Femme FATale


fail: kanye west
February 21, 2009, 5:49 pm
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i’m going to start this off by saying that i love kanye west and his music. i appreciate a lot of the politics he incorporates into his tracks. i think he has an incredible knack for combining wit and truth and packaging it up with some beats that you never, ever want to leave your head. i’m a long-time kanye fan from back in early 2000 when an indie hip-hop boy from a neighboring college attempted to woo me with the promise of mix cds featuring “unheard of” artists. kanye was on there and i instantly fell for him and not the hampshire boy who thought i could be so enamored with the new music he was giving me, that i’d forget he was a male-born dude. it might have killed him a little to know that his very cds became the soundtracks to the makeout sessions with my handsome then-gf. oh, the irony and sadness of unrequited collegiate love!

have i convinced you though of my fondness towards kanye west? because i require this preface in order to say that he managed to piss me off this week and in a really backhanded way at that. i say backhanded because i initially found his praise of gay folks as “really, really extremely dope,” a nice show of allied support. this awesome tidbit is, however, couched in an article focusing on how kanye west is, single-handedly, taking steps to “reinvent” the word “gay” from one that is, supposedly only negative to one that is positive. as a response to mainstream straight folks’ use of the word “gay” to describe anything that sucks, again, i appreciate the effort.

but kanye west wants to do more than just make “gay” positive again. he wants to, as i said earlier, “reinvent” it to be a positive portrayal of good taste in fashion, specifically. why? because all us homos can dress ourselves well, apparently. he’s been quoted in a pink news article as saying:

“I haven’t gone to a gay bar, nor do I ever plan to. But where I would talk to a gay person, the conversation would be mostly around art or design, it’d be really dope. […] From a design standpoint, kids’ll say, ‘Dude, those pants are gay.’ […] If it’s good, good, good fashion-level, design-level stuff, where it’s on a higher level than the average commercial design stuff, it’s gay people that do that. […] I think that should be said as a compliment. Like, ‘Dude, that’s so good it’s almost gay.'”

i don’t know about you, but i don’t want any words that people use as identifiers, especially marginalized identities at that, to be “reinvented” by a) someone who doesn’t ascribe to that identity and b) detaches it from its original meaning and attaches it to something as, trivial in comparison, to fashion. truly being an ally would, in this case, be kanye west stopping after calling gay folks dope and speaking out to reclaim gay as positive and to thwart those who use it to describe something as stupid or bad. defining a whole new meaning and interpretation to an identity and distilling it down to a superficial quality of some gay folks, is not only arrogant and appropriative, but just insulting. i much more appreciate the ad council commercials (two of which feature wanda sykes and hilary duff!) that specifically target the bogus and rampant “that’s so gay!” with some wit and snark.

kanye, i heart you and your music and, as a queer, i appreciate you aligning yourself with queer struggle and calling out folks for repeatedly equating “gay” with “bad.” i’m thrilled to have such a high-profile powerhouse on our side, but dude, don’t be stealing identities, introducing new meanings, and simultaneously erasing an entire history of struggle for folks to proudly call themselves “gay.” you are the leader of the hip-hop world, but your reign doesn’t allow you to be appropriative. we’re not forever on the outs, kanye, but this week, you get a fail.



fail: jerry lewis.
February 8, 2009, 11:37 pm
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jack assi’ve been writing a post for the past 3 days, on and off, trying to articulate what i’m feeling these days about the overall reception/treatment of femmes in some parts of the queer community and trussing it to some experiences of my own lately that have left me feeling pretty raw and dissatisfied. i’m hoping to finish it up tomorrow and to hear back a bit from my extended femme family and allies about our experiences.

in the meantime, though, my very dear, very brilliant friend emily and i wanted to help get the word out on legendary problematic comedian jerry lewis and the petition that is circulating to protest the anticipation of his receiving a humanitarian award at the oscars on feb. 22nd. lewis is well-known for his telethons for kids with muscular distrophy, which are really, truly eye-raising (in bad, bad ways). here’s more on that from emily:

