Adherents of the Repeated (Heterosexist) Meme

I have some issues with the toxic sexism and internalized heterosexism I’ve witnessed in the lesbian/queer women/FTM community (particularly around masculinity), so I figured I’d lay them out here.

We know we live in a heterosexist society. It has been this way since any of us got here. The meme1 of proper heterosexuality has been drilled into us since we were old enough to hear stories of knights in shining armor rescuing princesses. TV shows, movies, books, music, advertisements, religions, traditions and laws constantly portray (and enforce) particular codes of masculinity and femininity while exalting heterosexuality as the standard. For the most part, these images are the only relationship models we get to see. The only problem is that we aren’t in the majority of those images. When we are shown, the picture usually isn’t pretty and relies heavily on caricatures and stereotypes. Where do you even start when you’re consistently made invisible or a punchline? As flawed as many of these models of gender relations are, that’s all most of us had to work with. If that’s all you know, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of mimicking the only models you have.

That’s where the problem starts: a lot of those models are nothing short of pure, unadulterated bullshit. Now, what I’mnot saying is that heterosexual relationships are universally terrible, awful, no good things and there is nothing good that could come from any sort of emulation. There are plenty of wonderful straight folks out there who have healthy relationships that we could all learn from, regardless of our sexuality. What I am saying is that there is a lot of sexist nonsense involved in how this heterosexist society defines masculinity, femininity, and the roles people are allowed to play in a relationship in general. Many views of correctly performing masculinity are based on objectifying or devaluing all things feminine. The fact that this brand of sexist masculinity is so prevalent in the lesbian community honestly boggles my fucking mind, but bois will be boys, right? What other examples do we have? We unthinkingly carry over the slut shaming, double standards about sex and fidelity, objectification etc. without any sense of irony. Not to be left out, many feminine lesbians exacerbate this problem by echoing this sexist nonsense themselves and seeing it as acceptable.

Just as sad, if not sadder, is the homophobia tied up with the sexism in this masculinity. Two studs being unable to give each other a hug without saying “pause”/“no homo” afterward is fucking lunacy. That form of masculinity dictates that two femmes together is hot and two studs together is “gay.” We all know how terrible it is to be gay though. I mean, why would you damage the cause of masculinity by finding another masculine person sexy? Masculine people are consumers, not the consumed! We’re all dominant and aggressive and stuff, we can’t submit to each other or be vulnerable! That’s completely unacceptable! We’re supposed to be reinforcing the patriarchy over here! (Note: the last six sentences contained sarcasm.)

For the record, I don’t think masculinity is bad (I am a masculine person after all) but perpetuating sexism and homophobia to perform masculinity is doing it wrong. Clearly that irks me to no end, and you may say “Well K, what are we supposed to do about this? Maybe this is just how things are.” To which I respectfully say: Fuck That. How things are is never how things have to stay. I just have one general suggestion that applies to just about everything: “Wake the fuck up.” Be conscious of your thoughts and actions and don’t be afraid to question how things work. Don’t just go through the motions of what’s expected of you based on roles you didn’t have a part in defining. Question if you’re in a dynamic of dominance and submission because you enjoy it and it works for you and your partner or if you just accept it because it’s what’s expected. Question if who makes dinner is based on who enjoys/is better at cooking or if you’re just defaulting to whoever owns a skirt. Question why you think one person’s sexual history makes them deserve to be branded as a “ho” while there is no impact on how you value someone else with a similar history as a person. We are all individuals with different wants, needs, skills, hopes, and personality traits and we shouldn’t have to mangle who we really are just to fit into the confines of a gender role. We shouldn’t sacrifice who we are just to be what’s expected. We are too creative, beautiful, and amazing for that shit. Rigid roles that weren’t negotiated by the people playing them do everyone involved a disservice. Demand better. Do better.

Oh, and one more thing: as much as I’m against relying too heavily on someone else’s model, good models can make for a good foundation. We need better images out there for queer people to work with. Support the people in our community who are giving us visibility, telling our stories, and echoing our voices. Use yourself as a model of anti-sexist behavior. Don’t be afraid to call people out on their sexism. Give the ones coming after you something to work with so that they don’t fall into the same old sexist patterns offered up by our heterosexist society. Help others do better too.


1Meme: an element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, esp. imitation.

BTW: I ❤ Doctor Who and an episode inspired the title.

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~ by hirandnow on August 25, 2012.

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