Faggots, losers and wimps. Those are often bullying words and they are used with alarming regularity and reflect an issue that needs to be dealt with. These words (and words like them) represent a much deeper problem, which is the expectations derived from our male dominated, patriarchal society and the pressures that are put upon males at an early age to fit into a particular mold. That pressure, and the accompanying shame that society puts upon males who are not considered to be “manly,” often serves to breed more bullying males. Add religion into the mix, and the problem becomes greatly exacerbated.
Boys will be boys, right? Well, biologically speaking, yes. But what exactly is “gender?” The World Dictionary defines it as:
The state of being male, female, or neuter
There are other definitions, but they refer to grammatical classifications with respect to masculine and feminine words, so they are irrelevant. Let’s examine this for a minute. Notice that the word “state” was used. Among other irrelevant definitions, the dictionary defines state as:
“The condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes. A particular condition of mind or feeling.”
Thus, any given individual whose genetic makeup is female would be in the feminine state, regardless of biological attributes. Likewise, any individual whose genetic makeup is male would be in the masculine state, regardless of biological attributes. As well, any individual whose genetic makeup is both male and female would exhibit attributes of both states, regardless of biological attributes. By “biological attributes,” I am referring to the penis and the vagina.
In a nutshell, one is not necessarily male just by virtue of owning a penis, nor female by virtue of owning a vagina. Sex is biological. Gender is a social construct. Consequently, gender identification has more to do with the state of mind of the individual than what’s between the legs. This state of mind is directly related to the orientation we are born with. Some of us are born completely heterosexual. Some completely homosexual. Most fall somewhere in between. Both Dr. Alfred Kinsey and Fritz Klein have provided years and research and studies that back this up.
Sandra Bem has done some groundbreaking work on the roles of Gender. By identifying the values and flaws of psychoanalytic, cognitive development and social learning theories, her Gender Schema Theory consolidated modern theories of “sex typing” by identifying the values and inherent flaws within the perception of gender. Bem has worked ardently on the importance of dispelling gender stereotypes in order to prevent self-fulfilling prophecies that inevitably come with mandated gender identification. Bem rejected Freudian beliefs of “anatomy is destiny.” She proposed that an individual’s gender identification emerged from his or her cognitive development.
Gendering a child starts even before the child is born. Expectant parents often prepare a nursery for their child in anticipation of bringing home their bundle of joy. If the baby is going to be born with a penis, they paint the room blue and fill it with pictures, borders and mobiles depicting male-centric things. If the baby is going to be born with a vagina, they paint the room pink and fill it with pictures, borders and mobiles depicting female-centric things. If they’re not sure, they paint the room yellow or green and don’t add anything until the child is born.
The problems begin when the male toddler starts exhibiting an attraction for things that do not “fit” his “gender.” When this happens, and it does happen, many parents, particularly religious ones, worry that their male child may be homosexual. I’ve spoken to many parents while I was in the ministry who became very concerned when their child showed an interest in Barbie dolls, mommy’s makeup and sister’s clothing. These parents seek spiritual guidance, i.e., “What does God say to do.” The advice that is often given ranges from forcing the child to participate in an all-male activity (sports, etc.) or giving the “confused” child some positive reinforcement when their play involves “gender correct” toys, and negative reinforcement when they do not. If that fails, then a “manly” role model may be introduced. Perhaps a youth Pastor, “big brother” or some other replacement for the “obvious failure of the boy’s father to provide sufficient masculinity.”
I am not pulling this out of thin air. As a Pastor, I have given this advice to “concerned” parents, and that advice came from my training as a Christian Nouthetic counselor. Of course, this has detrimental consequences on the male child as they mature. The church, as most of you are aware, has very definite ideas about the roles of males, their place in the order of all things (which includes being masters of women), their privilege as God’s favorite creations, what they should and should not be doing with their penises and what will happen to them if they should stray from the sexual straight and narrow.
In religious societies there are certain expectations and misnomers surrounding the roles of men and women. This is not news. It is largely due to the impact that religions (particularly the Abrahamic religions) have had and continues to have on our society’s perception of what “should be.” Boys are viewed a certain way, and girls are viewed a certain way. The differences go way beyond biology, and these perceptions are drilled into us from a very young age. A good example of how the church views these roles is the mission statement and affirmations by the The Council On Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Here’s their position:
The Southern Baptist’s position on the roles of men and women:
“The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”
As well, the Southern Baptist Convention states on human sexuality:
“We affirm God’s plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a “valid alternative lifestyle.” The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ.”
