Roses are Red, Violets are Blue

by Linda Szugyi | March 3rd, 2014

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Roses are Red, Violets are Blue

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!)

1980 Enjoli commercial

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.

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!)

1980 Enjoli commercial

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.

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