HOMOPHOBIA – Why homophobia is not some subset of “femmephobia”

…and I put “femmephobia” in quotes, because from where I sit this culture is structurally gynophile; not only does it value and reward conventional femininity but it values it above just about everything else, brigading men into protecting, providing for and honoring women by law, custom and social policy.

In any case the claim is made over and over again that homophobia (when it is directed at gay men) is really just another example of society’s misogyny, that femininity is hated and this is just one more expression of that truth. It’s bunk on several levels. For one thing it looks suspiciously like another feminist appropriation a la “Women and minorities”. But the other thing is it’s just an inaccurate characterization of what is going, proceeding largely from general pig ignorance of male sexuality and what a man has to do to be perceived as fully masculine in this society.

Hyperagency – Zach Howe has a post at Slate that makes some very good points about the way male heterosexuality is perceived or “constructed” which are crucial to understanding the mechanics of homophobia, and have much more explanatory power than femmephobia. Basically it comes down to hyperagency:

“Clearly, men in America have grown up learning to be scared of gayness. But not only for the reasons we typically think—not only, in the end, because of religion, insecurity about their own sexuality, or a visceral aversion to other men’s penises. The truth is, they’re afraid because heterosexuality is so fragile.

Heterosexuality’s power lies in perception, not physical truth—as long as people think you’re exclusively attracted to the right gender, you’re golden. But perception is a precarious thing; a “zero-tolerance” policy has taught men that the way people think of them can change permanently with one slip, one little kiss or too-intimate friendship. And once lost, it can be nearly impossible to reclaim.

Put another way, the zero-tolerance rule means that if a man makes one “wrong” move—kisses another man in a moment of drunken fun, say—he is immediately assumed to be gay.”

He says this is where the actual fear of gayness comes from – it is a fear of being labeled gay, regardless of a man’s actual sexuality. And as he points out, it is determined by something a man does or fails to do, even the smallest thing he might do.

The gender binary – Yet Another Commenter explains another way that homophobia is not necessarily or even primarily femmephobia – it’s not about a man being feminine at all. It’s about being non-masculine, and non-masculine is not the same as being feminine. It is a third state, neutral. After all there is more being a woman than being a non-man. The masculinity the gay man is failing at is predicated on desiring women, and not doing that is read as a failure, as for example by slipping and desiring a man for even a one-time hook-up – more hyperagency. It’s as if male heterosexuality is some fragile state of grace that requires constant effort to maintain. A man does not have to act feminine to fail at being masculine, and that is the root of homophobia.

So no, failing to be male does not instantly pop a man into the female category. He will not be able to turn on  the tears and rely on the pity of men to run to his aid. He will not be able to sit in a bar and have people keep coming up to him to see if he’s interested in them. If he harms someone he will not be able to casually explain it away as self-defense and blame his victim, or blame it on something his spouse did or falied to do; he will not be able to use tears and a show of helplessness to evade accountabuility. So no, he is in no way going to be treated like a woman.

 David Palmer picks up on this:

Fascinating. This would explain the problem I have when I encounter feminists asserting that “homphobia is really misogyny” and is all about “hatred of the feminine”. As a gay man I’ve never thought that was really a valid sort of argument and it tended to stick in my craw quite frankly-but I never could quite articulate why it seemed so off to me. I think your article explains it. The proposition that “homphobia is about misogyny” is based on a flawed proposition-that we must define everything in binary terms-which results in a classic either/or fallacy.

David Palmer sums up in another comment:

I always loved the one about “homphobia is really misogyny”. As a gay man, I cannot recall single case in which I was faced with being attacked based on my orientation (whether physically or verbally) in which it was “all about hating women”. It’s sort of the ultimate in feminist narcissism: If a gay man is bashed, it’s STILL all about the wimmin.

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  • teh Bastard formerly known as SWAB

    I think Warren Farrell had said something about the hatred of gay men being that they were walking away from the implicit contract of men protecting women. I think this is hugely why MGTOW’s are hated far more than PUA’s and MRA’s. MGTOW’s are also wrongly accused of being like radical lesbian separatist’s. (MGTOW exists in a different time in a society that is far more atomized and MGTOW is more about withdrawl from community-hence why MRA’s such as Elam detest us, we don’t care much for their “activism.”)

    However, I think the reality is far more complex. (Un PC term) Look up “Fag Hags.” There are women who feel safer/more comfortable around gay men. And as many gay dudes are buffed up, these women feel quite protected.

  • Ginkgo

    I don’t know how much Elam hates MGTOWS. As I recall he thinks of them as having their heads in the right place. It’s PUAs he despises, as pussy beggars. That’s his exact expression.

