Tag Archives: sexuality

On the table, 7/19

Boy has it been a weekend!  Let’s get you caught up on some interesting discussions:

  • Our Headliner – WOMEN’S WORLD CUP!!!

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Gay Rights:

  • Julie Watson from The Huffington Post reports, “About 200 active-duty troops and veterans wearing T-shirts advertising their branch of service marched Saturday in San Diego’s gay pride parade with Ameri Firstscan flags and rainbow banners, marking what is believed to be the first time a military contingent has participated in such an event in the U.S…” [Read on]

  • David Siders from The Sacramento Bee reports, “Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring public schools to teach students about the contributions of gay and lesbian people, making California the first state to adopt such a measure…” [Read on]

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I was never really into Harry Potter, but for some of my friends and family members, this is the end of an era.  I, however, can’t wait to share some of these adventures and their heroines and profeminist heroes with my children.

  •  Ms. Magazine – “Hermione Granger and the Fight for Equal Rights” by Amy Borsuk

“Hermione offers much for a generation of girls to admire, beginning with her unmatched, encyclopedic knowledge of spells, potions and magical history, which is crucial to Harry’s survival throughout the series. She also holds her head high in the face of attacks on her appearance (she catches flak for her frizzy hair and her large teeth) and her stigmatized status as a Muggle-born witch (her peers taunt her with the slur “Mudblood”). Her loyalty and devotion to her best friends keep the golden trio–Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and her–together until the very end. It’s no wonder fans have serenaded her as the ‘Coolest Girl in the whole wide world’…” [Read on]

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  • “Banking While Black”

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Chesty Mags

Alrighty, I’ve been lazy and haven’t posted this past week.  I was preparing for Doomsday.  But, alas, nearly the entire world made it through the day.  So prepare for a quarter-sized hailstorm of posts.

For Doomsday my friends and I went to a small rinky-dink, cash-only bar.  The local gay bar closed recently, creating a surprisingly beautiful blend of really white drunken country-singers and some really fun, amazingly good-singing gay men and women.  Needless to say, the whole bar was treated to jello shots by the end of the night.

The world did not respond to happily to the recent Dossier cover featuring a shirtless, Serbian androgynous model named Andrej Pejic.

As Adam Polaski from The Good Men Project points out, what’s the big deal?  “After all, men appear shirtless all the time on Men’s Health, Esquire, and Men’s Fitness:”

Barnes & Noble and Borders have told Dossier representatives that they wouldn’t shelve the magazine unless all copies were covered with opaque poly bags—the kind typically reserved for Playboy or Maxim. According to Skye Parrott, the co-founder of Dossier, both stores acknowledged that they understood the model, Andrej Pejic, is male. But representatives asserted that the femininity inherent in the image was too confusing to risk putting on the magazine shelf.

Let’s explore this “risk.”

Most everyone fun loves drag.  Get a guy with a cute face and some pizzazz and put him in a dress and you’ve got some great Saturday night entertainment.  Have that same guy want to wear a dress to work and that’s no longer drag – that guy’s trans and therefore “weird” and to some even “profane.” 

Women, obviously, have much more flexibility in wearing men’s clothes, as I can go to work in flats, suits, boxer briefs, and cut my hair short.  But can men wear heels or skirts?  Not really.  Over the past decade, America has barely come to terms with men wearing pink

But in the case of Pejic, it’s his body that both engages and frightens people.  Despite the massive gains we’ve made in moving towards gender equality over the past half-century, the controversy surrounding the issue reveals a nation of gender squareness. 

Polaski includes a quote from Jon-Jon Goulian, author of a memoir about his own skirt-wearing, who provides some interesting context about our country’s obsession with labels:

One thing I’ve learned over the course of 24 years of behaving and dressing androgynously is that people hat e to be confronted with indeterminacy. The uncategorizable is unsettling. If I were a man in drag, people would know exactly what I am, or at least they would believe they know exactly what I am, and have fewer problems with me: “Oh, yes yes yes, that man is definitely gay, and he has a very strong identification with women, he probably thinks he is a woman, and that’s why he dresses like one, and a sex change is probably in the offing, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if his [own] special vagina is being made to order as we speak.”

But gender and sexuality, race, religion, and politics…aren’t so easily definable, despite our continual efforts to turn all of us rainbows into squares.

