December 4, 2008

Proposition 8: The Musical

Posted in humor, marriage, politics, queer at 11:19 pm by LB

From Funny or Die, requires no comment:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about ““Prop 8 – The Musical” starring Jack …“, posted with vodpod

See also my previous post refuting the claim that marriage has been the same since the “dawn of time.”

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July 29, 2008

Transgressing sex and gender

Posted in body politics, gender, heteronormative, identity, phallocentrism, queer, sexual politics at 2:00 pm by LB

This is an provocative post at Jezebel about Buck Angel, a popular adult film actor who is a transman who hasn’t had, and doesn’t want, genital surgery. Author Megan argues that he is a feminist hero, and I find her discussion compelling.

But this comment was the best:

I want to understand. Really, I do. Brain is just not computing “man who doesn’t want a penis”.

The idea of a person who feels they’re a man but does not feel that a male identity depends on having a penis is extremely transgressive and threatening. Our society conceives of sexuality and attraction/desire in terms of genitals. Thus desiring men=desiring penises. In terms the cultural construction of male sexual activity, penises are absolutely crucial. Many feel that technically, no “sex” takes place without penile penetration

I’ve never really outlined this on my blog, but my personal ideas about sexuality and desire are along the lines of sexuality as fluid (not a permanent identity), that there are “a thousand tiny sexes” (not just binary male/female and gay/straight/bi), that sex acts are not definitive of sexuality, and that homophobia is a big part of heteronormative masculinity…and more.

Sure, I think sexual parts are important. To a degree. But I have also had discussion with people who say they are more attracted to x people (personalities) but to y bodies. Yet in mainstream notions about sexuality (same-sex or hetero), these ought to align. But why should they? And why can’t personality or physical attraction play different roles or emphases in our intimate relationships? I would argue that they already do…but not across gender lines.

For all we talk about transgression, seeing the response to Buck Angel made me realize that perhaps only transgression within certain boundaries can really be tolerated, by hetero and LGBT communities alike. If that’s the case, how transgressive are those actions really?

So I’m really intrigued about the impossibility of comprehending why a (“real”) man wouldn’t want a penis…in our culture, what does that make him? And what does this anxiety say about our own phobias about sexuality?

July 25, 2008

I kissed a girl…but don’t worry, I’m not gay

Posted in heteronormative, lesbian, music, queer, representation, sexual politics at 12:00 pm by LB

Ever since I heard Katy Perry’s song, I’ve been critical and annoyed. I intended to write about it but so many others have already done so, and their views pretty much align with mine, so I thought I’d make a few comments and link to other awesome posts critiquing the song.

I, like many others, see this song as a representation of the casual, non-threatening, “girl-on-girl” performative play that dominates the representations of women’s same-sex attraction or desire. It plays on the exact stereotypes about bi or same-sex female desire that I discussed in my recent post about Tequila’s Shot at Love. The song’s message is that after a little alcohol, I can make out with another female; I may have liked it for a woman’s softness, scent, and feel, but don’t worry, I don’t plan on dating one. Kissing a girl is something “fun” to do, not anything serious that my boyfriend would be worried about–it’s all fun and games and something to do when you’re drunk at the bar.

On many blogs people ask if this is a remake of Jill Sobule’s song from the 90’s, that was very transgressive at the time. It’s not–it’s nowhere near close. Consider:

Sobule:

I kissed a girl, won’t change the world
But I’m so glad I kissed a girl

And we laughed at the world
They can have their diamonds
And we’ll have our pearls
I kissed a girl

For the first time
I kissed a girl
And I may do it again

Perry:

Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it
Ain’t no big deal, it’s innocent

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don’t mean I’m in love tonight

I’m pretty frustrated that this song is so popular. Its message is not at all daring, and really isn’t at all queer-positive, but instead actually reinforces the status quo vis-a-vis female sexuality (performing as lesbian for male desire, that it’s “hot” for women to casually play around with chicks, but don’t worry, they’ll always come back for a Man), and it is actually a dangerous co-opting and erasure of queer female sexuality.

I was even more annoyed that this song was played at Saturday’s Gay Pride celebration here in Rochester, NY. One interesting thing: almost all the people I saw singing along were…men.

Other Smart posts about this song:

Fatemeh @ Feministe

landslide1 @ feministing community

Cortney @ Feminism/Popular Culture

Laura @ The F Word

…7/29: I just stumbled on this one I had bookmarked a while ago from show me your wits!

