-Posted by Anonymous
I attended my professor’s office hours one evening for tutorial. I went there with the intention of asking for references on feminist and queer literature in my field of study. So far, we had only read one woman; white male philosophy seemed to be the lynchpin of my program’s curriculum.
My professor began by saying there wasn’t much feminist literature in my field (a bald-faced lie), and what little there was, he couldn’t be bothered to read. He did eventually recommend that I read Luce Irigaray’s work. But he had to add a disclaimer to my interpretation of her: I was not to take her too seriously.
“She only writes about women. Her psychoanalysis ignores the male sex organ. This lesbian perspective is problematic. Her work is one-sided and thus irrelevant.”
This took me aback; I could feel blood rushing to my face and I shifted nervously in my chair. London is the only place that I’ve felt comfortable enough to be openly queer. And yet here was my professor, at a progressive and critical institution, telling me first that women who write only about other women are lesbian, and second that these “lesbian perspectives” are invalid.
I confronted him on his (hetero)sexism, and in that moment felt obligated to come out as queer. He quickly backpedalled, looking slightly flustered. Yet he continued to assert that Irigaray’s focus on women invalidates her work because how could he, a man, possibly be expected to understand works that come from a female perspective?
I then asked if my perspectives as a queer feminist are invalid. He never answered. He had this way of brushing off my questions, mansplaining that I misunderstood what he meant by “lesbian perspective” and “irrelevant”.
I went home that night questioning, so how could I possibly understand the work of the male philosophers, who ignore women or simply use them as objects, that we read every week?
Realising the absurdity of his statements, I proceeded to write my term paper on a feminist issue, predominantly citing the plethora of feminist literature in my field.