Deconstruct This!

By Alix Dobkin

From Chicago OUTLINES Oct 21, 1998

"Homophobia" and "Lesbophobia" are two terms as different from each other as men are from women. And like men and women, they are not interchangeable. "Homophobia" means fear of BEING homosexual. "Lesbophobia" means fear of LESBIANS, meaning women without men.

You see how easily women are made to disappear. A headline for an off our backs story about the 1998 National Women's Studies Conference tells the tale. "The Politics of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities," points directly to where National Women's Studies' is now focusing attention: NOT on women and most definitely NOT on that tired old dominance/subordination, power/control, sex-role thing which fired us up in the 70's and is still very much in place.

Okay, so what DOES postmodernism have to say about female sexual slavery, female class, glass ceilings? Moving right along, "Gender" is "fluid" and "Boundary police" are "authoritarian", noted a NWSA Conference speaker who also declared that, "...the demand of clear boundaries hurts rather than helps us...". But no matter how the tides of gender flow and the sands of gender shift, you can be sure that men will rule this beach.

Yes I know that life is uncertain and that there are no guarantees. I've studied Marxist "Dialectics" which says that "change" is the only constant. I was raised on it and understand change. But since when did "identity", "labels" and "boundaries" suddenly become suspect? When Lesbians got them, that's when. For no sooner did we discover and begin to celebrate our female selves than we were charged with "Identity Politics" and banished to the blur of ambiguity where everyone is "socially constructed", "fluid", "performing", "acting out gender codes" and no one, particularly Lesbians, can really know who they are. Smoke and mirror games are perpetrated by those who mean to be in control when the smoke clears, and contrary to the current Party line, I love the "identity" and "boundaries" upon which my politics depend for location and direction.

"The personal is political" is about acting responsibly and being held accountable. Feminism is the most ethical, coherent, comprehensive, practical, spiritual and fun politics I've ever come across, and I've come across plenty, believe me! Feminism is smart and very dangerous, which is what men like to think about themselves.

Women's Studies fought hard to be recognized, and even then has received less support and must fight harder for funding than other University programs concerned with more "important" (read, "male") disciplines. Nevertheless Women's Studies had become far more successful than men liked and therefore far less bearable. Feminism sailed over men's heads and out of their ballpark, leaving them stunned in the dust of their antiquated thinking. "Hey", they cried, "those chicks are getting all the attention and we're getting left out!" "How", they wondered, "can we make what is BEYOND US, ABOUT US?" And faster than you can say "postmodern social constructionism" they went to France and came back with "Gender/Queer" theory to replace "Women's Studies", like "replacement worker" was replacing "scab", "pre-owned" was replacing "used", and "ethnic cleansing" was replacing "genocide".

After twenty centuries of men-only focusing only on men, they now were forced to face women, to whom they then said, "Okay, enough about us. What do YOU think about us?" Some women felt that life was too short and they couldn't be bothered.

Some women believed that men could use "Gender" and "Queer" to change their bad behavior, so they made an effort to help. And some women saw how they could use "Gender" and "Queer" to make careers and they helped themselves. Enter Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, Judith Butler and swarms of tenure-track restorationists who, capitalizing upon men's terror, hastened to the rescue, putting the grateful men at ease, and the brains of a generation to sleep.

To the point where nowadays radical feminists do battle to keep "women" in the curriculum and themselves on the faculty. Meanwhile young would-be feminists battle to stay awake through soporific buzzwords of obscure, intimidating jargon, like "boundary police", "authoritarian"and "identity politics".

We've all heard about the "generation gap" in Lesbian Community, and how "young women these days just don't 'get' feminism." But I'm here to tell you that I have spoken with and heard from a whole bunch of Dykes in their teens and twenties who are plenty hip and plenty mad at patriarchal backlash, bullshit and colluding anti-feminists who have robbed them of their history and heritage. To those collaborators we say, for shame!