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Solidarity Opinions

Why you are probably biphobic.

I have known that I am bisexual since I was 13. The first time I admitted it I was on MSN (yes, I am that old) when a friend from summer camp messaged me. He asked what my sexual orientation was, and when I said ‘Bi’ he replied: “me too!!”. Ever since then I have negotiated the visibility of my sexuality in different moments and spaces. As too queer for heterosexuals, and too straight for queers, I have come to occupy a space of frequent silence and invisibility.

Biphobia is expressed in society in multiple ways. Structurally, the idea of bisexuality interrupts binary gender dichotomies by finding attraction to two or more genders. Here, bisexuals become a societal liability as society cannot rely on us accepting compulsory heterosexuality or institutions such as the nuclear family. But it can also not dismiss us completely as we might exist in a male-female monogamous partnership at some point. The liability of bisexual temporal navigation of straight and queer spaces is threatening to the foundations of society because we are ‘unreliable’. This unreliability is why the need for us to ‘pick a gender’ is instrumental to methods of biphobia.

When existing in straight spaces, bisexuality is hypersexualised and delegitimised. The hypersexualisation of bisexuals is evident from assumptions of promiscuity and non-monogamy being essential to the bisexual identity. For example, I am frequently asked to have threesomes by straight couples on dating apps, exes have said it’s ‘hot’ that I am bisexual, and when I joined an LGBTQ group at my university, a friend said “Is your boyfriend okay with that? I would be uncomfortable if my girlfriend joined that kind of group – She would have so many options”. All three of these examples point to assumptions of my binary-free sexuality being an indicator of a high libido and a lack of boundaries. The sexualisation of bisexuality is also closely connected to its delegitimisation. Take for instance straight girls kissing for fun on nights out. Here, not only are bisexual actions erased under a label of ‘fun’, but, intentionally or not, girls kissing on a night out often becomes a spectacle of deviance to get off from. Straight people get to appropriate my Bi identity by labelling it ‘fun’ or ‘experimenting’, without recognising it as queer.

Interestingly, despite being a queer identity, bisexuals aren’t free from biphobia in queer spaces either. When a bisexual person has a relationship which is ‘straight-passing’, we are said to receive certain privileges that other sexualities do not, which assumes that the gender of partnerships is an indicator of sexuality. Subsequently, whilst we can experience less scrutiny from heterosexism because we appear straight, we are still denied our real identities as Bi and thus aren’t free from the oppression of heterosexism. Additionally, because of the sexualisation and appropriation of bisexuality in straight spaces, many queers choose not to date bisexuals because they think we might be ‘experimenting’, that we are more likely to cheat because we “have more options”, or that long-term, we will prefer ‘straight-passing’ relationships and thus, aren’t really that queer. Finally, as if the aforementioned wasn’t enough, bisexuals are repeatedly represented as either saying we are bisexual as a stepping stone to admit that we are lesbian/gay, or as straight people wanting to be ‘special’.

This lack of belonging in both straight and queer spaces leaves bisexuals alienated and in occupation of a queered queer position. For me, one moment comes to mind when I think about how I am situated in this position. I was sat at a pub with my closest friends and we were discussing my dating life – I had just started ‘talking’ to a guy. When I mentioned this, a friend said “I just really want you to be with a girl!”. In this moment, not only did I feel like ‘talking’ to a guy had made me less queer, but my lack of experience with women was used to point out that I have not engaged with queerness enough. I was reminded that I am queer, not straight, and simultaneously told to be more queer just because I was ‘talking’ to a man.

Whilst there is a growing number of Bi-allies, there is often little to no support for bisexuals. Did you know that compared to heterosexual women, bisexual women are 5 times more likely to experience abuse by a partner? That 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical assault or stalking? Or that 48% of bisexual women who have been raped were raped between the ages of 11-17?. I could go on. Despite the violence against Bi folk, we have few places to turn to find help.

I cannot give you a perfect solution to how to stop the violence against Bi folk, but if you want to help you can stop taking our space and stop denying us space. Consider what I have said and really contemplate how you have been and are currently contributing to the violence against bisexuals. In order to change the society in which we live, we have to reflect on how we are contributing to harm, and we must recognise that we do not live outside a sphere of violence. In particular, the queer community must reconsider their treatment of their bisexual members and remember that none of us are safe until we ALL are, and straight folk need to contemplate the occurance and existence of real queerness in straight spaces.

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Solidarity Opinions

Feminism & Hating Men.

“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex”

Valerie Solanas in SCUM Manifesto (1967:37)

I believe nearly all feminists, no matter what kind, have been called man-haters at some point. The depiction of feminism and feminists as anti-man is familiar, old, and of course completely inaccurate. I can remember how, as a girl, I was terrified of the label ‘feminism’ because of this depiction of feminists. No matter how much I believed that I was just as good as the boys (if not better), I could never say that I was a feminist. Because if I said I was a feminist I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I would be seen as irrational and emotional, which is laughable as women are assumed to be just that regardless of their political labels.