    Do you rememebr this post?
    http://www.genderratic.com/p/912/misandry-feminist-gay-bashing-edited/

  • Robert Crayle

    I have to agree with Ginkgo on this one, SWAB. Elam has publicly defended his and others’ stance on defending the practice (if it can be called such) of MGTOW. He has never to my knowledge disparaged any man choosing to go their own way. And yes, his scorn is (rightfully, in my not-so-great opinion) directed at PUAs and their brand of snake oil pseudo-humanity.

  • David Palmer a/k/a Political Cynic

    I’m quite flattered. :)

    Picking up on what SWAB said-and something Gingko has said before-part of the feminist problem with MGTOW is exactly the problem they had (and often still have) with gay men. Both MGTOWs and gay men simply decline the roles assigned to them based on gender by society or, as is often the case, by feminism (i.e. husband, provider, and walking ATM), And in fact, if you read carefully, you often find that despite the lip service from feminists, there is a WHOLE lot of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) feminist disdain and/or contempt for gay men out there even now. Just off the top of my head I can think of more than one example of this-coming not only from radical feminists but even recently from an equity feminist who basically discussed sex between men as being something “less than” heterosexual sex.

    If, in fact, “homophobia is femmephobia” were true, then feminists certainly could NOT be as disdainful of gay men and as uncaring about gay men’s issues as they often are. The “homophobia is femmephobia: argument (GREAT formulation there, Gingko) is really more about their own rather self-centered need to be the winner in the “victim Olympics” (after all, it’s ALWAYS worse for women, as we so often hear) than it is about any sort of equality for gay men.

    And on another note: Like others I don’t feel that Paul Elam has any real issues with MG TOW-although yes, he is NO fan of PUAs. But if he actually had true issues with MGTOW as a concept-or with those who go their own way-he would be far less supportive than he, in fact, is. In fact there is a lovely article on the logical fallacies of the feminist shaming tactics used against MGTOW over on AVFM that just went up a couple of days ago I believe.

  • teh Bastard formerly known as SWAB

    well, there was a “blowout” between Elam and stardusk.

    Elam retracted his statements, however–to me, this is where there is an undeniable split between MGTOW and MRA…

    stardusk released a video saying that men are basically hardwired a certain way and most can’t/don’t want to follow a MGTOW path. While there are many arguments against what stardusk said:ie he comes across as very pessimistic and suggests “biological determinism”-I believe the much bigger reason Elam erupted with anger is that he was threatened by the idea that the conclusion a MGTOW comes to is opting out is his best option whereas MRA’s believe in “activism.” I originally thought that MRA’s and MGTOW’s shared similar worldviews but to me this difference is as irroncocilible as say the split within feminism on porn/prostitution. IE Elam got angry for the right reason, stardusk’s views are threatening to his, but reacted in a bad way and then retracted that because he attacked stardusk with shaming language.

    On another note. I dislike the company of other men. There seems to be a kumbya, sit by the fire you bitter man and come hug us vibe at AVfM–but if you disagree GTF out! I dislike the constant talk of masculinity in the so called man-0-sphere. I’m not the type to go to a bar to hang with the “broes.” I dislike sports. I was beaten when I was younger by the older guys. Physical abuse by men, emotional by women. So yes, i dislike MRA’s just as much as feminist’s and I see they aren’t on my side. (I can provide links.)

    …So I suppose that makes me a homophobe.

  • teh Bastard formerly known as SWAB

    “Do you rememebr this post?”

    I remember hearing about the Redstockings before, I think it was also mentioned at feminist critics…

    here’s one for ya…

    http://omegavirginrevolt.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/racism-and-misandry-are-strongly-linked/

    • Ginkgo

      SWAB, I know homophobes, and you’re no homophobe.

      David, no flattery involved. I just kype anything good I see.

  • teh Bastard formerly known as SWAB

    I think I can tie together a couple ideas here…

    The feminist’s hate “weak men.” Look at the intense hatred of “Nice Guys” ™ How come actual abusers aren’t despised as much, **cough** **cough** Hugo Scumbag…

    They talk about equality when it benefits women but if a man complains about the unfairness of traditional dating scripts, being the one expected to initiate and the unfairness of paying for dates, look at all the shaming brought down on you…

    “weak man” becomes any guy not into the protector/provider role. Thereoretically, even an abusive guy could become a “good man” and adopt the protector/provider role, he’s “just misunderstood.” (That’s what she said.) –Oh, yeah, I’m sure that last statement makes me a grade A asshole, but get this, both my mommy and my sister were in abusive relationships. And the one thing you can never say infront of a feminist, well if you ask me, they both have mean streaks. So I start to think that a big part of the cognative dissonance with the nice guy thing is women refusing to take responsibility for the men they select. The so-called “nice Guys” are those who have failed in the dating market and how dare they whine about it. Of course femmies get to tell men they are misogynist’s if they don’t like larger womyn. (the term is “fat shaming.”) But when a man complains about his lack of female attention, he is shamed and told that his “standards are to high,” he needs to take a bath, and desire can’t be negotiated (probably the last statement is the only true one.)

