Tomorrow, well, now today (speaking of which, I should get to bed soon...) is Blog Against Heteronormativity Day
. Yay for blac(k)ademic
's wonderful idea!
You should probably stop reading here and check out her post
. It's great.
So, anyway, at the risk of sounding too airy about this subject, I'm going to suggest that you look at the Wikipedia article if you want a definition for heteronormativity
. I could stumble over my words all night, but even if Wikipedia has its flaws, it's good for some things and it covers the definition well. Heteronormativity describes the institutions, the beliefs, the policies, the ideologies, the etc that insist humans keep to the strict, binary system: male and female. We live in a heteronormative society. We assume it's "normal" to fall into one of two genders, and through that, it's "normal" to be heterosexual. There's no room for variation from this.
In fact, I think I just learned something from that article. Does anyone know if it's true that Michael Warner coined the term? If so, that'd be awesome. Warner's a great theorist. I only had to open one
paper that I wrote for Sex and Gender, and I found a Warner quote:
What immortality was to the Greeks, what virtu was to Machiavelli's prince, what faith was to the martyrs, what honor was to the slave owners, what glamour is to the drag queens, normalcy is to the contemporary American.
-Michael Warner, Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal. New York: The Free Press, 1999: 53.
American's want to be normal. Geez, just turn on any TV. Once you open your eyes to the idea of heteronormativity, it's hard to open a magazine or watch a television show without twitching a little, even if the twitch is just in your mind. For example, I was watching some 'Friends' episodes, and they literally hurt
at times. "Women don't do this, men don't do this, a women in a relationship with a man doesn't play this role, etc." Why are people so scared of variation?
Anyway, it's getting late, so I'll leave you with another quote:
To represent sexuality as discrete, repeatable sex acts that can implicitly be referred to a sexuality identity, in other words, is to represent sex – or certain sex – as amendable to administration, in that it – or they – can be vilified if they do not conform to what the majority represents as “normal” whether or not this constitutes the statistical norm. Representing sex as discrete acts makes it easy to imagine policing certain acts while tolerating sex in general: by the same token, referring sex acts to a sexual identity makes it easy to imagine policing certain individuals, because they practice these sex acts, even in a society supposedly made up of a 'we' that encompasses 'all Americans'
-Poovey, Mary. “
Sex in America.” Critical Inquiry. 24.2 (1998): 388.
If you want to learn more about these sorts of ideas, I'll recommend a few books I know. Sorry I can't list more! Let's see ... definitely read Warner. I really like that Poovey article. Gayle Rubin's essay, "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality" is awesome.
Oh, and read everything Adrienne Rich wrote during the '70s. And then read everything she ever wrote. Because she's wonderful. But that might be my bias talking.