“Exemplary” lesbians: the struggle for adequate representation

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What language do we use when we speak about, or for, marginalized groups like “lesbians”? Who has, or assumes, the authority to speak on their behalf? Drawing on queer scholarship, the chapter explores performative assertions of discursive authority by minority groups that can be seen as attempts to co-opt larger communities. Analysis focuses on recent debates in Italy and the UK, and analyzes how the term “lesbian” is used in a problematically universalizing way by lesbian-identified women with normative agendas, who seize an unsanctioned authority to speak on behalf of all lesbians. It then explores responses by other lesbians who demand a queerer approach, and considers the way that these debates have been framed in the media. Overall, it suggests that mainstream media attention to more conservative conceptualizations of “lesbians”, compounded by a general lack of variegated lesbian representation, tends to privilege, and lend authority to, more normative messages.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender and Authority across Disciplines, Space and Time
EditorsAlberica Bazzoni, Adele Bardazzi
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030451608
ISBN (Print)9783030451592
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2020


  • gender
  • authority
  • lesbians
  • italy
  • Britain


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