Posts Tagged ‘Anti Gay’

This is another version of my review of  Mark McCormack s new book on Declining Homophobia.

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The Declining Significance of Homophobia, by Mark McCormack, is, according to its author, a ‘good news story’. The good news being that homophobia amongst young people is on the wane. His research with mainly young men students in three English sixth forms reaches very different conclusions to that of the more sobering surveys by LGBT organisations such as Stonewall.

The argument McCormack makes is clear:  in line with Eric Anderson (2009)’s theories of ‘softening’ masculinities, McCormack tells us that the young people he studied do not marginalize and discriminate against each other on the basis of sexual orientation, or even perceived orientation. This is because homophobia has declined in our culture, since the ‘homohysteria’ that characterised the 1980s and 1990s. He also looks at language, and argues convincingly that in many contexts, young people’s use of the term ‘gay’ to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’ is not homophobic, but merely a sign of changing times, and linguistic shifts.

I agree with McCormack that attitudes are changing and expanding, to accommodate a more accepting approach, both towards homosexuality, and towards ‘feminine’ behaviours amongst men, (think David Beckham in a sarong, or Alex Reid in women’s lingerie). However I have a few problems with his reasoning, and with the identity politics he uses to explain and celebrate this change.

One weakness of the book is a lack of depth of understanding on the part of McCormack about the history of homophobia. He relies almost solely on the work of his ‘mentor’ Eric Anderson to explain how homophobic attitudes gripped the (western) world during the 1980s and 1990s, when AIDS was seen by many as a ‘gay plague’. And when the age of consent was higher for homosexual men than for heterosexuals. Other writers who are missing from McCormack’s book who have carefully examined the recent history of homophobia, include Mark Simpson (Anti- Gay 1996), David Halperin (How To Do The History of Homosexuality, 2004), Steven Zeeland (Barrack Buddies 1993) and Keith Boykin (Beyond The Down Low 2005).

Whilst the end of the 20th century was indeed a bleak time in many ways for sexual freedom, in others it was positive. ‘Gay culture’ went mainstream in the 80s and 90s, with bands such as The Smiths, Culture Club, The Pet Shop Boys and Erasure topping the charts. Fashion and advertising began to exploit the ‘pink pound’, with models such as Marky Mark showing off their ‘assets’ to gay consumers. And even the awful reality of AIDS itself led to increasing visibility of LGBT people. When Princess Diana was filmed shaking hands and chatting to people who had the AIDS virus in 1989, for example, her status as a ‘gay icon’ was confirmed. And her high profile role changed some hearts and minds about homosexuality.

I think McCormack  is also wrong to focus as heavily as he does on ‘gay’ identities and ‘gay rights’ politics. One thing I remember most fondly about the 90s was the explosion of debate and activism around the concept of queer. Both in academic circles, with the ground-breaking work of writers such as Butler , Simpson and Paglia, and in everyday life, the politics of ‘gay’ expanded and diversified into the politics of ‘queer’, enabling many people who were marginalised on the grounds of gender and sexuality, to be included in the conversation. But McCormack is very dismissive of this ‘queer turn’, and in particular of writers such as Judith Butler who he describes as ‘elitist’ and ‘obscure’. He  reverts to the use of ‘gay’ identity politics and ‘gay’ terminology to describe and represent all LGBT people. One problem with this is that, as Simpson and colleagues wrote in their controversial book Anti-Gay (1996), the ‘gay’ identity itself has contributed to the erasure of other marginalised sexual identities such as bisexuality.

I have one final criticism of McCormack’s book, which extends to a general criticism of masculinities theory overall – it relates to what could be seen as an unmentioned, unacceptable great big pink ‘elephant in the room’. The elephant’s name? Metrosexuality. I think McCormack’s  thesis and research would be improved immensely by giving serious consideration to this ‘21st century’ phenomenon, of men expressing their ‘desire to be desired’ via consumer and media culture. According to Mark Simpson, originator and key theorist of the concept of metrosexuality,

‘Con­trary to what you have been told, met­ro­sex­u­al­ity is not about flip-flops and facials, man-bags or man­scara. Or about men becom­ing ‘girlie’ or ‘gay’.  It’s about men becom­ing every­thing. To themselves. In much the way that women have been for some time. It’s the end of the sex­ual divi­sion of bath­room and bed­room labour.  It’s the end of sex­u­al­ity as we’ve known it.’ (Simpson 2011)

It does not make sense to me, that a world in which the oppressive and repressive phenomenon of homophobia is declining and even disappearing, would also be a world in which sexual identity categories such as ‘gay’ remain unchanged. The ‘end of sexuality as we’ve known it’ is a difficult concept to grasp, especially for those of us who have been discriminated against because of our sexuality, and who consider it a key aspect of our identities. But I think it is on the horizon. For, to quote one of my favourite homos ever, Christopher Isherwood, ‘we’re all queer in the end’.

