Buzz is generating like crazy surrounding the new Wonder Woman film, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.
The movie focuses on The creator of the Wonder Woman character and his alleged relationship with two women, his wife and a student, and the two women’s relationship with each other. Naturally, the movie is getting some mixed reactions, from those who think that the movie is queer-affirming and amazing, to those who claim it’s not the true story (including the surviving family of Professor Marston), to those who don’t approve.
But the one thing no one is talking about is how the movie keeps getting called a “lesbian film.” Even New Now Next claim that “this could be the lesbian movie of the year,” and the New York Times makes a sapphic joke about the film. Now, it’s true that two women are lovers in the movie, whether or not you think they were in real life, and the film’s creator has ties to The L Word. And of course, one would hope that lesbians, as well as all kinds of queer-identifying folks, can relate to and enjoy themes in the film.
However, the whole problem here is bi erasure. Although New Now Next does add that this could also be the bi or poly movie of the year, the article says this as an afterthought, not in the jump head. This isn’t really a lesbian film; it’s about two bisexual women, two poly women who are attracted to a man as well as each other. They aren’t lesbians; they are bi, maybe even pan, something they didn’t really have a word for at that time.
Some may say this is arguing semantics, and in a way it is. Sometimes words just bring up dividers rather than further causes. This is why here at OUT FRONT, we may say this is “the best queer film of the year,” meaning that anyone who identifies under the LGBTQ umbrella will enjoy it. But our culture already has a major history of bi erasure. While gay and lesbian issues are taken very seriously, many still see bi and pan people as confused or going through phases, and trans people still face a lot of issues with discrimination.
Plus, a major crux of the film is that these women and this man are all non-traditionally involved. It’s not about, say, a woman who is married but really a lesbian, having an affair with a woman. Denying the attraction these women have to a man in the film is to deny part of who they are, or erase it. It would be like calling a film about a trans woman coming out, who happens to be a lesbian, a lesbian film. Sure, she’s attracted to women, but the main points of the story are about being trans and coming out.
So, next time you see a queer film or read a book, think about if it’s really a gay or lesbian story, or if it’s more of a bi, pan, trans, asexual, etc. story. Bi erasure happens all the time in the media because of the direction stories are taken. In The L Word, the characters either conform and become completely lesbian, or they are treated like absolute crap for identifying as bi and dating a man, or identifying as a trans man and taking T to transition. In Orange is the New Black, Piper is shamed as a slut by her male fiance and as confused by her girlfriend. This is actually a story that talks about and celebrates being bi and poly, so let’s call it what it is.
Cover photo courtesy of Facebook.