If I love you because you are
My love, my accomplice and everything,
And in the street we walk arm in arm
Then there’s more than just the two of us…
(with the voice of Tania Libertad)
This article is a draft translation of a paper presented at the Fifth Lesbian Studies International Conference, “All About Love”, organized by the Bagdam Lesbian Space in Toulouse, France on14-17 April 2006. For the complete copy with footnotes please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. A French version may be requested from the symposium documents. Or please contact the author at this address: email@example.com.
In France today as in few other countries, it seems that lesbians have managed to win some victories: a certain visibility, along with the beginning of what looks like “respectability”, e.g., the recognition of marriages between women through what is known as PACS or Civil Partnership Pact of Solidarity. It also appears today that we now can freely live our “different” “sexual preference”. To some extent, this symposium is proof of this: today in 2006, two hundred lesbians peacefully get together in this prosperous city southwest France to talk, of all things, Love!
Does this mean we have compromised our values and ways of organizing our lives and have ourselves become typically part of the “western” straight (heterosexual), patriarchal, bourgeois love, couples and families? No. Rejecting this now dominant and “very attractive discourse,” we assert that exploitation based on gender, class and “race” has been reinforced by the advance of the neoliberal project. We live precarious and almost impoverished lives, our movements are being strictly limited by laws increasingly restricting immigration, while our daily life is militarized. The system is increasingly crowded, stifling, deadly. Resistance, therefore, is still the order of the day.
It is vital therefore that we take an internationalist perspective, because what happens to each individual, locally, in our personal relationships, is intimately linked with the overall picture of lesbians and women in the world. But this perspective is not sufficient unless it is accompanied by a materialist reflection. We can do this by analyzing the broader international feminist movement that exists today: the global march of women, as studied by the French sociologist Galerand Elsa (2006), which has among its demands the respect for “sexual preference”. Galerand shows in her research how this genuine demand reflects a dematerialization of our struggles, as lesbianism has now been lowered to the level of a mere “sexual preference” and hides the fact that sexuality is a central element of the social relations of gender, in this case, domination of men and heterosexuality. On the contrary, I think the many “fixes” of love and sex that we are building (to adopt the expression of the Italian anthropologist Paola Tabet are closely linked to the material situation in which we find ourselves. And I think these “fixes” can enhance the system or, conversely, contribute to change.
As a lesbian and a feminist, I believe we must continue on the path of an analysis and pursue a materialist and internationalist struggle: this is how we will meet with other social struggles that are also trying to create a different world. We have much to contribute to society as a whole with respect to critical analysis and alternative project. What I try to show in this paper are as follows: 1) that neoliberal globalization seeks to reinforce a “neo-nuclear couple” model; 2) that long ago many lesbians and feminists have criticized this model; and 3) that further analysis is needed and new concrete alternatives have to be implemented, informed by deeper collective and individual thinking, drawing inspiration from other struggles that occurred and occur on the planet.
I. Changes in the family under the neoliberal framework
Obviously, the analysis presented here is very general and does not reflect the infinite complexity of the global situation. The family, which is one of the key institutions through which different patriarchal systems are crystallized and reproduced, take extremely diverse forms depending on location, class, “race”, generation or even the legal status of its members. As stressed by many Black feminists and other known social theorists (such as Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, Sheryl Clarke, Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman), the family can be a sanctuary of relative peace and source of necessary economic support against racism and classism of global society. But despite the diversity of existing family structures, it seems that neoliberal globalization has imposed everywhere the ideal of what we call the “neo-nuclear” family, as sometimes reproduced or rewritten in same-sex families. In reality, this means that this neo-nuclear family, unlike the extended family of the peasant model, for example, has no material basis for self-sufficiency (it does not produce what it eats or wears). This neo-nuclear family can likewise only exist as an isolated “protection unit” against “global society” without becoming a source of resistance to the system or as basis for other types of associations, communities or alternative social structures. Moreover, this neo-nuclear family is inescapably based on some deeply-held bourgeois and “western” patriarchal idea of love, focused on the couple. In this paper, I will therefore speak about a new model of family.
