Lesbian baiting, the attempt to control women's "unacceptable" behavior by labeling them as lesbians, is the intersection of two forms of oppression--sexism and homophobia. Sexism is the systematic subordination of women, based on the belief in the inherent superiority of men. Sexism has defined the roles that men and women fill in order to maintain male dominance. Lesbian baiting is an effective tool to maintain these roles because homophobia has made "lesbian" a negative, discrediting label. When women engage in activities that have traditionally been seen as masculine, such as outdoor and adventure education, they threaten the power dynamics of sexism. Baiting hurts lesbians because negative attitudes and behaviors toward lesbians are reinforced. Baiting hurts heterosexual women by reinforcing sexist stereotypes. Two examples demonstrate that in adventure and outdoor education, lesbian baiting prevents women from participating in activities that might be enjoyable and beneficial to them and limits the abilities of women's programs and organizations to get funding or other forms of support. "Defending" oneself by asserting one's heterosexuality, trying to appear more "feminine," and not challenging lesbian-baiting rumors are responses that reinforce lesbian baiting. Naming baiting for what it is, eliminating the fear of being labeled lesbian, working against homophobia and sexism in general, and educating oneself about how gender roles limit women are actions that combat lesbian baiting. Includes resources for further reading. Contains 17 references. (TD)
In: Women's Voices in Experiential Education; see RC 021 160.