ThaGayzTM [cis-gender gay men] have a weird relationship with women and the female body. We simultaneously revere and emulate strong women while being vocally repulsed by intimate proximity to the same physicality we admire from afar. We say and do some of the most ignorant things and are rarely challenged because patriarchy shields us from any accountability for the violence our words and actions support.
The speed with which some of your eyes rolled at the mention of things like “cis-gender”, “patriarchy” and “violence” is enough to get a ticket in most jurisdictions. You think that because you are gay or queer that you are a victim of patriarchy not a beneficiary. While it may be true that the violence we as gay men experience is part of the patriarchy, that same system affords those of us who are visibly male a level of access and protection of which we are often unaware.
The patriarchy is why those of us who are more traditionally masculine in appearance tend to be favored over our more femme or androgynous brothers. Patriarchy is why Viagra is obtained with little or no medical examination (and practically over-the-counter) while women must jump through numerous hoops (including invasive examinations) to access birth control (with a prescription). The Patriarchy is why you are likely to earn more money than an equally-qualified woman, even in stereotypically female-identified professions like nursing. And, the patriarchy is why you can get away with saying awful things about women because you are supported by a societal system than devalues women and anything female identified.
All of that said, in honor of Women’s History Month, here are some ways we can individually and collectively do better in support of all women.
1. Shut up about not wanting to have sex with a vagina.
Let’s stop saying, “Eww!” or making other subtle or overt signs/expressions of disgust at the sight or mention of a vagina. Were it not for a vagina, 99.99999% of you would not even be here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a vagina and no one else in the world needs to know what kinds of genitalia and bodies you prefer except those you intend to pursue. So unless a woman or someone with a vagina makes a move on you, STFU. And if they do make that move, you need only reply, “No, thank you”.
Believe it or not, this is another outgrowth of patriarchy: the tendency to only value people/bodies to the extent that they turn us on or are otherwise attractive to us. All humans and the genitalia they possess are worthy of respect, decency, and kindness, regardless of whether we want to fuck them. Do better!
2. Stop using terms like “Gold Star” or “Platinum” gay.
This is not AT ALL the flex you think it is. Frankly, it is no one’s business that you have never had sex with a woman and it’s tacky that you think you should be patted on the back for such a mundane and meaningless “accomplishment”. And if it’s tacky to talk about never having been with a vagina, it’s downright disgusting to be proud of being born via cesarean section. Nothing says, “I love you Mom” like bragging about never having come out of her moist smelly birth canal.
3. Stand up for women when they aren’t around.
We expect our heterosexual counterparts to stand up against intolerance of the LGBTQ community, so we as gay men must do the same in spaces where women (and other humans with vaginas) aren’t around.
Speak up when people start with negative comments about the lesbians that just walked into the gay bar. If you are at work, and the guys start making comments about a co-worker being a bitch, challenge that. Is she really a difficult person to work with, or is she just speaking up for herself in meetings, asserting herself, not letting others talk over her, and not backing down in the face of the casual male aggression that we all take for granted and find comforting? And as you stand up for her, remember that all oppression is linked. The same ones who call her a bitch in front of you will call you a f@gg@t in front of her.
4. Support women’s full reproductive rights.
More than just access to abortion, it’s about the full, unequivocal, and unfettered authority to make choices over one’s body, 100% free from government intervention. It’s about access to birth control and other family planning methods. It is only very recently that some jurisdictions stopped requiring the consent of one’s husband for a woman to get her tubes tied (yet there was no such requirement when a man wanted a vasectomy). It’s also about the relative affordability of birth control options for women vs. men.
As I said before, all oppression is linked. A society that imposes controls over a woman’s body on religious or other “moral” grounds is a society that imposes controls on who you can marry, or what you can be taught in school, and by extension what you can think. Especially to those of you reading this in the United States, sound familiar?
5. Believe women when they speak their truth.
If a woman she says she was r@ped, her sexual history and proclivities are likely to be called into question. If she accuses someone famous of assault, she will be accused of being a gold digger before any evidence is even heard. Women from Anita Hill, to those who accused Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, and Harvey Weinstein can tell you that when a woman speaks her truth about something that happened to her, often the only upside is her own peace of mind.
Patriarchy protects the man in the situation by default, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. When we participate in this culture of victim blaming, we make ANYONE who was r@ped or assaulted or harassed or molested more reluctant to come forward, so believe women when they speak.
Listening to and believing women is about more than just sexual assault, though. Patriarchy devalues the female voice in all ways. It is no wonder that Britney Spears had to fight so hard to get from under her conservatorship. Despite only accounting for only half the population, and 45% of the wealth, women make up a significant majority of all conservatorships. We laugh at the Kim and Kanye situations because screw the Kardashians, right?
But the news is full of stories of crazy ex-husbands who made good on threats to kill the ex-wife, the new boyfriend, the kids, and others. Behind many of those stories are numerous calls to the police dismissed as female hysterics because many police officers are overwhelmingly male, as are those who make the laws requiring evidence of contact before a restraining order can be issued.
Bonus: Stop saying you have a Strong Black Woman inside you.
Usually, such statements are played for laughs and accompanied by racist caricatures of behaviors influenced by centuries of learned coping mechanisms to oppression. That poise, determination, and grit comes from navigating a world that diminishes and erases Black women’s pain while simultaneously expecting them to lift up and support their oppressors.
It’s fine if you want to emulate the perceived grace and dignity of the Black women around you, but it is HIGHLY insulting to say that you are one or have one inside you. Because you have not done (and can never do) the work necessary, so just stop it!
Next month, let’s talk about interracial relationships!