Heterosexism in a Scientific Study of Lesbian Attraction

a White woman, shot only from the upper torso, holds candles arranged in the colours of the LGBTQIA or pride flag

An evolutionary psychology study that gained much media attention in May 2017 claims to show women’s sexual attraction to other women is the outcome of evolution, specifically for the pleasure of heterosexual men. The study was reported widely as ‘homosexual women evolved for men’s pleasure.’ Journalists have not read the study nor linked to it. The study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. The study is led by Associate Professor Menelaos Apostolou. The team is based at the University of Nicosia, with apparently only one woman co-author.

Here, I show why the study is flawed and why the conclusions are premised on dangerous heterosexism. Heterosexism is the prejudiced belief that heterosexuality is ‘natural’ and ‘normal,’ and that heterosexuality uniformly structures all aspects of social life.  Heterosexism also presumes that gender is a binary (there are only two groups, men or women), and excludes the lived experiences of transgender people. Heterosexism brings to light the social construction of sexuality, and in this case, the values and social dynamics that impact on what is taken-for-granted about heterosexuality.

I focus my discussion on cisgender heterosexual and homosexual people as the authors of the study have presumed men and women can either be homosexual or heterosexual, to the exclusion of other gender and sexual identities. They have done this without explicitly saying so (it is a facet of heterosexism to reinforce binaries, because variations of sexuality disrupt the idea that heterosexuality is natural and normal). Experiences for transgender lesbians would vary, however, the authors presume a gender binary in thinking about lesbian desire.

With these cautions in mind, let’s dive into the study.

Continue reading Heterosexism in a Scientific Study of Lesbian Attraction

Interview: Queer People of Colour, Racism and Dating

A Black man hugs a White man from the back with another man hugging them from the side

I was interviewed on Triple J ‘s ‘The Hook Up‘ program (listen from 1:12:49) about sexual racism in queer communities.

Nat Tencic: We’re talking about racism and the experiences of queer people of colour in dating. And to answer some of those more big picture questions, like why are we seeing this internal minority struggle, we’re joined right now by sociologist, Dr Zuleyka Zevallos. She specialises in issues of gender and sexuality, culture, discrimination and diversity. Dr Zevallos, welcome and thank you for joining us.

Zuleyka: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Nat: I think that first big picture question is something that really interests me: why do we see this happening in the queer community? Why when you’re already discriminated against do you see that next level of discrimination come through so loudly?

Zuleyka: I think for some people it seems counterintuitive because, obviously, queer communitites are facing discrimination along sexual lines. But at the same time, all of us live in the same society that is dominated by whiteness. We have a long history of discrimation against Indigenous communities and against migrant people, especially migrant people of colour. When we look at it in a social context, LGBTQIA communities are surrounded by the same social influences when it comes to race, [same] as straight people.

Continue reading Interview: Queer People of Colour, Racism and Dating

Visual Sociology of the Year’s End

This visual sociology for December 2017 begins with a reflection on the need for a Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the nation of Australia. The rest of this post has us visiting a Peruvian restaurant in Sydney, the LEGO exhibition in Melbourne, the sublime Pipilotti Rist and of course, my annual visual sociology of Christmas nonsense.

Treaty Now

Australia is the only Commonwealth nation without a treaty with First Nations people. In national consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, published as the Uluru Statement, a pathway to (and beyond) treaty was outlined through truth telling and a makarrata. This is the Yolngu word for various overlapping processes of peace negotiations, as well as an agreement to solving conflict and restoring justice.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have attempted to negotiate treaties since colonialism began, and a makarrata since the 1970s, to address formal recognition that the land belongs to Indigenous people, along with plans to address other cultural and socioeconomic issues.

Both sides of Government addressed national media and promised to establish a makarrata at the Garma Festival in August 2017, but have since rescinded their support.

Continue reading Visual Sociology of the Year’s End

Marriage Equality Vote

Do you believe in human rights? ENROL TO VOTE! Against the will of the Australian majority, the Australian Government is imposing an expensive plebiscite on marriage equality… which is not clearly legal (Australians haven’t voted on legislation via this type of postal poll before) and it is not clear if the outcome will be legally binding. The postal vote ensures Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote regions will not be counted. Nevertheless, the postal vote is here and we must all vote because a negative outcome in protest is what the Government is banking on to abscond their responsibility to ensure the human rights of LGBTQIA people. Continue reading Marriage Equality Vote

Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag

The designer of the LGBTQIA rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, died recently, on 31 March 2017. He was a former solider who moved to San Francisco in the 1970s, at the beginning of the gay rights movement.

