Everyday Sexism Is Rife; Lesbians Get It From All Angles
Stonewall's Sophie on society's reaction to butch-femme relationships.
There’s no better example of the toxic notion that a woman’s worth is directly related to her attractiveness than society’s reaction to a butch and a femme woman in love with each other. The femme is deemed a “waste” to mankind, and the butch deemed unworthy of such beauty, all because she doesn’t conform to society’s idea of how a woman should look and behave.
Butch women are often assumed to be humourless grumps. This was highlighted to me most recently by a friend who told me that total strangers at University found her humour and warmth a surprise just because they had heard on the grapevine she was a lesbian. Feminine women attracted to butch women are sometimes asked the baffling question, “If you’re dating a woman who looks like a bloke, why not just date a bloke?” (Hint: it’s because butch women are not, in fact, blokes.)
In the workplace this sense of worth-in-beauty and society’s obsession with dress codes down strict gender lines is particularly frustrating. Women of all shapes and sizes will know the hell of trying to find a smart suit that fits our bodies, and women who don’t wear dresses might be familiar with the indignant reaction some people have when they realise we won’t be showing off our shapely legs any time soon. And considering only 19% of senior management positions in the UK are occupied by women right now, and the number of businesses with no women in senior management at all rose to a staggering 41% this year, it’s likely that young women in particular aren’t seeing themselves reflected in the people who manage them.
So this International Women’s Day I am celebrating all women I know, including myself, and reflecting on how nurturing an environment like Stonewall’s is. There’s no glass ceiling here; Ruth smashed that to bits years ago. The top echelons of our organisation are filled with brilliant women, many of them butch, and I have never felt more comfortable in myself than I do here. They are kind women who demonstrate every day that you can be masculine without being toxic; that you can be steadfast and vulnerable, strong and gentle, hard and soft, all at the same time.