As a queer person, topics of homophobia are always very close to heart having experienced it myself many times, but mainly because of the impact that it STILL has on my community. Michael Kimmel’s article “Masculinity as Homophobia” and bell hooks’ article “Understanding the Patriarchy” brings to light some of the underlying sources of homophobia, and discusses some of the ways we can combat these issues at the roots of where they are born and grow.
Spoiler alert: Patriarchy is at fault YET AGAIN!
Gender boundaries that are repeatedly enforced by patriarchal values are thrown upon us before we are even out of the womb. The day our parents receive ultrasound photos that reveal what biological anatomy we possess is the day gender rules, regulations and expectations are put in place. Born with a vagina, I was immediately bought pink dresses and cute little bows for my hair. I would have no say, no choice on what I could freely wear without being judged or ridiculed for straying from the societal ‘norm’. Men, or people who are assigned male at birth suffer similarly in that they constantly have to “check the fences we have constructed on the perimeter, making sure that nothing remotely feminine might show through.” (Kimmel 148).
Men in particular fear appearing or beholding any traits that might be deemed feminine as it might risk confusing others of his sexuality. And this fear of being perceived as gay “keeps exaggerating all the traditional rules of masculinity.” (Kimmel 148) This results in a vicious cycle that controls the expectations of all males, simultaneously being both homophobic and sexist. Men don’t have the room to experiment or explore their gender expression as freely as women might and this often provokes grandiose efforts to reaffirm their manliness or assure others that they are indeed ‘Man’ enough through acts of violence and the predation of women.
bell hooks’ little brother was taught that “his value would be determined by his will to violence.” (hooks 1). Many of the issues start with the socialization of children and the responsibility is often dumped onto parents – expecting them to be responsible for raising a proper man. Truth is it is parents, other children, society and social institutions that all need to revisit how they socialize and the values they imprint on young minds. Perhaps by NOT measuring value by how violent they are and instead on how they treat others would assist in lowering violent statistics as well as easing the pressure and increasing the overall happiness and well being of young males in general.
“The Crisis facing men is not the crisis of masculinity, it is the crisis of patriarchal masculinity.” (hooks 5-6)
Patriarchy is always messing things up – and I know a lot of guys roll their eyes at feminists because they re always saying things like. But…. its kind of true guys, sorry. BUT this is the point that bell hooks makes that all men need to understand. Feminists don’t hate men, they hate the patriarchal rule that enforces unrealistic expectations gender roles. If more efforts were made to changes these unwritten rules of society, then it would relieve a lot of pressure on men to relax in being themselves without the fear of humiliation.
Kimmel, Michael. “Masculinity as Homophobia.” Toward a new psychology of gender (p. 223–242). Taylor & Frances/Routledge. 1994
hooks, bell. “Understanding the Patriarchy.” Louisville Anarchist Foundation. http://ImagineNoBorders.org