Posts tagged ‘sexism’

December 7, 2011

Misogyny in the Gay Community

ETA: I wrote this a while ago and totally realize (now) just how cissexist and transmisogynistic this post is. I’m sorry. I’ve posted an apology here¬†and a much longer and complete apology here.

One of my pet peeves is misogyny in the gay community. I have always found the way that this manifests in the community problematic. Well, okay, I find *all* manifestations of misogyny problematic. I find it extra irritating in the gay community because we should be standing in solidarity with women. Particularly, given how frequently homo-hating uses the tools of misogyny and sexism marginalize gay men (the spectre of the femme gay man haunts the nightmares straights). The stereotypes of gay men are feminized to take advantage of the deeply ingrained cultural hatred for women. Homo-hating, as it applies to men, cannot be separated from sexism.

So, the, what the fuck is up with how often I hear and see gay men denigrating women’s bodies? And, for all those gay men who *always* shrug their shoulders and act like they don’t know what I’m talking about, just because misogyny is so deeply embedded within the gay community this doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. It is. I’ve experienced this over and over, first hand.

I will say this, I do have some fear of vaginas. But my fear is more of the, “I don’t know what to do with one and wouldn’t want to disappoint my partner” brand of performance anxiety. Other than that, I think vaginas are wonderful. I’ve touched them before and enjoyed their uniqueness and difference from penises. Vaginas are *fun*. I’ve said as much before to gay men and, the most common response by far, is disgust. Yes, disgust.

Gay men often react this way when encountering references to vaginas. And it is always the vagina, since most gays will admit that breasts are fun. Margaret Cho, very popular amongst gay men, has essentially made a career out of her comedic routines parodying gay men’s disgust with vaginas (the other part of her career has been made via confirming racist stereotypes). And it is in this expression of disgust that we see how gay men’s identities become not just about an attraction towards men and their bodies but also about an explicit and hateful rejection of women’s bodies.

I brought this up in a discussion with a group of gay men recently and they (of course) reacted with a lot male privilege denial. They are gay, why should they *like* vaginas? They are just disgusted with vaginas and don’t actually hate women. It is just meant to be a *joke* (especially in Margaret Cho’s case).

Um, no. Just no.

Denigrating women isn’t funny. And using women and their bodies as butt of a joke only serves the patriarchy and doesn’t challenge anything. Our cultures continuously devalues and demeans women and their body. Actively participating in this by making hateful jokes about it doesn’t actually do anything but continue the cycle.

You don’t have to like vaginas. But you shouldn’t be disgusted by them either. There is a world of difference between these two positions. Just as there is a world of difference between saying that you love cock and making gagging noises when someone mentions a vagina.

Why is this important? Because there is no difference between the disgust you feel towards women’s bodies and more direct instantiations of misogyny. I mentioned to this group of gays that their proposal that disgust doesn’t equal misogyny only works if we assume Cartesian dualism (wherein the mind and body are considered to be two distinctly different ontological entities). Except that Cartesian dualism is generally not supported by either science or much of modern philosophy. The mind and the body are not two different things. Thus, if you hate a person’s body you hate *them*.

If vaginas disgust you then you hate women. If vaginas don’t actually disgust you and you’re just doing it for comedic effect, stop. I’m not laughing about living in a culture that so devalues women’s bodies that the statistics for violence against women make me shudder. More importantly, I sure as shit can’t tell the difference between someone who hates women and is just joking about it. No one is saying you have to go for a muff dive, but understanding and behaving as if women’s bodies are beautiful and valuable is simply the right thing to do.

August 28, 2011

Rationality

I’ve noticed a curious thing in my explorations of the activist blogosphere this past summer. There often appears to be an emphasis on rational argument or debate. From the perspective of those commentators and opponents who continuously derail and interrupt discussions with their bigoted viewpoints, I can see the need to establish rules of discourse that address (something like Derailing for Dummies is a great example).

However, you often catch activists poking holes in the arguments of their bigoted opponents. Overall, there seems to be this need to prove the other person wrong and, generally, an insistence that these debates be rational. Of course, there are many posts about the anger of the oppressed being valid and necessary. Even then, however, emotions are seen as being a seasoning to the argument at hand.

In debate, there is a clear difference between logic and rhetoric. Rhetoric, by it’s nature, is supposed to convince people. It has a place for emotion but also with certain conventions that allow debate to be possible. Rhetorical arguments can include logic. The reverse is rarely true: logic rarely convinces anyone of anything. Both forms of argumentation emphasize the rational.

The Rational, and what counts as rational, is entirely sexist. It was, and continues to be, used to silence women. One of the most deeply ingrained sexist stereotypes is that woman are emotional and men rational. Always this oppositional dichotomy: no one is allowed to be both rational and emotional. Furthermore, what is emotional is never rational.

This tool, rationality, was such a powerful silencing tool, it was extended to include men of colour (it already applied to women of colour and only had a further compounding effect for them). Other cultures are *never* as rational as those philosophies following the Greek tradition. I actually had a logic professor tell me that the sophisticated systems of Indian logic weren’t really logic, since they weren’t formal (as defined by Western standards). And it so happens that, for Western philosophers at least, the only logic worth studying is formal logic. Shocker.

I’ve read about Lourde’s notion of the master’s tools. Let me tell you: logic and rationality are one of these tools. So when we insist on both ourselves and our opponents ‘making sense,’ we are actually just using one of the master’s tools. Some things don’t, and will never, make sense. It is irrational to claim to be a Christian and be so hate-filled that you deny queers the right to marry (or exist). Or to insist that women are people who don’t deserve body autonomy, like other human beings. It doesn’t make sense to participate in and contribute to a global economy structured on the exploitation of human beings with melanin.

I recognize that these represent some people’s truths about the world. I also recognize that some people will think that my firm belief in the goodness of human beings and our capacity to be better silly and irrational. Others will think that my belief in the liberation and equality of humans is idealistic and foolish. Fine.

The thing is: I don’t care. At all. I’m not actually trying to convince anyone or so wow them with my awesome logic that they suddenly decide to recognize the fact that all humans should be free and equal. If you don’t already believe this, you are an asshole and I don’t actually want anything to do with you. I don’t mind fighting you, because in this case right makes might. If you won’t participate in a peaceful redistribution of power, then we just gonna have to drag you kicking and screaming.