In the past 2 weeks, there has been some interesting, albeit sometimes alarming, “discussion” on various sites of the relationship that gay men have with misogyny. It all started with TV celeb Rose McGowan, famous for her role in late 90’s series Charmed and a podcast hosted by the usually controversial writer, Bret Easton Ellis. In response to McGowan’s comments, Patrick Strudwick wrote this op-ed in The Guardian and there was this article on pinknews.co.uk.
As an early 30s same-sex attracted man, I grew up watching Charmed. From ’98, when the show first came out (pun intended), were formative years when I craved some semblance of my story in the media. Even though Buffy holds a bigger place in my heart, Charmed was the story of three seemingly normal young sisters who discover they have special powers which make them different, and which they had to keep secret. We followed the sisters as their frayed relationship became one of solidarity as their powers grew. Basically, an allegory for the story of my/any queer kid just discovering their difference and feels threatened by coming out.
Possibly this is why her comments gained such traction. Honestly, I didn’t listen to the whole hour-long podcast. Instead I regurgitate what I read in Strudwick’s op-ed and an article in PinkNews.co.uk with my own slant. I agree with Strudwick that McGowan’s statements that “Gay men are as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so …” are alarmist and offensive. McGowan is (was?) a vocal LGBTQ supporter, and her role as a girl-power sexy witch that saves the world (in the latest fashions and leaving all the boys drooling), has seemingly increased her credibility on such issues. She said: “You wanna talk about the fact that I have heard nobody in the gay community, no gay males, standing up for women on any level? There is Sharia law active in Saudi Arabia, there’s a woman who’s about to be stoned – I have not heard [AIDS activist] Cleve Jones discuss her, and nor will he.” One gay man’s silence does not a whole community’s silence make. Oh, btw, the same punishment exists for homosexual acts, and McGowan is a white, 1st world hollywood actress. Know thy privilege.
Sure, some gay men have misogynist behaviours, some are even misogynist. There is a line between being bitchy (passive aggressive or not) and hate. Strudwick suggests this is in reaction to the “jealousy of presumed sexual power” that gay men have of women. Sure, I’m jealous that heterosexual women have more fish in their pond, but I don’t hate them for it. I’m more frustrated that heterosexual men aren’t in my pond! The difference, for me, is to whom the anger is directed at.
My journey with identity has been a murky one. Lately though, my emotional attraction with some women has led to sexual attraction. I’m not yet waving my bi/pan-sexual flag yet, preferring, if asked: homo-fexible. But I’m coming to the idea of being attracted to a person rather than their sex. This brings me back to my annoyance with straight men. Specifically, straight men that I am attracted to. Teenage classmate infatuations aside (and there were many), I have met a few straight men with whom I have felt a strong affinity with. I ain’t pissed cause women are in their (the straight men) pond, I be pissed cause they ain’t in mine!
So, misogyny and me. Sure, I don’t do the really terrible things misogynists do or believe, but I do have privilege, as a cis-man Australian citizen. I don’t fit the hegemonic normative form, but the formation of my life has been impacted by my masculinity. I disagree with Strudwick: straight men are not the enemy. Heteronormativity feeds misogyny and does negatively affect straight men, albeit with much less impact than for women. Call me naive, if you will, but empathy can challenge the patriarchy from both sides, cascading to heteronormativity and hopefully misogyny as well. Then we can all be in one (happier) pond with plenty of diverse fish.
N.B. Fish (Fishy) – A term used to describe a drag queen who looks extremely feminine, or one who convincingly resembles a biological woman. The term is a reference to the scent of a woman’s vagina, which is colloquially likened to the smell of fish.
Great article. As gay man, I do not consider myself misogynist (even though I guess misogynist in general do not consider themselves such a thing!). However, it’s true that I do not ‘proactively advocate’ for women’s rights.
But neither am I actively involved in the gay rights movement.
There are many (so many) movement with which I wholeheartedly agree but do not become proactive. Why? A simple matter of time.
I spend most of my free time volunteering for an NGO that covers another topics. The reason why I chose that over the other is merely circumstancial.
I would love to be able to be proactive aswell with the animal shelter association where I adopted my cat, but I can’t, so everytime I buy in zooplus for his stuff, I do it thourgh their website, so that they get a small comission.
The absence of a pro-active behaviour, does not imply (in my own personal point of view) the absence of *any* action. I do get active and campaign actively when women’s right or gay right or anything else comes up as a sub-topic inside my field of volunteering.
So, I have to strongly disagree with McGowan.
Thanks Ares Man!
I suppose, for people of power or influence (politicians and the like), apathy in feminism can feed misogynist culture. According to her response, McGowan was calling out leaders in the LGBTQ rights movement to be more vocal on feminist issues. I’m not associated with a activist group, so I can’t comment on this.
But as an individual, I agree with her that we should challenge prejudice at every opportunity in our daily lives. Being aware of how our thinking, language and actions affects others is part of the empathy I wrote of. Challenging prejudice is not only done through political activism.
I think that it’s great that you volunteer for a NGO, we each choose how we can help by what is important to us. It is unreasonable to expect everyone that wants change in a problem to be champions of the cause. The modern world is time poor, though this too could be seen as apathy. And I don’t have the skills to make big change like law reform.
