BOGEYMEN and BOGEYWOMEN
(Editor's Note: This article explores the myths about lesbianism spread by the male dominated culture of the time.)
Any forms of behavior that don't fit into the image that television and Reader's Digest believe the American people should be like is usually categorized as either subnatural or supernatural. The myths about homosexuals fall into both categories, depending on how close it is to being you. Lesbians are subnatural when they live next door and supernatural when they live in Paris and write books.
Most people's ideas about lesbianism come from pornographic films and magazines, all of which are produced by and for men. It's a very strange thing to find your existence defined as a part of somebody's pornographic fantasy library - sex episode No. 93.
One night at my regular women's liberation group meeting, one of the women said, "You know, the first night you told us you were a lesbian, I sat in terror the rest of the meeting, waiting for you to attack me or something".
Men who are obsessed with sex are convinced that lesbians are obsessed with sex. Actually, like a lot of other women, lesbians are obsessed with love and fidelity. They are also strongly interested in independence and in having a lifework to do, but other than that, lesbians are not extraordinary.
I once met a lesbian who had built her own house, with her own hands, to her own specifications. (She was about 4' 11l" tall.) But I have no doubt that any woman probably could -except that she probably married an architect or a builder instead. Homosexuality and other "bizarre" characteristics are associated with art and artiness partly so that artists can be considered that much more supernatural. This keeps people in general from considering themselves as artists; if you can't cut off an ear, you can't paint.
It wasn't because she was a lesbian that Gertrude Stein wrote well; she wrote because she wanted to, and she had a disciplined, sensitive mind, and she didn't have to work in a dimestore eight hours a day.
The women in history who were the less fortunate counterparts of Gertrude Stein, unable to retire on Papas money, cut off their hair and joined the merchant marine; or sneaked out West and had a life of adventure as cowboys. Some were never discovered until the local mortician ...all astonished... came running out of the funeral parlor. "My God, guess what I just found out about Harry Willets...."
As a matter of fact, old Harry may never have thought of loving another woman in her life, but she still goes down in history as a lesbian. Every woman who steps out of line gets assigned a sexual definition - lesbian, whore, nymphomaniac, castigator, adulteress.
Lesbians who dress and act in a particular manner do so as a means of mutual recognition -that's how they know who's eligible to fall in love with, since you're not allowed to just ask. If anybody was allowed to fall in love with anybody, the word "homosexual" wouldn't be needed. It's used now only to set people off in separate categories, artificially; so they'll know who to be afraid of - each other.
Bogeymen and bogeywomen function to keep people off of the streets, and home watching television and reading Reader's Digest.
Lesbianism isn't something you are - it's something you do. Specifically, it's the love you give somebody who happens, also, to be female.
-original editor's note