By Simon Moritz
Graduate student, writer and queer activist living in Paris
April 17, 2013
I am not quiet during sex. I communicate my desires and ask the same of my partners. I believe that this not only creates a safe sexual environment but makes for the most pleasurable experience for everyone. If I’m making sounds that aren’t words, that more or less means I’m having a good time. People generally respond well to this type of nonverbal feedback; I’ve only had one person object to my use of nonverbal expression, and that was Peter.
Peter is a gay man I slept with once. I met him in a gay bar when I was living in New York, and I thought he was perfect. He worked with homeless queer youth. He had a dog. He was a little taller than average, and stocky, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and Puma high tops. He was bearded. He said things like “you’re so unlike everyone your age” (he was 11 years older than I) and “I never go home with anyone the night I meet them.” When he did come home with me and we were naked in my bed, he kissed my neck, and I moaned, high-pitched and breathy. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t do that. It’s faggy.”
Now, this was several years ago, and I hadn’t yet learned that people like Peter are to be either ignored, laughed at or taught, so I became a caricature of “not faggy”: I grunted (no more moaning), I pretended that I wasn’t hurt by what he said (feelings are for girls, as I recalled learning during childhood), and I tried to act as masculine as possible, because that is the opposite of faggy, the opposite of the femme gay man who gestures, speaks quickly in a high-pitched voice and says “darling.” I became that silly thing because I wanted Peter to love me.
He stood me up on our next date, and I never heard from him again.
Eventually surpassing the typical “what did I do wrong?” stage of self-hatred, I asked myself, “What does it mean that Peter called me faggy for expressing pleasure?” And so I learned that people like Peter are part of a larger problem: pervasive misogyny.
Typically we say that “fag,” “sissy,” “nancy,” “nelly” and “fairy” are homophobic words, and although they certainly are used to perpetuate homophobia, they are not homophobic in and of themselves; the usage of any of these words as slurs usually targets people with male-sexed bodies who do not act sufficiently masculine. They prize masculinity by demonizing femininity. This is probably rooted in some outdated, essentialist reading of gender where women are biologically the weaker, pathetic sex, but we know today that in addition to being totally offensive, gender essentialism is more or less bullshit, because women can vote and work and beat men into submission, and men can cook and clean and stay at home with the kids. But although it was relatively easy to deconstruct the misogyny in Peter’s abuse, getting to the root of why a man, while lying naked with another man and kissing him, would call that man’s expression of pleasure too gay is a more complicated subject. I would suggest that Peter calling me faggy is part of a larger queer cultural heritage.
Queer people live in a constant narrative of struggle; today we struggle for legally recognized marriage, and in 2003 we struggled for the right to have consensual sex, but 60 years ago queer role models fought for the right to exist in public or private. To gain those rights, they used an effective strategy called assimilation, which dictated that queer people look and act as much as possible like straight people. The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis both did it intentionally in the ’50s, and it was probably the most aggressive option to say “we are normal, just like you” at a time when police were encouraged to raid gay bars, arrest patrons and publish their names and faces in the newspaper the following day. However, “just like you” literally bleached queer people of color from the movement and rendered trans people invisible, because “just like you” referred to white men in power and their wives who had the sway to validate any queer identity legally. Assimilation was successful in that discrimination against LGBT people is now illegal in many forms, but it also created an “acceptable gay man,” and he was white and masculine and certainly did not say “darling.” It also created and validated a favorite excuse for anti-gay bigotry, “I’m fine with gay people as long as they don’t flaunt it,” because suddenly there were gay people who were not “normal.” “Normal” gay men today ape that heterosexual excuse for bigotry by blaming “abnormal” gays for the the maltreatment of gays as a whole.
Peter is a “normal” gay man, so when my behavior started to drift outside “normal,” he reprimanded me much in the same way that police officers, gym teachers or parents might have done in the ’50s (and today, to be fair). And although the ’50s were over 60 years ago, that attitude remains pervasive: Look at any on gay dating website or smartphone app and you’ll see our twisted heritage as “preferences” based on a hierarchy of who can pass as a successful straight man: “Looking for masc, musc, no femmes, white only.” Though the irony that none of us is straight does not escape me, I’d like to focus more on how regressive this is; we are literally contributing to our own oppression by upholding this bizarre heritage of misogyny created in the ’50s.
So let’s make life easier on all queer people and stop mimicking the worst parts of heterosexism. Who knows? We could even begin to support each other. How revolutionary.
