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16 Queen's L.J. 287 (1991)
Straight Talk: Male Heterosexual Privilege

handle is hein.journals/queen16 and id is 293 raw text is: Straight Talk: Male Heterosexual Privilege
Bruce Ryder*
Heterosexual men's relation to the movement for lesbian and gay libera-
tion, like our relation to feminism, produces epistemological and political
dilemmas. As members of an oppressor class, how can we contribute in
good faith to the struggle to end heterosexist and sexist oppression? The
dilemmas are real and troubling; in particular, if white heterosexual men's
(W.H.M.'s) ways of knowing and seeing the world have traditionally mas-
queraded as objective truth, how can we speak and act without reinscribing
the epistemic and political dominance of our particular brand of masculini-
ty? As a person committed to political struggles to overcome oppression in
all its forms, I admittedly have a stake in believing that we progressive,
white, straight men are not a collection of oxymorons.' My own view is that
W.H.M.s must speak, that we have a responsibility to speak out against sex-
ism and heterosexism. This involves, for example, relying upon and con-
tributing to bodies of knowledge developed by feminist and gay theorists
that have exposed the structures of domination by which heterosexual men
are privileged, and the ways in which our privilege is sustained and rational-
ized in legal and other discourses. In doing so, we must speak and write
with great care, acknowledging our privilege and using it and the authority
that comes with it in a manner which is attentive to the limitations of our
particular knowledge and experiences. We W.H.M.s have been speaking for
others for too long - we have defined gender, sexual, racial, and other dif-
ferences in unspeakable ways. In many contexts, it is time that we shut up
and listened to the majority. But we not only have to learn to talk less about
(before we have listened to) others, we also have to learn to talk more about
ourselves and about the structures of domination that sustain our privilege.
After all, masculinity is a problem. Heterosexuality is a problem. Male het-
erosexuality is double trouble.
My purpose below is to explore the dilemmas of our participation in
anti-sexist and anti-heterosexist movements that result from our position of
dual dominance captured in the notion of male heterosexual privilege. I will
begin by outlining my understanding of the meanings of heterosexuality
and heterosexual privilege, and of how they are sustained and rationalized
in legal discourse. I will conclude with some thoughts which I hope will be
useful to other heterosexual men in thinking through our position regard-
ing the struggles to end sexist and heterosexist oppression.

© B. Ryder and Queen's Law Journal

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