Archives for posts with tag: homophobia

The rallying cries to end racism, to end homophobia, and to smash the patriarchy are all passionate pleas calling for sanity in a world gone crazy with unfounded hatred and hegemonic power imbalances. They all wish for the same thing: the elimination of injustice. We want to destroy capitalism. We want to abolish racism. We use colourful language like this with grand images of violent revolution because it is an anger that stirs within us that wants to lash out in retaliation against the oppression that we see inflicted upon the less fortunate. Seeing the devastation that injustice can bring would indeed drive any rational person mad, so to condemn the seething reactions begotten by this social terrorism is as absurd as condoning the appalling apathy that inevitably accompanies it. I use “we” because I am not excluded from these feelings, though my preferences tend toward simmering cynicism over boiling rage.

What are these injustices? Racism is the preference of one race over another, often structurally enforced by anachronistic institutions built prior to the bleeding heart enlightenment. Basically samesies with sexism, replacing race with gender where appropriate. And so on. Now, obviously they’re not identical and intersectionality has come a long way in explaining why, but they do share one common element: they are all ideas. Ideas fused into systemic practice, yes, but at their foundation they are intangible worldviews.

How do you destroy an idea? Tangible things are easy. Audrey Lorde’s quotation about being unable to dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools would be irrelevant if she were talking about a literal house. That shit would be a breeze to knock down. We have hate speech and anti-discrimination laws in Canada that prevent overt oppression meaning that, on paper, injustice has been triumphantly eliminated from our country. Well done, Canada! Except obviously it hasn’t. The tangible injustice is all but gone, leaving only the insidiously abstract injustice to be destroyed, and it seems the abstract is far more resilient.

Yet to destroy, demolish, dismantle, and decimate (if you wish to reduce injustice by a tenth) can only succeed negatively. What I mean by this is eliminating injustice can only ever negate the status quo. It seeks to thwart an inherently destructive idea with other destructive ideas. If you believe Lorde, then it’s simply never going to work.

Within the last year, there have been several sexual assault cases that were gravely illuminating about the flaws within our justice system. Kesha was forced to continue working with a man who sexually assaulted her. Brock Turner received a slap on the wrist. The judge for the Jian Ghomeshi case highlighted the problem by stating that without hard evidence, it comes down to the testimony of the accuser against the accused. This is then subject to often harsh cross-examination which can easily raise reasonable doubt as trauma is neither the best for memory nor unambiguous in its mental affectations. Thus, too often does justice ignore the victims of one of the most heinous crimes today. The legal system is an institution, but more than an institution, it is an idea. It is an idea that did not take into account the unique tragedy of sexual assault victims during its conception.

Screaming that the legal system is broken will not fix it. An argument could be made that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but imagine a group of workers complaining about the conditions of their factory to the owner. The owner may eventually implement a solution, but it will be a solution created by the owner who is likely going to avoid shifting the system too far as he is the one currently benefiting from it. Progress requires new ideas. The elimination of injustice will be the byproduct of these new ideas, not their predecessor.

The Broadway musical Rent has a lyric that states that the opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation. This line is then followed by a jubilant WOOOOO! to celebrate its veracity. Peace is only the stagnation of where the war left off. Creation is the opposite of war because creativity produces something new. We need to stop trying to destroy, and start building.

It seems that every single group of people gets their own month, their own week, or their own day. I mean, what do white people get, outside of the Oscars? Why don’t WE get a month? Well, there are a couple reasons. But I recently read an interview with Chris Rock that illuminated something about race, and really gender and sexuality as well, that suggested to me that straight/white/men need more of a focus than they are currently receiving.

I’ll give you the relevant text from the interview:

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

What Chris Rock is saying is that, in regards to race, white people are the ones doing the progressing. Black people have always been human, with the capacity for intelligence and emotion that was long ignored in them, and to phrase race relations as black people making progress is to give the illusion that black people are the ones improving, whereas the opposite is true. White people have made great strides in becoming less moronic about the human beings that surround them, and it is white people who need to be the ones to continue to make great strides.

So why give us a month? Feminists have long argued, probably rightly so, that men do not take women seriously. There’s the old chestnut of the female executive saying something at a meeting, being ignored, and then a male colleague repeating her exact idea and being listened to, often taking the credit. It happens. However, if progressive change is to be made, would it not be logical for a male ally to be a prominent mouthpiece for the feminist movement? If feminists want to be taken seriously, and women aren’t taken seriously, why not use a man?

