Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Talking Post #4

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence: Adrienne Rich

So, I won't lie Professor Bogad scared the crap out of me in class when she told us that this reading was extremely hard, so I did exactly what she suggested. I read some summaries online and got a better idea of what was to come before I actually started doing the reading, so it wasn't really that bad!

Adrienne Rich's main arguments are that women are afraid to be who they truly are because of society; compulsory heterosexuality is the idea that women are supposed to be heterosexual without a preference just because they are a woman. The other main argument she had was about lesbian existence.

Compulsory heterosexuality is when men command and force women's sexuality. "..women have been convinced that marriage and sexual orientation toward men are inevitable- even if unsatisfying or oppressive- components of their lives (p. 86)." When women resisted compulsory heterosexuality, things like rape, prostitution, pornography and genital mutilation occurs. Rich feels like women shouldn't have to depend on men as any type of support. She has a framework that she got from Kathleen Gough's 8 characteristics of male power in societies that include the power of men:
1. to deny women sexuality: ex. removal of the clitoris like FGM
2. or to force it upon them: ex. rape or wife beating
3. to command or exploit their labor to control their produce: ex. pimping
4. to control or rob them of their children: ex. legal kidnapping
5. to confine them physically and prevent their movement: ex. keeping them confined in the home
6. to use them as objects in male transactions: pimping or arranged marriage
7. to cramp their creativeness: ex. not allowing them to be creative
8. to withhold from them large areas of the society's knowledge and cultural attainments: ex. pretty self explanatory
Because of compulsory heterosexuality, women allow sexual harassment in the workplace because they feel that's the only way they can get a job and keep a job regardless of the job description (p. 86). In the workplace, a woman can be a closeted lesbian and it's okay as long as she can play and dress the part of a heterosexual woman. Which brings up Rich's next main argument. She argues about lesbian existence or lack thereof because lesbianism is socially unacceptable because all the proof from historical lesbian experiences were destroyed. Rich wants to expand lesbianism to an experience that brings women together because it is something that we can only experience with one another. The next quote she got from the poet H.D. which I felt sums up the experience women share: 
"I know that this experience, this writing-on-the-wall
before me, could not be shared with anyone expect the
firl who stood so bravely there beside me. This girl said
without hesitation, "Go on." It was she really who had
the detachment and integrity of the Pythoness of Delphi.
But it was I, battered and dissociated. . . who was seeing
the pictures, and who was reading the writing or
granted the inner vision. Or perhaps, in some sense, we
were "seeing" it together, for without her, admittedly, I
could not have gone on."
Throughtout history, lesbians were thought of female versions of male homosexuality, but Rich said if you are to compare lesbian existence to male homosexulaity would be to completely ignore the existence of lesbians. 
The last of Rich's argument was about lesbian continuum, that we are all in this continuum whether we are or arent lesbian, "-from the infant suckling at his mother's breast, to the grown woman experiencing orgasmin sensations while suckling her own child, perhaps recalling her mother's milk smell in her own, to two women, like Virginia Woolf's Chloe and Olivia, who share a laboratory, to the woman dying at ninety, touched and handled by women (p. 91)."

Sexual harrassment - A funny video I found about sexual harrassment

Comment for class: 
"I do not assume that mothering by women is a "sufficient cause" of lesbian existence. But the issue of mothering by women has been much in the air of late, usually accompanied by the view that increased parenting by men would minimize antagonism between the sexes and equalize the sexual imbalance of power and males over females." 
I wanted to discuss this in class with everyone whether or not people agreed about this. Would parenting by mean really decrease the hostility between men and women later on in life, or is it something that you need a balance from both parents to achieve. Or can just the parenting from a mother be enough to find the balance of power between both sexes?


  1. that video is hilarious but i agree that sexual harassment is definitely a big issue for women in the workplace, lesbian or not. I used to have a manager who hit on me all the time and asked if he could buy me underwear once! And I just went along with it because I didn't wanna get fired or make him dislike me. It was really gross though :\

  2. I loved your Blog it helped me so much with mine, Thanks :)

  3. helped me toooo! made me understand alot more of what she was explaining in her writing thanks :)

  4. I love that we both mentioned how Dr. Bogad scared the crap out of us with this reading haha! But looking up the reading elsewhere definitely helped. I came across the 8 characteristics of male power too in my research. Cute video

  5. This was great. Used this as my extended comments blog!

  6. I really liked your points. Though I feel that I had a somewhat fair grasp on the reading, I realize that I still tended to focus more on the understanding of lesbianism in the same terms as male homosexuality which Rich so seriously argues against lumping together as the same idea. Your question regarding parenting is surely a serious one. While I can see the possibility in influencing more even tempered children through primarily, if not complete female parenting, it would be problematic to consider all male parenting of poor influence. I can see the benefit in having both sexes represented in parenting, as I know that there are plenty of examples of negative influence from fathers. I'm interested to see how this question is adressed in class myself. I also wanted to point out that your listing of Gough's 8 characteristics of male power remind me of "The Yellow Wall Paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I would imagine many students have read this already, but if not, it's worth the read.

    1. ....mainly characteristics 5,7, and maybe even 8.

  7. Def used your blog as an extended comment. I had no idea how to start this one, and yours really helped guid mind. Very clear and to the point!..kudosss!