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Homophobia entrenched in society, water still wet, Pope still Catholic

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

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Homophobia entrenched in society, water still wet, Pope still Catholic

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Gar Marriage???
I'm gonna get a bit preachy & longwinded here, so be forewarned.

I doubt that anyone reading this doubts there's a deep-seated thread of homophobic behavior running through Western society. Just in case you might have forgotten, a few links.

This post isn't about 'is this the case?' but about trying to express some of what is so damaging about this, to many people. I'll be touching on a matter that doesn't get addressed often as a more subtle- and to my view, more damaging- form of homophobia. This one expresses itself most often as "I just wish they'd act straight in public".

So as a few people have been noticing and commenting on broadly in the media, over the last decade or so, the ideal of female beauty in advertising has a direct link to the modern prevalence of anorexia in young women. Show a young woman many photographs of [ed: italicized text added @ feyandstrange's suggestion] women photoshopped to look like Kate Moss, and she'll look at the curves of her own body and feel she's overweight by comparison to this 'ideal form'- even if a woman actually built like that would probably put your eye out with her pelvis if you went down on her, let alone snap her own neck if she looked to the side too fast.
In my own experience- I used to be an absolute twig of a thing. I had a congenital heart defect, which left my heart burning through TONS of calories every day and left me, at 6'1", with a 28" waist. When I started to fill out into something resembling a human's contours from that, in my late 20s, I felt like I was a HORRIBLE FAT DISGUSTING OBESE MONSTER- after years of being built like a pole. It took me a lot of work to figure out that in fact, I had been unpleasantly skinny and probably looked deathly ill because of it. But what we believe is normal can shape perception to such an extent that we can be 50 pounds lighter than everyone else and think we look just like everyone else.

Now, what else do we see in advertising media? Others have pointed out that folks in ads are often mysteriously non-ethic; they've illustrated this point repeatedly and eloquently, so I think we can take that as a given (in case you need some resources to support this claim, I like this bibliography of various papers on gender and race in advertising).
Oh yes, we also see various examples of gender inequality in advertisement. Two women whose poise suggests they're fighting over which of them gets the honor of having a man light their cigarette, two women together only with eyes for each other while a group of men stand around the edges of the frame and examine them somewhat lewdly.

See, the thing about all three of these (race, gender, weight) is that to an extent, on a less than conscious level, we look at these pictures and think they're a picture of What The World Is. Not a picture of What the Ad Exec Thinks The World Should Look Like. This is an important dichotomy to keep in mind when one interacts with advertising media, folks: what's in the frame on the screen, or the billboard, or the ad page in the magazine? That isn't the real world. Even if it looks a lot like it sometimes.

Now I know what you're thinking. "colubra, you said you were gonna talk about homophobia. Why this long sidebar into gender, weight, and race in advertising?" The kind of systemic homophobia I want to point out here is actually quite related. The point of the sidebar there was to point out the way we interact with advertising- how it shapes our mental perceptions of the world we inhabit.
So- well and good, advertising shapes our world. What does this have to do with homophobia? There's this interesting behavior that I find absolutely cringe-inducing that crops up all the time among straight people I know- "God, why are those two guys over there holding hands/giving each other a peck on the cheek/hugging in public?" When I say that I don't see anything wrong with it, they're quick to backpedal and point out "oh well of course I don't dislike gay people... I just don't approve of public displays of affection". I'm spotting a bit of what I've been terming 'aversive homophobia' here: holding homophobic views but pretending they're not what they are because you'd hate to be identified as the hateful homophobe.

Now, I was originally thinking I'd go grab a bit of advertising to bolster my point here, but I think it would actually be more interesting for you to find your own.
So, your mission: Pick up a mainstream magazine (no science mags, geeks!), or watch the TV commercials that are aired over an hour of broadcast TV. In either one, I just about guarantee you will see a heterosexual couple holding hands, kissing, hugging, sharing an intimate laugh, leaning against one another. The last I looked at one, I remember noticing the ads in a woman's magazine seemed to be a bit more heteronormative (that is: asserting a norm that is heterosexual) than in say, National Geographic.
So, grab your magazine or your hour of TV, and explore. I'll wait.

So this little experiment was mostly intended for heterosexual readers. Imagine, now, that you aren't interested in the opposite sex. You're a teenaged boy who likes boys, you're a young woman who likes women. You're looking around the world for something to identify with- something you can point at and excitedly shout 'That's me! THAT'S ME!!!' Some way to not feel quite so... alien. And you look at the advertising around you- crammed chock full of stuff that says 'a guy and a girl is how it's supposed to be', just like it says 'persons of color are marginalized and that's how it's supposed to be', or 'women are supposed to be deferential towards men, or an object for men to desire'.
What do you think this young gay or lesbian person would come away from this glut of guy-on-girl-action in advertising thinking about themselves?

