In this post we will compare the evolution of women’s rights for equality to the evolution of GLBT/sexuality equal rights in the US, there are a lot of similarities that one can analyze and compare since this has been an issue in this country for quite some time now. In my opinion, women had to deal with how society viewed them, politics and the old-fashioned culture imposed to them; gays deal with the same issues along with morals and religion. This brings a more negative effect in the gay movement; we have more people getting involved trying to eliminate any gay rights than women’s rights. As a society, we have always struggled to accept anything different than what we consider normal. We need to extend our understanding of how sexism, class privilege, and hetero-sexism operate in this society and the effects (negative or positive) created by them. I will try to explore the different dimensions of both movements to find similar characteristics, the differences between them, and/or what’s unique about them.
I will like to start with women rights movement for equality, since it became an issue first in the US. In order to do so, we need to go way back in history to see where the roots of this problem originated. In my opinion, we created a conception of the roles of human male and female since the beginning of the existence of our society. If we study animals to see how they act and how the roles for each gender are given, we can see that in some species (like lions/lioness) females hunt in groups to feed their cubs and do not depend on the males; proving capable of doing a male's job. That can teach us something and change our perspectives of roles in our species; we can see that in nature females when given the right tools they can perform the same job as a male. Therefore, nature has not created this “conception” or “reality”, we together as a society did. Our way of life has shaped how gender is to be perceived. Our cultures, religion and even our economy can construct how we react to certain issues that affect us. Judith Lorber mentions that:
“Most people find it hard to believe that gender is constantly created and re-created out of human interaction, out of social life, and is the texture and order of that social life” Yet gender, like culture, is a human production that depends on everyone constantly doing gender. And everyone does gender without thinking about it” (West and Zimmeraman 1987, Rothenberg 54).
This constructed reality has affected women since they decided to join the work force and deviate from the old-fashion traditions imposed to them, and with time and determination they have worked to show that they are capable of doing any man’s job and even excel in some areas more than man, diminishing the view of “doing gender”. As more jobs are needed in the work force and more women decide to join, it will become more acceptable and fall into what is considered “normal”. I think we have grown out of this mentality little by little, and have been more tolerant and understanding on this matter and even other social groups seem to be more accepting to this change. “Gendered roles change – today fathers are taking care of little children, girls and boys are wearing unisex clothing and getting the same education, women and men are working at the same jobs” (Judith Lorber, Rothenberg 55).
We can see how similar the struggle for women’s rights movement was with today’s homosexuals. For the majority of the population, this is still something that deviates from their socially constructed reality. “We suppose that heterosexuality is unchanging, universal, and essential: ahistorical. Contrary to that common sense conjecture, the concept of heterosexuality is only one particular historical way of perceiving, categorizing, and imagining the social relations of the sexes” (Jonathan Ned Katz, Rothenberg 68-69). History tells us that gays have been in our society for centuries, but is this a biological or pure social construct? I can say both in my opinion. Researchers say that some people are born with biological differences (testosterone, hormones, etc.) and in some adults can cause a tendency to feel attracted to the same sex. Jonathan Ned mentions “Historical work has recently begun on how the biological human body is differently intergrade into changing modes of production, procreating, engendering, and pleasure so as to alter radically the identity, activity and experience of that body” (Rothenberg, 70). We also have some people today that have psychological damages from childhood that can cause confusion in their sex orientation. There are other ones that "become gay" because their monogamous sex life became boring that they feel the need to experiment with same sex. These are just theories of how one person becomes homosexual, some are proven to be true but we cannot generalize every case. But what we can do is analyze them and see that if these theories are true, then homosexuals are part of humanity (born or by decision) since the beginning of our existence.
This dilemma is also judged today by religion, just like women rights in some cultures or countries today. Muslim women in some countries do not have any rights at all, and others have become more acceptable and continue improving. The same issue homosexuals face today, and no religion in the world has been able to accept their way of life and have oppressed and judged them savagely. This has caused controversy worldwide. Why generalize or judge a certain group of people? We have done to ethnicity, minorities, social-class, gender, and even religion. Why do it to sexual-preference too? I think we all remember how this country was built and what caused those people to leave their king. These people have not committed a crime (rape, murder, child abuse, etc.) against anybody; in the other hand we have seen cases of the Catholic Church sexually abusing children. That shows us that we cannot be judged as a group of people, but as individuals alone. For example, we cannot blame every Muslim in the world for what happened in the US on September 11 only the individuals involved in it should; no matter of their sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc.
If we are trying to become a more tolerant society we need to be as humanitarian as possible, if people (Homosexual, Heterosexual, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, etc.) are happy with their significant other, or have different preferences in any area than the majority of the population, who are we to deny them that? Today’s society promotes liberty, equality and justice; the primary foundations of this country. We need to keep working together as a human race in eliminating discrimination to evolve from our past mistakes; we should change it in its totality and not just in certain areas. Society tends to speak up and do something about it until the problem becomes overwhelming, I think this is one of the reasons why is taking us so long to evolve from our primitive ways.
Rothenberg, Paula. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study. 8th Edition
Blog Image: http://americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/6-legacy/images/womens-rights.jpg