You can find this idea of feminism as ‘anti-man’ throughout history, but recently feminist popular culture has ‘reclaimed’ the stereotype in a satirical way. Mugs with ‘Male Tears’ slogans, T-shirts with ‘Boy Bye’, or #KillAllMen hashtags. The list goes on. I spent months researching this feminist claim to hating men this summer, and I have to admit that I do not blame anyone for expressing themselves this way. Not only is it a funny outlet sometimes, but it also points out how ridiculous it is to paint feminism as man-hating when it advocates for equality, not revenge. In fact, I think it often perfectly highlights the injustice that is misogyny.

The idea that hating men would in any way be similar to hating women is ridiculous, and those who use the feminist man-hating joke as a serious statement have either missed the point we are making entirely or are consciously using it against us. For example, the fancy word for man-hating: ‘misandry’, was first found online in the ‘manosphere’, i.e. the Men’s Rights Movement and similar groups’ online spaces. It was used to create a counterpart to misogyny and legitimise the concerns of the Men’s Rights Movement and subsequently, plant ideas of structural misandry often aiming to undermine the claims of feminist movements.

I believe that it is well known that misogyny is far greater and far more deadly than man-hating. For instance, this is particularly obvious with examples such as the countering of #KillAllMen with #RapeAllWomen. The counter-hashtag clearly shows that the anti-feminists know that something like rape is so widespread and so harmful that the threat of rape can silence feminists. It indicates that one element of misogyny is believed to be able to stop feminists. It indicates that they are aware that misogyny kills whilst man-hating does not. 

However, this is the point where I come to explain the problems with us using man-hating by considering the idea of intersectionality i.e. how different forms of oppression can intersect and create a particular experience of oppression. For example, Black lesbians have a different experience of misogyny than that of white women because of the intersectional experience of oppression through stratifications such as sexism, heterosexism, and racism. Even though feminism has a history of working against generalisations and appreciating the diversity of experience, when we say that we hate men, even as a joke, who are we including in ‘men’? Are we including men who experience racism, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, or classism? If we are, we ought to ask ourselves if ignoring structures of oppression that aren’t gender will help achieve equality at all. If we aren’t, perhaps we recognise that just like how we experience complex oppression, men do too. So the question is whether if we showing recognition of complex oppression affecting men? If we are, I think we ought to consider if we want to add to the violence they experience daily by buying into man-hating.

One tangible example of how satirical man-hating can be problematised through intersectional analysis is this TikTok clip. In the clip, a woman is showing how she has decorated her living room. Before entering the room the viewer can see a crunched over white man in a cage. Following this visual, the clip changes to a white English speaking man saying: “Finally the time is upon us. Men in cages. I thought it wouldn’t be in my lifetime. 2021! I tell ya”, whilst wiping away tears of joy. Now, I am sure the intention behind this clip is provocative humour, but the development of the joke, as well as the narrative by the man, highlights the privilege required to make man-hating jokes. Imagine for a moment that the man in the cage was Black. If this were the case, surely we would react with instant distaste due to the history of enslavement of Black bodies. If this were the case, placing a Black man in a cage would reproduce violence and contribute to narratives of Black bodies as less than human. If this were the case, we wouldn’t be wiping away tears of joy.

Overall, the question of privilege and man-hating is a complex one as identity and experience work together in infinite and intricate ways. Sometimes man-hating is satirical and a means of resisting a gendered society who favours men and masculinity. In no way do I intend to police how people navigate resistance within the capitalist, sexist, heterosexist, racist, ableist, xenophobic, nationalist, ageist, and imperialist society we find ourselves in. However, as with the case with the man in the cage, by considering intersectional implications of our resistance we can limit our contributions to the violence we are often blind to. By considering the man in the cage, I want to emphasise that intersectionality ought to be at the forefront of feminism, and we must include men in feminist analysis.

Here, I am not saying that those of us who say that we hate men intend to contribute to hatred, and I am not saying that you aren’t entitled to be angry with men (I know I am frequently). However, I want us to pay attention to the harm we may be causing. Because no matter how many times I explain myself, saying “I hate men” risks contributing to the same hatred which depicts Black men as animals or working-class men as uncivilised. Understanding how oppression works intersectionally, I don’t want to do work which harms those who understand the pains of oppression. Simultaneously, recognising my privileges as a white European middle-class woman, I do not want to tell feminists how to be good feminists.

Reflecting on the history of the representation of feminism as man-hating, I think that history is best understood as part of the present as it has shaped our reality and made it what it is now. We must understand and recognise that we are not separate from the past, but are rather in conversation with it. Therefore, considering the future, I want to believe that as feminists, we take steps towards equality with intersectionality our ethics at the forefront of our minds. Ignoring the harms of misogyny has created, and ignoring how our man-hating satire is used against us and allies will only hinder us from growing. By learning from our history, our present, and our values, we can create a future where we stand above the methods of harm. A future where we refuse to operate within the same parameters as misogynists. A future which is considerate and thoughtful and not in need of anti-man satire. 

