As I’ve mentioned before, I have a lot of straight male friends. Straight males, lord love ‘em – especially white, (upper-)middle-class straight males – don’t always have the greatest grasp of identity politics. Some of my friends apparently live on a different planet than I do: where de jure equality in most areas equates to de facto equality in all areas; where the k-word and the h-word don’t exist; where there is a strict gender binary and patriarchal norms are just natural.
Natural: the last defense of those who have no defense for their views. Most of the time, when people say something is natural (“Monogamy/heterosexuality/men being breadwinners while women clean the house is just natural”), the word they should be using is traditional. In Western culture, it’s what we’re socialized to expect. Man and woman marry, have children, grow old together: as rarely as it plays out in reality (what with 40% of marriages in the US ending in divorce), we’re still taught that this is the paradigm, the way it should happen. Why? Because that’s the paradigm our parents were taught.
I understand that, if you’re pretty much on top of the kyriarchy, it’s easy to sit back and enjoy it. But the truth is: these structures are lies. They are harming all of us.
Take the gender binary. I have been asked by genuinely puzzled straight boys why I have short hair and usually wear jeans and a flannel shirt; why I find Rachel Maddow attractive*; why, if I like girls, I am not more concerned with femininity. To some people, the existence of gay people actually reinforces their conception of the gender binary: if you’re attracted to men, you like “masculinity”; if you’re attracted to women, you like “femininity”. It’s common sense!
A lot of people have a surprising amount of trouble accepting the idea that “masculinity” and “femininity” are social constructs. (Try showing up to a wedding in a pantsuit or convincing parents that there’s nothing wrong with having shorter hair than your brother.) At its best, the queer community deconstructs these concepts, allowing people to express their identity fully and not have to fit in predetermined boxes labeled M and F.
I think that’s part of what we find sexy about it. Butches, bois, Shane – there’s real sexiness in throwing off the shackles of a society that wants all women to wear their hair long and their heels high. Over a century of feminism has given women an awareness of the restrictions placed on us by the patriarchy, and maybe that’s why so many more women than men seem to be heteroflexible.
Yep, it’s the OKCupid study: 51% of straight women either have had a same-sex hookup or want to, compared with 18% of men. I can’t help correlating this statistic with the fact that women have more obvious reasons to question the status quo of our society, and in some ways are more able to do so. Look and learn, boys.
*Because I am a gay woman with a pulse. Duh.