Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

How people cloak their homophobia (and racism, for that matter)

with 4 comments

Very interesting article in Pacific Standard by Bettina Chang:

Earlier this month, gay rights advocates cheered as seven couples in North Dakota filed suit against the last un-challenged gay marriage ban in the United States. The marriage equality tide is turning, and although gay men and women are still far from obtaining equal rights across the country, American attitudes toward marriage equality have evolved faster than most other policy issues this decade.

As anti-gay attitudes become socially unacceptable, researchers expect to see them replaced with a subtle form of discrimination that has long been the dominant form of racism and sexism. As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote cogently at The Atlantic, “Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism.”

Researchers Mark R. Hoffarth and Gordon Hodson at Brock University in Canada published a paper in the latest Personality and Individual Differences that reveals claims of “conflicted” or “mixed” feelings toward gays as an elegant homophobia.

The participants were 185 Canadian heterosexual undergraduate students with low overall levels of overt anti-gay bias. They completed surveys measuring their subjective ambivalence (e.g. “How conflicted do you feel in your attitudes toward gay men/lesbians?”), attitudes toward gays and lesbians, various beliefs linked with anti-gay prejudice (e.g. right-wing conservatism, religious fundamentalism), and support for gay rights.

As researchers predicted, higher levels of ambivalence were consistently associated with stronger anti-gay bias across almost all measures. Ambivalence was not associated with positive beliefs at all, and it was negatively correlated with gay rights support.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2014 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

4 Responses

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  1. The effect of “ambivalence” is very interesting. I wonder if deliberately causing ambivalence is being used as a technique to cause prejudice, where it previously did not exist. For instance the controversial gay marriage. I would have said up to the invention of gay marriage I was very unprejudiced against homosexuals and lesbians. As a woman the more men there are who are homosexual, the fewer men harassing women. And lesbianism can be a bolt-hole from male persecution. My objection to gay marriage is that it alters the meaning of marriage. I have nothing against civil contracts between anybody. In fact, it would only be fair for inheritance purposes if civil contracts could be extended to relatives living together (such as siblings), to protect residency and inheritance. But I have noticed in myself a creeping distrust and resentment against homosexuals since the gay marriage legislation was enacted, even though I know the majority of homosexuals weren’t interested in this legislation – having more serious concerns – like all of us.

  2. The meaning of “marriage” has been repeatedly altered. The Biblical marriage, for example, allowed multiple wives as well as concubines (as an official status). Let’s call that the “traditional marriage,” since it was an old original sanctified in the Christian and Jewish holy book.

    That marriage was then altered to have only one couple, man and woman, but with the woman being, in effect, an indentured servant with no property rights. (Not in the Roman Empire, but in other societies before and later in much of Europe and Britain.) That was also a traditional marriage.

    And then that was altered to provide property rights to women and a more equal footing in dissolution of marriage when such was necessary. I would add that dissolution of marriage is yet another change in “traditional marriage.” Indeed, those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ (a very small group, I’ll admit) do not allow the dissolution of marriage, since in the Christian version of “traditional marriage,” divorce is not allowed.

    So when you write about “traditional marriage” you are writing about an institution that has been revised many times. The modern take on marriage is that it is a bond of loyalty and mutual support and love to serve as the nexus of building a family. I can see no reason at all why same-sex marriages are anything other than yet another improvement on a malleable institution.

    And I think homosexuals have as much interest (and as much right to have an interest) in marriage as any heterosexual. And I further believe that if you check with your married heterosexual friends, you’ll find that for many if not most their marriages are quite important to them and they would not be happy with being told that they cannot marry, but they are welcome to enter into a legal contract conferring many (but not all) of the benefits.

    While I’m sure you yourself are not homophobic, the stance you are taking is common among those who are. You might think about that, along with the resentment you feel toward homosexuals who are forcing you to rethink your assumptions.

    UPDATE: Another part of traditional marriage: if a married man dies without having offspring, his brother must marry the widow. Do you think that part of traditional marriage should be continued? Or is it okay to have altered that? (The point is that proponents of “traditional marriage” are quite happy with revising the meaning of marriage, provided that they get to pick the revisions they themselves like. Many, for example, don’t require men to marry the widow of their brother; many allow divorce; many don’t allow polygamy (though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints did return to that “traditional marriage” model for a while); and so on.)


    23 June 2014 at 11:51 am

  3. What caught my interest in your article was not marriage as such, but how the creation of ambivalence can heighten prejudice. In the light of our very manipulative politicians whose agendas are not always transparent. I don’t know of any historical “marriage” which included homosexuals. I suspect the origin of marriage was for the pragmatic purpose of making it difficult for fathers to walk away from the responsibility to provide for their children. There was huge showcasing of this politically forced legislation when there was very little demand for it – while hugely urgent matters which people wanted addressed were ignored. So, one motivation, a successful red herring. I also doubt that where homosexuals are still being targeted or discriminated against that they are treated with any more than the usual inertia, except when a case can be used for political mileage for damaging somebody else’s rights. So a smokescreen. Before gay marriage my views of marriage were it must be one of the worst legal contracts ever devised – it is an effective minefield. All the implications are not spelled out in the small print. There is no small print. When civil contracts were invented I thought that was a good idea, and would have opted for that – but they weren’t available for heterosexual relationships. Personally, as a working class woman I would prefer most men to be homosexual instead of heterosexual – then women wouldn’t be forced into prostitution to meet the demand for sex. I would also be happy if most women were lesbian too, then I would have women to talk to who talk about other things than men or babies. So I doubt that I have much in common with others who object to gay marriage. I don’t like the meaning of words being altered by politicians. They can’t be trusted and that is an Orwellian slippery slope. But the issue of ambivalence – manipulating prejudice where none existed before, is an idea which bears further examination. Good article by the way.

  4. I am simply pointing out that your resistance to revising the meaning of “marriage” to include same-sex couples is a position commonly taken by homophobes. And the word “marriage” includes many meanings: for example, the ceremony/celebration itself, which for many married couples is a treasured memory, and a memory that they share with their family and friends who attended. I would say that many find the day and the memory of it quite important, and I see no earthly reason why such memories should be denied to same-sex couples. YMMV, quite obviously, but why not, for the love of God?

    I do agree that allowing same-sex marriages (at last) is not going to solve many other problems—indeed, I don’t think it will even scratch the surface of some of the problems I’ve blogged about just today (drone crashes, civil aviation crashes, regulatory agencies not doing their jobs, stock-trading scams, solitary confinement, and so on). But the fact that allowing same-sex marriages does not solve many problems is, in my view, no reason to disallow it. Same-sex marriages do solve one problem by allowing societal recognition of a precious union between two adults who love one another. To refuse to allow such a thing simply because it doesn’t solve other problems seems churlish to me, not to put too fine a point on it.

    And at any rate, I thought your objection initially was that you did not want the definition of “traditional marriage” to be changed, and my response was an attempt to show how that definition has been repeatedly changed. I do understand that you think no further changes should have been allowed, but that ship has sailed.


    23 June 2014 at 12:33 pm

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