I do worry about policing language. It is more than just words, they are the contexts of meaning as well. Someone that uses the word “slut” may not be slut-shaming (is this a thing?). I absolutely love reclaiming words. It’s all about the context of the word and to whom you say it about. The use of “slut” may be used to describe a sex positive person. I would love for McGowan to say “that’s so gay”, if she was complementing her gay friend. I like to call myself a poof (Aussie slang equivalent to fag. Short for poofter). I love the word c*nt, cause I think vaginas are powerful. I haven’t started using the word “mental” though.
Thanks for making the world a little bit better!
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I just saw that she has ‘apologised’ for the generalisation and specified. Here:
I think historically gay men have had troubled relationships with heterosexual women, albeit so did hetero men! In the very restrictive and oppressive cultural contexts of the previous centuries, men who were fervent misogynists and serial womanisers are now often suspected to have been gay.
My sense of what is problematic with Paige’s, I mean, Rose’s comments is maybe an underlying expectation that gay men somehow should be allies of women. I see the same argument in complaints that female leaders in companies don’t support junior female staff, or how people of colour can be just as racist as everyone else. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you magically float above systems of patriarchy. That’s unfair to hold gay men to a higher standard of feminism than we do for straight men, and the latter are those who proclaim to desire us, love us, and can’t live without us. However, I think if you’re looking for gender and sexual analyses among former celebrities, you’ll certainly walk away disappointed.
Rockin’ gay male feminists and general champions for the dispossessed who are also super smart include Michel Foucault and David Halperin. Mad props are also due to Richard Dyer whose book challenges white supremacy while sharing tender stories of his first crush on a Jewish boy.
Oh, Foucault … memories of Introduction to Sociology. David Halperin’s work looks really interesting; any short works that you can recommend? And Richard Dyer’s book that you mentioned called “White”?
I agree, looking for gender and sexual analyses from celebrities is hallow. But the incident has created dialogue. I have reflected on my relationship to feminism, and now have some cool reading thanks to your suggestions.
Happy New Year, Tim!
I’ve struggled to find something short and disgestable from Halperin! I have one of my favourite quotes of his on my office door:
“In history as in love, the real harm in power imbalances comes not from the dissymmetry itself but from its sentimentalization and institutionalization, from the denial of the reality of unequal power through its normalizing as the truth of gender, class, race, status, beauty, wealth, romance, professional authority, national identity, historical difference.” From How to do the History of Homosexuality
… But one of my colleagues confessed that quote is “all astrological woo-woo” to him!
He also published a book in 2012 called How to Be Gay, which has been fascinating reviews floating around on Tumblr.
Reblogged this on impreston.
I didn’t really pay this very much attention when it was doing the rounds on Facebook simply because it seems to be just inflammatory and unnecessary. You just can’t expect the whole community to conform to one idea, if that were the case we’d all be twinks (am I right?). If we were to turn the mirror on Rose and call her a homophobe simply because not all women are LGBTQ supportive, would she agree? would she accept that as true? I’m pretty sure there are gay men that are misogynistic but I highly doubt it’d be because they’re jealous of, or hate women. In the gay community it’s probably more to do with the fact that some gay men hate heterosexuality, and on some level resent women for having vaginas (because vaginas are disgusting to them). Black people can be racist, women can be sexist etc you can’t just judge the whole community because too few stick up for others. On the other hand there is Ellen DeGeneres who is standing there being a champion for both gays and women, so Rose’s whole argument is slanted and disjointed.
I agree that McGowan’s argument is too simplistic. Many people from all different communities do not actively advocate for social justice issues, but nonetheless basically agree with the cause. Heterosexual allies may support marriage equality, but not attend rallies. Able bodied people who support disability services, but may not advocate for ramps everywhere. Sometimes it takes events or organisations to rally these supporters. Some may call this political apathy in the public, but for those who advocate for certain issues, in this case, LGBTQI issues, probably don’t have the resources to also campaign for other issues, so maybe that is why the example McGowan used has been silent on women’s rights in the Middle East. I would hope that LGBTQI advocates also care for women’s issues, as half of their stakeholders are women!
I would agree that there are probably some gay men that are misogynists, maybe even hate heterosexuality, though I have yet to meet one. I would stress that these people are in the extreme minority, and are not reflective of our community’s values. Ignorance and stupidity are everywhere, and the queer community is not immune. That being said though, I find queer more accepting of difference, being different from the hegemonic stereotype themselves. Hating heterosexuality or vaginas is extremely hypocritical and makes me think there may be some other trauma involved. I go so far as to say that gay men hating heterosexuality or vaginas as immoral, as is homophobia, using Kant’s aphorism “ought implies can”.
A very interesting discussion thread you have here. I think any off-the-cuff general statement that lumps all gay men into a certain category is dangerous and hurtful. No two men are identical, nor are all women the same. Why pass judgment on an entire class of people because of one or several bad experiences? Great post, buddy! Much love and naked hugs! 🙂
Thank you! The other commenters have some really interesting blogs too.
While generalisations can be dangerous and hurtful, they can help with discussion. To say that just because some men are feminists, does not negate the fact that most violence against women is committed by men – which is a REALLY important issue. But to expect that one class (gay men) to be one thing (feminists) and then, because not all are, deduce that gay men are misogynists, is unrealistic at best.
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