the current approach in queer discourse of considering masculinity and femininity as inherently in opposition is blatantly anti-butch and fem – and nothing new.
masculine privilege is not a recent concept. it has been entrenched in radical feminist ideology since the 1970s and it was one of the rhetorical weapons used at the time to destroy our culture and community. butch and fem identities – butch and fem people – were mercilessly and directly attacked by the new movement of lesbian feminism who projected their perceptions onto us, without taking the time to listen and understand our realities. they equated any kind of masculine expression in butches as an attempt to separate themselves from womanhood and leverage power and dominance over other women. fems were no less harshly criticised for being complicit in our own oppression at the hands of butches.
the butch and fem community has always been highly sexualised and, combined with the gendered dynamics of our relationships, was therefore an ideal target when anti-sex feminism began to gain momentum.
the subsequent sex wars of the 70s and 80s were literally devastating to butches and fems and involved direct, ruthless attacks on our very personhood as lesbians. a consequence was that many of our elders simply retreated from the broader community and continued to live their private lives.
and a further, terrible impact of that is the generation chasm between older butches and fems, and younger – who struggle to find connection to our culture at all, especially within a community that largely views our identities as outdated and regressive. the bond between our generations is vital to the continued thriving of our traditions. many young butches and fems feel isolated and frustrated, desperate for commonality, connection and knowledge, at odds with the general lesbian community in which they do not feel a sense of belonging. this is profoundly painful.
and all that started with the concept that lesbian women could have “masculine privilege”.
so it is ironic to me that the ultra left-wing politics of contemporary queer theory – which violently rejects radical feminism on principle – would simply regurgitate such oppressive and logically fallacious rhetoric. it underscores why we need to know our history, so that we can avoid making the same mistakes – the impact of which will ripple through generations to come.
distinct in contemporary framing of the concept of masculine privilege is the presentation of it as a new consideration that will push the discourse further in radically progressive ways. it is not. it will not. it is only perpetuation of a toxic myth that was used in a systematic effort to erase our community, our culture and our very identities as lesbian women.