When women act like men, is it always because they are abnormal, or perhaps because they had no chance to marry ?
By Ralph Hay
TWO young girls of twenty were together constantly. Anne sang and Ruth accompanied her on the piano. They were always neat and well-dressed. Neither went out with men alone; together, they would permit men to escort them to dances or take them to the latest movie. When Anne got a job in New York City, every one thought it was lovely that Ruth found one in the same office, and that they could room together.
Strangely enough, the supervisor of their office was a middle-aged spinster, who was cordially hated by everyone. She was unjust and unduly critical of their work, she nagged the 30 girls constantly, enforced a discipline that was more like that of a schoolroom or prison. Yet she, too, like Anne, lived with another woman of her own age, and one of the girls in the office saw them together in a restaurant. She reported, excitedly and vindictively, that they had behaved like the most fatuous married couple, looking into each other's eyes, holding hands under the table.
Hundreds of women live together, preferring each other's company to that of men. Nothing is thought of it, usually, unless that it is an example of a lovely friendship. The public doesn't know or have to know that one of each couple assumes a masculine role when the shades are drawn, and becomes a "husband."
For thousands of years, moralists and legalists have denounced homosexuality between men, but no code has ever forbidden physical relationship between women. It is considered immoral, but not illegal. People have assumed that since it did not necessarily prevent childbearing, or cause children to be born illegitimately, it was not an offense against the state. It was considered an addition to, rather than a substitute for, normal relations. When feminism-the movement for women's rights-increased, and women began to be increasingly celibate, the question of "mannish" women began finding its way into popular novels (The Well of Loneliness) into plays (The Children s Hour) and into parlor conversations.
The word lesbian began to be familiar, but with little understanding of the psychological factors behind it, and a great show of horseplay and suggestive remarks at the appearance of certain women. In the matter of dress, after all, we have to conform to the standard, wear what is the style, or we become objects of curiosity. The majority of people instinctively hate anyone who is different. The woman who dresses like a man, except for a severe skirt, is generally disliked. She may dress in tailored, simple clothing, if it is becoming to her, but she must include womanly touches-frills at the neck, a fluffy handkerchief. Her hair must be worn like a woman's.
What causes a woman to turn to her own sex? With the exception of those unfortunate few who are physically abnormal, there can usually be found a very definite reason.
Take the supervisor in the office where Anne and Ruth worked. Unattractive since childhood, she had missed out on all the fun and popularity with boys that other girls had. She became bitter and introverted, seeking solitude and shunning all companionship. She hated boys. She hated everybody. It wasn't her fault that she was angular and scrawny, with no soft curves where they ought to be. It just happened that she took after her father's family; they were all thin and homely. Maybe, if she had kept her balance and cultivated other qualities, such as sympathy and a sense of humor, she would have attracted some man who didn't place too high a value on good looks. But her attitude towards all men became warped and cynical.
Her ambition turned to business; she concentrated on making good and because she was able to fasten all her thoughts and energies upon one goal, she succeeded. Then, when she was thirty-seven, she had met a woman at a business luncheon, a small, friendly sort of woman, who ignored her brusque manner, and chatted on gayly. The cold, unhappy woman's heart softened towards this kind, clever little person. She casually made an appointment to have lunch with her.
We may see two types of women who are attracted to other women; one, like men, by their feminine qualities; one, like normal women, by the masculine traits which the feminine share.
But this other woman-wasn't she normal? Yes, she was, but she had recently lost her husband. She was lonely, and yet she didn't want to marry again. She enjoyed her financial independence and freedom too much.
It was easy for her to accept the mute but unmistakable infatuation of the big, ugly woman, easy to pretend that it was a man who sought her favors, and yet all the more pleasant because there was no complicating factor-marriage, children. With no more purpose than they realized the significance of their mutual attraction, they decided to live together. And, after that, it was only too easy to fall into an abnormal physical relation.
We do not blame anyone for seeking normal affection and love; we all need it to be happy. How can we blame a woman, who, through no fault of her own, has been deprived of such affection from a man, and turns to another woman for it?
To compensate for the lack of satisfactory marriage, there are three alternatives, for the moment, we agree: self-abuse, extra-marital union, and homosexuality. The woman who turns to the other women for satisfaction will argue that her choice is the best, for it is without danger of venereal disease, is more satisfying than secret practices, and relieves the fear of illegitimate pregnancy. Shall I turn into a sour old maid, she will ask? We can counter with another ques tion : shall you, because of your misfortune and your mental sickness, spread your sickness to other women, who may be innocent, inexperienced and ignorant of life? The only way a young girl can learn homosexuality is being seduced-yes, seduced, by an older woman.