Gay men aren’t immune from lessons on how to treat women with respect. Saj Sinniah on misogyny and entitlement.
It’s Saturday night at a prominent LGBTIQ+ establishment and a drag performer has just brought a woman onstage as part of her act.
The venue is packed, everyone’s engaged, and people are having a lot of fun.
“Get that girl off the stage!” a guy behind me exclaims.
He is lucky not many people can hear him. I turn around and look at him, disgusted.
He notices my reaction. “What? She’s a straight girl! She doesn’t belong here!”
I don’t want to respond in anger, but my insides are ready to flare up with a feminist rant.
I retort by asking, “Don’t you think what you said was sexist?” to which he replies “She is a straight girl, she should f*ck off to a straight bar!” (This guy was white and looked like a Gen X bloke, but let’s not go there.)
He has two friends with him. One says nothing and the other says to him, “You need to calm down!”
The angry man looks disgruntled, and to be honest, I am too angry to talk.
To me this served as another reminder of the misogyny we witness among gay men.
In our current climate, there has been so much emphasis on men needing to change their behaviour when it comes to women, but I wonder if some gay men believe these feminist messages aren’t relevant to them and are only designed for straight men.
I think it’s fairly obvious they’re not.
Gay men have different relationships with women, relationships that at times see gay men take women for granted.
Most of us are not sexually attracted to women, so we tend to be more comfortable around them, and are regularly considered “one of the girls!”
But we are not girls. We are men, and as such we experience the world through the lens of male privilege. That brings about a sense of entitlement that makes men – and in this case, gay men – feel empowered to make comments that are exclusive and offensive.
And while gay men may attribute the idea of a pack mentality to straight men, it is situations like these that make you realise that gay men exist in a pack too.
Gay men not calling out sexism and misogyny is as problematic as straight men staying silent.
The funny thing about all of this is that it is widely accepted that sexism and misogyny are root causes of homophobia.
When society sees feminine behaviour in men, there is this urge to unconsciously (or consciously) engage in gender-based discrimination, through explicit homophobic rhetoric or in more subtle ways, like exclusion.
To the gay man at the bar: why should any man in the 21st century have a segregationist mindset when the world is trying to be more inclusive?
Why should you feel okay about saying something sexist for any reason?
Why are we not holding each other accountable for what we say?
If you think we need to separate men from women in our social lives, that is coming from a sense of entitlement that is borne from the same male privilege that we seek to attack homophobes for.
If you do not speak up and call out sexist language, you’re giving in to a toxic pack mentality.
How do you think the girl up on stage would feel if she heard that a man thinks she should leave a venue because of her gender or sex?
How do you think you would feel if you heard that a man thought you should get out from a venue because of your sexuality?
At the end of the day, we have a long way to go in terms of achieving equality for everyone. Let’s not ostracise the people who want to support us and embrace our culture.