Tuesday, June 10, 2014

White Gay Male Politics and White Lesbian Feminist Challenges

photograph of Marilyn Frye is from here

What follows is a recent and extensive exchange in the comments section of a past post:
Why isn't the Misogyny and Anti-Radical/Anti-Feminism in and beyond Queer communities being seen as just as important to challenge and uproot as Anti-Trans practice?

My responses are partial and inadequate. There's much more to say in response to SuperMattTO's comments. There's much more to critique and challenge. But rather than have the exchange buried in the comments section of another post, I thought I'd share it here.

I welcome further critique and commentary by anyone who has respectful contributions to make.


Blogger SuperMattTO said...
Sometimes you just have to let the past go if you want to change things. The lesbian separatist movement made the LBGT community deeply divided, and, yes, some gay men felt unfairly attacked by some lesbian feminist authors, and did many trans-women. We might just have to forget about the antagonism that used to be.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 1:01:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
In my experience, honestly, it wasn't lesbian separatism that divided the community. It was male supremacy and white supremacy. Some women choosing to separate from various status quo society in various ways doesn't divide anything, any more than a group deciding to live somewhere else does. To decide to invest energy in women/wimmin-only spaces make sense to me. What also divides our community is the rape and assault of us as children by adults. And racism, and classism, and misogyny. Would you agree that white and male supremacy divides our community far more than lesbian separatism?
Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 1:20:00 AM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...
Well, I wasn't part of the community back then. In 1980, I was 8. But, when I read stuff like the following paper, I see that there is some truth to what some older gay men say about the early lesbian feminist movement. http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/fryegayrights.htm
Some of them treated us like enemies just for being gay men. It tends to be those older gay men who remember that period that sometimes express an anti-lesbian sentiment. There must be some men with male supremacist views in the gay community, but I haven't run into it very often. And, I certainly have never met a gay man who says that the reason why we should not be gay bashed is that we are not women. The author of that article seems to have just made that part up, but she accuses us all of being the same. As for your point about women-only space, I have nothing against that.
Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 7:00:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
I want to be sure I'm following you here. What's the objection to Frye's essay? What do you understand the problem to be with it? Can you tell me on what page, and what paragraph? Then I can respond to something concrete.

You don't see the sexism and misogyny of gay men, but for those of us who register it in subtle and crude forms, it's fairly blatant and ubiquitous, particularly among white gay men with class privileges. From white gay drag (also blatantly racist, classist, and pro-sex abuse), to anti-feminism, to anti-lesbian politics. To white gay men assimilating into dominant male supremacist society with the only objection to that society being that it won't let in gay men.

Your comment reminds me of whites who say, "I honestly haven't seen much racism among the white people I know." Well, I see it among just about every white person I know. How can whites really know where racism lives, when it lives so invisibly to and among whites? What white person do you know who has a history of being negatively impacted by white supremacy day to night, week to week, year after year?

The same holds true with men, gay and not gay, re: misogyny. It's never far from the surface and too often is all over the surface.

I'm not saying that's all there is: everyone is human and three-dimensional.

Personally, I really liked Frye's essay--and the whole book--when I first read it. It made so much sense of my own experiences and explained why I had gravitated to lesbian-feminism and away from gay-male supremacist politics.

Lesbian feminism and radical feminism were the only two political stances that took sexual violence (including in media such as television and pornography), sexual exploitation and harassment, and child sexual abuse seriously.

Back in the day, if I described some of the abuse I endured in adolescence, gay men would find it erotic and tell me so. Not one woman--lesbian or not, feminist or not, made such a crass remark to me. I think that's because sexual violence and the threat of it is so real, that it's not anything to take lightly.

What is the transformative plan of white gay men you know? What's the radical social agenda? Assimilation is about all I see.

Lesbian feminism and radical feminism have had a consistently anti-status quo agenda and social analysis. Rooting out patriarchy is an agenda among both groups. I don't know of any gay organizations or activist groups who put that on the 'to do' list, even theoretically. Do you?
Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 11:29:00 PM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...
I'm too busy to give the long response that you want me to give but teen sexual abuse is very much frowned upon by the gay community. I am sorry that you ran into men that feel otherwise.

Gay men are the other group that has historically taken a stance against childhood sexual abuse. It only took one year for Nambla to be kicked out of most gay pride marches.

Everything is wrong with Frye's essay, but I will have to get back to you on that later when I have more time.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 6:38:00 AM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...
Part I...I had to split my response in half.

Let's take a look at some of her arguments.

1. The presumption of male citizenship.
She claims that gay men think that all men should have the right to certain things like a car and a job but that not all women should. I have never met a gay male who does not think that men and women should be equal in this regard.
2. Worship of the penis.
This is a ridiculous criticism of gay men. If gay men worship penises it is only in a sexual rather than a spiritual way. Gay men like dick because they are sexually attracted to other men. There is no assumption that the male body is superior, or a belief that society at large should worship penises more than vaginas It is just our sexual preference. There are some lesbians that worship the female body the same way that gay men worship the male body, and that is fine to us. It is to be suspected, and nothing about gender superiority should be read into it, unless someone really does believe in gender superiority.
She also says stuff like the following.
"The culture is one in which men are not commonly found laughable when they characterize the female as a castrated male. It is a culture in which an identification of the penis with power, presence and creativity is found plausible-not the brain, the eyes, the mouth or the hand, but the penis. In that culture, any object or image which at all resembles or suggests the proportions of an erect penis will be imbued with or assumed to have special mythic, semantic, psychological or supernatural powers. There is nothing in gay male culture or politics as they appear on the street, in bars, in gay media, which challenges this belief in the magic of the penis."
I'm sorry, but very few gay men believe in that type of male supremacism. She is simply wrong in the way she characterises us.

