Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's NOT bigotry?

Over at Slate, Richard Ford has posted an article headlined, "Hate and Marriage," where he argues that folks don't oppose the rights of same sex couples to marry because they're bigots but, rather, because they're trying to preserve traditional gender roles and the idea of a same sex couple makes them feel insecure.

But, Ford has it wrong, even if his psych analysis is right. It's still bigotry.

Keep in mind the white supremecists who claim that their movement isn't about hating non-whites, it's about "preserving the white race." Still bigotry.

A decade or two from now we're going to look back at this debate and shudder, the same way we look back at America before the civil rights movement.


At 8:39 PM , Blogger Jon E. said...

Yup, just like in 1953 how white people weren't opposed to acknowledging black people's rights. They were just trying to preserve traditional racial roles, and the idea of a mixed-race lunch counter made them feel insecure.

I agree, Mike--it's obviously a civil rights issue. I have no problem with churches refusing to perform same-sex marriages. If it's against their theology, it's against their theology. But the state needs either to offer all couples in (theoretically) lifelong committed relationships the same rights or to offer no such rights to anyone.

Another big problem with Ford's article is that it pretends that the growing anxiety of gender roles is somehow different from the anxiety a lot of people have about gays, married or otherwise. Sex is biologically determined (XX, XY, or in occasional cases XXY). Gender is culturally determined. Americans are anxious about shifting gender roles because it's now impossible to see gender and sex as the same thing, unless of course you engage in a lot of denial.

Gayness is particularly problematic for those who want to pretend that being biologically XX or XY determines your behavior and your outlook. For example, a drag queen--whether passable or kitschy--clearly reminds one that in our culture women generally become "womanly" by the careful application of "womanly" clothes and cosmetics. The same goes for butch lesbians and maleness.

So when it comes to same-sex marriage, I'd argue that homophobia and gender anxiety are pretty near the same thing.

At 4:10 PM , Blogger Jaekos said...

Yes, this also reminds me of the old Chevy Chase joke: "I don't judge a person by the color of their skin. I judge them by the size of their nostrils."

At 7:25 AM , Anonymous Claude Wynne said...

Homophobia is almost inseparable from sexism and misogyny. I was called a faggot in school long before I or my tormentors knew anything about homosexuality. To them a faggot was “a boy who acts like a girl”. I was so labeled because I refused to fight and was bad at sports. Virulent homophobia by males in this society is usually motivated by insecurity about masculinity and gender roles. Female homophobia is usually motivated, at least in part, by religion. When men cite religion it is often a fig leaf to cover their real motivations.

There was a wonderful article in the Sunday Times about a gay wedding called Married, but Certainly Not to Tradition. It too touched on gender roles and masculinity:

The contrast between this ceremony and my previous night’s outing could not have been more profound. I’d gone to see a documentary from 1972, “Winter Soldier,” that featured recently returned Vietnam veterans testifying about atrocities they had witnessed or taken part in. One after another, these cherubic young men, cigarettes smoldering between their fingers, leaned toward the microphone and described memories of bound prisoners pushed out of helicopters, 3-year-old children stoned to death with ration cans, whole villages torched for sport…

When asked why they had participated in such atrocities or stood by and watched as others committed them, one answered: “You don’t start out that way. You wanted to cry when your friend got killed.” But you couldn’t, he said, because that would have made you look weak.

“It was about being a man,” another said. “The more kills you had under your belt, the more of a man you were.”

Now, in the chapel, a decidedly different version of manhood and male emotion was being played out. Randy and Michael’s eyes were wet as they turned to each other to recite their vows. I stood behind them, conscious of beautiful masculine energy that was cascading between them.


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