The weekly snippet #3: Monosexism

This is a excerpt from my book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. If you like this text, please consider buying a copy.

I’m posting it not only because it was a nice piece of writing, but also following some online discussions about the necessity of the term.

In her article BT vs. LG, Jillian Todd Weiss criticizes the terms “biphobia” and “transphobia” for being too clinical and implying a psychological and personal problem rather than a social structure. Instead, she suggests the use of the term “heterosexism”, so as to imply a structure of oppression influencing all LGBT people. Now, whereas I perfectly agree with the first part of Weiss’s criticism, the latter part seems to unify four distinct structures of oppression while erasing the differences between them. Whereas all LGBT people certainly share oppression by heterosexism, using it as a single term leaves out the structures of heteropatriarchy*, cissexism** and monosexism – all equally shared by LGBT people but often erased as a result of these power structures themselves. As an alternative to Weiss’s suggestion, then, within the frame of discussion on biphobia, I’d like to suggest the use of the term “monosexism” as a tool for examining and deconstructing the power structure revealing itself through biphobic behaviour.

The use of “monosexism” that I suggest is not meant to completely replace the use of “biphobia”, nor indeed deny its reality in people’s lived experiences. Nor is it meant to locate gay and lesbian people as oppressors of bisexuals. In fact, my goal is quite reverse: to look upon monosexism as a social structure first and foremost originating from and upholding heteropatriarchal structures, to examine it as a form of oppression shared by everyone (not just bisexual people), and to add an additional perspective through which to examine biphobia. What the use of the concept of monosexism might give us is the option to examine a structure not necessarily or directly linked with named bisexual identity or with explicitly biphobic behaviour. It might allow us to read between the lines of culture in order to delineate where it is that bisexuality is forbidden, denied or erased, and why. It might also allow us to examine how monosexual people are themselves influenced – and indeed oppressed – by monosexism, as well as examining what privileges they might enjoy by virtue of this structure, all by way of deconstructing it.

* Heteropatriarchy means heterosexual male rule and standard.
** Cissexism is the underlying presumption that everyone is or should be cisgender, including the social system of privilege for those who are cisgender, and punishment for those who are not.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “The weekly snippet #3: Monosexism

  1. Hey!

    I completely disagree with this post.

    Firstly I believe that Jillian Todd Weiss is being monosexist herself. Saying that “biphobia” is not as legitimate, strong or critical as for example “homophobia” is a very used way of attacking bi identities and the oppression we experience by people that project their own monosexist assumptions on bisexuality. For example, I have heard many times that “bi” politics are not subversive enough. This is because either:

    1) The person having these kind of ideas believe that bisexuals are actually homosexuals with straight privileges ergo not very revolutionary.

    2) Biphobia as experience and consequently bisexuality as identity is not taken seriously. Biphobia is an experience of oppression which affects many persons identified as bisexuals and therefore I believe it needs to be taken as seriously and as legitimate as other phobias.
    Saying that biphobia “is too clinical and implying a psychological and personal problem” equals in my eyes to saying nothing. This analysis lacks great consistency and I just see it as blah.

    As I see it, biphobia is a consequence of both monosexism, cishomonormativity and heterosexism all of them together. Monosexim, cishomonormativity and heterosexism are power structures that create a very concrete system or oppression with its own set of norms and privileges.
    Taking biphobia seriously implies takings seriously monosexism, cishomonormativity and heterosexism.

    I agree with Jillian Todd Weiss with the idea that LGBT persons have a common enemy: heterosexism

    However the experiences of oppression of LGBT persons are also very different depending on which identity group (and person) we are talking about.

    -Homosexuals are in general not affected by homonormativity ( or rather yes they are as heterosexuals are affected by heterosexism but this is another debate…. ).

    -Homosexuality is a monosexual identity with its own monosexual privileges.

    Therefore I believe that saying that the focus of bisexual emancipation and politics should be based only on heterosexism is wrong and cishomonormative.

    Therefore I believe that saying that the oppression derived from monosexism is shared by everyone and not only by bisexuals is also wrong and problematic. Bisexuals do not have monosexist privileges as homosexuals for example do.

    On the basis of this analysis my suggestions are

    1)We try to understand both monosexism, heterosexism and cishomonormativity as systems of oppression that affect bisexual persons and we start understanding that bisexuals experience oppression in different ways that homosexuals and other minorised groups.

    2)We start having a deeper analytical approach towards powers structures, norms and our OWN privileges

    3) We start taking bisexuality seriously and consequently we consider biphobia as a real problem, which is not less important that other phobias.

    4)We allow bisexual people to define according to our own terms and experiences what we understand by bisexuality and how we experience oppression in a totally fucked monosexist, heterosexist and cishomonormative world!

    An outraged bisexual

    Miguel Obradors

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ll try to answer point by point:

      Regarding the monosexist/cissexist assumptions made by Weiss, I commented about that myself by saying that she’s attempting to unify four different kinds of oppression while erasing the differences between them.

      Regarding the clinical nature of the term “biphobia” – you say that this argument lacks consistency, but don’t bring evidence to the contrary. So far in all my reading about bisexuality and biphobia, it seems like the only person to have written about biphobia as structure rather than as a series of personalized behaviours/mistreatment towards bisexual people, is yourself. Yours is a helpful stance, but one standing in contrast with the dominant discourse about biphobia as a personal problem of a prejudiced person. It is this dominant use of the word that I attempt to criticize.

      My offer here to use “monosexism” attempts to expand the currently-limited discourse on biphobia, notx necessarily by changing the meaning of the word, but by adding a new term by which to look at the power structure itself (rather than its manifestations).

      I agree with your point about homonormativity etc. I made this point myself above, when I wrote that my goal is to “to look upon monosexism as a social structure first and foremost originating from and upholding heteropatriarchal structures”.

      “Therefore I believe that saying that the focus of bisexual emancipation and politics should be based only on heterosexism is wrong and cishomonormative.” – I agree with this. I don’t see how the next follows.

      “Therefore I believe that saying that the oppression derived from monosexism is shared by everyone and not only by bisexuals is also wrong and problematic. Bisexuals do not have monosexist privileges as homosexuals for example do.” – When I say that monosexism affects everyone, I mean it limits everyone’s options. This is not meant to equate power relations, but to suggest a broad structural reading of monosexism.

      I agree with your four last points.

      Solidarity,
      S

  2. Pingback: Snippet #4: The bisexual invisibility report | Bi radical

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s