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La Vie en Rose

December 19th, 2007 · 10 Comments · Culture, Gender, Hate Crimes, Human Rights, Journal, LGBT, News, Politics, TV

ma vie en roseIn Florida a 7-year-old was covered in bruises after a man (seemingly his father, but the story isn’t clear on the relationship) beat him up and whipped him with a belt.

His crime? Giving himself a manicure. A pink manicure.

A man was arrested on child abuse charges after he beat a 7-year-old boy with a belt because the child put pink fingernail polish on his own nails, according to Orange County sheriff’s deputies.

Aundre Jermaine Hill, 25, was arrested on Saturday at about 5:19 p.m. after sheriff’s deputies responded to a home in reference to a call saying that a boy was discovered with bruises on his body.

Orange County sheriff’s deputies said the boy’s mother was bathing him when she noticed the markings on the boy.

Investigators said it appeared the boy was beaten with a belt and hands on his buttocks, arms, temple and legs.

Andy at Towleroad writes:

Pink has been in the news quite a bit lately. In September I posted a story about the South Carolina prison system and their use of pink jumpsuits to mark prisoners punished for sexual misconduct. Inmates forced to wear the suit complained because they felt it made them a target for assault. Apparently in Florida this applies to small children and nail polish as well. You may also remember the incident in early September where a Nova Scotia boy was bullied after wearing a pink T-shirt to school and his classmates stood up for him in solidarity.

Also — I’m not accusing Sherri Shepherd from The View of child abuse, but I can’t help thinking of the ignorant, small-minded, and bull-headed attitude she puts on display in this clip.

In Junior high I remember a day when a male classmate and I, in an eruption of pre-adolescent camp, spent the afternoon coloring our fingernails various colors with magic markers. By the time we left school our hands probably looked more like we’d slammed our fingertips in various doors than like we’d done them up with actual nail polish. Nonetheless, we were guilty of giggling and pretending to model them. And as we made our way home we were attacked and thrown to the ground by some older kids who felt the need to enforce certain important understandings about gender roles upon us.

It certainly wasn’t the only time I got shoved around on the playground, or the worst, but it sticks in my mind because it was the incident that made it most clear (in retrospect, anyway) exactly why so many of my peers felt that kind of hostility toward me.

Back in the middle-90s when I got my 15 seconds of semi-demi-quasi-fame on the “Sissies” episode of This American Life, I attempted to make the point that sissyphobia is the deeper underlying prejudice in the world — the one that actually fuels homophobia, rather than the other way around.

In other words, gayness and same-gender sex are stigmatized in our culture because of their association with being a sissy. Which is the opposite of what most people I talk to seem to think. But you can see it in our culture’s increasing willingness to accept gay men who seem fairly subdued and conventionally masculine (like that nice gay couple that moves next door in movies and on TV shows), rather than overly flamboyant or femmy.

And in the messages you sometimes get as a gay man that you’re okay because you’re not one of those big flaming screamers I can’t stand like so-and-so who drives me up the wall with his high-pitched shrieks and bitchy quips and loud disco shirts and the fact that he actually knows the difference between asiago and fontina which would be okay if he just wouldn’t rub it in my face all the time!

(Not to mention the way some gay men adopt and enforce these attitudes within the community itself, whereby sports-playing machogays become the royalty and femmy queens are frowned upon as the low-caste pink sheep we’re terrified of being confused with and whom we don’t want representing us on the news or TV shows because they might reinforce stereotypes and get all of us knocked down on the playground, even those of us who don’t deserve it because we’re fulfilling our duty to be manly rather than festive.)

Meanwhile, the Huckabeeites and other bible-twisting homophobes still love to dress their prejudice up in the disingenuous argument that it’s homosexual behavior they frown on, not the orientation itself. That it’s what gay people do that makes them sinful, not who they are. And if gay guys would just stop all that icky man-on-man sex they’d be perfectly welcome at the potluck dinner.

