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Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution

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Depicted as duplicitous, traitorous, and promiscuous, bisexuality has long been suspected, marginalized, and rejected by both straight and gay communities alike.

Bi takes a long overdue, comprehensive look at bisexual politics—from the issues surrounding biphobia/monosexism, feminism, and transgenderism to the practice of labeling those who identify as bi as either "too bisexual” (promiscuous and incapable of fidelity) or "not bisexual enough” (not actively engaging romantically or sexually with people of at least two different genders). In this forward-thinking and eye-opening book, feminist bisexual and genderqueer activist Shiri Eisner takes readers on a journey through the many aspects of the meanings and politics of bisexuality, specifically highlighting how bisexuality can open up new and exciting ways of challenging social convention.

Informed by feminist, transgender, and queer theory, as well as politics and activism, Bi is a radical manifesto for a group that has been too frequently silenced, erased, and denied—and a starting point from which to launch a bisexual revolution.

352 pages, Paperback

First published May 7, 2013

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About the author

Shiri Eisner

3 books26 followers
Shiri Eisner is a feminist bisexual and genderqueer activist, writer, and researcher. She resides in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she founded and currently heads the grassroots bisexual organization, Panorama—Bi and Pansexual Feminist Community. She is currently pursuing her MA in Gender Studies while keeping involved with various political movements, including Mizrahi, feminist, queer, disability, animal liberation, and Palestine solidarity work. She hopes to incite the revolution very soon.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 132 reviews
Profile Image for Koen Crolla.
722 reviews167 followers
November 12, 2015
The take-away message of this book is this: bisexuals face all the usual homophobia from heterosexuals, and in addition to that face a distinct biphobia both from heterosexuals and from the gay community, and this needs to be addressed.†
To the extent that Eisner is defending this thesis, Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution is a pretty good book. Unfortunately, she goes off the rails more than a few times.
There are a lot of small issues that I have with the book that don't necessarily affect my willingness to recommend it to other people; there are also four large ones that are deal-breakers. In ascending order of importance, as far as I'm concerned:

First, she has two chapters called Bisexuality, Feminism, and Women and Bisexuality, Feminism, and Men. It goes without saying that biphobia manifests itself differently for men and women, and addressing those differences separately is absolutely legitimate. However, while the Women chapter spends all of its time discussing problems like the male gaze and female bisexuality as a performance for the benefit of men, the Men chapter is almost entirely devoted to attacking bisexual men as complicit oppressors who need to spend more time challenging the patriarchy from within.
People who know me know I'm the last person to shout ``what about the mens??'', and while it's true (cis) men occupy a privileged position compared to (cis) women even within bisexuality and most of her specific criticism is legitimate, in context I still feel the entire chapter is in pretty poor taste. Eisner genuinely seems to believe that because male privilege is a thing and she has none while bisexual men do, she can never say anything that's oppressive to bisexual men. She's wrong.

Secondly, I'm so done with sex-positive feminism. I have called myself a sex-negative feminist in the past not because I oppose the rationalisation of sex and the removal of stigma attached to it, but because the sex-positive movement too often ends up blithely reinforcing the patriarchy and erasing people who don't make actual sex acts the centrepiece of their identity as—for example—bisexuals. Eisner occasionally makes inclusive motions, but she still attacks people who just want a movement that isn't all about genital interaction. I'm not there for it.

Thirdly, in the chapter Bisexuality and Racialization, Eisner compares bisexuality to the plight of Mizrahi Jews (Eisner's own ethnicity) in Ashkenazi-dominated Israel. In doing so, she repeats some bizarre conspiracy theories which should have been excised by her editor, including the idea that Ashkenazi Jews went to Arab countries to foment anti-Semitism so Mizrahim living in those countries would feel pressured to emigrate to Israel—a notion that wouldn't be out of place on Stormfront or Reddit—and the long-debunked myth that about a thousand (seventeen thousand in Eisner's version) Yemenite Jewish children were systematically removed from their parents in the '50s because of reasons.
Discrimination against Mizrahim in Israel is real. The struggle against it doesn't become more legitimate by associating it with lunatic bullshit. The relevance of this struggle to the bisexual movement is... less than obvious.

And finally, Eisner has bought into the post-modernist anti-science bullshit that has invaded the fringes of the Women's Studies field. This initially becomes an issue when she quotes some of the more unhinged post-modernists in defending the notion that bisexuality, more than not necessarily reinforcing the gender binary (with which I agree), actually inherently challenges its very existence (which I feel is probably a step too far), but it really comes to a head when she discusses that idiotic study by noted piece of shit J. Michael Bailey.
In attacking that paper, she goes too far the other way and attacks the very idea of studying bisexuality scientifically, dismissing the whole of science as a white, male, heterosexual, and Western‡ pursuit (incidentally shitting on all the accomplishments of POC, female, queer, and non-Western scientists).
The scientific establishment obviously does have real, serious problems with endemic sexism and racism, but I'm not even nearly on board with considering the scientific method just another social construct which can be dismissed because a lot of scientists have historically been shitheads.

Maybe someone else would rank these issues differently, but any of them is enough for me not to be comfortable recommending Bi: Notes to anyone I care about.
This book definitely helped raise my awareness regarding specifically bi issues significantly (I am, of course, bisexual myself, but I'm also a misanthropic shut-in, so many of the typical issues affecting normal people don't usually affect me directly), and I'm grateful for that; I really think, though, that it could have been better than it was.

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† One interesting study she mentioned found that while the average quality of life of both lesbian and bisexual women is lower than that of heterosexual women in rural communities, in urban communities, the average quality of life of lesbians goes up, while that of bisexual women goes down. This can presumably be blamed on the absence of a support community in rural areas on the one hand, and biphobia in typical urban gay communities on the other.

‡ She actually says ``minority-world'', which is a ridiculous term. She does so because ``third world'' is a more problematic term than ``majority world'', and because it reminds us that while the West is so very homophobic and biphobic, the ``majority world'' has long been accepting of various queer practices. That this kind of noble-savage romanticisation and homogenisation is itself pretty damned racist (and that it completely erases Russia and Eastern Europe (China and Cuba and the like—and, for that matter, traditionally first-world Japan—are presumably part of the ``majority world'' because they aren't white)) doesn't seem to occur to her.
In fact, this faux sensitivity that's more concerned with shibboleths than actual empathy is a recurring pattern, and one of the smaller issues I have with the book.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,401 reviews8,124 followers
February 15, 2017
A great book that delves into bisexual politics and biphobic discrimination. With passion and patience, Shiri Eisner details the various forms of biphobia experienced by the bi community - such as bi erasure and monosexism, just to name a few. She starts by explaining terms such as "genderqueer" and "hypersexualization" to familiarize readers with her radical framework. Then, she discusses the intersectional oppressions that affect bisexual individuals living in a cissexist, heteronormative white supremacist patriarchal society. I appreciated this book a lot because of how Eisner connected bi individuals struggle and resilience to so many other forms of structural oppression, so that we can work together to dismantle these power structures that harm us all in different ways. For example, this passage addresses how the male gaze leads to bi erasure and the suppression of female sexuality:

"The threat that bisexuality poses to the structures of heterosexuality and homosexuality can be considered the cause of bisexual erasure... Instead of erasing female bisexuality per se (avoiding mentioning or naming it), media representations - and society in general - neutralize the "sting" that it carries by appropriating it into the heterosexual cis male gaze. From being a potential threat, female bisexuality is converted and rewritten into something else, something that's both palatable and convenient to patriarchy and the hetero cis male gaze, and which caters to its needs.