The Declining Significance Of Homophobia by Mark McCormack (2012)

 

‘The entire gay male community seems at times to be colluding against the possibility of independent thinking. The gay rights movement, too often, is focused on theatrics rather than on discourse; we want to be entertained and flattered, not criticised’. – John Weir

I was delighted to have a book review published today, at Sociological Imagination website. I sent it to my Dad (a sign I must be proud) and he responded with a lecture about the origins of the site’s name, coming as it does from the title of a book by renowned (long dead) sociologist, C Wright Mills.   ‘The Sociological Imagination’ reminds us that when we conduct social research, and produce social theory, it is not a totally dry, intellectual affair. It involves our imaginations and our hearts.

My review is of a book by Dr Mark McCormack  (@_MarkMcCormack on twitter) about declining homophobia amongst young people. But, due to events that have been mentioned a lot surrounding my recent ‘outing’ by Paul Burston and Julie Bindel, he felt justified in demanding my review be taken down from the site.

Thankfully, and to the credit of the editors, it wasn’t. The editors instead left an editorial note explaining (using only my detractors’ perspectives but dems the breaks) the context of me and my article.

The only people who commented under my piece were Mark McCormack the author of the book I reviewed, Grant Peterson (who posted under the name ‘UCLAScholar’), the husband of Eric Anderson whose work McCormack advocates, me and Matt Lodder  (@mattlodder). But most of my comments, and Matt’s one comment were not published.

So here is Matt’s comment in case any of you get as far as to read below the line!:

“I find astonishing that no-one is willing to engage with the careful, nuanced, referenced, footnoted, informed work Elly does on gender, sexuality and sexual politics. Instead, those who are the targets of her careful criticism resort to invective and insult, which leads her to lash out in response. It’s woeful, and depressing, that people are happy to cry foul rather than actually talk about the interesting and important issues laid out in this article and elsewhere.

If you read her blogs, and her body of work, it is abundantly clear that Elly is not homophobic or hateful in any way whatsoever. It is easy to categorise her as such by cherry-picking her (admittedly provocative) comments – her use of the term “gay” as a term of critique is (very loudly and repeatedly) informed by her pinning her ideas in the work of Mark Simpson’s book “Anti-Gay”, which is not a homophobic work (all the writers in it are gay, including Paul Burston himself), but one which critiques the identity politics of contemporary gay culture. The term “wanker”, as explained in the blog post to which Mr McCormack refers, is a reference to another blogpost by a feminist writer.

As for harrassment – Elly has been called all the names under the sun by high-powered journalists at the Guardian, the New Statesman, and others. People have contacted ex-business partners of hers, and “outed” her. All because she dared argue with them about the substance of their public, high-profile, powerfuilly platformed views with which she has a reasoned and reasonable dispute.

It’s all too easy to call her a troll. If she is substantively, academically wrong, UCALAScholar and Dr McCormack, let’s hear why. Despite all these accusations, let’s hear some reasonable, intelligent responses.

Is Elly rude? Sure. But she’s only rue to those who are rude to her first, or in whose work (particularly, say, Julie Bindel) she sees hateful, indefensible rhetoric.”

You can read an unedited version of my review here  

UPDATE: My review was taken down from the site in the end, due to the pressure from the academics involved – the author of the book and his colleagues.

Tweet from Callum TH calling M Simpson an ‘uncle Tom’.

I was slightly shocked to see the above tweet very recently, accusing Mark Simpson, author of Anti Gay of being a gay ‘uncle Tom’.  I was partly surprised, because AG was published a long time ago, back in 1996. Whilst Simpson did get a lot of stick at the time, and some wonderful monikers such as ‘the gay Anti Christ’, all that is in the past. Even Simpson himself rarely mentions that book anymore.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin  is the title of an 1852 novel (and I thought 1996 was a long time ago!) by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is famously an anti-slavery tract, and has been cited as influential in the achievements of the abolition movement. I have not read the book, but all the literary criticism of it I’ve seen is quick to emphasise how complex the narrative and its politics are. ‘Uncle Tom’ is a black slave who does not resist the power of his masters, but he is not judged or mocked for this by the author. None of the characters are simplistic.

Since then, identity politics seem to have become particularly crass, and the term ‘Uncle Tom’ is used simply to mean a ‘traitor’ to your own. So Simpson is a gay ‘uncle Tom’ who has let down his gay brethren. I, too, have been called an Uncle Tom in relation to feminism. This thread at the Feministe blog shows just how much I have been cast as a turncoat in relation to the ‘sisterhood’ (click on image to enlarge):

Apart from it being used to put down anyone who does not toe the politically correct line, I find the Uncle Tom phrase particularly grim from the perspective of its relation to racial politics and black people’s civil rights. There are lots of examples of especially white middle class gay men I find, comparing their ‘plight’ to that of black people. And finding themselves to be more worthy victims! Patrick StrudwickPeter Tatchell  are all guilty of this ‘oppression olympics’ I think:

