On Rupert Everett: Homophobia or Gender Stereotyping (or Both)?

Posted by MK on Sep 17, 2012 @ 9:24 am
Rupert Everett Photo from 2007

Rupert’s mother would like him to have a “pretty wife.”

Openly gay actor Rupert Everett’s remark in a newspaper interview that he “can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads” has sparked outrage in many circles—and rightly so. This anti-gay-parent comment, which ignores decades of research on same-sex parents, comes from a gentleman whose mother said as part of the same interview that she still wishes Rupert, who has been out for 20 years, had “a pretty wife.” Does anybody else see any irony here? 

Apparently aware that his hurtful statement would provoke angry responses, Rupert added in the interview that, while others might disagree with him, that’s “fine” because he’s “just” expressing his “opinion.” Great! Reminding people that your mean-spirited statements are just your “opinion” always works superbly to calm folks down and mend hurt feelings. Maybe he should also remind people that he’s just exercising his free speech rights? That tends to quell controversy too.

Seriously though, the controversy raises an issue that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is the overlap between homophobia and gender stereotypes.

Some people think that Rupert’s comment confirms that he is a “self-hating homosexual.” Perhaps; I really have no idea if he hates himself, though his comments do send a hateful message to millions of gay parents, and of course their children. I also think, however, that the press, including the LGBT press, needs to do a better job calling Rupert and his mother out for their gender stereotyping, in addition to their homophobia.

The claim that a child with a “mummy and a daddy” (as Rupert’s mother says) will be better off than a child with two parents of the same sex may reveal invidious gender stereotyping just as much as it indicates anti-gay bias. Do Rupert and his mother oppose parenting by two people of the same sex because those two people are gay (or bi) or because those two people are of the same sex (and because a parent of the other sex is “missing”)? These are slightly different issues, though they’re obviously related. The question is worth pondering, since both LGBT and non-LGBT people sometimes overlook how frequently and how closely anti-gay attitudes are intertwined with oppressive attitudes about men and women, masculinity and femininity, sex and gender. Challenging and dismantling archaic stereotypes about gender would bring us a long way toward liberation from homophobia, in addition to liberating all people from other burdens of sexism and gender subordination.

MK

 

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