3. Male homoeroticism, or man-loving.
Again, it is simply because we are gay. There is nothing wrong with gay male homoeroticism, because there is nothing wrong with two men having sex with each other, and it is healthy to have sexual relations and sexual fantasies.
4. Contempt for women, or woman-hating.

She says that this is how gay men feel about being gay-bashed.

"Like most other men who for one reason or another get a taste of what it's like to be a woman in a woman-hating culture, they are inclined to protest, not the injustice of anyone ever being treated so shabbily, but the injustice of their being treated so when they are not women.'

No. I have known a lot of gay men very well, and they simply do not feel that way. Gay men are exceptionally critical of men who act violently towards women, or men who treat women as inferiors. Gay men, by and large simply do not think the way she says we do.

She also claims that all effeminate gay men are simply making fun of women. There are a few very politically incorrect drag queens out there. But, just like not all butch dykes are making fun of men, by and large, most effeminate gay men are not either.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:30:00 AM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...
Part II:
5. Compulsory male heterosexuality.
No. We don't believe in that. There might be some gay fathers out there, but compulsory heterosexuality is not one of our beliefs. We are completely offended by it. And, a lot of gay men are also completely bothered by straight men who think lesbians should have to do it with a man. We understand that this is offensive enough that it warrants significant feminist backlash against straight men, but it is totally unfair to lay the blame on us.
6. The presumption of general phallic access.
Who does she think she is protecting by supporting anti-gay sodomy laws. Does she not realise that in the gay male culture that largely condemns coercive sex, the men who take it up the ass want to because they like it? What business does she have trying to stop gay men from doing this? If she is a feminist, she should concern herself more with whether or not some straight men are coercive and whether or not certain aspects of the dominant straight porn culture might promote coercive sex. But, it is wrong to condemn gay men for this. Rather, the would could learn a lot from us, since we firmly believe that only people who really want to take it up the ass should do so.

Indeed, she misunderstands us so badly that she says this.
"The general direction of gay male politics is to claim maleness and male privilege for gay men and to promote the enlargement of the range of presumption of phallic access to the point where it is, in fact, absolutely unlimited."
In what way is it fair to say that about a culture of people who largely condemns people who are sexually coercive, sex with underage boys and girls, and bestiality.
Finally, take a look at this comment.
"The power available to those who choose, who decide in favor of deviance from heterosexual norms, can be very great."
Because she is opposed to male homoeroticism and she thinks that women who choose to live a lesbian lifestyle make more of a difference than lesbians who are simply only attracted to women, she is essentially claiming that only straight or bi women should be allowed to speak for the entire LBGT community. That is heterosexual supremacism showing its ugly head.

Returning now to an earlier comment she made in her paper that gay men are if anything anti-feminist. I disagree with this statement. But, back in 1983, a lot of gay men were being sick of being told what they think by straight women who were pretending to be lesbians, principally because we don't think that way. Many gay men actually to prescribe to a more-or-less feminist ideology.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:33:00 AM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...
And, yet another response to some parts of your post that I did not address earlier.

Yes, white supremacy is pervasive in white culture. My experience with gay men is that some of them have a grudge against straight men and some of them hold a grudge against lesbians, but very few hold much of a grudge against straight women. And, I am being as honest as I possibly can. SOME of the lesbophobia that is out there probably has a sexist component, but sometimes it is resentment towards radical feminists who seemed to agree with our oppressors about some issues.

I don't really agree that gay male politics has no feminist component. A lot of the people who oppose gay marriage are gender traditionalists. They say that, for a relationship to work well, there has to be a person with a vagina who cooks, and a person with a penis who mows the lawn. Gay and lesbian marriages violate the view of obligatory gender roles that they want to maintain. And, gay male culture tends to be quite genderless. We don't really maintain that there is such a thing as a male or a female role in relationships or that there is any advantage to introducing the notion of gender into a relationship. Mainstream acceptance of gay marriage will help to dismantle patriarchy.
I have seen a fair number of gay men getting involved in feminist organisations like becauseiamagirl.ca, which does fundraising for underpriviledged girls in third-word countries. But, a gay rights organisation cannot itself take on those types of issues, because it isn't a gay rights issue. That doesn't mean that gay rights activists don't support women's rights though.
As a sidnote, I honestly don't see radical feminists coming up with a viable way to overthrow patriarchy either.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 2:13:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
Lots to respond to.

First, "Gay men are the other group that has historically taken a stance against childhood sexual abuse. It only took one year for Nambla to be kicked out of most gay pride marches."

NAMBLA was supported by many gay men, was supported by gay men to be part of the gay pride parade, and was critiqued most clearly and immediately not by gay men, but by lesbian and feminist women.

"Everything is wrong with Frye's essay...

How could that be? I'll assume that is uncareful rhetoric.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 10:49:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
'I'm sorry, but very few gay men believe in that type of male supremacism. She is simply wrong in the way she characterises us."

Our experiences are different.

3. "Male homoeroticism, or man-loving.
Again, it is simply because we are gay. There is nothing wrong with gay male homoeroticism, because there is nothing wrong with two men having sex with each other, and it is healthy to have sexual relations and sexual fantasies."


The issue for me has been how gay men treat women, lesbians, and feminists over the years. When lesbian feminism began a systematic critique of male supremacist power as it displayed itself against lesbians, gay men parted company with lesbians in the struggle against heteropatriarchy. In and beyond the bdsm gay community, a very narrow kind of patriarchal masculinity and male power is eroticised: it's not just gay men being attracted to one another; it's the celebration of a kind of masculinity that, in the larger world, is deeply oppressive to women, and also to gay men.

