Guest blog post by Darcey Young, Isabelle Brookes, Megan Abbott, Milly Kennedy and Shania Brown.
Within modern society, the LGBTQ+ community has taken a leap into becoming a more widely accepted and accessible group that is breaking the boundaries of previous stereotypes placed upon its members. Through campaigning, protests and hardships; the LGBTQ+ has paved the way for the next generation. This progression has allowed for individuals to express themselves freely in a way they have never been able to do before. However, along with liberation comes oppression and women are at the forefront of feeling this affect.
As part of our module as second year sociology undergraduates at Nottingham Trent University, we worked alongside the Nottingham Women’s Centre to conduct research regarding LGBT women by using their library archives as a stepping stone for our project. We picked out “Diva Magazine” to focus our research around. We conducted a semi structures interview with an LGBTQ+ identifying couple – a lesbian female and a pansexual female – to find out their journey into understanding the effects of stereotypes on their everyday life.
An aspect of this interview which was a commonly made stereotype was the idea of having to conform to being either a butch or feminine lesbian in order to feel accepted and safe. One particular point which was raised was the notion that ideas of femininity and sexuality clashed. One participant experienced prejudice whereby when she presented herself as stereotypically feminine, she was assumed to be straight and on multiple occasions was approached by men when it was clear she was out with her girlfriend. It can be argued that this is a level of harassment and a typical expression of masculinity upon the LGBTQ+ community. Upon reflection, this is a common experience of LGBTQ+ women on a night out.
In relation to this, the couple bought up experiences of stereotyping whilst out together in public. They both gave stories of being judged and stared at simply for holding each other’s hands and recalled accounts of verbal abuse just for a simple mundane act such as a kiss on the cheek. It can be argued that if this was a straight couple, they would not be subject to this type of prejudice therefore showing further progression is needed.
Furthermore, the Medias stereotyping of lesbians through Diva Magazine, which was found in the library archives at the Women’s Centre, contributes to the sexualisation and degrading nature of women. We showed participants an array of articles and adverts that feature within the magazine and asked them to express their opinions towards them. Common themes were the sexualised nature of the adverts and articles as they featured sex toys and naked imagery.
This sexualised nature perpetuates through to the everyday life of the pride community. The participants expressed a concern for gender divisions within the pride community as a whole with internalised sexism among members. They used examples such as “boob grabbing” from a gay man being justified due to his sexuality. The idea of gay men expressing their anger towards their personal oppression through sexual harassment towards women was a common theme. They attributed this to the increasing sexualisation of the pride community becoming normalised and they felt it was harder to navigate within pride as a woman.
To conclude the interview, we asked participants what could be done to minimise gender differences in the pride community and society as a whole. One of their main points was the introduction of LGBTQ+ sex education and making it mandatory in schools. They argued that this would help to minimise homophobia and open representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the media to not conform to gender stereotypes.
Within this research project, it was enlightening to see the differing gender stereotypes between straight CIS women and LGBTQ+ women. We believe there is much more work to be done until we can become a truly equal society and Nottingham Women’s Centre is taking a positive step towards making this change by offering a safe environment for women in the city.