Baker was a drag queen who sewed dresses and flags for the anti-war movement. In 1978, he created the iconic LGBTQIA flag. Encouraged by openly gay San Francisco supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, Baker designed the rainbow flag. Milk rode in the Gay Freedom Parade in 1978 under rainbow flags sewn by Baker.

The flag, which initially had two extra colours, ended up with six stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and the greatest colour in the world, purple. Baker continued to make and exhibit his art, including various celebrations of the pride symbol. Baker died a legend, aged 65 years.

[Photo: the rainbow flag hangs in central Sydney, as people walk through a busy mall.]

Sociology of Gender in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Work

The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, made some interesting comments on gender.

Gaultier’s evolving style blends ideas of masculinity and femininity, but at the same time is still centred on mainstream ideas of heterosexual women: showing off curves on (mostly) slender bodies.

JPG has used gender non-conforming models throughout his career, including transgender women, and other body types and femininities seldom seen in high fashion, such as “plus sized” models. This is referenced as part of the exhibition, but it would have been more interesting to see this displayed via the mannequins.

The room dedicated to the artist’s punk roots was an absolute delight, and I spent way too much time in the futuristic-themed room displaying his film designs. I was ecstatic to see the designs from Peter Greenaway’s The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover.

The stories of the designer’s life were my favourite aspects of the exhibition, giving context for his lifelong interest for evoking traditional Western styles of femininity using corsets.

JPG is a fascinating figure that has commanded much academic attention, due to his contradictory reflection of art and commercialism and for speaking out on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) issues; and not without controversy.

The Gender Pay Gap and Race

Actress Natalie Portman is the latest White woman celebrity to talk about the gender pay gap in ways that demonstrate tunnel vision on the intersections between racism and gender inequity. From Patricia Arquette’s highly misguided attempt to discuss the wage disparity during her 2015 Oscars speech, to Jennifer Lawrence’s essay calling for equal pay, White actresses have a very skewed view of the inequities faced by “women” in the entertainment industry and in everyday life.

What does the gender pay gap look like when viewed through the intersections of gender, race and other social categories? What do we learn about mainstream feminism’s vision for equal pay, when we become more conscious of Whiteness and White privilege?

Continue reading The Gender Pay Gap and Race

Pride in India

Pride in India

“Public discussion of homosexuality in India has been inhibited by the fact that sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly. In recent years, however, attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted slightly. In particular, there have been more depictions and discussions of homosexuality in the Indian news media and in Bollywood.”

Via: http://buff.ly/1KDxVFJ #sociology #lgbtqia

London Calling: A Visual Sociology

Late in June 2015, I visited London for work. I’d visited London almost one decade earlier, having just submitted my PhD thesis, and wanting to stay busy while I waited for the results. Back then, I did what people do in their mid-20s, lots of partying and lots of touristy things. In this most recent trip, I invested in longer visits to art galleries and museums. Continue reading London Calling: A Visual Sociology

The Walking Dead: Gender, Race and Sexuality

This article was first published on Medium, 2 April 2015. Warning: analysis and spoilers for seasons 1 to 5.

Like millions of fans around the world, I love The Walking Dead, and I’m an avid horror aficionado. Yet after five seasons, with breathtaking plot twists and turns, The Walking Dead’s treatment of gender, race and sexuality remains stagnant. For a show that takes many liberties when asking the audience to suspend disbelief, there’s one area it has no trouble maintaining a familiar narrative: the dominance of White, heterosexual men.

Since it launched, the show has focused on relationships and character development. This proved a novel way to bring horror to popular TV. Anthropologist, Professor Juan Francisco Salazar and Dr Stephen Healy, a geographer, argue that Season Five “reflects on the meaning of group solidarity in a brave new world.” The researchers demonstrate how various social science readings of the show centre on social anxiety. In their view, this most recent season was concerned with “Rick’s communitarian family.” That is, the other characters on the show who have bound together supposedly through Rick’s leadership, even when there have been long periods (notably Season 3) when Rick provided little guidance.

The show invites its audience to consider their own bravery under zombie duress. Would we panic and leave sweet Noah stuck in a revolving door swarming with zombies? Would we become “weak” within the walls of Alexandria? Should this frustrating person or that annoying character be killed? The show does not encourage us to think about why the writers persist on upholding White men as leaders, and why White women, people of colour and other minorities are notably absent from the narrative landscape.

It’s no accident that the diplomatic and inclusive leadership of Deanna (a White woman), flawed as it may be, is presented as fundamentally irrational because of its inclusive ideals. Meanwhile, Rick, a White man, is presented as the only model for viable leadership in spite of his flaws.

Michonne looks at her sword as she runs moves it through the air
Michonne from The Walking Dead

Continue reading The Walking Dead: Gender, Race and Sexuality