One can think about this in conjunction with the American "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. Until then, female sexuality was both unheard of and denied through and through. To have a sexuality, sexual needs, or sexual pleasure as a woman was not only discouraged and denied by society, but also seen as a problem in and of itself. For example, according to Freud, woman who experienced clitoral orgasms were considered childish and immature, and their clitoral pleasure was considered a symptom of deeper emotional problems.
"

It appears that other Goodreads users give Eisner flack for her provocation, but I applaud her for questioning institutions like marriage, science, and the military. By examining these structures' faults, in particular with how they want us to adhere to the status quo, we can live more authentic lives outside of what society tells us to do, and we can work to make these institutions better. For example, science has always been dominated by straight white men, who have conducted biased studies with the implicit aim to keep women out of academia - so we must question who has a say in the scientific process and we must work to spread that power. Another quote I really like, about how attraction is shaped by societal forces:

"People often think about attraction as an apolitical, inborn quality that is somehow a given. But in fact, more often than not, our desires are shaped by social standards of beauty and attractiveness - of who or what is considered attractive, and who or what is not. These standards of attractiveness are deeply political, since they are shaped by dominant social beliefs and structures. To name just a few: White people are considered more attractive than people of color, thin people more than fat people, non disabled people more than disabled people - and cisgender people more than trans and genderqueer people."

Overall, a controversial and necessary book I would recommend to those who want to learn about bisexuality and the dominant systems that often disadvantage minorities. While Eisner derails her arguments sometimes by going on tangents that stray from her main point, as a whole her book packs quite a punch. I hope it will help people question the negative norms surrounding bisexuality and other minority identities.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,102 reviews1,321 followers
August 21, 2022
Are you looking for a smart, accessible introduction to bisexual academic theory, history, and activism? Are you a bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual person who needs an anti-assimilationist kick in the pants? Are you a monosexual (gay or straight) person who wants to learn more about the bisexual people in your life? Look no further than Shiri Eisner’s Bi: Notes for A Bisexual Revolution.

Although my feelings about this book are complicated, for the most part I am happy that it is out there and that bisexuals younger than myself have it as a resource! In particular, I think it’s a fantastic introduction to not only bisexuality but queer and feminist studies more generally. Eisner is great at defining key terms in no-nonsense language and succinctly summarizing complicated queer/feminist theories. You don’t need a background in queer or feminist studies or academia to understand this book, which I think is great for making it a manageable read for all sorts of people who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up something like this.

What I really loved about Bi was how Eisner put a lots of things about bisexuality and biphobia that I had experienced as both a lesbian and bi-identified woman into words. I had never taken the time to analyze some of this stuff, and some I had just never realized were manifestations of biphobia. Eisner dives right in in the early chapters and tackles such tricky topics as bisexual stereotypes, accusations that bisexuality ‘reinforces the gender binary’ and otherwise contributes to the dominant social order, myths that bisexuality doesn’t really exist, the fact that bi men are deemed gay whereas bi women are deemed straight, and bi people being accused of having access to heterosexual privilege. One of my favourite points that she made was that the sometimes positively-viewed assertion that ‘everyone is really bi’ is really the other side of the ‘bisexuality doesn’t exist’ coin. Both statements are trying to deny the validity of a bisexual orientation and the uniqueness of bisexual people.

I also really liked how she dealt with the issue of heterosexual privilege and the idea of passing as straight or gay. She writes, for example,

“The presumption that bisexuals experience oppression not as bisexual people but as ‘quasi gays and lesbians’ … divides bisexual identity into ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ parts [and] presumes that bisexuals are only oppressed by heterosexism inasmuch as they live a ‘gay’ life and that they gain privileges inasmuch as they live a ‘straight’ life.”

Eisner also brings up a really important point about the gay / straight-washing that happens so often to bi people. Since I’ve been paying attention, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen bi celebrities as well as regular people referred to as either gay or straight. Like, I had no idea Alan Cumming was actually bi and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him referred to as gay a million times. Recently, when bisexual activist Robyn Ochs (whose wonderful definition of bisexuality I’ll include farther down) was mentioned in a mainstream newspaper celebrating her marriage with a same-sex partner, she was called a lesbian—this is a woman whose career is built on fighting that exact kind of erasure. So this book was eye-opening for me in a lot of ways, and in particular about the monosexist assumptions that led me to feel like I had to pick lesbian or straight. A lot of what I read feels empowering and revolutionary, just like the title promised!

One of the things I didn’t love about this book was Eisner’s radical political stance. I mean, I agreed theoretically with a lot of the points that she made, but often anarchist/radical politics feel naïve and limiting for me. I want to say, okay, yes, dismantling the entire structure and ways of thinking that our societies are founded on is great in theory, but what can we actually practically do to make things better for people who are getting a shit deal right now? I heard some echoes in Eisner’s writing of other things I’ve heard in radical queer circles, like the ‘subverting gender binaries’ shtick . I’m sick and tired of reading about whether this or that identity subverts gender binaries or not. It’s getting old. I’m suspicious of this especially because it’s often evoked (not in Eisner’s case) in an anti-feminine context.

Eisner’s section on men and bisexuality is definitely the weakest section. Honestly, a bi man should probably have written this chapter—I would have been really interested to hear that perspective, but Eisner’s anti-science tirade about the research that’s been done on bi men wasn’t interesting or illuminating to me. In fact, in her book Excluded, Julia Serano points out that a lot of feminism’s knee-jerk anti-science is detrimental and misguided. The section on bisexuality and racialization could have used a lot more variety too. I get that Eisner is relying on her own experiences, but some references to other racialized people, at least for further reading, would have been nice.

All of that said, I still really recommend this book. It taught me a lot and made me think a lot about bisexuality and biphobia in many ways that I hadn’t before. It’s a great starting point for discussion—it will get you thinking and talking and thinking some more! I want to end with Robyn Ochs’s definition of bisexuality, which Eisner introduced me to:

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted-romantically and/or sexually-to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

Eisner praises Ochs for the inclusiveness and reassuring quality of this definition. I think Eisner’s insistence on the messiness and complication of bisexuality is similarly reassuring: she writes that these qualities are not something to apologize for but rather something to value.
37 reviews31 followers
November 17, 2014
entirely apolitical and obsessed with identity politics rather than materialism, the author seems to believe that bisexuals have a complete understand of gay and lesbian experience while gay men and lesbians cannot fathom theirs. They contradict themselves constantly, asserting that bisexuality is its own orientation and not 'half gay, half straight' then says that many bisexual women's experiences are identical to lesbians experience. They lump gay men and lesbians in with straight people to create a completely fictitious axis of oppression reminiscent of 'vanilla privilege'. Rather than taking a critical look at cisheteropatriarchy and mandatory heterosexuality, they attack gay men and particularly lesbian for being 'oppressors' simply by virtue of not having sex with men - and I cannot think of anything more lesbophobic and misogynist than that.
Profile Image for Penny.
230 reviews1 follower
October 31, 2014
I've been frustrated in my attempts to write my thoughts about this book, largely because it starts well and then goes wildly off the rails. The author opens with discussion of the necessity of radicalism and the ways bisexuality challenges heteropatriarchy. She moves into how women's sexuality is always reframed as being about men and always reinterpreted and reconstructed as being about men's pleasure, including lesbian sexualities. This part of the book is good.