But the fact that in this Jetsonian year of 2007, coloring his fingernails pink can still get a 7-year-old boy — who is not guilty of any sexual activity of any kind — beaten up by the father figure in his home would seem to underscore the point that ultimately, it’s acting too pink that makes people really see red.

UPDATE: I posted this one as a diary at Daily Kos, and appended this comment:

Adding — this story strikes me as particularly relevant in the wake of the kerfuffle over transgender rights being left out of ENDA, and those few voices in the gay community who argued (shamefully, in my opinion) that they just couldn’t see what gay people and transgender people have in common.

UPDATE #2: Made last night’s diary rescue list at DKos.


10 Comments so far ↓

  • amyc

    If you keep boiling this bullshit down to its essence, it’s all hatred of The Ladies. Because what could be worse than being feminine? You know, like a girl?

  • Ocelopotamus

    I couldn’t agree more. This is why I have identified as a feminist since I was old enough to pronounce the word, and starting to figure out I was gay: it has always been instinctively apparent to me that ultimately gay issues and feminist issues are the same thing. It’s all about the freedom to be who you are and not be subject to externally imposed limits on your behavior based on your body’s external plumbing. Period. Those roles circumscribe us all and limit our freedom, whether we’re male or female, straight or gay, butch or femme.

    It’s also true that, as Ursula K. Le Guin has pointed out, we live in a society that is extremely yang driven and where the yin side of the equation is disrespected and marginalized. So sometimes even our feminism and queer liberation seem to be more about making ourselves seem more yang than demanding respect for the yin.

  • amyc

    Also, Sherri Shepherd is a fucking moron about everything.

  • Grendel

    There was some controversy a few years back about the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium having painted the visitor’s locker room pink as a “psychological strategy.” There was a legal complaint, but things died down when the school pres decided to do nothing about the issue. They built a new facility — and painted the new one pink, too. And now there is another complaint coming, apparently.

    Visual cues, as they are in the rest of the animal kingdom, are still extremely important to the maintenance of power structures of “evolved” apes, it seems.

  • Ocelopotamus

    Fascinating. I hadn’t heard about any of that, thanks for posting it.

  • Jane

    “In movies and on TV shows” — huh? All over the place, my street, my neighborhood, my town.lait’s not just on the screen! They’re all around us! Females! Males! Nice couples! The only difference between the two couples by me is that they have theiur yards done and I do my own.

  • Aaron

    “Also, Sherri Shepherd is a fucking moron about everything.”

    Exactly. What was “The View’s” purpose in hiring her? They already have one Elisabeth Hasselbeck–two is just overkill.

  • Ocelopotamus

    Well … there is a certain entertainment value in hearing someone announce to a national TV audience that they’re sincerely open to the possibility that the earth might be flat. It’s possible they keep her around just because she makes the entire viewing audience (including most second graders) feel erudite and intellectual by comparison.

  • Aaron

    Ah, so it’s the Debi Matenopoulos factor…well-spotted!

  • Hob

    I think this is dead on. Little kids have only the vaguest idea what sex is, but they know what boys are supposed to act like, and they know you have to work really hard to make sure you always act like that.

    My guess is that that’s also why some guys adopt the whole package of “flamer” mannerisms in such a standard way. I mean, I don’t think there’s some special circuit in the brain or the balls that makes queerness and bitchy vocal stylings and club hair etc. all go together. But when the slightest gesture in that direction has been subject to violent disapproval for so long, and then you decide “oh well, I guess I’m not a Real Boy”, that whole stereotype comes busting out like the Bad Catholic Schoolgirl. Not that this is always a bad thing, but I do think that for some people it’s nearly as artificial as the tough-guy pose, and fills a similar purpose: protecting the awkward little kid who isn’t sure how to behave.

    But since what’s really important is movies: wasn’t it grand that the big sissy pirate totally stole the show in Stardust? And didn’t it seem like that was the most fun De Niro had ever had in his life? My only gripe was that the bad guys caught him off guard and captured him so easily– he could’ve kicked their asses even if he was in his private dressing room.

    Also: I saw “The View” once. You couldn’t get me to watch it again if you wired it directly into my retinas.)