Material effects of neoliberalism
The precariousness and impoverishment of the vast majority of women and lesbians in the world are first of all consequences of the advance of neoliberalism, which is reinforcing inequalities in the international labor market according to criteria of gender, class, “race” and citizenship.
Certainly, part of the middle and upper classes are still able to escape the crushing machinery. Installed between blindness and a cowardly flight, this fraction of the population seems able to make individualistic retreats and attain “private happiness”. Sexuality and sexual relationships are conceptualized primarily in terms of law and as non-political individual activities, linked to hedonistic pleasure. Most only want to find a mate and form a family that is her “private sanctuary of peace” against fierce capitalist competition and violence (including racism and lesbophobia) that dominate public life.
However, most of the world population today are still deprived of such privilege by virtue of their “race”, nationality, class, gender, or political bias, among others, and live precarious lives, often drastically impoverished and forced to leave domicile and migrate, domestically or internationally. And as they do so, various kinds of “economic-sexual” arrangements are produced or resorted to, involving all sorts of “family decisions” which contract women out to marriage or some other form of “protection”, sexual servitude, domestic work, care giving, and other such monetary arrangements. For example, “transactional households” multiply and almost a third of such households worldwide are headed by women (Bisilliat, 1996). Tabet observes that more and more women also turn to “new-type” prostitution as internet agencies brides, opting not so much out of love as for sex “marriages” with men in richer countries as their visas.
To form a couple and to stay in it, it appears then, is the main guarantee of a minimum stability for the vast majority of women worldwide. This is nothing new; this trend is however being strengthened and amended under the neoliberal context under new laws and a tougher economic logic.
Laws are crucial, since in many cases, these are what prevent “single” women (usually women more independent and autonomous) to obtain their rights. “Single” women are almost systematically discriminated against by the tax systems and laws governing social policies. More restrictive immigration laws hurt: not only do these make travel applications harder for women (unless they migrate for domestic or sex work), but also place them in total dependence on one prospective partner, making full legal autonomy rarely possible for migrant women. In France, for example, Lesselier (2003) describes this situation as “double violence” and there are initial observations pointing that lesbian migrants are not spared of this legal pressure to conjugality (Alrassace & Falquet, 2007). Finally, the same laws on domestic partnerships for lesbian couples, if they exist, play an ambiguous role. Certainly, these laws can “help” some lesbians to promptly resolve property-related problems, but to have rights, do we have to accept the state requirement for us to enter into lasting and monogamous unions? What happens if we don’t want to “marry”? or if nobody wants to “marry” with us?
The tightening of economic logic also pushes “single” women to pair. To pay the increasingly expensive rent and bills as services are privatized and to compensate for low salaries and unemployment, pairing arrangements then becomes a matter of mathematics: expenditure divided by two equals better economics. As more extensive social, family and community networks are being destroyed, all the more that we succumb to the neo-nuclear family. As we age, threats to our social security also become more and more real. Even middle-class women are directly threatened by the dismantling of health systems and pensions. More women are brutally faced with the prospect of misery and abandonment, especially those without children or a partner without the rest of society feeling in the least outraged.
Ideological and cultural effects of neoliberalism
As more and more people fall under the pressures of neoliberalism, the monogamy-based “neo-nuclear” family thus becomes an ideal and a more felt material necessity. It has become more and more a standard and an imposition.
First, it becomes an ideal as “western” cultural hegemony is strengthened, thanks to mass media propaganda which propagates the universal model of the young, rich and “pretty” white heterosexual couple enjoying perfect health. This model is very much present in advertising, popular magazines and soap operas.
Second, the monogamous pair becomes more and more the standard as societies with strong religious traditions take a rightward shift and turn reactionary. The period of the “sexual revolution” (variously called “westernization” or “modernization” of values, depending on country) once attained or enjoyed in previous decades, is now denounced and denigrated as a degenerate age having allegedly caused excessive and extensive damage. The way back is thus favorably advanced, with special help from Pope John Paul II who gave all the powers possible to the Opus Dei in the Catholic Church. All the other monotheistic countries mostly take the same rightward direction. This is especially evident in the United States, with the return to retrograde moral order (as exemplified by renewed campaigns promoting virginity and abolishing abortion rights, among others). Although many “nontraditional” loving families and arrangements are in place, these practices are condemned and accused of all evils as more conservative values are glorified.