In spite of all those sermons about how to love the sinner but hate the sin, and that “all are welcome in the house of the Lord,” the church does not want LGBT individuals, or at least not for very long. I can tell you from an insiders point of view, homosexuals in the church are almost never viewed in a positive light. I cannot imagine, for the life of me, why anyone from the LGBT community would even want to attend church, let alone be a member. It boggles my mind. I think of Jews joining the Nazi Party or black people signing up for the Ku Klux Klan. For the church, the goal from the get-go is reparative therapy – to “cure the gay” or “pray the gay away.” If their efforts fail, you can bet the homosexual will be kicked out or made uncomfortable enough to leave on their own. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again. That’s not tolerance or acceptance. It’s dishonest and shameful. This brings me to the word…
I hate that word. I get angry when I hear it. I’ve banned people from my social networks and from commenting on this blog for using it in any way other than reference. It is a vile word that is in existence for one reason only, and that is to insult, degrade and emasculate. Period. I won’t bore you with the etymology or definitions that are connotative to cigarettes, as this is neither the time nor the place for semantics. Suffice to say, when someone is called a faggot, it is not a compliment. The bigotry toward the LGBT community comes from one, single, solitary source. Religion. Period. End of story. No, an eight-year-old who is teasing another boy and calling him a faggot doesn’t have the moxie to understand what a homosexual is, or even the reasons behind why he is teasing the boy. But his parents do. His Pastor does. His Uncles do. His older brothers do. The grocer does. His neighbor does. Ad nauseum. Bigotry is learned.
Consequently, men who exhibit what are considered by the ignorant to be effeminate qualities are vilified, bullied, harassed and are often the butt of jokes. This also holds true for those males who are drawn to professions that have been or are perceived by the ignorant as “women’s jobs,” such as careers that concentrate on nurturing, or any other characteristics that are taught to be “feminine” traits. A good example is the countless times I’ve heard religious people say that the hair styling profession is “filled with homos.” When I was growing up, women went to the salon, men went to the barber. Both cut hair, but to me, the salon looked way more comfortable.
Although bullying of this sort definitely does exist for women, in certain areas it is not so much of a problem. Allow me to explain. I have personally witnessed, a multitude of times, over my entire cognitive life, parents of little girls who exhibit male tendencies at a young age being brushed off as “just tomboys” who will eventually “grow out of it.” Many of these parents exhibit little or no concern when they see their little daughter playing with a toy car, a plastic sword or whatever male-centric plaything that might be handy. Apparently it’s cute that the little girl is trying to be like her brothers. However, when they observe their little boys playing with dolls, trying on their mother’s or sister’s clothing or toying around with makeup, it’s a whole different animal.
This continues into adulthood. Take fashion, for example. It is not only common, but socially acceptable to see a woman wearing “mens” clothing or accessories, even in church. However, when a man wears something that is considered “feminine,” or carries a hand bag, or puts a little “too much” emphasis on they way he express himself both physically and verbally, there are whispers, judgments and stares of conviction. Especially during school-age years. I was watching television and a Progressive Insurance commercial came on the screen. The scene involved a man carrying a purse. He looked horribly embarrassed and felt the need to explain to Flo that it was a “European Shoulder Bag.”
I carry a purse. I call it a purse because it’s a purse. I don’t call it a Murse, either. Why do I carry this? Well, I have a wallet, cellphone, business card holder, cigarettes, lighter, checkbook, laser pointer, headphones and keys. Why should I walk around looking like I’ve got rocks stuffed in my pockets, and end up horribly uncomfortable after five minutes of sitting on all that, when I can just open my purse and grab what I need, not worrying about my wallet falling out of my pocket, losing my phone, etc.? Not to mention that credit cards and other items with magnetic strips get damaged from sitting on them for long periods of time, as well as pictures, etc. What about a briefcase? I don’t need to haul around a piece of luggage to hold a few things. What about a knapsack? I’m not camping.
The truth of it is that our sexuality is nobody’s business. The reality of it is that the bigoted religious fundamentalists believe that any given individual’s sexuality is not only everybody’s business, but is information that should be disseminated and broadcast with or without the permission of said individual for the purpose of exposing and vilifying the evil, immoral…
On A Personal Note…
Thirty seven years ago, I was 12 years old. I lived in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood. I went to the public schools, but many students spent half the school day at St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic church for Catechism Classes, and were bussed there and back from the public school in public school buses. The rest of the kids in the neighborhood attended Holy Trinity High School.
I was short, a little overweight, played piano, acted in school plays, and took nonstop ribbing from the bullies. I got picked on, chastised, and beat up on a regular basis. Like many children who did not fit into the “man” mold at school, I still walk through life with a plethora of not-so-fond memories of my adolescence. I can’t tell you how many pairs of glasses my parents had to purchase because the bullies broke mine. I lost count of the number of notebooks, pens, textbooks and other supplies that went out the school bus window or were thrown into puddles or tossed down sewer grates.