You cite this of Frye's:

"Like most other men who for one reason or another get a taste of what it's like to be a woman in a woman-hating culture, they are inclined to protest, not the injustice of anyone ever being treated so shabbily, but the injustice of their being treated so when they are not women.'

You respond:
"No. I have known a lot of gay men very well, and they simply do not feel that way. Gay men are exceptionally critical of men who act violently towards women, or men who treat women as inferiors. Gay men, by and large simply do not think the way she says we do."

Most gay men I know oppose domestic violence and the rape of women by men. Many gay men are vague on what constitutes rape between men. Few gay men have an analysis, let alone organized opposition to 'rape culture', which explains the 'hard-core', uncompromising defence of industry pornography across the board.

Also, most gay men I've known oppose gay bashing because it is violence against queer people, not because it is an expression of misogyny directed at allegedly 'effeminate' men. The fact that straight gay bashing men, and other straight men, call us all manner of names that basically mean 'too much like a woman', demonstrate this is how we are viewed in dominant male culture. Gay men's personal ads reveal this too: "no femmes". I have never seen an ad that reads, "no masculine or butch men". Have you?

"She also claims that all effeminate gay men are simply making fun of women. There are a few very politically incorrect drag queens out there. But, just like not all butch dykes are making fun of men, by and large, most effeminate gay men are not either."

I think you mistakenly read feminist and lesbian analysis to think that when authors critique 'men' or 'gay men' they mean ALL people in that category. This is a sloppy misread, in my view. For if gay men critique hetero men, clearly we don't mean EVERY SINGLE straight boy.

Understanding white gay male drag, particularly when allegedly appearing to be 'Black women'--and I don't mean particular famous women like Diana Ross or Patti LaBelle, it is rarely anything but a misogynist minstrel show, garnering adoration and appreciation from other gay men, while turning 'Black women" into a caricature. That is my experience. Perhaps we live in different cultures, or have done so.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:13:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
Also, you might wish to learn about Allen Ginsberg's position on sex with thirteen year old boys. And note how many gay men celebrate him as a positive libertarian.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:16:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
Generally, I guess I see you attempting to speak for all gay men across eras, and ignoring a great deal about gay men's historical protection of abuses of male power. Why you rewrite history in this way is not clear to me.

For now, just to offer proof of a example of a prominent gay men who advocates or celebrates sex with children, I'm citing one historical figure who looms large in counterculture, especially if not only among men across sexual orientation. My reason for doing so is not to say Ginsberg is representative of all gay men. It is, rather, to note that when you speak for all gay men, you leave out a lot.

LOFTON: Did you say you had a sexual preference for young boys?

GINSBERG: We're not on trial here. I'm trying to explain.

LOFTON: But in a way, we're all on trial.

GINSBERG: Well, then you must excuse me if I don't adopt the submissive attitude you wish. I got on the air and said that when I was young I was approached by an older man and I don't think it did me any harm. And that I like younger boys and I think that probably almost everybody has an inclination that is erotic toward younger people, including younger boys.

LOFTON: How young were the boys?

GINSBERG: In my case, I'd say fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen.

LOFTON: That you had sex with?

GINSBERG: No, unfortunately I haven't had the chance. [laughs]

Source of the interview snippet is here here.

You may also read Andrea Dworkin's account of his unapologetic predatory attitudes in her book, Heartbreak.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:25:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
Regarding this, "As a sidenote, I honestly don't see radical feminists coming up with a viable way to overthrow patriarchy either."

I'd phrase that dramatically differently. I'd say this is more truthful:

With the on-going militant pervasiveness and centuries-old stubbornness of racist patriarchy, it is not yet possible to overthrow it. Such a dismantling and transformation would require that many groups of people band together to fight various man-infestations of white male supremacy, including genocide of Indigenous people globally, opposition to globalisation, the creation of economic justice, the cultural overthrow of rapism, the end of rape, the dissolution of white power and male power, the statusing of lesbianism and radical feminism, and so much more. Ask your gay male friends if they'll get on board with such a project and let me know what they say.
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:44:00 PM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...
"With the on-going militant pervasiveness and centuries-old stubbornness of racist patriarchy, it is not yet possible to overthrow it. Such a dismantling and transformation would require that many groups of people band together to fight various man-infestations of white male supremacy, including genocide of Indigenous people globally, opposition to globalisation, the creation of economic justice, the cultural overthrow of rapism, the end of rape, the dissolution of white power and male power, the statusing of lesbianism and radical feminism, and so much more. Ask your gay male friends if they'll get on board with such a project and let me know what they say."

Nearly all of my gay male friends would agree with all of those goals.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 9:54:00 AM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...

"When lesbian feminism began a systematic critique of male supremacist power as it displayed itself against lesbians, gay men parted company with lesbians in the struggle against heteropatriarchy. In and beyond the bdsm gay community, a very narrow kind of patriarchal masculinity and male power is eroticised: it's not just gay men being attracted to one another; it's the celebration of a kind of masculinity that, in the larger world, is deeply oppressive to women, and also to gay men."

The problem here is that I don't agree with the analysis. Bdsm is consensual and it is all about exploring one's sensual limits, which is what some people find erotic and even sometimes spiritual. I also don't particularly agree with you that there any such thing as masculinity.

Historically, women were treated like sex slave, but there is a real difference between that type of a major human rights violation and consensual sex. Just the fact that some people like bdsm should show you how different these two things really are. I agree with you on the other points you made in the post.

"Gay men's personal ads reveal this too: "no femmes". I have never seen an ad that reads, "no masculine or butch men". Have you?"

That's always bothered me too. It strikes be to be quite politically incorrect, and far too common.