Jerry Lewis has long been protested by disability activists for his infamous telethons for “Jerry’s kids,” children with muscular dystrophy. Though Jerry Lewis may have good intentions, his telethons are deeply problematic, as they encourage pity for people with disabilities and paternalistic charity. Many in the disability rights movement have come together to protest the telethons, but Lewis refuses to listen to those he supposedly seeks to help, and Lewis once responded to a protest, “You have to remember they’re sitting in chairs I bought them…. These 19 people don’t want me to [raise money]. They want me to stop now? Fuck them. . . Do it in caps, FUCK THEM.” Yet, he will be honored this year at the Oscars and receive a humanitarian award. Check out http://thetroublewithjerry.net/ to sign a petition and find info about how to protest the event. Pity is not progress. It is especially relevant that people support this protest in the name of Harriett McBryde Johnson, a disability activist and writer as well as one of Jerry Lewis’s earliest and loudest protesters, who passed away this year. Here’s one more offensive Lewis quote to leave you with: he said that a disabled individual is “half a person,” and snapped, “[If] you don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house!”

clearly, jerry lewis is the last person who should be receiving a humanitarian award. we’ll connect the dots some more by noting that as if his pity partying of disabled folks isn’t problematic enough (and oh, is it ever!), lewis is vehemently homophobic, having used the word “fag” derogatorily and repeatedly in on-screen appearances in the past few years. need even more? he’s also an old misogynist to boot, quoted as having once said: “women should be having babies or naked, oiling themselves up at home. they should be waiting with bated breath for their man, the rightful heir to the throne and ruler of all mankind. only a strong man in a bear-skin bathing suit back from a long night at the clubs can rescue the weak, docile, female of the species.” barf. go sign that petition, no?



solidarity is (not)…
October 29, 2008, 1:40 am
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i know that this can’t be a phenomenon with merely my friends because i’ve noticed the same thing going on with friends of friends of friends – you know, people who are, like, three times removed my friend. halfway-to-kevin-bacon sort of people. and at least amongst the people i know who are doing it, it’s all the more shocking because of the fact that these are folks i usually consider pretty righteous when it comes to their politics, i.e. they’re “progressive,” people – queer or queer-friendly, anti-racist/classist/sexist/sizeist/ableist, you name it. so what’s the grave offense?

i have, at present, several facebook friends who have changed their names to be as follows: [first name] hussein [last name]. before you roll your eyes at me over the fact that this post is about facebook, take a look at it. need i mention that all the folks doing this are two things: 1) obama supporters and 2) white folks with western european and/or american ancestries? what this means, in my opinion, is that while all of these people claiming the middle name “hussein” are undoubtedly doing so in an act of “solidarity,” they are simultaneously appropriating not “just” a name, but one that is tied to very particular histories and cultures that are not theirs. cultures which have been dominated, colonized, invaded, and oppressed by this country and other western european countries for hundreds, thousands of years.

while these people then also go and try on “hussein” as a middle name for the sake of the election season, in an attempt to shed light on the fact that links between barack obama and any sort of “scary”, middle eastern culture are ridiculous, they wind up playing cheaply and dangerously, putting colonized cultures at risk. because for black, brown and mixed folks in this country and abroad, as well as middle easterners cross-culturally and across region and religion, they don’t get to step away from the bullshit ignorant westerners have attached to the name “hussein” once next week comes and goes. for white supporters of obama to take this on for the sake of solidarity is to ignore an entire complex history of oppression and suffering that white people are responsible for.

your cultural appropriation is not cool. it’s irresponsible and it wounds. show your solidarity by voting. not by coopting something that does not belong to you, something that has been unjustly and negatively inscribed by the very culture you live in every day.



taking space, taking time.
September 21, 2008, 12:32 am
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it’s been a rough week and so i haven’t written much. things have been crazy busy, as i’m preparing to go back east for a week and some to attend nolose and then to visit my family in nj and nyc. my best friend, kelley, is coming to visit my family and i in jersey for a few days, which will no doubt be good for the soul.

