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The Intersection Between Homophobia and Misogyny

(37 Posts)
TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 12:42:43

Last night I was in a restaurant with my (female) fiancee, when a man approached me and said 'I saw you from over there, and just wanted to let you know that you are beautiful.' I cooly thanked him, and turned back to my partner. I wasn't rude at this point- it wasn't necessarily clear to him that my partner and I were 'together,' but from my body language it was clear that I wasn't interested.

After I had turned away, he carried on- 'So I want to get to know you.' I told him I wasn't interested. He insisted 'I want to see if I like your personality.' I repeated that I wasn't interested, and that I was having dinner with my fiancee.

At this point his demeanour completely changed, and he bent to shout in my face 'you guys are a couple? You make me sick. You people are disgusting.' The fury was unbelievable. My partner told him to leave, and thankfully he did. We continued our meal, slightly humiliated while other diners threw sympathetic glances our way.

I was talking about it with my partner after he left, trying to rationalise what had just happened. We experience homophobia almost every time we go out together (we live in London), but it usually manifests as dismissiveness toward our relationship, and attacks on our legitimacy as a couple, ie. comments like 'lesbians! That's hot!', 'Don't worry girls, you're both beautiful, some man will want you,' and generally being approached by men in situations where it is clear that we are a couple. But it is the first time I have encountered such fury and hatred before, just through sitting there.

As we discussed it, it seemed as though the interchange was just as sexist as it was homophibic. The attitude was 'you are a woman, I have decided I like you, you should be grateful, and in being gay you have rejected the natural order of things that you should be available for me. Unless, of course, you are 'taken' by another man.' I just can't see any reason why there would have been so much ire toward complete strangers and their private lives unless it had been taken as a personal insult and rejection.

Is this a common part of homophobia- anger at women who are not attracted to men, and I have just been blind to it before? Or is my usual experience more common- that most homophobic people just don't 'get' it, especially when they can't categorise us into boxes they have decided they are comfortable with ie. a butch/femme relationship where they can write one of the women off as 'basically a man'? (Ugh).

I guess I'm just looking for reassurance that this is not a normal reaction- maybe because if people don't understand it because they don't have much experience of it they can learn or change or be accepting if someone they love is gay, but genuine hatred is so much harder to tackle. I'm just struggling to come to terms with the fact that my private life can cause so much bile in a person, when it has no impact on them whatsoever.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 12:51:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 13:16:05

Thanks, Buffy. I've certainly seen that before with friends who are out with male partners; the apology to the partner for 'infringing on their property.' I could just take incident this as a one-off, and assume that most would apologise and move on. But I have a suspicion that the sort of misogynistic man who would apologise to the male partner would not react in the same way to a female partner and either be dismissive, rude or angry at being usurped by another woman. Not that I want them to apologise to my partner for hitting on me of course, it just shows how differently the misogynist would view the legitimacy of the relationship. Argh.

sonlypuppyfat Wed 12-Mar-14 13:20:26

I think you just met a weirdo.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 13:27:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FairPhyllis Wed 12-Mar-14 13:45:32

Yep. Sounds like the primary thing here is that he has a massive sense of entitlement to women's bodies/attention/time, and resulting anger that a woman dares to set a boundary of not having male partners.

I do think that homophobia against lesbian women and against gay men do come from slightly different places, because when it is against women it is all wrapped up with this misogynistic entitlement thing, whereas that's not usually the case I think when gay men experience it.

WoTmania Wed 12-Mar-14 13:48:35

yep - there was a thread a while back about how men will approach women, even when they are clearly in conversation etc with someone else, encroaching on their space because they feel entitled to.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 13:58:06

WoTmania that's interesting- we were in a club recently, sitting on a sofa and just talking/ interacting in a way that made it very clear that we were together. A man came up to my partner, grabbed her hand, told her to dance and have more fun as she was in a club, then started to dance pressed up close to her before she could get away.

I was furious at the time because I assumed that if I had been a man, another man would never have done that and would have left us alone. But perhaps I'm being naiive, and some men feel entitled to do that whoever a woman happens to be with, regardless of whether she appears to want the attention, on the assumption that she will fall to her knees in gratitude at his decision to grace her with his presence.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 14:14:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BriarRainbowshimmer Wed 12-Mar-14 14:25:11

Yes it makes me angry on your and your partner's behalf too OP. angry

Other than the ownership mentality that still lives on, people still have this tragic idea - even if it’s not conscious and even if they don’t want too (in this case however you met a blatant sexist &%”€ ):

That men are the important humans, and women aren’t important humans. That women gain importance by being associated with a man. A relationship between two humans who don’t really count doesn’t really count does it.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 14:36:20

I know, and I hate that my experiences have revealed so much sexism to me, on top of the homophobia.

A friend of mine looks much more like what ignorant people would assume a lesbian looks like, if that makes sense. Interestingly, her experiences of being harassed are so different. The implication is almost that her gayness is acceptable to men, because she is not a 'real' woman and they don't want her attention anyway, but because I am hetero-passing, my gayness is a choice and can be fixed by the right man.

It doesn't help that there aren't enough examples in the media to combat the steretype that all lesbians are either straight women trying to get male attention, or angry sexless women who hate men and sleep in twin beds. Either way, the woman's sexual expression is in some way a reaction to men. It just blows some men's minds when confronted with a couple for whom their relationship is not for male approval or to make a point to men; in fact it has nothing to do with men whatsoever.

