Why All LGBT Activists Should Be Feminists (and vice-versa)

Monday, February 28, 2011 § 10

LGBT activists and feminists are natural allies because our problems are inherently connected.

Sexism, homophobia, and transphobia all stem from the same thing:

Patriarchy.

In brief, patriarchy is a social system where males hold the majority of power, where men have privilege, and women are primarily subordinate. In feminist theory, patriarchy is comprised of the social mechanisms that allow men to reproduce and exercise dominance over women.

In many ways, American (and Western society as a whole) is much less patriarchal than it was in decades past, but in many ways patriarchy remains prevalent -- three quick examples are the lack of a female (American) president, the 20% wage gap between men and women, and the widely followed custom of women taking their husband's name.

Patriarchy creates a system with two defined gender roles: a hard, strong, "masculine", male (think Rambo), and a soft, weak, "feminine" female (try a stereotypical 50's house-wife).

Feminists want freedom from these defined gender roles -- they don't want to be locked into being the standard "50's housewife". They want freedom to act however they want, independent of gender.

Many in the LGBT community do break gender roles in how they express themselves. There're butch lesbians, femme gay men, gender queer individuals, and transgender individuals of all stripes, and they'd also like the right to express themselves, independent of their gender or sex.

Even gay men and women that don't deviate from standard gender expressions still challenge the patriarchy in that, instead of having sex and relationships with women and men (respectively), they have relations with members of the same gender. By living the way they want, gay men and women challenge the notion that, even sexually, men are dominant, women are submissive, and that's the "natural order" of things.

Both the LGBT community and women suffer in patriarchal society. They're recipients of harrasment, stereotyping, and prejudice. The suffering is inherently linked, making the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community natural allies to feminists, and in extension, all women.

Which is why I think it's frankly, pretty dumb when gay men rip on women, or radical feminists attack trans individuals.

We're natural allies; let's act like it.

Though I try to avoid melodrama, Benjamin Franklin comes to mind:

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

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§ 10 Response to “Why All LGBT Activists Should Be Feminists (and vice-versa)”

  • Kate says:

    Kyle, I'm so glad you wrote this post!! I have always thought LGBT activists and feminists, in addition to many other sorts of peoples dealing with discrimination, have a LOT in common. And I'm always saddened when these groups fail to realize their similarities and work together to better the world for everyone. I was shocked by the articles you linked to but totally agreed with your quote. Thanks again for an enlightening post and empowering ideas.

  • Completely disagree.

    Feminism is incompatible with equality... mainstream feminist theory is misandric and gay/bi men and transmen are harmed by feminism everyday.

    The 'patriarchy' is a myth. It cannot be proven and or defined and it justifies sexist feminist laws designed to hurt men.

    Feminists also have a long history of transgender bigotry and have called transmen 'traitors' and transwomen 'rapists'.

    All LGBT activists should support egalitarianism and part of doing that is opposing feminism in all it's forms.

  • Anonymous says:

    Kind of agreed with lemonperson.

    While I agree women continue to face discrimination, feminists merely support matriarchal in place of patriarchal ideals. Feminism in my eyes is about putting women on top at the expense of men, not putting them on equal footing.

    While I support policies and laws which help bring women in line with men, I do not, on any level, support things such as the UK's minister for women and equality. Notice the lack of men, or the precedence the plight of women takes above all other (usually more severe) forms of discrimination.

  • If you think feminism isn't about egalitarianism, you aren't educated about feminism. Feminism is NOT misandric or matriarchal. Women who are afraid to walk alone at night? A feminist issue. Men who are not permitted to marry their male partner? A feminist issue. Boys who are graduating at lower rates than their female peers? All feminist issues.

    Moreover, feminism isn't just about men and women being equal--it's about eradicating harmful notions of gender in the first place. It's about removing the limitations that "gender" puts on us as individuals. (Those limitations are inherently connected to discrimination against the LGBT community.)

    Of course there are feminists who have gotten it wrong, just as their are privileged gay men who have gotten the LGBT movement wrong by not supporting lesbian or trans issues. Please do some more reading about it, and support feminism. I'd be happy to point you to some good places to start.

    Great post Kyle!

  • Catherine Ryan Hyde and Kate: Thank-you guys so much for reading! So glad you guys liked my post.

    lemonperson: I strongly disagree that feminism is incompatible with equality. Though some feminists do disparage transgender people (I pointed this out in my post), many support transgender individuals as well. The point of my post was to call for everyone to respect each other, and to not tear each other down.

    I also disagree that mainstream feminist theory is misandric -- in my eyes, and those of most feminists, feminism is about bringing women in line with men, making them equal.

    I'm curious about your claim that feminism hurts gbt men every day -- can you elaborate, because I'm not sure what're you talking about?

    In response to your comment on the patriarchy, I pointed out three clear examples in my post that show it pretty clearly: the lack of a female president, the 20% wage gap between men and women, and the common custom of women taking their husbands name in marriage. What do those point towards, if not patriarchy?

    Anonymous: I disagree that feminists primarily espouse matriarchal ideas -- I've rarely, if ever, seen this. This may be feminism in your eyes, but in mine, and many others, feminism is all about equality.

    burningstarre: Thanks for your comment! Very well-said.

  • I just realized that I'm not subscribed to your blog. Anyway, great post! I'm confused by lemonperson's comment about feminism being incompatible with equality. Feminists seek to remove gender stereotypes (e.g. male carpenters, female housewives), and replace those with gender neutral messages.

    Patriarchy very much exists today. In addition to the examples listed in the original post, most business and government leaders are guys. Additionally, most religions bar women from preaching, or from exercising basic human rights. See the Mormon Church, Catholic Church, and radical Muslim communities. To argue that patriarchy doesn't exist in light of those examples is ridiculous.

  • Jonathan C: Thanks for your comment, and for providing additional examples of patriarchy. I'm very much in agreement with you there.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I was active in the Gay Rights movement in NY during the 70's, that was the way I and my partner, (together now 34 years), always thought it should be. We march under the Gay Activist Alliance banner in the marches that were held in Washington DC for ERA as well as for Abortion rights. The women's groups were at first a little hesitant to march near us...but we soon won them over with your argument......

  • Anonymous says:

    As a gay man, I totally disagree with this.
    Traditional society was organized so not because men are evil creatures who want to suppress women, but because there was no choice but to divide the task along gender roles. You can't make women--to whom it's a necessity to bear children for additional working hands in the farm, for example--work at coal mines for obvious reasons. Men needed the reproductive capacity of women, while women needed providers.

    Moreover, they obviously didn't have modern technology back then. Babies were always on the way; and they were necessary anyway. Working was almost always very physical. Even today, female blue-collar workers are few and far in between (and funny enough, we don't consider that a "crisis," but when it comes to the lack of women in engineering, oh boy).

    As to the statement that women are subordinate: In certain cases, yes. Women did have less rights and power. In return, however, society didn't expect much from women besides household chores and raising children. Men were expected to provide for their families. They were expected to protect them at all costs. They were seen as disposable, as evidenced by the fact that men were expected to sacrifice themselves for women and children in wars and sinking ships, for example. Men were and still are being told to just "suck it up" and "be a man" for every problem that they face. Is it really a surprise that men have always had a lower life expectancy than women?

    All this is not to say that I am in favor of returning to more traditional roots. We definitely no longer need to organize our society in that way thanks to modern technology. What I advocate is equality--real equality for both sexes, without ignoring the plight of the other half of the population. Because let's face it, feminists would rather whine about "sexism" in video games rather than tackle the issues of male homelessness or conjugal violence on men.

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