Then she gets into bi women's issues and talks about awesome ways bisexuality challenges heteropatriarchy in relationships with men, which is a cool topic except... I also want to hear about how bisexuality brings awesome challenges to heteropatriarchy in relationships with women and expands possibilities for challenges in conjunction with the other challenges to heteropatriarchy posed by the lesbian community, but there is nothing like that here. I do think the larger lesbian community does need to work on biphobia in a huge way, but to frame the conflicts between lesbians and bi women as being solely about lesbians being irrationally hateful is lacking in nuance and context. The challenge to heteropatriarchy posed by lesbians is about refusing to conform to hetero norms: to love women, and to have relationships that do not include men and are not about men. The challenge posed by bi women is about being able to move between straight and gay spaces while being defined by neither. Bisexuality poses a challenge to heteropatriarchy and also to monosexism. This is a really important challenge, but in the context of our culture where heterosexuality is compulsory and women's sexuality is constantly reframed to be about men and include men, to be performed for men rather than being something for ourselves, where relationships with men are granted status while relationships with women are stigmatized, where we all hear over and over and over about how bi women "just happened to have ended up with a man" without any discussion of social and cultural pressure around that, there needs to be dialogue not just about biphobia in lesbian spaces but about queer identity, straight socialization, visibility, heteronormativity, privilege, what it means to put these two very different challenges to heteropatriarchy together and what it means in the larger context of still living under heteropatriarchy, still living in a society where women are expected to pair bond with men if at all possible or tolerable.

Talking only about what bisexuality brings to relationships with men ultimately serves only to reinforce the reframing of women's bisexuality as something that is about men and for men. Further, this is a discussion that I think is specific to relationships with straight men, as I don't think the same presumptions and issues would necessarily arise in a relationship with a bi man.

I could also have done with more on straight men needing to be less fetishizing and take being allies to their partners and friends seriously and challenge their internalized sexism and heterosexism. But no: lesbians merely need to be less biphobic, the end.

Then in the section on bi men, she focuses not on bi men's issues at all but on how bi men need to be more feminist and more awesome toward bi women. I'll grant that this is true and is a subject I'd like to learn more about. However, I didn't read this book for a critique of sexism among bi men. I read it to learn more about bi men's issues under heteropatriarchy, and I know no more about this than when I started.
Profile Image for marcus.
11 reviews
July 11, 2014
This book is like eating a bucket of cold, store brand oatmeal and every now and then coming across a sugary dinosaur egg that hasn't yet dissolved into the rest of the mush. It had potential, truly, but failed due to Eisner's terribly poor analysis of power dynamics.

Her analysis of "monosexism" is rooted in a very liberal definition of privilege (which is strange, considering she came off as a radical leftist), which fails to recognize that, as coherent to a radical analysis of power structures, privilege is synonymous to the extraction and exploitation of culture, wealth or labor by the oppressor class upon the oppressed class. She often backpedals in her arguments of monosexism, saying that she isn't really pointing a finger at lesbians or gay men, merely holding them accountable for what they may contribute to a biphobic environment within queer communities. Of course, lesbian women and gay men should consistently evaluate their behavior and analyze in what ways their actions may create a hostile environment in their otherwise considered "safe spaces", but a failure to do so isn't "monosexism", since lesbian women, particularly lesbian trans women, are in no such position of power in the first place. She fails to give any material ways in which the Monosexual Lesbian Oppressor Class benefits from the exploitation of the bisexual class. I guess I'm getting way to into disputing her argument but more or less my point is: she has poor ways of evaluating privilege and that shows itself in every chapter of this book. She really could have had some solid points, had she delivered it better. It was disappointing, to be lacking so many dinosaur eggs.
Profile Image for Rachel.
163 reviews61 followers
July 30, 2013
The book is interesting. I feel like I know more about the opinions other bisexuals have, but I don't care for them. The author takes the word "ableist" to meanings far beyond the original, which should be hard because I'm disabled. She also comes across as very dogmatic and anti-science, which is frustrating. I don't mind the anarchy, nor the idea of bisexuals embracing being outcasts, but ragging on science for proving that bi men exist is too much.
Profile Image for PhebeAnn.
336 reviews12 followers
September 17, 2018
I really wanted to like this book. I thought I would like this book. I definitely admired some things about this book, but overall, it was a slog. And I feel awful saying that, because I do think Eisner is saying some important things here.

What I didn't like:
- The writing is SO SO dry and clunky. Yikes. It reads like several overly long undergraduate papers by a really keen Women's/Gender Studies student whose ideas haven't caught up to their writing. I know, because I've been there, both as a student and later as a lecturer. And I guess that's kind of what Eisner is, as someone with an undergraduate degree in Women's Studies, who, ambitiously enough, wrote a full-length academic book.
- This will seem minor, and it may not be Eisner's choice at all, but it really bugged me: the typesetting is awful. I kind of liked the definitions of jargon terms in text boxes separated off from the main text, but this is largely dropped after the first couple chapters. In addition to the text boxes, some key terms are in bold while others are in italics. I don't understand the rationale for this choice. Some paragraphs start with a different font, seemingly randomly. I think this was supposed to indicate sub-chapters, or sections, but they were located so haphazardly it didn't really help to break up the reading, it was just distracting.
- The premise of this book is probably the thing that bothered me most. The book is called "Notes for a Bisexual Revolution." Which would lead one to believe it will give some sort of pragmatic sense of what a bisexual revolution might actually look like. Or what one might do to achieve such a revolution. But, much as in the tradition of other anarchist writers, this is more a book about ideas than actions. Which would be fine, except Eisner clearly wants actions and movements to come out of this book ("if I could ask one thing of my readers it's that they don't leave this book on the shelf but take it to the streets" p. 12 - how one would do that is never really addressed).
- Eisner also prefaces the book saying that she wants to "bring this inaccessible knowledge [feminist and queer theories] back to people who might not have the financial or education access to it." In this goal, as far as I am concerned, she utterly failed. At least in North America, and I can't speak for other places, the people who tend to get involved in bisexual activism - as Eisner herself points out - are privileged people. People who have some familiarity with queer theory. And frankly, these are the only people who will read this book. I think it's way over the heads of anyone without a university degree because it quotes some academic text basically every page, which is part of why it's so dry. You can't have a new academic jargon word every three pages and say a book is accessible. This is not a book of the people and to claim so seems naive.
- The best Eisner really has to offer us in terms of actions are things like harnessing the potential of bisexuality's liminality, rejecting the notion of a "true" identity, and embracing bisexuality's subversiveness rather than knocking on the door of the mainstream, asking for a place in the identity politic wars. I love Anzaldua as much as the next crunchy queer feminist, but that's a very Foucauldian idea (power circulating) and not a revolutionary one. It's also not new. And it's not something I can do something with in a tangible way.
- Most bisexuals don't want a revolution. Look, I agree with most of what Eisner's saying about where the priorities of bisexual movements should be. But let's be real: most bisexual people aren't even part of any kind of bisexual movement, and don't want to be. They don't want to be radicals; they just want to have a good life. And that might involve marriage, for example. (And I say this being a married person who is also critical of marriage as an institution and said I'd never marry. Until I did). I fully admit I'm a pessimist, but I just don't think this is a battle she's going to win, much as part of me wishes it were. I fully agree with her that this is an example of privileged queers "pulling up the ladder" and putting in the effort to secure themselves more privilege while turning away from the struggles of more marginalized queers, but I also think that a lot of queer folks just want to belong. They don't want to fight forever, choosing to continue to be outcasts for the sake of some greater political good. That is one really tough sell.
- A few of her more minor arguments rubbed me the wrong way, like when she claims that biphobic representations of bisexuality are causing violence against bisexual people, while doing an unconvincing side-step away from the idea that this is a sex-negative or anti-porn claim (174). Um, what?? Her reasoning here is a stretch at best.