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Drinks, Masculinity, and Sexuality

Jesus Christ, who knew that sodas were now being segregated by sex and gender?  I mean, I’ve always heard about alcoholic drinks being divided by gender (and sexuality for men) and have always hated the assumption that drinks were weaker and therefore more feminine based on sugar content and color.

On this thread, men not only argue that appletinis are for girls and Guinness is for boys, but go even further by arguing what shots are considered “girly” and what mixed drinks “manly,” regardless of the drink’s effect on your blood alcohol level.

This gender and sexuality binary is perpetuated in pop culture.  Case in point – Scrubs:

But now things are reverting back to the Stone Age, i.e. the 1970s and before.

Here’s the new commercial for Dr. Pepper 10, with the tagline, “Not for Women”:

As long as I’ve been keeping track, Dos Equis ads have always been marketed towards men, but here’s a new one comparing women to wild animals and men to hunters, with commentary from Jezebel:

And here’s an ad for Imperial whiskey from 1975, with the slogan, “Every man should have his own.”  Obviously talking about more than just liquor…

I don’t really know what to make of this.  At what age do drinks become gendered?  Are grape juice boxes more masculine than apple ones?  And is Dr. Pepper’s new tagline working, for a drink that I’ve always considered gender-neutral?

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Re-envisioning Hair

What should a female look like?  How should a female style her hair?  Does a woman’s short hair mean she is a lesbian?  Does a young boy liking pink mean he’s gay?  My cousin sure thinks so.

We need to better explore the relationship between gender and sexuality.  One’s clothes and hairstyle do not equate a certain sexuality.

DIS Magazine created this poster advertising the possibilities of its new razor, W4W Buzz, (at bottom of poster) in redefining women’s hair:

In “A Hair Piece” DIS Magazine, Katerina Llanes writes:

More than any other stylistic signifier, hair has become our window into lesbian visibility. The shorter the hair, the more visibly identifiable one becomes as a lesbian. While these assumptions can prove useful within queer communities as shorthand for lesbian cruising, we should be careful not to ground them in the world at large as they are often ill-founded and politically misaligned—re-asserting a gendered binary based on heteronormative codes, butch for masculine / femme for feminine.

These gendered polarities often mimic heterosexual partnerships dismissing the existence of any gender in-between. Worse yet is the way in which the “femme” is rendered invisible by her lack of stylistic transition—context being her only mark as a lesbian—while the butch is propped up as the face of lesbianism worldwide. Both, in turn, exploited by the branding machines of late capitalist enterprise.

Even drag, Judith Butler argues in her follow-up book, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, cannot always be deemed subversive. “Although many readers understood Gender Trouble to be arguing for the proliferation of drag performances as a way of subverting dominant gender norms, I want to underscore that there is no necessary relation between drag and subversion, and that drag may well be used in the service of both denaturalization and reidealization of hyperbolic heterosexual gender norms.”

DIS is a dissection of fashion, art and commerce which seeks to dissolve conventions, distort realities, disturb ideologies and disrupt the dismal dissemination of fashion discourse.

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The Year of the Transsexuals

Sorry I’ve been hermitic lately.  One more paper and then I’m home free for the semester!

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From left: James Franco, Marc Jacobs and the model Lea T (in feathers, right) legitimized cross-dressing.

Bold Crossings of the Gender Line

WILLIAM VAN METER, December 8, 2010

Candy, it turns out, is but one of the more visible bits of evidence that 2010 will be remembered as the year of the transsexual. Yes, Mr. Franco is just dressing up and doesn’t feel he was born the wrong sex. But it is a grand gesture of solidarity with gender nonconformists and certainly hasn’t affected attendance at “127 Hours.”

Other celebrities have flirted with “the other side,” cross-dressing for fashion publications. On the cover of the current Industrie, Marc Jacobs is decked out in one of his signature women’s designs (albeit with a beard). Japanese Vogue Hommes revealed its new male model, Jo Calderone, who was, in actuality, Lady Gaga.

Not since the glam era of the 1970s has gender-bending so saturated the news media. The difference now is that mystery has been replaced with empowerment, even pride. Consider a few happenings that have blipped recently on our radar. The blog of a young mother whose 5-year-old son had dressed like Daphne on “Scooby-Doo” for Halloween went viral, initiating a nationwide discussion on the fluidity of gender. (The mother ended up on “Today.”) The performance artist Kalup Linzy became a downtown phenomenon in Manhattan for his gender-bending portrayals of soap-opera divas. Oprah Winfrey welcomed transsexual men to her program.

