the Disillusioned kid: What the hell is heteronormativity anyway?
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Monday, April 24, 2006

What the hell is heteronormativity anyway?

Yesterday was Blog Against Heteronormativity Day. I had heard of this a while back, but a combination of forgetfulness and a lack of anything interesting to say resulted in my failure to partake. That said, tardiness is a venerable activist tradition which I have no intention (nor hope) of overturning, so y'all can consider this my contribution, although I still don't have anything interesting to say.

As Pacian implies, heteronormativity is hardly a mainstay of most people's vocabulary. Hell, I'd never even heard of it before the innauguration of the Blog Against... idea. It's probably worth making some effort to define exactly what we're talking about; enter stage left Nubian:
in brief, heteronormativity is a term that can be used to describe institutions, policies and beliefs that reinforce the rigid categories of male and female. these categories, supposedly, determine our sex, sexuality, sexual desire, gender identity, and gender roles. therefore, there are expected behaviors for males (such as the patriarch of the nuclear family for example), as are there expected behaviors for females (the submissive wife to the patriarch, among other things). but we all know---THAT'S BULLSHIT!
As off-putting as the polysyllabic appellation - coined by Michael Warner in 1991 - may be, it would appear that the concept itself isn't so hard to grasp.

It is apparent that heterenormativity isn't the same thing as patriarchy or heterosexism. Like Medusa and her sisters Sthenno and Euryale, that other infamously horrid Greek tripartite, each is hideous on their own and all too often they are found together, yet it remains possible and helpful to discriminate between them. Patriarchy describes a situation whereby males are in a dominant position and where, consequentially, women are oppressed. Heteronormativity, meanwhile is concerned with enforcing a strict binary gender system, this is not a prerequisite of patriarchy, but it can be very helpful for the 'efficient' running of the patriarchy. So much more complicated if we've got to work out who and what to oppress.

This isn't something I feel particularly competent to write much more about, although I think that it is a concept meritous of thought and more importantly action. The struggles for women's and gay liberation have come a long way in their relatively short lives, but there is still much to be done. Oppression will not be truly defeated until we destroy the ways of thinking on which it is based. Long story short: kill the heteronormativist in your head.

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