Campus talk will look at trends in gender-based bullying

C.J. Pascoe

Many public indicators suggest homophobia is on the decline: legalizing gay marriage, shifting attitudes in polling research and the Oregon electing the nation’s first openly LGBT governor last November.

UO sociologist C. J. Pascoe will challenge this perception and discuss the state of homophobia in her Quack Chats pub talk “Homophobia: Is It Getting Better?” The talk is open to the public and takes place Wednesday, May 24, at 6 p.m. in the Erb Memorial Union’s Falling Sky Pizzeria.

Pascoe will draw from her research on homophobia and masculinity to explore the title question, with a focus on her fieldwork studying high schoolers and bullying. She wrote her first book, “Dude, You’re a Fag,” after immersing herself in a California high school for 18 months and observing a high rate of homophobic banter between the students.

“The school was a popcorn machine of homophobic language,” she said.

When she dug into that language with the high schoolers, she discovered a direct link between homophobic harassment and masculinity. She found that most of the teenagers who were using phrases like her book’s title were attempting to insult their peers’ gender as much, if not more than, their sexuality. “Gay” was a synonym for “stupid” or “worthless” and homophobic epithets were frequently used to emasculate their target.

“If boys are too touchy, too emotional, incompetent, feminine or, yes, express same-sex desire, they are vulnerable to this sort of harassment,” Pascoe explained. “Boys are frequently trying to avoid these epithets by acting sufficiently masculine, part of which entails lobbing these epithets at other boys when their performance of masculinity lapses, even mildly or for a moment.”

Pascoe will discuss the ramifications of this gender-based bullying and present case studies from her fieldwork, pop culture and current events to assess the state of homophobia. This will include an examination of masculinity and the Trump presidency, looking at the behavior and language of both the president’s supporters and opponents. She will also offer some ideas about policy recommendations and strategies to combat gender-based bullying and homophobia.

Pascoe hopes the audience leaves inspired to examine their own everyday behavior and language, as she’s found problematic tendencies that perpetuate homophobia are often unintentional and can be as prevalent with adults as high school youth.

“The way we use homophobic banter is linked to the way we understand masculinity as dominance,” Pascoe said.

Upcoming Quack Chats:

Run with a Researcher, another opportunity to engage in discussions with UO researchers, returns Saturday, June 3. Participants can run or walk with a researcher by meeting up at 8 a.m. at the Erb Memorial Union’s “O” Desk. No advance registration is required.

A pub talk next month will feature UO faculty member Troy Campbell. Campbell will speak on “Designing Awesome — The Psychological Magic Behind Disney, Social Movements, & True Love” on Wednesday, June 14 at 6 p.m. in the Erb Memorial Union’s Falling Sky Pizzeria.

To help keep upcoming events on your calendar, see the Quack Chats webpage.