Alex Blaze

Sak vide pas kanpe

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 28, 2008 11:39 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: France, homophobic behavior, LGBT civil rights, Story of Stuff

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Several weeks ago Waymon and I got into a comments discussion about the origins of homophobia. It's a big question and one I hope our community activist and media folks, as well as queer people like you and me, would think about more. While it's easy to think that it's just a hatred of difference or that it's just a narrow interpretation of some people's religions, those common analyses don't hold up under scrutiny.

More about the origins of homophobia, my wonderful weekend, and what this all has to do with consumerism, after the jump.

First, my wonderful weekend. I went to one of the local nightclubs to meet French people on Saturday, and after a few frustrating hours I was about to leave. I instead decided to hang out for at least a little while even though almost no one was there (it was about an hour until closing). I ended up people watching and an older man walked up to me and we started talking, talking about expansiveness, about connection, about life. He was rather sweet, kinda quirky, and very French - right after he asked my age (a number that gives me some anxiety in professional contexts), I asked him his (a number that gives him anxiety in cultural contexts), and he just laughed and told me that in France one doesn't ask a lady her age.

He was in town for the weekend for a conference and we headed to a late-night kebab shop after stopping at a cafe for coffee, talked some more, and found out each other's names. It was fun, it was affirming, and, yes, the connective value was derived from non-consumerist sources.

We left in the wee hours of the morning and gave me his card - if I'm ever in Paris I'm supposed to give him a call. (Of course I will!) I might not ever see him again, but we each left a little more secure in ourselves, a little more aware of experiences different from our own, and a little happier.

I'm thinking that there are two main components to homophobia - the policing of gender (to keep women oppressed, to keep working class men working for ruling class men, and to maintain an obsession with order and mushy sameness ubiquitous in a post-Industrial world) and the regulation of connection.

The latter is more concerned with preventing things like my story above from happening, and you can see it in all the ways we violated cultural mores that aren't directly related to homophobia, like the distance between our ages, the fact that the connection didn't advance any grand scheme like a relationship or producing children, and that we met in a deconstructive.

But looking back on that cycle that Annie Leonard was talking about in the video above, connection that doesn't involve consumption and doesn't produce anything physical doesn't do all that much to benefit people who make their millions selling stuff. If we're supposed to feel like we suck so that we go out and buy things to fill the void, a system that I know a lot of people in the US participate in, what would happen if we the people started feeling happy and good about ourselves without buying things? Would we stop buying so much stuff?

The answer is, in short, an emphatic yes. While it's not as simple as "people with confidence buy less" or "happy people don't shop," I can't help but see a direct correlation with obsessive money and product accumulation and spiritual emptiness.

There's a Creole expression "Sak vide pas kanpe" - "An empty bag can't stand up." It's often used to refer to the starvation of Haitian people and how they can't rise up for themselves because of it, but I think it's also a useful idea for understanding why some people are invested in maintaining as much spiritual emptiness in others as they can. Sure, that stick figure in the cartoon just jumped off the circle, but making a step like that in real life is a whole lot harder than it looks, especially if people caught in the cycle think that their happiness is dependent on staying in that cycle.

Almost anyone who works in activism will tell you that they don't do it for the money (if there is any). And there's nothing scarier to those concerned with maintaining the current economic order than the prospect of an entire population unconcerned with money itself, just with the needs that it can buy (like health care, water, food, rent). Add to that some spiritual security, "spiritual" in whatever that word means to a person, a connected and integrated society, and a clarity of purpose, and you have the recipe for what can turn power upside-down in America.

That's probably why so many of us are disappointed to see that goals of gaystream activism changed from a politics of affirming connection to one of affirming normality, and probably why the latter will have a more immediate success, since it isn't butting heads up against power itself and isn't challenging the roots of homophobia itself.

I'm eager to hear what people think about the origin of homophobia, either my ideas or some of your own. It's one of the big questions that must be answered to effectively fight for our freedom and equality.


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"He was in town for the weekend"

Reminds me of that old joke (I think you've heard this):

A woman is dancing with a man at a bar one night. He whispers, "I'm only in town for the weekend," She says, "I'm dancing as fast as I can!"

I loved it. Fucking beautiful piece.

That's probably why so many of us are disappointed to see that goals of gaystream activism change from a politics of affirming connection to one of affirming normality, and probably why the latter will have a more immediate success, since it isn't butting heads up against power itself and isn't challenging the roots of homophobia itself.

So well put.

OH (to answer your question) I think the origin of homophobia is just basically a fear of "the other..." and that our "culture" (in the bath house- George Michael- since) is different than the perceived hetero-norm.


There is also the fear of the "other" in ourselves. For example, str8 men would love a hetero version of the bath house... (yes, I know they have hetero night in France). It would completely undermine the power dynamic usually inherent in hetero- experience. (well, maybe not completely, but still...)

