Why is the term “fag hag” still acceptable?
Is it not both homophobic and misogynist?
Yet I hear it bandied around without concern by self-identified feminist women who will avoid, or express guilt about, using other terms of abuse for women, such as “bitch.” And I’ve heard it used by liberal, lefty men and women who would never dream of referring to gay men as “fags” in any other context.
I’ve noticed that “fag hag” is often modified with a “just,” as in “She’s just a fag hag,” or “They’re just fag hags,” as if a heterosexual woman’s preference for friendships with gay men reduces her to nothing more than that preference. No longer a complex human being, she is just a fag hag.
But what does this say about the underlying attitudes to gay men?
I’ve also noticed that when women use this term there is often a sense of real anger at these “fag hags.”
Why are we so hostile to heterosexual women who befriend gay men that we have a special term of abuse for them?
What is the root of the problem here?
If a heterosexual woman chooses to make her friendships with gay men primary in her life why is that a) a problem or b) anybody else’s business? Why do we feel we have a right to comment on these relationships at all?
According to the Urban Dictionary, the equivalent term for heterosexual men who tend to befriend lesbians is “lesbro.” But this is not as widely used and, as far as I’m aware, and it doesn’t have the homophobic misogynistic sting of “fag hag.”
There definitely seems to be a feeling that women who befriend gay men are being stupid and the relationships are unhealthy, perhaps because they are seen as postponing their graduation into “mature” sexual relations with heterosexual men. This is a big part of the plot of the sitcom Will and Grace. Will Grace ever “grow up” and get herself a “real” man? Preference for gay men as companions may also imply a critique of socially constructed heterosexual masculinity – the idea that women may find the behaviours culturally associated with gay men more attractive than those associated with heterosexual men could be disturbing for a lot of reasons.
This is not to say that I don’t see any problems in the popular discourse that surrounds the idea of relationships between gay men and heterosexual women because I do, especially in the way it constructs gay men as acceptable only as long as they adopt the role of everybody’s best friend — as long as they are suitably entertaining and non-assertive. As I’ve said before, any future for constructive mutually enriching friendships between gay people and straight people must be devoid of the implication that gay people exist to please, pander to and stroke the egos of straight people, or as substitutes for unsatisfactory heterosexual relationships.
But this is an aspect of the way we think about relations between gay men and heterosexual people in general.
And critiquing a discourse is not the same as denigrating real-life relationships which involve real individuals and are no doubt as complex as all other relationships.