Posts in category Homophobia

A Lesson in Empathy


A high school teacher educates male students about street harassment by confronting their homophobia:

"We were discussing homosexuality ... and several boys made comments such as, 'That's disgusting.' We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him.

The lightbulb went off. 'Oh,' I said. 'I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.' The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.

'But,' I continued. 'As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.'


The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked."

Read more at The Daily Beast.

If Men Posed Like Women …


The media's treatment of women as sex objects is a ubiquitous fact of life. Advertisements, fashion spreads, comic books, movie posters -- nearly everywhere you look, women are shown in various stages of undress and posed in positions that make them look vulnerable, submissive, and sexually available. Conversely, men are depicted in positions of power or dominance, e.g., standing while a woman is reclining, being fully clothed while she's undressed, etc. These differences reinforce inequality between the sexes. Really, how powerful can a woman feel when she's half-naked and awkwardly contorted?


It's an interesting social experiment to see what happens when men are placed in these typical "female" poses.

The image below features two Vanity Fair covers: the top one with fully-clothed fashion designer Tom Ford, along with a nude Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson; and the bottom one is a Vanity Fair spoof of their own cover with a fully-clothed Paul Rudd and a pretend-nude Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Jason Segel. In a separate issue, Vanity Fair also did a photo spread with comedians Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Tina Fey, but posed them as typical sex objects. As Entertainment Weekly asks, would it be "... just as uproarious if some of those ladies vamped ironically in body stockings[?] ... Men being objectified is so silly as to be hilarious, but it’s better if funny women are also hot."


Here's a similar set of images showing nude female models huddled together and then one with the guys from the "Jackass" TV series and movies: 


The following "men-ups" were created by photographer Rion Sabean to parody classic pin-up poses. According to Rion, his work focuses on "... gender and sexuality, wherein I attempt to bring light to the scrutiny and judgments of a society that defines human beings under rigid, antiquated terms."


Artist Paul Richmond created a similar series from a gay male perspective. "I began the Cheesecake Boys series to rectify the inequalities in the underwear-flashing art genre known as pin-up," said Richmond.



Here's Richmond explaining how he came up with the concept, along with more examples of his work:



Fantasy author Jim Hines parodied women's poses on the covers of fantasy novels by trying to replicate the poses himself. (He also did a series posing like the men on romance novel covers). "... [M]ost of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk," said Hines.



  Do these images look ridiculous? Silly? Maybe even homoerotic? Once men are placed in the same sexualized poses that women are traditionally seen in, it becomes clear how absurd -- and sexist -- these poses truly are.  

If It’s Not Hurting You

“That’s not sexist,” he says, as she strips on the screen. “She showed a lot more in that men’s magazine.” “She’s an object,” I say. “Irrelevant to the plot. It’s about telling women, ‘Shut up and look hot.’” But he likes naked chicks, Is that such a sin? Why does he care If it’s not hurting him?   “I’m not racist,” she says. “I have a black friend. I just don’t believe that the races should blend. The illegals come here and steal all our jobs. They need to learn English – they’re ignorant slobs!” Being white makes you lucky – No hoops to jump through. Racism’s not bad If it’s not hurting you.   “The gays force their beliefs and have lots of sex! They’ll redefine marriage – who knows what’s next? They flaunt their lifestyle, even during the day! It’s like they’re all trying to turn our kids gay!” Straights can get married, Show their love with a gem. If they’re blocking gay rights It’s not hurting them.   “You can’t have an abortion, because I don’t agree. I’ll make the decision – you’re public property. You had the sex; in fact, you’re a slut. So you will be punished. Now keep your legs shut.” Women don’t own their bodies, It’s different with men, Having no choice is okay – If it’s not hurting them.   “There’s a war on religion led by liberals and gays! They’re persecuting us when we don’t get our way! This nation is Christian! Your history tells lies. Jesus is the truth!” (Well, it’s my truth in disguise.) Church and state combine When voting from the pew. Legislating belief is fine – If it’s not hurting you.   “The poor are just lazy – they don’t like to work. They want us to pay while they get the perks. Now, perks for the wealthy is the American way! Tax breaks and loopholes let us keep all our pay.” You don’t have to share If the scale favors the few. When the poor kids don’t eat, It’s not hurting you.   You take for granted your freedom and rights If you never have to struggle and never have to fight. You can use your position of privilege and luck To selfishly judge, because who gives a fuck? It’s not your problem. You don’t have a clue What it’s like to be hurt When it’s not hurting you.

