by Adam Davies and Rhea Ashley Hoskin for The Conversation
This year, the 10-Year Challenge appeared as a social media fad on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
For the challenge (also called the 2009 vs. 2019 Challenge), people post two side-by-side photos of themselves to show how much they’ve changed: one photo is current and the other from 10 years ago.
The opportunity to self-reflect on a decade’s worth of changes can be a wonderful opportunity to assess one’s development.
This may be especially true for queer and trans people who may have significant changes to share as they become more open about their identity.
A post shared by patrickstarrr (@patrickstarrr) on Jan 14, 2019 at 12:33pm PST. But for others, the posts may feel less celebratory. They may even feel self-denigrating.
But for others, the posts may feel less celebratory. They may even feel self-denigrating.
Many gay men describe their 2009 picture as “gross,” “unattractive” or “grotesque” in ways that link these qualities to femininity. These attitudes are consistent with societal messages that men should not express femininity.
As we scroll through these posts, especially by gay men, we believe many sentiments expressed reveal a deep femmephobia within LGBTQ+ communities. They also echo widespread issues of body dysmorphia (the obsessive feeling that a part of your body is flawed) and include fat-shaming or inadvertently praise disordered eating.
The posts raise alarms for us because we believe they are part of a growing culture of gay men glorifying femmephobia and elements of toxic masculinity.
Dating apps: hotbeds of body image struggles
Within our research, we seek to understand and illuminate femmephobic attitudes. For many gay men, Facebook and Instagram and gay-specific dating apps are hotbeds of body image struggles and online gender-based discrimination.
Research suggests that this phenomenon is linked to gay men’s tendency to openly discriminate against other gay men who express a gender outside of traditional masculinity. Gay men’s skinny and thin bodies are viewed with disgust by other men seeking more “masculine” presenting partners.
On dating apps like Grindr, there is the ubiquitous hateful saying: “No fats, no fems, no Asians”. This saying is reflective of the systemic denigration and discrimination against feminine gay men — both fat and thin male bodies — as well as Asian men.
Asian men have historically been stereotyped as passive, submissive and failing expectations for masculinity, with gay Asian men experiencing high amounts of femmephobia and gender-based stereotyping within gay men’s communities.
Scruff, a gay hook-up app is a prime example of the privilege masculinity receives in gay men’s communities. Scruff is marketed and catered to a “scruffy” demographic. Scruffy or rugged men who have hair on their bodies and large amounts of facial hair can congregate online, commonly leaving those considered more feminine ostracized from such spaces.
Likewise, Grindr, the most popular gay hook-up app, is well-known for its focus on fit bodies, muscular physiques and gym selfies.
In this pursuit, researchers have shown gay men to have high levels of body dysmorphia, which can result in a preoccupation with gym culture, or taking silicon implements and testosterone enhancers to grow muscle mass.
Gay men interact with one another online in heavily masculinized ways, with a focus on short sentences, quick phrases and highly sexualized text. They tend to avoid emotional expressions and committed relationships.
Some researchers suggest that gay men commonly express femininity during adolescence, yet this is diminished to conform to masculine ideologies as adults. An especially influential example of this in the gay subculture is “twinks,” a common term to describe young, effeminate, typically white and slender gay men.
Although twinks are highly valorized by certain segments of the gay community for their youthfulness, they are also often negatively stereotyped. They deal with perceptions of frivolity, passivity and superficiality. and are fetishized or objectified as play-things that simultaneously affirms the masculinity of other men.
Young twinks are encouraged to either masculinize their gender expression or become submissive for the consumption of more masculine gay men.
Within twink communities are high rates of sexual assault experiences and high suicide rates.
An especially influential study by clinical psychologist Kittiwut Jod Taywaditep found many gay men endorse femmephobic sentiments and engage in a processes of “defeminization” between adolescence and adulthood.
For many gay men, growing out of their femininity is seen as a sign of adulthood — an evolution of the body and self as they shed their former feminine and boyish self and enter adulthood as a stable and masculine man who has internalized dominant notions of masculinity.
With femininity’s associations with youthfulness and incompletion, masculinity is secured as a cultural symbol of adulthood. This adulthood is then associated with a masculine and athletic body. This evolution narrative crafts a spectrum of gender expression that places femininity on the left and masculinity on the right.
It creates an ideology that views feminine men as inferior or “not fully developed.”
Comments on these posts on social media about body size and youthful appearance bolster the narrative of femininity as inferior and infantile.
The narrative of the 10-Year Challenge seems to be that all is OK once a femme defeminizes and grows into a respectable masculine man. These attitudes towards the “femmes of 2009” need to stop to avoid solidifying toxic masculinity in LGBTQ+ communities.
Adam Davies is an Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph. Rhea Ashley Hoskin is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Femininities, Femme and Femmephobia, Queen’s University, Ontario.
The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.
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Rage nightclub management lays some portion of the blame on their landlord, Monte Overstreet. The club’s now-former general manager, Ron Madrill, told Q Voice News that rent for the location was already “very high” prior to operations shutting down in March. He says he believes an impasse over rent payments may have contributed to Rage’s closure.
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Anderson Cooper Reveals He’s a Dad, Welcomes New Baby Boy
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The CNN anchor took to Instagram Thursday night to reveal earlier this week Wyatt was born via surrogate. Cooper said, “As a gay kid, I never thought it would be possible to have a child, and I’m grateful for all those who have paved the way, and for the doctors and nurses and everyone involved in my son’s birth.”
As for Wyatt’s name, 52-year-old says it’s in honor of his dad, who passed away when he was just 10, saying, “I hope I can be as good a dad as he was.”
Anderson also shared a sweet message about his surrogate, saying, “Most of all, I am grateful to a remarkable surrogate who carried Wyatt, and watched over him lovingly, and tenderly, and gave birth to him. It is an extraordinary blessing – what she, and all surrogates give to families who cant have children.”
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Wyatt is Anderson’s first child … Congrats!!
Mister Rogers Told Co-Star Don’t Come Out as Gay, and Marry a Woman
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Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons from 1968 – 1995, says in his new memoir, Fred Rogers got wind of the fact Clemmons was gay, pulled him aside and said, “Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd. Someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all.”
And, then the other shoe dropped … “Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the ‘Neighborhood,’ you can’t be out as gay.”
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