Julia Penelope on Separatism and Conflict

block-20-2016

Separatists have been saying this for years, but it bears repeating again (and again and again): We choose wimmin or we choose men. Let’s drop the deception and the rhetoric. Let those feminists who prefer men, who need to work with men in order to feel good about themselves, who require the company of men, who feel safer with men, simply say so and claim their choice out front. I won’t like that choice, and I won’t approve of it, but I’ll respect the honesty of the assertion…

Choosing men is simply not the same act as choosing wimmin or Lesbians, and its consequences are very different. I’m not talking here about lipstick, or pantyhose, or a hamburger. I’m not debating a matter of “taste” or “preference.” I’m talking about the conscious, aware decision to choose the safety of male approval instead of the risks and dangers and joys of a Lesbian community. Don’t think for a moment I’m glorifying or romanticizing the day-to-day exhaustion and tiresomeness of living among Lesbians. I’m not ignoring the pain I’ve experienced when other Lesbians have attacked and rejected me. I’m saying that, in spite of the pain and frustration I’ve experienced among Lesbians, we need each other…

I want wimmin who choose men to take responsibility for that decision, because it’s a choice that everything in our society encourages, urges, mandates, requires. I live in a society that tells me every day to choose men. When I turn on the radio or television, no one screams at me to choose Lesbians. No one tells me to buy Diet Pepsi because then I’ll meet “the Dyke of my dreams.” I’m not told to buy Hanes pantyhose because Dykes “prefer” them!…

The fact of the matter is that every single one of us is “broken”; not a one of us can claim that her self is whole. When we strike out at each other in anger or pain, we’re often acting out of our broken state, retaliating against each other for the damage done to us in the heteropatriarchy. In spite of our best intentions, we persist in hurting each other. But we must break the “chain of fragmentation” somehow. Are there some ways we can acknowledge the old pain we carry within us, stay in touch with its origins enough so that we can realize our violent reactions to each other have their sources in the things men have done to us in the past? Can we make it possible to begin to heal ourselves by allowing for mistakes, disagreements, and angry moments, by stepping outside the immediate situation, examining our own intentions and motivations, and saying to each other, “Yes, I made a mistake. Can we go on from here?” Must we continue the cycle of oppression among ourselves by expecting a level of perfection, even nobility, in each other, while, at the same time, excusing the mistakes of men? Why are we kinder to men than we are to each other?

~Julia Penelope, “The Mystery of Lesbians: III” in Lesbian Ethics Vol 1. No 3, 1985)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Leave a Reply