A Woman’s Declaration of Independence

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book -- If Beauty Is inside, Why Do We Hate Our Guts?: Pop Culture, Sexism, & Body Image. Read the first chapter here.


It's time to declare independence, to separate ourselves from the bad habits, the stifling expectations, and the negative messages that no longer serve us (assuming they ever did).


It's time to declare independence from media messages that tell us we're ugly if we don't look like the "flawless" images of celebrities on the screen and in the magazines. It's time to stop buying into the manipulation and stop wasting time trying to chase an illusion that doesn't even exist.


It's time to declare independence from the belief that having the perfect body will make us worthy of love and respect. We're already worthy of love and respect in the bodies we have now -- no amount of weight loss or plastic surgery will increase our value.


It's time to declare independence from dieting, from deprivation, from seeing food as the enemy. The American weight loss industry makes nearly $60 billion a year trying to convince us that we're not good enough -- if diets worked, would they be this profitable? It's time to stop contributing to their false sense of hope.


It's time to declare independence from body loathing, from looking at our bodies with disgust instead of love. It's time to appreciate all of the amazing things they do for us -- the jiggly arms that give great hugs, the flabby thighs that carry us through the park, the droopy breasts that fed a child, the wounded heart that still knows how to love, the exhausted brain that still manages to tell our lungs to breathe.


It's time to declare independence from spending so much time, energy, and money trying to fit into someone else's idea of whom we should be. It's time to put ourselves first, to focus on our own desires and do what we want instead of what's expected of us. It's time to trust our instincts and become someone we're proud of. 


It's time to declare independence from shame, from the belief that we're not good enough, not beautiful enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not clever enough, not sexy enough. It's time to declare that we are already enough -- that we are perfectly imperfect exactly as we are.


It's time to declare independence from the oppressive labels of virgin or whore, straight or gay. Our sexuality does not define us. It can't possibly define what kind of person we are or what's in our hearts or our minds. Any attempt by others to claim otherwise is an attempt to control us, to police our behavior, and to shame us so that they don't have to examine their own ignorance and fear.


It's time to declare independence from the belief that we can bring sexual assault upon ourselves based on how provocatively we're dressed, how flirty we act, or how drunk we get. The only person responsible for a rapist's behavior is the rapist himself. We have a right to feel safe in the world.


It's time to declare independence from legislators who think the female body should be controlled by wealthy, middle-aged, white, conservative men. Our bodies belong to us -- it's time to declare our freedom to make our own decisions about them. Because if we cannot, then we are truly not equal citizens and this country as not as free it claims to be.


It's time to declare our independence from any force that tries to hold us down -- especially those forces that limit us from within.

Believe in Equality?: “U will be burn in hell for that one”


Advocating for same-sex marriage may not initially seem related to the topics of body image and sexism, but it is. I created and the Beauty Is Inside Facebook and Twitter pages to encourage self-acceptance and to serve as a reminder that our value as human beings lies within, hence the name "Beauty Is Inside". My intent was to inspire people to be the best version of themselves, to question society's limiting messages, and to speak out against them. Each of us has the inherent right to live our lives free from oppression. We deserve dignity and autonomy over our own bodies, including the right to be treated as more than a collection of sexual body parts, the right to control our own bodies and reproductive choices, and the right for consenting adults to love whom we want to love. There is no moral justification that entitles anyone to deny a person of these basic human rights.


But it doesn't keep people from trying. Last Friday, a subscriber to the Beauty Is Inside Facebook page told me that I was going to "burn in hell" after I posted this image:



The person -- a woman -- left this comment (errors left intact):

"So basically your saying that the bible is wrong when it clearly states that Homosexuality is wrong and is a sin. U will be burn in hell for that one."

I'm always surprised when a minority member doesn't see the irony in denying other minorities of their rights. I'm also surprised that a person would condemn me to burn in the fires of hell for believing that people have the right to love who they want. I was not at all surprised by the poor spelling and grammar though.


This comment pissed me off -- not because I fear some fire-and-brimstone afterlife retribution for my evil liberal ways -- but because it's a reminder that some people have such judgment and hatred inside of them and they'll use their religion to justify it. (I don't believe in the concept of hell anyway, so ooh! What a burn!)


