I’m far from the first person to comment on the links between homophobia and misogyny.
But after reflecting on my Pandora issues, I realized just how true and tight that connection is.
Let’s talk about the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis station I tried to have.
I have to start by saying that I am overly Caucasian. All those “white people can’t dance” jokes – yeah, they’re talking about me. I have no rhythm.
What I am though, is a poet.
I feel the music – but I listen to the words.
So, I won’t comment on the musical abilities of M&RL – instead, I’ll comment on their message and words.
“If I was gay, I’d think hip hop hates me. Have you read the YouTube comments lately?”
Followed shortly by, “No freedom ’till we’re equal, damn right I support it.“
My daughters LOVE M&RL. They put their hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us every time they come on the air.
In fact my girls dig hip hop in general. They like the heavy beats, the hard rhythms, the poppy hooks…
And, given Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s generally positive and upbeat messaging, I thought – hey, this is probably a safe station to create for my kids.
I don’t worry about swearing, but I do care about the over all message of the songs we listen to.
As you can imagine, I was super disappointed to hear my M&RL station devolve into a vile spiral of misogynistic music glorifying beating women, raping women and even killing women “She deserved it, the skanky ho.” (Clearly Pandora’s algorithms do not take lyrical content into account!) I skipped the allowed 6 songs – IN A ROW – before I gave up and nuked the station.
Many people have long commented that as much as hip hop hates gays, it also hates women.
Recent research gives us some insight into the connection – There are certain subgroups of men who become “hypermasculine” due to various cultural forces. One of these forces appears to be the creation of a pack mentality in groups of boys and men where women are excluded or simply not present.
Sports teams, gangs, certain religious sects and the military are a couple of the main examples of this.
In these subgroups, the men involved struggle to define their gender identity and come to designate it as “Not female.”
However, by defining themselves in the negative, “Not female,” they are constantly insecure. If a woman does something as well as them – does that mean they aren’t man enough? If a woman likes something they like, are they still allowed to like it?
This insecurity is the root of misogyny.
These subgroups of “hypermasculine” men must keep women separate from themselves in order to stand tall. They must keep women down, lesser, other – in order to define themselves as complete, whole, acceptable.
It is also the root of homophobia, because homosexual males defy this edict that “Man equals Not Woman” by engaging in some feminine behaviors – primarily that of having sexual relations with men. And homosexual women defy the edict by “taking” something that is not theirs to take – other women, the clear property of (straight) males!
If “real” men don’t do, or enjoy, or like the same things as women – then men who do must be feminine and therefore WRONG!
If women enjoy and engage in the same activities as men, either those women are usurpers – or those activities are not properly masculine.
What do we do to change this? How do we help these men see that they are more than “Not female”?
How do we help more people – male and female see that we all have a blend of masculine and feminine traits? That gender is a construct, not something static handed out at birth? That we are ALL living between the lines?
There are a number of women who also buy into this creed – that men and women are inherently different, and that men are naturally on top. To some extent, I was one of them. I was a female chauvinist pig for much of high school. I thought my value rested in my ability to keep up with the boys, because I did not want my value to rest between my legs – where other girls supposedly kept theirs. I thought I was a feminist because I defied that norm, because I refused to let my sex define me. What I failed to realize was that – by denying my sex, I was still falling victim to sexism. Worse, I was in fact, perpetuating it.
I was one of those tomboy usurpers throughout high school. I was the girl who got invited to all the bro-downs and not because I put out (I didn’t) but because my truck was bigger than theirs AND I knew how to drive it. I also only owned logging boots for about 7 years. I rock climbed barefoot and kicked ass. I was a bro, but ya know, with a vagina. And, as long as I didn’t remind my guy friends that I had that vagina, we were okay. As long as I didn’t call them out when they made sexist jokes or talked trash about their girlfriends, I could pretend I belonged.
I still tend toward the “masculine” in lots of ways, though I’ll admit getting married and starting a family has helped me come off my own trip through manville.
One of the things that helped me the most was marrying a man who has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt, and pigtails. Just because it was hot out and that was what was comfortable. And pigtails are sexy – those might have been for me. But being with a man who values the “feminine” as well as the “masculine” – who sews and cooks and cleans AND builds houses, drives a truck, camps, hikes, etc. helped me find balance in my own life.
He has helped me accept my own feminine as something to be valued, rather than something to be hidden.
I find I have a lot less to prove these days – and I find my guy friends are a lot more willing to take a walk down the feminine side with me than they were 20 years ago.
The truth is, gender norms aren’t as hard-wired as we’d like to think. They’re social constructs. We know this because we live in a time where people can travel all over the world. We can visit other cultures. We have people who study the past and make sense of it.
We know that there are still matrilineal and matriarchal cultures. We know there used to be a lot more. If gender traits were hard wired – they would also be universal.
We know that women in this culture, in this country, used to be expected to wear skirts and dresses – but now we can all wear pants if we want to without being burned at the stake. However, the tide hasn’t shifted the other way – not quite yet. It’s rare to see a straight cis-man wearing a skirt in the street. The occasional kilt, perhaps – but a skirt or a dress? Not so much.
And why not?
Because it’s girly?
Until that pendulum swings back the other direction, until we free men of the “Man box” we will still have homophobia and misogyny. Until boys and men are allowed by our culture and our society to express a full range of emotions, choose from a full range of loves, passions, careers and favorite bands – until men are allowed to be more than “Not woman” – we’re stuck.
So, in the last gasp of this long post – I want to give a HUGE shout out to all the gay rights activists, the transgender communities and the cross dressers.
Why? Because, right now, they are the front line – they are the ones who have taken the torch and are showing the world that people are people are people.
They are the leaders showing the world that real men can wear skirts, real men can love other men, real men can start out life with a vagina.
They are the ones continuing the march for women. Sure we’ve got pants and jobs now, but the LGBTQ community is showing the world that real women are more than the opposite of men.
They are showing the world that we truly are all blurring the lines.
All the progress that feminists have made – so that women are now “allowed” to like sports, have jobs, climb the corporate ladder, wear pants – and army boots – it’s a lot, but we’re only half way.
We still need to free the other half of their gender constraints.
No freedom ’til we’re equal. Damn right I support it.
Are you man enough to climb out of the man box? Here’s a hand, we’ll help.