25 Jan 2018

queer theory critique by Sheila Jeffreys

Brilliant interview of lesbian feminist academic, Sheila Jeffreys, about queer theory by Derrick Jensen on Resistance Radio (21 Sep 2014) – even though, as an interviewer, Derrick sounds unprepared at times.
This blog post looks at Jeffreys’ critique of queer theory as well as her 1970s lesbian feminist politics. 

According to goodreads, in Unpacking Queer Politics: A Lesbian Feminist Perspective, published 2003 by Polity Press:
Jeffreys argues that the strong lesbian feminist movement of the 1970s, which was able to articulate a philosophy and practice that distinguished lesbian politics from gay male politics, was submerged in the 1990s beneath a gay male agenda called queer politics. The new politics repudiated lesbian feminist ideas and celebrated 'manhood' as a goal for gay men. Practices which construct this 'manhood', such as sadomasochism, cutting and piercing, female-to-male transsexual surgery, and which are promoted in queer politics, need to be understood as forms of self-harm which result from the oppression of lesbians and gay men. The political agenda of queer politics is damaging to the interests of lesbians, women in general, and to marginalized and vulnerable constituencies of gay men. 
I am suspicious of queer theory, which looks to me like a patriarchal backlash against the advances of 1970s feminism, so it's great to listen to Jeffreys' critique in the Radio Resistance interview. Unfortunately, no-one is perfect and, after a bit of further digging into Jeffreys’ previous, I find she is one of the originators of the outlandish notion of  'political lesbianism'. According to this guardian lifeandstyle 2009 piece, she was the main author of a booklet, Love Your Enemy? The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism, published in 1981 by a group of lesbians in Leeds, known as revolutionary feminists, which argued that, "all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men."

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