Finally, staying in a couple often becomes a burden and a quasi-obligation for many women under the dual framework of strengthening nationalism and patriarchal morality. As demonstrated by the Israeli sociologist Nira Yuval Davis (1998), nationalism seeks to strengthen the “it’s between us” culture and implies greater control over the female population: they are either prohibited or restricted from going out, and are required to marry and have the greatest possible number of children. As for moral order, the Mexican lesbian activist Tinoco Chuy, discussing among others the growing wave of “femicide “in Mexico and Central America, relates: “A similar pattern is observed in the murder of these hundreds of women: These women are “single” and are either without children, husbands, owners, or employers: those who are considered worthless and who no one claims; and those who have attempted to travel “alone” or live “alone”. We must analyze the many ways the oppressive coupling system is summarily imposed on us and we must understand how such system is tuned to the gradual extermination of women who are trying to live in other ways, how bent it is on making us accept things, telling us that these other ways are reprehensible and not permitted, and that for choosing these we must be made to pay. This persecution of “single” women leaves us no choice but to stay in monogamy, owned property and among those in the list of private goods. Otherwise, those we offend will have every right and the moral position to order us out and get rid of us.
Globally, we see on the ideological level a real triumph of the heterosexual couple and its essentializing, under the “triumph of masculinity” as described by the Chilean feminist Margarita Pisano (2001). Under this model the heterosexual couple is simultaneously established as the central symbolic figure in a disturbing mixture of anthropological, psychological-psychoanalytical and political speeches as the basis of a “normal” and “healthy” family and “democratic” society. The model of political equality is also being promoted in parallel with this neoliberal privatization and plays an important role in this peddling of the healthy and democratic society. Some of the arguments used to justify it unfortunately took place even within feminism, reinforcing the idea that the ideal of an equal couple is not real and is no longer preferred nor attainable. This discourse rests on an imaginary heterosexist binary deeply centered in the image of a Father and Mother of the Nation, in other words a model of the “natural” and ahistorical heterosexual couple. So much of this ideal are harder and harder to manage and increasingly difficult to imagine in the great family of the neoliberal democracy where the rule of arms is imposed if necessary, as is happening in the Middle East.
II. A long history of criticism of love, marriage and the couple
Lesbian and feminist analysis: love and marriage as oppressive
For some time, many feminists, both straight and lesbian, have produced a body of highly critical analysis of the ideology of love and the institution of marriage. In France for example, in the mid-nineteenth century, a young follower of the St Simonian utopian current named Claire Demar, wrote A call from a woman to the people (1833) and A law for the future denouncing marriage as a form of prostitution and claiming with full freedom a love force for women. In the same years, Flora Tristan, a woman of Peruvian and Spanish origin, was forced to flee an armed and violent husband (the Code of Napoleon had just been reinstituted prohibiting divorce), and chose to lead a semi-clandestine and nomadic life for years rather than live a pathetic wife’s life. In her first book, On the need to give a warm welcome to estranged women (1833) she proposed that society should be organized to be able to collectively deal with and give support to women fleeing intolerable living conditions or simply wanting to know the world outside traditional family structures.
In Argentina in the 1880s and 1890s, anarchist feminists, migrant women workers and prostitutes, among others, were well-organized and fiercely criticized marriage (Molyneux, 2003). At the turn of the twentieth century in America, Emma Goldman, another migrant worker and famous anarchist, left some impressive writings about moral and sexual freedoms in her time, although these practices were confined within Cethe narrow framework of heterosexuality (1979 ). Goldman herself never yielded to the powerful calls of monogamy and motherhood, nor denounced her emotional and sexual freedoms. Above all, she never stopped criticizing the reactionary and bourgeois conceptions of her anarchist German, Russian, or American comrades and lovers towards women. Back in France, the radical feminist Madeleine Pelletier, published in 1922 Celibacy a superior state. In the United States, the libertarian vagabond Boxcar Bertha evokes in her Memoirs Hobo communities that thrived during the Great Depression. Although these were mostly male camps developed on the banks of the railroad tracks, these communities were influenced by libertarian ideals, often practicing free love and demanding equality between the sexes (1994). Finally, in Southern China in the 1920s, in the districts of Tak Sun and Kwan Dun Kwantung province, a part of the suddenly financially independent young workers in the silk industry formed a movement called the Girls who do not want family. They refused to marry and bought their dowry. Suffering terrible ostracism, many ended up migrating to Malaysia and Singapore. Heyzer (1981, 229) reports that: “between 1934 and 1938, 190,000 Chinese women had emigrated. In Singapore, many of these women worked as domestics, organizing themselves into associations and did not marry.”
