I’ve researched a little into the topic of Heteronormativity in our culture. It is a big word, but really it just means the structural framework of how we view women and men in our culture and the roles and expectations we define as normal and how these roles should be performed. All fine and dandy right? In reality, not so much. It does not take much to transform gender roles into gender stereotypes and beginning the process of ordering people into their “proper” gender identities based on their actions and appearance.
Being an outlier on the hetronormative scale invites a variety of negative responses ranging from quizzical looks and questions all the way to profane gendered slurs. Concepts like heteronormativity and Patriarchy, if you are part of the dominant majority, are sometimes very hard to see or even conceptualize. It is only until you breach a perceived norm (as a member of the privileged class, if you’re in the underclass you get oppressed by default 24/7) do things start to go sideways. I came to this little discovery point about twenty some years ago for something as basic as choice of adornment.
Having worn a gold rings on my index toes for some twenty years now let me assure you that I have received compliments all the way to outright hostility for a simple choice of jewelry. One of the most common responses I get is “Hey, aren’t toe rings for girls?” to which I usually reply to my (almost always) male questioner, “Hey aren’t earrings for girls?”. Which usually makes them stop and think for a bit as the realization that the cultural validity of gendered practices is not static, but rather quite fluid in nature. Okay, well I hope they realize this, but most of the time they, just repeat their first comment again (they having just passed a heteronormative judgment), to which I reply, “I think they look cool, and thanks for asking,” and politely steer the conversation elsewhere.
Less judicious or enlightened individuals have often questioned my sexuality dropping the familiar hetro-bomb, “Are you gay?” with the word gay dripping with scorn and derision. Does wearing toe rings make you gay? It has not worked yet, and I would not be particularly worried if it did because like most decisions of this nature, first and foremost it is my choice. And I choose the gendered slurs and disapprobation from various sources because when it comes down to it, it is their problem, not mine. I can come to this conclusion precisely because I am a member of the dominant class and still retain enough of my privilege so that my outlier choices do not negatively effect my social status much over all.
Still think that patriarchy and privilege are not integral parts of our society? Push your “normal” gender role a bit just to see, as an experiment, how closely heteronormative norms are enforced, I dare ya. :)