Things I liked:
- I couldn't help but be impressed by the exhaustiveness of her research for this book, much as it felt overly stuffed with academic references. It brings together an awesome bibliography of bisexual writing from online and print, popular and academic sources. It outlines the origin of a lot of biphobic notions with a depth I have never seen before in other bisexual writing (for example, tracing some of it to queer theorists like Sedgwick - this was new to me).
- Eisner is right to call out the bi community on some stuff, from token inclusion of racialized people (rather than a genuine anti-racist politics that examines white fragility), to transphobia, to the scapegoating of gay and lesbian communities as the source of biphobia rather than locating its true source in the heteropatriarchy. All these things really needed saying and I thank her for saying them.

Profile Image for Eglathren.
111 reviews18 followers
May 6, 2022
This book made me think a lot about things that aren't its main focus.

Throughout more than half of it, I found myself feeling super uncomfortable about some of the comparisons with other forms of oppression (especially that bit about the enslavement of black people). Not only that, there are quite a few claims that are actually quite hurtful to the lesbian community and contradictory to Eisner's own conclusions. Lots of sections were repetitive at best, and downright harmful at worst.

The text is riddled with non-sequitur and incomplete explanations; the double standards on awareness and accountability regarding the necessary criticism surrounding problematic sources is inconsistent in a way that withholds transphobia, especially transmisogyny, which is also in turn reflected through an ineffective and careless use of trigger warnings, fully spelled slurs, among other things.

I mean, why (rightfully!) criticise only *some* biphobic and transphobic authors, but not mention at all the violent transphobia of Adrienne Rich? This gave me big "I identify as AFAB and use that to be transmisogynistic" vibes, and the whole bit about erasing lesbian experience by replacing it with "that's biphobia acting, actually" gave me "I can't recognise I'm making the same mistake and erasing someone else's voice" vibes.

The excellent beginning set me up for disappointment as I progressed through the book. The end was better as well, but that shitstorm I ranted about earlier was the biggest chunk. It actually *wasn't* ok, but I gave 2 stars because there is still information here that was innovative at the time and it is important. On the other hand, I also started learning more about the Jewish diaspora because of the chapter on racism (I wish Eisner had only used their experience as a person who experiences racism in Israel/Occupied Palestine instead of also using the biggest generational trauma black people experience as a metaphor for biphobia; disclaiming "I don't think they're comparable" only to go ahead and make the comparison anyway doesn't magically make it ok). The dirtiest mixed feelings.
Profile Image for Matthew Eck.
56 reviews4 followers
July 19, 2022
I have never felt very secure in my bisexual identity, but I felt so seen by this book and learned so much.

While redefining bisexuality to an umbrella term, Eisner discusses the unique experiences of bisexual people, such as higher rates of mental illness and higher rates of experiencing sexual assault. She goes on to unpack the stigma and most common myths surrounding bisexuality, a unique identity/experience in and of itself.

Throughout the text, Eisner frames bisexuality as an unstable political tool for subverting and dismantling power structures, such as monosexism, cissexism, binarism, racism, patriarchy, and Zionism. In a chapter about bisexuality and racialization, for example, she discusses Mizrahi Jews in Israel and how we can think of the free Palestine movement in terms of bisexuality.

Writing the final chapter on the GGGG movement (gay gay gay gay, a term to describe western LGBT movements as assimilationist and catering to white, non-disabled, cisgender men), Eisner ultimately highlights a radical, bisexual activism that will bring liberation + freedom to all. Truly a mind-blowing exposé of our most intricate social dynamics
Profile Image for Brandon Will.
293 reviews29 followers
September 13, 2015
If you came here to look into this book: just read it. Trust me.
If you stumbled upon this, this book is one to seriously consider giving some time to.

It's funny--entering this book, I was preparing to be chastised and told about my privilege (even after glancing at the chapter titles)--internalized bi-phobia is that bad! I fully expected an attack, yet still paid money I can't really afford for this book full price and went into it, because I'm so starved for conversation about this.

It's more than I could have hoped for.

Absolutely indispensable for anyone interested in not only sexual politics, but feminism, the absurdity of gender roles, intersectionality, and international affairs. And a great primer for anyone just stepping in any of those thought waters. This blew me away again and again.

Simplified: It's about breaking down the world we were born in to, and not just shrugging like "that's the way it is." It's about building the world we deserve, all of us. No book has all the answers, but this one has a high concentration of well-reasoned thought from many angles, asking lots of questions we all need to be asking and working through, together.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
187 reviews16 followers
July 2, 2014
A must-read for all bisexual people. An education for all monosexual people.

Bi: frames bisexuality in the context of modern attitudes to gender and sexuality, and challenges the preconceptions and prejudice against this misunderstood sexual orientation.

Shiri Eisner writes clearly and coherently, explaining more complex terms in ways that laypeople can understand. Eisner examines in intersections of biphobia and other isms with clarity and compassion.

I wish there was a little more about the way that biphobia and hatred of mental illness combines, but there's only so much room in any book.
Profile Image for Nina.
979 reviews10 followers
January 3, 2019
An insightful, amazing book. I've been reading this for an essay I'm writing for university about the representation of bisexual and plurisexual identities on television. I haven't added in "date read" because I have dipped in and out of this book so much, so whilst I feel like I have read it, I haven't read it from front to back so won't include it in my reading challenge.
Profile Image for Grace.
173 reviews6 followers
October 2, 2013
I definitely disagreed with a lot of the points made by Eisner but, WOW, was it good to get a scholarly look at bisexuality and activism.
Profile Image for astrocate.
27 reviews5 followers
January 13, 2021
there's a lot to unpack here so i'm gonna analyse every chapter of the book in order to express a complete and proper opinion about my reading; let's start.

What is Bisexuality?

The first chapter is probably the one I enjoyed most. I think it's the less controversial and it was really helpful to better understand the definition of bisexuality since I'm not bisexual myself. The only thing I didn't like is that the author supports enthusiastically every kind of microlabel that might fall under the bisexual spectrum. I have nothing against microlabels and I generally support them, but there are some that are explicitely both biphobic and lesbophobic (such as bi d*ke, b*ke or bisexual lesbian), and in my opinion the author wrote about them without before critically thinking about their meaning. However, I found the chapter interesting, I can surely affirm that because of this opening I gave the book two stars instead of one-

Monosexism and Biphobia

Here I come to what made me really angry while I was reading the book: the whole concept of monosexism. Before I start I was kind of disappointed when I found out the author would use the word monosexism as a "replacement" for biphobia, if I can say so, because I thought they would have criticize that word, due to how they talked about it at the beginning of the book. However, the reason I think the word and in general the idea of monosexism is really problematic is that it puts gay men, lesbians and straight people on the same level. The author says several times that it's not their intention to assimilate the straight experience to the gay/lesbian one, but in practice they do in throughout the entire book. I think it's really dangerous to compare yet lesbian and gay men experiences since gay men still uphold patriarchy and women oppression, but it's way more wrong to say that gay men, lesbians and straight people oppress bisexual in the same way... straight people are literally our oppressors, it's so offensive to compare us to them. I'm not trying to neglect biphobia, i'm perfectly concious that many lesbians and gay men are really biphobic and we have to work on that, but this is different than saying that lesbians/gay men oppress bisexual people, we literally don't have the material power to do that. Everytime I read the word "monosexist" or "monosexual" in the book I got so angry that it was impossible to finish the reading quietly. Furthermore, I wanted to call out how the author keeps repeating that "monosexual" people reinforce the gender binary, and that bisexual people can escape this mechanism. Gay men and lesbians (as well as straight people) CAN be attracted by non binary and genderqueer people, because non binary is not a third gender, it would be transphobic to say so. As a non binary person can identify as a lesbian, for instance, a lesbian can be attracted by a non binary person, because non binary people are not apart of a third gender, they fall outside the binary, outside the schemes. (this is referred to western cishet-patriarchal system).

