Radical and Lesbian Feminism

Contemporary lesbian feminism and action owes greatly to the thoughts of Adrienne Rich who argued that “compulsory heterosexuality” ensured a woman’s continuous subjugation by continually privileging man’s needs. She points out that such an ideology forces the girl/daughter to turn to the man, forgetting the mother and other women which is a tacit acceptance of the political environment of patriarchy and heterosexuality. Lesbian theorists argue that even heterosexual women exhibit a certain fear of lesbianism, and that feminism assumes heterosexuality as the norm and homosexuality/ lesbianism as a deviation.

The new phase of radical lesbian feminism was launched with the publication of the manifesto The Woman Identified Woman (1971), by the New York group Radicalesbians. They argued that the lesbian is a natural “unconscious” feminist because she automatically is inclined to other women rather than men.

Adrienne Rich coined the term “lesbian continuum“, which seeks to incorporate a whole range of woman-woman relations, which includes mutual help networks, camaraderie, woman’s institutions, female friendships that are not necessarily sexual in nature and so on. Increasingly lesbian theorists and activists form affinities with gays rather than with feminists, thereby revealing the deep divide among feminists themselves. Ruth Vanita criticises Indian feminists for ignoring attention to rethink gender and sexuality itself, “to liberate both men and women into developing different kinds of family or collective living.” Thus Vanita proposes reforms of marriage laws to accept and validate same-sex marriages/ families to incorporate the notion of homosexuality in the institution of marriage.

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6 replies


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