Irene Dioli

The social relevance of female homosexuality

Tutors of the patriarchal order have rarely addressed female homosexuality as a potential threat: being a relationship between two non-subjects, it easily slides into invisibility. How could two women exist, and relate to each other, without the male as polarising factor of their energy?

The mainstream perception of homosexuality makes sense of women by means of male categories: thus, female homosexuality is seen as an appropriation of masculinity, usually by one member of the couple, while the other fulfils the woman’s traditional passive role. Such interpretation defines the homosexual relationship as a protest of virility, constructed within, and as a reaction to, the patriarchal order: the male is only apparently excluded from the picture, but the principle of masculinity is always present. More than that, it is what informs the relationship and allows its very existence. In this perspective, a woman-woman relationship is not a danger to the patriarchal order: it is the exception confirming the rule of male-female hierarchic relationship.

The aim of this essay is to argue that the subversive potential of female homosexuality does not lie in the usurpation of male prerogatives, but in the challenging of the very model of an uneven relationship based on pre-defined roles. The unquestioned, hierarchically charged dichotomy between male and female is the basic relational model informing the whole structure of the community: if its legitimacy and “naturalness” are questioned, the whole set of patriarchal values is potentially threatened.