Hysteria and the Fear of Hate Crimes within “Dykes to Watch out For”

Within the LGBTQ+ community, fears arise due to the possible persecution and oppression one can face. Hate crimes are extremely prevalent and unfortunately, are most of the time, not even provoked. Within Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For”, she provides both a sense of comic relief but also relatability to the reader. In the section “On the Road”, Harriet and Mo are on their way to The March on Washington. Essentially, while on their way they decide to go to a rest stop. At the rest stop they begin to ‘knock’ on the other people in their area, questioning why the 5 year-old needed to know their gender in the bathroom and how everyone gives one of the women “the creeps” (17). The interaction that occurred between two cowboys and the women at the table was extremely striking, as it displayed the hysteria LGBTQ+ community faced. One of the woman stated, “Don’t look now. But there are two cowboys headed straight for us!” Within this statement, the reader is able to visualize the tension and uneasiness within the women. When they arrive at the table, they greet themselves, and as Bechdel portrays it, they are smiling. On the other hand, the women are seen to be having their heads down and eyes directed towards the table. The intense contrast of body language definitely indicates the lack of trust of the women towards the men. The cowboys then begin to say, “You all look like you’re headed for D.C.!”, to which one of the women reply “Yeah? What of it?”. The woman across from her, as Bechdel presented it, had an air bubble thought of a newspaper that was titled, “COED Stabs Homophobe at Hojo’s!” The title itself directly alludes to the fact that the women automatically feel threatened due to what they perceive to be their ‘outward’ sexuality. The men then directly reply, “Well so are we! All the way from Iowa! You have a good trip now, and enjoy the march!” Within the next picture of the comic, the women collectively discuss their mis-interpretation of the two cowboys and how they felt: “Hoo boy! My face was red!” and “Talk about assumptions”. Bechdel’s use of having one of the woman use the word ‘assumption’, while it seems to be making a joke, also shows the severity of how assumptions can somewhat backfire and invalidate masculine-presenting same-sex couples. Ultimately, Bechdel makes a commentary on both masculinity and the dangers of assumptions. Although the women were obviously in fear of their life, rightfully so, it does speak to how society dismisses, at first glance, male same-sex couples and unfortunately, fears the worst.

Ultimately, Bechdel’s comic is seen as relatable and humorous, while also giving the reader an insight into the assumption that two ‘masculine-presenting’ men cannot be a couple. Although these women make a joke about the scenario, the dismissal of male same-sex couples is essentially something that happens very often within the LGBTQ+ community and is somewhat stigmatized.

 

2 thoughts on “Hysteria and the Fear of Hate Crimes within “Dykes to Watch out For””

  1. Hey, I love your rendition of my post! I also like the new ideas you included in regards to ‘hysteria’ and the clothing of the cowboys, instead of the cowboys themselves. Although I do agree that they were hesitant because of their clothing, I also believe that it truly stemmed from the fact that they were man and stereotypically ‘masculine’. Great analysis…

  2. Thanks for the post.
    I appreciate how you bring into focus the comic panels that delineate the dichotomous assumptions made by society and even within queer community. I wonder if it should be “paranoia” or something along the line of internalized “mistrust” here instead of the word “hysteria,” for it means quite differently for this context and has its own gendered history. Also, I have another interpretation of this scene: it’s less about the “masculine-representing” aspect that worry these lesbians but the clothes these men wear that afford the stereotype of homophobic country rednecks, cowboys discussed by Eli Clare in Exile and Pride. It has more to do with class and these men’s rural identity, which is, of course, often tied to toxic masculinity.

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