Peace in the Classroom

Keeping Homophobia out of the Lives of Young Children: It Isn’t Easy!

on September 17, 2016

In the year 2016 many of us can congratulate ourselves for being progressive and raising our children to be open minded individuals. In the United States we are a nation which is “moving forward” in so many ways and while we are “behind” in our thinking as compared to some countries when it comes to gay rights, we are ahead by leaps and bounds as compared to so many nations around the world.

With this being said,there is still at this time a strong sense of homophobic feelings among a large part of the American population. Sadly, these feelings trickle down to our youngest members of society, who absorb prejudices and stereotypes at a tender age when they very well instead could be learning to embrace diversity. Some of these feelings are learned by the adults in their lives, others from media and other sources. One such contributor may come as quite a surprise to many as the name it is associated with works hard in today’s society to push the envelope with diverse shows and backing policies which call for equal treatment for all. Yet the history of the Disney company is to market movies, toys, and books that not only promotes stereotypes,  but in many of its movies demeans gay people in a very sneaky way called queer coding.

 befunky-collage

So what exactly is queer coding and why is it dangerous? Queer coding is when a story line hints that a character is gay. These hints are often times through stereotypes. Queer coding began in the 1930’s when Hollywood was forbidden to have openly gay characters and so directors and writers drew on creativity to get around the rules. This lasted until the late 60’s but is still common today in children’s films. In many Disney (and other media companies) movies and cartoon shows, the villains are given characteristics which are considered to be negative stereotypes of gay men. These include flamboyancy, weak bodies, being manipulative, being catty, and being cowardly. While their crimes may be different in each story line, all of these villains have one thing in common; they are extremely effeminate.

If the “bad guys” are not referred to as being gay then why should it matter? Movies for young children are set up with cues so that it is easy for the audience to “pick a side”, either with the good or the bad. Characteristics and actions are exaggerated as the story line needs to move along at a fairly fast pace. Children in most cases will  not root for the antagonist in a movie and will associate his characteristics with being bad. The stereotypical behavior a child sees in her early years will stay with her even if she doesn’t have a name for them or a label for the person she is associating them with. In later years when she does meet someone she knows to be gay who has the physical attributes associated with childhood memories then those negative stereotypes which were ingrained into her young mind will be very likely to surface.

Consider:

bad

    VS

princess

Note the difference between the feminine presence of the heroines versus the lack of such traits in the protagonists.This goes beyond being an “ugly old witch”. Many of the villainesses  have qualities which are usually associated with men and again, these attributions can have a lasting impact on children for many years to come.

On a positive note, Disney has also made strides to step forward recently when it comes to promoting diversity and the family. How many of you who saw the movie Frozen ever noticed this?

frozen

.If a parent came to me and said that they did not want someone who is homosexual or transgender ever working with their child what I would like to say “good luck with that!” and what I would truly say would be two different matters. Since I do not do the hiring at my school I might have a different way to put things but what I think I would say is that federal law prohibits me to discriminate against a person due to her sexual orientation just as it prohibits me from discriminating against that parent’s child in the case of his national origin, race, religion, etc. I would say that furthermore our school prides itself for valuing and embracing diversity. I would then kindly say that while we would greatly miss this particular child we would never wish for a family to feel as if they have to  stay if they were uncomfortable with teaching staff. I would rather lose a family than force one to stay and have their negative attitudes infect the rest of a school community.

Reference

Fabulously Fiendish: Disney Villains and Queer-Coding

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One response to “Keeping Homophobia out of the Lives of Young Children: It Isn’t Easy!

  1. Shonquilla says:

    Hello Heather ! Wow your blog post is amazing and so are your answers towards the questions. I love the idea on how you use pictures to match the description of the questions. You have a good point when you mention the concept of you rather lose a family than have the attitudes to reflected on the rest of the school. I have to agree because it’s like saying you can let one bad apple spoiled it for everyone else. The Disney pictures helps having a better understanding of the questions as well. The ultimate goal is raising children to see such the gender and etc towards other people. As educators, we have to make sure we continue on showing them those routes and not being so quick to judge. Wonderful Post !

    Liked by 1 person

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