"Understanding white gay male drag, particularly when allegedly appearing to be 'Black women'--and I don't mean particular famous women like Diana Ross or Patti LaBelle, it is rarely anything but a misogynist minstrel show, garnering adoration and appreciation from other gay men, while turning 'Black women" into a caricature. That is my experience. Perhaps we live in different cultures, or have done so."

I know very little about drag. I know that there is some very misogynistic and racist stuff out there. There is a group of guys in my square dance group that dress in drag once per year, and there is nothing misogynistic about it. It is just having fun with outrageous costumes. The same guys come out with other types of outrageous costumes on halloween.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 10:08:00 AM EDT
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Blogger SuperMattTO said...
What does "the statusing of radical feminism and lesbianism" mean?
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 1:00:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
"Nearly all of my gay male friends would agree with all of those goals."

Where do you live? I don't mean specifically; what country and city do you live in? I don't know hardly any gay men who would be on board with that political project. I'm glad you do.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 10:03:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
"Historically, women were treated like sex slave, but there is a real difference between that type of a major human rights violation and consensual sex."

I agree with the last part but need to qualify the first part. Rape and rough or bdsm consensual sex are not identical, of course. I don't think it's a profeminist position that they are. The point is that they rise out of a similar political ground. And: sexual slavery is far more prevalent now than in the past, of women and girls especially. And it's not about being treated as a sex slave, but actually being one as far as the slavers are concerned. That is: the problem isn't just men thinking some women and girls deserve to be treated as sex slaves. The problem is that women's and girls' humanity is so non-existent in the minds of millions of men, that making them into sex slaves doesn't seem like an injustice or mistreatment of the enslaved people. This has always been true of slavers.

"Just the fact that some people like bdsm should show you how different these two things really are.

This is where your argument is weak in my opinion. Because it leaves out a very crucial fact: that rapists, child molesters, and other perpetrators like what they do. They enjoy it. They get intense pleasure from it. So, if we focus on the perps, there's little difference, with regard to liking it. I realise you're talking about BOTH parties enjoying it, and base its acceptability on the presence of consent. But many women I know have experienced rape and the law would only define it 'consensual sex'.

An excellent critique of 'consent' as a woefully inadequate measure of genuinely respectful sexual practice exists. It ought not be what we base law on. For more, please see, chapter 18. Unequal Sex: A Sex Equality Approach to Sexual Assault, in Women's Lives, Men's Laws, by Catharine A. MacKinnon.

If being sexually assaulted, particularly but not only in childhood, results in dissociation, self-imposed silencing, and a terror of telling any man 'no' when sex is brought into an interaction, how might we know what's genuinely consensual? If she is not safe, or doesn't feel safe to say no, why should an absence of a 'no' be assumed to be a 'yes'?

I've never heard one gay man make these points, because consent is sufficient as a maximum level of agreement for most gay men I know, for most men generally.

As a survivor of child sexual abuse and adult sexual exploitation, I am suggesting that 'consent' is an inadequate measure of mutual respect and regard, particularly for law, but also for relationships.

I'll offer up these points: if society is soaked in misogyny, built on it, bred and raised in it, isn't it likely that what we will enjoy it sexually and socially? Put another way, how could we not enjoy it and absorb it as 'hot', on some level? I'm speaking about many levels of misogyny, not just the most overtly hostile forms that might seem obviously deplorable to more sensitive and aware gay males.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 11:09:00 PM EDT
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Blogger Julian Real said...
"Gay men's personal ads reveal this too: "no femmes". I have never seen an ad that reads, "no masculine or butch men". Have you?"

That's always bothered me too. It strikes be to be quite politically incorrect, and far too common.


The point isn't the degree to which you or I am bothered by it. Or by gay men's embrace of industry pornography. Or by white gay men's misogyny and racism in drag performance. Or white gay men's protection and defence of white gay men traveling to countries where much poorer people of color live to have sex with young men, or younger males.

The issue is that all of that and more is pervasive in gay community or gay male behavior in the Global North and Australia. That tells us something about our culture, doesn't it? It's not that those things are extreme practices--the problem is not that they are extreme. The problem is that they are normal and reveal the core values of the dominant society.

Gay men's practices aren't less innocent because gay men practice them. Yes, gay men are not positioned to rule society the way het men are. But we don't discount the harm just because the most dominant people aren't the practitioners in these cases.

I know very little about drag. I know that there is some very misogynistic and racist stuff out there.

I find that wording to be troubling. "Some very misogynistic and racist stuff out there." It's not exactly something kind of unfortunate, something only some people enjoy. Again, like the 'no femmes' thing, it's pervasive, embedded in our culture. It's not an entirely peripheral phenomenon. It speaks to something at the center of our world.

There is a group of guys in my square dance group that dress in drag once per year, and there is nothing misogynistic about it. It is just having fun with outrageous costumes. The same guys come out with other types of outrageous costumes on halloween.

How would you or I know whether there's anything misogynistic about it? We're not in a position to know it and name it because, let's face it, males aren't the best at doing so; we miss a lot. Nor are whites the best at knowing and identifying racism when it is expressed.

I don't know how the guys in your dance group dress up, so I won't speak to that. But those gay men who I know who do dress up in drag, actually say they are dressing up 'like a woman'. Such an understanding of 'women' is grossly stereotypical, and really has very little to do 'being like a woman'. For those people (female or male) who are threatened and endangered by the prevalence of such two-dimensionalising and distorting of 'womanhood', it is not confusing to me why so many women would oppose it as not at all progressive.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 11:09:00 PM EDT

Added:

You asked, "What does "the statusing of radical feminism and lesbianism" mean?

As I see it, various perspectives are either statused: valued and held up with regard, or stigmatised: devalued and held down with contempt. This is also true of groups of people. In corporate media, white radical feminism and lesbian feminism are virtually invisible, moreso the radical feminism and lesbian feminism of women of color.