Bisexuality, privilege and passing

Even though there were really good takes in this chapter (such as the ones about passing), I got really mad at the book when I read that monosexual privilege is a thing. Once again we compare straight people position's in society to lesbians and gay men's one, things in my opinion very harmfulm as I elaborated before. Claiming that I'm privileged because I like only people of my own gender looks like a joke. I do recognise biphobia as an independent and valid oppression and discrimination that I may contribute to perpetrate, but this is not the same thing as being privileged, at all. It's just so wrong to say that lesbians/gay men have the same position in society when it comes to oppress bisexual people. Moreover, there shouldn't be such a thing as "the more oppressed" or "the race of oppression", it's a really dangerous dynamic. I honestly totally disagree with the author's point on this topic, and I felt my issues as a "monosexual", as they would say, person invalidated, because at the end of the day I'm an oppressor, as straight people oppress me. This is not okay.

Bisexuality, feminism and women

I really appreciated the content of this chapter, I think it's one of the most valid ones of the book. It explains pretty well the relation between feminism and bisexual women, and how bisexual women are perceived in feminism. However, I didn't like the part in which are explained in a very - and I mean very - detailed way the issues with pornography. There where no need to describe every porn scene so accurately, even with the proper trigger warnings, it's not useful to the point of the book and it makes it less accessible to people who have a trigger related to nsfw scenes and/or explicit sexual content.

Bisexuality, feminism and men

This chapter is a bit more controversial than the previous one. Even though I liked so much the explanation of the specific kind of biphobia bisexual men experience, I still can't find a correlation with the need to include them in feminism. Feminism is for women, it's not a space for men, even if they're bisexual, because they still uphold patriarchy and women's oppression. I can't find the meaning of saying that feminism needs them and that we should reserve a place for men in feminism; if they wanna be allies, then they can bring up feminist arguments in everyday society spaces, since they're literally privileged there. It's useless to let our oppressor into what should be our safe space.

Bi and Trans

I really liked this section of the book, I have barely something to say; it's kind of well written, it spends time to analyse the history behind today situation and it's pretty interesting imo.

Bisexuality and Racialization

I'm not gonna say a lot about his chapter since I feel like i'm not qualified to do it, but I wanted to point out just two things. The first one is that it's really boring. If the previous chapters might be controversial, they still were interesting and they cought my attention. This one is just slow, boring and honestly while I was reading it I couldn't wait to finish it. The second thing I'd like to call out is that "monosexual" people are compared to white people and bi people to racialized ones. I think it's not useful to compare in this way oppression since they have different origins, ways and context in which they manifest themselver, however I found kind of offensive saying that "monosexual" people are the white people of the community, especially when it comes to talk about "monosexual" poc or woc, and beside that it means that lesbians/gay men actively oprress bisexual people as straight people do like white people oppress racialized people, thing that in my opinion is wrong, as I said before.

Bisexuality and the GGGG Movement

This chapter was a bit boring too, even if the idea of the "GGGG Movement" was interesting. I already knew the problems of assimilation to the straight society, and honestly I think we can apply this argument to the whole LGBT+ community, and not only to bisexual people.

To sum up, this book was kind of disappointing. I chose to read it because my partner is bisexual and I have several friends who identify as bi/apart of the bi-spectrum, so I thought I could understand them better by reading this. However I just found an author who keeps repeating themselves (really, the book could have been an half long) and a reading that made me angry and bored in the end.
I wouldn't suggest this book, the first chapter is very useful and worthy, but unfortunately I don't thinl the same about the other ones.
Profile Image for A.J. Walkley.
Author 4 books27 followers
August 18, 2013
I just finished Shiri Eisner’s Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution and, I must say, I am geared up and ready to make change! Looking back over the book now, I realize I have highlighted almost every single page in this non-fiction call-to-action and will have quite the challenge to synthesize my thoughts into a digestible review. Nevertheless, here we go…

First off, overall I would like to say that this is a definite must-read for not only every bisexual activist, but every bisexual, pansexual, monosexual, homosexual, heterosexual, genderqueer — heck, everyone! The research Eisner has done for this book is clear from the beginning and the result is an incredible historical review of the bisexual movement from a whole host of perspectives and views, as well as clear ideas for revolutionizing it from here on out. With chapters on bisexuality, monosexism and biphobia, privilege, feminism, women and men, trans*, radicalization and what Eisner calls the “GGGG movement,” or the Gay-Gay-Gay-Gay movement, readers are exposed to the major issues that have impacted bisexuals over the years and those that are affecting us today.

While I could easily write a series of articles based on Bi, I have instead chosen some specific quotes that truly spoke to me to comment on; we begin with, “our political struggle needs to reflect the interests of everyone, address everyone’s needs, and endeavor to attain resources for and empower people of all groups — not just the ones who fit a certain palatable standard.” Eisner continues: “A very long list of people is being thrown overboard in the effort to ‘fight biphobia.’ In this way, the rebuttal in fact imposes biphobic normative standards on the bisexual community itself, drawing a line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bisexuals.” And further on: “It seems that in order to receive mainstream approval and acceptance, bi communities adopt and repeat the same mainstream values that are normally used against them.”

These quotes truly jumped out when I read them because of the fact that, in my own writing and in the Bi the Bi column I have co-written for The Huffington Post, I believe I am at fault for trying to make greater society accept bisexuals by assuring that I am a monogamous bisexual, for instance, attempting to counter the stereotype that bisexuals cannot be monogamous. Eisner is spot on here — some bisexuals are monogamous and some aren’t, and that is okay, that is beautiful. We cannot hope to move forward in bisexual activism by scapegoating anyone. I will be sure to check myself in this area in my own writing and speaking engagements from here on out, and I thank Eisner for calling this aspect out. I hope others will do the same.

Perhaps one of the most important points for bisexual activism is that we cannot continue to neglect specifically bisexual causes in order to assimilate into the “GGGG movement.” We have put a lot of force behind repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the fight for marriage equality, for example, which do impact bisexuals — but perhaps not as much as issues of health disparity, homelessness and domestic violence. Eisner writes:

“People with more urgent needs than marriage are neglected from the resources and activist efforts of the GGGG movement. GGGG organizations spend many millions of dollars on the struggle for marriage, while organizations addressing the issues of queer and trans homelessness [sic] youth, HIV+ queers, queer and trans people of color, queers in poverty, queer and trans survivors of violence, and many others suffer from a constant lack of money and resources.”

And when bisexuals are affected by these issues to a greater extent than lesbians and gay men, it truly makes you take a step back to reassess where our time and money is going — as well as why we are trying to assimilate to begin with.

There are definitely some radical points of view Eisner poses that may not be for everyone; but regardless, the messages within Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution are important and ever so relevant. We must actively build up a varied bisexual community that is welcoming to all gender identities, races, ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, etc. so that bisexuals no longer have to, in Eisner’s words, “[come] to terms with our identities in, and through, communities where we are strangers.”
Profile Image for Elise.
113 reviews35 followers
April 7, 2016
I was going to give this book two stars, but the more I kept going the more I hated it. While the author says some good things and has some good points, most of them get lost in a book that relies heavily on queer theory while simultaneously addressing itself to an audience unfamiliar with the terms of queer theory (for instance, defining "heteronormativity" in a sidebar). I cannot honestly tell who the audience of this book is.

Full disclosure: I'm not a huge fan of the "your sexuality as radical politics" genre as a rule, but this felt like an especially egregious example. Between assuring me that it's okay that bisexuality is associated with treachery and deceit because of its subversive potential and the laundry list of privileges at the front of the book that began to feel like humble-bragging, almost everything about the tone and content of this book drove me nuts. An excerpt:
The indecision, that is, fluidity associated with bisexuality can be used as a refusal to conduct ourselves through society’s narrow constrictions. It is a refusal and deconstruction of any socially dictated boundaries at all. This marks a collapse of both binaries and boundaries, and a collapse of separation and isolation (embedded in us by both capitalist culture and internalized biphobia). It gives us the opportunity to call for difference, solidarity, and connection. It also comprises a powerful tool for looking into hierarchical social structures (which so often come in the form of binaries) and opposing them from a uniquely bisexual standpoint.

