3 - TOLERATING THE HOMOSEXUAL ASSAULT ON HETEROSEXISM (1960-2005)
The homosexual liberation era has hardly been a period of tranquil private “bedroom” sexual expression. Lesbians and gays content to remain in the “closet” were “outed” by political activists within their own communities. Lillian Faderman writes in Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: “Lesbianism even came to be regarded as the quintessence of feminism...There were probably more lesbians in America during the 1970’s than at any other time in history, because radical feminism had helped redefine lesbianism to make it almost imperative for all women…”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In 1973, lesbian activist Margaret Small differentiated homosexual space (culture and ideology) when she wrote, “Heterosexual ideology limits our vision of any alternative sexed, erotic community…You have to create the space that stands outside of all the boundaries of heterosexuality - assumptions about family, about marriage, about motherhood, about housework, about childrearing…about everything that has to do with the relationships between men and women [and children].”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> And a 1971 resolution by the National Organization for Women (NOW) identified lesbians as the frontline troops of the women’s movement and accepted the lesbian-feminist analysis that the reason lesbians had been so harassed by society was that they were a threat to the so-called “patriarchal heterosexist system” that subjugated women – the very system feminists were trying to destroy.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Betty Friedan, first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and author of The Feminine Mystique, declared in 1971, “We cannot permit the image of women to be developed by the homosexual.” Soon ousted from NOW in a lesbian coup, Friedan was replaced by lesbian feminist Kate Millett, who wrote in her PhD paper Sexual Politics, “…the radical outcome of Engels’ analysis is that the family, as that term is presently understood, must go.” Millett’s treatise Sexual Politics also cited that the sexual revolution would require, perhaps first of all, an end of traditional sexual inhibitions and taboos, particularly those that most threaten patriarchal monogamous marriage: homosexuality, illegitimacy, adolescent, pre- and extra-marital sexuality. Moreover, in her radical feminist ideology the abolition of sex roles and the complete economic independence of women was just the precursor to the full scale (collective) shift of child care to so-called “professionals.” It was inevitable, if Millett’s thesis took effect (symbolic of a “lesbianized” feminist movement), that the traditional heterosexual marriage and family structures would be undermined.
The “lesbianization” of the feminist movement in America occurred earlier than in Canada. Jeri Dawn Wine, a founder of the Canadian National Lesbian Forum, maintains that the “NAC avoided the split over lesbian participation that the National Organization for Women suffered in the United States only at the cost of a decade of silence on the part of Canadian lesbians.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Heterosexual Canadian women feared the negative ramifications of a public commitment to lesbian issues. It would take until 1985 for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women to include lesbian issues on its agenda - after the entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Soon lesbians, some 3 percent of the population would come to represent more than 50 percent of the NAC membership.
In the early 70s, Margret Small wrote that “heterosexual ideology” was support to male supremacy. She pointed to “unnamed, unpaid, undervalued work that women perform for men within marriage.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A few years later, two groups, “Lesbian Mother’s Defense Fund” and “Wages for Housework” were seeking to become involved in NAC. The former was approved; however, the notion of pay for housework had the potential to undermine lesbian feminist goals - “Wages for Housework” spoke for all mom’s who might wish to be fulltime mothers and housewives for all or a portion of their lives. And among wives with a grade school education, between 1957 and 1976 there was no change in the percentage who said they “enjoyed” housework. In both years it was about 76 percent.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In 1978, 66 percent of American wives with working class husbands (those who needed economic relief), and some 35 percent of wives with highly educated husbands, were registered housewives.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For the first time, NAC refused a group admission. The application of Wages for House Work was rejected because, according to the minutes from 24 February 1979, “the principles of wages for housework have been explicitly rejected by NAC.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> One month later, socialist feminist Lynn Macdonald was elected president of NAC.
Jane Mansbridge explains the crux of the feminist assault on full-time homemakers and full-time mothers: “Women can never hold half the economically and politically powerful positions in the country if a greater proportion of women than men withdraw from competition for those positions. More important, if even 10 per cent of American women remain full-time homemakers, this will reinforce traditional views of what women ought to do and encourage other women to become full-time homemakers at least while their children are very young. If women plan to drop out of the labor force while their children are young, they will choose careers that are interruptible, that convert easily to part-time work, that do not demand either long hours or geographic mobility, and that whenever possible have some connection to the tasks of motherhood (like teaching or nursing). Occupations that have these characteristics will remain stereotyped as ‘women’s occupations,’ and for the foreseeable future they will pay less than men’s occupations that require comparable training. As we have seen, about half the difference between men’s and women’s wages is due to the sex segregation of occupations, age (women are in the paid labor force when they are young or old, not in their prime productive years), and interrupted careers. If women disproportionately take time off from their careers to have children, or if they work less hard than men at their careers while their children are young, this will put them at a competitive disadvantage to men whose wives do all the homemaking and child care. This will show up especially clearly in the most powerful and best positions in the society. Thus, the more full-time homemakers there are, the harder it will be to break traditional expectations that homemaking ought to be a woman’s career. This means that no matter how any individual feminists might feel about child care and housework, the movement as a whole had reasons to discourage full-time homemaking.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Phyllis Schlafly identified the feminist movement with Ms. Magazine, which she characterized as: “…anti-family, anti-children, and pro-abortion. It is a series of sharp-tongued, high-pitched, whining complaints by unmarried women. They view the home as a prison, and the wife and mother as a slave. To these women’s libbers, marriage means dirty dishes and dirty laundry. One article lauds a woman’s refusal to carry up the family laundry as ‘an act of extreme courage’. Another tells how satisfying it is to be a lesbian…Women’s lib is a total assault on the role of the American woman as wife and mother, and on the family as the basic unit of society…Women’s libbers are trying to make wives and mothers unhappy with their career, make them feel that they are ‘second-class citizens’ and ‘abject slaves.’ Women’s libbers are promoting Federal ‘day-care centers’ for babies instead of homes. They are promoting abortions instead of families.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> By 1977, 42 percent of American women saw the feminist movement as a major cause of family breakdown.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
