Bachelor of Arts
J. Milton Yinger
Minority, Lesbian, Subculture, Attitudes, Lesbianism, Contraculture
At some point during the early years of formal education int eh United States every child is bound to hear America referred to as a "melting pot." The melting pot analogy is supposed to convey the notion that many different peoples have converged in the United States, implying that they have freely intermixed and interbred. shared with each other their heritages and cultures, and produced a unique homogenous blended culture. But if one scrapes away this thin surface of idealism, it quickly becomes apparent that America is not a melting pot society but a pluralistic society, containing many groups of people with differing norms and values, each of which are more or less integrated into what man be referred to as the mainstream or the dominant culture. To the extent which they are not integrated into mainstream, dominant white culture, these groups possess subcultures, or: Normative systems of groups smaller than society, [the term "subculture" giving] emphasis to the ways these groups differ in such things as language, values, religion, and style of life from the larger society of which they are part.
Some of these groups, for example groups of new immigrants, possess subcultures which have been preserved in spite of contact with the surrounding, dominant culture. Others possess what Yinger terms a "contraculture," which is a subculture consisting of "norms that arise specifically from a frustrating situation of from conflict between a group and the larger society."
During the past two decades the members of many disadvantaged groups have come to recognize their common interests and begun to band together in civil rights and liberation movements. In so doing, they became members of a "minority." As each new minority identifies itself and begins to speak out, both members and non-members of the minority become aware of the minority's existence, of its special problems, and of the flavor of the way of life of its members. As each minority gains societal acknowledgement, it becomes increasingly legitimate and frequent subject of social science research. Thus, minorities such as blacks, women, and the handicapped, alcoholics, Western European immigrants, and gay men are the subjects of a growing body of research literature. A recent addition to the list of minorities who are standing up to identify themselves is that of lesbians. Long hidden and invisible, until the late 1960's lesbians were virtually ignored by society and by social researchers. But in the past two decades, as lesbians have become more vocal, the public and the scientific community are becoming aware not only that lesbians exist but that they have developed a unique contraculture in response to the attitudes of society towards them.
Rust, Paula C., "The Lesbian Subculture: Characteristics of the Lesbian Minority, Societal Attitudes Toward Lesbianism" (1982). Honors Papers. 661.