July 21, 2008

Quick hit: recommended article on sport, sexuality and gender

Posted in body politics, queer, recommended reading, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sports at 12:00 pm by LB

Gender and sport is one of my recent key interests lately (I think this happened after the realization that sport is really about the body, and as you know, I’m all about theorizing male and female bodies!)…so check out “Patricia Nell Warren: LGBT Sports Movement Part One of Two,” and article from the Women’s Sport Foundation, via a pretty cool blog I recently found, Rethinking Basketball, providing interesting commentary on the WNBA. Some excerpts:

A lot of the homophobia directed at lesbians comes from an entrenched belief that strenuous sport will “masculinize” women. I will never forget running in the 1969 Boston Marathon, while I was still in the closet, and seeing that some of the spectators were screaming at me, “Dyke! Dyke!” I wondered why those idiots would assume I was a lesbian when they knew nothing about me — after all, I had kept my sexual orientation a deep dark secret. Then I realized that my mere presence out there on the road, in a sport reserved for men, meant that these people saw me as “masculinized”…and “masculine” is a code word for lesbian.

[…] For gay and bi men, homophobia comes from the opposite direction: the illogical and irrational belief that being gay “feminizes” you and makes you unfit for sports, especially for rough physical sports like football and ice hockey. The rhetoric of ridicule that many male coaches and athletes use — for instance, “you throw a ball like a girl” — is aimed at pushing a man to establish his heterosexuality by extreme efforts not to look “feminine.” So, for many men, the sudden discovery that a rugged, masculine teammate of theirs is gay is a horrible shock.

[…] The more I think about sports and study their history, the more I realize that homophobia is as much about gender as it is about sexual orientation. A given sport or sports body can make an attempt to codify a cultural definition of “gender,” all the way from which events are permitted to women to stipulations on what styles of clothing men and women must wear during competition, as they do in figure skating and rodeo.

Read the whole thing here.

July 15, 2008

My thesis is finished

Posted in feminism, gender, heteronormative, marriage, personal, queer at 7:38 pm by LB

Well, I finally finished.  Today I submitted my Master’s Thesis.  It is now in the hands of FedEx via the US Postal Service.  I have done several posts that in one way or another relate to my project, so I thought I’d share with you the title, abstract, and Table of Contents to get an idea of what I’ve been working on:

“Engendering Heteronormativity:

A Critical Analysis of Marriage in the United States as a Discursive Site of
Cross-Institutional Practices”

Abstract

This thesis is a critique of the United States’ adherence to marriage as the primary organizing feature of both social life and civic status, which in turn perpetuates gender inequality and heteronormative structures. This thesis demonstrates how ideal American citizenship requires participating in marriage, which further maintains the gendered public/private divide. The analysis concludes that since marriage is not one institution, but rather is comprised of cross-institutional practices, it persists in producing gender hierarchy in spite of the equalization of marriage laws and economic practices in the latter half of the twentieth century. Further, the cross-institutional nature of marriage means that legalizing same-sex marriage is unlikely to fundamentally change the discursive meaning of marriage and that same-sex marriage will be subject to the same normalizing and marginalizing effect of marriage practice.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: What the Same-Sex Marriage Debate Tells Us About Normative Marriage…1

i.    Same-Sex Marriage Advocacy: “We” are Just Like “You…3
ii.    Marriage is Not a “Path to Liberation”…11
iii.    Queer Theory: Same-Sex Marriage as a Site of Regulation…17

Chapter 2: Citizenship, Marriage, and Gender in the United States…25

i.    American Political Philosophy, Citizenship, and Marriage…27
ii.    Citizenship and Marriage in Public Policy: The Cases of Native Americans and Polygamists…31
iii.    Slavery: Property Cannot Make Contracts…34
iv.    The Importance of Sexual Citizenship…37

Chapter 3: Shaping Normative Families Through Taxation and Social Welfare…45

i.    The Depression and the New Deal: Marriage Norms Through Economic Policy…46

ii.    1990s Social Welfare Reform: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program…52

Chapter 4: ‘Home Economics’ as a Means of Producing Gender…62

Conclusion: De-centering Heterosexuality and Normative Gender…82

July 14, 2008

MTV takes a “shot” at bisexuality

Posted in heteronormative, lesbian, queer, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, television at 12:00 pm by LB

Wow. So the other night I was just mindlessly watching “The Soup” on E! as I got ready to go out, and let me tell you, I needed a drink after that. Can I just say that I saw this coming long ago when my women’s studies students informed me there’d be a new romance reality show featuring a bisexual woman, and thus, both male and female contestants. (First aside, this show could have never happened with a male bisexual, which is so unacceptable in our culture.) Yes, I’m talking about Tila Tequila’s “A Shot at Love.”

