Saturday, 29 December 2012

Is hetronormativity the problem ?

This article is in response to a piece entitled ''can hetronormativity be smashed'' in which the author cites hetronormativity a deserving target for those concerned with ending gender oppression. This is a response to the second part of the article in the main, as that's where the question is addressed. I think this is an important issue as its one of the main propositions of an identity politics prominent within both LGBT & contemporary feminism. The consequence of such notions being accepted typically manifests in misplaced attacks on non problematic societal norms which only serves to isolate the movements in question. The radical subjectivism of identity politics is problematic on many levels, but here il focus on the understanding of hetronormativity as a phenomena that can be directly challenged, as opposed to a perception caused by homophobic ideas and actions.
The author contends hetronormativity to be a target through a semantic slight of hand. ‘’Under heteronormativity, heterosexuality is not merely the sexual preference of the majority of people in society – it’s a privileged identity’’. This could be a case of correlation implying causation. The phenomena of people considering heterosexuality the norm does not cause heterosexuality to become a privileged identity, (although it may inadvertently re-enforce it) rather homophobia diminishes the general value of gay identities in relation to heterosexuality – thus establishing heterosexuality as privileged. This requires clarification as it’s the (activity) of homophobia that’s problematic. The variable is homophobia, not homophobic/sexist attitudes being seen as the norm retrospectively.
Hetronormativity (perceives) heterosexuality as the majority privileged sexuality, it’s an interpretation of an unjust reality, not an attempt to re-enforce injustice. Hetronormativity sees heterosexuality (as) being the norm, it doesn't (as a general tendency) entail the contention that it (should) be the norm. Therein lies the problem with AW’s analysis. Hetronomrativity is less of a value statement (or collective set of statements) about the way things should be, and more of an assessment concerning the way things are. To contend otherwise is to fudge the line between hetronormativity and homophobia, intersecting but separate phenomena. The  ''propagation and continual enforcement of a mutually supporting and re-enforcing set of ideas about sex, sexuality and gender'' that AW refers to isn't hetronormativity, its homophobic/sexist attitudes. 
The cause of the tendency towards hetronomrative perception is homophobia, which should be the target of those concerned with gender equality. The inability to understand this distinction, and the cause of gender/sexual oppression tends to result in misplaced attacks on manifestations of homosociality/heterosexuality (which are assumed oppressive on account of their privileged status within hetronormative society). Those on the left are undoubtedly familiar with isolationist proclamations on the need to smash an ambiguous ‘’lad culture’’ ect. 
Bigotry, be it sexual, racial or whatever doesn't exist in a vacuum, and those sights where it happens to be most explicit shouldn't be confused as sources. Failure to understand this results in a sort of blind aggression which falls prey to essentialist generalizations. Gender discrimination will be eroded through a process of engagement and argumentation. Not standing on the sideline shouting about how ‘’lad culture’’ (a male working class identity) is reactionary and needs to be ‘’destroyed’’. Lad culture, like ‘’football supporters culture’’ isn't inherently homophobic, rather homophobia is a feature, as racism was an explicit feature in the past. Bigotry exists amongst people as a characteristic, it’s not inherent to their condition, something that needs to be understood in order to develop a broad and inclusive movement.