Written by Austin VanKirk—
I’m taking a class in British literature of the Victorian era with a special emphasis on Queer writers of the time, E. M. Forster and Oscar Wilde being two notable examples. After reading various literary critics touching upon the writing of these people, I have come to a decisive realization about the nature of homophobia; it is all rooted in a disdain for women.
This may not be that incredible of a realization for some people, but I want to explain my thoughts on this for those who might be new to this line of thinking. As a feminist and regular recipient of homophobia, realizing that misogyny and homophobia are two sides of the same coin is quite troubling.
To explain this idea to those of you who are not quite piecing these ideas together, misogyny is defined literally as a hatred for women, but in recent times has also been used to describe anti-feminist sentiments and actions with the intent of “keeping women in their place.” For the misogynist, being a woman is the worst possible thing a human can be. Women, in the misogynist mind, are lesser creatures not worthy of the same liberties and opportunities as men. Men who identify as Queer or as part of the LGBT community, or even if they are simply perceived to belong to this minority group, are susceptible to ridicule, i.e. homophobia, because these men are seen as intentionally foregoing their place of power as a man by willingly engaging in “womanly” behavior. What is seen as “womanly” behavior is rather subjective depending on the person and cultural setting, but in most places in this country, examples of such would be a preoccupation with fashion and cooking; a higher-pitched, less-masculine voice; and effeminate gestures (think, limp wrist). In other words, these are the stereotypical identifiers of a gay man. Worse than all of these combined in the homophobe’s / misogynist’s mind is a gay man engaging in sex acts with another man, who in many ways, is becoming a woman (especially in the instance of the passive partner / bottom). It is simply deplorable and abominable to them that a man would concede his power to another; it is nearly incomprehensible to them. When gay men are perceived to enter into the role of women, they too then, are susceptible to the misogynistic attacks that women endure, thus producing the concept of “homophobia.” To state this another way, homophobia is actually a misnomer, because homophobia isn’t motivated by fear but rather disdain—disdain for a group of men who are viewed to be women in essence.
The case for lesbians is a little different. For many men, who might be homophobes or misogynists, will permit and encourage same-sex sex among women, because they find it sexually stimulating. This is true, provided that there exists some idea in the man’s head that the sex acts are being performed for his benefit. His problem with lesbians only begins to take shape when women begin to behave more like men: taking on the role as primary bread-winner, attaining positions of power in the workplace, resisting his sexual advances, wearing clothes that are traditionally reserved for men. This is a problem for the homophobe / misogynist because a woman is attempting to enter the realm of men, which she should be barred from by virtue of her vagina and breasts. This perceived impertinence is a source of anger and disdain, which lends itself to homophobia for lesbians. This brand of homophobia, then, is actually very similar to the misogyny heterosexual women experience daily when they attempt to further their place in the world.
As a small aside, I can’t say this with certainty, but it would appear that in matriarchal societies (groups of people who give societal power to women instead of men), homophobia does not exist.
One need not be a firm misogynist in order to be a homophobe. Homophobia can be displayed even if a homophobe declares that he is in favor of equal treatment and rights for women, and perhaps actually is. This type of homophobia arises from an embedded cultural value, prevalent in 1950s American life that women belong in the home cleaning and baking pies all day. Even though such conservative practices haven’t been the reality for decades, this ideology persists, insidiously and subconsciously, in the homophobe’s mind (I suppose the opposite could also be true: one could be a misogynist but not necessarily a firm homophobe).
The irony that emerges from all of this is particularly daunting. Homophobic heterosexual men, who are so stalwart in claiming their love for women and the female form, work so hard against the best interests of women. Rarer, but still in existence, are homophobic women who are a source of an even greater irony by displaying an indirect disdain for their own “people,” other women. I’m astonished and disgusted by these women who insist that females have no place in business or politics. There is such a cognitive dissonance in this for me. It’s like, “Why are you fighting against yourself? Why you so dumb?” Such a twisted ideology can only be the result of years of exposure to the dogma insisting upon “traditional, family values” and nonsensical, religious preaching that have little application to modern life.
Okay, so what does all this mean then? Well, it means that heterosexual men are the scourge of the world. Just kidding! For me, all of this means that the Queer community and women need to come together to support each other in our respective fights for equality. But, in reality, our fights are not distinct; they are one in the same. With the success of one group will come quickly behind it the success of the other. Every victory for women’s rights should also be seen as a victory for Queer rights. There is strength in numbers, and by far in this moment of time all of the feminists and Queer folks vastly outnumber the homophobes and misogynists in the world. We can win this battle, we just need to decide how.
But what do I know? //