White gay male politics are prominent when 'gay' issues are discussed or reported on. Currently, assimilationist/racist/classist/misogynist white gay male political agendas are embraced by more and more people who value and protect the status quo. Increasingly, radical feminism and lesbian feminism are devalued and marginalised, such as in academic institutions and across status quo society.

P.S. I missed where you wrote you live in Toronto. Thanks for that information. It's useful to know you didn't grow up, or at least don't currently live, in the U.S. The U.S. has very particular historical and contemporary ways of reinforcing white male supremacy. As does Canada.

21 comments:

SuperMattTO said...

I want to give good responses to your posts because they warrant good responses. For now, I am busy though. Sex with underage people is rape, because they are not old enough to know what they are giving up, they are not emotionally ready for sexual relations, they are unable to see that they are being used, and the unequalness makes it coercive even if the perpetrater thinks he isn't trying to act coercive. But other perpetrators are knowingly coercive. This analysis of statutory rape is very mainstream. Even most straight men oppose statutory rape. Gay men tend to feel particularly strongly about it because there are some whacked out pedophile activists that have tried to mimic the gay-rights movement, and we find it deeply disturbing, and even quite insulting to our movement.

SuperMattTO said...

You said--

That's always bothered me too. It strikes be to be quite politically incorrect, and far too common.

I said-

The point isn't the degree to which you or I am bothered by it. Or by gay men's embrace of industry pornography. Or by white gay men's misogyny and racism in drag performance. Or white gay men's protection and defence of white gay men traveling to countries where much poorer people of color live to have sex with young men, or younger males.

You said-

The issue is that all of that and more is pervasive in gay community or gay male behavior in the Global North and Australia. That tells us about our culture, doesn't it? It's not that those things are extreme practices--the problem is not that they are extreme. The problem is that they are normal and reveal the core values of the dominant society."

My current response is-
"Actually, I haven't seen any adds like that up here in Canada since the mid-1990s. But, didn't there use to be some gay men who acted flamboyant just because they though gay men were supposed to act that way? I have never known what the word "femme' stands for to tell you the truth.

Earlier, I said-
"I know very little about drag. I know that there is some very misogynistic and racist stuff out there."

And, you responded-
"I find that wording to be troubling. "Some very misogynistic and racist stuff out there." It's not exactly something kind of unfortunate, something only some people enjoy. Again, like the 'no femmes' thing, it's pervasive, embedded in our culture. It's not an entirely peripheral phenomenon. It speaks to something at the center of our world."

My current response is-

If you live in a small town with only one gay bar, that might be true. In larger cities like Toronto, most gay men have never seen a drag show, and they just have to take people's word for it that some misogynistic and racist stuff goes on. What I know about this stuff I have read about in Xtra magazine. I have never witnessed it. I worry that you might be trying to smear the gay community with something that you must know is not particularly representative of it.

None of the lesbians or straight women in my square dance clubs think that those guys dressing up are being misogynistic. And, I don't agree that just because someone is female and interprets something one way, that she must have the correct analysis. Women are just as human as men, and we can all get things wrong.

I think that most lesbians and gays would agree that we simply don't have sufficient reason at this point to condemn most drag queens, and I have known a lot of lesbians who disagree with some radical feminist authors for having a tendency to lump them all together without even taken the time to get to know them.

SuperMattTO said...

"This is where your argument is weak in my opinion. Because it leaves out a very crucial fact: that rapists, child molesters, and other perpetrators like what they do. They enjoy it. They get intense pleasure from it. So, if we focus on the perps, there's little difference, with regard to liking it. I realise you're talking about BOTH parties enjoying it, and base its acceptability on the presence of consent."
I used to be into SM back in the day, and I know that the guys using the paddles that I was with would never be turned on by non-consensual sex. They derive pleasure out of the mutual satisfaction that comes from a consensual SM relationship. So, that is another crucial difference. If you start pointing your fingers and the wrong people, your valid critique of true sex offenders might get lost.

"If being sexually assaulted, particularly but not only in childhood, results in dissociation, self-imposed silencing, and a terror of telling any man 'no' when sex is brought into an interaction, how might we know what's genuinely consensual? If she is not safe, or doesn't feel safe to say no, why should an absence of a 'no' be assumed to be a 'yes'?

I've never heard one gay man make these points, because consent is sufficient as a maximum level of agreement for most gay men I know, for most men generally."

All of the gay men that I know well make these points if the conversation gets steered that way. I am starting to wonder if you have lived a life completely sheltered away from gay men.

Women often times ask gay men to walk them home from places at night to function as body guards. And, my experience is that gay men are more aware of the fear that women face over the rape issue than just about any demographic group. I really think that you just don't know many gay men very well.

SuperMattTO said...


I have been thinking about this part.
"As a survivor of child sexual abuse and adult sexual exploitation, I am suggesting that 'consent' is an inadequate measure of mutual respect and regard, particularly for law, but also for relationships."

Gay men tend not to realize that coercive sex is still a problem for us. We have ostracized pedophiles so thoroughtly that they are no longer even considered to be gay. We also figure that we are more enlightened about coercive sex than straight men, sinly because it is easier for a gay man to put himself into another gay man's shoes than it is for a straight man to put himself into a straight women's shoes. And, we all know that we wouldn't want to be pressured into taking it up the but if we didn't want to.

Yes, gay men probably are overall more enlightened, to the point that I even don't see any way in which gay pornography could be harmful, given most of our strong stance against coercive sex.

The problem is that in any community there are still bad people that don't live up to the community's expectations. And, you have run into just that as an adult.

There need to be hotlines and escape routes available to help people out of relationships that are abusive either sexually or non-sexually.

Julian Real said...