In November, a transgender student pledged a sorority at Trinity University in Texas. Original Plumbing, a zine for trans-guys, came out with a fashion issue.

This month, Simon & Schuster will publish “My Princess Boy,” a children’s book about a boy who wears pink gowns. “It’s not acceptable for us to sit back when children are taking their lives because they’re not accepted for who they are,” said the author, Cheryl Kilodavis, who based the book on her 4-year-old son.

The only thing that would have raised more awareness of trans people would have been a link with the president — even better, a link that rhymed. That’s when the “tranny nanny,” Barack Obama’s transvestite nanny from his boyhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, was discovered and made headlines. “Trans people are slowly becoming a common part of popular culture,” said Paisley Currah, a political science professor at Brooklyn College who specializes in transgender rights and is the author of “United States of Gender,” which will be published next year.

“Sixty years ago, The New York Daily News used its whole front page to talk about Christine Jorgensen’s sex change operation — ‘Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty,’ ” Mr. Currah said. “Now you have transgender models and mayors. They elicit interest, but it’s not some incredulous response. The public is much more aware of the possibilities of transgender people existing and taking part as leaders in the social and cultural life.”

And so they are. “There are always going to be people who don’t fit into boxes,” said Victoria Kolakowski, who was just elected a superior court judge in Alameda County in California. “What we consider to be normal is evolving and changing. That frightens many people, but it’s the nature of our times.” When Ms. Kolakowski takes the bench in January, she will be the nation’s first transgender trial judge.

Model Lea T

 

Moonlighting fashionistas dabbling in cross-dressing have surely helped advance the transsexual image, but the real strides in 2010 were made by actual transsexuals and those who define themselves on a spectrum of gender rather than simply male or female. The clearest call to arms was the arrival of the transsexual model Lea T.

Read on here!

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Dude, You’re A Fag: Compulsory Heterosexuality in the Making of Masculinity

This was taken from a paper submitted in my Sociology of Gender class.  Hope it breeds some interesting discussions!  Check out this fantastic article by Michael Kimmel, sociologist and historian of masculinity, for his analysis of the recent gay suicides.

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Zach Harrington

On October 10, 2010, National Coming Out Day, another homosexual teenager, Zach Harrington, took his life after a night of repeated bullying.  Harrington’s tragic death is part of a larger trend of recently publicized homosexual teen suicides as the result of bullying.  Publicity surrounding their deaths has helped spread awareness about the issue of violence in schools and has given hope to thousands of homosexual teenagers through such aid organizations as the It Gets Better Project and The Trevor Project.

News articles and websites repeat their names and stories: Justin Aeberg, Billy Lucas, Cody Barker, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi…yet, despite the obvious pattern of predominantly male aggressors and victims, discussions have focused on homophobia as the root of the attacks.

By examining the homophobic harassment these young men endured at t

he hands of mostly white heterosexual men, it becomes apparent that heterosexuality, masculinity, and power are linked.  The use of homophobic epithets, physical violence, and sexist remarks by white heterosexual boys serve as a form of gender policing to reinforce masculine dominance.

While the main goal of these projects is to prevent suicidal teenagers from taking their lives, dialogue about their harassment has revealed how commonplace homophobic bullying actually is.  After spending a year at a California high school, C. J. Pascoe, in her book Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School argues that in using such homophobic epithets as “gay” and “fag” towards other heterosexual males, straight boys “repudiate the specter of failed masculinity” and reinforce their masculinity and power over other men, homosexuals, and women.

By interviewing male and female students, along with teachers and school officials, Pascoe shows how this process of masculinity is not only harmful to homosexuals, but all members of the social order, as it prevents the development of multiple masculinities, genders, and sexualities.

Although these hypermasculine actions have been identified as virulent homophobia or dismissed as “boys being boys,” Pascoe’s work reveals how institutions are integral in influencing young adults to embrace these traditional gender norms and heterosexism, as this praxis of masculinity is reinforced through school rituals, pedagogy, discipline, and the ignorance of the damaging effects of bullying.

Chapter 3: Adolescent Male Homophobia

In this chapter Pascoe shows how the fag trope is used as a temporary identity to police heterosexual masculinity.

Its fluidity is powerful enough that boys police their behaviors “out of fear of having the fag identity permanently adhere and definitive enough so that boys recognize a fag behavior and strive to avoid it” (Pascoe 54).  Students responses to the use of “fag” clearly demonstrate the performance and accomplishment of gender, as boys “performed” male effimancy for laughs but quickly reinforced their own “correct” masculinity (Pascoe 61).

