It was reported recently that a club goer to the members club XXL in London was refused entry because they were in (what is being described as) high heels and looked ‘feminine’. They were told they had to remove their heels and dress appropriately as this was a venue that celebrates everything masculine (it was a bear club after all).
It then transpires that this is actually one of many incidents of this kind and to add insult to injury the owner of XXL even decided to go on an anti-fem (amongst other things) rant on twitter (I’m not going to link to it as it doesn’t deserve the airtime).
These recent incidents have quite rightly sparked a fresh debate about toxic masculinity on the gay scene and how ‘fem’ guys are being pushed out in favour of a more ‘masc’ (masculine) culture. In a recent article by Otamere Guobadia, they talk about anti-femme door policies at various places including quoting examples where drag queens and trans women on nights out are excluded from venues for being too feminine (or not masculine depending on your point of view).
In response to the incidents by XXL, there is a protest against the door policy at XXL on the 23 September and even organisations like All Together UK (an LGBT social group) are boycotting the venue to ensure their members and potential don’t feel excluded from events. With the debate raging is there a danger that nobody wins in all of this?
On the ‘masc’ side you have years of the gay community trying to get away from the stereotypical portrayal of a gay man in the media. Deliberately engaging with, what they see, as normal everyday masculine blokey stuff. Discouraging ‘camp’ behaviour, veering away from more feminine activities and hobbies towards more physical activities, the celebration of the 6 pack and chisled body etc. Has this gone too far down the masculine path? Now that concepts of ‘gender’ are more fluid than they ever have been before, is such a masculine idealism toxic to the community?
On the ‘fem’ side you have pretty much the opposite reaction to the above. After years of being told what is masculine and to be gay, you have to be x body shape or behave in Y fashion this is the inevitable result of that. If you repress anyone for long enough they will eventually burst out and push back on the repressive ideas that held them back. This is exactly what we are seeing now and personally, I celebrate it.
“The moment we repress one over the other is the moment everyone loses”
My worry is that this whole argument shouldn’t be a case of masculinity is bad or femininity is bad. Both are good and bad in their own measures and are both valid ways of being in their own rights. The moment we repress one over the other is the moment everyone loses. Calling for masculine bars to be banned is wrong, just as calling for feminine bars to be banned is wrong. Both can exist so long as ones from the other can enter hassle free. That boys and girls is a diverse and inclusive environment not one over the other.
No one should be repressed for being who they are. Masculine, Feminine, Undecided, Fluid or whatever! If we truly want to call ourselves an ‘inclusive’ society then all options should be on the table. If a fem person wants to enter XXL then so be it, just as a butch person walks into a drag show then so be it. They know what XXL is and what its brand is about, just because someone in a corset walks around doesn’t mean the ‘buff’ ‘masculine’ brand and feel of the place has changed. Last time I checked masculinity was a lot more stable than that (but I could be wrong…?).
Personally, I have no idea what I would fit in. I wouldn’t call myself masculine as I was never really a typical ‘bloke’ in that sense. However, I wouldn’t call me particularly effeminate either but I do have my moments. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things but I wanted to give you where I stand in all of this so maybe you can see why I see both sides of the debate here.
Now that I know a little more about what the XXL owner is about (personally) and while their door policy remains so bullish I’ll also be boycotting the venue – there are plenty of other decent nights out in London! I don’t often boycott as it affects staff more than it does the boss but in this instance, it may just do the trick.
However, if I now have to queue to get into the Eagle I will not be happy.
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