I'm not unfamiliar with gay men, and white gay culture. I've lived in cities most of my life. My analysis and perspective is arrived at through experience with gay men, along with radical and lesbian feminist writings and conversations.

There are people who act feminine-flamboyant because they think that's how some people are supposed to act, including some gay men. None of that is in the past only. Often 'femme' means feminine but in queer community; as a noun, it often means an LGBT person who appears to personify what is culturally traditionally thought of as 'feminine' behavior, appearance, or attitude. I must note that what 'feminine' is varies quite a bit from culture to culture.

I agree that 'consent' is the maximum level of

Julian Real said...

I hope you don't witness me 'condemning' drag queens. I'm critiquing some behavior and theatrics in the white male drag world.

I think 'drag' is a complex issue, actually. Criticizing some aspects of performance isn't the same as condemning people. I hope you recognize that. Because Frye is critiquing culture and the politics infused in it. Many feminists critique male supremacist behavior in men, but the men feel like feminists are condemning men when they're not. They're condemning rape culture, abuse, harassment, racism, social subordination, institutional sexism and misogyny, economic injustice, and so forth.

Julian Real said...

I agree that most queer people probably don't have much of a critique of some aspects of drag performance. But that doesn't mean there is nothing to critique.

I agree with you that "consent is sufficient as a maximum level of agreement for most gay men I know, for most men generally."

And that's the problem. Consent is an inadequate measure of mutual sexual respect and regard.

I agree that "Gay men tend not to realize that coercive sex is still a problem for us."

You wrote:
"Yes, gay men probably are overall more enlightened, to the point that I even don't see any way in which gay pornography could be harmful, given most of our strong stance against coercive sex."

If someone doesn't see the ways in which gay pornography could be harmful, or is harmful, they probably don't know much about what happens in the pornography industry. Industry pornography can't exist without sexual coercion, sexual harassment, rape, and battery. The industry has never existed without those forms of violence.

I see you speaking again and again about good people vs. bad people, even though that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about the conscience or morality of the individual.

I'm addressing cultural-political realities, and how white and male supremacy and violence permeates society, including queer society.

I'm sorry that isn't coming across.

SuperMattTO said...

Thanks for all the interesting discussion. I have been thinking about your comments about porn. I think some gay porn stars really like what they do, but then there are hundreds who don't but they are desperate for money. I think the big gay porn companies like titan men and falcon studios and jet set men, which tend to make use of slightly older male actors, are probably far less exploitative than places like "sean cody", which tend to feature young straight men. But, thank you for giving me something to think about.

Julian Real said...

To assist in that process, here are some links which I hope are helpful.

Former gay porn star tells the truth about pornography

The Harms of Gay Male Pornography: A Sexual Equality Perspective

Videos here, on the topic, "Gay Porn and Why It Is Harmful".

Christina said...

We have been and are currently living in a world in which women and girls have found themselves in a position where it practically becomes a matter of survival to separate themselves from the horrors of white male supremacy. I have known of white men rape black lesbian women to "make them come right."

The sad reality is that many gay white men choose to align themselves with white male supremacy. This would then understandably cause some lesbian feminist authors to indeed come across as being critical of gay white men.

Racism is a very big element of white male supremacy. I have often come across gay white men being extremely racist, this begs the question then, how are these gay white men any different to most strait white men who embrace white male supremacy?

We should be seeing many for white gay men calling for the overthrow of white male supremacy.

Julian Real said...

Yes, Christina.

I think White Male Supremacy would have a much harder time thriving if everyone hurt by it organized against it.

SuperMattTO said...

Christina, the patriarchy just hates us. It is why the US government was initially uninterested in funding AIDS research. They thought it was a gay disease, and were not bothered by us dying in large numbers. Given that they would have funded AIDS research if it were not a gay disease, I consider this to be a case of mass genocide of people who were considered to be enemies of the patriarchy.

It simply makes no sense for gay men to join white male supremacist groups. I can't say that it never happens, but it is quite rare.

In the US, there seems to be this weird phenomenon where some gay white men want to blame black people for homophobia. I don't even want to understand it, but, yes, you are unfortunately correct that the gay community is far from immune to racism, even though the gay community has never had much support from the white male patriarchy.

Julian Real said...

SuperMattTO,

I hold a somewhat different view of things, even while I believe we agree on other points and aren't necessarily terribly far apart on most points.

On AIDS. Yes, of course white het patriarchy despised us and wanted us dead. Some WHM still do.

And, if the population of gay males had been only Black and Brown, or only Asian and Indigenous, far less would have been done by white gay men to prevent that level of genocide.

I say that, in part, based on how little white gay men do in alliance with Black and Brown and Indigenous people generally.

It simply makes no sense for gay men to join white male supremacist groups. I can't say that it never happens, but it is quite rare.

First, it makes sense if seen from the perspective of white supremacy: whites joining forces with other whites ensures a great deal of privilege, advantage, access, and power. It ensures material advantage, such as through the phenomenon of gentrification in so many cities across the U.S.: displacement of poor people of color with whites (sometimes disproportionately gay) taking over neighborhoods and not creating ways for the former residents to stay.

It is entirely commonplace, normal, and structurally set for whites--including white gay men--to cling to white power. I know of virtually no white people--including white gay men--who don't do this. I can't count exceptions on half of one hand.

Please tell me, in your experience, which white gay men you know who give up white entitlements, economic advantages, power, resources to stand alongside queer people of color in day to day life and politically in their activist work. Who are they? Where do they live? (City only, of course.)

You have said I come across as removed from the gay world. I see whites generally removed from the world of people of color, and generally uninterested in working with people of color when the POC are in charge. Which white gay men do you know who work for Queer POC organisations? How many?

