Thursday, January 22, 2009

Straightlaced: It's Time to Talk About Gender

Christine Holcomb was PFLAG National's summer intern last year, and returns to our blog to tell us about the screening of Straightlaced that she attended recently...

In a "perfect" heterosexist, homophobic world, guys would be straight, macho and muscular, dress in masculine clothes (whatever that is), be taken care of by women, be the protector, the breadwinner, the brains; women would be straight, petite and curvaceous, doing the cooking and cleaning, raising the children, and not be threatening with skills or brains that could challenge those of men.

But we’re passed this, aren’t we? After all, women can get an education, vote, run for president, be CEO’s, even fight in the military. And yet heterosexist and homophobic attitudes have a serious impact on how our children act and who they become. Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, brings the heterosexist and homophobic norms to life and unveils the mask we’ve been using to fool ourselves into thinking we live in any other kind of world.

By interviewing teens from high schools all across the country, we hear what teen age boys are told about what it means to be a man and how women are told to act in order to attract them. It’s still the case that some men won’t date women smarter than them, or that women are told that they are too strong, too loud or too aggressive, and it’s still true that men sleep with women to gain status and women have to walk the line of being considered prude and promiscuous. These kids confess that the colors they wear, the accessories they wear and the way they wear them threaten the homophobic and heterosexist norms; their sexuality is monitored and challenged all the time. One guy said he wanted to wear a scarf because he was cold, but knew he’d be called gay for it and sure enough, “Someone asked me, ‘Why are you wearing that scarf, dude, are you gay?’ I said, ‘No, man, my neck is cold. You got a problem with that?’” And while adults often wonder why there is so many of our youth are having sex so young, it might have something to do with guarding their sexuality and controlling how others perceive them because, “if you don’t talk about how much sex you’re having, other guys think you’re gay.” And yes, being called gay is the worst insult. It will make students “part like the red seas”, be weary of being alone with you and cause teammates to challenge your motives, as one cheerleader had to defend another cheerleader telling other girls on the team that she’s not touching you inappropriately, “she’s trying to save you from falling to the ground.”

Yup, sadly, many of the things a lot of adults have fought to expose and change are still effecting our youth today in a strong way- and not for the better- because it means women are still treated like objects, and men are still confined to only express certain feelings, like anger instead of sadness. The heterosexist and homophobic system that Straightlaced exposes goes beyond values and preferences and is shown to threaten the very uniqueness that makes our children beautiful.

Join Groundspark in sharing and viewing this film with the adults and children you love and then talking about it, because as the producers of Straightlaced found out: youth are dying to talk to someone about all of this, so why not you?

No comments: