Girl Power and Homosexuality

Recently I realized that our class discussions of Girl Power were nearly devoid of any talk of homosexuality.  While we watched a few movies with lesbian characters or sexual activity between women and a handful of blog posts touched upon lesbianism or sexual orientation, there was very little discussion of how homosexuality (specifically non-heterosexual female sexuality) functions in the context of Girl Power, and vice versa. I think this is both an interesting and extremely important question to address. I also wonder what it means that we did not explicitly address this topic.

My first thoughts are that Girl Power seems to be fairly heteronormative. Much of our discussion has focused on women in relation to men. We’ve also focused a lot on straight female sexuality and what it means about women’s empowerment in the context of patriarchy, the male gaze, etc. However, the fact that Girl Power seems heteronormative makes me think we need to interrogate Girl Power through the lens of sexual orientation even more.

I find myself wondering: why is Girl Power heteronormative? Is it inherently heteronormative? If so, what does this mean for the movement and for society in general? If not, why does it currently seem that way? What does Girl Power mean/do for lesbian characters and people? Why didn’t we ask the previous question when discussing the film Bound or in other instances where it was relevant? Is Girl Power different for straight and gay women?

Lastly, I ask for your input. Was anyone else bothered by this hole in our discussions? Why do you think homosexuality came up so infrequently? Does anyone have any answers to the questions I posed above?

3 thoughts on “Girl Power and Homosexuality

  1. These are interesting questions, especially when we think about what it means for women to have power. Oftentimes when we talked about girl power, it was about “awesome, kick-ass, weapon-wielding women” (or at least, at lot of the “powerful women” we saw in the movies could be described as this). What I think is interesting is that people who are anti-feminist think about feminism, they’re usually against women are going to take power away from men, or that they’re all lesbians, etc. I think girl power has the potential to be misconstrued as something for lesbians or women who are supposedly against men. I guess it’s problematic to build off these stereotypes, but I did find it kind of odd that we didn’t have more content with lesbian characters.

    And to try to answer some of your questions: maybe it’s because lesbian women are seen as marginalized/disempowered so they wouldn’t fit in this notion of girl power? Like a lot of the women in the movies we saw (Tomb Raider, Kill Bill, Terminator, Alias) were straight, white women. Much like feminism, maybe there needs to be other strands of girl power? I think when we talked about feminism in class we talked about why it’s sometimes a white “thing?” Maybe the same reasons for that are the same reasons girl power doesn’t have “space” for different groups of women?

    Just a few things to think about. Thanks for posting!

  2. Mariah – thanks so much for posting this, it’s certainly got me thinking about this. One of my first thoughts was to consider the time period in which the majority of the texts we studied were released – mainly in the 1990s, in which the majority of ‘mainstream’ depictions of girl power actually didn’t seem to consider sexuality at all – the romantic plot in Tomb Raider, for example, seems tacked on – to the extent that many characters considered representative of girl power seem strangely desexualized in this manner – even the lack of the lesbian subtext in The Color Purple, which is in the novel but not the film. Is this because of the period in which these texts were produced and released within? Remember, the 1990s was the era of DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – representations of and by the LGBTQ community have dramatically transformed in this period, whilst the political climate has warmed. Most of the texts we considered as well were fairly successful mainstream texts, so although representations and depictions did indeed exist, they weren’t subject to the same amount of mainstream attention and acclaim. However, I don’t think this is the whole answer, but is an important part of the larger question you posed.

    I can’t remember talking about the texts that address non-normative sexuality in class – Bound for instance (which we didn’t talk about in class at all due to the mix-up of the videos), or even Buffy in this context. I was also bothered that during discussions of the gaze that other gazes weren’t considered – not only the non heteronormative gaze, but also the gaze of women, such as female spectatorship and how that changes representation on screen. Perhaps this was due to time constraints as well as missing a few of our lessons – however, I think you are correct to point to this as a bit of a glaring gap in our discussions.

  3. Pingback: What I Learned from Girl Power and Why I Still Love the Cheetah Girls | Girlpower

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