Now that we've touched on the first point I wanted to make (all this heteronormative sex in advertising is alienating towards a significant number of people), here comes the second. Now that you've been through your magazine or your hour of TV and really attended to what the messages are in that advertisement- what do you think it feels like to a woman or man who's gay to hear from their straight friends 'why do you people have to be so demonstrative in public'? There are... dozens upon dozens of advertisements showing happy hetero funtimes on every street corner, and I'm not allowed to hold hands with my boyfriend, lest I offend someone? How do you think it'd feel if that was you, being told not to hold hands with your beloved on the street because someone Might Be Offended, while all around you are photos and commercials featuring two someones else making out like maniacs?
By the way- the 'I just don't go for public displays of affection' demurrer here just doesn't work: if you don't go for these things, why aren't you bitching about 23834573472 street-level displays publically exhibiting heterosexual displays of affection, often at a scale that's larger-than-life? That's just a cop-out-- or if you don't mean it to be one, it definitely comes off as a cop-out. To me, at least, it sounds more as if what's being said is 'I just don't go for your public displays of affection'.

Do I think there shouldn't be sex in advertising? Oh hell no! That said- I can think of ways of incorporating sex in advertising that isn't heteronormative- Emporio Armani's advertisements come to mind. Hey look, it's a pretty man in a pair of underpants, lounging on something. Now sure, that is sexy... but it's not saying 'and he is hitting on women like he's supposed to'. He's just laying there being gratuitously oiled, freshly exerted so that his musculature's emphasized (and is there a message in all this beefcake? I think there is, and I think it's evidenced by how many gym queens populate the homosexual community, anymore, but that's another story). Do I look at it and think 'that's sexy'? OF COURSE I do. But- and this is an important distinction- so do heterosexual women (at least some of them). So- see what EA did, there? They created advertising that appeals to the majority of the people who actually buy fancy underwear for men. Because I'm sorry, I've gotten straight guys out of their jeans. Hot straight guys. Guys who attend their appearance meticulously.
Every single one? White (or started-out-as white) briefs w/ the Y-front.
Straight boys, I'm forced to assume, don't often buy themselves $60 Calvin Klein manties.

So. What is my point?
Simple: people who are gay should probably NOT be told 'I wish you wouldn't do that in public', when 'in public' is full of images of other people doing exactly that, but that's okay because it's advertisements and anyways they're heterosexual. That may not be what the speaker intends here, but it's definitely an underlying commentary in society's monologue about what's right and wrong with people's sexuality- and 'I wish you wouldn't do that in public', in any fashion, just shores up that monologue. Sometimes I consider saying 'would you prefer if instead we went and fucked on that park bench over there, like the billboard behind it features a man and a woman doing?' (I have a terrible habit of wise-assery- for instance, I DO almost always answer the statement 'god, that movie/book/tv show is so gay' with 'Oh? Did it introduce you to its lifepartner or something? Or did you just see it sucking cock?').
But mostly, I just choke down the bile and carry on: sometimes categorizing the thoughtless person who said it as less important to me than I'd thought- sometimes not. The bile is secondary and passes, after all. Unfortunately, the sickening feeling that this person's dismissed a part of who I am, without even pausing long enough to acknowledge me in doing so- that doesn't pass as readily- or as completely. That leaves a bit of a mark on my psyche, and leaves me just a bit less... confident that the person involved's a friend, or cares about me at all.
Now, I know that's not your heterosexual intention here, friend- but it does kind of come off to me as a slap in the face. It seems like a direct indication that you do not gauge me as equal to someone else, on the basis of which sort of partner I choose.
I do my best to ignore it, generally- but it might not hurt if you spent as much effort to avoid doing it.
  • I DO almost always answer the statement 'god, that movie/book/tv show is so gay' with 'Oh? Did it introduce you to its lifepartner or something? Or did you just see it sucking cock?'

    Yeah, I've taken to doing that. 'You mean it's fucking other raid bosses/lightning bolts/talent specs?' confuses the World of Warcraft kids pretty thoroughly.
  • man, clueless straight people suck.

    Bravo.

    A few teeny quibbles:
    1) I will defend Kate Moss to the death, because I feel very strongly about not abusing the skinny people, and she was and has always been that shape (I've seen pics of her pre-modeling). More importantly, ten years ago before I got sick, she and I had the exact same measurements (at least the important ones; I probably had longer hips). I was finally starting to feel that perhaps I could display flesh in public without being castigated for looking like a concentration camp victim - when those damned Calvin Klein shots of her looking half-dead came out and every fat activist in the world spraypainted "EAT A SANDWICH" on them. Yes, there are horrible body issues in the modeling world, but I prefer to mention the really creepy ones like how they airbrush out women's stomach muscles for being unladylike, or remove bellybuttons altogether, rather than promote skinny-bashing.