  • Jupp

    tbfkaswab:

    Thereoretically, even an abusive guy could become a “good man” and adopt the protector/provider role, he’s “just misunderstood.”

    An abusive man can easily become a good protector/provider if he just focuses his abusive behaviour on the right targets. It is the private version of “he is our bastard”.

  • Robert Crayle

    Also, the comparison between MGTOW and seperatist feminism seems a little off. The rationale for the sepfems seems based around purity and eugenics more than any kind of personal autonomy. Women who wanted to live their own lives their own way just did it; they were scorned but hardly faced any opprobrium. The criticism of MGTOW as “just like the sepfems” seems like more demonisation; we don’t like what you’re doing, so it must involve some form of violence, anti-humanism, and disobedience to the ideology I currently bow to (all hail the arbitrary rules!).

  • tamerlame

    There was a gay serial killer called the gay slayer in the UK around the mid 90s. He targeted only gay men, I think he murdered about 5 people. Radical lesbian feminists co’opted the plight of these gay men by waving placards written on them. “Stop killing Lesbians and gay men” This is the epitome of women making everything about themselves.

    This is from a channel 5 documentary I saw on TV I still remember that part.

    It is female nature to co’op everything and make it about themselves. Gay men should tell feminists to take a hike and bugger off out of their movement.

    BTW I looked the documentary up by it won’t play, so I won’t bother linking it.

  • teh Bastard formerly known as SWAB

    “Women who wanted to live their own lives their own way just did it; they were scorned but hardly faced any opprobrium.”

    I think they were called spinsters or “cat ladies.”

    I’ve had a theory for awhile but since I’m not the greatest at statisitics–or should I say “it’s above my paygrade”– but the theory is this…

    Back in the day, due to “mating inequality”–that is not every woman could find a husband, feminism and women’s rights movements grew. There were more adult women than adult men (of course the wild west/gold rush areas would be the exception.) As a group, women would be doing better than men as far as mortality rates but on the individual level, the competition for a mate was much harsher and the price for not having one much higher…

    Less boys made it to adulthood and due to dangerous jobs and military service, many adult men were killed off. So a man who made it to adulthood and could earn a decent wage was quite a catch….

    As things got better for men as a group-less boys dying of diseases and less men being killed in wars or in factories, things got much better for men as a group, however….

    A man who made it to adulthood and could earn a decent wage, not so much a catch.

    As the average or lower status man found it harder to find a mate, mens rights/MGTOW groups will grow.

    I am looking at things through a very narrow lense here, obviously this doesn’t cover many other factors…

  • Harrow

    Yeah, in Western societies it’s a lot easier to fail masculinity than femininity, and the penalties are more severe. And no one cares. It’s great sport for the social justice types to mock men for just showing discomfort about having to do unmasculine things – I’m not even talking about actual homophobic/transphobic behaviour.

    I agree that our culture does not hate traditional femininity (in women!) but a lot of people have the attitude that it’s somewhat silly, frivolous, and airheaded, if necessary for a functioning society. Combine that with a loosening of women’s gender roles, and I see a lot of conflicted attitudes about the acceptability of feminine vs. unfeminine women. There is no such conflict about failed masculinity, just contempt.

  • Guy Nawkes

    One question about this part:

    “The gender binary – Yet Another Commenter explains another way that homophobia is not necessarily or even primarily femmephobia – it’s not about a man being feminine at all. It’s about being non-masculine, and non-masculine is not the opposite of being feminine. It is a third state, neutral.”

    Could it be that the sentence should rather say “non-masculine is not the same as feminine” – to me, that would make more sense here.

  • Theodmann

    When I was a teenager, there was a gay guy in one of my friend groups with whom I was at first unwittingly “too” friendly. I don’t actually remember what gave him and a mutual female friend the idea that I liked him in that way, but at one point she asked me if I were gay, and it was surprisingly difficult to convince her I wasn’t. I’d been interacting with him in the way I interact with everybody, or so I thought. He was on the flamboyant side, so despite his not being officially out, pretty much everyone knew. Putting it together, I suppose the lesson is that if you’re a teenage guy and not squicked out by social gayness, you must be gay yourself.

    By “social gayness” I mean all the mannerisms and whatnot that communicate gayness. I was and am straight enough to have less than no interest in the actual homosexual activities. Unfortunately, a couple of other experiences in the meantime have now made me dislike (mildly) even the social gayness, which I have to suppress. It makes me feel like I’m homophobic.

