Rose McGowan's opinions have been all over social media the past few weeks. She started in an interview with a now-infamous diss alleging that gay men are "as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so." She then "apologized," writing on The Huffington Post, "Where does it say that because of a man's sexual preference, I don't get to point out character defects? When equal pay for women was voted down by every male Republican there was no LGBT outcry."
From my perspective, as someone who works with grassroots advocates, I submit that if she truly believes that there have not been huge outcries from gay men over women's concerns, of which equal pay is just one, then she simply has not been listening.
She continued, "What I want is for gay rights activists to help other disenfranchised groups. These activists are experts while so many other groups flounder. It's time to share the wealth and knowledge. "
Rather than debate her opinion based on her acquaintances with a few gay men who were apparently derogatory, I would prefer to honor her bigger request. So here you go:
Dear Ms. McGowan,
I am sorry that you have not felt that the outcry against misogyny from gay men has been loud enough. Given your comments about Speedos and Molly, I can only assume that your comments are in part the result of seeing the "gay community" as the buff young men on the party circuit. I can't really speak for them or their activism. These days, many of us are more PTA than par-tay, and "Speedo-ing" is what I do when I am late picking up my kids.
I am a gay dad raising two sons, both adopted as infants. I know thousands of gay men, and there are none that I would not characterize as feminists. I am raising my sons as feminists, and all the gay dads with daughters especially seem to be empowering their children thoroughly and completely. Pointing that out is not the purpose of this note, though. It is to share the LGBT success experience with you.
The major success factor has been this: coming out. If you want to trace the single greatest secret behind LGBT traction in equal rights, it is that. The vast majority of people who have changed their minds about gay rights have done so after a person close to them came out. They then have to juxtapose values and the real-life person, and they have found their misconceptions usually fall apart.
How does this work with a group that may be disenfranchised but is not really a minority as LGBT people are? Women are, in fact, the majority. In the past elections, even with LGBT people in both political parties, we have been fairly uniform in our voting and advocacy; obviously there are exceptions, but they are pretty fringe. If the "women community" were to do that even one time, the impact would be immediate and have a historic effect never seen before in modern times. If all women voted as a bloc and in their own self-interest, not a single Republican would be elected to office, and specific women-equality standards would be enshrined in such a way that they could never be displaced.
That did not happen. Why not? The answer is pretty clear: The worst enemy, the most misogynistic and unempowering for women, can be... other women. Yes, we have some experience with internalized self-sabotage in the LGBT community as well. I can't tell you how many articles I have read where a gay man sounds off on "the gay community," but if you read between the lines, his concept of "the community" is really the last five guys he's dated.
For women, an example is mom blogger Tara Kennedy-Kline, who recently wrote a piece called "I'm A Mother Of 2 Boys, And I Can't (And Won't) Support Feminism." Where I am raising my boys to be polite and courteous to all, she is "kind of psyched to be raising my boys as gentlemen. ... I am raising them to treat the women in their lives like princesses." Kennedy-Kline equates a girl's beauty with her "prettiness"; I am teaching my sons a more holistic approach to beauty, to see it within all people regardless of gender.
Kennedy-Kline implies that the wrong dress on a girl makes her "easy" and someone to be avoided by her sons. She also protests a culture that expects boys to act responsibly and respectfully under all circumstances. She protests the "flipping the shame of 'sluttiness' from the girls who expose their breasts (and bellies and butt cheeks) to the boys who look at them." I can only guess that she would seek to shame you for your own choices in public attire.
She claims to want empowerment for women and gender fairness, but she qualifies it by stating, "I do not believe that opposite sexes can ever be completely equal, as there are very specific limitations for each gender. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with many of the gender roles that have been honored throughout history." Within these roles, she calls on girls to be "maternal, ladylike, demure, and feminine."
I am not willing to have people like Kennedy-Kline determine my limitations or those of my sons or women in general. I am the maternal nurturer in my family. My sons are not lacking that parental influence in their lives. They, in turn, are not being programmed to only fit into one specific gender role themselves. Likewise, I want women to be able to choose roles ranging from homemaker to board-room member. CEOs are not demure. "Maternal" and "feminine" are not qualities listed in the job descriptions for professional game changers. People need to be able to be who they know themselves to be, not actors fulfilling certain roles others have determined for them.
Kennedy-Kline states, "There will never be a time when I will tell my boys not to treasure, protect and admire the women in their lives because 'Women don't need a man to feel valued.'" She leaves the impression that, in fact, women do need such validation to be truly valued. I do not believe that in any way and would be loath to teach any woman to believe that.
Thus, this is not an issue of outcry. There is a bigger issue, and that is an issue of in-cry, of what is being said in our homes. In LGBT homes, our children are being raised to see people as individuals. Femininity and masculinity are embraced and celebrated but are not assumed to be owned by only one gender or the other. We are celebrating the strength in our daughters and helping them envision achievements beyond traditional roles. We are teaching our boys to respect themselves and others equally, and that the rape culture is not acceptable -- they own their own impulses and cannot blame some mode of dress as "asking for it."
Misogyny and homophobia are innately united. They are manifestations of the same bias and societal disease. They kill and ruin lives. They must be removed together. If one exists, it will create the other; neither exists in a vacuum.
I have to be a feminist because I am a dad. I am responsible for two lives that I want to thrive in this society over the next few decades. I am a feminist because I want them to live in a fair and just world. I want them to nurture and be maternal if that is who they are, or be masculine and aggressive if that is their calling.
Ultimately, it may not be the voices of LGBT people who stand on the front lines and win the battles for the feminist movement; it will be our children, and those raised similarly, who were instilled with equality values. Sadly, there won't be much of a difference in the world if our children still represent a minority. The majority could still come from homes in the "women community" like that of Kennedy-Kline, homes where condescending oppression and subtle misogyny are mistaken for honored tradition.
How do we apply lessons from the LGBT movement to the feminist movement? Unify. Pull together your diverse population, and then come out to your allies. It is no small task, but voices like Kennedy-Klines indicate that you are not there yet. The Republican wave in last week's election says you are not there yet.
Rather than try to find the right generalizations to use to describe gay men, you might be better served by using your considerable charms on those closer to home: Try to reach the lost women of the sisterhood. Then, to paraphrase Annie Lennox and Aretha, those sisters and gay men can help our straight brothers understand.