I honestly never thought I would be saying or experiencing this when I came out. I stupidly had no idea things were still this bad.

The worst part is that we experience this as women with a reasonably high degree of privilege, both in terms of where we live and the outlook of those we are close to. It pains me that for gay women this is pretty much as good as it gets, and that for a lot of women things are so much worse.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 14:49:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 15:10:30

It's amazing how many otherwise intelligent and caring men I have encountered who have no comprehension of how they as a group make everyday acts like walking home, meeting a new person and getting dressed a damn sight more difficult for women.

Clearly it's quite a convenient form of ignorance for them.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 15:15:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 15:39:54

Wow. Unfortunately, in that situation the well-meaningness is coupled with male structural privilege which leads to arrogance and laziness- he believes this to be true, so it must be so. A quick google search would have showed him that he was wrong, and simply repeating rhetoric that constrains women further, but it wouldn't have occured to him to do so because how could a man be wrong about the experiences of women?

So he thought 'I will simply instruct women on what I know to be true about their safety,' instead. It's difficult when you know it comes from a well-meaning place, but is still reflective of such deep-seated privilege and assumptions of being right as always that it perpetrates exactly the system he was presumably trying to 'help' a woman to combat.

Imagine the situation reversed- a cis/white/hetero woman talking to another human who didn't share that particular privilege about the experiences they believe that other person has. I think, by virtue of being a woman and knowing what it feels like, they would be far more likely to ask questions/ educate themselves/ shut up before stating a stereotype as fact and advising the other person on the basis of the fact.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 15:51:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 16:01:53

It's true. I have characterised it in the past as 'I would go to the march and be counted among the numbers, but I would never make the speech, design the placards or lead the slogans.' Much as I would like male allies to act in feminist actions. But of course, that's very much removed from the real-life situations where this comes up, and I'm not sure how well it applies.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 16:15:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ArtetasSwollenAnkle Wed 12-Mar-14 16:23:04

Thirdly - then hope your 'act of well-meaning kindness' (see above) is not mis-interpreted as throwing your weight around, or assuming that someone else cannot cope. It isn't always straightforward.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 16:33:27

I agree with you that in certain circumstances, the man's voice would have more impact. This makes me sad and angry though, and I was trying to work out why.

I can think of three reasons off the top of my head why a man's voice might have more impact on these issues:

1. Because he is a man, and therefore privileged and respected and listened to, and right. In the eyes of other men, who hold the power to make change.

2. Because he is 'other' to the debate, an outsider, ie. fighting for others' causes and 'objective'.

3. Because he belongs to the class of traditional oppressor and is actively trying to reject that privilege, which is a powerful statement to other people in privileged positions.

If your DH had tried to help us in the restaurant last night, I imagine his voice would have been more powerful because of reasons 1 and 2. ie he is seen by the misogynist as on his level, and also rational. But when I rationalise letting men have a voice in feminism to myself, I only want to do it if 3 is the answer.

It makes me wonder whether when we give a voice to men in these issues because we know they have more power, we hope that the impact they have comes from the act of actively going against the side of privilege to achieve something more just. But if, in reality, the impact comes from the fact that men hold the keys to power, and therefore to change, and are more likely to be listened to by other men, aren't we just preserving the status quo? How will we move to a place where a woman's voice is just as loud?

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 16:45:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheUnforgiven Wed 12-Mar-14 17:07:50

Not at all, I think I just needed a rant!

It's striking that views of insiders, on the basis of lived experience (characteristics I would value most highly) would struggle to claim legitimacy, in a world where those that make the rules of what is deemed legitimate are those least likely to be struggling to assert their own legitimacy (and therefore more likely to be engaging in discourse on an outsider/data level).

I wonder whether, if power dynamics shifted and those who had struggled in the past to find legitimacy held greater power, our expectations of what would seem legitimate would also change, in that we would value anecdote, experience and relativism more highly.

Or, of course, it could be a simple case that power corrupts. And that once whoever made it to the top got there they would pull the ladder up and distance themselves from their past experience.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 17:17:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 12-Mar-14 17:23:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BrokenButNotFinished Wed 12-Mar-14 17:53:44

I always remember, growing up, friends who would see off undesirable male attention by telling them they had a boyfriend, even if they didn't. I would never do this, even if I had one, as I felt that my refusal should be good enough, without having to appeal to the ownership of some unseen man. This man in the restaurant was clearly a knob-end in coming over in the first place - and in the second, for thinking that his urges superceded your desire to be left alone, gay or not. I'm surprised the restaurant didn't ask him to leave.

I once had a similar thing when I was out with a female friend in a bar. A group of blokes came over, one of whom was particularly vocal pressing in his demands - eventually literally, as he squeezed himself onto the couch we were sharing and on which there was only room for two (or possibly three, if you all knew each other very well...). He wouldn't go away and in the end asked if we were gay - presumably because that was the only reason why we hadn't been swayed by his charms. hmm Now thigh to thigh, my hand 'slipped' and I tipped my beer in his lap. He then went off on one, shouting in my face and complaining about me to the bouncer. The bouncer told him he'd probably deserved it and perhaps he'd like to move along there now, please.

I really have to wonder what he would be like in a relationship?? Is this the kind of man who doesn't take 'no' for an answer?? That's a concern.

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