Other nihilists and nineteenth-century Russian revolutionaries and later the early twentieth century Russian feminist communists were not far behind (Vera Zassoulitch in Faure, 1978). Alexandra Kollontai in particular displayed a tireless energy in countless meetings with youth workers to present her faith in the “new communist sexual morality” (1920, 1926, among many other publications). Although unfortunately also under a heterosexual framework, she was the first to develop a global and historical-materialist analysis of love taking off from the now-famous reflection of Engels Origin of the family, private property and the state showing how each mode of production creates historically specific forms of love and family organization. Kollontai took pains to explain how, for example, the feudal courtly love which gave way to bourgeois capitalist society was especially oppressive to women. For Kollontai, thanks to the proactive development of loving camaraderie in the new historical period that was beginning to take shape, both women and men would now be able to establish multiple sexual and love relationships, thus creating a strong and supportive social fabric needed for the building of a socialist society.
Open criticism of heterosexuality goes back to the 1970s, with the feminist wave and with Kate Millet in the United States (1971 ) and in France, with groups like the FHAR. In her 1971 message to her followers, Millet especially stigmatizes the bourgeois character of normative love. For their part, many black and lesbian feminists, while critical of White lesbian separatism, debated the real issues affecting Black men and women such as sex roles, relationships, and sexuality (Powell, 1983 in Smith, 2000 , p. 283). Cheryl Clarke states in 1983: “As a black lesbian, I am obliged, and I am committed to destroy heterosexual supremacy…. The more homophobic we are as a people, the farthest we are from any kind of revolution.” (Clarke in Smith, 2000 , p. 201). More recently, the linguist Québec Pascale Noizet assessed the “modern idea of love” as fundamentally heterosexual (1996). The Québec radical lesbian magazine Amazones d’hier, lesbiennes d’aujourd’hui (Amazon yesterday, today’s lesbian, which Noizet helped put up), publishes a special issue entitled Questioning the family. For its part, Chile’s Margarita Pisano vigorously attacks the ideal of the congenial model family and the “bad” patriarchal love, fighting instead for the creation of imaginary and alternative practices of emotional and sexual freedom (2001).
Finally, in the analysis of Monique Wittig (2001 ) she suggests the overall coordination between heterosexual ideology (what she calls the “straight mind”) and the dimension of the concrete material appropriation of women as theorized by Colette Guillaumin (1992 [2005 in Spanish]). Upon leaving the couple and the heterosexual family, or refusing to enter them, Wittig asserts that lesbians desert the exploitative relationships that create certain kinds of women, such as the “brown slave”, to escape from the plantations and create communities of resistance liberated from slave status.
Towards a critique of the exclusivity of the couple
There is of course a great variety in the practices of the couple. There is no pretense here to propose any new regulatory model, all that we are criticizing here is the “model couple” that involves sexual fidelity and the creation of a unique emotional and practical link with a single person. These two elements are closely linked and are often the cause and consequence of shared or mutually interdependent material and economic interests and inevitably involve three main problems that have to do with power relations, problems that exist in heterosexual couples as well. Although sometimes, the fact that these are two women and not a man and a woman reduces the difficulties (as for example in the division of house chores, as two people who have been socialized to do housework can do housework without complaining too much). But sometimes the problems can get compounded especially so when lesbianism involves ostracism and social isolation.
