I socialize a lot with straight men – in my experience, more often than my queer lady friends do. A lot of my fellow queers say that straight men have been awful allies to them and are too blinded by privilege. I understand that. Speaking for myself, though, straight men were my most valuable allies when I first came out in high school. They defended me from criticism and were there to bail me from my house when my family became too unbearable.
Sometimes, though, I have a very different experience with straight men who I get friendly with. After a while hanging out, my gender slowly shifts in their eyes as they learn about my queerness. I’m moved out of the category of “woman” into a third gender. The straight guys start to talk about “women” in a way that obviously doesn’t include me.
That’s when they roll out the welcome mat to the misogyny club.
“You should go to the whiskey bar down by the park,” says Dudebro, after a few drinks. “There’s this super hot bartender there. She’s a butterface, but she’s just so attractive.”
My eyebrows rise. “What’s a butterface?”
“You know,” says Dudebro. “Her face is like a 5, but her rack is a 10 and her ass is a 9. Are you a rack or a shelf guy? Sorry, girl.”
“I don’t relate to women in that way,” I say. “I view them as whole people, not a collection of parts.”
“Come on,” says Dudebro. “When a hot woman walks into the room, what do you notice first?”
“Her face,” I say. “Don’t you?”
Dudebro shrugs. “Eh…”
Did you look at my face, when I was a woman to you? Before you found out I’m a dyke? Did you rate different parts of my body? Did I become more human or less when I changed from a woman to a dyke? What do you want me in your club for? So I can validate what you believe about women?
That’s what I’m thinking. I don’t say it. I don’t know how to communicate with these men, who operate from such different basic assumptions from me that we might as well be speaking different languages. I’ve been through more variations on this scenario then I’m willing to recount here, but the basic story is the same: these straight men want to bond with me over a shared objectification of women, because my queerness has de-gendered me in their eyes, and that’s probably the only way they know how to relate to people who aren’t women. They can’t disentangle sexual attraction to women from objectification of women. Because I’m attracted to women, I must think the way they do.
I didn’t say this to your face, Dudebros, but I’m laying it out now: I have more in common with straight women than I do with you. We all have to deal with the same objectifying bullshit that you tried to invite me to join in on. My sexuality is different from yours in nearly every relevant way. Hell, your sexuality is different from my straight friends’, because sex to them is like improvisational ballet, a whirlwind of beautiful physical activity created in the moment, while sex for you is like that scene in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe when the cow comes up to the table and asks the diners which cut of meat they’d like to carve off her body for their meal, because she’d like to recommend her rump roast, she’s been fattening it up especially for them.
But there’s one thing I don’t have in common with you, Dudebro: I never objectify or degrade women. I don’t want to be a member of your misogyny club. Joining the club won’t earn me any points in the eyes of the patriarchy, because as a queer woman I’ll get the short end of the stick no matter what I do. Inviting me to be a member is not an act of friendship, but an act of emotional violence to me as a female-identified person and a feminist.
To wrap up, I’d love to hear from readers. Queer women, have you had this experience? Men, do you find that other men try to bond with you over mutual hatred of women in the same way I’ve described here? Straight women, have straight men ever tried to invite you to the misogyny club? Genderqueers and non-binary folk, do you find that men tend to assume you’re cool with misogyny because you’re not a woman?