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Girls Who Like Girls: Is The Girl Crush Trend Empowering Or Just Cabaret?

11/07/2013 20:22 | Updated 22 May 2015

Girl crushes and lipstick lesbianism - not new trends but what do they mean for feminism today? Jo Chuter investigates the rise of the girl who likes girls (but won't be leaving her boyfriend any time soon)

When Katy Perry told us back in 2008 that she'd kissed a girl and liked it, there was no audible gasp of shock from the female population. Many embraced the song's sugar-coated, lipstick-lesbian message and have been using it ever since to wrap men round their little finger.

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But that song certainly wasn't the first time I'd been aware of fully heterosexual girls claiming to be attracted to other girls. For some it's as simple and harmless as discussing which celebrity they fancy, while a few go further and snog girlfriends for the benefit of an onlooking male audience.

So, what does the girl crush trend mean? Does it signify a more fluid attitude to sexuality, is it a new form of feminism, or something else entirely?

Louise Carolin, Deputy Editor of DIVA - the most popular magazine for gay and bisexual women in the UK - let me in on what lesbian and bi women think of the phenomenon.

"The message they're receiving is that it's OK to 'kiss a girl and like it' as long as you have no intention of leaving your boyfriend for her and are happy for him to watch," she says.

"Women who appear to have all the social privilege that accompanies a heterosexual identity are seen to 'play' with lesbianism or bisexuality."

While the lesbian and bi community at large are all for women expressing their sexuality, it's understandable that they are a little peeved to see the sexuality they may have struggled to accept for years "blithely reduced to a porn-inspired spectacle", as Carolin puts it.

Spectacle is a good word for what this is - girls kissing girls for male pleasure is barely a dinner away from being a cabaret. Can we really call that feminism?

It's as if having watched men letch over us, our friends and celebrities for years, we've decided that we can reclaim our sexuality by letching over them ourselves. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a feminist as "an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women". Is the equal right to use women for sexual gain really the one right over all others that we want to single out and fight for?

Personally, I'm not sure where the girl crush trend can take us. Maybe it's experimentation. Maybe it's theatre. Maybe it's just something that seems like a good idea after one too many. But is it empowering? I don't think so.

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