In the right locations links to a comment by Jess Thompson-Adams from the NYT:
I went to a conference on bisexuality about 15 years ago. A woman there said to me, “I wish you gay men would stop putting your energy into fighting homophobia and instead put your energy into eradicating misogyny. Because the problem society has with gay men isn’t that they’re with other men – it’s that they’re men who are “acting like women.” If it were ok to be a woman in this culture, homophobia would just disappear.” I think she’s right.
The writer says that, although she hasn’t thought about it in the past, it makes a lot of sense to her.
Personally, I’m going to have to say that that seems pretty far off to me. I agree that perhaps it is unacceptable (or at least, less acceptable) for men to act like women (although that has certainly changed of late- witness the wave of gay design shows a few years back), but I really don’t think that it is unacceptable to BE a woman or be feminine in this culture. If anything, I think that it is less acceptable to be masculine.
In my experience, what really disturbs people is the immorality issue and the “ick” issue of two people of the same sex being together. I have witnessed, for example, several occasions where a male friend displayed all of the most stereotypical signs of homosexuality, but when he came out, friends who were of conservative religious persuasions (I live in the South:) ) absolutely refused to believe it. This person was, after all, their friend, and thus, a good person. They had a really hard time reconciling those ideas with the friend being gay.
Moreover, the worst misogyny we have seen of late have come from people who are generally perceived as more gay friendly- witness for example Perez Hilton and his supporters’ shameful behavior regarding the Ms. USA pageant; Andrew Sullivan’s obsession with Sarah Palin’s youngest child, etc.
In other words, I really don’t think that misogyny is related to gay bashing (or vice versa).
By the way, you may note that I use the term “gay-bashing” rather than “homophobia.” I realize that homophobia is the accepted and expected term, and I’m sure that I’ve used it before, but it is one of those words that I attempt to avoid when possible. I simply do not think that it is an appropriate or accurate way to describe most (and please note that I am speaking generally) people who are opposed to homosexuality. Phobia is intended to describe “irrational, disabling fear as a mental disorder (e.g., agoraphobia)” It is the sort of reaction that would be accompanied by extreme anxiety and an inability to proceed (similar, for example, to the reaction that I have when I see a spider). It does not describe a mere opposition to something, particularly a moral, ethical, or public policy based opposition of the sort evidenced by most people who oppose homosexuality.
We simply cannot have a good conversation if we make up names and invent diagnoses for people. Let’s talk about the merits, not call names like preschoolers.