in sexual attraction. This assumption which can only be made from viewing the girl within the limitations as a sexual object. Second, the conclusion alludes that the female artist’s only worth of interest is for sexual attraction, ignoring all other creative talents inherent with the descriptor of “artist,” which clearly marks the artist as an object as well. Apparently to the insulter, a girl admiring another female can only be in the interest of sex and therein the mark of the lesbian.
In this light, it can be said the girl’s post objects to objectification as well as shallow categorizations through clothes, though the short submissions of Who Needs Feminism has no means to expand this and the girl herself may be lacking the knowledge and vocabulary to even describe the situation. We need Feminism because society jumps to conclusions about sex, gender, and sexuality; Feminism itself should continue to be a conversation, as a means to divert this one-sided binary thinking imposed by society.
A kind Anon wrote:
The artist that is on the girl’s shirt is Lady Gaga. That itself might have something to do with her being called a lesbian because she’s wearing a shirt of a known “provocative” woman and a GLBT right’s activist. Gaga is naked on that shirt. Though no part of her body is showing other than her arm and back, but the idea of nudity is still present. A girl wearing a naked woman must be lesbian, right? Just my insight