by Mary Warren Bartlett
I am going to attempt here to spread some awareness about - you guessed it - lesbianism. In my dorm, Prospect Hall, the range of awareness on this issue is tremendous. There are some students, of all classes, who have come to me or written responses to Women Against Heterosexism that were supportive, encouraging, and ashamed of the intolerance of their peers. Some other students have remained anonymous, but lashed out in ignorance, an almost laughable testimony to their immaturity. Most students, however, fall between these two opinions; usually they are silent.
In Prospect on or around April 5 I put up some of my own pink triangles with definitions of heterosexism, homophobia and W.A.H.. I placed slips of paper in each person's box for responses to W.A.H., and I labelled an empty box for them. All of my pink triangles were shredded within days. The first communication began with a paper that read, "Homophobic and proud of it!" Logically this is a very interesting claim, as I've never known anyone to be proud of fear. Another paper told of a woman's embarrassment at the display. She felt that her family and friends should not be "subjected" to my "beliefs." They were not beliefs; they were definitions. The beliefs of a heterosexual culture, she may not notice, have been monopolizing every magazine, billboard, poster, movie and newspaper since I was born, and they still are. This woman also claimed that because she did not "run around the campus ... celebrating her sexuality," neither should I.
First of all, it may well be that she does not celebrate her sexuality, whatever it is (I refuse to assume). Any time, however, that she or anyone thinks that heterosexuality is not celebrated, they may pick up an issue of Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour, or Sports Illustrated, to name a few, and see how much of that magazine is left after removing each heterosexual advertisement, bridal boutique ad, "you and your man" quiz, ad infinitum.
Secondly, I would like to point out that I was not celebrating my sexuality at any time in this "campaign." I believe the one time we celebrated anything on those pink triangles was when they said WE WILL SURVIVE which meant my life, your life, our lives and our children's lives. This leads me to the final issue brought to light in my dorm's response to W.A.H.: reproduction.
The third of the responses read, "Homosexuality leads to extinction." Yes, I had to read it twice too before I laughed so hard the tears welled in my eyes. I wondered, "Oh, is that what happened to the dinosaurs?" Unfortunately, a person with this level of ignorance has supporters and power. If this person could have come to me and said, "You know, I don't understand. Can we talk about this?" I would have been more than happy (relieved) to have some adult, sincere, honest and responsible communication.
I will try to say a few things I feel about this issue of extinction, but first hear the rest of this same line of thought. On one "We will survive" triangle, someone wrote, "But we'll survive longer because we reproduce." Here I will assume the person meant that heterosexuals will survive longer because they reproduce. I know plenty of homosexuals who have had or plan to have children. I know plenty of heterosexuals who have not or do not plan to have children. Having been told that artificial insemination (for lesbians) is "unnatural," or that "God didn't intend it," I have said, God didn't put us on earth with Norelco razors in our hands, either. We all do things to cope with the world in our own ways.
The main point I want to stress to the small homophobic population here is that homosexuals and bisexuals have been around for a very long time. (Socrates, 5th century B.C.E.; Sappho, 7th century B.C.E.; Michelangelo, 16th century C.E.; Leonardo da Vinci, 15th century; Miss Marks and Mary Woolley, our foremothers, et al.) And we're all still here, aren't we? I came from heterosexual parents, a heterosexual upbringing, a heterosexual culture. And I survived, didn't I? Funny how that happens. Heterosexual parents have produced homosexual children and vice-versa.
I don't know what else to say to ignorance and loathing. I will give answers, when asked, to the best of my knowledge. I can only represent myself, not all of Lesbianism. To the person who, on a "We will survive" triangle, wrote, "Without sperm?" I have no comment. Let her bizarre and extreme stupidity speak for itself. She can tear down all the "Have a nice day" triangles that her heart desires. We WILL HAVE A NICE DAY, (with or without sperm!)
(It occurs to me that the usage of "C.E." and "B.C.E." as opposed to A.D. and B.C. are not too common. The former terms are alternatives to the latter exclusively Christian terms, and they mean "Common Era" and "Before the Common Era" respectively.)
To the Editor:
I would like to respond to the article, "Thinking the Unthinkable" by first asking, what was the point of the article? Since I don't know, I will try to respond to parts of the article. I would like to state that racism and heterosexism are more important problems than apathy, as these forms of oppression help to contribute to an apathetic state. How? Ms. Halbrecht is the International Relations major, but I will try to teach her what she should have already learned.
