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Lesbians are female people who organize their private as well as public social, emotional, political and sexual energies, lives and resources around other female people. This does not exclude male persons (children, adolescent or men) from lesbian led spaces. Indeed many lesbians are parents of male children, wives or former partners of men and of course are daughters to fathers and sisters to brothers. What marks lesbians and lesbian lives as distinctive is the fact that lesbians, by societal standards, are women who, by virtue of living female centered lives, simultaneously violate gender, sexual, economic, political, and religious norms, to name a few of the key issues.
Lesbians violate gender and sexual norms in at least two ways. Depending upon the lesbian in question, gender norms may be challenged if the lesbian expresses female masculinity (Halberstam 1998). Female masculinity is manifested when people who are genetically female perform gender behaviorism commonly associated with masculinity. Such examples can be seen in lesbians whose wardrobes consist strictly of clothing originally designed for male consumers, or in the example of lesbians who routinely wear closely cropped haircuts with or without ball caps, cowboy hats, or knitted skull caps; or in the example of lesbians who prefer to own large working trucks, motorcycles, dirt bikes, or elite bicycles for racing, exercise, or daily commuting. Lesbians who do not violate gender norms are often identified by the lesbian gender category of ”femme and those that do violate gender norms are labeled ”butch.
Lesbians, due to their uniqueness as females violating other important social norms, also violate economic, political, and religious norms. Lesbians violate economic norms by being the ”women most likely to be lifelong participants in the workforce structure of society. Lesbians, unlike their heterosexual female counterparts, are less likely to have time out of the labor market to be ”stay at home moms for example. However, they are more likely to be coupled with other lesbians (or with other female persons who do not utilize the politically charged identifier of lesbian to define how they express their sexual desire and pleasure), therefore; they are also less likely to emulate the heteronormative temporality commonly defining the stages of life defining the lives of women whose private as well as public, social, emotional, political and sexual energies and resources revolve around male people. Lesbians live politically precarious lives as their issues are oftentimes tied up with the concerns of gay men. Such a gendered entanglement ensures that the multiple specificities and particularities of being female as well as homosexual, often time stay uninvestigated, thus always entangled, ensuring continued lack of specification leading to greater understanding of why gender matters in queer politics. Finally, lesbians, be they believers themselves or not, violate the many dominant Judeo-Christian-Muslim religious norms that damn homosexuality as sinful.
Lesbians are as diverse as any other population. They vary by race, class, presentation of lesbian gender, educational attainment, religious or secular beliefs, and so forth. They are also similar. In general lesbians also experience society as women and regardless of the list of differences here, the similarities shared between heterosexual women and lesbians are just as far-reaching in consequence. Lesbians as well as heterosexual women, for example, experience a culture where there exists a permanent threat of physical as well as sexual violence against them as well as the same traditional labor market limitations – i.e., less pay relative to men, less benefits, and less occupational or social upward mobility.
- Halberstam, (1998) Female Masculinity. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.
- Munt, S. R. (1998) butch/femme: Inside Lesbian Gender. Cassell, London.
- Rich, A. (1980)  Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbians existence. Signs 5 (4): 631-60.
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