Feminism and the LGBTQ Movement – Getting Back to Social Justice Roots
As more and more state’s recognize same-sex marriage, the LGBTQ movement happily takes it’s wins along the way. But some still feel the goals once held by activist LGBTQ groups have been muddled in the name of catering to the donor class — middle-class white progressives who use their disposable income to further causes relevant to their own lives.
While this belief is often seen as a fringe pursuit, groups like Against Equality have been trying to put this idea at the forefront of LGBTQ culture for some time. Though, at the moment, the conversations about these issues fly furiously across the internet, where queer and gender theorists, and feminists have found a better audience.
Enter people like Bell Hooks, a prominent feminist/womanist, author, cultural critic and social activist. Born in Hopkinsville, KY on 25 September, 1952, Hooks’ own definition of feminism in her book Feminism Is For Everybody: Passionate Politics (2000) states that feminism is “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”
Hooks has dedicated her life to the feminist movement and continues to educate people on the struggles of feminism, womanism, feminist theory, intersectionality and numerous other topics such as (but not limited to) gender, media and love.
In a Q&A with Ms. Magazine (Spring 2011) —a woman’s rights landmark institution and feminist publication— Hooks stated her beliefs on gay marriage. Hooks has never been an advocate for marriage and feels that making LGBTQ rights about marriage undermines the LGBTQ movement’s civil rights goals. In Hooks’ opinion, gay marriage lets down the gay couples that do not want to be married and bolsters the “patriarchal notions of who is worthy of care and support.”
“The movement for gay marriage has had a strong push among very class-privileged people, because they are the people with trusts and with property and with health care. If you’re gay, black, poor and you don’t have any access to insurance, the question of whether your partner can be included on your insurance is just not relevant to the health needs of your life. What would be more relevant is national health care!”
Hooks brings up very valid points about making gay rights about marriage and not about civil rights and how equal marriage lets down LGBTQ couples who do not wish to be married. Additionally, the use of marriage as a social norm derails the LGBTQ movement away from larger, long-held goals that have since been sacrificed in the name of marriage equality – better access to healthcare and equal protections for minorities across the racial and sexual spectrum.
I also agree with her statement about patriarchal notions regarding worthiness of care and support. Her statements about gay marriage and class also remind me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs regarding human motivation. When the lower levels of the hierarchy (physiological and security) are not fulfilled then the upper levels (love/belonging, esteem and self- actualization) are no longer as important or can be fulfilled.
Jyl Josephson, a professor of Political studies, American studies and Women’s and Gender studies, wrote an article in 2005 entitled Citizenship, Same-Sex Marriage, and
Feminist Critiques of Marriage. In this article she critiqued feminist theory of marriage, the importance of feminism in marriage and the legitimacy of feminist theory/critique on same-sex marriage. Josephson, in this article, offers views on feminists who support gay marriage, feminists who don’t support gay marriage—largely due to their denial of intersectionality—, feminists who compare same-sex marriage to the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and feminists who believe that same-sex marriage is a civil right.
Bell hooks / Jyl Josepshon
“Feminist critiques of marriage are relevant to the same-sex marriage debate for several reasons. The critique of rigid gender roles and hierarchy in marriage—and of their negative consequences for women—is also a critique of patriarchal heteronormativity, which oppresses not only women, but also members of the LGBT community” (Josephson, 2005).
Heteronormativity, a term made popular by Michael Warner from his book Fear of a Queer Planet (1991), encompasses the notion that heterosexuality is not only right but natural and normal. Heteronormativity is also an underlying factor that contributes to homophobic practices. Josephson brings up an interesting point when speaking of the relevancy of feminist critique on same-sex marriage by defending the feminist critique of hierarchy in marriage.
When deconstructing the history of oppression by marriage, the fact that women and members of the LGBTQ community have rarely, if ever, lawfully or socially benefitted from this, can not be ignored. Especially when, historically in the United States of America, “lawful” marriage was designed to benefit cis, heterosexual, Christian, white males who married cis, heterosexual, Christian, white females.
Both points of view do not question whether gay couples should be married or not but does question the infringement of basic human rights—of the gay couples who already are or hope to be married and the rights of the gay couples who do not wish to be married —by the government.
What do you think about Hooks’ and Josephson’s statements on gay marriage being a civil right and feminism and gay marriage?
Last Thursday, April 24, was a night of thought-provoking artwork, button-pushing conversation, and stepping-out-of-your-comfort-zone festivities. Guests found themselves confronting a variety of issues, and the concept of identity was revisited and redefined. The event featured a panel discussion led by Ha Tran, Brooke Inman, Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Angelica de Jesus and Celina Williams among other phenomenal minds. [...]April 29, 2014
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