Subject: Re: Heterosexism At The Heart (was:word game)
Date: Thu 09 Oct 1997 - 15:25:32 BST
In a message dated 97-10-09 00:54:26 EDT, Emilia <email@example.com>
>I'm tring to think of a work to describe the ideology concerning a
>consistant, stable sex/gender system, and the denigrates anything which
>Basically I'm looking for a paralell (sp, but I'm too lazy to look it up)
>to heterosexism. I don't feel heterosexism is adequate to use within a
Personally, I love the word heterosexism. To me, ism words are usually short
for some kind of deterrminism. Racism is short for racial determinism, for
example, the notion that by knowing a person's race you can determine a lot
Predjudice is acting on this determism, choosing to treat someone in a
specific way by their group identity, and it is discrimination when you treat
them more harshly than normal because of their grouping and priviledge when
you treat them more leienently than usual because of their grouping. This
leads to the question "Is granting people privildge an effective way to deal
with discrimination, or is the goal simply the end of prejudice and the
treatment of people as individuals?"
Heterosexism, to me, is reproductive determinism. It is a system that
separates people into two groups based on their reproductive configuration,
and assigns different values to each group. Males, for example, got money
and property, and females got love and home. This rigid separation is
designed to force males and females to come together to create a whole life,
and in the process to breed. Heterosexism uses firm gender distinctions as a
social tool to create a reasonably stable and growing culture, at the cost of
This is why, for example, the Roman Catholic church is so heterosexist, so
family based, because they want a stable and growing population to expand
their influence in the world. Gilbert Herdt, in "Third Sex, Third Gender"
notes that gender transgression usually occurs in cultures where the
population pressure, the pressure to reproduce, is declining, and I think we
can see that in this century.
So, if heterosexism is reproductive determinism designed to encourage
breeding, and that system has been eroding as the pressure to reproduce has
come off and women have claimed that their separation from money, property
and other public power is discriminitory and a waste of their sjills, then
what comes next?
My take is that the key component of heterosexism is the nuclear family --
dad, mom, bother and sis in fixed roles, fixed orbits. Conservatives speak
of family values, while feminists speak of community values. Hillary Clinton
writes "It Takes A Villiage To Raise A Child" and Charlton Heston, that rock
of conservative values, shoots back on Politically Incorrect "It doesn't take
a village -- it takes a family!"
To erode heterosexism, we need to look at models that don't involve coupling
in fixed orbits to determine stability, but rather involve a range of people
doing the hard work of culture, which is always going to be to create a
stable, loving and powerful place to raise the next generation. The real
work of any culture is done by parents, who strive to make the world a better
place for their children, for when a culture neglects children, it is doomed
I don't like "phobia" words. This is not about an irrational fear, but about
the defense of a system and set of values that people cherish. The study in
Georgia where they found "homonegative" people are just people with strong
moral values that defend heterosexism, but that "homophobes" are more likely
to have strong homosexual feelings in themselves is important to this.
Choosing to defend a system -- no matter how archaic and limiting it may be
-- is different than choosing to hate, attack dehumanize and hurt people who
reflect facets of ourselves that we choose not to see (and this is the key
issue in any internalized "phobia.")
Heterosexism is the force that lays an entire gender path at the feet of a
child after looking at their reproductive organs, and forces some children to
have their reproductive organs made normatively appearing at birth.
Heterosexism is inherent in the dreams and expectations of the parent that
the children will be copies of themselves, continuing thier beliefs into the
When a child comes out queer, the grieving is for the normative, heterosexist
dreams that have been invested in the child, handed down like a hertitage. A
queer kid breaks the heart of the parent, because there is no place in the
village for them, because in a heterosexist world, there is no villiage, no
tribe, no community, only coupling to extend the tree of binary nuclear
families. Both the child and the parents dies for the death of the dreams,
for there are no other dreams left to replace them.
Of course, in tribal cultures, queer kids were seen as a blessing to the
community, becoming part of the fabric of the culture. Even Roman Catholics
assigned their queers as priests, serving the community -- though without the
sancitity of breeding. Today, queers are rebuilding the dreams of having a
place in culture, of serving an important role, but the major block they have
to that is heterosexism, and its focus on breeding couples.
Heterosexism is the powerful force that drives the gender system, serving
valuable purposes in managing desire, creating a stable culture and helping
to keep civilization moving. Heterosexism is breaking down -- we do not so
easily accept predjudice, discrimination and priviledge based solely on
biology, on our reproductive organs anymore. Yet, we still have the desire
to meet and mate and to raise children, and that keeps the biological
differences very relevant. We do not want a world without some gender
system, yet we do not want to be limited by gender either.
This is the challenge. How do we deal with the death of heterosexism while
finding another system to serve the same purposes? I watch people call for
the end of heterosexism, and I laugh. I want to ask one question: "What are
the benefits of heterosexism? There must be some, or we would not so
willingly gender ourselves." I come from the old school, where if you
couldn't agrue both sides of the question, you couldn't find the answers.
I love the word hetereosexism. I think reproductive determinism is the
question on the table -- is it all about the diffferences between penised and
non-penised people? Heterosexism is the base of our stable, binary gender
system, and defending heterosexism is the role of many in this culture.
But not, as Kate Bornstein, says, us Gender Outlaws, who flaunt the lawas of
To me, heterosexism is at the heart of the discussion.
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