Every single Queer POC I know has witnessed and directly experienced such brazen levels of white supremacist behavior that they have left white-dominant groups because of it. I know of no exceptions. This is not my perspective. It is information shared with me.

In the US, there seems to be this weird phenomenon where some gay white men want to blame black people for homophobia. I don't even want to understand it, but, yes, you are unfortunately correct that the gay community is far from immune to racism, even though the gay community has never had much support from the white male patriarchy.

This is kind of a minor point, but notice how you write "the gay community" without identifying the race of the people you're referring to. This is part of how white supremacy flourishes: white people don't acknowledge ourselves as white. We pretend white folks are normal and 'just people' while making people of color 'other than that': other than normal, and other than 'just people'.

Christina identified the race of the gay men she was critiquing, and your response removes the race of the gay men. That's white privilege showing up in writing.

White males far too often blame Black and Brown people for everything because scapegoating people of color allows those of us who are white to ignore the ways we perpetrate atrocity everywhere.

You repeatedly portray the problem of white supremacy, white dominance, white privilege, white entitlement, white access, white power over and against people of color, including QPOC, as rare. How can it be rare, when white gay men enjoy social privileges, including economic advantages, over and against QPOC, and over and against non-queer POC?

SuperMattTO said...

"Please tell me, in your experience, which white gay men you know who give up white entitlements, economic advantages, power, resources to stand alongside queer people of color in day to day life and politically in their activist work. Who are they? Where do they live? (City only, of course.)"
And, how exactly does one do that? I live on welfare, but, if I had a job, do you really think that quitting my job is necessarily going to make the world a nicer place?

"You have said I come across as removed from the gay world. I see whites generally removed from the world of people of color, and generally uninterested in working with people of color when the POC are in charge. Which white gay men do you know who work for Queer POC organisations? How many?"
Do queer POC even want white people working for their organisations? Are we really able to represent them and their perspective if we haven't lived in their shoes?

"This is kind of a minor point, but notice how you write "the gay community" without identifying the race of the people you're referring to."

Actually, racism occurs in all races in society, and it's not white privilege or white supremacy to point that out. If I am going to be friends with somebody, it has to be that neither of us hates each other for being born a different race.

"You repeatedly portray the problem of white supremacy, white dominance, white privilege, white entitlement, white access, white power over and against people of color, including QPOC, as rare. How can it be rare, when white gay men enjoy social privileges, including economic advantages, over and against QPOC, and over and against non-queer POC?"
As somebody who lives on welfare, I don't see myself as benefitting all that much from the white entitlemenst of which you speak. I also see the Toronto gay community as being quite racially accepting, and quite non-judgemental about social class. But, that is my experience. I know that there are wealthier conservative gay men out there, that support more right-wing agendas which are sometimes associated with bigotry in addition to classism. I have seen it more in SF than Toronto though. The community living in downtown Toronto leans left a lot more so than in other cities.


SuperMattTO said...

I should correct my other comment. I have heard enough racist remarks from white men in Toronto to conclude that racism actually is quite common up here.

On the other hand, most gay black men up here have told me that they find the gay community to be significantly less racist than the straight community.

White feminists usually don't attack gay white men for being racist up here, because they have no reason to think that gay white men are more racist than feminists. In fact, women of colour have sometimes formed separate groups because racism is so prevalent in the feminist community. That hasn't happened in the gay community (I don't know if there has ever been a lesbians of colour group up here).

Julian Real said...

do you really think that quitting my job is necessarily going to make the world a nicer place?

I'm sorry employment isn't happening for you right now. I wonder how welfare differs in Toronto and in many U.S. cities.

It's not exactly that I think any white person should quit their job to demonstrate solidarity. It's more that I think whites should be very conscious, conscientious, and responsible in the ways that privilege, power, and access are acted on. What whites could do, for example, is point out, challenge, and change the racial imbalances in their workplace, if and when it is white-dominated and majority-white in places that are racially diverse.

Do queer POC even want white people working for their organisations? Are we really able to represent them and their perspective if we haven't lived in their shoes?

I don't believe whites need to represent people of color in order to work with people of color. Whites ought to do the work that is helpful in POC organisations, the work that whites might be asked to do or are welcomed to do. A problem is because so few whites do their/our homework with regard to white racism, we bring that into environments and work relationships where racism is particularly triggering. Whites, generally, are too prone to not learn from people of color about our privileges and entitlements. Such as expecting women of color to take care of white men, or white men condescending to women of color. Or not being able to see women of color except through misogynist and racist lenses. Or expecting people of color to be available and interested in teaching whites about racism and how to be less racist.

That's a huge obstacle for any oppressed group, I suspect. Like straight men working for a gay organisation but not understanding how they are being homophobic.

Actually, racism occurs in all races in society, and it's not white privilege or white supremacy to point that out. If I am going to be friends with somebody, it has to be that neither of us hates each other for being born a different race.

I think you missed my point there. My point was that leaving out the race of a group when the group is white, is part of how white supremacy works: by rendering itself invisible among the oppressor group. If 'whiteness' is verbally acknowledged among whites how can whites challenge other whites about racism?

And, 'racism', as the term is used on this blog, refers to something historically specific in North America. Europe, and Australia, and in many other places around the world. It refers to white colonial racism, white nationalist racism, and white supremacist racism. That's the racism I'm addressed and challenging. That's the racism that whites should be challenge much, much more, in my opinion.

In such societies, the problem ought not be collapsed into one of people hating each other. It's one group subordinating, dominating, violating, exploiting, and committing genocide against the other one. It's not something groups do to each other in a mutually harmful way. Do you understand racism this way and agree with this perspective?

Julian Real said...

As somebody who lives on welfare, I don't see myself as benefitting all that much from the white entitlemenst of which you speak.