as i mentioned in my post a week or so ago, i’ve been having a lot of heaviness on my mind in regards to identity issues, not so much personally as much as how we’re all capable of getting caught up in labeling people based on what we want them to be in this queer community of ours. the range in severity of this can span from a minor offense to something tragic and hurtful, but either way i’m finding it so tiresome lately. more on this later as i develop it. i think i feel, in ways, responsible for some of the above mentioned stuff that i’m seeing in my own life and the lives of those around me and i want to figure out my own place in it before i spew on and on about it.

i’m working on these new methods of really trying to be self-reflexive about the things that bother me, partially spawned by my friendship with e, who maybe will always feel like more than a friend. we both have tempers that are quick to burn, so in the interest of trying to keep our shit on lock this year, we’re being more and more patient with one another and more cognizant about taking time and space when we need it to think our shit through. it’s been working well so far and i feel closer to her than i have in a while which is nice.

i’m finding out more and more lately that one of the most loving things we can do for each other is to know when to take space and sit with what we’re feeling. maybe at the end of a lot of sitting, we’re able to talk things through, process, get things back on track. maybe, we can spend months thinking and come to nothing but what we can say to one another only inside of our own heads. regardless of the outcomes, i can think of far too many times when i should have, or you should have, or we should have, stepped back and thought a little bit deeper about the shit between us, but instead we blurted out a lot of filler without giving things much thought and glossed over the important bits. i’m tired of doing this, so i’m taking space from a few things right now to think more about them. no doubt you faithful readers will get an earful…eyeful?

aside from this heavy stuff, good things: i’ve got a pitter-patter crush sorta thang going on with some handsome butch who lives way too far away but who i appreciate continuing to blow up my phone. i’ve got an achey, but full, heart from spending 2 weeks with my friend emily who has now returned home to san fran. i’m one prelim paper down and the second well on it’s way (i have 3 to complete by november). i just received the most beautiful dress, handmade for me by jane bonbon, which i am far too excited to wear – photos to come, i promise! my students are giving me enough humor/horror to keep me going, i.e. “i thought this was feminist film theory, not race film theory?” “errr…really?” mostly, though, i realized that after quite a few days of not posting, i missed talkin’ to y’all out there. what’s a girl to do without her extended blog family?



these are not playthings.
September 10, 2008, 1:06 am
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i’ve been doing some heavy thinking lately about these pieces of me i hold so personally dear in the depths of my heart. my identities: my assertion of “femme”, my claiming of “bottom,” particularly. with the exception of the last two or three years, these have never been easy words or titles under which i’ve stood. i did not learn these pieces of myself from others. i did not do only as i saw them do and come to these places. they are both identities that, for me, are wrapped in complicated personal histories of a host of things: love, inadequacy, pleasure, guilt, passion, unhappiness, and two hundred other emotions. these identities are not ones i take lightly or for granted.

in short: these are not playthings.

my journey to femme was a hard one ripe with insecurity and an absence of community or language to define who i was and what i was feeling. where i came out as queer was certainly a positive space to do so, but only in particular ways, ways that embraced an androgynous aesthetic that was doubly inaccessible and undesirable for myself.

growing up femme there was heartbreaking.

my queerness was questioned daily by my lovers, friends, my community, the definition of myself by others as nothing more than a “lesbian until graduation”. and i tried, and i tried, and i tried to fit in there, to be that non-femme thing they wanted me to be and even donning sports bras and cargo shorts, i failed. miserably. i didn’t pass as anything non-femme.

i remember, there was this time, friends of mine were throwing a “frat row” party, and all these dykes just slightly amped up their already masculine clothing to get closer to that douchey, frat boy image. i was supposed to do the same. i was able to hold it together long enough to put on those cargo shorts, t-shirt and borrowed a visor from my next door neighbor. but it was actual fucking tears i cried when my best friend told me i couldn’t possibly go if i was going to keep on my make-up. there was no place for that. no mascara allowed. no place even for “sorority girls” at this party either. no femininity. period. i left two hours in, cried my way home, and wrote heart-wrenchingingly in my journal that i wondered if i’d ever find space where i fit. “will i ever be able to make this queerness work?”

