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Heteronormativity and Intimate Partner Violence.doc

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York University
Social Science
SOSC 1350
Julie Dowsett

HETERONORMATIVITY AND THE FAMILY Heterosexuality is not natural, just common. —T-shirt slogan (1993) 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”) - normal deviance dichotomy, the dominant (white) is normal and civilized and people of colour are deviant or “abnormal” b. importance of taking apart the centre (white, male, west, heterosexual) as well as the periphery (black, brown, east, woman, LGBT) - argues that outside (marginalized) have been focused on, and privileged have not been, and not taken apart the “centre” c. the study of heteronormativity is one way of taking apart the centre - the study is taking apart the centre and perfect, taking apart the concept and has not been interrogated (basically taking apart heterosexuality) 2.What is Heteronormativity? a. a system of social relations in which heterosexuality is institutionally and ideologically privileged at the expense of queer sexualities - institutionary and ideologically, ideas of straight white male as normal and ideal way - Institutional, institution is like the law, and other structures as well, religion, medicine, prisons. - Ideology is a set of ideas attempts to make sense of the world b.heterosexuality assumed to be “normal” - regularly in discussion of family - Belief that women’s work has less value than men’s, women should prioritize domestic work, best family structure Is a single income and stay at home mom, and lesbian and gays are less valued, and biological parents oppose to those who are taking care of the child (adoption) c. relates to the older term “compulsory heterosexuality” (Adrienne Rich, 1980) - compulsory heterosexuality, in 1980, she pointed out that heterosexual marriage is the only legal intimate relationship (if gay it was not recognized) - Heterosexual marriage was the only socially and legally in that institution, bearing and rearing children - Compulsory heterosexually, is compulsory to society and if not heterosexual then you are at a disadvantage - Only option for women was to long term heterosexual marriage - Heterosexual marriage is not natural but compulsory ** d.critiques the idea that “homosexuality” is always the “problem” in need of investigation - continue to name homosexuality as a problem - It’s supposed to be natural not a problem e. recent research asks us to investigate the social construction of heterosexuality for a change 3.The Social Construction of “Heterosexuality” and “Homosexuality” a. contemporary understanding of both heterosexuality and “homosexuality” [note problematic nature of latter term] are of recent origin - very specific to modern western society - Invented by a soutomy, someone who wants to decriminalize homosexuality b.dichotomous sexuality is a social construction specific to modern European/Anglo-American culture - people who are not heterosexual, have some problem c. how has the law played a role in the invention of heterosexuality and “homosexuality”? 4.From Criminalization to Heteronormativity: A (Brief) History of Canadian Law a. pre-1969 “sodomy” laws; Trudeau’s view that “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” (1967) - Canadian law has progressed, that today no sexual acitivity with queers is not illegal for adults over 18 - The law is still hetronormative - 1859-1892, the consolidated statutes of Canada, in this something called “buggery” which was the British version of “sudomy” (anal sex) - ^ punished by death - However, these laws were never used against anyone except gay men - Lesbian sex was not criminalized, not even mentioned* - Idea that sexuality was non-existent, or to be mentioned at all - Law was reclassified a offence to morality - ^ got rid of the death penalty, and included a wider idea of sexual acts - After death penalty was dropped, if you were convicted to sodomy laws, you were put in prison - In 1969, law passed that the sodomy laws were gone, and Trudeau, famously said that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation - ^ now decriminalized sodomy - In post 1969 era, Canadian law is still heteronormative - Gays and lesbians did not have rights for discrimination b. Mossop v. Canada (1993) - Brian Mossop, Mr. Mossop partners father died, normally should be able to take a day off to mourn, but his employer didn’t allow him to grief or attend the funeral, so he went to court - Arguing that it went against family status, Mr. Mossop lost, and was not against family status but discrimination to sexual orientation - ^ but, at the supreme court level, Claire L’Heureux Dube, wrote that the understanding of family in Canadian law needs to be rethought, basically family law is heteronormative c. section 15 Charter equality litigation has been (reasonably) successful i. Egan v. Canada (1995) - a couple for 42 years, Jane Egan and John Egan, John turn 65 in 1986, and applied to old age security, usually suppose to have a spousal allowance, and not until 1995, to get to the supreme court - ^ federal gov’t said he cant get spousal allowance because they were not “spouses” - Sexual orientation was not the prohibited groups in discrimination (in section 15 – race, religion, origin, but not sexual orientation) - The majority agreed with the couple, and because that section only supported for heterosexual couples they were violated - ^ Analogous grounds of discrimination, and “written” in sexual orientation into the charter (because of the Egan case)* ii. Vriend v. Alberta (1998) - Vriend was fired because he was gay - ^ failing to include sexual orientation in labour work, and a violation in section 15 - In court of appeal in Alberta, stating that its okay if he was fired because he was queer - Supreme court decided to overturn his decision iii. M v. H (1999) - M v. H is about section 15, and in a relationship in 10 years - ^ so M was economically dependent on H - H had bee the breadwinner, and M was taking care of household chores - If they were heterosexual M could have got some money - M challenged the law and she won the case d.yet contemporary law (especially family law) remains heteronormative - still heteronormative - Generally not a problem if you want to sponsor your spouse when you’re straight, but if you’re queer it’s more difficult - For young queer boys its difficult since only anal sex can only be allowed after 18 years of age - If your queer your supposed to get equal treatment (in adoption, family court etc) but queer families are still treated unequally and only 48% only supported queer couples Questions for Further Consideration: Why is the question always asked “what causes ‘homosexuality’” and never “what causes heterosexuality”? How can we understand the law (particularly family law) as participating in the social construction of heterosexuality? INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE The husband hath, by law, power and dominion over his wife, and may keep her
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