- Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival
Bimisogyny and What it Means
Content Warnings: General discussion of sexual harassment, sexual violence, IPV, cultural misogyny against bi women and biphobia within the LGBT+ community
Very little discourse exists about bimisogyny – the intersection of misogyny and biphobia, which not only affects the lives of bisexual women and femmes, but also broad cultural and social perceptions of bisexuality as an identity.
By Shiri Eisner
It is no secret that statistically, women (cis, trans, and nonbinary) form the largest gender group among bi people. In fact, many studies show that bi women outnumber bi men by 2:1 or more. It is also well known that most bi community leaders across the globe are (and historically have been) women. However, despite these facts, very little discourse exists about bimisogyny – the intersection of misogyny and biphobia, which not only affects the lives of bisexual women and femmes, but also broad cultural and social perceptions of bisexuality as an identity.
Possibly the most prominent form of bimisogyny is fetishization and sexual objectification. Very often, bi women are perceived and culturally represented as little more than sex toys, existing solely for the erotic viewing and pleasure of cishet men. Reflecting this dominant notion, both mainstream media and porn deny bi women sexual autonomy and humanization, instead utilizing them as an extension of cishet male sexual fantasy. As a result, bi women are forced to deal with a near unending flux of sexual harassment if their identity is known. Every bi woman has at least one story to tell of getting responses like: “hot”, or being offered a thressome, directly after coming out to a new person. Of course, this doesn’t end just there. According to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75% of bi women have survived sexual violence, almost 50% survived r*pe, and over 60% survived intimate partner violence (in all cases, far higher than both lesbian and straight women).
Ironically enough, however, bi women are also often considered privileged – both by many lesbians and by many bi men. Bi-exclusionary lesbians often define bi women in the same terms as the cishet patriarchy – existing only in proximity, in response to, and in satisfaction of cishet male desire. Bi women are accused of centering men and of benefitting from their proximity to them. Much worse than that, very often they are framed as the cause of cishet male sexual violence against lesbians, since bi women’s “availability to men” leads those men to assume every woman-loving-woman is an acceptable target. All the while, bi women suffer the higher rates of sexual and intimate partner violence of all sexual identity groups.
When it comes to bi men, many view bi women’s mainstream media visibility as a sign of cultural acceptance, making them privileged. This notion ignores the fact that bi women’s media visibility reflects and reinforces sexual fetishization and leads to sexual violence. Another undercurrent in bi men’s discourse paints women’s prominent leadership in bi communities as repressing bi men and existing on their account. In this way, many bi men also position them as oppressors – ignoring the enormous gap in numbers, and treating women’s leadership as problematic.
These are not the only form of bimisogyny. Statistically, out of all sexual identity groups, bi women have been found to be most at risk of bullying, isolation, poor health, poor mental health, suicidality, eating disorders, anxiety, PTSD, smoking, drug use, and a plethora of other issues. In addition, bimisogyny is deeply evident in symbolic perceptions of bisexuality in itself – the devaluation of bisexuality as an identity echoes the devaluation of femininity. For example, many biphobic stereotypes echo negative perceptions of (“bad”) women in dominant culture. Stereotypes such as indecisiveness, confusion, irrationality, being deceptive, treacherous, untrustworthy, or promiscuous, are all aimed both at bi people and at women. Turning to the activist world, as recently pointed out by @monstrousfemme on Twitter, the devaluation of the bisexual movement as a whole echoes the devaluation of women’s work, especially in light of the fact that most bi leaders are women.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Much, much more needs to be written about bimisogyny. The bi movement urgently needs to engage in this discussion and politicize the language with which we talk of these phenomena. We must enrich our understanding of bimisogyny and everything that falls under it, then use it to subvert, resist and finally dismantle it.
Shiri is a bisexual, genderqueer, Mizrahi and feminist activist and writer. She is known as a founder of the bi community in Israel/Occupied Palestine, and is the author of the Lambda-nominated book "Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution".