Femme FATale


remember a lot, heal a bit

i read leo’s post last night about feeling a little bit stuck post-election, not knowing what to say or write next, and found myself tearing up in agreement. i think what leo is articulating so honestly in this post is what a lot of us are feeling right now – happiness and shock over barack obama’s win and then disbelief and anger over all that’s happened since. and i’m trying to move past the prop 8 stuff, but calling out the scapegoating by queers on people of color has me tethered to it tighter than ever. my stomach lurches every time i hear someone else mention those reports of queers protesting, slinging slurs at black folks in the midst. and it hasn’t stopped with those early stories. the advocate, one of our most renowned glbt (i will *not* use “queer” to describe the advocate. ever.) has the most truly offensive cover one could imagine right now. “gay is the new black?” really, advocate? are you going to play this appropriation game? are you really going to further pit queers and black folks (as well as other communities of color) against one another by making *this* the slogan of the gay marriage debate? the subtitle of “the new civil rights struggle” does little to soften the message; in fact, it feels unclear to me whether or not we’re supposed to interpret gay rights as the “new civil rights struggle” or the growing tension between queers and people of color. when did it ever become a good idea to compare and contrast oppressions across difference?

i am awe-struck by what we are witnessing and have never felt more detached from my community as a result. earlier in the week i wrote about what is at risk in focusing only on homonormative issues like marriage and ignoring others, citing the murder of duanna johnson as the worst kind of example of this. last friday, another transwoman of color was murdered in syracuse, new york, teish cannon. that’s two transwomen in barely two weeks. my brain can barely process it, let alone my heart.  racialicious noted in a post this week there was an increase in racially motivated hate crimes during and post-election season, as well. we are funneling so much energy and money into having the right to marry, but so many of us are overlooking physical violence and death. what are we in the midst of here? despite a win in the white house, the aftermath is terribly frightening to me.

today is transgender day of remembrance and i’m going to attend services to remember those whose lives have been cut short because they’ve dared to be themselves. i’m going to go and remember duanna johnson, teish cannon, 15-year-old lawrence king, and the other 26 named and the however many who are unknown and unaccounted for. in this space, with fellow queers and allies, i’m going to try and feel like part of a community again. one that is able to think across sexuality, gender, and race to realize how these oppressions operate in tandem with one another; they are not separate to the point of dividing us so starkly. i’m going to hope to feel part of a queer community that is capable of wanting equal rights, including marriage rights, for everyone and simultaneously challenging what it means to make our relationships and our love “normal.” what’s at risk when we strive for this? who and what goes unnoticed?

today is a day for those we’ve lost, to remember them, and their place in or queer communities, or queer families. it’s also a day to heal a bit, soak up some love and strength, and figure out how we manage to move forward, fix this terrible rift we’ve caused, all while honoring the memory of queers who have lost their lives so violently in fighting this fight to just be.

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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…



fail: katy perry

i’ve been trying to write a post about katy perry’s new song “i kissed a girl” for about two weeks now and every time i try to sit down and do it, i go off on these crazy tirades that take me far away from where i began. as destiny would have it though, my friend gave me the heads up on some reporter at the chicago sun times writing an article about how katy’s song is the new summer anthem and asking for readers’ opinions. i wasn’t going to respond, but then my friend made me feel it was my queer duty. did i want some college co-ed responding instead about the merits of kissing random girls for free beer at frat parties? not really. so here’s what i wrote up and sent to the reporter:

Before even getting into the specifics as to why “I Kissed a Girl” is so problematic, it seems necessary to note that the other song responsible for making Katy Perry popular is her “Ur So Gay,” which details her woes of having an “emo” or “indie rock” boyfriend whose masculinity, and later sexuality, falls into question because of both his clothing style and taste in music. As a celebrity who has not gone on record as being anything but straight, we should question Perry’s obsession with queer culture and her unapologetic capitalization of it through her music. Straight performers getting rich off of the experiences of queer folks should be as inflammatory as any other kind of exploitation. As far as “I Kissed a Girl” goes, the song is blatantly ignorant in its trivialization of sexual experimentation and of the lives and practices of queer women. This isn’t to say that girls kissing girls, regardless of their sexuality, needs to be considered Earth-shattering events, but more so that reducing it to a naughty “game” aimed at getting a boyfriend’s attention – a game that, mind you, isn’t even worth Perry obtaining her girl crush’s name – is just belittling for the many queer women who find significance in kissing other women! The video for the song makes any possibility of its subversion completely impossible by its rendering of girl-on-girl action down to the tired scenario of outrageously feminine women clad in lingerie and fishnets, applying each others’ make-up amidst their flirty gyrations. While this demographic of high femmes, or queer women who express their femininity overtly, exists within queer communities and should be rightfully celebrated, it leads me to question whether or not mainstream music and media produced by straight people, Katy Perry now included, will ever actually attempt to represent the breadth of sexual and gender identities within queer women and lesbian communities. I’m not optimistic.

i know there’s a ton more to say, but i was trying to keep my comments succinct and comprehensible to mainstream audiences. if she gets back to me and wants to use any of it, i’ll press the problem of “trying on” another girl and/or queerness for a night and the ease and privilege straight girls have in giving it a go. also, props to my bestie charlotte for actually growling over that line when i sang it to her on the phone.

for reference:
“i kissed a girl” – video
“i kissed a girl” – lyrics
“ur so gay” – video
“ur so gay” – lyrics