heterosexism vs homophobia

Frances Bolton fbolton at chuma.cas.usf.edu
Wed Feb 10 11:33:46 PST 1999

<As far as my politics of sexual orientation, I think "homophobia" is a politically correct <conception or critique.

You frequently say this Charles, that something is or is not "politically correct." I find it a troubling rhetorical strategy, as it immediately shuts off any discussion of the issue at hand. And, when we're talking about something like heterosexism vs. homphobia, an issue that is far from decided, I find it particularly troubling.

<I say "heterosexism" is a very poor choice of words. In other words, I reject the political <stigmatization of heterosexuality that "heterosexism" connotes.

A week or so ago, there was an interesting discussion here of "homophobia." Someone (Yoshie? Angela? definitely one of the grrls) pointed out that the problem with homophobia is that it pathologizes anti-g/l bigotry. Calling it a phobia makes it sound like its abnormal, a pathology, when, in fact, it is extremely widespread and common. Put another way, homphobic people get to use the twinkie defense** and they don't have to examine how anti g/l bigotry is built into the structure of the US. "Homophobia" makes it an aberration, like "arachnophobia" or "claustrophobia." And, if the problem is an irrational, uncontrollable fear, obviously one cannot expect it to change. I don't buy that. the problem is heterosexism, a deep, structural problem that rewards heterosexual couples and punishes same sex couples, and others who are not involved in legally recognized hetersexual relationships.

<Heterosexual liberation is an important political movement, equal with the homosexual <liberation movement. Use of the term "heterosexism" as a negative political label seems to <be unaware or ignore or disagree with that.

Uh, where is this important heterosexual liberation movement? I've never heard of such a thing.

>The "Free love" movement of the 60's continues. No one enthusiastic about
the Free Love >movement would pick the word "heterosexism". As far as I am concerned, opposition to >heterosexual liberation is a reactionary position.
Well there are quite a lot of people who question the value of the "Free Love' movement. They suggest that it was a cynical ploy on the part of 60s activist men to take away women's last reason to say no to sex. To quote Dana Densmore, radical feminist and one of my most important teachers, "Sex is everywhere. It's forced down our throats. It's the great sop that keeps us in our place. The big lift that makes our dreary lives interesting." Mary Daly, with whom I have deep disagreements, points out that the primary result of the "sexual revolution" was to leave women without the freedom to refuse to be defined by sex. Maybe there were people who really did see the free love movement as liberatory, and I believe that you did/do. I am *not* accusing you of cynically using it to get booty. That said, the emphasis on women's sexuality was commodified and became an emphasis on women's attractiveness and now we have all these 11 year old girls who are on diets,curling their eyelashes, and worried about being attractive to little prepubescent boys. Those girls should be out playing softball, riding bicycles, and giving their barbie dolls bad haircuts.

>Does that answer your question ?
Raises more questions than it answers.


**twinkie defense--for those of you not in the US--in the 1970s in San Francisco, a gay city official, Harvey Milk, and the mayor, George Moscone, were killed by another city official, Dan White, who was known to hate Milk because he was gay. At the trial, his lawyer said he suffered from a psychotic epidode brought on by eating too many sugary cakes (the twinkies, for those of you lucky enough to have not experienced them) and that made him do it. He got a very short prison term and killed himslef soon after bein released.

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