And there is something a bit immature about the bath house thing..."boys being boys..." etc. that is also true of gays as a generality and as an assumption by heteros... that we're immature and some of us will "grow out of it."

"I'm eager to hear what people think about the origin of homophobia, either my ideas or some of your own. It's one of the big questions that must be answered to effectively fight for our freedom and equality."


On the other side: When we talk about freedom and equality and erotophobia and sexual liberation are we really just saying we want the right to be permiscuous? Which is how, I think, str8 people perceive it.

I mean, are we really (we it comes right down to it) just fighting for the right to fuck?

whoever, whenever?

I think, sometimes, that's the way it's perceived which, face it, is pretty shallow.

Oh, I probably should have explained what I meant instead of just writing off religion and fear of difference....

I think that they're definitely tools that are used to perpetuate homophobia, but I don't think that they're really the origins. I mean, there are lots of differences out there , like some people have glasses and others don't, some people like carrots and others don't, some people are tall and others are short, etc. But people aren't writing constitutional amendments around those differences.

Same with religion - considering the diverse readings of Christian texts, the fact that there are great, queer-affirming Christians and some pretty horrible non-Christians and even some pretty homophobic secular people, it's at most a tool used to perpetuate homophobia, at the least just an excuse to be homophobic.

K, there, I'm done.

I mean, are we really (we it comes right down to it) just fighting for the right to fuck?

whoever, whenever?

I think, sometimes, that's the way it's perceived which, face it, is pretty shallow.

Well, aren't we?

I mean, it's not like gay/bi people are really all that oppressed if they just marry the opposite sex and keep their rockets/coochies in their pockets.

If sexuality is kept out of the picture, then we do have the right to marriage already, we won't lose our jobs based solely on sexual orientation if we didn't talk about sexuality, we'd be just fine in the military....

I would still say that sex is important to keep most people sane and happy and it connects and helps people share experiences and changes the way people see others and blah blah blah blah.

And there are a whole lot of actually shallow endeavors that are protected by law.

But maybe your point is why people prefer framing gay rights as a civil rights issue instead of a sexual liberation one, even though, like I said above, if we stopped caring about sexual autonomy then there really isn't a civil rights argument to be made.

That video says way too much for the shallow nature of modern American Society.
Damned i have to go back to Thailand I have last year's vagina.

Sue

I mean, are we really (we it comes right down to it) just fighting for the right to fuck?

whoever, whenever?

I think, sometimes, that's the way it's perceived which, face it, is pretty shallow.

Well, aren't we?


Well, if that is really all there is too it then it is astoundingly shallow and we deserve to be criticized and dismissed.

All this trouble just so we can fuck indiscriminantly?

Do you really think that's what it's all about?

Maybe I do give you more credit than you deserve.

Ye Olde Fart | January 28, 2008 5:26 PM

As an older Frenchman, allow me to commend you on the acceptance you showed that other older gentleman from France.
However, I would not go so far as to agree that the blame for homophobia lies with capitalism. There are many socialist countries that are not at all receptive of our kind.

As I said earlier, homophobia is really fear of the other...one who is perceived as different...

And actually, it usually has more to do with gender-- that one is perceived as not behaving in a gender-normative manner (You're not doing what boys do...or you're not behaving very "lady-like").

But then that fear also feeds into the homophobic fear of a non-normative "lifestyle," as well ( which is fear of the unknown).

I did not mean to dismiss you so quickly (well, other than in sarcasm). But I think that str8 people do reduce the issue(s) down to just sex and so it then makes it hard to get them to discuss civil rights seriously if (as your comment above suggests) it really just about sex, sexual difference or just plain getting laid.

Okay, I'll be the guy who says it. How old is "an older man?" Hell, Alex, I'm an "older man" for you! Are we talking 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's or did you pull an Anna Nicole? *grins*

LOL....well, I just turned 40 myself which in "gay years" makes me officially dead....

But Alex can answer for himself (I already know the answer)

I did not mean to dismiss you so quickly

Really? Did a criminal break into your computer and write this in comment 8:

Maybe I do give you more credit than you deserve.

?

Unless maybe dismissing me by the 8th comment isn't "so quickly." I count on my lucky stars how fortunate I am to have been able to have basked in 7 comments of not being dismissed until the inevitable occurred, inevitable because I shouldn't be worrying my pretty little head with things like thinking!

It was never my thoughts that it was this cause *or* that cause, that it's sexual liberation *or* civil rights, and you never really answered the question that if this has nothing to do with sexual autonomy, then why don't you and I go find some nice Catholic girls to marry?

Geez, you'd almost think that sexuality was important or something....

I did not mean to dismiss you so quickly (well, other than in sarcasm). But I think that str8 people do reduce the issue(s) down to just sex and so it then makes it hard to get them to discuss civil rights seriously if (as your comment above suggests) it really just about sex, sexual difference or just plain getting laid.

