7 infuriating heteronormative things that need to stop now
It’s time to put stereotypes behind us.
Adrienne Rich, in her essay "compulsory heterosexuality" notes that contravening the heteronormative agenda exposes you to the kind of criticism and scrutiny that means your sex life becomes your public life. If you're not cis and heterosexual, who you bump or don't bump genitals with becomes visible in everything you do, and is thus considered every dumbass's business. Unless you fit some tired and needlessly restrictive stereotype easily identified by homophobes, chances are everyone will assume you're straight until you provide contradictory evidence, which they may or may not choose to listen to. Here are just a few of the ways in which heteronormativity sucks.
1. Traditional weddings
I've reached an age where every damn post on my Facebook feed is an announcement that someone I went to school with has consented to live forever with a mediocre man in a suit. I want to see weddings where five lesbian polyamorous brides all wear green jumpsuits with capes and read out lists of why they are all awesome before engaging in a five-way kiss to seal the matrimonial deal. Scrap the 'one in a tux, one in a dress' rule, don't get 'given away' like an old Graze box, and make sure all speeches pass the Bechdel test.
2. Gendered fashion
Instead of dividing everyone into two separate gendered sections, just have one and organise everything by garment: skirts, jumpers, jeans, dresses, coats etc - and put pockets on EVERYTHING!
I've recently seen a pair of women's jeans marketed as 'Girlfriend jeans' and I understand the capitalist necessity to subvert the 'Boyfriend jeans' trend but if I, as a so-called 'girl' am wearing my 'girlfriend's' jeans then surely they may as well just be my own jeans, unless the intention is that I buy them for my implied boyfriend to steal from me -- this is too convoluted. Just call them jeans and keep these fictional partners and denim-thieving-fiends out of it.
3. Gendered toilets
I want gender neutral toilets to be mainstream, I want everyone to feel safe and accommodated in public bathrooms. But if you haven't caught up yet, if you somehow don't have the resources to convert the 'Ladies' and the 'Gents' into the 'Toilets', then why do the signs have to be so utterly, horrifically twee? How many of us have been left confused and afraid we're going to be accused of entering the wrong bathroom because one door has a palm tree on it and the other has a bass guitar. You can just see the owner of the establishment giggling and clicking a biro saying "It's just a bit different isn't it!" By all means, make me rage against the oppressive gender binary if you must but I refuse to enter an existential crisis over whether I'm a beetroot or a radish, a horse or a zebra, a janky pirate or a slightly less janky pirate.
4. Judgement of platonic friendships with the opposite sex
I feel proud to live in a time where the stereotype of 'the crazy cat lady' has become aspirational. A house that you own, filled with cats, without any men in it? Us millennials can only dream.
Also note, you can't be friends with the opposite sex. Straight, gay, bi, trans, whatever -- het-norms will assume you wanna fuck your buddies. I presume their brains are full of Nora Ephron films (or whatever the modern equivalent is -- Zac Efron films?) where boys meet girls, lock eyes at first sight, and within the same amount of time it takes to say 'what the hell happened to Jenny Schecter's character development' they simply must boff. The IRL fallout is having to erase friendships with those dire people who secretly hold expectations you'll one day throw your legs in the air and yell 'finally!' or fear judgement or misrepresentation from anyone who sees you having a lovely platonic time with your very not-your-type-but-extremely-nice friend from work.
5. Typical rom-coms
The way heteronormative relationships are represented (and overrepresented at that) in mainstream TV and films, is really pretty gross -- more of a travesty than the loss of Chris Pratt's pre-Jurassic Park dad bod. Men emotionally abuse women into their affections, women sit pining for Mr. Right, and Chris Hemsworths rescue Jennifer Lawrences from aliens, mean bosses and the sheer boredom of being attractive. Even the new Wonder Woman wasn't allowed to escape bonking Chris Pine, even though she clearly had more important things to do than sample the humble human dong. The majority of Hollywood big hitters shy away from any narratives that contradict a heteronormative agenda, and a fairly narrow-minded destructive one at that, prizing 'romance' and having hot bods over all else. Remember when Chris Evanses could marry Billie Pipers without being Captain America?
6. Overtly pushing feminine or masculine traits onto children
We're all (presumably) aware of the recent rebellion against gendered toys and clothes for kids. Little bub-bubs and kiddiewinks shouldn't be subjected to heteronormative stereotypes of colour schemes and tractors vs horsies, while they're busy trying to grow their kneecaps. A radiant new-mother friend of mine dresses her daughter in so-called "boys' clothes" and so-called "girls' clothes" with the only aim of making her baby look frickin' cool, and she looks adorable in every sartorial incarnation. And really, isn't dressing up your child rigidly in pink or blue like putting a bow tie and top hat on your dog? The dog doesn't have a clue what it's wearing and anyway, it might grow up to be a very femme dog and has no interest in being conditioned towards masculine business-wear.
7. Patriarchal concepts of food and exercise
The ladies of Sex and the City put away a lot of leaves. Occasionally a french fry, sometimes noodles, but mostly leaves. I used to eat a lot of leaves too. Then I realised life didn't have to be so cruel and tasteless and green. The world of fitness wants girls to be Barbie and guys to be Magic Mike XXL Channing Tatum, and don't try to interchange those two perfect ideals because that's gay, or worse, confusing to prejudiced assholes. Real men eat Oreos, real women eat Oreo thins. Any tasty food you can think of has been reproduced in a lighter, tinier, just as expensive form to be targeted at women who want to avoid 'feeling naughty'. If Eve was created from Adam's rib, it was probably made from Quorn and coated in a low calorie BBQ sauce.