Unmasking Heterosexuality

  • Jenny Hockey
  • Angela Meah
  • Victoria Robinson
Chapter

Abstract

This book addresses a dominant identity category — heterosexuality. It argues that although both pervasive and privileged, heterosexuality is, as Kitzinger and Wilkinson (1993: 3) suggest, a ‘given’, ‘a silent term’. In that empirical work on heterosexuality remains limited, this chapter draws parallels with similarly dominant social identities — masculinity, able-bodiedness, whiteness. Indeed many of these mesh with heterosexuality itself, mutually reinforcing positions of power and privilege. Thus, for example, discussing gender, Kimmel and Messner (2004) argue that men are often treated as if they have no gender. Listening to a conversation between a white and a black women discussing who they saw in the mirror each morning — the white woman seeing simply a woman, the black woman seeing a black woman, Kimmel realised that he saw ‘a human being: universally generalizable. The generic person’ (Kimmel and Meissner, 2004: x). As these authors stress, ‘the mechanisms that afford us privilege are very often invisible to us’ (2004: x). Dyer’s discussion of whiteness echoes these points:

the position of speaking as a white person is one that white people now almost never acknowledge and this is part of the condition and power of whiteness: white people claim and achieve authority for what they say by not admitting, indeed not realizing, that for much of the time they speak only for whiteness. (1997: xiv)

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Copyright information

© Jenny Hockey, Angela Meah and Victoria Robinson 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenny Hockey
    • 1
  • Angela Meah
    • 2
  • Victoria Robinson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldUK
  2. 2.University of ManchesterUK

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