Some People are Bisexual, get over it!
Since the RadFem furore, a whole new wave of anti-woman feminism has rolled in, supplied by Julie Bindel. Ironically, I deleted her name from my last blog post before publishing. The paragraph that starts “Dear RadFems” entirely applies to her. Julie’s latest work has elicited some excellent ripostes, but I want to add something from the perspective of an outside observer on this sorry mess.
It has often been argued that I had quite a sheltered upbringing. Whilst I dispute this, one fact in isolation would definitely point this way: when I arrived at University, I hadn’t had any openly Gay or Lesbian friends. When I met them, I was horrified.
It wasn’t the sight of same-gender couples making out in Student Union venues, or even the fact a very small number of them matched up to my hitherto learnt understanding that Gays are loud and obnoxious. When I first encountered gay people as a group, I made an effort to befriend some of them. OK, there was a certain degree of ‘ooo, exotic people, I should investigate’, but I still feel that was a marked improvement on the attitudes shared by those I met at CU, who would look uncomfortable in the SU bar if the LGBT Society were also present.
When I first heard someone in a group context tell a joke about bisexuals, I very nearly flipped. I was horrified to discover that within this community of marginalised people lay a whole new class of marginalisation: Bi-phobia. To say that someone who had made up their mind that they were interested in both men and women was indecisive was obviously thick. Its like saying that someone who drinks both wine and beer should make their mind up.
I should say that for every biphobe I met amongst Bradford Uni’s LGBT crowd, I met a dozen or more wonderful people, a few of whom I’m still friends with and many I regret losing all but Facebook contact with. I met people who fitted just about the whole spectrum of humans I’ve met elsewhere. They just happened to all be of some sexuality that I’m not.
I should also add that a lot of this was framed around a very “life-long monogamous frame”, to the extent that someone being bisexual never meant that they would want to be with both a male and a female at the same time, or even that they’d decide to dump one because they missed the other. I’ve always taken a very anti-election approach to sexuality – the only people doing something unnatural are those who’ve decided they’re going to have an opposite-sex relationship when they’re only attracted to people of the same sex and vice-versa.
Admittedly I’ve also been accused of a sort of bi-enlightenment point of view (negative in particular because I’m therefore one of the unenlightened monosexuals who is blind to the beauty of half of humanity). All I can say is that I had a lot of very important things to learn. But I should never have had to ask people to explain bi jokes, because frankly, they’re inexplicable. A society is made all the poorer whenever it treats its marginalised like dirt, no matter the marginalisation.
Later it would occur to me that maybe the term bisexual was a bit limiting, and that monogamous monosexual normativity was an oppressive deal struck between hyper-normal straights and Gays who craved respectability rather than liberation. I would come to share in rants with radical queers about how the “pink pound” had turned Gays and Lesbians into marketing categories much later.
To the extent that being bi is ever meant as a refusal to be pushed into a handy box for marketers, I think Bindel has it exactly wrong. And her brand of radical feminism sounds ever more like its looking for a female demagogue to come in and save the day, sweeping away patriarchy with the choice to be subservient to a woman instead. If Feminism is intimately tied to ‘choice’ and ‘consent’ why doesn’t this extend to choice about sexuality?
Of course, I realise that what I’m discussing is from an unusual perspective – and one far removed from those who should be allowed to define their oppression. They’re the people we should really be hearing from. But I hope there’s something useful to take away from the perspectives of a somewhat naive but generally well-meaning late-teen.