It is interesting what a weekly gossip and catch-up session can uncover. Amongst the social hubbub of drowned out voices and the clattering of teacups found regularly in one of my favourite haunts; the Costa Café hidden inside Waterstones, a friendly discussion between myself and my close friend Bryony took place. The question, you may ask, was most likely one that very few would even think to consider. As a gay man and a straight woman (please ignore the cliché) we discussed which group had been more oppressed in Britain; the rape of one’s wife was once legal whereas homosexual men have been arrested and even killed for their sexuality and both still find derogatory terms used towards them and are generally treated differently than the dominant heterosexual man.
Of course this discussion was in jest but it remains a curious thing that we both felt the need to compare a form of sexuality against a gender instead of seeing the similarities in our oppression. After coming to a stalemate, we finally came to the agreement that we should not be discussing the oppression of different groups but instead uniting against a common enemy; patriarchal Britain. I must make it clear, I do not mean all heterosexual men form this hegemonic ideology against women and gays but that it is generally societal norms and conservative views continued from generations before which have led to the continued subjugation we argued about.
In fact, it is difficult to pinpoint certain forms of sexism and homophobia as you truly cannot put oneself in another’s shoes exactly unless, of course, you are both. Since I am a male who defines himself as a feminist, I was shocked to discover that there were certain sexist things that I had not picked up on which Bryony had opened my eyes to. One of these revelations was that female tennis players are discussed by the commentators for what they wear as well as their relationships with men (Eugenie Bouchard’s interview at the Australian Open this year about which celebrity she would like to date comes to mind).
Men (and women) are naïve to so many forms of sexism because we have grown up surrounded by it at all times and so can find it problematic to identify it. Similarly, homophobia can sometimes be dismissed easily as well because it can be left unnoticed or unchallenged; the most obvious example seen within schools is the word ‘gay’ being used for describing something as negative, wrong or simply as an insult. But how many people notice how the majority of homosexual men are stereotypically portrayed on television, if at all, or how homosexuality is described in rap music? With lyrics such as ‘You fags think it’s all a game’ and ‘so gay I can barely say it with a ‘straight’ face’ in Eminem’s ‘Rap God’ it is clear that homosexuality remains stigmatized. I don’t mean to accuse Eminem or the majority of rappers of homophobia but rather blame society for allowing the practice of using homosexuality in derogatory terms, which rap exemplifies due to its gritty style.
From a childish argument between two best friends, a rather serious issue of overall oppression from heterosexual patriarchy was revealed. It is too easy to remain self-indulged in how the groups we belong to have been oppressed in both the past and present but we must open our eyes to how others are also being oppressed, after all, we both want the same outcome; a society that treats us all as equals no matter our gender and sexuality. If we accepted the fact that heterosexual patriarchal Britain oppresses all then we can join together to destabilize a repressive, backwards view from infecting another generation. It has been over 200 years; don’t you think it is time for a change?