The artist Macklemore wrote a song called Same Love that advocated for same-sex relationships. It was a considerable blow in the fight to overcome homophobic cultural norms, but it received a great deal of criticism from gay-rights activists because Macklemore is straight. A suggestion I read was that if Macklemore wants to be an ally to the gay-rights movement, he should push homosexual rappers into the limelight, rather than hogging it for himself. Regardless of the impact that Same Love had on our culture, it was rejected by some of those that it was trying to help.

Is the goal not to overcome prejudice? Who cares who the messenger is? Well, some people do.

There is term called the Great White Saviour, and what this refers to is a white person, typically portrayed in films, that comes to care for and fight for either the Noble Savage, or the Oppressed Minority, or whoever it happens to be. You get the idea. Ol’ Whitey rolls in to town, and the great guy that he is, saves the minority and is revered as a hero. What this signifies is that white people are honourable, compassionate, moral beings, and minorities are weak and unable to do anything about their own condition.

This, of course, could apply to any such dominant figure, such as a straight person rapping about gay rights, or a man advocating for feminism, etc.

Do the voices of the dominant detract from the voices of the oppressed? Can we only ever steal credit? Comparing Hollywood’s crushing inability to properly convey progressive messages to the real-life work of advocates is a little unfair. Like relates to like, and the dominant group is going to relate most to others from the dominant group, and it’s the dominant group that needs to change. In my personal experience, it was Dr. Jackson Katz that was my first, real introduction into the world of feminism. He’s a man, by the way, if the name wasn’t a big enough indicator. The message was an important one, and because it was delivered by somebody I could relate to, I was able to listen.

If the message is good, why not pick the messenger that the people most needing to hear it will listen to?

Post-script: I am aware that this is not a new idea, and that many social justice advocates are desperate for the voices of allies. Maybe if there was a month celebrating those allies, the quieter ones would be more likely to pipe up?

I’m also not trying to disparage the work that minority rights activists do. We wouldn’t have any allies at all if they weren’t doing all the heavy lifting.

If you are born straight, if you are born white, and if you are born male, this is basically who you get to be:

Paris Hilton

You’ve basically won the lottery of life without ever having to put in any effort. Life is obviously not all sunshine and rainbows, just as Paris HIlton has her own issues that she has to deal with, but being born into that holy trinity of privilege is basically being born into wealth compared to being born into poverty. We lucked out. Being straight means we never have to worry about having the living shit curb-stomped out of us simply because of our sexual orientation; being white means we’ll never be passed over for a job simply for having a racial sounding name (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-575685.html); and having the ol’ cock’n’balls dangling between our legs means we’re unlikely to be treated any differently in the work place.

We’re not under any kind of threat. There’s a reason that white people don’t get upset when they’re called a Honky, and it’s because white people already have this continent by the balls. There is nothing in our culture that threatens white people, so if a threat is issued it is taken light-heartedly, almost tongue-in-cheek. Same with heterosexuals; same with being a dude. If we are any one of those things, it’s just one less issue we have to worry about. It’s gotten to the point where our trinity is not even talked about as a thing that exists. For example, when you hear the term “gender studies”, you probably think of women’s issues, despite men having a gender as well.

So now hopefully I’ve convinced you why being a straight, white male is awesome (not that we’re inherently awesome, but just that life is nicer to us for no god damn reason at all. Louis CK puts it pretty nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY ) So now why should gays/blacks/women get time put aside in order to celebrate them? Because a lot of the time, they are just crapped on every single day of the year. And somebody that is told over and over again that they are garbage, will eventually begin to actually believe that they are garbage.

We don’t need a week for us straight/white/men because we already won. It’d be like giving Donald Trump a celebratory hooker simply for existing. Trump doesn’t need to be given hookers; he already has enough hookers as it is.

Because we are not an equal society, we need to raise up those who weren’t born into privilege so that we can at least make an attempt at creating an equal society.  So yes, we try to put aside some time to tell gay people that they’re awesome. To tell racial minorities that they’re awesome. To tell women that they are awesome. So be proud.

 

I’m going to throw in a little post-script here to address specifically one of the main reasons I hear people complaining about these pride weeks, and all the other celebrations of minorities “I had it rough growing up too, even though I’m one or all of those descriptors. So where’s my week??” Maybe it was because of poverty (I would actually love a Poverty Awareness month), or obesity, or a severe lack of personal hygiene, or any other number of factors that make life tough. And yes, those things can be extremely difficult to overcome . But although you may have had problems, however genuine they might have been, you never faced a problem because of your race, gender, or sexual orientation.