The first of these problems has to do with the issue of division of labor and resources. The imbalance in the division of housework which is quite common in many lesbian households, as noted by the sociologist Raphaële Ferzli (2001), is often related to differences in power (of salary, class, “race”, age, legal status etc.) between the couple. As for the pooling of resources, lesbians have a particular difficulty because most women have scarcer material resources and lack a legal framework, as well as a theoretical and political construct, to address this. Psychologically, our socialization as women inhibits us to receive money or property in connection with a sexual relationship outside marriage: it seldom fails to evoke prostitution, as so aptly demonstrated by Paola Tabet (2004). In the legal level, in most countries it is neither legal nor legitimate for lesbians to “marry” and when it is, they usually do so shyly, as in the case of PACS, where very few lesbians are welcome to it. It means that except in very few cases of enduring and well-established monogamous unions, and in countries where there are laws that allow “union” between women, there is no social recognition of the existence of common material interests between lesbians and the legitimacy of putting together pooled resources. Lesbian sharing thus happens in a sort of no woman’s land. Of course, we have created many ways to “help” among lesbians, whether as couples, as ex-partners or as friends, but as far as the formal aspect is concerned, we are almost zero. I believe our creativity would benefit from more public and political debate and strengthen our collective efforts to limit the individual power relations that appear more clearly when handling money.
The second problem has to do with the “enclosure of two”. This enclosure, more or less marked, is the result of sexual and emotional exclusivity that this type of couple produces progressively as it consolidates. Although it can be very pleasant and desirable, it potentially carries serious problems. On the one hand, it tends to reduce the social, political, and even labor costs for each. Certainly, as we remember the Peruvian-Chilean Norma Mogrovejo in this symposium, many lesbian groups have benefited from the loving-energy policy of some “historical” couples. But enough heartaches have also affected negatively in many cases, and the fear that the companion falls in love with another woman may be a reason to restrict their political participation. The ideology of jealousy (closely linked to monogamy) plays a central role in keeping women, including lesbians in the house.
Finally, related to the above, there appears the problem of domestic violence. This can be the result of inequalities of power, combined with the condition of “enclosure of two” and jealousy. Moreover, the tension over fidelity (both as obligation due and as expectation) is generally stronger in women because of their socialization, and even more in many lesbians since the repression of lesbianism does not allow many to know enough beside one’s own partner. “Saving” one woman next to one’s self and for one’s self, probably even by force, can thus become an almost vital necessity. All of these combine to explain the occurrence of violence within the lesbian couple, which lesbophobia and the hostility of the rest of society may prevent from being addressed or stopped.
III. Lesbian and feminist alternatives
The question of love and the couple is thus far from frivolous matters reserved only for the idle and the privileged: On the contrary, there exists for marginalized and underprivileged lesbian and women a particularly strong pressure to conform and enter into a couple relationship, whether lesbian or hetero. It is therefore not a coincidence if it is they themselves, more than other groups of women or men, who thought over this painful problem and have tried to build alternatives.
Criticizing the framework
A first set of alternatives is to analyze the context of the couple, and expand from here. Many lesbian couples seek to develop various ways of practicing equality in their relationships, observing greater fairness in the division of work (paid and domestic), and when possible, exercising some degree of sexual freedom. However, if they remain structurally isolated from the rest of society, these attempts are doomed to fail because the couple, although lesbian, is no island off the bigger community whose laws and values confine them.
Many also have touted voluntary celibacy as an alternative. In France, as early as 1700, Gabrielle Suchon wrote a set of texts in favor of celibate life which she then called “life without compromise”. This celibacy is sometimes related to a decision of “militant chastity”, especially when lesbianism or heterosexuality outside of marriage seems impractical. However, this celibacy had to be at other times lived with displeasure, as a forced episode resorted to by women who openly espouse an active sexual life and the possibility of establishing multiple love relationships, but did not have, under the circumstances they lived in, the opportunity to do so. Often they are women with great intellectual and political passion and strong devotion to their work, such as Alexandra Kollontai, Emma Goldman, Rosa Luxemburg, Alexandra David Neel, former Salvadoran guerrilla commander Rebeca Palacios (Harnecker, 1994) or the fictional character of Warda, a guerrilla leader in the Sultanate of Oman in the 1960s (Sonallah, 2002).
