Let’s get one thing straight Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence by Adrienne Rich is a complicated piece of literature. After having read the article, I came to define Compulsory Heterosexuality as the male societal institution of preferred sexuality for women. Women thus are forced into accepting only one role, the traditional one.Throughout this blog I’m going to give you examples as to how the this text ‘connects’ with the other readings we’ve done so far.
To start off I am going to summarize Rich’s main argument. Rich argued that women are subjects or prey to the rules brought upon by males through the various institutions we have. Things like marriage, economic institutions, workplaces, child rearing and just our plain culture holds women down physically, economically and emotionally into a female role. She cited, “The Origin of the Family,” by Kathleen Gough as a framework to elaborate how males force upon females compulsory heterosexuality.
Gough wrote, “ Characteristics of male power include the power of men to deny women sexuality, or to force it upon them, to command or exploit their labor to control their production(by means of marriage, etc) to control or rob them of their children, to confine them physically and prevent their movement, to cramp their creativeness, to withhold from them large areas of society’s knowledge and cultural attainments.”
I think this connects to the discussion we had on Cinderella Ate My Daughter. It ties into the notion in the same way because generally Disney films characterize females and femininity as a one way street, if you get what I mean. Cinderella Ate My Daughter centered around the values and messages (need to be saved by a prince) that girls are subliminally taught to accept, which is similar to Rich’s notion that women are economically at a disadvantage, and therefore may turn to marriage as a solution, another disadvantaged position.
Another argument Rich mentioned was acknowledging the existence of lesbianism. The reason I mentioned this is because, on pg. 89, Rich wrote, “. . .the enforcement of heterosexuality for women as a means of assuring male right of physical, economic, and emotional access. One of the many means of enforcement is, of course, the rendering of invisible of the lesbian possibility.” She later added that acknowledging lesbians is a direct and indirect attack on males access to women and the compulsory way of life. Rich also mentioned a ton of historical content that has kept lesbians in the dark, such as the women who was in therapy was raped by her husband (I think) for 6 months, because the women could not be lesbian according to the psychiatrist. If you haven't figured out where I was going with this, It directly connects to Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson. In Johnson’s book he mentioned that if people want to address societal problems, they have put a name(Compulsory Heterosexuality) to it and however uncomfortable it may be we have acknowledge that there something going on in the treatment of different races, genders, or classes. He also mentioned that the majority must come to acknowledge the problem themselves, because if the minority group could have fixed the problem, they would have. I think this is important because males control most of society to our benefit. Taking a note from Anzaldua, we should all be working together for equal treatment. This means that any race, gender, sex, or class that is underrepresented should come together with a common goal in mind to address the problems that plague our society’s binary state of mind.
If you are still interested in compulsory heterosexuality and are still confused, check out a webpage called ‘A Feminist Theory Dictionary,’ or look at Merylda’s blog, both of which help me sort out some of Rich’s main Ideas.
This reading was long and intense. Based on the reading I feel like most of what Rich said is true. Society perpetuates compulsory heterosexuality by the institutions we have in place. How many times have you heard a girl say they were going to marry a rich man? These women are not to blame for their dependence on males, because the systems were built that way. Of course, one can argue that women can accomplish as much as men, but at what additional cost?