One other thing homophobes do (I'm not going to pretend that all straight people are homophobic) is reduce sexuality and pleasure down to something completely shallow, something that people can do without, something that's really a blip in a person's life. And if it is, then, again, Catholic girls, hetero-marriage, get on with our lives.

Bil, one doesn't ask a lady her age in France!

Seriously, he never told me. But I'm thinking mid-50's. He was still working, so he's under 60 (isn't the French retirement system great!), but I know he was retired military, and if their system is like ours you can retire in your 40's.

It was kinda hard to tell though because he was really fit but he also smoked.

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LMAO....of course...so much for open discourse

Maybe Alex was just annoyed because it exposed his age *gasp*

if this has nothing to do with sexual autonomy, then why don't you and I go find some nice Catholic girls to marry?

So DADT will be solved by sexual autonomy as Alex views it?

DOMA?

Job discrimination?

All those issues will be solved if we could all just get laid?

Bil, one doesn't ask a lady her age in France!

LOL - I wasn't asking a French lady, Alex. *grins*

Okay, I know you told me, but I had to throw that out there. :)

No... just an American lady in France!

"- I wasn't asking a French lady, Alex. *grins*

LOL

I do love that my comment was deleted.

The great and powerful Alex-- Like Oz behind the curtain....lolololol. It's so funny!

(Oh I bet this comment gets deleted too....)

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 29, 2008 12:34 AM

Alex, awesome post!!! And just the inspiration I need right now: to return to the US I narrowed my possessions down to two big suitcases, one small suitcase, a carry-on, and my boogey board. The last thing I want to do now is rebuild to my former level, even though that level was modest by most Americans’ standards. Simplify is the name of the game for me!

But on to homophobia. I think your economic analysis hits the nail on the head, but I think the role of misogyny deserves a bit more attention. Even we Americans are more than just consumers. ;-) Being vulnerable to another man, being receptive (emotionally or sexually), refusing to compete, risking being hurt, treating another man with kindness and tenderness, opening up to another man with honesty—all of these things are considered “womanly” and hence, “less than” masculine. Also a huge risk, for to embrace such activities leads a man to a huge loss of status—which creates an enormous anxiety in men who have never allowed themselves to explore or let go of society’s rigid expectations.

What’s one of the worst things you can call another man? Besides cocksucker, faggot, and homo, I mean. It’s pussy. Why? Why is being woman-like so bad?

Another thing: sexually frustrated and unhappy people are much more vulnerable to advertising that plays on sex—well, that means most advertising. They’re also easier to manipulate in general, especially if that pent-up frustration can be directed violently toward “other,” be it in warfare, sports, or corporate competition.

Heh, good for you having a great weekend!!!

What’s one of the worst things you can call another man? Besides cocksucker, faggot, and homo, I mean. It’s pussy. Why? Why is being woman-like so bad?

Actually, I remember reading somewhere that in most cultures the term "motherfucker" is considered the most offensive thing one can say.

Brynn~

Absolutely! I'm thinking there's another post here about gender. The idea was to make things a bit more complicated than the "fear of difference" meme that gets repeated often enough but doesn't really explain much.

This wasn't meant to be an end-all post explaining homophobia, and maybe it'll become a miniseries on the site.


YOF~

Hmmmm... I wasn't really saying "capitalism" was the problem, per se, I was really going after consumerism.

But I see your point, and this adds another level of complexity to the situation. Like I said before, this isn't the end-all of explanations on the subject. Maybe there's something to the post-industrial reliance on languages "literal" meaning that can be found in both cultures.

Here's an example of what bothers me about posts like this:

Have you called up your mother and told her about your "wonderful weekend" and how enlightening it was for you?

Of course not.

Why?

Because it would be embarrassing, wouldn't it?

And what does that tell us about the roots of homophobia (internalized or otherwise), Mr. "Blaze"?

If consumerism contributes to a culture of homophobia, in what ways does consumerism also make western queer identity possible?

Isn’t there some theory that prior to the industrial revolution it was necessary for individuals to produce children in order to share the burden of work and provide for them in their old age. As reliance on agriculture faded away it became less important for individuals to have children. Couple that with a move away from rural settings into larger urban areas, and the amount of people as well as anonymity that they provide, and bingo! The birth of the modern fag.

I think I read that once a few years ago. I dunno.

Just a friendly suggestion:

You-- and Bilerco readers-- might be interested in reading this in regards gay "culture," and homophobia (internalized and otherwise).

"and you never really answered the question that if this has nothing to do with sexual autonomy, then why don't you and I go find some nice Catholic girls to marry?"

I wanted to answer this question (day late & a dollar short, I know).

We could go find some nice Catholic girls to marry. In fact, I've often considered whenever I get frustrated with gay men.

And as saomerone once told me "Marriage makes a boy a man."

:)