    Footnote re straight guys: totally straight but kinky guys sometimes have better taste in underpants, and some straight guys, once converted by a girlfriend, retain that better taste. (And frankly, I'm sock of Calvin Klein-style manties with a brand name an inch high on the waistband, that trend can go away now, I'm really anti-branding and want it nowhere near my sexy people thanks).

    As for societal censure: it'd be nice if I thought all that would happen was that I'd be told not to do that in public. When I traveled with my then-girlfriend, spoiled by San Francisco's acceptance and not really having been out anywhere else, I was convinced that if we did more than hold hands in public we'd be beaten up by large homophobic men and my ninja girlfriend would get arrested for assaulting them. More societal acceptance of these behaviors would go a *long* way towards making me think it was safe to hold same-sex hands in public anywhere that I cannot actively see a rainbow flag flying.

    From my reading of girlie magazines full of makeup and fashion ads: any men that appear in these magazines' ads are status symbols, not symbols of actual relationships. They rarely show cosy couples at home in flannel shirts; they show done-up hunks for date night at the disco, one's very own Ken doll accessory. Magazines targeting family-having women rather than singles may be different. But in their own way, those hunks are the equivalent of a sportscar in the background of an ad selling jeans to straight guys. That said, there aren't any trophy women or obvious indicators of lesbianism in these ads.

    And now I miss the Altoids ads.
    • Re: man, clueless straight people suck.

      on the first: good point- Kate's always been a slender woman, rather than starving herself for some unhealthy-to-her physique. I'll edit that, above- Kate looks healthy as Kate; a lot of other models look kind of deeply inhuman, when photoshopped into being Kate-shaped. I was mostly going for the 'classic' argument about adverts -> anorexia, here.

      on the straight-guys footnote: Yeah, I was using a broad brush there, mostly for comic effect.

      on societal censure: Indeed. Why should it matter who someone you're not dating is holding hands with? Is there a rational reason for this? I never have heard one, other than it's 'not what is done'. Which eeh- if nobody ever did things that were 'not what is done', we wouldn't have- for example- interracial marriage.

      On the 'girlie mags': point well-observed- you've almost certainly read more of these than I have!
  • I'm stuck at wondering how someone could be so rude as to suggest to someone who is gay that they should be less demonstrative about their affections. I know people are bigots, but I'm stunned regularly by how open they are about it.

    :(

    • Well it just floors me someone would think saying 'I wish they would act straight in public' wasn't actually offensive as hell to anyone who's part of 'them'. And would get hostile-defensive when they're called on it...

      ...but yes, it happens. Hell, it happened in the city we both live in.
  • From another forum, an old friend commented that no, 'that's so gay' isn't disparaging to homosexuals. My immediate reaction was 'seriously, you latched onto that, out of all of the post you just read???', but I did come up with a more reasoned response:

    Saying 'God, everything about that movie sucked! That movie was so gay' actually is an insult to people who actually, you know, are gay.
    As a thought experiment, let's try it this way: 'God, everything about that movie was stupid! That movie was so Polish'. Are you going to tell me that if someone were to say that, it would not be insulting to people whose ancestors are from Poland? I can't see what makes 'that's so gay' any different from 'that's so Polish'- except people's willingness to disparage a group of people by treating the term used for them as an equivalent to 'dumb', 'stupid', 'poorly-executed' &c.
    • Another part of this one is the 'but it's just language evolving, it does that!' defense --yeah, but generally, it evolves in a different manner. Think about the use of 'hip' in the 30s- then move forward to the the 60s.
  • (no subject) -
    • Yeah- why is it so distressing for two guys to march down the street holding hands- when they're doing so along a street that (to go with billboards on my block) has about 3 expressions of heteronormative behavior plastered up that are far more demonstrative than just holding hands?
      Hint- it's not, actually, because you find public displays of affection distasteful.
  • I'm glad you brought up feeling like an alien, because, well...

    Whatever world the average person lives in, I don't think I've ever been there. The world I am presented with by the society around me is not one I can relate to. All these presuppositions which I don't relate to are simply taken for granted. This is above and beyond the sort of thing you have to put up with as a woman in an androcentric society, for example. Having a career, getting married and having a family, getting laid, buying a car and a TV, caring about sports-- I can't associate with these preoccupations. Then there's believing in God, believing in a political affiliation, believing in a country... these all seem like willful self-delusions, out of a desperation for there to be something real and reliable to hold on to. But I know there's nothing, and I can't kid myself that there is. Sometimes I wish I could.