Let’s move beyond satirical man-hating and towards unapologetic but thoughtful feminism as we can only win the fight for equality by doing better than those we are fighting.

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Solidarity Opinions

Bad bitches, fuck boys, and dating after COVID-19

“No one really says, ‘I want to cuddle with you’ or ‘I want to spend time with you’ …Everything is…just about sex, everyone is supposed to be hypersexual and that’s the expectation.”

‘Chis’ in “Gen Z dating culture defined by sexual flexibility and complex struggles for intimacy” by Treena Orchard

Being an old Gen Z, I’ve grown up with a culture of bad bitches and fuck boys. Over and over I’ve heard the narrative of how disposable people are, and that you’d do well not to get attached if you want to avoid heartache (or ghosting). The culture of bad bitches and fuck boys has drilled in me countless times that if I’m not interested in hooking up, I’m boring, and guilty of a generational crime of preferring romance to getting railed. 

Quick-turnaround dating and short-term commitment have been defining features of dating for Gen Z, and I think it’s left little space for those who feel alienated by this culture. Ace folk, survivors, and those of us with abandonment issues can often find ourselves a bit lost in the land of Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. Personally, a fear of abandonment and/or emotional pain has largely dictated my behaviour on dating apps. When rejection is only a quick swipe away, assuming anything long-term is bound to leave you hurt. However, you have to put yourself out there and date, and today you don’t date people in your town. No, with globalisation and technological advancement, you date online to filter out the people you don’t want. 

This non-committal dating culture is a phenomenon of our digital age and interestingly, has contributed to Gen Z being one of the loneliest generations ever. With many going into their late twenties without genuine romantic experiences, the combination of indifferent dating and loneliness has made me wonder how growing up with online dating and its greater risks of abandonment has affected our perceptions overall, and whether this has changed during COVID-19. 

Wanting to find out what my peers think, I did a quick Instagram story poll for my followers. Trying to scope out what people feel about dating right now, I was surprised to find that overall, there’s ambivalence. People aren’t particularly happy nor strongly disappointed with today’s ‘distant dating’. Actually, the poll ended up showing a 50/50 divide on whether dating during COVID-19 has been better or worse for people. This surprised me, as I’ve always understood dating culture to be centred around hookups, and without in-person contact, I assumed there would be large dissatisfaction. But on the contrary, mindless swiping was described as ‘a game’ and labelled a ‘good distraction’ during times of COVID-19, and because you couldn’t meet in person, there was less pressure of commitment. Subsequently, people were left with little options, and talking to people online wasn’t a bad one.  

I personally spent all of the first UK-wide lockdown ‘talking’ to someone, and as a person who gets anxious about meeting new people, the lack of in-person interaction at an early stage helped me get over those anxieties, and let me create that meaningful conversation without the pressure of quickly moving things to real life. It let me participate in dating culture in a new way which was less exclusive of my natural orientation towards long-term relationships, whilst still remaining seemingly non-committal. My experience isn’t uncommon, and I’m left wondering if COVID dating will lead to long-lasting changes to our dating culture, and allow for more quality interaction over quantity. (Down with body counts?)

During the small hours of the day I often ask myself whether if questioning dating culture is a feminist intervention as today’s culture is indeed breaking apart institutions such as the family unit by rejecting the need for romance. By prioritising physical pleasure we are prioritising ourselves and not society’s need for a reproduction of labour forces (children that take over when we’re gone). However, to what extent are we harmed by the dismissal of emotion and the inevitable affective reaction many of us have to dating. The depiction of ‘catching feelings’ as a sign of weakness worries me insofar as to how it enables suppression of emotion and increasing levels of troubling mental health. Not to mention how it produces a breeding ground for trauma and development of attachment issues. I still don’t know how the feminist in me feels about questioning bad bitches and fuck boys, but I do know that the queer activist in me screams for representation of diverse desires. It screams for increased awareness of the spectrums of sexuality and romantic orientation. It screams for a space where I can be whoever I want to without being labelled “a feminist who just needs a good fuck”… as if my opinions and preferences are simply derived from a lack of mediocre sex with a boy I don’t know.

This is not to say that bad bitches can’t keep sleeping with as many people as they want, because trust me if I could participate in that culture, I probably would. Instead, it just means that we could potentially move to a more equal playing field, and be more open, honest and kind about our desires for more meaningful and lasting connections. Instead of labelling guys who like girls ‘simps’ or ‘whipped’, I think we need to appreciate the diversity in romantic and sexual preferences and stop the rhetoric of “you need to have fun while you’re young”. Happiness and ‘fun’ isn’t one size fits all, and creating a dating culture that over- glorifies one night stands leaves too many people behind. 

Dating during COVID has both highlighted fixations with hookups as well as our need for intimacy, and hopefully, our pandemic experiences will lead us to a culture less concerned with ghosting and more concerned with connections.