For the love of Christ.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. But while there was some good commentary in here, most of it was overshadowed by the bizarre combination of pretentiousness and self-righteousness that, unfortunately, tends to crop up in radical politics.

Oh, yeah, and it was sloppily edited. Typos all over the place.
Profile Image for Frances Haynes.
38 reviews3 followers
March 15, 2015
I wish I'd read this book two or three years ago when I was a baby bi -- and when I hadn't read so many excerpts and ideas based on this book on tumblr! I don't agree with everything in the book by a long shot, but I think Eisner's approach is a good one. I will certainly be lending it to a lot of people, and revisiting parts of it.

Favourite Chapters:
Bisexuality, Feminism and Men
Bisexuality and the GGGG Movement

Bit I disagreed with most strongly: monosexism. Most of the arguments I have seen against the idea of monosexism either completely mischaracterise what Eisner and others mean by it, and/or are plain biphobic, and/or seek to deny that biphobia exists. Mine is that it may be better to expand the meaning of heterosexism so that it is not merely a pair with homophobia, but with biphobia as well (and ace and arophobia). That is NOT to suggest that biphobia is merely a form of homophobia, or that gay and lesbian people and communities are never biphobic. It is to place *both* biphobia and homophobia as facets of heterosexism.

Accessibility: the book has trigger warnings, a glossary, and definitions of certain words within boxes. The bibliography and read more include many free, online sources.

Experience of reading the book: I appreciated the straightforward phrasing, although it could've been a bit more "sparky" in places. The text was well divided into headings. The paragraphs sometimes began in a different font, which I found more irritating and disrupting than you'd expect. In general, it was good to have more difficult points rephrased, but sometimes these rephrasings seemed to go on forever and it got boring.
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Author 1 book4 followers
August 22, 2015
The first chapter or so isn't bad, but then it devolves into "everyone else are jerks (but not us)" after that, to the point where it gets really hard to read, because it's repetitive and it's all sort of the same thing, despite the attempt to make each chapter focus on a different issue. I kind of get the impression that I wouldn't be welcome in her version of the bi community because I'm not queer enough or radical enough (I'm a bi cisgender woman who is married to a man and only recently admitted that my attraction to women actually meant I was bi, not straight, so I look straight and most people think I am because I'm only at the very beginning of the coming out process). I probably wouldn't recommend the book as a primer because it's not particularly helpful that way, but Eisner's perspective (particular since she's Israeli, not North American) is at times interesting, though not always very coherent.
899 reviews26 followers
September 3, 2015
This book started out powerfully, setting the stage to present a ground-breaking radical affirmation and call to action for bisexuals and our allies. I wish that it had accomplished this by taking the reader inside the lives of bisexual people. Instead, it takes a very abstract, theoretical approach, making it a book that is really about bisexual politics, not about bisexuality. The author makes a number of very valuable and interesting points, but those points are mostly lost in a sea of bigger and bigger words used to make the same points. It's always disappointing to me when a book about bisexuality (or any other manifestation of human sexuality) gives almost no mention to sex, pleasure, relationships, or any of the things that people LIKE about having a sexuality. I think this book makes some useful contributions to the realm of bisexual literature, but I would not recommend it as an introduction to bisexuality or even as an introduction to bisexual politics.
Profile Image for kory..
971 reviews107 followers
August 2, 2021
I thought I was going to enjoy this book, but unfortunately I don’t like or agree with a lot of it. Overall, it’s very dry, academic, and long-winded. And while Eisner wants this book to be taken to the streets, she provides very little on how people can turn the theories within this book into action.

I do, however, like the section criticizing The American Institute of Bisexuality (Bi.Org) for being biphobic, homophobic, and transphobic (they’re also openly panphobic), and the section that objectively looks at the binarism is bisexual communities without making the generalization that the bisexual community is binary (I’ve seen many people overcompensate for the binary misconception by outright denying the existence of binary definitions/discussions, past or present). And I like the chapter explaining the evolution of the term bisexual, as well as definitions, and I appreciated the long list of resources for further reading on bisexuality.

First, my two general issues.

Adding bisexuality to problems instead of fixing them: Eisner takes problematic understandings of sexuality, and instead of challenging them for being inherently flawed and offering alternatives, she just adds bisexuality to them. Examples: instead of discussing why the gay/straight understanding of sexuality is inherently flawed and offering an alternative understanding that isn’t a binary and considers all sexualities, she just argues for a monosexual/bisexual binary. Instead of discussing why assuming people are gay/straight is inherently flawed and urging people to not make invasive assumptions about strangers on mainly stereotypes, she just argues for also assuming bisexuality. Instead of discussing why using gay/lesbian as an umbrella for bisexual is inherently flawed and suggesting clear inclusive language, she just argues for using monosexual for gay/lesbian/straight, as well as bisexual for all mspec sexualities. Instead of throwing away inherently flawed concepts and starting fresh with things that actually fix what was wrong, she just slaps a bisexual band-aid on the problem and acts like it’s revolutionary.

Hypocrisy: Eisner is often hypocritical and spends a lot of time trying to justify it. She criticizes other people’s use of binary structures, yet proposes her own binary, and defends participating in binary structures by claiming she’s doing so to dismantle it. She criticizes bisexuality being subsumed into umbrella terms, yet proposes bisexuality as an umbrella term. She criticizes categorizing people based on sexual behavior instead of self-identification, yet does so with her use of “behaviorally bisexual”. She criticizes focusing more on the bisexual community being binary than the gay and lesbian communities, yet defends bisexual people focusing more on biphobia from gays and lesbians than straight people. She criticizes any suggestion of bisexual people being privileged, yet insists gays and lesbians hold the same or comparable privilege to heterosexuals. She criticizes bisexuals being grouped in with their oppressors, yet consistently groups gays and lesbians with heterosexuals. She criticizes people for upholding the gender binary, yet does so herself in only discussing bisexual men and women in any significant way, and defends not specifically addressing nonbinary people by claiming she’s including them through the lens of society that views them as either men or women.

Now, my more specific issues.

Let’s talk about monosexuality: I don’t think the term monosexual is inherently problematic. I think it’s a useful term. The way Eisner uses it, however, is harmful. She seems to use it most often to mean heterosexual, and she repeatedly puts gays and lesbians on the same level of social standing and power as heterosexuals. The concept of “monosexual privilege” says that monosexuality is the privileged norm, but it’s not. Heterosexuality is.

When discussing how “male, white, cisgender, heterosexual, etc.” is the “singular standard” of male privilege, Eisner says “racialized men, trans men, disabled men, bisexual men” deviate from that and are perceived as having “defective masculinity” and “reduced social value”. Notice which sexually marginalized group was left out of that? Gay men! Apparently being gay doesn’t reduce a man’s perceived masculinity or social value, and isn’t a marginalized deviation from the privileged norm! /s

Eisner argues that being gay is more accepted among men than being bisexual, because the response to a man coming out as gay is “begrudging acceptance”, but that men are “strictly forbidden to be bisexual”. Now, everyone’s experience is different, but to make a blanket statement like this that erases decades and decades of violent hatred and abuse in response to not only men coming out as gay, but also to men who are even perceived as potentially being gay. You do not have to downplay the realities of gay men to highlight the realities of bisexual men. This is blatantly, wildly homophobic.

