Posts tagged ‘women’

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.

September 19, 2011

Strangers in our midst

There is so much great work out there on rape culture. On what it is and how it impacts all of our lives. There also a great deal of excellent work simply discussing rape and sexual assault, and how it impacts people. In a small way, this post can serve as a footnote or a gentle reminder about one of the most pernicious myths in rape culture: stranger rape.

Stranger rape does happen. Of course, given its prevalence in media reporting we tend to believe that it happens a lot and all of the time. That most sexual assaults are of this nature. Not so much. When the stat is brought out that one in seven women has been raped/sexually assaulted (I’m going from memory, so forgive me if I’ve got the number off — the point I’m drawing doesn’t depend on this number), our minds generally turn towards thinking of women getting assaulted in parks or alleys. Not so much.

Sexually assaulting and raping women is generally done by men known to them. By their brothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands, uncles, friends, etc. This is the same when discussing sexual child abuse. You often see news stories worrying about the ability for sexual predators to meet children on the internet in chat rooms or whatever. Nope. If you think a child is being sexually abused you must look to their fathers, brothers, uncles, family friends, etc.

Regarded in a certain light, these people can be viewed as strangers: because any person currently assaulting another human being is unknown to me. If I discover such a person in my own life it is because they truly are a stranger to me. I wouldn’t actually *know* them if I didn’t know this about them. The person capable of sexual assault or rape is strange to me.

Outside of this somewhat solipsistic framing of ‘stranger’ rape, it generally is done by people you know. I write this because this aspect of rape culture is often shied away from and it is important that we remember it. That we keep it at the forefront of our discussions about rape and sexual abuse. It also emphasizes why rape culture is so destructive, because this truth keeps disappearing. We talk about why it is futile (and wrong) to tell women to maintain constant vigilance so that they aren’t raped. But we rarely say that this is because it will probably be their father, brother, uncle, cousin, friend, boyfriend, etc., who will rape them. It is next to impossible to protect yourself from someone you live with. Someone who you’ve known for years and hasn’t assaulted you in that time.

So. The message here is that if you are someone’s father, brother, cousin, friend, boyfriend, husband, etc., don’t rape or abuse the people who love and trust you. For those who are strangers to people in their lives, don’t rape people who don’t know you, either. And for everyone, at long last, don’t rape.