Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

Archive for May, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Queer Ladies Love Maddow

Autostraddle recently released its annual line-up of the 100 “Hottest Queerest Women in All the Land.”  For those of you who don’t spend your time fawning over queer culture websites (who are you?!), Autostraddle is a popular site for “news, entertainment, opinion, and girl-on-girl culture.”  What does this actually mean?  It means all the women (and others) of the queer (and other) persuasions just freaked out about how much we all loooooooooooove Tegan and Sara and OHMYGODRACHELMADDOOOOOOW!!

As usual, this year’s list is full of myriad talented, accomplished, and very attractive individuals.  But flipping through the pages, it’s impossible not to notice that most of them look pretty similar.  There is certainly some diversity of gender presentations–I’m always happy to see that–but the vast majority of these women are white.  Moreover, they’re predominantly young, slim, and white.  I counted fewer than 20 women of color on the list, as well as the cast of The Peculiar Kind, grouped together as #64.  None of them are in the top 10.

How do I know the exact number of women of color on this list?  I don’t.  It’s obviously not possible to decipher a person’s racial and/or ethnic identities just by looking at them or their name, but it’s apparent that the list is dominated by light skinned women, most of whom are repping similar sizes and body types.  So really, what this list tells me is that Autostraddle has rounded up yet another group of people who embody queerness as something that belongs primarily to young-ish, thin-ish, white people.  This misrepresentation happens all over the place.  Queerness is generally marginalized in mainstream everything (shocking to hear, I know), but as long as the few queer individuals that do appear show only a sliver of the queer community (the white, cisgender, and usually class-privileged sliver), then we’re continuing to divide and marginalize within our supposed community.  And that shit needs to stop.

EDIT: Apparently some clarification is needed.  The problem is not a lack of out LGBTQ people of color.  The problem in this case is that there’s a wide array of women of color who are routinely overlooked in favor of white women, who get the bulk of the recognition and publicity.  We cannot pretend it’s some sort of accident that hot people lists–and other images of which bodies our society/media consider beautiful–are overwhelmingly white, unless they’re specifically categorized as POC.  The same goes for ability, body type, size, and cis/trans* status.  This shit is old and needs to be changed like now already.

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Fuck Modesty~~It’s a Social Construct Anyway

Who’s heard One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”?  Everyone who’s turned on a radio or been subjected to someone else’s in the past year, your hands should be up.  For those of you not intimately familiar with the lyrical prowess of this artistic masterpiece, it includes such confessions as: “The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed.”  Oh yeah–they went there.  Heavy stuff.

For real though, let’s talk about this song.  Specifically the final message of the piece: “You don’t know you’re beautiful.  That’s what makes you beautiful.”  Umm…really?  The person to whom the song is directed (presumably a young woman) is described as shy and she “smile[s] at the ground.”  Her beauty comes from her immense modesty and even insecurity, the implication being that if she were aware of these things, she would be less attractive.  Hmmm.  I feel similarly about Orianthi’s “According to You”, which is all about deriving a sense of worth and attractiveness from another person (read: a man telling a woman that she’s good enough).

These examples follow a long tradition of popular media that perpetuate the notion that women must be attractive, but excessively modest.  Beauty is presented as external attributes combined with self-conscious body language.  (I’m telling you, people, these numbers rank up there with Beethoven’s 5th).  Everywhere are messages telling us–especially women–to be more self-critical, to rely more on other people for validation, rather than developing our own senses of pride and accomplishment.  Where are the songs that extol self-confidence and self-sufficiency?  Confirming one’s own wondrousness, whether or not one has a date?  When these songs do appear, they often still rely on someone else’s gaze i.e. “You hurt me and now I’m finally coming back to show you how much better I am alone” (aka Kelly Clarkson’s go-to song).  What if you’re always straight up fantastic?

On the flip side, if these songs help some people feel better about themselves, that’s great.  I guess what I’m trying to tell you is…my #1 hit (which will, of course, debut at the top of the charts) will be called “I’m fucking fabulous and y’all besta deal with that.”  It’s time for everyone to rock their own marvelousness without fear.

Incongruities

Put a Bird on It

This morning I woke up far too early (10:05am is the crack of dawn, okay??!) to the sound of what I presumed was a squeaky dog toy being compressed repeatedly outside my window.  “Make it stopppppppppp” my sleepy little grey cells moaned, “we want REM cycles, not shrill attacks on your ears!”  The noise grew louder and louder, until I could no longer take it and I dragged myself out of bed and to the nearest window.  (Let’s be real–this was about 16″ away.)  Opening the curtain, I saw a baby bird grasping the screen and calling out to the grey clouds above.  Instantly, my heart melted from “ugh” to “awwwww” and my singer’s brain snapped on, propelling me from “why can’t I just sleep forever?” to much more important questions like “how thin must its vocal cords be to allow it to produce such high, piercing notes?”

But the real question is: why is it only when I move back to the city, out of the middle of nowhere, that I’m awakened by a baby bird?

CoD: Call of Duty Crumble Old Dichotomies

Conversation with le brother (age 15, into video games…duh) yesterday:

Le bro: I just explained to one of my friends that there’s more than two genders and he was like, “whaaaaaa?”

Me: Wait, you explained this over the headset while playing?  How did that come up?

Le bro: He was registering for something and had to select male/female/other.  He was like, “Other?  Hahaha.”

Me in my head: I love the world.

Le bro: So I told him that yeah, you could be born biologically male or female, but that doesn’t define whether you’re a man or a woman or a different gender.

Me in my head: Wait, I really do love the world!

Me out loud: Wow, so what did he say to that?

Le bro: He was like, “Ummm, I’m gonna drop this conversation here.”