When called a fag, a boy immediately thrust the fag “hot potato” onto another boy to reaffirm his own masculinity.  Pascoe states that “gay” is gender-neutral and regularly deployed by both girls and boys against both people and inanimate objects.  The use of “fag,” on the other hand, demonstrates a gendered homophobia which equates effeminacy with powerlessness.

Racialized Contexts of “Fagness”

Although male students were quick to define faggotry and label others as faggots, Pascoe reveals how its definition was racially-specific depending on its context.  According to white boys, “fags cared about the style of their clothes, wore tighter clothes, cared about cleanliness,” and danced (Pascoe 60-61).

Although African American boys privileged stylistic dress and were renowned for their excellent dance skills, the fag epithet did not apply to them.  Pascoe interestingly compares the treatment of the openly white, gay dancer Ricky to the African American dancer K. J.  While both were very talented and both carefully crafted their dancing outfits, K. J. was lauded by the crowd for his obvious connection to hip hop, while Ricky was ostracized for his “faggness” (Pascoe 76).

Pascoe insightfully notes, “Precisely because African American men are so hypersexualized in the United States, white men are, by default, feminized, so white was a stand-in for fag among many of the African American boys at River High” (Pascoe 71).  Despite blacks’ limited use of the term “fag,” Pascoe states that African American boys were punished more frequently for engaging in fag discourse (Pascoe 76).

Chapter 4: Compulsive Heterosexuality

Pascoe argues that when boys sexually objectify, sexualize, or simply flirt with girls, they are reinforcing their own heterosexuality and protecting themselves from the fag hot potato.

By discussing how they could manipulate girls’ bodies, to “break their walls,” make them fart, orgasm, or defecate, as well as their actual physical manipulation of girls bodies through teasing or flirting, boys demonstrated dominance over the world around them (Pascoe 86).  These stories bolstered gender stereotypes of women’s bodies as out of control and reinforced men’s objectification and master over women.

Conclusion

More than ever, Dude, You’re a Fag proves deeply relevant to our current dialogue of homophobic bullying and the resulting teen suicides.  Less than two weeks before Harrington committed suicide he had spoken at a public hearing to declare October his city’s gay history month.

Although Harrington imagined more acceptance from the hearing’s adult attendees after years of being bullied by young boys, the council meeting quickly became “a place where the same sentiments that quietly tormented him in high school were being shouted out and applauded by adults the same age as his own parents.”[4] Nikki, Zach’s older sister who also attended the meeting, stated:

“‘When we talk about our feelings in a hypothetical way and we send our toxic thoughts out in a public setting that way, they will affect people in a negative way…People need to think about the things they are saying and ask themselves, ‘Is this right?’”[5]

Harrington’s case reveals the ultimate consequences of allowing such heteronormative and sexist performances of masculinity to continue in high school—after receiving years of positive feedback from other males and having their sexism and homophobia ignored or reinforced by school officials, young continue this toxic cycle of masculinity on into adulthood.

**If you have an encouraging message you would like to share with teenagers via the It Gets Better Project, click here.**

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Where are the butch intellectuals?

Adrienne ‘AJ’ Davis illuminates the intersectionality of gender, sexual orientation, and class in butch stereotypes.  The limiting perceptions that butch women only mimic ‘real’ non-emotional, hard-working men reveals our continual struggles with sexism and classism.

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Re-post from The Scavenger.

Predominant stereotypes of butch women are that we work with our hands, have callouses, and wear steel-toe boots. But there’s an image of butchness that is rarely seen or even recognized: the butch intellectual, writes Adrienne ‘Aj’ Davis.

It took me a long time to decide what to say about being a black butch woman. A great deal has already been said, rivers of ink have flowed and countless electrons sent whizzing around the internet, in the name of defining and illustrating what it is to be butch.

However, there’s an image of butchness that is rarely seen or even recognized: What of the butch intellectual?

The TV host, Rachel Maddow, is really the first acknowledged butch intellectual I’ve ever seen. Leslie Feinberg, whatever other appellations might crown her [sic] in glory, isn’t referred to as an intellectual.

Butches are known to be many things; we all carry an image of a butch in all her glory but among those images, I’d wager that very few of them are of a woman sitting at a desk eagerly figuring out some arcana of Linux or Apple Script or lying on a couch, some copious tome on evolutionary biology or string theory in her hands. Yet, we do exist.