    Totally unrelated: today I heard 'Money For Nothing' by Dire Straits on the radio, and they censored the word 'faggot' from it. I'm queer, and I was offended by this, like freedom of expression must take it in the neck so I can be babied... but I suspect that most of the time, this kind of censorship is to assuage straight guilt or white guilt or what have you, and not really for the benefit of the people it's ostensibly meant to protect.
    • I chose that phrasing specifically because, I think, everybody in their teens feels like there's nowhere they fit. Easier for the reader to relate to-- but I wanted to point out what differs. When society's entire message is 'someone like you is not represented', it can be hurtful.
      I don't doubt that there's a high number of teen suicides who were wrestling with coming out of the closet... and I definitely believe the statistic that many homeless teenagers (something like 40%) are gay/lesbian.

      That little *bleep* with the earring and the make-up? Bleeped THAT? Sheesh. I'm reminded of the laughably bowdlerized movies edited for TV during the 70s, myself. My mother knits socks that smell indeed, Regan...
  • I've gotten a lot of straight boys out of their jeans. Occationally, there are boxers, or solid colored y-fronts, usually if they think they are players, but usually? White y-fronts. I just thought you'd like corroboration. ;)
  • I gave up white y-fronts about a decade ago.
    • Well-done! Ironically, I decided boxer-briefs were my thing, about then. before that? Y-fronts (though not white).
  • Agreed on the homophobic "no gay PDAs" attitude (that line was actually part of a French rap song, other parts of which got censored by the radio, but interestingly enough not the homophobic part).

    As for white briefs w/ the Y-front, I think I own a grand total of one pair. The rest is mainly boxer briefs, a few boxers and a few dark colored briefs for sports, no-Y front. And the vast majority of those do no feature any brands, ditto on the lack of desire for corporate logos near my genitals. We should do this poll in Europe :)
    • Actually, I think that the referent here is a song from a recent musical in the US, which explains a lot of confusion that Americans might have in dealing with you- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LN_L85b2zQ
      From the Legally Blonde musical (yeah, someone stooped that low), the song 'Gay or European?' (which is, actually, a good song).

      Hell- when I went from Venice to Florence (via train), I found myself going '...am I on the gay train to Florence, or am I just dealing with stylish European men? IT IS A CONUNDRUM!' Nothing wrong with any of them based on what they chose to wear / do- I was just confused because in the USA, all the cues I was picking up would've meant 'PUT IT IN ME. PUT IT IN ME, RIGHT NOW'.

      My LJ entry for that leg of the trip was titled 'we're off on the mantrain to Florence'.
  • There's this ad that's been making the rounds on Hulu lately, prompting folks from Oceania and coastal East Asia (I can't recall the exact geographic terms they use, but it's basically that area) who are gay & sexually active to suck up their upbringing and get tested for STDs like anyone else.

    Seems fine, no?

    But in trying to remember how it goes (when you mentioned watching an hour of TV), something odd struck me about it -- ok, so there's three guys serving as example narrators (IE: EveryMan on the street giving you advice), one is up on a balcony overlooking some urban street, another is standing on an urban streetcorner, and the third is in some park or somewhere, with folks mid-sports or mid-picnic or something behind him. Unless I missed something, they're all effectively alone in their respective scenes.

    The third guy is at least in a populated area and probably is supposed to be part of the activity behind him, but if one wants to be all Devil's Advocatey, he could also just happen to be wandering by on his lonesome, gay way.
    • ...hrm. I'd want to gauge that one in video before assessing they Are Alone And Separate. It could just be a representation of the fact that hey- you probably wouldn't talk much about this in front of other people...
      ...but yeah, on reflection, either one's the separate-but-unequal thing.
  • I agree with this post and all who sail in her. Mind if I link?
    • Certainly, feel free! If I don't want someone linking something I post- I'll do it friends-locked.
  • And here I always worry that I'll seem intrusive because I can't not smile when I see two guys or two girls holding hands in public.
    • About a month and a half ago, I realized that the couple in front of me on the street did not, in fact, include a girl with very short hair. And yeah, I smiled a good bit, too.

      I don't think smiling comes off too intrusive. ;)
  • I must live in a bubble, because I've never heard anyone make those comments about boy/boy or girl/girl PDA in my (our?) friend group. Who are these people making these comments, and where can I find them and disembowel them?

    But you know, something really sad happened and I'm still thinking about it a month later. It was a Sunday late afternoon/ early evening and invisiblebf and I were going over to visit my mom. As you know, she lives over by Stern Grove and the last concert-goers were just wandering down Sloat as we were turning into her street. Two men were walking together and they were holding hands. When they saw us, they quickly let go of one another's hand. invisiblebfand I both noticed this and we commented on it as we pulled into my mom's driveway. It devastated me that they did that. I actually thought about going after them and telling them we wanted them to keep holding hands and I regret that I didn't do it. (Though it probably would have freaked them out to have some stranger chasing them down the street going, wait! wait! you should hold hands!)
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