Thursday, 24 January 2013

Chicks With Dicks: Covert Desires

I thought I'd throw my two penneth into this debate (because it hasn't been discussed enough!!). For too long there has been an undercurrent of certain readers rejecting (queer) male characters that they refer to as chicks with dicks.

Firstly, I think that's a horrible expression. Somehow it manages to be homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic all at once. I'm sure whoever coined it thought they were being sooooooooo witty. But what does it actually mean?

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  1. Great article. Thanks. -- T. Baggins

    1. And if anyone wants to read some really good, realistic gay men, they'd do far worse than reading this ^^ author's books

  2. There was a kerfuffle over this a few months ago on a popular m/m romance blog that saw a lot of backlash. It's a very complex issue.

    As a cis-gendered het woman I try to be sensitive about my privilege. I try to write nuanced characters who don't adhere to harmful stereotypes. I try not to talk over queerfolk and make their issues about my interpretation of their issues. And I think the m/m romance genre is seeing some (sometimes well-deserved) backlash against the cis-het women who come in all proud of their open-mindedness until the queerfolk in their audience tells them URDOINITRONG and then they get all offended because they're being called on their privilege and not receiving the cookies and pats on the back to which they think they're entitled.

    Which has made it very hard for me to speak up on this whole debate, because I DON'T want to be one of those privileged cookie-seeker allies who blusters and gets indignant rather than shuts up and listens when someone whose life and experiences I'm trying to convey says URDOINITRONG. I try to listen and learn and not do it wrong again.

    However, a lot of the cis-het female authors are getting dinged for their privilege just because they're women getting their girl-cooties all over man-stuff. And they're being chided by cis gay men who -- by virtue of the fact that they're cis men -- have bucketloads of privilege of their own. It's not the effeminate and genderqueer gay men complaining about the CWD trope.

    As you and a number of others have pointed out, this behavior erases and devalues the experiences of actual effeminate gay men. And the more I sit on the sidelines and listen to what is happening around me, the more I find that this is actually a problem in the gay community as a whole. There's a lot of derision, prejudice, and abuse aimed at the flamboyant gays by the butch guys. (I'm reminded of Season Two of the web series Husbands where femmy Cheeks is admonished to be "less gay" in order to avoid hurting his husband's baseball career.)

    So here you brought out the sixty-thousand dollar word: misogyny. Which is exactly a lot of what we're seeing, and by people who have faced oppression of their own and should know better. It puts me in an impossible position because how do I, with my cis-het brand of privilege, call a gay man out when he's being clearly misogynistic?

    But here's the thing: Probably 90% or more of homophobia is directly rooted in misogyny.

    (Oh, hey, apparently there's a character limit. TBC)

    1. Being a woman is seen as a bad, degrading, undesireable thing, so men who do anything to seem effeminate are seen as doing a bad, degrading, undesirable thing. They threaten a societal hierarchy that positions the ultra-masculine at the very pinnacle of a vertical spectrum. Anything other than ultra-masculine is seen as "less." Hell, even well-intentioned gay men who don't mean it that way get upset at the derision against effeminate gay men because the feel they're being treated as "less than a man."

      Think about that wording. Totally unconscious. They don't even realize they're using it (and yes, an effeminate gay man weighing in on this subject a few months ago DID use that phrase; I'm not making this up) They would be HORRIFIED if they realized it was being interpreted as a slight against the feminine. And yet, there is is, very clear in its verbiage. If they're being equated to women, they are being made LESS.

      Because, of course, women are less.

      The cis-het men who are afraid of being tainted and brought down by femininity lash out against that, but the cis gay men who are afraid of being tarred with the effeminate-gay brush lash out, too. It's like Leta Blake said in her article The Unimportant Voice.”

      Recently, as gay men are finding a louder and louder voice (hooray!!), I’m hearing a lot about how they are not women, thank you very much. Which is absolutely true but certainly smacks of some misogyny, too, doesn’t it? Because if it wasn’t so horrible to be compared to a woman, then perhaps they would not mind so much. These kinds of comments always make me imagine a gay man standing on a woman’s face, saying to his straight brothers, “Hey, I’m not a girl! That bitch down there under my shoe? She’s a girl! Hahaha! I’m just like you! A dude! With a dick! Wanna see it?” It’s not a pleasant visual. (For what it’s worth, it also makes me squirm uncomfortably when a heterosexual person is accused of being gay and they deny it like they’ve just been accused of murder or worse.) But it seems clear that many gay men react so angrily and urgently to any accusations of being like a woman because in our society there is really very little worse than being a woman.

      So. There we have it. When gay men protest portrayals of gay men as being too feminine, as being "chicks with dicks", they are actually advancing the very bigotry in which homophobia is rooted. Because gay men (who are perceived as being beneath the ultra-masculine pinnacle) wouldn't be a threat to society if being feminine, if being "less than a man" weren't considered such an undesirable thing.

    2. Well said, Amelia. As ever, you put my own rambling rants to shame!! And as a (relatively) cis-gendered gay woman, believe me I've had it from all sides. Gay men who don't like me because I'm a woman; gay women who don't like me because I defend the men; and straights who don't like me because I'm gay. I can't win!!

  3. My considered opinion on this matter is "what's so wrong with being like a woman?" In fact, what does "being like a woman" even mean, given that every woman I've ever met was unlike every other? The problem is not with women or men but with bad, unrealistic characterisation. Write your characters like complex interesting people and you don't get this problem, wherever in the bag of quilts the character lies.

    1. I agree completely. It's all about realistic characterization, whether the man is "soft" or "hard" (no pun intended!).


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