Political campaigner Julie Bindel has been writing in The Guardian again, this time about changing lesbian stereotypes on the telly. Ostensibly her line is: lesbians on the telly now might be shown as happy, sex-loving people, but that’s still a stereotype. Her main concern, though, seems to be: there aren’t enough people like her, or her friends, on the screen:
Finn Mackay, a lesbian feminist in her 20s, is not enamoured by all the “designer” lesbians who have sprung up on TV. “They don’t represent me,” says MacKay, “because they are never political and look straight. They never look like any lesbians I know.”
Or, in other words, “all of the lesbians I know are politically active and could never be mistaken for straight people.”
Finn Mackay’s view of sexuality is just as narrow-minded, in its own way, as your average unreconstructed homophobe who can’t understand how two women can have sex together. I’m not objecting to people who want to support their sexuality politically,* but to suggest that you have an obligation to be political is a very exclusive and restrictive view. As is, indeed, the suggestion that if you’re gay you have to look gay. Coincidentally enough, I’ve just come back from a weekend away visiting a lesbian couple I know; and they don’t look particularly gay, or particularly straight. They just look like people. In fact, I don’t think any of the gay women I know are obviously gay at immediate sight.**
But then again, we’re talking about the telly here. None of the straight people I know could be mistaken for characters from a TV show either. To say: “the telly is stereotyping my own pet subgroup! None of them look real!” is slightly misleading. It’s not real. Nobody on the telly looks like me, either, strangely enough, and we all know*** that any sort of sex on screen is never like the real thing.
* it’s a very good thing indeed, and particularly important for other sexual subcultures such as BDSM, nowadays in a much more shaky legal situation than vanilla gay couples.
** unless they happen to be snogging their partner at the time, of course.
*** assuming we’re old enough