Because Blogger's "Adult warning" often goes into a perpetual loop (isn't working properly), I will be making all new posts at my WordPress blog. You can follow it even if you do not have a WordPress Account. There're also my Twitter and my Tumblr blog, my Facebook and my Google+ page and my group.
(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Heterosexism

It's something I've always known instinctively: straight men aren't afraid of gay or bi men for the reasons we think they are. Straight men, like gay men, care much more about how other men see them than about how women do. They act macho not to impress women, but to impress men.

To quote Jammie Price, from "NAVIGATING DIFFERENCES: Friendships between Gay and Straight Men",
[Since] "being a man is" highly valued in a patriarchal context, signifying gender with other men becomes one way for men to compete for power privileges and resources. Men come to value self and other men for their ability to be a "man". In any given situation, men assess their masculinity in relation to other men and strategize actions based on those perceptions. Through this process they gain a sense of self-worth and relative standing. Hence, many men see interactions with other men as "character contests", stages on which to assert their masculinity. Those who assert their masculinity the best receive the highest regard, and accordingly, the most power and privilege among the men in the interaction.


The culturally ideal or "hegemonic" way that men signify being men in the United States today is to (1) display an ability to control, compete, and produce relative to other men, particularly at work; (2) subordinate women and reject effeminacy; and (3) express heterosexual desire. Being physically fit and of moderate size also help men to signify masculinity. The better or more a man demonstrates some or all of the above characteristics, the more masculine he seems to himself and others, [while] failure to demonstrate some or all of the above characteristics becomes the ground for men to devalue another man. (Numerous references omitted)


In her fascinating book, the author shows that for very many straight men, a friendship with a gay man is much deeper than their friendships with other straight men, because they are not competing. They can trust their gay friend with things they would never tell their straight friend. For many of the gay men, though, their friendship with the straight man is less valuable than their friendship with other gay men, because for us it is hard to trust straight men. We have suffered at their hands too often.

The book helped me understand why one straight friend regards me as his best friend, while I do not feel the same way about him. He is drawn to me precisely because I am not a real man. And I am not drawn to him because he is.

5 comments:

NL Gassert said...

What an interesting topic to start with. My gut reaction tells me that women have the very same issue/s. Women are in perpetual competition with other women (and those ranking highest often also compete against other men; but I think that touches on an entirely different dimension than the book/theory by Jammie Price). We’re not here to discuss the world of women, though. ;-)

Welcome to the world of blog, Nigel.

Nigel said...

I just found it so fascinating that men compete against other men, that they are afraid to show they care because it loses them points. Never have I been more glad that I am NOT a "real man". hehe

Penelope Crampton said...

congrats on the blog!!!

I work at a Navy Exchange store on a Navy air base, and therefore, there are more men coming and going there than I have ever seen in my life! I do a LOT of observation in my work and see just how much of a competition it is just for straight men to be casual with each other--posturing, jokes, haircuts, the very fact that some read(o horrors!) and others don't. Even the little boys imitate their dads, right down to language, attitude, and body movement--
It is amazing to watch all ages of men and boys and just how they deal with each other--

Pen

NL Gassert said...

It’s also interesting to note how for granted we take this behavior by boys and men. My son is three. He’s a rambunctious little guy, but he also has a very caring, nurturing side. Sometimes he plays with his sister’s toys, her Barbies or her make-up. When he does this is public, occasionally I catch people giving him a weird look. I have a feeling he’s already lost a number of points on his macho scale. Poor kid. He’s only three!

Margaret Whitfield said...

Great start Nigel and congratulations on the blog.
Perhaps “real” men need to take a few steps back and stop taking themselves so seriously. Life doesn’t have to be such a competition all the time. Guess it all harks back to the hunter/gatherer mentality when the one who got the food and the woman survived and propagated and we know how hard it is to get men to change their ways don’t we:-)

Cheers
Margaret