And yes, I realize I’m actually spending time discussing the Myspace queen who stupidly takes credit for making gay marriage acceptable.

Now I didn’t see the whole show in question but I looked it up later to watch the relevant snippets. “The Soup” reported that the final episode of “A Shot at Love” had Tequila choosing between a woman and a man, and during the episode the woman has some sort of breakdown. Apparently, being chosen by Tequila must be a huge commitment because she is SOO torn over…wait for it…if she “wants a man or a woman.” (follow this link for the clip of the actual episode-the scene in question is at 1:05 remaining on the clip). As the host Joel McHale rightly comments, “I thought that was sort of implied when you said you were a bisexual.” Of course, Tequila chooses the woman, and, on cue, the woman declines.

“The Soup” posits that this was done to have a 3rd season of the show, which is very likely, but it also conveniently qualms our fears about the threat of lesbian sexuality and reiterates stereotypes about bisexuality to make it less threatening, more hetero-affirmative, and indeed co-opts it for male heterosexual desire. Tequila just couldn’t choose a woman and live happily ever after. The show being comprised of both guy-girl and girl-girl action was likely primarily intended to titilate the hetero male mind, not to actually show a loving caring relationship between two women external to any male pleasure. I mean, everyone knows that lesbians can only be seen if they’re heterosexually-validated as “hot”…and if we can watch. And bisexuality? That’s really just for bar games and threesomes. So of course, any serious attempt at an intimate relationship between two women must be thwarted.

(I do realize that I’m trying to ascribe a serious relationship to reality show couples, and how much that just seems goofy. But if they’re trying to make us think this is serious love, I’m going to treat it as such.) Read the rest of this entry »

June 10, 2008

Times article on gender, marriage and same-sex couples

Posted in economics, gender roles, heteronormative, ideology, marriage, queer, social justice at 8:42 pm by LB

via Feministe

The New York Times reported an interesting study on the relationships of married (heterosexual) and same-sex couples.

Same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility […] With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While generalizations couldn’t be made by sex, I would be interested to see if husband and wife “types” emerge in same-sex relationships, along lines of economic providing/dependency and domestic work–especially when children are involved in the relationship. Economic necessities of families–and the government and social restrictions on how these are met–don’t go away just because the sex of the partners changes. Economic roles in families are indeed gendered, and are organized along sex-based gender role expectations. But this isn’t to say that the structuring effect of the heteronormative traditional family won’t in any way also structure same-sex marriages.

I’d be interested in reading the study itself, because, notably, the above quote was the only comment made about income and domestic work…and it was with reference to heterosexual couples only. There was nothing reported in the Times about the of division of labor and employment in same-sex couples, and nothing about how things change when children are involved. Some studies have shown that egalitarianism in heterosexual couples tends to go out the window once children are born. The article was really more about conflict resolution and less about economic relations in the family, which I think misses a very important aspect of family constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

June 6, 2008

A lesson in heteronormativity

Posted in double standards, heteronormative, lesbian, news, queer, representation, sexual politics, Sexuality Blogs and Resources at 1:00 pm by LB

from CNN.com (not to mention a slew of radio talk shows!):

Lesbian kisses at game ignite Seattle debate
The usher, Guerrero said, told them he had received a complaint from a woman nearby who said that there were kids in the crowd of nearly 36,000 and that parents would have to explain why two women were kissing […] The code of conduct — announced before each game — specifically mentions public displays of affection that are “not appropriate in a public, family setting.” Hale said those standards are based on what a “reasonable person” would find inappropriate […] “I would be uncomfortable” seeing public displays of affection between lesbians or gay men, said Jim Ridneour, a 54-year-old taxi driver. “I don’t think it’s right seeing women kissing in public. If I had my family there, I’d have to explain what’s going on.”

This is the very definition of heteronormativity. This is the kind of thing Queer Nation used its performances/demonstrations to point out. This kind of thing is not just a double standard but it’s evidence that “acceptance” of queer people does not mean social equality and does not mean that we have by any means had any sort of self-reflexive pondering of what sexuality means and about assumptions about sex, gender, and sexuality.