A longer version of this blog post appeared in French in Congrats! Magazine.
Follow Simon Moritz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/simonmprojects
Whenever I hear the "Women are paid $.78 for the man’s $1" I flip it around.
Men make $1.22 for every woman’s $1.
It interests me that even the most common simple measure of gender inequality is firmly based on male-as-normative …
this is an interesting point, although mathematically inaccurate: assuming the women:men, 0.78:1 ratio is correct, men make $1.28 for every woman’s $1
White people are still the ~standard so that’s not so revolutionary.
A white man makes $1.34 for every dollar that a black man makes
A white man makes $1.52 for every dollar that a latino man makes
A white man makes $1.24 for every dollar that a white woman makes
A white man makes $1.44 for every dollar that a black woman makes
A white man makes $1.67 for every dollar that a latina woman makes
That’s some bullshit right there.
Men’s rights activists don’t organize marches; they don’t build shelters or raise funds for abused men; they don’t organize prostate cancer-awareness events or campaign against prison rape. What they actually do, when they’re not simply carping in comments online, is target and harass women—from feminist writers and professors to activists—in an attempt to silence them.
I want to add to this that MRAs really aren’t there to help men.
I’m a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters and we run campaigns nationally every year that specifically target men to sign up to be Bigs. EVERY YEAR. Because the average wait for a girl to be matched to a female Big is 6 weeks after being enrolled. The average time for a boy to be matched with a male Big is 6 months to a year because so few men actually sign up to be mentors and many of them don’t actually complete the one year commitment to their Littles, either.
And this is a deficit that is particularly prevalent at my agency.
Mentoring a kid through a program like BBBS is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. It has also been the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. As a Big, I have a direct impact on someone else’s life and little boys, in particular, who do not have a father figure at home benefit very strongly from having a male mentor in their life. They typically do better in school, have a better social life, and are more likely to accomplish long-term goals and take responsibility for their actions and mistakes and learn from them.
If MRAs were ACTUALLY interested in helping men and boys, they would be mentors. But instead they sit on the internet in their Fedoras and bemoan the fact that women aren’t being forced by the government to sleep with them.
(We can argue about whether having MRAs be mentors to impressionable young men is a good idea in a separate post because obviously there are better role models for young men and boys but the point still stands that there are very clear things that MRAs could do to tangibly and immediately help men and boys but instead they focus all of their time and energy denigrating rape victims, berating feminists, and whining about services that specifically serve women.)
So, instead of just hand wringing about how males are targeted and denigrated within all aspects of life, I decided one way of trying to help would be to join the Big Brother Big Sister program. The first meeting I went to explained that there are twice as many boys looking for a match than there are girls. They said it was partly because more females than males volunteer. They didn’t mention how most boys have a mother in there life but no father because of the misandric divorce courts but I digress…
Anyways, as part of the process, I had a one on one interview with a female member of the organisation to assess if I was suitable to be a Big, and if so, they wanted to know about me so they could match me with a little. I mentioned that I carry a firearm everywhere I legally can, I also wanted to know what protections were in place to protect me from unfounded accusations, and I expressed how I couldn’t be with a Little if his father had been forcibly removed from his life because of the vindictive actions of the mother. I think the final one sealed my fate however. I’m not particularly upset at being rejected because after looking into it more, the activities deemed appropriate to do with your Little seem somewhat feminine, but it just further hammers home that even when you try to help because there are boys out there screaming for some positive male role models in there lives, you’re only allowed to show them masculine things that females deem are appropriate. It just makes me sick.
Yeah, because it has nothing to do with the fact that you said you would carry a gun around the kid, or suggested you might be accused of assaulting him and that the organization would need to stand up for you, or that you don’t want to help any children whose mother is divorced. It’s just so amazing how they don’t understand how screwed up they sound to everybody else. This is perfectly reasonable to the guy and the other forum members. -_- Also, he doesn’t sound like he cares about helping boys at all. It’s all about him, his hatred of divorced mothers, his need to carry a gun, his paranoia of “unfounded accusations”, and that the organization should stand up for his ‘rights’ over those of the child. He doesn’t come off as somebody who really cares about the kid he’d be helping, just somebody who wanted to do something to make himself feel good.
It is sad though that we don’t have more men volunteering and trying to help in these programs. :( (Though, not the MRAs, they would be so toxic for the kids.)