that was a breaking point for me. a moment when i realized it was hurting too much to be queer in this way. and i slowly started to let it go and started to embrace my femme. and as i shed that sorry excuse at androgyny i was trying to pull and stepped up to the plate femmed out the way i’d always wanted to be, i met her. this big, ol’ rugby playing butch. this rough, tough femme-lovin’ butch. and i was home. i flourished. things fell into place. and i was accepted, my queerness was embraced in this community suddenly. but then, just as quickly as it was handed to me, it was stripped away in my realization that it was just because of her. because i was counterpart to her uber masculinity that was so revered in that space. i was femme, but not my own.

and this went on long after college. still, i held strong to my femme in the midst of queers completely ignoring and straight up disavowing my sexuality and gender. read me, called me, named me “ally” to my face because i was all girled out at dyke night at the bar. how could i be anything other than straight looking like that, they asked my friends. i cried my way home again.

i am home now though in my skin, in my femme, but it wasn’t ever easy. it’s still hard sometimes, but it’s improved. this things is volatile though and i hold it close to my chest because of everything it means to me; that road was rough, but i don’t regret the conversations with myself it forced me to have, the questioning of my communities it made me do, the loneliness it caused and the absolute joy and love it has become.

my femme thing is not a plaything.

nor is this thing i claim as bottoming. they are not the same, they are not inextricably linked, but they are related in the depths of me. this identity is newer to me than femme in that i have only in the past few years named it for myself, but hardly a new need or want. this part of me that weaves itself between memories and history of myself alone and myself with her and constantly has me digging for evidence of it that proceeded and followed her. proof that this has been me all along. i find it everywhere.

bottoming is not new to me, not new like her and that love whirlwind we had. it is not trendy to me. i do not will it to be radical so that i might have my points raised as some kinky, subversive queer type. i claim this space because of desire foremost and an investment in all that desire contains – respect, dynamic, communication, need. a big part of this is because of having experienced those desires, knowing what it’s like to have them and knowing what it’s like to feel their absence. and this is not to say that if you have not done x, you cannot claim y. more so, it’s a feeling inside me that is very tied to the act of doing and having done, both being undoings and redoings of me.

i come to bottoming first from a place of love – because that’s where it was first really named for me. of giving, of expecting to be valued and respected for this generosity of giving myself, of allowing you to take and experience me. this is not about who gets fucked and who does the fucking, it’s about yielding and holding, ebbing and flowing.

i do not claim this identity as a mere desire to occasionally have a little control taken from me. i do not claim it as something i think i want, but have never done nor thought about beyond actual physical results. i do not call myself a bottom to satisfy an equation of “femme is…” or use it as a way to critique someone else’s needs or desires…

and i wish you wouldn’t.

because this femme thing, this bottom thing, they are not playthings.

these are heart things, soul things, me things and my chest is heavy when they are cheapened by your carelessness with them.



mpls is angry today.
September 4, 2008, 8:57 pm
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for those of you who don’t know it, i live in minneapolis. i love it here. it’s usually a friendly, progressive city that moves a little slow at times for my jersey blood, but makes up for it with it’s summer thunderstorms, fried cheese curds, and lakes. i’ve been here nearly four years now as i work on my ph.d. and while i occasionally miss the northern east coast and its very different way of life, i’m happy here.

the last few days in mpls have been angry though…and scary. for those of you trapped under a rock, the republican national convention is in town and while you won’t see a ton about this on your mainstream news channel, it’s really fucking up my home. mere whispers of dissent are, apparently, enough for the cops to bust into your house and arrest you, it seems. there have been a number of houses in the twin cities raided over the past few days for suspected protest activity and “terrorism.” at one point, the local food not bombs group was raided in a search for…bombs.

