Heteronormativity and Lesbian Feminism

The heteronormative society has affected my life as an artist. In my studios and Art History lectures, I’m constantly reminded that the art world is very phallocentric. The Art History Canon consists of cis-gendered, heteronormative, dead, genius, white men. These are the artists that are considered great. They were the game-changers. They dominate the art world, even presently which is phenomenal considering they are dead. And I’m left in a dead-stare, wondering what my place/worth as a woman artist is. 

Nonetheless, in the journey uncovering why there were no women artists, we are learning that there were indeed women artists as far back as the Renaissance. It just so happened to be that they used their partners or father’s name, stopped their practice to see their partner succeed, or they were simply written out of documents as new editions were printed. 

Ultimately, I believe the emergence of lesbian feminism in the 1970’s allowed women to separate themselves fully from the male artist. Women artists used that period to create their own identity, and for many of them, that meant leaving their husbands and/or boyfriends “because intimacy with a man undercuts a woman’s independence” (Lorber 163). 

Although video and written documentations of emerging women artists in the 1970’s shows that they used lesbian feminism as a means to separate their role as the Other and comfortably come out of the closet, presently, women artists can use lesbian feminist politics to combat the Art History Cannon. Women can produce art that is separate from her male counterpart, without being ‘for the man’ or judged as overtly feminine. 

When women start using art to explore their own identity, a new perspective is born. Women dismantle their role as subject of the male gaze. She un-writes her story as intuitive, fragile, submissive and served only as a sexual object.

Lorber writes that “lesbian feminism praises women’s sexuality and bodies, mother-daughter love, and the culture of women (…)” (153). It is a concept that allows women artists, such as myself, an opportunity to share my own story without influences of heteronormativity. 

Courtesy of Hickerson, S. (2018, September 26). Re: Feminizing Equalities [Online discussion group]. Retrieved from https://mycourselink.lakeheadu.ca/d2l/home/52600.


Lorber, J. (2012). Gender Inequality: feminist theories and politics. (5th edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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