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Political lesbianism is a phenomenon within feminism, primarily Second-wave feminism; it includes, but is not limited to, lesbian separatism. Political lesbianism embraces the theory that sexual orientation is a choice, and advocates lesbianism as a positive alternative to heterosexuality for women.
Beginning in the late 1960s, new wave feminism provided a platform for some women to come out of a perceived suffocating shell of heterosexual norms, traditional sexuality, marriage and family life, a life viewed by some feminists as one of hard labor with little consideration and a system that subordinates women. By coming out of dominating heterosexual relationships, women are given an opportunity to declare themselves as lesbians with shared interests. As a result, feminism provided an environment in which lesbianism was less about personal pain or anguish but an important political issue.
In a broad sense, political lesbianism entails the political identification of women with women, it encompasses a role beyond sexuality but supports eschewing forming relationships with men. It is partly based on the idea that women sharing and promoting a common interest creates a positive and needed energy which is necessary to enhance and elevate the role of women in the society, a development which will be curtailed by the institutions of heterosexuality and sexism if women choose the traditional norms. Lesbian feminists in the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group urged women to rid men "from your beds and your heads."
Though there was some discrimination against lesbians within the feminist movement, it ended up providing a needed political platform for them. In its wake, it also expanded and introduced divergent views of sexuality.
Social constructs of sexuality and criticism
Some feminist theory on sexuality evaded biological fixation and embraced social construction as the basis of sexuality. However, this idea posed further questions on the subject of sexuality and lesbianism. If sexuality could be a construction of human nature then little room is given to understanding the nature of the historical formation of human nature, especially, if the historical nature of man or woman enhanced heterosexuality. A lack of theoretical clarity of lesbianism and sexuality becomes more profound as some researchers[who?] view sexuality as much more than choice, though this view is far from proven. Also, if lesbianism becomes a social institution, the avenue for a dominant persona in the relationships may also pose challenge to the original intention of political lesbianism.
However, most lesbians and feminists disagree with political lesbianism. The feminist blog Jezebel wrote that political lesbianism "does a disservice to people who don't feel they chose their sexual orientations, and especially to people who have been fighting for equal rights partially on that basis".
- Bindel, Julie (27 March 2004). "Location, location, orientation". The Guardian.
- Bindel, Julie (30 January 2009). "My sexual revolution". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- Ramazanoglu; Routledge, Feminism and the Contradictions of Oppression, Routledge, 1989. pp84-86
- "Lesbianism: Sexual Orientation, Political Choice — Or Both?". Jezebel. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
- Allison, Ruth (1967). "Lesbian by choice". Lesbianism: Its Secrets and Practices. Los Angeles: Medco. OCLC 7965371.
- Gottschalk, Lorene. Genderations of Women Choosing to Become Lesbian: Questioning the Essentialist Link, [S.l. : s.n.], 1999 OCLC 320880086
- Jeffreys, Sheila; Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group; et al. (1981) Love Your Enemy?: The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism, London: Onlywomen Press, ISBN 0-906500-08-7
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- Robertson, Michelle (1984). The Politics of Sexual Identity: The Case of Political Lesbianism. Nathan, Qld.: Griffith University. OCLC 222860038.
- Thompson, Denise (1991). Reading Between the Lines: a Lesbian Feminist Critique of Feminist Accounts of Sexuality. Chicago: Spinifex Press. ISBN 9-781-74219457-8. OCLC 782877206.