what’s more is that, at present, there’s a reported 400 people being held in jail right now for protesting and over 100 of them are being held on bogus, inflated charges of terrorism under the patriot act. did you know that it’s against the patriot act to cover your face when demonstrating? that means that any attempt to shield oneself from the onslaught of tear gas and pepper spray used by police is not allowed. mere bandanas = terrorism these days. of the remaining prisoners not yet charged, many are being held past the state’s 36 hour law for being able to detain uncharged persons. reports have come out from other protest groups that many of their members being held are not being given medical care and that transgender prisoners, especially, have not been allowed to visit with lawyers or make phone calls.

as i type this, the news playing in the background, cnn was showing the arrest of two protesters on bicycle and even the on-the-ground reporter exclaimed “i don’t even know what they did! there doesn’t seem to be a reason for their arrest!” these are scary, angry times here. below is information on who you can call, what you can do to help per an email that’s been circulating amongst groups and folks who believe in the right to protest and who oppose this kind of horrendous treatment of others. even if you’re not in the minneapolis/st. paul area, you can still call and demand their release.

from the email:

Please call the following offices and continue calling until all arrestees have been released:

St. Paul Mayor – Chris Coleman (651.
266.8510)
Head of Ramsey County Jail – Capt. Ryan O’
Neil (651.266-9350 ext 1)
Ramsey County Sheriff – Bob Fletcher (651.
266.9333)
County Chief Judge Gearin (651.
266.8266)

Demand the following:
– Immediate medical attention as needed for ALL arrestees;
– That the prisoners who haven’t given their names (Jane & John Does and Jesse Sparkles) have access to
group meetings with a lawyer in jail;
– Dismissal of all charges;
– Release of all minors; and
– Ensure trans prisoners have access to phone and attorneys, and are held in gendered facility of their
choice.

Donate!
Money is needed to help cover legal costs and get people out of jail. Any amount you can give is greatly appreciate
d.To donate by Pay Pal visit https://coldsnaplegal. wordpress.com and click on the donate button.

For more details and up-to-date information about jail conditions and prisoner status, please see:
http://submedia.tv/
http://coldsnaplegal.wordpress.com

http://twincities.indymedia.org



fail: beth ditto
July 31, 2008, 2:03 pm
Filed under: arg, class, fail, fatness, over it, pop culture, privilege, queer, race | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

this week has been one where you can’t blog fast enough about something. it seems like the second i read the news about beth ditto’s recent problematic spread in nylon magazine, five other posts popped up on my reader about it. namely, check out the smart and thoughtful responses from tara at fatshionista.com and the fierce ladies at threadbared (which is also cross-posted over at racialicious, one of my favorite reads!). both of these pieces are super insightful and exciting for the fact that they are so complete in their analyses. read them and love them!

the only 2cents i want to add is oh how i wish this photoshoot had come about a month sooner! don’t get me wrong, i wish it didn’t exist period, but if it’s going to, the least we can do is use it as a teaching tool and that i find exciting amidst the harm a photo like this does.

i’m thinking about june of this year when i went to an academic conference for an area of study whose evolution over the past thirty or so years has been so dedicated to thinking intersectionally about issues like gender, race, and class, along with the much-needed additional analyses of other identifiers like dis/ability and size. and yet, at a meeting aimed specifically at making space for fat studies within future conferences and the discipline as a whole, conversations about fat inclusion were “justified” by claims that “being fat is the last acceptable oppression.” i was so stunned by this response that i couldn’t control my body’s reaction to shake my head “no” rapidly and uncontrollably despite what i’m sure many assumed to be quite rude. this position is so offensive and so privileged, yet surprisingly rampant amongst a number of straight, white, fat folks.

and so then here’s beth ditto! someone who is white, but who grew up poor and has working class roots, is fat (publicly and on-stage!), and is queer and partnered with a masculine-identified, female-bodied person (i’m not sure how freddie fagula identifies, so…). and despite all of this, a photo like this exists that just so “brilliantly” makes clear that we are so far from any kind of place where any one identifier is the final frontier of oppression.

beth ditto, i thank you for being a strong, fat, queer girl, and for all of the awareness you’ve raised about what it’s like to be fat in the spotlight and in the mainstream, but it takes so much more than that to hold my respect. where’d your good politics go, girl? the ones that made us all fall in love with you in the first place? we’re all waiting for your response…