I think white entitlement and privilege is present, even among poor whites, relative to poor people of color. There's still the lack of stigma of whiteness, the networking whites do, the lack of being perceived as criminal-by-nature, lack of being seen dangerous because of of ones race, and impoverishment being part of an overall program of genocide. I can imagine that being on welfare doesn't leave you feeling especially empowered on the economic level, but there are many other ways in which being white in a white-dominant nation benefits you, wouldn't you agree?

White feminists usually don't attack gay white men for being racist up here, because they have no reason to think that gay white men are more racist than feminists.

I'm not quite sure why you use the term 'attack' there. Do you mean 'challenge'? 'Attack', for me, refers far more to what men do to women. Men challenging women with anger in tact is not usually called 'an attack' by men.

In fact, women of colour have sometimes formed separate groups because racism is so prevalent in the feminist community. That hasn't happened in the gay community (I don't know if there has ever been a lesbians of colour group up here)

I haven't seen any white group that is free of harmful manifestations of white racism. That the same dynamics don't appear to you to play out in gay male community might have more to do with the fact that the gay male community isn't engaged in the forms of activism that make white racism completely inappropriate and intolerable. But there could be many reasons for the difference, assuming there really is one. I generally don't accept other white people's view of how much white racism there is. Nor my own view, which simply cannot register the depth and the degrees of white racism that are present among whites.

Taylor Hill said...

I love this blog and I've been reading the longer posts and learning a lot. I'm a bisexual black feminist, but very new to understanding some of these concepts of gender. Part of my confusion stems from the fact that my own gender identity is very fluid. Once someone asked rhetorically "well did you have to choose to be female?" To make a point about how gender isn't a "choice" for most people. Overhearing this I said "yes, it was a hard decision, I waffled a lot and really I think maybe I could still go either way, but it is less troublesome to just go along with whatever socity has assigned to me" needless to say I did not get a kind response to this.

These personal notions of gender of feelings of not being in the right gender are very real. I experince them. But I can't afford to have Anything else wierd about me. So, I suppose I must not feel it as deeply as others do. I can choose to let it go and it has become political for me in ither ways.

My life has been that of a black woman, that is what people see, and I love being black, though it took me time to find this love. I also often love being a woman not so much because of the idea that the gender fits me, but because I'm am proud of how I have survived dispite the rape and harassment and attempts to diminish me. At this point not being a woman is a cop out to me. To be successful and defiant and dignified as a woman is the biggest fuck you I can think of.

So I say all this to bring up the place where I don't fully agree with your blog since I mostly agree with so much.

I feel you have underestimated CIS privilege greatly. Note that I'm in some ways passing so to speak in this area. I have this privilege along with the privliges of education and class.

These are powerful things. I don't want to try to say that they are equal to or greater than other forms of privilege but privilege is privilege.

Julian Real said...

Welcome, Taylor!

I so appreciate you sharing some of your experience and perspective.

Personally, I found your comment very important in pointing out several ways that white experience is often quite different due to privilege.

Not that it matters necessarily, but I'm wondering if the person was white, who asked if you chose to be female.

I'm familiar with the viewpoint that for many, gender is a system imposed through violence on people, designed to privilege males and punish and subordinate females. And that it is not, primarily, an identity chosen through personal decisions.

And your comment helps point out to me what is flawed in that viewpoint.

Most people I know have the experience you do: of gender being fluid or complicated well beyond what society enforces or demands.

Not being able to afford having anything else weird about you is so powerful for me. That too, speaks to me of how already marginalised people have a different relationship to queerness than do those with many forms of privilege.

I'm glad you survived rape, harassment, and all the other efforts to diminish you!

I relate to your third paragraph in this way: while I have struggled--and succeeded in finding pride and value in being gay, I also have significant critique of what dominant society and even gay society has to say about what that means. For example, it is assumed to mean I like sex and want it with men. Neither is the case. In part because of being a survivor of child sexual abuse, I don't like sex with others and don't desire to have it.

How do I maintain pride in being gay while rejecting something understood to be central to it?

In response to the last portion of your comment: I definitely do minimise or underestimate the privilege of being cis. One reason is because I'm intergender and am not, strictly speaking (according to many dominant queer views of this) 'cis' or 'trans'. Or, more accurately, I'm both 'cis' and 'trans'. This means, like you, I have 'cis privilege'.

But what that actually means is often put in terms of being (or not being) transsexual, not in terms of being or not being transgender.

I'll stop for now and look forward to your response. Would it be OK if I make this a separate post?

Thank you for reading my blog, and for sharing your experience and perspective here.

Make yourself at home, please.


SuperMattTO said...

"I relate to your third paragraph in this way: while I have struggled--and succeeded in finding pride and value in being gay, I also have significant critique of what dominant society and even gay society has to say about what that means. For example, it is assumed to mean I like sex and want it with men. Neither is the case. In part because of being a survivor of child sexual abuse, I don't like sex with others and don't desire to have it."

Well, the gay male culture (as do most lesbians) take the word gay to mean that you are substantially more sexually attracted to the same gender rather than the opposite. It sounds like you have very good reason not to like sex, so you are an exception to the generalization that gay men like to have sex with other men. But I doubt that few would object to you calling yourself gay.

We don't really want men who are primarily sexually attracted to women becoming 'political gays'. They don't know what it is like to be gay and they have a total different perception on things. But, that is something completely different from where you are coming from.

Julian Real said...

Yes, SuperMattTO, I'm not a 'political gay' person at all. :)

The other complicating factor is me being intergender. But the less complicated way to put that, still maintaining a gay identity, is that I'm a male person attracted to male men, including intergender male men.

I've met many more women I like much more than any of the men I've been attracted to, but that's not a sexual attraction matter. It's a matter of friendship and love.