I know we do because I am one.

(A quick note on pronouns: I am a woman-identified butch and so will use the pronouns I feel comfortable with. These should not be taken as any commentary on how others identify).

I am black, I am butch, and I am an intellectual. I use the latter term in the classical sense of one who lives for the life of the mind and for ideas. I am happiest when I am either reading something that makes my brain hurt or engaging in a fast-paced discussion about politics or some arcane subject.

It took me a long time – over a decade – to become truly comfortable with this fact about myself. In part this is because there were (and still are) precious few depictions of butch intellectuals in lesbian literature or film.

We work with our hands, we shower after work, we have callouses and steel-toe boots. What we don’t have are jobs where we sit and do mental work all day. For some odd reason, that is supposed to be the province of femmes.

Yet, here I sit, at a desk where I don’t ever touch anything other than my keyboard and mouse. My tools are all electronic. The muscles I use are mostly in my head and hands. That I am a black butch means that I am even more of a strange attractor.

Regardless of what we might think of it, much of being ‘butch’ gets framed within the context of embracing masculinity.

Unfortunately for some of us, this embrace comes along with the baggage ‘real men’ aren’t thinkers. For whatever reasons, we have internalized the idea that to be a ‘real butch’ means that one is a body-person not a head-person.

Yet, here is something we embrace for no good reason that I see. Since we butches already transgress gender rules, we have purchased the freedom to embrace or reject whatever typical gender traits we wish. Why, then, should we reject one of the more pernicious myths of masculinity – namely that to be strong is to be a doer not a thinker.

Now, some of this is obviously class-based and, of course, class is a mine-field at least as fraught with peril as race.

I am not working-class nor do I come from a working-class background. The times I have been poor in my life, it has been because of youth or bad decision-making, not because it was the way I grew up.

The image of butchness that most lesbians would recognize as such is working-class. One could make a fair argument that being an intellectual or an academic is a luxury for the middle-class and that’s okay as far as it goes.

However, the truth of the statement does not change, in any substantive way, that middle-class butches do exist. We are doctors, professors, lawyers, accountants and so on. I cannot make an even half-decent approximation of a working-class butch and I would not insult my sisters and brothers who genuinely are from the working class by trying to appropriate something that does not belong to me.

This leaves me with the task of being my own role model, carving out my own space. That task can be difficult and frustrating at times but I have also experienced it as liberating.

The frustration has come from the friction of other lesbians’ expectations of me as a black butch and my own; I am not supposed to be from where I am from, not supposed to love the things I do nor am I supposed to aspire to be a black, butch, Carl Sagan.

Yet, here I am, with a background that I not only cannot change but wouldn’t change. Here I stand, wanting to fill the void left when Sagan shuffled off this mortal coil.

In writing this, I am reminded of Sojourner Truth’s speech ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ In closing, and with apologies to the sister’s memory, my question isn’t ‘Ain’t I a woman?. Bathroom incidents notwithstanding, that question is settled.

Rather, the question is ‘Ain’t I a butch?’

Ain’t I a butch? I can get out there and work with the best of them. Work myself until my bones hurt. Yet, in my work-a-day life all of my heavy lifting is done with my brain. My hands are for typing or gesturing or fidgeting while I digest the contours of whatever knotty problem I am hacking on. Ain’t I a butch?

I can put on my butch cock and give my lady exactly what she needs to sing for me. Yet I don’t identify as a guy, a Daddy, or a fella. Ain’t I a butch?

My cycle is pedal powered, not motorized. Ain’t I a butch?

You’re more likely to find me in the library than on the softball field. Ain’t I a butch?

I cry whenever I see The Color Purple and it gets to the point where Shug reconciles with her father. I weep during that scene. Ain’t I a butch?

I live for the life of the mind. Ain’t I a butch?

I’m as comfortable in a Brooks Brothers suit as I am in jeans and a tee-shirt. Ain’t I a butch?

Adrienne ‘Aj’ Davis is a middle-aged, African-American butch living in the great Pacific Northwest. In her two decades out of the closet, she has been an HIV/AIDS educator, a science reporter, a system administrator and a technology educator. She is now pursuing a degree in bioinformatics/computational biology with aspirations of a life spent in academia.
Davis is the co-chair and board member of the Butch Voices conference held annually in the US. Regional conferences will be held in New York (25 September), Portland, Oregon (2 October), and Los Angeles (8-10 October). Visit the website for details or check them out on Facebook.

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