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Why I (and other gay men) must support feminism
(Written January 2001)

On recent mailing list discussion on sexuality in the black community, a self-described lesbian remarked that she found gay men to be as likely to be misogynist as straight men.  

The statement surprised me but there is no denying the tension between some gay men and feminists.  Despite the happy image of us as straight woman's best friend, someone with whom they can go shopping, compare opinions on attractive men, and be friendly with without the sexual overtones that usually undermine male/female relationships, there are many gay men who are quick to characterize women as stupid, silly, and at worst, barriers to the men of their dreams.

This point was reinforced when a friend responded to some critical comments I had made about the exploitaiton of women in music in 2000 by saying, "Most gay men don't have any use for women since they ain't fucking."

In spite of these observations, I feel a definite need to support feminism as a gay man.  At the most basic level, I believe oppression is wrong and women have been and continue to be the most oppressed people in the world.  Think about it: they are the majority of the world's population and the bedrock of most families, yet their work (particularly in the field of unpaid home labor) is devalued, dismissed by an attitude that says women can't perform "real" work.

On a deeper level though, the simple fact is there can be no real gay liberation until women are free.  The underlying reason for homophobia towards gay men is that we're viewed as less masculine, that is, more female, because of our perceived sexual submissiveness, heightened sensitivity, and general vulnerability.   Lesbians, on the other hand, are hated because they are seen as stepping outside the traditional female role, whether by being pioneers in women's employment opportunities, getting educated, wearing power suits, being physical, or simply demanding respect.  That is why many women are tarred with the "lesbian" accusation in an attempt to reign them into "normal" behavior. (It's also why mainstream feminists have some trepidation about dealing with lesbians, but that is another story.) 

This dynamic plays out very clearly in the world of music.  Dance music, a favorite among gay men, has been derided because it's "too girly," not "intellectual enough," and that "anybody can do that."    These are all claims similar to those used to belittle women's acheivements. Hip hop and rock, very male-dominated forms, have railed against female involvement amid charges that they "weaken" the style.  This attitude has resulted in the ghettoizing of artists like Nona Hendryx, Betty Davis, MeShell Ndeogcello, Dionne Farris, and possibly shortening the careers of hip-hop pioneers Sweet Tee, Roxanne Shante, Jazzy Joyce and Yo Yo. So like it or not, gay men and women are linked together in the same struggle for freedom.

In any event, the solution begins with empowering women to have the same flexibility and opportunities as men.  That means supporting a woman's right to choose, paying them on a equal scale as men for similar work, and reviving the long-lost Equal Rights Amendment. 

Once those things happen, it would inevitably lead to a time where rigid gender definitions are stripped of their potency, allowing gays, straight women, and not a few straight men to tap the full value of their humanity.

Copyright 2001 Anthony Lamar Rucker.  All rights reserved.

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