How can she, as a white, heterosexual woman, with an obviously closed mind, begin to tell me or anyone else about racism and heterosexism? If racism and heterosexism can be dealt with, as she says, then this means we live in a perfect society in which everyone is equal and has the motivation to act. This is not true. Why? Read further into this lesson. These forms of oppression WHICH HAVE NOT BEEN EFFECTIVELY DEALT WITH over many years of strife can cause burnout among people who must dealwith this reality everyday. Maybe I don't have to sit in the back of a bus or maybe I am able to attend Mount Holyoke, but that doesn't mean racism has been dealt with and doesn't exist. When this REALITY isdealt with day after day, apathy sets in because of the reluctance of people to deal with these problems. Ms. Halbrecht, please allow me to ask you a few questions.
When the racial incidents on the campuses of Mount Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts happened last semester, WHERE WERE YOU, when my friends and I were putting our reputation on the line, working on this issue? You weren't working with us! How have you helped the heterosexism problem on this campus? I haven't heard your name (not in the help department). You speak of apathy on this campus which I agree is a problem. This leads me to my next question. WHERE WERE YOU when I addressed the apathy problem to the Trustees of Mount Holyoke College with President Kennan by my side? May I also add that President Kennan is very concerned about this issue and would like to work toward a solution but she, the few students who care, and I can't do it all. May I also mention that you weren't at the faculty meeting protesting racism and sexism. Let me tell you that it was far from 65 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Since you weren't there you wouldn't know.
In terms of calling us "wimpy girls," this is one woman who is far from it; I would go as far as to say that Ms. Halbrecht is a "wimpy girl" because I haven't seen or heard anything about her dealing with these problems. I haven't seen her organize any vigils for any causes. I allow everyone to express her point of view. I may not agree with this person and will force her to back up what she has stated, but since Ms. Halbrecht is an International Relations major, then she should be able to DEAL with this intelligently.
To the Editor:
For the past few months I have been trying very hard to understand and sympathize with the makers of the pink triangles that are all over campus. I try to smile when I see the ones that say "Have a nice day." I try to sympathize with the ones that say "W.A.H.: Lesbians and Straight Women Against Heterosexism." Still, I can't help it; everytime I pass a triangle that reads, "We're still here," I think of Poltergeist. This is not to make light of the message it portrays, merely I am pointing out the negative nature of some of the most well intended concepts.
Underlying this Poltergeist association is really a building resentment of some of the attitudes I have noticed beginning to permeate this campus. I think I noticed it first at the beginning of the year when a freshman in my dorm came in from her English class nearly in tears. Her English professor had asked whether anyone in the class wanted to be married and have children. Only two people in the class were brave enough to raise their hands and this freshman was one of them. Her professor proceeded to tell these two girls that she pitied anyone who was married, because she had been once and she knew how horrible it was. I promised this freshman that such extreme attitudes were very rare on this campus, but I am no longer so sure.
I used to think that feminism meant freedom of choice - freedom for a woman to do whatever she wanted without discrimination because she was a woman. I did not think feminism meant having to have only a career, having to hate men, or having to think in any particular political manner. I also did not think [it meant] being ignorant. I am tired of professors apologizing for sexist language in texts dating from 1450. Aren't we intelligent enough to understand that in 1450 feminism didn't exist. Furthermore, I am tired of professors apologizing because their course doesn't study women - unfortunately women studies is not relevant in all courses.
I suppose a lot of this repressed anger finally came to a head this past Saturday when I marched at the April 25th Mobilization for Peace and Justice in Central America and South Africa. I marched because I believe that the U.S. has no business in Central America or in supporting apartheid. I would have been proud to carry a sign showing that Mount Holyoke College students care about global issues. I was not proud, though. I could not possibly be proud of signs that read, "MHC Dykes Against Apartheid" or "Arrogant Bitches Against Imperialism." I am not a dyke or an arrogant bitch and most certainly did not want to associate myself with people who would term themselves such. What disappointed me further was that the people who made these signs thought these signs were great. If a heterosexual had called one of these women a dyke it would have been a major campus scandal. I was offended for these women since they obviously were not for themselves. What sort of a message do they think people receive?
Please do not misunderstand me. I fully support lesbians. I do not support people who would make such signs, however. As a Jew, I am very against anti-Semitism. I still would not support Jews who made signs to carry that read, "MHC Kykes Against Apartheid." I hope the distinction is clear.
So maybe it's not really that one slogan reminds me so much of Poltergeist. Maybe I'm just tired of having someone else's version of feminism shoved down my throat. Frankly, I believe in humanism: to quote someone whose simplicity I used to mistake for simplification, "People are people." Why can't we leave it at that!
Deborah Weinstein '89