Eisner criticizes trans people who say “LGB” when discussing community transphobia, because it’s erasure and creates a false equivalency among those identities. Eisner explicitly refers to this as “throwing bisexuals in with oppressor groups”, which is blatantly referring to gays and lesbians as bisexual people’s oppressors AND conflating the social standing and privilege of gays/lesbians to that of heterosexuals. Both of which are false and homophobic.

Eisner argues that lesbians who experience the same kind of sexual violence as bisexual women are actually experiencing misdirected biphobia, not lesbophobia. She originally states that no one is ever presumed to be bisexual, but here she argues when these lesbians experience sexual violence or harassment, it’s because they're being perceived as bisexual and therefor available to men. This is denying lesbians their own oppression. Predatory men think they’re entitled to lesbians due to the entitlement they feel to women in general, and lesbophobic ideas that lesbians just haven’t found the right man or a woman couldn't possibly not be interested in men. To claim that this is really just men thinking lesbians are bisexual and available to them because of the biphobic notion that bisexual women exist for the pleasure of men is a series of naïve assumptions, leaps in logic, and plain old lesbophobia.

I don’t care for the use of the term “homonormativity” which is defined in the book as “the acceptance of heteronormative values by gay people and movements”. Why not just say assimilationism, then? That’s what she’s talking about, but she’s using a term mirroring the harmful, oppressive “heteronormative” making it seem like, once again, gay people are oppressors or gayness is the accepted standard. And when discussing assimilationism and participating in problematic institutions (military, and in her eyes, marriage) the target of her disappointment and criticism is gay people. It’s clear who she thinks is inherently (more likely to be) progressive and who are inherently (more likely to be) regressive.

The chapter on bisexual men: Overall, Eisner spends this chapter criticizing specific bisexual men and their work and using those specific examples to generalize all bisexual men in order to condescend to them about what they should be doing instead (which erases the bisexual men who are already doing those things). Compared to the chapter on bisexual women, which is entirely about how bisexual women are oppressed and how they can take back their power, using the chapter on bisexual men to detail how oppressive and regressive and privileged they are seems unfair. Eisner even has the nerve to suggest better ways for bisexual men to discuss their own lived experiences, and accuse bisexual men who are bothered by their lack of visibility and presence in the bisexual community of wanting to uphold the patriarchy, caring more about making bisexual women invisible than making bisexual men visible, and treating bisexual women as their oppressors/a scapegoat for their invisibility.

Eisner justifies saying these things and making these condescending criticisms by saying she isn’t in a position of privilege over these bisexual men, and therefor cannot oppress them, and that it is not biphobic because she’s not speaking over or for them, she’s just offering criticism which should be allowed. But. She doesn’t need to be able to oppress bisexual men in order to hold and express biphobic beliefs about them. Instead of actually examining the biphobia bisexual men experience, she contributes to it.

Eisner acknowledges the “relatively low numbers” of bisexual men in the bisexual movement, but maintains that they dominate it. She also boldly claims that the mainstream bisexual movement being “dominated by white, native/citizen, college/university-educated, cisgender, monogamous, middle- and upper-class, nondisabled bisexual women” is a “positive fact”. (Note: her acknowledging the movement is dominated by women is in direct conflict with her claiming the low numbers of bisexual men doesn’t stop them from dominating the movement.) To have the nerve to claim the erasure of bisexual men from their own community and movement is a good thing, while there are bisexual men creating campaigns about how they do in fact exist because they’re still erased and underrepresented almost a decade after this book was published, is such shallow “feminism”.

Eisner also makes a lot of questionable generalizations about trans men based on nothing but personal experiences. It should go without saying, your personal experiences cannot be used to make generalizations. Example of this are claiming trans men “enjoy benefits” (which seems like a workaround to calling them privileged. Also, “benefits” trans people receive contingent on passing as cis are not benefits at all.), claiming trans men's issues are “considered more important than other groups’ (for example, trans women)”, and claiming the transgender movement is “controlled by trans men”. Eisner then boldly suggests trans men should subvert “dominant masculinity” instead of trying to fit into it, as if trans men aren’t already doing that.

Your umbrella has holes in it: Eisner is likely responsible for the popularization of the “bisexual umbrella”. In my research, her blog post with the graphic that’s included in this book was really the first time that exact phrase shows up, even though the concept of it has always existed. I personally don’t care for the bisexual umbrella, especially when people use it like Eisner does.

Eisner argues that anyone who considers themselves part of the bisexual community/movement through the umbrella, “identifies” under it, but that is not always the case. Utilizing an umbrella term that we had zero role in putting forth does not mean we identify with the term. It means we’re accepting that form of community and inclusion because the alternative means having nothing. Which is shown in Eisner saying she includes in her use of the bisexual umbrella only those want to be included, because she uses bisexual in very general ways that apply to all mspec people (such as using biphobia and monosexism interchangeably, when the former is specific form of the latter), therefore she’s either actually calling us all a term we didn’t choose for ourselves, or she’s excluding us from things that concern us. People argue that there isn’t a better term to use, but there is. Plurisexual, multisexual, mspec, nonmonosexual. Just to name a few. The choice to instead use bisexual is very calculated and at odds with how a lot of people who are supposedly being included actually feel.

Eisner points out that using gender inclusive language while only talking about men and women is still cissexist, which is true, but the parallel here to how the bisexual umbrella is mostly used is too obvious to not address. The majority of the use of the bisexual umbrella is for show, because the actual content produced by the people using it is bisexual specific. You can say “bisexual umbrella” or “bi+” all you want, but if you’re not actively speaking about and including other mspec people explicitly, then it means nothing.

Eisner states that “Bisexual Invisibility” is “one of the most important texts to have ever been published about bisexuals”. Not only does that report cite one of her blog posts, it also notes that some people think pansexual and omnisexual “reinforce a stereotype of promiscuity” (without bothering to challenge it), says people call themselves pansexual or fluid because they think bisexual is binary, and says terms like pansexual and omnisexual should be “avoided” unless specifically quoting someone who identifies as them. That report, ironically, uses bisexual as an umbrella term and it’s barely noted as doing such, and everyone, including Eisner, only notes the findings as being about bisexuals. This is the cost of the bisexual umbrella; subsuming a broad spectrum of identities and experiences into one, which erases the identities being subsumed and misrepresents the identity they’re being subsumed into.

Panphobia: Despite early on in the book acknowledging that bisexuality does have a history of being defined and discussed in binary terms, Eisner states that those who subscribe to the belief that bisexuality only acknowledges two binary genders “usually suggest the use of alternative identity categories that convey attraction to more than two genders, such as pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, queer, etc.” and even though she supports those identities and finds them helpful and positive, the implication here is that there is a direct link between these identities and thinking bisexuality is binary.

I’m tired of mspec people, most often pansexuals, being scapegoated for generalizations about bisexuality that have existed long before these identities gained even close to the kind of visibility substantial enough to create widespread misconceptions about a much more known/visible sexuality, and as Eisner stated, partially come from a real issue of binarism in bisexual spaces. I don’t deny that some people with these identities perpetuate this misconception, but it did not originate among them, nor is it inherent to those identities. Mainstream society is largely to blame for this widespread misconception, as they actually have the reach and influence to cause substantial damage, unlike a small, marginalized portion of the bisexual community.

Eisner mentions a trans party she attended where the host said pansexuality is “cooler” than bisexuality and it’s interesting that this example of trans people being biphobic is one of the very few mentions of pansexuality. As well as claims that pansexuality and omnisexuality are identities that “hold more currency within radical queer communities and politics” than bisexuality...........Where?

