by Linda Szugyi
“Heteronormative patriarchy” is a phrase that would make me chuckle under any circumstance. That so much pomposity can be crammed into merely two words is a marvel on par with John Cleese‘s talent for parody.
One needn’t be a scholar of feminist theory to notice the attempt to make disapproval sound like academic enlightenment. It’s a great example of the Marcusean idea that intolerance of the Right is the “real tolerance”–something feminist scholar Robert Stacy McCain recently taught me.
As amusing as heteronormative patriarchy may be on its own, however, said scholar’s use of it is pure comedic genius:
“Roses are red, violets are blue. The heteronormative patriarchy is raping you.”
I am not even a casual reader of feminist theory. Was feminism a diverse movement that included conservatives until it was hijacked by Gloria Steinem in the 1970s? Who led the “Women’s Liberation a/k/a ‘Second Wave’ feminism” movement?” I haven’t the foggiest.
Even so, growing up in the seventies and eighties meant that I unknowingly absorbed of a great deal of feminism. So, while the idea of getting married was okay, the vows had to be for “husband and wife,” not the unequal “man and wife.” The vow to obey my husband was acceptable only because my husband vowed to obey me, too. I didn’t even have to request that wording. It must have been standard.
I grew up in a world that said of course men and women are perfectly equal. Of course you and your husband are equal partners in the marriage, with equal power over household decisions. Of course you can bring home the bacon, and fry it up in a pan. (And never let him forget he’s a man!)
That equal life eventually led me to the military, with all its rigid hierarchical glory. Authority must rest on the shoulders of a single commanding officer. Otherwise a stalemate can occur, and the mission doesn’t get accomplished.
What an irony: my feminist-minded career ambitions ended up convincing me to assume the role of second-in-command in my own house. After all, chain-of-command issues apply to marriage, too. If both spouses have the same level of authority, what happens if they reach an impasse? The marriage must end. It can’t be helped; they “just grow apart.” The marital strife in Die Hard is a good example.
So, that’s my experience with feminism. I wore the mantle reflexively, then cast it off and forgot all about it. Feminists haven’t forgotten about me, though, have they? They keep thinking up new ways to explain what’s wrong with me. Wikipedia says that “heteronormativity” originates from a 1991 queer theory work, but “became incorporated into both the gender and the transgender debate.”
Just add the term “patriarchy,” and viola: “patriarchal heteronormativity” and “heteronormative patriarchy.” Either way, it seems pretty well established in the academic realm. As one might guess, it merges two different perceived injustices. First, if you hold the opinion that homosexuality is anything less than perfectly normal, then you are part of an oppressive culture that forces people to conform. Second, if you hold the opinion that a male head of the household is an ideal situation, then you are part of an unjust system that oppresses women.
Additional themes are tied to “heteronormative patriarchy/partriachal heteronormativity:”
The Binary Concept
Heteropatriarchy (a third way to say it) “creates a hierarchy that ‘rests on a gender binary system in which only two genders exist, one (male) dominating the other (female).’ ”
Heteronormativity is the pervasive, hegemonic state that exists because we choose to draw binary conceptions of gender in our society.”
One heteronormative power structure is “[t]he gender binary, that humans are man and woman, that man is one thing and woman is another. . . .”
“Gender is inherently hierarchical and oppressive. . . . The goal of feminism, then, must not be just the elimination of gender inequality or gender oppression, but that abolition of gender itself.” Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men, explaining and critiquing Godlessness in Theory.
Very interesting. The fact that different people engage in different types of sexual activity apparently means that basic biological differences should be thrown straight out the window. There is no male and female anatomy; there is only a complex tapestry of desires and Thou Shalt Not Judge Any Of Them.
Heterosexuality = Colonialism and Imperialism
Today’s lingering oppression of women stems from colonial history, and the ‘Western-centric/Christian-centric, capitalist world system, and it is also connected to racist regimes. Can anyone rationally explain these connections? Other than the fact that Marx Said So, why is the fact that men and women tend to get together, have babies, and raise them together inherently a bad thing?
My Existence = Their Oppression
I oppress the LGBT community. My lifestyle “goes deeper . . . and it takes many different forms. Patriarchy affects everyone. . . . it’s not only about gender – ‘race’, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, age, class, religion, and more all come into it. Even those in power who have to conform to a specific set of rules are affected by patriarchy.”
Wow, even those in power are oppressed by patriarchy. They oppress . . . themselves.
I’m told that my personal beliefs and thoughts are a problem that must be cured. What a crock. I choose to live my life according to my Christian beliefs, to the best of my ability. Those choices don’t oppress anyone. I have no control over what perfect strangers do with their own lives. Please, go ahead with your own lives, feminists. Leave me alone.