Lesbians: ignored by mainstream female culture?

Why do magazines insist on ignoring lesbians? "All I'm asking for is not to be completely ignored and made to feel as if because I'm a lesbian I'm no longer allowed to be female," explains Ailsa.

, 16 January 2003

(I appreciate that there are many very serious and important issues relating to women’s magazines and the feminist community . I want to make it clear that this piece is a personal rant about an irritation of mine, not an attempt to high-jack feminist thinking for lesbian purposes.)

Lesbians are ignored by the vast majority of women’s magazines. I propose that this is because magazines are promoting and perpetuating the myth that every good woman NEEDS a man. Their articles, no matter how supportive of women always imply that to have a boyfriend/husband is better than being single. Most articles I have ever read relating to partners are very explicitly aimed at boyfriend/husband relationships. Almost all references within these publications are to male partners. Any articles which mention lesbians (even in passing) do so in the following way:

…worth TRYING if men are getting you down

An option on the bisexual scale, and worth TRYING if men are getting you down, i.e. “The New Lesbian Chic, are you brave enough to try it?” This is both treating the lesbian community like some sort of freak-show entertainment, and also ignoring the emotional implications for ALL parties concerned.

If their articles and surveys blatantly discriminated against any other section of society: Caribbean, Jewish, Hindu, African, Asian, Muslim, disabled etc then the readers (we hope) would be up in arms.

I love magazines but more and more I find myself unable to read them as every facet of a woman’s life is revered to with reference, and deference, to men. Which clothes are “sexy”; what underwear will “turn him on”; what food will keep you slim (so you can get a man); what to do in bed “with your man”; “why men believe x”? ad nauseam.

This is damaging to all women but particularly injurious to the Lesbian community. All around is the thought that a woman is still the weaker without a man to aid her, not just friends, or a loving partner, but very specifically “a man”. Young lesbians trying to come out have to face this “lack” in a way that gay men don’t.

I’m not asking for there to be no mention of men, I’m not asking for an embargo on sex surveys, and pop-psychology reports on the male psyche. All I’m asking for is not to be completely ignored and made to feel as if because I’m a lesbian I’m no longer allowed to be female [even if their definition of female is seriously damaging, I still like looking at the clothes and make-up].

All I’m asking for is not to be completely ignored and made to feel as if I’m no longer allowed to be female

I know that this issue does not affect all feminists but I would suggest that any minority group ignored in this way deserves the support of other women.

This problem is compounded by the fact that there is only one lesbian magazine which makes its way out of London, DIVA. This is great for some things but it’s not the most fulfilling read I’ve ever had and it covers lesbian life-style and nothing more. Gay men seem to have 2 or 3 main-stream choices, women have only one.

Strangely, as I’ve been searching for more reading options, I’ve ended up with magazines aimed at the 30+ age group (Eve, Red etc). Once the hormonally challenged journalists get a bit older the issue of SEX fades into the background. Articles are then focused on women being women, not on women getting men (the assumption is that they have already found one). You still have to deal with the male biased partner issue, but it tends to be less in-your-face and less prevalent.

I suggest that we should ask all women’s magazines aimed at 15-27 market to grow up a bit, to give women a chance to use their brains, and maybe even to realise that women can like women.

Ailsa is 24 and living up a hill in Scotland with her woman and their dog. In desperation she reads Eve, Country Living, and of course, Good Housekeeping.

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