Monday, November 8, 2010

Heterosexism: Calling A Spade A Spade...

I've always had problems with the term "Pro Life."  It implies a much bigger spectrum of "pro" than it really covers.  For a group of people who see things in such a black and white way, pro lifers seem to accept a very grey idea of what defines being "pro life."  Are they against abortion?  Yes, of course.  Are they against euthanasia?  Absolutely.  But that's pretty much the extent of it.  If you don't believe me, ask a pro-lifer.  They don't protest against the death penalty.  They don't protest against war.  Considering yourself "Pro Life" when you're really only anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia is like considering yourself a rabbit because you eat carrots and ejaculate quickly.  This is why I choose to refer to "pro lifers" as anti-abortion, or anti-euthanasia.  They haven't earned the title of pro life, they've merely convinced everyone to call them that.     

I think it's only fair to apply that reasoning to other political and ethical stances, descriptions, and movements.  An example of this would be to limit the use of the term "homophobic" to those who are truly afraid of homosexuals.  I'm definitely not suggesting that people lighten up on criticism of the anti-gay, but I am saying that we should take the time to call things what they are.

Andrew Belonsky on suggests that we use words like "heterocentric," and "heterosexist" to replace the overused "homophobia" and "anti-gay."  But while "pro life" may be too broad of a description for those who oppose abortion, "homophobic" may not be a broad enough description for those opposed to homosexuality.  Belonsky explains:
more after the jump

Neither "homophobia" nor "anti-gay" are sufficient terms for the battles LGBT people face around the world....Heterocentric, meanwhile, puts homophobic, anti-gay and related attitudes into a more expansive context. The term, and its cousin, heterosexist, doesn't simply address fear and prejudice. It's fundamentally about institutions: our entire society has been built on the idea that heterosexuality is normal and, therefore, right, and our institutions, like marriage, should reflect that normality.

Idiomatic subtleties aside, "heterocentric" works in another way. Like the term "white supremacist," "heterocentric" puts the oppressor first. The subject isn't the "homo," a prefix that can turn some people off, but the "hetero" who pulls the discriminatory strings. The repressive ego behind anti-equality efforts then gets revealed for what they are: a false superiority over a minority group, rather than, as conservatives so often say, a specific group trying to get "special rights."

Personally, I prefer the term "heterosexist," because I think it's a little harsher and more attention grabbing.  I don't know how many people will make the connection between "heterocentric" and "bad."  I think that term may be embraced by the heterocentrics as something that's preferred over homophobic.