Some feminist and lesbian libertarian groups have likewise flourished and attempted other ways of living. In France these are demonstrated in the anarchist collective book Beyond the personal, which discloses the correspondence between Corinne, Françoise, Karine and Martine as presented in the previous lesbian conference in Toulouse (2002). The multiplicity of the concepts used (polygamy, polyfidelity, open relationships, polyamory) and their imperfections reflect the weakness of the discussions, which have now become quite defensive in relation to the years it spoke of (the 1970s). In fact, we have seen in recent decades how the strengthening of conservative thinking and of the bourgeois-patriarchal racist laws has narrowed further what experimental spaces we had had and has made women and lesbian lives increasingly more and more precarious.
Get out of the frame
Like Alexandra Kollontai, who struggled to create a completely new socialist society, and Wittig, who showed us ways as to how lesbian communities may be invented, I think the most realistic and constructive solution is to frankly get out of the frame.
The ideas of Alexandra Kollontai, who affirms that multiple sex and love can build and cement social and political networks and can therefore make alternative projects stronger, must be retaken. So instead of a society composed of enclosed islets of couples and little families absorbed about themselves and often in constant conflict with each other over differing self-interests, we might dream of an alternative social network that allows better pooling of our material, emotional, and sexual resources.
The idea is as Monique Wittig proposes: to bring back and bring to life the imagined community of women warriors, the Amazons – isn’t that terrific! – . Think of the model communities of self-released ex-slaves organized outside the plantation system. This, I propose, is the “best” solution for lesbians to get out of the hetero-patriarchal system: to work together, as much as possible, in big groups rather than try to escape two by two. If the couple can make a force to reckon with, then a broader union must be mathematically superior. We have some models to pick up from, in the examples shown us by the defenders of communal life, as in the concept of a “lesbian nation” promoted and campaigned for by Jill Jonston in the 1970s, or in the lives of working-class lesbians in the 1950s, mainly Black, who in one way or the other, had formed their own communities in small towns and poor neighborhoods where they lived (Davis & Kennedy, 1989; Lorde, 1982).
However, the actual creation of lesbian communities had to confront with many difficulties. First, the hostility of the “outside” heteropatriarchal, capitalist and racist society, and secondly, for us, the lack of clarity about the rules of love, sex and ethics to be adopted. This problem becomes even more painful because we carry with us into these communities values and ideas we had thoroughly learned throughout our socialization: the couple, fidelity, jealousy, insecurity and all our emotional neediness. These difficulties contribute to a risk of inflexibility, intolerance and drowning, which Ti Grace Atkinson (1984) very convincingly complained about. “Separatist” lesbians who tried to form communities experienced a close by the 1980s in France (ARCL, 1987; Lesselier, 1987) and Britain (Green, 1997). We have also seen many feminists and Black lesbians spoke against lesbian separatism, complaining that they do not want to break their ties with race and class. To form a lesbian community does not necessarily imply such a break, but we have to think about how such communities are linked in turn to other social groups.
What’s more, repression is always lurking, as proven by the abrupt end of the lesbian community in the state of Morelos (Mexico) around the same time. This is documented by Norma Mogrovejo (2000) in the first thesis published on the lesbian movement in Latin America and the Caribbean. Lesbians of this community shared their resources and jointly performed household and agricultural work and organized parties, a documentation center and even self-defense workshops. It seems that it is precisely these self-defense activities that alarmed most the neighborhood and made sure the lesbian community “self-dissolve” before something serious could happen.
As explained by Mogrovejo, this experiment was of particular importance, not only because this endeavor gathered lesbians who are mostly poor and “black”, which was more than what the average lesbian organizations at the time did, but also because it pointedly raised the issue of resources and production. The capitalist socialization that values private property and makes many reluctant to share their property constitutes a basic problem and insurmountable barrier to many in the socialist and feminist projects. As regards joint production and material survival, there also exists the need to address the question as to what kind of alternative love and sexual organizations and relationships may be created that are physically feasible. In the urban world where communities are rapidly limited by spatial planning and housing and the difficulty of access to cheap food and in rural areas where half of the women in the world live, it seems “easier” to put into practice more autonomous alternatives. The peasant struggles for the reappropriation of land and natural resources and especially the various ways such modes of economic production have been defended or developed are therefore particularly instructive for us.
