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Lecture

Heteronormativity and the Family.docx

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Department
Social Science
Course
SOSC 1350
Professor
Julie Dowsett
Semester
Winter

Description
February 8, 2012 H ETERONORMATIVITY AND THE F AMILY 1. The Social Construction of “Normalcy” and “Deviance” a. Heteronormativity relates to the social construction of “normalcy” and “deviance” (think about our discussion of “culture” and “multiculture”)  Refer to lecture on multiculturalism – normalcy/deviance dichotomy  The “dominant” (i.e., white) culture is constructed as “normal” and “civilized”, abnormal, backward, traditional or even deviant b. Importance of taking apart the center (white, male, west, heterosexual) as well as the periphery (black, brown, east, woman, “homosexual”)  Jackson Katz (Tough Guise) – Gender is often equated with women; race is often equated with people of color; sexuality is often equated with lesbians, gays etc.  This study of Heteronormativity involves taking apart the center.  While the periphery is taken apart, the center remains uninterrogated – whiteness, masculinity and heterosexuality remains uninterrogated c. The study of Heteronormativity is one way of taking apart the center  It involves taking apart a concept that is heterosexuality that remains largely uninterrogated  We spend a lot of time thinking about queerness, but not a lot of time thinking about heterosexuality – it remains “normal”.  This is similar to the way we view whiteness as “normal”, and men as “normal” 2. What is Heteronormativity? a. A system of social relations in which heterosexuality is institutionally and ideologically privileged at the expense of queer sexualities  Heteronormativity: A system of social relations in which heterosexuality is institutionally and ideologically privileged at the expense of queer sexualities  “Institutionally and ideologically” – the government, school law; worldview, ideas  Heteronormativity pervades both institutions (i.e., law, the school, state, politics) as well as ideology  It often manifests itself in families as the unconscious or explicit assumption that heterosexuality is the only “normal” form of sexual relations, and it regularly manifests itself in discussions on the family b. Heterosexuality assumed to be “normal”  Heteronormative assumptions are very much tied up in the ideology of motherhood.  It’s very much tied up with the ideas like: o Women do less work than men o Women should prioritize physical and domestic work over waged work o The best family structure is a single income family with a stay-at-home mother o Lesbian/gay and other queer relationships have less value o Parenthood should be defined by biological (i.e., who’s the biological mother/father), and not by who is undergoing the reproductive labor and caring for the child on a day-to-day basis 1 c. Relates to the older term “compulsory heterosexuality” (Adrienne Rich, 1980)  Heteronormativity is predated by compulsory heterosexuality  She argued that heterosexual marriage was the only legal location for long-term intimate relationships. It was the only socially and legally sanctioned activity for the conceiving, bearing and rearing of children, and it was the only means through which a woman can be guaranteed support for her and her children  Therefore, she coined the term “compulsory heterosexuality” to encapsulate all of the social, political, legal and cultural imperatives that close off all sexual options for women except monogamous heterosexual coupling (marriage)  Heterosexuality is not natural but compulsory for women  This term is important because it sets the stage for later discussions of Heteronormativity, and it overturns the common sense of view that heterosexuality is natural and therefore requires no explanation  E.g., T-shirt slogan – heterosexuality is not natural, just common d. Critiques the idea that “homosexuality” is always the “problem” in need of investigation  Heterosexuality is not a problem that we’re supposed to interrogate – it’s supposed to be normal and natural and not a problem that we’re supposed to interrogate  Heterosexuality as a term has only been in the English language for about 150 years, but practices associated with heterosexuality have always been around  It’s only been 150 years that the law as been interested in regulating sexuality e. Recent research asks us to investigate the social construction of heterosexuality for a change 3. The Social Construction of “Heterosexuality” and “Homosexuality”  In the 1800s, sexologists from across Europe and North America compiled lists of sexual types and sexual behaviors  Out of all of the possibilities they talked about, the most profound decisions in present-day western culture, was between straight and gay, and the term heterosexuality and homosexuality were coined in 1868  After the coining of these terms, the construction of the dichotomy between these two terms was based on heterosexuality being “normal” and homosexuality as “abnormal” or “deviant a. Contemporary understanding of both heterosexuality and “homosexuality” are of recent origin  Homosexuality entered the English language during this time to describe a new form of erotic attraction between men and women  This new heterosexuality was different than previous forms of social organization because it was defined as this essential and important erotic orientation – not simply engagement in reproductive sex or gender division of labor b. Dichotomous sexuality is a social construction specific to modern European/Anglo- American culture  It’s only been about 150 years that the sexual behavior associated with homosexuals and bisexuals has been constructed as a problem by dominant institutions and professions (i.e., medical, biological, psychological and other forms of scientific research etc.).  These terms didn’t exist as terms until 1868; sexual behaviors associated with the terms always existed  Heterosexuality is a social and legal construction 2 c. How has the law played a role in the invention of heterosexuality and “homosexuality”? 4. From Criminalization to Heteronormativity: The History of Canadian Law  The history of queer legal activism is a history of challenging Heteronormativity in Canadian Law a. Pre-1969 “sodomy” laws; Trudeau’s view that “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation”  From confederation (1867) to 1969 (i.e., 102 years), “sodomy” was a criminal offence in Canada, and was punishable for up to 14 years in prison  “Sodomy”: a type of sexual activity associated with gay men  Only this type of sexual activity was criminalized, and although this act is practiced often by gay men, it is in fact an act committed by many couples  However, these laws were almost never used against anyone except gay men  Lesbian sex was not criminalized in any way – it exists, but not in the legal sense  In 1969, this law was amended - Trudeau famously said that “the state has no business in the bedroom of the nation”  In comparison to the U.S., many states still have sodomy laws on the books until 2000, when the U.S SCC decision in 2003 struck down all remaining laws – we were ahead of the U.S several decades  Canadian law remained, and remains heteronormative to this day  In the post 69 pre-charter era, gay and lesbian couples did not have the same basic legal rights as heterosexual couples (i.e., to marry, to bereavement leave, non-discrimination in employment – if you were fired because you were gay, this was seen as a legitimate reason by law)
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