Why do we have to “explain” queer sexuality? Shouldn’t we need to “explain” any sexuality? Is it really time to pull out the Heterosexual Questionnaire to point out the lunacy of Jim Ridneour’s statement? Read the rest of this entry »

June 3, 2008

More than the sum of her parts: AfterEllen’s ‘Hot 100’ list

Posted in beauty culture, Celebritocracy, lesbian, mass media, queer, representation, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sexy at 6:55 pm by LB

I hate ‘Hot Lists.’ I hate the idea of them. Someday I will rant on them. Not today.

AfterEllen.com, a website about lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment, publishes an annual Hot List. When I first started reading their site, I had noticed they had one. I checked it out, hoping that it would not just be a replication of the uni-dimensional hot-at-the-moment-until-they’re-prego-or-passe’ of most Hot Lists. It was not. I was pleased.

So let me qualify my first sentence:

I hate (most) Hot Lists, especially the one’s put out by lad-mags and their ilk. I hate the idea of them, which not only sees ‘hot’ in the narrowest of senses, but also they’re ‘hot’ because these women are overwhelmingly (with token exceptions) the flavor of the moment, and it also seems to favor women who participate in the culture of ‘posing.’

(Not for nothing, but the exposure-no pun intended-that women with little professional accomplishment are able to garner in the media by simply being young and pretty and thin is incredible! They are paraded around for having a nice face and/or body-and being willing to display it-but having little talent. This happens in a way completely unlike men who are in the same position-those small time accomplishments or poor acting ability but are incredibly good looking. Men definitely have it harder in this way. But women pay for our quick and easy value as eye candy with appallingly few strong female roles, and with the near-impossible task of being a successful actress or performer without participating in posing culture. I couldn’t even make a men’s parallel list to Maxim‘s 100 even if I tried!)

So AfterEllen just released their Hot 100 of 2008.

A few non-surprises? The woman who made Maxim’s 100th spot, Tila Tequila, wasn’t even close to making our list, and their number-one choice, swimsuit model Marisa Miller, barely received any votes from AfterEllen.com readers. In fact, just like last year, only two of Maxim’s top 10 showed up anywhere on our list.
[…]
Other stats about this year’s list? There are 18 women of color — a definite improvement over last year — and 21 openly gay/bi women on the list (seven of whom are AfterEllen.com vloggers), which is more than double the number on last year’s list.
[…]
Our list includes women from all over the world — from countries as diverse as Canada, England, France, India, Mexico, Norway, and Spain — and women who vary in age from 18 to 57 years old. Although the vast majority of women on the list are actors or TV personalities, there are some musicians this year, as well as a few writers, a chef, and an athlete.

Diversity is valued, age isn’t a barrier, and when you look at the kind of women that queer women find hot, you’ll quickly understand why there are few cross-overs with the lad-mags. Queer women clearly value flat, physical beauty (although their idea of beauty is not the narrow version purported by most lad-mags). But they also value talent, wit, humor, intelligence, success, not as separate from but as part of what makes women hot. It’s a little different from another counter-hot list: the excellent non-celebrity The Real Hot 100, where smart=hot and physical beauty has nothing to do with it. AfterEllen’s list seems to embrace physical beauty, alongside and equal to other aspects of women’s personhood. Beauty is part of being human, but unlike other Hot Lists, AfterEllen readers seem less apt to value women who are only beautiful but as people seem less-than-interesting. And I find this really fascinating.

I also love the photos they use to illustrate their list-no lingerie here!

And I love this part:

The following pages provide photos for all 100 women in ascending order according to your votes, with some further details provided about the first 25. We’ve also linked each woman’s name to other articles about her on AfterEllen.com, in case you want to do some more reading about them, and we’ve listed each woman’s rank on the 2007 list below her name.

Imagine that?! ‘Hot’ women aren’t just for looking at-their ‘hotness’ isn’t simply based on their measurements, so they’re actually people you would want to read up on!

The thing is, I think beauty is wonderful. But a hell of a lot of women are beautiful, celebrities and peers alike. Honestly, I don’t think beauty alone is all that ‘special.’ Put most of the women I know on the cover of a magazine with the kind of lights, makeup, and photoshopping that goes into a celeb or model photo shoot (and especially add in personal training and wealth needed for complicated beauty regiments), and they’re just as ‘hot’ as the women on there each month. Hot lists that are only about physical hotness are pointless and are more about selling magazines by reiterating the importance of the people (well, really women)-of-the moment.

AfterEllen’s list? There’s more going on here and I’m liking their idea of ‘hot’ and the context they view it in.

