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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'80s Advice for Straight Women Meeting Lesbians: "Don't Run!"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 7:00 AM


In a nod to how far we've come as a society in the last 26 years, New York Magazine's pop music critic Jody Rosen tweeted this gem from 1988, titled "When You Meet a Lesbian: Hints for the Heterosexual Women," which he found while helping a friend move. The advice comes from a Women's and Gender Studies class, reportedly held at the University of Wisconsin and contains tips such as, "Do not run from the room. This is rude." And "Do not expect her to be as excited about meeting a heterosexual as you may be about meeting a lesbian. She was probably raised with them."

click to enlarge lesbian_hints.jpg

"Do not tell her it is sexist to prefer women," the handout goes on. And, perhaps our favorite, "Do not ask her how she got that way. Ask yourself how you got that way." This is a useful reflection in so many social situations, especially when you find yourself at a post-Burning Man party, covered in edible glitter and being flogged by renaissance pirates.

It's true that meeting lesbians in the wild is a daunting affair. One minute you're innocently participating in an ecstatic drum circle and the next you're surrounded on all sides! We suggest that you whistle some Tegan and Sara while approaching and stay low to the ground because lesbians startle easily and tend to be short.

While it's easy to make fun of such a list (and who knows? It may have been tongue-in-cheek even in the '80s), if you take away the hyperbole, its message is solid: Treat lesbians like people. Yes, even Mary and Pam and Lori. Sadly, we feel like a good many people could benefit from such a list even in 2014, like perhaps the lawmakers in East Baton Rouge, La. who recently voted to keep their anti-sodomy law on the books even though the Supreme Court decided they were unconstitutional in 2003. Louisiana isn't the only one; 11 other states also have illegal sodomy laws in place.

The handout ends with an assignment to "pretend to be a lesbian for 24 hours. What kinds of things do you notice about how different this feels?" We're not sure how that would work exactly--maybe it's like how whole swathes of people "pretend to be Irish" on March 17. But we imagine that the completed assignment would go something like this:

"While I appreciated the ease in lower back pain thanks to these sensible shoes, I don't think I could be a full-time lesbian because I simply don't have enough formless outfits woven from sacks of hemp. Plus, dealing with straight women is exhausting! I had to practically beat them off with the stick of organic sage that I keep on my person at all times. In conclusion, pass me a penis!"

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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Anna Pulley


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