In Dykes to Look Out For, the group of women travel to D.C. for a rally but must stop at a rest stop in a rural area of the US. While sitting at the stop, two very masculine cowboys approach the group and ask if they’re headed to Washington. The women are apprehensive, responding in a protective manner before the cowboys explain that they’re on the same journey. The women share a chuckle as they realize their own assumptions- that people in rural America are overwhelmingly homophobic, bigoted, and dangerous.
This theme of negative stereotypes directed at rural working-class Americans has been reoccurring throughout the semester, first in Exile and Pride and again in Brokeback Mountain. I think this phenomenon is both extremely interesting and important, especially within our own political climate, as people from rural areas of the US are often demonized. However, this demonization does not come without reason. With the advent of Donald Trump, and the blatant displays of bigotry that his followers idolize, came a rise in hate crimes and language. Obviously, this is terrifying for any American who is not white, straight, or cis. The face of Trump’s followers is a working-class, white man from the rural south. Even though it’s true that not every Trump supporter matches these characteristics, many of his most outspoken supporters do. These specific stereotypes and fears stem from images we’ve seen of these characteristics- a screaming man decked out in all Trump gear at a rally, a mass shooter being escorted out of a church in handcuffs, etc. It is easy to understand why queer people and activists would form these stereotypes.
Although this is understandable, these stereotypes still bring harm to the people within these rural communities who do not align themselves with hateful political ideology. By establishing these stereotypes as truth, like saying “all southern people are racist”, we limit the existence of working-class and rural queer-identifying people with cruel and classist rhetoric. These stereotypes, in conjunction with cultural norms surrounding masculinity, contribute to the suffering Jack and Ennis endured in Brokeback Mountain. Even though Jack and Ennis were queer-identifying men, they were subjected to the same stereotypes queer-activists apply to modern-day Trump supporters. Even though activists have good intentions, these stereotypes often mirror the same social restrictions that they fight so tirelessly against. This quote from Exile and Pride perfectly sums up my argument, stereotypes against rural Americans are problematic and contradictory to the movement as a whole; “if queer activists and communities don’t create the “options that hold the promise of wholeness [and] freedom” for all queer people, rural as well as urban, working-class and poor as well as middle- and upper-class, we have failed. And if we fail, those of us who are rural or rural-raised, poor and working-class, even mixed-class, will have to continue to make difficult choices, to measure what our losses are worth.”(46)