April 15, 2008

Thoughts on the Tyrrany of Marriage at Tax Time

Posted in economics, heteronormative, marriage, queer, social justice, U.S. politics at 8:50 am by LB

I’ve seen a few articles over the last few days about taxes and inequality for lesbian and gay couples, due to the inability to get married, as well as straight couples who aren’t married. Mostly, they are addressing the economic inequality faced by cohabitating queer couples who are legally unable to marry (in 49/50 states). Also, any tax allowances made for couples in civil unions at the state level don’t apply to federal taxation.

I thought I would take this opportunity, then, to give a mention to what many times is overlooked in the Andrew Sullivan version of same-sex marriage advocacy (see his Virtually Normal): that economic dependencies and living arrangements are not internal to intimate relationships. In other words, just because the majority of economic relationships are intimate ones as well does not mean they have to be, and does not mean they are necessarily correlated conceptually. The way our social, economic, and legal policies have shaped the meaning of intimate and economic life informs the way that we think about structuring life. Take away those institutional expectations and rewards, and new possibilities are opened up for organizing the fulfillment of a variety of needs– and perhaps in more productive ways.

In full disclosure, my Master’s thesis involves gender norms as they are produced in marriage and through the interconnection of marriage, economics, legal decisions, liberal political theory of the founders, and citizenship, so my thoughts are referring to a body of research that cannot in any way be meaningfully replicated here.

I simply pose a few questions to chew on:

  • Why do we assume intimate relationships must also involve economic dependencies and domesticity? Or rather, that if they don’t, they are less socially valuable, are less fundamental to society than those who do.
  • Why do we assume that the skills and qualities of an intimate couple are what makes the best or proper parents? This is especially relevant when oftentimes it is friendships, not intimate relationships, that end up being the life-long ones.
  • What is marriage a (presumed) life-long relationship, characterized by economic dependency/support, cohabitation, emotional reliance, sexual fulfillment, and potential parenting partnership? Why do we assume that one person should be responsible to fulfill all these needs? And that we should assign civic identities and rights based on the collapse of these relationships into one?
  • In what ways does the emphasis on marriage and coupling, especially in the same-sex marriage rights movement, neglect and further marginalize those who espouse other arrangements than the life relationships collapsed into one?
  • Does the emphasis on same-sex marriage in LGBTQ advocacy render even more invisible and produce second-class citizens of queer folks who do not replicate heterosexual relationship norms of marriage/domestic partnerships?
  • Finally, what is the function of marriage as a civic identity?

This last one is actually the question my thesis addresses, and it is a complex one. But thinking about it, and the other questions I pose, should make us question why our society rewards structuring both “private” and “public” spheres of life in terms of marriage and coupling and their affiliated expectations.

Sure, same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. That’s not where my argument is centered. I’m just not convinced that so many rights should be allocated based on intimate coupling, and the assumptions that go along with it (see bullet #3). I personally advocate that civic identity should not be premised on intimate relationships or on the way one structures one’s relational life. I see a value in affording certain benefits for those who are in economic dependencies, but that those dependencies should be unrelated to intimate life.

Further, we can begin to think about the other possibilities for living than the only one provided to us when we shake the assumption that marital coupling is and should be the center of social organization. Hell, it may even allow us to think of ways to resist consumerism, financial strains, the emotional stresses of work-family balances. Sustainable living and embracing the Slow Movement become more practical and plausible ways to live. The dirty commie idea of communal living or intentional communities as a shared approach to solving certain daily needs can be more commonplace. But this is a threat to aggressive capitalism by solving problems and meeting needs outside of the capitalist marketplace and reducing consumption. This too, of course, threatens the tax base by creating fewer discreet households by redefining ‘household’. Shaking the emphasis on the individualistic and atomistic ideal of marriage and coupling as the ultimate conflation of relationship needs can indeed challenge ‘rugged individualism’ that has harmed values of community and shared responsibility. Indeed, for me, challenging the place of marriage as the civic identity par excellance is deeply politically progressive.

Thus, I argue that aggressively advocating (same-sex) marriage (or alternatively offering rights to “marriage like” relationships) tends to imply that the marriage-based structure of rights and privileges is just fine “as is” (and I’m not even going to broach the gender normativity still (re)produced in marriage). Instead, I’d like to advocate for different solutions, beyond marriage.

recommended reading: Michael Warner’s Trouble With Normal (on my amazon recommendations)

cross-posted to The Reaction

see my part 2 here