Have you noticed that the vast majority of lesbian characters in mainstream entertainment are femme? Seriously, just look:
Now, I’m all for increasing femme visibility, in fact it’s one of the goals of this site, but honestly, where is the diversity in gender presentation? Personally, I think it has a lot to do with femme being the “acceptable” lesbian in the hetero world, as I discussed last week. Is it too much to ask that lesbian characters be portrayed in such a way that reflects the multiplicity of identities and representations that make up the LGBT community?
And if you’re going to make all the lesbian characters femme, at least make us look good! Unfortunately, not only are the lesbians on television and in the movies almost exclusively femme, many in the course of their character development end up sleeping with men. This only serves to perpetuate the stereotype that femme lesbians “just haven’t met the right man yet,” or that they are actually bisexual. As I have said before, I have nothing against bisexuality; the problem here is in characters who self-identify as lesbian having relationships and/or sex with men. Repeated exposure to this kind of story arc continues to undermine lesbian, and particularly femme lesbian, identity.
Having lesbian characters sleep with men is such an obvious way of pandering to the male and/or heterosexual audience. And that’s frustrating. Plus, bisexual characters are not safe from these kinds of story lines either. While it makes sense that a bisexual woman may be attracted to a man, too often female bisexual characters are presented in relationships with women, only to cheat on or leave their female partners for men. This type of representation furthers the myth of the sex-addicted, untrustworthy bisexual woman, as well as the idea that bisexual women are only “experimenting” when with other women, but are straight at heart.
Here are just a few of Hollywood’s lesbian characters who sleep with men, as well as bisexual characters who do so while in a relationship with a woman:
There’s also been talk of Santana (Glee) “running to the arms of a dude” in the coming episodes, so we may just have one more lesbian to add to the list.
You guys. They’re all femme. ALL OF THEM. What is this kind of representation doing to popular conceptions of feminine LGBT women?
And the sad thing is, there are so many more interesting stories to tell – ones that haven’t been done yet in mainstream television and movies.
So writers, I challenge you to exercise your creative minds and build lesbian story lines that don’t fall back on the old “lesbian sleeps with a man” trick. It’s not cute, funny, or edgy. It’s insulting, it’s boring, and it’s been done.
Dear reader, does this make you as angry as me? How do you feel about lesbian representation in Hollywood? Why do you think all the LGBT women on TV are femme, and why do so many of their stories have them sleeping with men? Enlighten me in the comments!