Me: Ya know what?  You were exactly right and hopefully he’ll think of that again some time in the future.

Me in my head: I HAVE CORRUPTED THIS KID SO WELL!!  Time to move on to phase two of casually schooling him in terms/concepts* he should know…

It gives me hope to know that somewhere out in the world, there are 10 or so people who are listening to a teenage CoD star tearing apart biological determinism and the gender binary, while all on secret missions to drive tanks through dangerous computerized terrain and blow things up.

*Next up: there are more sexes than male and female; bodies are assigned M/F at birth.  And why is CoD such a compelling game?

Psssst, Tamar! What is pansexuality?

I hear some of you wondering this across the vast reaches of the internet.  As much as I would like to release you to the wondrous world of the interwebs and tell you to get on Google and edumacate yourselves, in this case, that might lead somewhere unfortunate.  Periodically, I Google pansexual (as well as a slew of other gender and sexuality terms) just to see what would show up if I were trying to learn about these things for the first time.  The good news: in the last three and a half years (since I started doing this), definitions have expanded exponentially, thanks in large part to the blogosphere.  Now even Wikipedia is getting hip to the kids’ brand spankin’ new vocab words.  Still, I’m concerned about some of the “information” that’s out there.

According to Yahoo Answers’ “What is a pansexual?” page, “they are COOL PEOPLE.”  That’s lovely, dear, but not very helpful.  Other answers on this thread include “someone who’s unbelievably easy” and “sexually attracted to cookware.”  How I love the world today.

I cannot speak for all pan people–clearly, everyone experiences their sexuality differently–but here’s a good working definition.  Pansexuality means an attraction to people of many/all sexes and genders.  To clear up some common misconceptions: it doesn’t mean being attracted to/wanting to sleep with every single person all the time (how exhausting!), nor does it have anything to do with pedophilia or bestiality.  One phrase that I’ve seen tossed around a bunch is that pan people are “gender blind” and can’t see gender at all.  Excuse me, but…what??  To me, this sounds suspiciously like the people who claim to be “color blind” and unable to see race, when really they mean that they refuse to acknowledge it.  Am I attracted to people of many sexes and genders?  Yes.  Does this mean that I simply pass over these part of their identities and don’t notice them at all?  Absolutely not.  I just find different things to appreciate about various identities, so I’m not gonna discount anyone as a potential partner simply because of their sex or gender(s).  Everyone gets an equal chance in this regard.  If you can’t handle my obsessions with purple things and brie?  Well, that’s an entirely different story.

Who came up with these colors?

Greetings, friends and comrades.  Today I would like to discuss a very important and serious issue in my life: the pansexual flag.

Does it remind anyone else of Superman ice cream?  (FYI for  all you curious kiddies out there: I don’t recommend trying it–it tastes like blue and yellow.)

Given my penchant for being ever so slightly over the top, I would love to incorporate this symbol of one of my identities visually into my life and occasionally my wardrobe.  I would totally wear a pan flag to pride, if not for the fact that I would feel like a huge poof of cotton candy.  This is a problem.  It causes me great distress to know that I can never fully take this flag seriously.  Every time I start to feel a swell of pride, my mind and heart are derailed by memories of looking at this odd flavor in ice cream shops and wondering what it would look like when all the vibrant hues melted together down the side of my sugar cone.

It’s Always Bigger in Texas

For the newbies who don’t actually know me in real life (and yet are somehow magically here reading my blog—thank you), I just graduated from Mount Holyoke College.*  What happens when you graduate?  All of a sudden you have to move four year’s worth of accumulated stuff home.  Oh the joy.  To solve this problem, my mom and I loaded up the car and drove from western MA all the way to Chicago.

While on the road, we stopped at an Ohio diner for breakfast.  The menu listed Tabasco sauce as it’s own meal item.  What is this?  Toast options included rye, wheat, etc., and Texas toast.  “What is Texas toast?” I asked the waitress.

“Oh, it’s man toast” she replied, as though this were the most obvious response in the world.  “Ya know, bigger.”  She held up her thumb and first finger to show us that Texas toast is sliced twice as thickly as regular bread.

Me in my head: “Did she just say ‘man toast’?  Wtf is this?  Who comes up with these things?  I must’ve misheard.”

My mom and I shared a look across the table.  Judging by her expression, not only had I heard correctly, but Texas toast was apparently a legit thing and this definition was to be taken seriously.

Me out loud: “Oh.  Umm I’ll have rye, thanks.”

It was then, staring down at my placemat that doubled as a menu with more product placement than I could handle (Minute Maid orange juice, Premium crackers, Tabasco hot sauce), that I realized my true calling: to chronicle these incomprehensible moments that life hands us—these adventures through heteronormativity.

*The liberal arts haven of critical thinking, sexual and gender fluidity, and optional clothing located in the fine hamlet of South Hadley.

Oh heeeey!

Welcome.  I just graduated from college and–as any recent Hollywood movie or graduation speaker will tell you–now is the time for me to embark upon my life in “the real world.”  My first acts as a real person have been: moving home, sleeping late, eating cake for breakfast, and starting a blog.  In that order.  (That is what one is supposed to do, isn’t it?)  As a musical theatre major and gender studies minor, I have been infinitely well prepared to get all of the jobs and make all of the money.  Duh.  In an effort to maintain my sanity and keep myself (and others) chucking, I will record funny incidents that bother, intrigue, inspire, surprise me–the social constructs that make me groan and the unexpected flurries of glitter that make me squeal with glee.  If you too use the phrases heteropatriarchal, problematic, and “let’s unpack that” non-ironically (or with the greatest irony), then read on.  Welcome to the site where anything can be construed as queer if you ponder it long enough.

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