You’re driving on the highway. Look up at the billboards. You’re watching your favorite primetime. Pay attention to the commercials. Reading a cheap magazine. The advertisements are on every other page.
What do you see? Half-naked girls? Or better yet: half-naked girls on top of fully clothed men? Blatant gender roles?
How often do you see people of the LGBTQIA+ community in these types of advertising? When you do, how often are they portraying negative stereotypes?
This extends beyond advertisements and commercials into our favorite programs and literature, too. A survey of relationships portrayed on cable TV from 2010 to 2012 shows that out of the 404 relationships examined, 392 were heterosexual relationships. 8 were between two men, and four between two women. In 2013, only 29 books of the young adult genre were specifically LGBT books. Do you see the problem with this?
It’s called heteronormativity.
Heteronormativity—as defined by Urban Dictionary—is “a viewpoint that expresses heterosexuality as a given instead of being one of many possibilities.” If that doesn’t sum it up, I don’t know what does. Heteronormativity surrounds us. It’s a bigger part of our every day life than we even realize.
A lesbian couple can’t hold hands in public without being fetishized, but Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele can engage in a domestically abusive relationship while naked on screen and no one bats an eye. A queer couple with the ability to reproduce is shamed more than a cishet couple without that ability. When boys are little, they chase girls on the playground. Their parents interpret this as them ‘having crushes’ on those girls. Even though those little boys have never told their parents that they like girls, it’s an assumption that’s made without question.
That, my friends, is heteronormativity.
There’s no doubt as to whether or not heteronormativity is a toxic concept: it is. It enforces and perpetuates negative stereotypes on the LGBTQIA+ community. Also, by establishing the idea that it’s normal to be cisgender and heterosexual, it—by default—creates the idea that being anything besides that is abnormal. Because of heteronormativity, LGBTQIA+ people are often subject to harsh jokes and binaries to fit into, which is unfair on every level.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are still people. They deserve acceptance. They deserve representation. They deserve respect.
Let’s recognize cishet privilege and give it to them
Cassie Baker is a freshman in high school from Atlanta. She hopes to be a journalist and a fiction author when she goes up. She’s passionate about social justice and intersectional feminism, as well as breaking the stigmas surrounding BFRBs. She enjoys listening to Fall Out Boy in her free time.