Exemplary lesbians: the struggle for adequate representation’

Activity: Academic and Industrial eventsGuest lecture or Invited talk


The history of lesbian representation is littered with critiques of their lack of cultural visibility, or the relative abundance of objectifying or negative depictions. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the 'talkability' of lesbian subjectivities from a range of perspectives, in many countries; however, both cultural texts and statements by political activists or public figures on behalf of 'lesbians' often continue to draw criticism. In The Practice of Love, Teresa de Lauretis lamented the 'inadequacy' of lesbian representation in mainstream culture. Similar complaints are heard today, but what would 'adequate' representation look like? Who is in a position to speak on behalf of the imagined communities of 'lesbians'? This talk will explore some of these debates, with specific reference to Italy and the UK: Italy is often thought of as 'backward' in terms of LGBT rights, currently ranked 32 in the ILGA Europe table of LGBT rights, while the UK currently ranks 3. Specifically, the essay seeks to unpick and critically analyse a series of related issues: Who has been granted or assumed the authority to speak on behalf of the 'lesbian community' in recent years? What perspectives have they voiced and how has broader society responded? When the representation of lesbians remains patchy and often negative, what is the status of public comments by conservative 'lesbians' or feminists who are often hostile to queer perspectives on sexuality and gender?
Period7 Jun 2018
Held atUniversity of Oxford , United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • authority
  • lesbians
  • queer perspective
  • Italy
  • UK