    Someone posted that Slate article on facebook (in point of fact it was the same gay fellow I mentioned above) and was going to post it in a comment here somewhere, but I see now that would be superfluous. I like how well it plays into the recent posts here about the binary nature of men’s social status. You’re either a “real” man or you’re nobody. You’re either straight or gay. You’re either attractive or a creep.

  • http://markley.weebly.com/index.html John Markley

    teh Bastard formerly known as SWAB,

    “The feminist’s hate “weak men.” Look at the intense hatred of “Nice Guys” ™ How come actual abusers aren’t despised as much, **cough** **cough** Hugo Scumbag…

    They talk about equality when it benefits women but if a man complains about the unfairness of traditional dating scripts, being the one expected to initiate and the unfairness of paying for dates, look at all the shaming brought down on you…”

    Exactly. Ironically, if someone wanted to defend the idea that hatred of gender-deviant men was actually about misogyny, I think feminist hatred of nice guys is actually a much more plausible candidate than homophobia. The behavior that gets the nice guy vilified as creepy, dishonest, predatory, etc.is essentially acting like a typical heterosexual woman- he places himself in the vicinity of the person he likes, tries to display traits he thinks she’ll find attractive, and hopes she makes the first move. If this consistently fails, he feels sad or upset, sometimes to the point that he usurps another female privilege by actually saying, “I feel sad or upset.”

    If we judge everybody according to the same standard by which feminists judge frustrated nice guys, the average woman is a pretty despicable person.

  • Ginkgo

    Guy, yeah, that reads better. thanks.

    And welcome.

  • Ginkgo

    John, that is a blinding insight about hatred of Nice Guys. But it still isn’t misogyny, punishing someone for acting like a woman; it is about punishing a *man* for acting like a woman, for presuming to her level of privilege.

  • John D

    @teh bastard:
    When you say mens mortality improved so that in modern times:
    “A man who made it to adulthood and could earn a decent wage, not so much a catch.”

    I would add to that pot the rush of technologies that churned out a great deal of office jobs that revolved around the processing of information. Before the photo-copier a lot of office jobs were odious jobs of transcribing documents by hand (and later typewriter).

    As jobs became less deadly, more women earned their own income. Additionally, there is the hundreds of billions of dollars spent upon women mentorship, scholarships, discriminatory female company set-aside for government contracts, programs for girls in science ad naseum that artificially keep more women in the workforce (and earning more) than would normally be the case.

  • John D

    Excerpt from the article:
    “I always loved the one about “homphobia is really misogyny””

    When I bring up the fact 10 million US men were drafted into WWII, I often get the rebuttal that it’s still about the women, because the idea of sending men off to war wasn’t because men were disposable, but because women were seen as weak.

    Both these examples are garden variety deflection of *who* is being detrimented by the enforced gender norm.

    The *ultimate* irony is *then* feminists turn around and accuse mra’s of engaging in oppression olympics! Holy fucking crap, these people are nuts!

  • Adiabat

    John D: “Additionally, there is the hundreds of billions of dollars spent upon women mentorship, scholarships, discriminatory female company set-aside for government contracts, programs for girls in science ad naseum that artificially keep more women in the workforce (and earning more) than would normally be the case.”

    The ironic thing is that if I was hiring and had two equally qualified candidates for a role, but one was a man and one was a woman, I would hire the male as he has likely achieved the equal qualification with less help from these billion dollar schemes, meaning he is more qualified.

    I suspect similar thinking is behind the disparity in those studies where the researchers submitted the same CV with different names.

  • BlackNoise

    I also don’t get the special rights many women think they have in regards to gay men and their personal lives… it’s like they have some expectation of ‘kinship’ which gives them the right to intrude and meddle out of concern.

    I noticed this when a girl started a rumor about me possibly being gay, which was followed by numerous girls attempting to become friends with me and spreading word to others — to create some ‘accepting atmosphere’ for me to come out in. Male acquaintances at my school treat me in a completely different way now, and the gossip even got back to my family and friends — things have been awkward ever since.

  • BlackNoise

    The part about homophobia being completely separate from misogyny seems a bit off. Most of the openly gay men people encounter share many mannerisms and behaviors with women. Even brain scans show heterosexual female brains and homosexual male brains have a lot of similarities.

    The homophobia’s link with misogyny comes from a males (rational) avoidance of female behavior. Not only would it not work for him and socially handicap him in many ways, but what guy in his right mind would want to think and act like a girl anyway? I have no problem acknowledging my dislike for girly behavior. No sense of justice, back stabbing, excessive emotional displays, gossip, attention whoring and victim hood?