For those of us who took courses in college studying oppressed social groups or gender studies you might remember the professor standing at the front of the class trying to explain that there was a connection between sexism and homophobia.
There are gay men, some of them progressive, who are not entirely comfortable with that line of thinking. The protest against that line of thinking usually emanates from an insecurity with gay male masculinity. If sexism and gender issues are also a gay male issues then aren't we conceding ground on the fight for gay male masculinity?
Anyone who has read my diaries know that I am not too enthusiastic about the trait of masculinity in the first place, and I reject its privilege in our society. So, clearly I don't believe that interpretations of homophobia as an extension of sexism are any kind of threat. In fact, I think it clarifies the matter. Follow me below the Great Orange Squiggly for further discussion.
Usually the connection between homophobia to sexism goes in this direction: hostility towards women is expressed towards men who are perceived as relinquishing their manhood through homosexual behavior and identification. But what if that construction is reversed. What if now we see hostility towards gay men being expressed towards women who seek their liberation from male control and dominance? What if the war on gays through countless ballot initiatives is really a proxy war against women?
Now pardon me for discussing this through a gay male lens. I've pointed out in another diary that the political fight against gay rights has been predominantly waged through perceptions about gay male behavior: proposals to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment opportunities have been fought by the radical right through scary messages and insinuations about a purported threat of gay men and their sexual behaviors and supposed (and disproved) connection between gay men and pedophilia. The fight to maintain the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was largely waged through a campaign of fear about gay men raping straight soldiers in the showers. The fight to maintain unequal marriage laws has been waged on purported gay male promiscuity. It is gay male unworthiness that has been the impetus for most anti-gay policies and laws.
But there is another reason that I discuss this from a gay male point of view: that it is gay men who are least likely to fully comprehend the nexus of misogyny and homophobia. What I intend to do in this diary is to show that the war on gays (particularly gay male behavior) is, once and for all, a proxy war on women and female behavior. But the relationship between the conditions of women and gay men aren't simply negative, it's positive as well.
One of the reasons Rick Santorum seems like such an oddball today is because of the success of the gay rights movement. I don't think that Rick Santorum and the radical right understands just how successful that the gay rights movement has been. I don't think they understand that their success in California and Prop 8 was merely a pyrrhic victory. And I think that's why they felt emboldened to expand their cultural war to any extreme. Before we go further, let's re-tell the story of Prop 8 and its aftermath.
Prop 8 was seen by the right not merely as referendum battle in a single state. Because Prop 8 was in "liberal" California they saw it as means to kill the marriage equality movement nationally. If they could win in California, they figured they could crush the move towards marriage equality. If even "liberal" California rejected marriage equality it would send a message that, without doubt, marriage equality was clearly too radical for anyone anywhere in the United States. If marriage equality was rejected by California hippies then clearly the battle to deny gay people their rights would be won.
So, the radical right spent millions of dollars in California to pass Proposition 8 and enshrine discrimination in the California Constitution. They ran a campaign filled with vicious homophobic insinuation and innuendo not unlike the campaigns described above. According to them, gays were going to teach your children homosexuality if Prop 8 failed.
On November 4, 2008 as much of the country, and indeed the world, celebrated the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States, making him the first African-American President in the country's history, LGBT people in California were dealt a devastating blow to their civil rights: Proposition 8, an amendment to California's constitution to ban equal marriage passed. While bad news for LGBT people , the radical right celebrated. They clearly won this battle.
But what they didn't expect was that Prop 8's passage would create a backlash across the country. Gay rights activist mobilized like they hadn't since the AIDS crisis in the late 80s and early 90s. Boycotts and protests ensued. People who were silent about their support went public. New media campaigns took off. Prop 8 didn't have the effect of marginalizing the marriage equality movement. Instead, Prop 8 became a rallying cry. It became motivation.
The gay rights movement became more confrontational, and people who were on the fence felt impelled to pick a side. Since Prop 8's passage, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Maryland, Washington, and the District of Columbia have all granted marriage equality rights, and New Jersey's legislature passed marriage equality, although that effort ran into the veto pen of Governor Chris Christie. Today, polls show that, in the very least, a plurality of Americans support marriage equality, and opposition to marriage equality has declined.
But the lesson that the radical right has taken on the expansion of marriage equality in the US is that these states are aberrations. They believe that they are winning their culture war, and now they expanded it with laws aimed to humiliate women who seek abortions, and efforts through so-called "personhood" laws to end contraception. And every Republican presidential candidate has signed pledges to continue these efforts on the federal level. And Republicans in Congress recently attempted to amend healthcare law to allow employers to deny contraception to women.
Many people are trying to figure out "how we got here?" Why are we talking about contraception in the 21st century? Since 82% of women use contraception, why would the radical right take on this issue? If you see the war on LGBT people as a proxy war for the war on women, then suddenly it all makes sense.
It makes sense if you understand homophobia as an extension of misogyny. Why is there such a focus on the sex lives of gay men? If homophobia against males is the hostility towards men who are seen as relinquishing their manhood and male status, then we would expect that the sex lives of gay men to be exploited for political gain and social shame much the way the sex lives of women are exploited for political gain and social shame.
But what if the marriage equality fight was a proxy war for a fight against contraception? The slut-shaming of gay men is a central theme in the radical right's assault on marriage equality efforts. One of the key right wing arguments against marriage equality is that same sex relations don't result in procreation. You see? Sex without procreation is slutty. Marital relations without procreation are inauthentic. Those of us who support marriage equality usually mock those arguments "well if you ban gay marriage on those grounds then you'd have to ban all these other marriages." Why? Because that's what logically follows. If marital and sexual relations are only legitimate when the aim is procreation --- Do you see that? It's tautological: banning relations that aren't procreative leads to a ban on relations that aren't procreative. Therefore, contraception must be made illegal.
While the same argument applies to lesbian relationships, there's a reason the right has largely exploited gay male sexual behavior for political gain instead of lesbian sexual behavior. And that's because homophobia against gay men is rooted in misogyny (whereas lesbians are already covered by regular misogyny). Gay men are seen as relinquishing male status. In that sense gay men, even the butchest of gay men, become a proxy in the misogynistic mind for women.
In this sense, we aren't simply in a war against LGBT people or a war against women. What we are in is a war against non-procreative sexuality. Gay male promiscuity must be highlighted by the right, because THAT promiscuity is what happens when you don't have the "consequence" of procreation. To the extent that gay males are a proxy for women then pointing out the supposed promiscuity of gay men shows the "dangers" to society when women are free of procreative "consequences" of sex. What will happen is that women will become sluts, and that ultimately means that straight males have less control of them.
In this sense, Prop 8, and the ballot initiatives before them were both proxy and prequel to the current war on women. It was the logical extension of a fight based on delegitimizing the relations of people who can't procreate. But here's the good news: it's clear now that Prop 8 was pyrrhic victory for the radical right and they simply haven't realized that. Just as support is growing for marriage equality across the country, so we see that the radical right's attacks on women is leading to a vicious but well-deserved backlash against their leaders on the campaign trail and on talk radio.
11:42 AM PT: Thanks to Angry Gays and LGBT Kos Community for the Republish
5:33 PM PT: Thanks to Community Spotlight for the republish.