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Why Our Feminist Rights Go Hand In Hand With LGBT-Phobia

Like a lot of us, I’m still learning the various ways that I’m being oppressed as a woman. I was even reluctant to write that sentence for fear of being ridiculed and labelled as an angry feminist. I’m not angry. In fact most of the time, I feel I’m quite passive about the negative experiences I have as a woman. I am regularly no more peeved than I would be if I saw someone else in the lunch queue receiving a bigger pile of chips than me. It irks me, but I never used to do anything about it.

Now, in being exposed to all the facts and figures of the inequality of the sexes (because that’s what feminism is really about, equality) like the 30% difference in pay, or the expectations of childcare, I’m getting more curious about what the route of the problem is. There is the historical context of how things have always been done and I used to think that was it. We just hadn’t shifted out of the old ways yet. This doesn’t quite make sense though, because there must have been an underlying cause that made it happen in the first place and what makes it a persistent problem today.

I know I seem to be generalizing a worldwide problem here, feminist issues being as extreme as basic human rights in other parts of the world, but LGBT rights being on the same kind of spectrum, I figured there must be a link.

I didn’t really start to think about this until I met my current classmate. He’s a normal guy, watches TV, studies Graphic Design, lives with his mum. And you could say it’s quite a normal thing, however wrong, that gay men make him feel uncomfortable. I’ve come across it more than once, where people are more comfortable with gay women than they are gay men. Straight men watch lesbian porn, and girls get drunk and “experiment” and this is all acceptable behavior in modern society. I was having a conversation with the previously mentioned classmate about feminist issues after a contextual studies class discussing Laura Mulvey’s theory “The Male Gaze”, and found that he’s quite open about the fact that women are more suited to “feminine” roles such as taking care of children or primary school teachers. When I asked about the position of a head teacher, he said it would probably be more suitable for a man to be in a position of power.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A guy in his early 20s having such archaic beliefs on the position of women in the world. A man with a similar exposure to the world as me, growing up in the same place and similar interests when it comes to popular culture and line of work. He’s basically telling me that if he and I were working for the same company and a promotion opportunity came up for a managerial position, that he would have the upper hand regardless of skill because he’s a man and better suited for it.

With this level of thinking in mind, I got to thinking about his extreme homophobia (He’s been known to jump 10 feet out of his seat if a male classmate so much as brushes his shoulder). The physiology involved with sexuality and gender identity is something I’m interested in, but I am in no way an expert, so bear with me on the stereotype. If you were to imagine up a stereotypical gay man, you’d imagine him with effeminate qualities. Not everyone would, the experiences of people being so varied, but your average human being would. And this is because they are the qualities of a gay man that stand out. They stand out because of how the brain works. When the brain is scanning the environment, it notices the changes in something familiar, and when something is unfamiliar, it feels uncomfortable and tries to rationalize it as simply as it can, very often without conscious thought. To any kind of person, the qualities and characteristics that stand out in a person are the ones that don’t quite belong in their own unique view of the world.

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  • Poppy Sansom

    This is a very interesting article – I always do wonder why it’s more acceptable for women to cross into traditionally ‘male’ clothing and so inferior for men to do the same.
    Something that always gets me is the casual ‘man up’ or ‘stop being a girl’ phrases that are supposed to boost strength. I didn’t realise until recently the sexism associated with, but I’m glad I have done while I’m still young so I can try to stop them.

  • Laura Fred Michael

    Don’t worry about this one simple person’s opinion. He’s obviously stupid, and should be pitied, then ignored.

  • Ramou Sarr

    I always get a little squeamish when people try to draw a connection between two oppressed groups because oppression olympics often muddles the fact that the groups still exist independently, each with their own struggles and issues. But there is something to be said for how patriarchy plays a role in how both women and gay men are viewed. I will say though that I wouldn’t be so hesitant to declare yourself angry. I understand not wanting to be lumped into an “angry man-hating feminist” stereotype, but that stereotype implies that you are being irrationally angry and you’re NOT. There is plenty to be angry about and it’s OK to say that.

    • Rebecca Fernandez

      I love this comment, Ramou. I also feel like the “angry man-hating feminist” is a nasty stereotype that should fall by the wayside (and hopefully will, eventually). When a rational human expresses feelings about oppression and goes so far as to stand up for what he/she feels is right, it isn’t so much anger as having confidence in your beliefs, and that’s pretty freaking awesome.

  • Rachel Pascoe

    I found this article interesting as I’ve always felt that our society deems it more acceptable to be a gay man than a gay woman, that being a gay woman is somehow “inferior”. I regularly hear openly gay men say that a girl looks like a dyke because she has a short hair cut, is not wearing make up or is wearing non fitted jeans. That said, I definitely think you could be right that men are afraid of being labelled as gay because of the feminine connotations and the lesser status that this brings.

  • Abi Wilson

    I think that if you look around in our culture, gay men are more readily accepted, and still have male privilege compared to lesbian women. Gay men are generally speaking seen as non-offensive to straight men in terms of they can’t steal my woman and are less manly than me, so not a threat, and society has made it so as a generalization straight women find gay men non-threatening, so to speak of Gok Wan, whereas for the very same reasons you brought up for why lesbians are included in society easier are the ones that we are not. Women think they can either experiment with you, or that you want to have sex with them, or they hate on you because their boyfriend thinks its hot and thinks he can ‘fix’/watch you. From my experience gay men don’t get hit on by women and told they just need the right *lady bits* to sort them out. I agree with the rest of what you have said as in straight cis males who have sexist, archaic views are more likely to have homophobic views as well. But hate is inexcusable.

  • Maddy Tighe

    I agree (read an article written by a vicar who disagreed with the part of the policy on legitimate marriage that indicated only when a man and a woman were together would it be classed as consummated), but I think the same logic applies. In the eyes of the patriarchy, the only accepted occupation for a woman is in the possession of a man. I wouldn’t say either orientation has a rougher time of it.

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