I’ve had homework destroyed, clothes ruined, and my ego trampled with intense regularity. I was stalked, threatened and berated constantly. There were plenty of times I wished either I or those who were making it their life’s goal to make me miserable would just disappear, for good. If you didn’t understand that, I will spell it out for you. I wished them dead, or myself dead. Either one would have been fine with me. I considered myself heterosexual (mostly), but because my appearance and demeanor was not “manly,” and I gravitated toward the arts, I was branded a “faggot,” and summarily treated as such by those cruel, horrible and mean little urchins that I went to school with.
I can tell you from personal experience that, at twelve years old, I was convinced childhood was going to last forever, that growing up was light years away, and there was no end in sight to the relentless bullying. It consumed every waking moment, and some of the sleeping ones, too. I remember clearly, even after all these years, dreading the arrival of the bus, being outside during recess and, particularly, Phys Ed. I recall walking down the hallways hoping no one would notice me before I got to my next class and that the teacher was already in the room, because a small room full of bullies without a teacher means you are a punching bag and whatever homework you had with you was toast.
As early as the first grade, I’d come home and tell my parents what happened. They’d visit teachers and principal to complain that something should be done. They were told that the administrators had spoken to the bullies, but found no evidence of behavior not “normal” for an adolescent. Boys will be boys, after all. Their advice was that I should “avoid the bullies,” which was already goal of mine on a daily basis. One teacher told my parents they should teach me how to fight. The fact is that trying “avoid the bullies” is horrible advice. It’s like trying to avoid a freight train while walking on the tracks. Point is, you don’t need to be a homosexual to understand what it is like to be bullied as one. This is one of the reasons I am such a strong advocate for the LGBT community.
I’m going to get off the religious aspect of this treatise in this segment, as it is not really relevant enough. This has to do with commerce, consumerism and how our society is being molded by the constant transmission of the advertising that is geared toward males which perpetuates an impossible stereotype and degrades most men and just about all women. I loathe the word “Losers” because of its connotations to the possession of material things and personal wealth as it pertains to the value of a human being. Do you know what the very first thing one man will almost always ask another man after an introduction is made? It’s “So, what do you do?” Men are defined by our occupation, and there are either stigmas or accolades that other men will bestow upon their brethren with reference to what the other guy “does.” Woe unto you if you happen to be “less of a man” due to a lower paying job (or no job) or had never been able to attend college. There will be imminent rueage if you utter the words, “stay at home dad.”
Examples would be how a wealthy and privileged man might view a waiter, a stock clerk at Wal-Mart or the guy who valets his car. As well, the academic might view the man who has a GED or lacks any college education. There is often a sense of superiority, a hubris of sorts that silently says, “I’m better than you because I have more stuff/am better educated.” It is not uncommon at all for this behavior to be exhibited by the wealthy and highly educated men in our society. I’ve experienced it personally and I know that many of you have.
No, not all wealthy/educated men are like this. In fact, I proudly count among my friends those men who have a considerable amount of personal wealth and advanced graduate degrees who are very decent guys. Several of them are also unashamed to call themselves Feminists and are very supportive of anti-bullying campaigns, anti-harassment policies and aggressively support the LGBT community. These men are rare, and they are very dear to me. They are jewels – regardless of the level of friendship we share.
The fact is that many guys are real big on status and the accompanying symbols. Sometimes, the rivalry between these men get toxic. If you doubt this, consider the heated debates men get into over Chevy vs. Ford, or Harley Davidson vs. Japanese motorcycles, etc. I’ve seen guys come to blows over this. But that is a digression from a deeper problem within this issue. Very often status coincides with sexism. This is not rocket science. All you have to do is turn on the television. There are two kinds of men in TV ads.
OK, before I get into the meat of this, I need to clarify a few things. This segment has nothing to do with sex appeal, the desire to look your best or what physical image we desire to project. Nor does it have anything to do with what turns us on sexually as an individual with respect to our sexual orientations, our points of view on pornography or whether or not we are in a committed relationship or polyamorous.
I have no problem with anyone’s sexual fantasies, who people choose as partners or how they build their bodies. Likewise, I have no problem at all with adult entertainers, prostitution or pornography, as long as those involved are doing it voluntarily, willingly and without any coercion. I know several individuals who work in the sex field, and they are completely content with their profession and enjoy it immensely.
