Access to positive role models, however, is just one way to promote the visibility of lesbians in both public and private life.
“To overcome the problem, we need to be lesbians in a political way,” Bindel argues. “The only way to change is to get more people who are bothered about and interested in lesbianism to be working in the media and TV. We need more female MPs to bring up women’s issues in Parliament.”
Bindel has strong views about what she sees as a lack of political awareness among particularly young lesbians today. “I watched the Candy Bar Girls programme on TV and all I see is just pure hedonism, apolitical airheadedness,” she says. “These women totally don’t get it; it’s not acceptable. This needs to be a revolution. Just get off your fucking arses and do something political. We haven’t won the battle yet. We need to be political about lesbianism.”
Increasing the profile of gay women is a hard task to tackle, says Peace. “But we’re talking about legislative changes that need to be made, how we teach our kids in schools, the addition of gay characters in soap operas and dramas, so many things. I think there is a greater problem in how lesbians are dealt with in the press and that comes down to misogyny. I am a woman first and foremost before anything else.”
It appears the issue of visibility is both acknowledged and worrisome for many lesbians. Yet the reasons why and the solutions to tackle the problem are complex. There is no obvious fast-acting remedy to improve visibility, save from imposing quotas into public arenas, which would be as unpopular as it would utterly unlikely.
So instead, we must take a slower, more piecemeal approach; calling for a greater number of women and lesbians in parliament, on television, in power positions and in the public arena. We must use our votes wisely, and we must support those lesbians who are brave enough to be out in public and private, particularly those championing our rights, remembering that it should not be a job left for the few who already carry this responsibility.
Bindel says we need a ‘revolution’. It sounds intangible, but being part of it is easy: just start talking. Talk about being gay, talk about sex, talk about relationships, talk about coming out, talk about our experiences as women and lesbians. We need to normalise the word ‘lesbian’, break down myths and stereotypes surrounding sexuality and gender, and above all, try, where possible, to be open and positive, and not be ashamed to be ourselves, regardless of what others might think. Only then, can we and the rest of the world begin to be acknowledged, supported and seen.
Chloe Setter is a freelance writer and sub-editor. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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