Saturday, October 30, 2010

Studying LesBians: Fun with academia –The Dyke Diagnostic Manual

Studying Lesbians is a monthly column in which I look at recent and not so recent research involving lesbians. This month I want to talk about an article I saw in the Journal of Lesbian studies.

A few months back I told you about this awesome scientific journal, the Journal of Lesbian studies, in which real researchers and professors publish articles about lesbianism. As a researcher and a writer, getting paid to write about research on lesbians is about as cool as it gets.

I read the Journal of Lesbian studies regularly, trying to keep track of interesting research being conducted. While looking through some of the articles from the last few issues, I came across a piece entitled A new classification system for lesbians: the Dyke diagnostic manual. The title grabbed my attention and I was both intrigued and appalled.

From the title and the abstract it looked like someone had attempted to write a diagnostic manual especially aimed at lesbians. For the non psychologists among you, most psychologists and psychiatrists use the DSM manual, which describes the most common disorders, ranging from depression to Schizophrenia. The thought that lesbians have their own special set of disorders or need a new manual is kind of offensive.

When I actually started reading the article, I soon noticed that this wasn't a serious scientific paper, but simply author Dr. Michele J. Eliason, having some fun with lesbian stereotypes.

You don't see people in academia making fun of their profession often. In fact most people I've come across take their work way too seriously, so it was a nice surprise to find this article.

Reading through it, it did make me wonder just how accurate these lesbian stereotypes are. To me the list came across as a list of stereotypes I have read about a lot, but I never actually seen in real life.

It might me a generational thing or a cultural thing, but hardly any of these supposed disorders sound familiar, not when it comes to me or most lesbians I know.

Let me share a few "lesbian disorders" with you and please let me know if you feel they are accurate and/or you think they're funny to be considered lesbian disorders.

The supposed manual is divided into many parts, the first one is entitled lesbian fetishes. A fetish is getting sexually aroused by something that's not normally thought of as sexual.

For example, some people might have a fetish about feet or leather. Eliason suggests lesbian fetishes come in 4 categories: the femi-feline fetish, the dog park cruising zone, lesbian teddies and lesbian polyanimalry

The first two categories refer to lesbians who are too obsessed by their cats and dogs. I have heard so much about all lesbians loving cats and/or dogs, but in real life I have never really come across it.

At least not to the extend where lesbians actually think of their pets as their children. Do you know any pet obsessed lesbians?

The third category refers to being too obsessed by or having too big a collection of stuffed animals. The author illustrates this with the most unbelievable story ever, of lesbian friends of hers inviting her over to dinner where they had set the table for their teddy bears as well. Although if you're reading this and it sounds familiar, go for it. Teddy bears need to eat too!

The second part of the manual is called lesbian celebrity groupies, for which two examples are given: Rachel Maddow and the L word. I like both Rachel Maddow and the L word (ok at some point I started to love to hate the latter), but I can't see how one would become obsessed with either.

Do you find yourself becoming obsessed with lesbian celebrities or watching lesbian TV series over and over again?

We have now arrived at the third part of the manual, where things get a little weird, but also strangely familiar. This part is called lesbian ex-lover fusion syndrome. Eliason refers to the strange phenomena where lesbians turn their ex-girlfriends into their best friends.

It is always possible that after a relationship has been over for a while, you become friends with this person again. But to keep all your ex-girlfriends around as friends, or even have them as best friends, just feels wrong. Or am I being too judgmental?

Then there's a few other categories I don't really relate to, including lesbian mother superior, which is supposed to refer to someone in a group of lesbians who makes sure everyone follows "the rules".

This includes real creepy examples (wearing 100% cotton and never buying sex toys shaped like a penis) of the rules that applied to when the author came out in the 1980's.

I have never understood group behaviour or the need for rules or conformism. The way I see it, being a lesbian just means that you are into women. That's all. What do you think, am I right or do you have your own set of "lesbian rules" you live by?

The article then goes on about obsessions with things like going to brunch and partying, neither of which I think are specific lesbian things. The only familiar thing among the remaining lesbian disorders is the much talked about U-Haul syndrome. I don't think it's as prevalent as some people claim, but I do know of some lesbians who moved in with each other after just a few weeks.


All in all, a fun article in a place where you don't really expect it, I just wish I could relate to the examples a little more. Do you feel the same or can you relate to the "lesbian disorders"? Do you think their should be more humour in academia? Let us know in the comments.

This post was first published on eurout.

1 comment:

unfolder said...

People thinking of their pets as children doesn't sound that weird to me. I would, however, find it very funny to find a teddy bear at the dinner table :)

There was a time when I watched lesbian content over and over again. Mainly, because I didn't have much lesbian content and it was nice to be able to relate to something. I wouldn't call it obsessive watching, though.

And yep, it sounds a bit weird to keep all of your ex-lovers as best friends.

I never knew there could be rules to being a lesbian, let alone want to obey them.

It was a fun and nice read!!