The Zapatista movement in Mexico anchors on indigenous socio-cultural practices in which the sense of ownership over land is not private but communal. Community work is at least as important as “family work”, but also has a strong sexual division of labor with much of the family work borne by women. This puts forth two questions: One, to what extent can “family work” occur without exploiting the unpaid work of women and children? As Christine Delphy (1998) repeatedly put forward, the “domestic mode of production” is a central pillar of patriarchy. And two, outside of indigenous communities, to what extent some highly individualistic people who have lost almost all sense of community can again find this common will to voluntarily work and share resources? This topic gave a lot of work to both Nicaraguan and Russian revolutionaries, as it did to the neo-rural Larzac in France in the 1970s, and all those who have been trying to implement land reform, or more simply, a rural communal production community.
The same questions apply for the Movimiento de las Sin Tierra (The Landless Peasant Movement) or MST of Brazil: some its members are just “outcasts” from social groups propagating urban individualism. It is interesting to see how this movement succeeds or not in keeping people together as well as in holding on to the ideal of owning and working the land in common, rather than making it produce as part of the “small family farms” based on the model of the patriarchal family. Furthermore, the MST faces very specific questions as regards spatial organization and appropriate housing for the new communities being created. The model farmers’ habitats are scattered and, as such, prove disadvantageous to women since they are mostly isolated in their “home farms “. The “agro-vila” (or city in the countryside) model, wherein the houses are grouped together, is neither satisfactory, since the fields are far away (especially for males) while the excessive closeness to the solars cause fatigue and stress (especially among women). Finally, it appears that the model communities of indigenous peoples of the Amazon give better results, although there remains unresolved issues as everyone’s productive and emotional investments and everyday existence are confined to and centers around the family.
But we must look well into these two movements, and many others, since these attempts tell us a lot about community life which is central to our feminist project: the need to connect everyday life with the productive life and to break the dichotomy of private sphere-public sphere.
Conclusion: Back to love
In this article we see how the idea of lesbian love has led us to examine the deterioration of the situation of women in the world and how this deterioration is linked to the advance of neoliberalism, which often drives many of us to marriage and the very attractive conservative model of the couple not compatible with our participation in collective struggles for social transformation. There have also emerged new strains to these struggles given the dramatic changes and worsening situation facing us worldwide. We also know that as feminists and lesbians from different classes, “races”, and nationalities, we can play a part in these struggles and contribute to the building of a rich theoretical and practical legacy as we reach for more enriching alternative ways of life, whether in the immediate future or as utopian ideals.
And love, where then is love in all this? The Mexican lesbian feminist Yan Maria Castro affirms: “As for love, we have to redefine love in its totality. Let us not speak of love while there is a single human being that is exploited by another.” I also believe that love has to do with all the women in the world having a roof to their heads, food, and a decent life, free from exploitation and violence. This should be the main characteristic of our ideal of feminist lesbian love: a love that is purely individual and personal to a certain number of women, but also collective, for ourselves and for our sex. Only this political love will give us enough energy to destroy the existence of that subordinate “class of women” and escape to freedom, not just one at a time or by pair after pair. For this, we must not only analyze heteropatriarchy, the role of the state and its laws, the capitalist system and the racist international division of labor, but also This system in a material and concrete way. We will create complications as we build political alliances and broader social ties with other movements and between us, but we must not stop. We have to imagine and live a different life, beyond the couple, even beyond and way over the lesbian couple.
The fundamental criticism is directed not against the couple but also against the “institutionalized spouse”. One, as the only way of life for human beings; two, as a means to prevent the resurgence of community life forms; three, as a tool to isolate individuals and place them in a vulnerable position; four, as a weapon of social control by placing each individual in an inherently dysfunctional and ineffective structure, canceling the natural autonomy of each subject society; and five, as a means to control women, by hiding the heterosexual relationship as a relationship of domination in the discourse of “sexual preference.”
Yan Maria Castro