Lastly, other random issues:

Eisner mentions, quotes, and draws from the work of Adrienne Rich, specifically “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”, with zero note of Rich being a TERF, as well as a friend to Janice G. Raymond, the author of The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, which Rich edited/consulted on. This alone is questionable at best. But when quoting/discussing “Compulsory Bisexuality? The Challenges of Modern Sexual Fluidity”, Eisner notes that it is “otherwise highly problematic for its treatment of bisexuality”. When quoting Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics, she notes the book is “otherwise problematic”. When discussing “Gay, Straight, or Lying?”, she notes for “further context and history of the researcher” that J. Michael Bailey is also homophobic, transphobic, and supports eugenics. These people and their work are noted as being problematic in some way, yet Rich’s work is drawn on multiple times without a word.

Eisner comes off a bit anti-marriage, which isn’t uncommon among the more radical queers; the institution of marriage is argued to be part of the problem and queer people should be dismantling it, instead of fighting to be a part of it, and those who do want to be a part of it are sneered at. I think this is incredibly unfair and misplaced anger. Queer people are allowed to want to marry their partners, they’re allowed to want marriage and kids and a peaceful, quiet, “normal” life. Queer people aren’t bad or less than for wanting those things. I agree with the criticism of queer people fighting to be included in the military, but comparing that to marriage, even with the legitimate criticisms of the institution of marriage, is where you lose me. There is also something to say about queer people who want no part in activism, but will gladly reap the benefits of activism, but I don’t think queer people who just want to live their lives are the enemy.

Eisner frames a lot of things as being unique to bisexuality that in reality are not. Such as passing, high rates of victimization, prejudice from in and out of the community, being presumed to be other than what they are, etc. She notes that other queer people experience these things, yet the conclusion throughout the book is “this experience places bisexuality at a unique point”.

The monosexual privilege checklist (which is very flawed) frames the things on it as being uniquely done to bisexual people by monosexual people, but I’ve personally experienced a handful of those things as a pansexual person by bisexual people. Having my sexuality renamed and described in different terms than what I choose for myself and having my representation not named as such by media/reviewers/audience being two examples.

There are plenty of reviews that touch on topics I didn’t (because I’m too tired lmao), if you’re interested.
Profile Image for Haleigh.
106 reviews
February 10, 2017
While I do not begin to agree with everything that this author talks about, I do think that they present a really interesting conversation about bisexuals as a distinct group within the LGBTQ community. It's true that bis are normally lumped in with gays and lesbians, and it is usually assumed that the discrimination that they face and the issues that are important to them are exactly the same, but the topic is actually much more nuanced and subtle than that. This book is one of the first encouragements I've ever had to think about bisexuality as an identity within itself, rather than a partial homosexuality. It gives validation to that identity (one which is very often considered invalid, both in straight and queer communities), and it discusses some ways in which bisexuals can be better advocates for themselves and better allies for other marginalized communities. All of these are really important points, but you have to fight through a lot of really repetitive text and some arguments that jumped to rather extreme conclusions to get there.
Profile Image for Robert.
8 reviews
March 22, 2014
A thorough yet never taxing examination of how bisexuals are repressed in society. Quite an eye-opener, since I personally felt that bisexuals were relatively acknowledged in the society I live (USA and Europe), but in actuality, this 'acknowledgment' is incorrect and discriminating. What I especially like is the book's call to use bisexuality as a means to subvert patriarchy, classism and sexism.
At first I was put off by the title, as I found the term 'bisexual' outmoded: I thought the term pansexual was more used nowadays. I still don't fully understand why Eisner still uses the term, although e does have good points as to how the bisexual movement should not be attacked by the intersex/transsex movement. If anybody else feels like the book could be any less worth a read because of the title, please do not let that hinder you from picking it up.
Profile Image for Whitney.
335 reviews
October 6, 2013
Good read. Informative. It helped me understand my own sexuality a bit more, but I don't think I'll be starting a revolution any time soon.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
36 reviews2 followers
August 23, 2021
The majority of this book was wonderful for me to read as a bi woman, especially the first half of the book. Many of Eisner’s points hit home for me and felt validating as an open discussion about the impact of monosexism on bi folx.

I had a few issues with the book that have been more eloquently described by other reviewers. In particular, especially in the last third or so of the book, Eisner seems to become very negative toward most people/organizations who even *try* to be bi-inclusive or express themselves within the constructs of our established society (e.g., her discussion about the fight for same-sex marriage), and judgmental of anyone who would want to be included or have these rights. I believe it is important to draw attention to these topics and for all people to question these institutions and *why* they want these rights, or if they truly do; however, the judgmental tone Eisner takes about people who may want to be included in societal institutions did rub me the wrong way. Eisner also seems to be tangential at times and draws similarities and conclusions from places that felt divergent and erratic (e.g., the discussion of Mizrahis and Ashkenazi in Israel/occupied Palestine). The end of the book left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.

However, I would still recommend it to most people due to the other wonderful insights, representation, and difficult topics Eisner presents. It’s not often that I get to read a book this radical or validating. Just read it with a critical eye.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
332 reviews3 followers
October 11, 2021
This sums up the landscape of bi discourse, community, and activism (as of 2013, at least) so well. I think she really touches on most of the most pertinent topics and does so with nuance. I learned a lot. When I think back on my I'm-an-ally self from 2013 and all the things I didn't realize, even up til 2016, I am floored that she is talking about them with the deftness I'd expect to see in 2021. Like, racialization, colonialism, captialism, misogyny, monosexism, transphobia and how they're all intertwined. You can really see the roots of current TERFdom in her discussions of gay assimilationist movements and feminist movements of the 00s and early 10s. Great work.
Profile Image for Laura.
109 reviews
February 13, 2020
I found this book a little disappointing. At first I was intrigued by the history behind the terminology.
Then it went into the ways in which openly bisexuals are stigmatized -which filled a majority of the book, and is reiterated in several following chapters.
Personally I found the material to be dry, because as a bisexual I felt that I could have written the chapter on biphobia, and how our culture fights to keep us invisible.

Overall, I can't say I got much out of this book because a lot of what she refers to is better explained in most feminist/gender study books, and just comes off as dry and repetitive. Although, the topic itself is one that is not regularly talked about so the subject is an important one. I can see this book being a helpful first step in researching further bisexual social stigmas, the effect its having on our population.
Profile Image for Selma.
24 reviews
January 5, 2022
You know when you're at a party where you don't know people and you try to get out of your comfort zone so you strike up a conversation with the lad next to you... and they sound like they have waited and recited this conversation in the mirror for a very long while...with no input from anyone else...

This book is like that. It becomes an info dump and is not very beginner friendly at times despite the strong, easy-to-understand start it had in the first chapter. I think she has the info in her head and believes the excerpts she chose are self-evident. I'm still confused on how a phallus is one and a vagina is either 2 or neither. I don't know what the point she was trying to make with that, and the fact that it was later referenced to connect to other concepts made it all the more confusing. How a book about bisexuals made a bisexual confused...idk...

However, there were other concepts that suddenly made my experiences click for me: inversion theory, marriage equality + don't ask, don't tell goals being THE goal for the queer community, and biphobia. It seems other commenters take issue with monosexism, even though her disclaimers and introductions address their criticisms and point to the fact that despite being mono, lesbian + gay individuals are not bigger enemies to bi's than first and foremost, straight and cis structures.

This book is not very accessible in terms of writing and understanding. I think if you have strong understandings of academia and theory it's okay, but it's not really my background that I had to reread paragraphs. It would be easier to "take it to the streets" if there was a picture here or there and the language was easy to understand. Like, the inserted vocab definitions were good, why was that not consistent?

Final Verdict: It was good, for the parts that I could understand it. It needs to be made more accessible.
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