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What about lesbians?

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One common form of casual sexism is a reference to "your girlfriend" or "your wife" that the reader is supposed to identify with. In spaces that aren't specifically queer, such references almost always reflect an assumption on the speaker's or writer's part that all readers or listeners are heterosexual men, like himself.

When such references are criticized, a disingenuous reply is to accuse the critic of being heteronormative: "what about lesbians?" The intent is to suggest that the speaker means to appeal to an audience of women interested in women, who might have a girlfriend or wife. This reply is disingenuous when used by someone who never cares about using language that is inclusive of all sexual orientations except when feigning such concern is useful in derailing accusations of sexism.

A similar argument can be used to justify the use of sexually explicit images of women in a professional context: they might not be meant to titillate heterosexual men, the argument goes, but also women who find women attractive. Such an argument is usually used to defend media originating from heterosexual male culture, which cater to specifically (mainstream, vanilla) heterosexual male interests.

Even if the creators of those arguments and imageries really originally cared about lesbians, this does not justify the inherent disturbing assumptions that lie in presenting girlfriends as a stereotypical example of non-tech-savvy people, as well as singling out those among the target audience who are attracted to men. Sexualized imagery is even worse in this respect, as the lesbians that are supposedly being cared about can take this personally, seeing themselves as being objectified.

Examples Edit

  • Garrett Wollman accused the submitter of a FreeBSD bug concerning a sexist man page of being heteronormative for assuming that a reference to "your girlfriend" was intended to center the perspective of a heterosexual man.

See also Edit

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