Tuesday, December 11, 2007

WILL STEREOTYPES NEVER END?

"DESMOND MORRIS, who became a bestselling author by applying zoology to explain human behaviour, has now utilised the techniques to put forward an explanation for homosexuality.

"In his latest book, The Naked Man, he concludes that men are 'made gay' because they retain infantile or juvenile characteristics into adulthood – a phenomenon known as neoteny.

"According to this theory, gay men also tend to be more inventive and creative than heterosexuals because they are more likely to retain the mental agility and playfulness of childhood."

[For the full article, see here.]

To stereotype any group of people is foolish on its face, given the tremendous diversity that exists in the human condition. Moreover, such stereotyping, regardless of motive, is offensive to anyone with any sense at all!

In the 1950's, Afro-Americans were stereotyped as being lazy, needing care, childlike, and rather dull witted. These stereotypes served many functions, not the least of which was to justify "the otherness," to say nothing of "the inferiority" of Black people, and the further "justification" as to why segregation should exist, along with white privilege.

Such an attempt at justification for segregation doesn't seem to exist in this case put forth by Morris, but the consequences of labeling a group of people as "the other," especially when that group does not have full and equal civil rights, and the commensurate dignity accorded others in society, still remains, as that "other" is still being seen as being "not one of us," and, as "inferior" to "us," and that's why "they're not entitled to full and equal civil rights that we enjoy."

"Gays are more creative, more 'artsy,' more 'child-like,' than 'us!'" That's the message, and it's offensive, regardless of the motive for this contention!

The fact is that Gay people are just like everyone else, and what creativity that emanates from Gay people is likely due to the creativity that comes from the suffering, the torment, the joys, and the life-experiences of most every creative person, be he or she Gay or Straight.

Just as I'm offended by studies that seek to show why some people are Gay (as it would be just as legitimate to do studies as to why some people are Straight, and do studies as to why so many people are homophobic and/or interested in why some people are Gay), I'm offended by stereotyping of any kind, and Morris has lent his acumen and credibility to a thesis not worthy of him or of any scholar of the human condition.
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4 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Jerry,

This is just a variation of an old stereotype that Gay men suffer from some kind of arrested sexual development. Dubious scholarship, to say the least.

Jerry Maneker said...

You're right, Don Charles! And it's also dangerous "scholarship," in that it posits Gay people automatically as "the other." This differentiation would be destructive enough even if there were a level playing field. However, it's even far more destructive, as Gay people are considered by society at large as a despised minority group, and such a thesis as Gay people being "playful" and having "arrested sexual development," justifies in the minds of many the fact that Gay people are not only "the other," but that they really don't warrant full and equal civil rights, because they are really "not like us."

Marie said...

The biggest tragedy of all is that much of the most rabid oppression of gays comes from self hating gays themselves. It appears this has in part played a role in the Episcopal Schism in America.

http://my-manner-of-life.blogspot.com/2007/12/schofields-ex-gay-closet.html

The tragedy is that people are turned against themselves. Gay self hatred is a contagious disease.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Marie: You're absolutely right! I've increasingly noticed that what critical or negative comments I receive (if I receive any at all) when discussing the need for grassroots and organizational activism come from many people who define themselves as Gay. Even when many Gay people are out, there still seems to be vestiges, or more than vestiges, of self-loathing, that has them avoid even discussing such issues as grassroots activism, tactics, and strategies for acquiring full and equal civil rights. There doesn't seem to be any fire in the belly to acquire those rights, save for some anemic lip service, and what "activism" that does exist bears virtually no relationship to the activism of the 1970's. Therefore, the HRC, and even people like Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi can feel free to throw Transgender people under the bus during the ENDA debates; even allow the Ryan White Act to be subtracted from the bill to further fund the war in Iraq. As long as the LGBT communities and allies seem to take themselves frivolously; immerse themselves in social activities rather than political activities; continue to denigrate themselves by use of derogatory self-identifiers; remain apolitical, the HRC, Frank, Pelosi, and so many others can still feel free to take LGBT people for granted, and dismiss our concerns for full and equal civil rights, in favor of political expediency and political gain. Also, the link on "Schofield's Ex-Gay Closet" is excellent, and deserves to be read by everyone concerned with these issues, particularly the issue of internalized homophobia and the tremendous destructiveness it causes both that person and, more poignantly, others as well who give these pathetic people a credibility that they certainly don't deserve.