The male side of the homosexual assault on marriage and family was no less threatening. Denis Altman, in The Homosexualization of America, The Americanization of the Homosexual, writes: “The new self-assertion of homosexuals, particularly of male homosexuals, has made sexuality itself a political issue; the new gay culture represents an affirmation of sexual play and experimentation that goes beyond the repressive norms most people in this society, including many homosexuals, have internalized. The constant linkage in the New Right rhetoric of homosexuality and abortion, the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment], drugs, pornography, and ‘secular humanism’ reveals deep-seated fear that the social fabric is being threatened by an assertion of sexual diversity, or even by the search for sexual pleasure.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In 1979, CBS did a documentary called Gay Power, Gay Politics. In the film about the Buena Vista sex park in San Francisco, CBS reporter George Crile talked with gay activist Cleve Jones. “So what is the message today?” asked Crile. “The message is ‘Look out, here we come!’” answered Jones.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> One year later the first lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma (signaling AIDS) appeared on gay men in San Francisco and New York. Two years later, in spite of ardent gay and lesbian lobby, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was ratified by Parliament and ten Legislatures without mention of sexual orientation or homosexual rights. David Black, in The Plague Years: A Chronicle of AIDS the Epidemic of Our Times records that in October 1985, the New York State Health Commissioner asked the state Public Health Council to vote in an emergency regulation to close down public venues where homosexuals engaged in so-called “high risk sex.”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> “Out of the tubs and into the shrubs,” men in towels shouted as Dr. Mervyn Silverman, then San Francisco’s public health director, announced on April 9, 1984, the decision to ban sexual activity in the city’s gay bathhouses.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Within ten years 400,000 gay men had died from AIDS.
Decades of liberalized tolerance of homosexuality have not brought peace between separate societal spaces; rather homosexuals have now persuaded themselves that gay and straight are co-equal and integration with all heterosexual space is the goal. E.L. Pattulo observes that gays and lesbians can spare no sympathy for what he calls “wavering children” - kids who are capable of going either way. Through gay affirming programs in our schools, wavers are told to experiment with their sex drives. A pamphlet at my daughter’s high school reads: “Our sexuality develops over time. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure. The teen years are a time of figuring out what works for you, and crushes and experimentation are often part of that. Over time, you’ll find that you’re drawn mostly to men or to women - or to both - and you’ll know then. You don’t have to label yourself today.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Pattulo is astonished that heterosexuals, few of whom actually believe one orientation is as good as the other, contentedly accept changes in society that are likely to have that result.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Norman Podhoretz, in “How the gay-rights movement won,” writes: “Yet if I do not doubt that some young boys are in effect doomed from the beginning to a choice between homosexuality and chastity, neither do I doubt that other young boys are what E.L. Pattullo has characterized as ‘waverers’ who are capable of going either way. They can yield to the temptation of homosexuality if they are encouraged or seduced into it…Such boys, however, are no longer helped by the world around them to resist the homosexual temptation and to overcome their fears of a normal life. They are instead being abandoned to the ministrations of a culture that not only legitimizes homosexuality but glorifies and glamorizes it, even to the point of representing those who die of AIDS as martyrs and heroes and even as angels.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
In closing this section, John Conway’s Canadian Family in Crisis,<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> is recommended for a sound summary of the changes in society over the homosexual liberation era. He recounts through statistical analysis the unprecedented societal ills resulting from these decades of ideological warfare: more unwed mothers and single parents; more divorce (up by 14 times from 1966 levels); more single women (age 30-39) using artificial insemination to procreate and more cohabitation. Add to these negative trends unparalleled levels of father absence, latchkey kids (children home alone), teen suicide, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, AIDS deaths and abortion.
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<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Lillian Faderman, OddGirls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), p.207.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Jonathan Ned Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality (New York: Dutton, 1995), pp.149 and 150. [and children] my insert.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Daphne Patai, Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism (Lanham Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), p.232.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Jill Vickers, Pauline Rankin and Christine Appelle, Politics as if Women Mattered (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), p75.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Jonathan Ned Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality (New York: Dutton, 1995), p.150.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Jane J. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA (Chicago: Chicago Press, 1986), p.105.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> National Action Committee on the Status of Women – Canadian Women Calling for Change,” www.poetic-justice.com/essays/nac.html, 2/20/01.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Mansbridge, p.100. ERA – Equal Rights Amendment.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Phyllis Schlafy, Phyllis Schlafly Report 5, no. 7 (February 1972), pp.3 and 4.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> CBS/New York Times poll, cited in Keith T. Poole and L. Harmon Zeigler, “The Diffusion of Feminist Ideology,” Political Behavior 3 (1981), p.244.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Denis Altman, The Homosexualization of America, The Americanization of the Homosexual ( New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982), p.xi.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Frank Browning, The Culture of Desire (New York: Crown Publishers, 1993), p.96.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> David Black, The Plague Years: A Chronicle of AIDS The Epidemic Of Our Times (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), p.177.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Ibid., p.167.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Calgary Birth Control Association, pamphlet “Sexual Health and Choice,” cited from Be Yourself by PFLAG, 1994.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> E.L. Pattullo, Letter to Editor, “Letters from Readers,” Commentary, New York, November 1996.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> Norman Podhoretz, “How the gay-rights movement won,” Commentary, New York, November 1996.
<![if !supportFootnotes]> <![endif]> John F. Conway, The Canadian Family in Crisis (Toronto: James Lorimer & Company Ltd, 2001).