Last weekend I went to a friend’s baby shower/barbecue, and an acquaintance was there who openly identifies as gay. After the barbecue, he invited my boyfriend and me to go to a gay bar with him. Somewhat jokingly he said that he might even try to take someone home with him that night. My first reaction was, “Well, if he’s anything like the straight men I know, then I’m sure he will try to take someone home.”
Even now, that reaction that I had bothers me, and if I had heard someone else say it, I would have talked about it being a problematic response.
I quickly chastised myself, thinking, “Of course he’s like the straight men I know because being gay doesn’t make a man any less of a man.” And trying to take home an interest is just something men do. (That kind of thinking is problematic as well, I know, and it’s even kind of sexist, but that’s for another post.)
Then I began to wonder why I should assume that gay men’s flirting, pursuing, and dating would be anything like straight men’s. I believe that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. So in this way, the treatment is equal. This leads me to my main question. How much does the desire to treat people equally obscure the need to recognize different experiences? I argue, that by assuming the acquaintance would flirt and pursue like any straight man potentially ignores the fact that he does not experience life as a straight man.
Furthermore, when I talk about equal treatment and ignoring different experiences, the implication is that the treatment is based on a standard. The standard is the in-power group’s. Hence, when there is the desire to treat white people and people of color equally, it is based on the white standard. The same goes for men and women. I have heard men comment that if women want to be treated equally in the work place, then they shouldn’t “bitch” about PMS.
Our country, as a heterosexualist country ignores homosexual/gay/queer voices and experiences. There also seems to be the assumption that if the homosexual/gay/queer community does not want to be ignored, than they should conform to normative behavior.
I believe it was Monique Wittig who argued our society has defined the criteria for being a woman, in part, as always being submissive to men. Based on that criteria she continued, lesbians are not women. They are a gender unto themselves.
For quite a few years I have identified as a feminist. I would guess that each feminist has a different relationship with feminism. My relationship includes asserting the connection between being a woman and acting like a woman. I do not mean that I do or should act like a stereotypical 1950’s housewife. Instead I mean that because I identify as a woman, everything I do then I do it as a woman. I am always feminine - how could I not be? For me, this functions as a means by which to reassert agency over my own actions and to prevent others from being allowed to tell me what is appropriate to do and not do. It is a line of rationale that allows me to own myself and experiences.
However, I have to continue to push one step further. I must remember that I also experience life as white, middle class, (mostly) heterosexual woman. I cannot change that. But also, I cannot ignore the fact that other women do not share some of my experiences. To ignore our differences is to do a great injustice and disservice to all of us.