Opposing equal rights is a way for a person with a form of social privilege (e.g., being straight, male, white, etc.) to have power over those with less privilege. They selfishly believe that they're entitled to the good stuff, but others aren't. The opposition to marriage equality is no different, but there's the added element of homophobia, which often stems from a person's shameful feelings about gay sex, or just sex in general. We live in a culture that's afraid of, yet obsessed with sex. Just consider how the media treat women's bodies as sexually objectified parts, how the government holds politicized debates about women's rights over our own bodies, how far-right conservatives call women sluts for using birth control, how both conservatives and the porn industry fetishize virginity, and how legislators and voters oppose same-sex marriage because the idea of same-sex sex grosses them out (or even turns them on).


Both exploiting and controlling another person's sexual expression are two sides of the same coin -- it defines people by their sexuality. People are more than mere bodies, so it's dehumanizing to equate what we do with the parts between our legs with who we are as human beings.


I believe that people can be defined much more accurately by their hearts and their minds. If judgmental homophobes want to condemn me to hell for thinking that we all have the right to be loved and accepted, to be treated as equal under the law, and to be defined by more than our sexuality -- then so be it. At least I'll be in good company.



We All Need Allies


Susan G. Komen for the Cure has just reversed its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood "after a category 5 shitstorm threatened to completely taint the brand," as Jezebel so eloquently put it. But the Komen brand has already been tainted by their hypocrisy -- if they're supposedly dedicated to women's health, why would they make decisions that support a political ideology that threatens women's health?


Yesterday, a friend defended Komen's right to withdraw their funding, arguing that they've still done a lot of good with the millions they've dedicated to fighting breast cancer. It wasn't my friend's support of Komen in itself that bothered me. It was that my friend is gay, and he didn't seem to recognize the harm in supporting a group that bends over to pressure from the conservative right.


Komen's good deeds don't erase their bad ones, just as the Salvation Army's charitable work doesn't erase their anti-choice and anti-gay "position statements." Komen's actions are part of an onslaught of right-wing conservative attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion access in the past year. These are the same people who'd also fight to prevent my friend from getting married. In fact Karen Handel, Komen's senior vice president for public policy and the one who's been credited with making the decision to cut ties with Planned Parenthood, is also a bit of a homophobe. As the Metro Weekly reported:

During her 2010 Republican bid for Georgia governor, Handel supported defunding Planned Parenthood as well as outlawing gay adoption and criminalizing same-sex marriage statewide. In an interview with 11alive, an NBC affiliate, she was interviewed about her view on same-sex relationships:


Q:  You have said that you are -- you're against gay marriage, right?

A:  Mm hm. Absolutely. Marriage is between one man and one woman. And I've been very very clear about that. And the record is clear about any of the other issues like domestic partner benefits or anything like that. In fact in Fulton, I voted no on domestic partner benefits.


Q:  Are you against civil unions for gays?

A:  Yes. I think that's not an issue that has come forward in Georgia. We have the constitutional amendment against gay marriage, and I don't want to see any taxpayer funding going toward benefits etcetera for a couple that is not married. In our state and for me, marriage is for one man and one woman.


This isn't a coincidence. There's an interrelationship between all forms of oppression -- those who'd oppose the rights of one minority will often oppose the rights of another. In this way, they truly don't discriminate.


Throughout history, it's taken more than just members of a minority group to fight for their own rights. It took more than suffragettes to fight for women's right to vote. It took more than African-Americans to fight for Civil Rights. Today it takes more than homosexuals to fight for the right to marry whom they love. And it takes more than feminists to fight for women's rights to make our own reproductive decisions.


We all need allies.


One hundred years ago, there were plenty of men who weren't too keen on allowing women to vote -- let alone run for office -- a right that Handel now takes for granted. But there were enough male allies to turn the tide. It's infuriating when those in positions of privilege fight so hard to deny minorities these basic rights. It's depressing when others turn the other way and let it happen. But it's a damn shame when fellow minorities throw each other under the bus by failing to recognize that we're fighting similar battles. We all know what it feels like to have our rights determined by the majority. We're in the same damn boat. None of us should be willing to let another one sink.

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."   -- Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), German Pastor, regarding political apathy

Harm against one is harm against another. We all must remember this ... for the cure to oppression -- no matter the type -- is to fight it together.

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