This motivates me to be a Big. I wonder if they take femme guys :\
razzledazberry asked: I love your blog . I love how honest it is. My question is what as a woman can I do other than educate? Sometimes I feel powerless to the world. I'm a black woman who has a background that many people don't have. I struggle with feeling like my voice can and will be heard. That's no to say I don't try. But what do you propose or ideally what and how do you want things to change? Xoxoxo (:
Thanks for the blog love! ❤
To answer part of your question, I’m gonna turn to Alice Walker:
"If knowledge of my condition is all the freedom I get from a ‘freedom movement,’ it is better than unawareness, forgotteness, and hopelessness, the existence that is like the existence of a beast."
"People who go about seeking to change the world, to diminish suffering, to demonstrate any kind of enlightenment, are often as flawed as anybody else. Sometimes more so. But it is the awareness of having faults, I think, and the knowledge that this links us to everyone on Earth, that opens us to courage and compassion. It occurs to me often that many of those I deeply love are flawed. They might actually have said or done some of the mean things I’ve felt, heard, read about, or feared. But it is their struggle with the flaw, surprisingly endearing, and the going on anyhow, that is part of what I cherish in them."
And Audre Lorde:
"I am deliberate and afraid of nothing."
Change happens one step at a time. Make your steps. Then you die and your descendants take over the journey, just as we have for our foremothers and ancestors.
Don’t think of the “size” of the group who hears your voice; if you hear your own voice and challenge your own internalized oppressive thinking, then you’ve already made a difference. How we embody the oppressor within is where all feminist work begins—where all anti-oppression praxis must start and stay grounded in. Then comes resistance. By resistance I mean that we become conscious of the tropes, stereotypes, controlling images and attacks against us as Black women, which are created/facilitated by White supremacy, racism, sexism, misogyny, transmisogyny, misogynoir, classism, colorism, fat shaming, ableism etc. and reject them as truths. They aren’t truths.
While both of these things are occurring (as there is no linear process of theory then action; both occur simultaneously) you do the work that you can do. For some it’s reflected in how they raise their children (if parents) and treat their partners—challenging patriarchal norms. For some it’s service. For some it’s art, media, educational, legislative or political—fighting hegemony where it massively appears. For some it’s totally online reaching many people; challenging their thinking; helping them critically reflect. For some its a combination of things. There’s no activism to be ranked over another as we need it all. We need theoretical activists (i.e. writers, researchers, bloggers, thinkers, professors) and applied activists (i.e. marchers, legislators, lawyers) who are challenging oppression, not facilitating it.
You know what you can really do that is activism though? Live the best life possible, the one that was never meant for Black women at all. Help other Black women have a chance at that too. However you define “best,” shoot for that. That’s activism, fighting being a mule of the world.
How do I want things to change? Simple. For absolutely nothing I write on oppression to be a factor anymore. I want to be obsolete. Then I know things have changed.
Maybe put it on a canvas instead of someone’s property, and we can all be happy.
who paying for these canvases or the art programs so these kids can have that? Why should it matter if these run down buildings that never get fixed up anyway get graffiti’d?
Therein lies the issue. Art programs, both visual and performance based, are the first programs to be cut. Canvas ain’t cheap. Neither are the supplies. Much of the graffiti that takes place IS on buildings that are run down. The gov’t didn’t place any value on these properties and yet get pissy with dudes “vandalizing” their shit. You can’t have it both ways, ya dig.
My father was a garment contractor in LA. In the late 80s, he owned the building where he had his factory. He thought it would be a cool idea to commission local graffiti artists, usually young Black and Latino men looking to stay out of trouble, to paint murals on his buildings. After all, he runs a garment design/manufacturing company, and creative signage is great advertising.
One day, he showed up to the building and the city just painted over the murals without permission or notice.
First, the city told him he couldn’t have graffiti art on HIS building because it brought down property value. After he complained, then they said: ok you can do this, but you need a permit. After he got the permit, then the city said: ok, but you can only use these artists. Of course, these artists were all White graphic design students from USC, and of course they charged 3x more.
There is a prejudice against this type of art, and it’s racial. Banksy vandalizes folks buildings all the time, and folks treat him like the Messiah. He ain’t doing nothing new that Black and Brown folks haven’t done for decades.
This whole post…I just find it really interesting! And sad, too, but good thing to read.
Not trying to hate on anything anyone else calls art, but graffiti deserves proper recognition from the audience of art and culture.