There’s a myth within the mainstream heterosexual world, that somehow lesbians are tougher than other women, that as women free from men lesbians won’t be victims of sexual violence. This is, of course, a lie. A new website, Lesbian Me Too has been launched to redress this cultural blind-spot. It provides a platform for lesbians who have hitherto been pushed to the margins of the #MeToo movement, as Jo Bartosch reports. Lesbian Me Too is the work of the group Get the L Out, a collective of lesbian feminist campaigners. Angela Wild, one of the group’s spokeswomen, tells me:
“The #LesbianMeToo project is a continuation of our previous work condemning the sexual violence done to lesbians in LGBT circles and the cotton ceiling. But it goes further than that to include all instances of sexual violence against lesbians from harassment to corrective rape.”
Harassment of lesbians does not just come from straight men, an emerging theme on the site is the entitlement some gay men seem to have toward women’s bodies.
Far from being a proud declaration of women’s attraction to women, it seems today ‘lesbian’ has been reduced to a pornographic search term. Indeed, over the past five years for each Google search for ‘lesbian pride’ there have been 213 for ‘lesbian porn.’ To too many men, the simple existence of women who love and live without men is an affront, and this marks lesbians out as targets for abuse. This is a clear thread throughout testimonies on the site, summed up by one contributor to Lesbian Me Too who reflects “my sexuality was treated as something to conquer.”
There aren’t enough spaces where violence against lesbians can be openly discussed. But FiLiA – Britain’s biggest feminist conference – is one of them. The Violence Against Lesbians panel took place in the Bradford Hotel on Saturday 19th October. Over a hundred women attended the session. Consuelo Rivera-Fuentes, Susan Hawthorne, Hilary McCollum, and Angela Wild made up the panel, chaired ably by Sally Jackson.
The purpose of FiLiA, as Sally opens by reminding us, is to amplify women’s voices. In particular, to amplify the voices of women who are seldom heard and often silenced. Lesbians’ voices aren’t always listened to – in mainstream society, feminist spaces, or even the LGBT community. And so, if the numbers are anything to go by, a lot of women feel a sense of relief that lesbians are a priority at FiLiA.