2 min

Taking a lesson from our big sisters

“Now that we’ve got marriage everyone seems to think we’ve arrived, that there’s nothing left to fight for.” It’s something you hear over and over again from queer activists across the country. If you happen to be listening that is. If you’re not busy picking out china patterns or some such nonsense.

It’s the same sort of thing I’ve been hearing most of my life about women’s lib. Our foremothers went through all that bra-burning business so that we don’t have to, right? We have the right to equal pay for equal work and all that, don’t we?

Well don’t look now but the federal government is slowly chipping away at women’s rights in this country. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, part of the Tories’ omnibus Budget Implementation Act that passed second reading in the senate on Mar 5, turns pay equity into a matter to be negotiated, not assumed as a basic right. It also takes away public sector workers’ right to file pay equity complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and could see unions fined for encouraging their members to fight for equal pay.

You’d think that this affront to women’s rights would be met by huge protests. You’d think that, for example, it would be front and centre on International Women’s Day, just passed on Mar 8. Did you hear a peep? No, I thought not.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “But I have a cock. How does this affect me?”

There are two big ways. The first is that it’s a lesson as to what happens when you decide it’s safe to quit defending the borders of your past victories. It’s what happens when a movement wanes because of apathy. Forget the fact that queers are still facing both subtle and not-so-subtle forms of discrimination all over the place; even those rights that we assume to be inalienable are, well, alienable given the right government.

The second way is that queers face gender-based discrimination all the time, we just don’t always think of it that way. It’s particularly apparent when you look at the question of equal work for equal pay. Pink-collared ghettos are just as likely to be populated by gay men as women and studies — like Sexual Orientation, Work and Income in Canada published in the November 2008 issue of the Canadian Journal of Economics — have found that gay men are more likely to make less money than straight men, while lesbians are more likely to make more money than straight women. Masculinity, whether it appears in a man or woman, is still valued more than femininity in the workplace.

The same holds true on the street. When a random asshole yells, “Hey faggot!” it’s probably not because they’ve just seen you sucking cock in the back alley. More likely it’s that you are more effeminate than their tolerances allow for. It works the same for butch women, not to mention tons of trans folks. Those queers who challenge notions of what men and women should look like, walk like, sound like tend to draw more fire than those that don’t challenge gender stereotypes.

Gender-based discrimination, whether it’s directed at queers or women is a form of homophobia, just as homophobia, be it targeted at queers or even straight folks who don’t play the part well enough, is a form of gender discrimination. It behooves queers of all stripes to stand up for women’s rights, just as it is in the interests of feminists everywhere to stick up for us.

Besides if women made the same as men then all your fag hags would be able to pay for their fair share of martinis.