Even Camille Paglia, who is supposed to have quite a sophisticated and irreverent approach to identity and politics, has fallen into the lazy and mean Uncle Tom habit. She said this of Foucault a few years ago:

‘When I pointed out in Arion that Foucault, for all his blathering about “power,” never managed to address Adolph Hitler or the Nazi occupation of France, I received a congratulatory letter from David H. Hirsch (a literature professor at Brown), who sent me copies of riveting chapters from his then-forthcoming book, “The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism After Auschwitz” (1991). As Hirsch wrote me about French behavior during the occupation, “Collaboration was not the exception but the rule.” I agree with Hirsch that the leading poststructuralists were cunning hypocrites whose  tortured syntax and encrustations of jargon concealed the moral culpability of their and their parents’ generations in Nazi France.’

Well Foucault is dead. He can’t stand up for himself against such accusations. Foucault’s Daughter can. He was a child during the occupation and had no responsibility for it, or for bringing it to a close. His work on ‘power’ continues to this day to be useful to people opposing oppressive regimes. He has nothing to be ashamed of.

 

‘If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.’  -  Oscar Wilde

I have been involved in some altercations online recently, due to my use of the phrase ‘Anti Gay’ to describe my opposition to the elitist, conservative club that is ‘Gay’. In doing so I have referred to the book of that title edited  by Mark Simpson. Anti Gay was published in 1996, and was one of a few books around that time that presented a challenge to the increasingly homogenous and commercial (and white middle class male)  ‘gay culture’ that was emerging in our cities and our media in particular. Canal Street, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for The Straight Guy, Dan Savage, Pink News, Attitude, Gay Times: they have all contributed to a now dominant version of non-heterosexual life that is bland, boring and often bigoted.

One reason my use of the term ‘anti-gay’ has riled people so much, is, of course that genuinely homophobic and often right wing people also describe themselves as anti gay.  Simpson was aware of this fact when he used the controversial title for his book. But also I think he was incredibly astute as in that title he anticipated the polarisation that has since developed between ‘gay rights’ campaigners, including and supported by ‘liberals’ on one side, and ‘anti gay’ campaigners, including and supported by Christian ‘right’ wingers on the other. You have to pick a side. As a gay man, and quite a radical one at that, Simpson used the term ‘anti gay’ as a refusal to pick a side. It is a rejection of the ‘gay’ identity and the ridiculous us and them politics it leads to. An us and them politics that has now got out of hand.  It is the ‘you’re either with us or you’re against us’ of George Bush. It’s the way both sides resort to calling each other sick. One of the ironies being, of course, that the liberal left who advocate tolerance of gay people, are being spectacularly intolerant of those who disagree with them.

Anti Gay made Mark Simpson incredibly unpopular within the ‘gay community’ and the liberal media in the UK in 1996.  15 years later, my promotion of its ideas (which may be re-released unto the world in an ebook soon) renders me equally, if not even more unpopular. And this is where my defence of me comes in.

My enthusiasm for Simpson’s work, mainly his theories of metrosexuality, but also his work on sexual identities, sex and gender ‘science’ and internet pornography and hook up sites, has led me to be called his Disciple, an Ardent Simpsonista and many more unpleasant monikers. Underlying most of these names, and some other lengthier ‘taunts’,  has been a suggestion that I can’t think for myself. That I am merely a puppet or a parrot of ‘MetroDaddy’, spouting his ideas as if they were my own. That I am a fraud.

These accusations obviously have no merit. If I wanted to pass off Simpson’s ideas as my own, I would not refer to his work and credit him so diligently. And if I were just a ‘parrot’ I wouldn’t have critiqued some of Simpson’s approaches and theories so carefully.  How could I if I didn’t have a mind of my own? But even ideas with no merit (especially them?) have a habit of gaining ground and so this is my rebuttal to the false statements made about me.

One of the things gay rights campaigners, feminists and their allies claim to hate the most is bullying. But when it comes to people they don’t like or don’t agree with, they seem to change their tune. Bullying of someone like me, a known ‘anti-feminist’ and ‘anti-gay’ activist is justified.  When I had my twitter handle, @quietriot_girl stolen for example, the person who took it said it was because of my ‘transphobia’. Oh, well that’s ok then. And when I speak out about the misandry that riddles our culture, I am just laughed at and/or called a  troll.

If none of that shuts me up, the tolerant, liberal, inclusive feminists and gays shut down discussions (especially if I seem to be winning the argument), block me and ban me from their online spaces.

But I am still here. I am still anti-feminist, I am still ‘Anti-Gay’, and I am still a passionate supporter, promoter and critic of the work of Mark Anti-Gay Simpson. Because where I come from, independent, thoughtful and insightful criticism is the biggest compliment you can give a theorist or writer.

The haters are going to have to try a bit harder if they want to stop me. I’m Quiet Riot Girl. I am unstoppable.