I acknowledge, though, that there is a serious problem within this industry that revolves around human trafficking, sexual slavery and the exploitation of very young girls. This is a travesty, and if you want to get involved in eliminating this, here are a few resources:
Back On Point…
The commercials geared toward women usually depict an emasculated, clueless male in drab clothing and a beige personality. Commercials geared toward men depict a certain type of guy, with a certain look, swagger and air of superiority. These ads focus on status and masculinity, which is generally important to men, especially those who have an inferiority complex or who are in denial of their own sexuality. Yeah, you know that sex sells. It’s no secret that much of the advertising aimed at men is geared toward the conquest of women.
Here’s a few of them:
Typical depiction of “real men” that are projected via advertising:
If you look like this, that’s great. You’re incredibly sexy and more power to you. I have nothing against men who work out, nothing against wanting a healthy body or to develop this type of physique. I know how difficult it is to maintain this, and the work that goes into it. Kudos, props and Kewpie dolls all around. However, my problem lies with the insistence from advertisers and a lot of buff guys who look down on those who do not look like this, and infer that they are not “real men.”
Thus, how is this any different from this:
We are told by these advertisements that we must be “manly men.” The advertisers attempt to compel us to believe that we are somehow less than a “real man” if we do not behave in a certain way or consume certain products or look a certain way. Consequently, if we don’t behave in a certain way, consume these products or build our bodies, then more woes shall be heaped upon us because not only are we “losers,” but we’ll never get laid.
- If you are going bald, you are a loser and will never get laid.
- If you drive a practical car, you are a loser and will never get laid.
- If you don’t have a six-pack, you’re a loser and will never get laid.
- If you don’t get a smooth shave, you are a loser and will never get laid.
- If you don’t drink the right beer, you are a loser and will never get laid.
- If you aren’t wearing the right fashion, you are a loser and will never get laid.
You see the pattern here? Real men get laid, and judging from the television screen, women are throwing themselves at these guys. You see the problem here? I mean the aside from the one that is horrifically insulting to women? Do you understand that the average guy is put under enormous amount of pressure to be what our patriarchal society has deemed a “real man?” And the men that fall for this crap are exacerbating the situation by teasing, taunting and insulting the rest of us, behaving badly and generally douchy. No, there is no room in a “man’s world” for faggots or losers. Nor is there any room for
Another cringe. According to my ever-handy dictionary, Wimp means:
“A weak, ineffectual, timid person. To wimp out. To be or act like a wimp. To show timidity or cowardice; chicken out.”
This time, I will give you some etymology. The word “Wimp” likely originated in 1920. The dictionary states that it is perhaps clipped from the word “whimper,” and might have been influenced by “J. Wellington Wimpy,” a comparatively non-aggressive character in “Popeye” comics. In the vernacular, it is almost always tagged on the type of man who is either small in stature or physically challenged by being either too heavy or too thin. As well, the wimp has a non-aggressive in nature, is usually sensitive in demeanor and possibly socially awkward. The resistance to fighting or running away from a physical challenge is also an earmark of being wimpy.
Either way, “wimp” is a pejorative, and it is generally used by a specific type of guy. Somewhere along the line the type of person who fits this category has also been vilified. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding a fight. Pacifism isn’t a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with being non-aggressive. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive to the needs of others. There’s nothing wrong with being shy. But, to many guys, a wimp is not a “real man.”
Instead of giving you several more paragraphs about the type of guy who believes he is better than those who are not strong, physically diminutive and non-aggressive and the pressures that are put on males to be this way, I will offer you this ad that so many of us remember from our youth that was on the back side of almost every comic book we’ve ever read:
Human sexuality is a very complicated discipline, and of which I am not an expert. I have my thoughts, opinions and ideals regarding the matter, sprinkled with the science and philosophies that I have learned from those who are more qualified than I, and through research through the Internet. There is one thing that I am sure of, though. One male is not better than another male by virtue of their sexual orientations, physical appearance or their demeanor.
However, an individual man or any organization or institution that chastises other men who are not heterosexual, monogamous, or are not a bodybuilder or have a warrior mentality are promoting a stereotype that is disingenuous, dangerous, bigoted, discriminatory and unfair to those who are either born with a non-heterosexual orientation, do not have an interest in sculpting their bodies or have no interest in aggressive altercations.
We are the sum of our individuality. One man is not better than the other who happens to identify as a female and presents herself as such. Or better than the male who is gay, bisexual or transgendered. Or the male who shuns the idea of war or avoids physical confrontations. Or another male who works at Wal-Mart, or Family Dollar, or McDonald’s (or anywhere else that pays a low wage or happens to be unemployed), or the male who cuts hair, or is a nurse, or an interior decorator, or a child-care provider, or has little or no hair, or is over or under weight. In short, the men they refer to as faggots, losers and wimps.
What makes you a better person is understanding that we are all part of the human race, and we all have value and that we all have a contribution to make toward the betterment of our society.