The following guest commentary was written by Valerie Barr, Allison Bayer, and Deborah Porto.
Definition of a lesbian:
A) a woman who rejects patriarchal definitions for herself and her actions
B) a woman committed to women: intellectually socially, emotionally, psychologically, politically
C) a woman who loves another woman
We all lives in a patriarchal society. Every aspect of our lives is defined, judged and pre-conceived for us according to standards which support/uphold a culture which is dominated and controlled by men. This, we find our own lives organized in relation to the men around us -- father, brother, boyfriend, husband, etc. This (kind of organization) prevents women from relating to one another except through the men we are associated with; our worth as individual women becomes insignificant.
By rejecting patriarchal standards, a woman gains the freedom of self determination, but she also puts herself in an insecure position. Societal sanctions for her behavior are withdrawn, and in fact she find herself in opposition to what she has been taught. Furthermore, she has no models to work from and no support for her actions.
Therefore, women in this position must create (their own) alternatives for action and sources of support. Due to the all-inclusive nature of patriarchy, the restructuring of women's lives can not be limited to a specific area, such as job opportunities, but must attend to all aspects of their lives. This can only be accomplished by establishing a commitment to other women, and collectively attempting to define goals and values which stem from the realization of the significance of women, and of women to one another.
This commitment can take a variety of forms. Initially an openness to the ideas and opinions of other women can provide the basis for various levels of discussion. In talking with one another, women develop a respect for their intellectual capacities, and gain an understanding of their common needs and goals. From this mutual respect follows the enjoyment of women's company and a desire to spend time together socially. This social interaction with women causes them to develop emotional ties with one another.
Psychological commitment among women is growing in importance. It provides support and a comfortable atmosphere for lesbians and for women who are victims of direct abuses by patriarchal society: battered wives, rape victims, victims of forced sterilization and ill-performed abortions.
The result of discussion and interaction at all levels with women, and awareness of the strength and abusiveness of patriarchy, is an analysis of the extensiveness of male dominated culture. From this evolves a political commitment to women, a realization that all aspects of a woman's life are of a political nature -- from the control of her body to the type of lifestyle she chooses. The reaction of anger is challenging into the ways of changing and challenging society.
The valuable of all parts of women's lives includes caring for another individual woman -- emotionally, intellectually, and sexually. Loving another woman is the expression of regard and importance that one has attached to women in general and a more total rejection of patriarchal standard. It requires the rejection of years of socialization and implies no longer directing oneself towards, or being defined by, men. Rather it is centering all of one's concerns and activities around women, their problems and pleasures, and recognizing that one's physical/sexual pleasure will come from another woman. It means that women fall in love with one another, make love together, achieve orgasm.
Lesbianism is the total rejection of patriarchy and male definitions. It is the recognition of the validity of women in all spheres of life. It says that loving another woman is good, healthy, exciting, fulfilling. Many women are lesbians. Many women at Mount Holyoke are lesbians.
You may share your P.O. box with a lesbian, because lesbians have P.O. boxes. And lesbians skip classes sometimes, and get behind in their work. Lesbians get good grade and bad grades. Lesbians like to dance and have parties. Lesbians ride the Five-College bus, and eat pizza, and go to Wilbur and Willits and the C.I. And lesbian read Choragos. So don't look now but, the woman next to you reading Choragos may be a lesbian.