Fatherless by Choice!

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the annual onslaught of “Dads and Grads!!!” advertising, today is Father’s Day in the United States, If you have a happy relationship with a good dad, take some time to celebrate that. If you’re feeling down today because you don’t have a dad, don’t have a relationship with a dad, have a bad/absent/abusive dad, it’s okay.

It’s okay to feel less-than-thrilled about today. It’s okay to have complicated and confusing emotions. It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to be indifferent. Maybe your dad has died and you feel that loss immensely today. Maybe you have a single mom and you want to give her some extra love today. Maybe you have two moms and aren’t even paying attention to this holiday. Maybe you have a dad, and he’s not great, and you feel conflicted today. It’s okay!

Despite overwhelming evidence that we’re social creatures who thrive in community situations, we have a heavy-handed cultural mythos that holds up the heteronormative nuclear family as the One True family. And when your reality doesn’t fit that narrative, holidays such as this one can be painful and difficult.

I’ve been hesitant to share too much of my personal history here, mostly because I know some ~hate commenters~ will use it to derail our conversations. But, y’know, the personal is political, so here we are. I haven’t had a relationship with my biological father in nearly a decade. And it was only by entering that estrangement that I’ve been able to blossom and grow.

I have a Bad Dad. Like, a very bad dad. I’m not nostalgic for my childhood because most of it was such an abusive and fearful time. My memories of my childhood are of being abused by my dad, and of watching him abuse my mom and sister. It was not good, friends! It was physical, emotional, financial, and yep, probably all those other checkboxes you’re wondering about, too. That dude was not a good dude!

Even after extracting myself, I was stalked, threatened, and further terrorized by him. It sucked so much! (I’m using exclamation points because I don’t want you to feel too bad about this!) Eventually, I lived out my favorite The National song: left my home, changed my name, and now I’m eating my cake. My life is really good now, and it’s in large part due to the fact that my Very Bad Dad isn’t part of my life.

But it took me a long time to feel okay about it. In the beginning, I couldn’t believe how much pressure there was from acquaintances, friends, and even family members to “make amends” and “not burn bridges” – and these were people who had borne witness to years of abuse. Consequently, the first few years of my freedom/liberation/estrangement were wildly difficult. I was made to feel such guilt and shame for refusing to continue a relationship with a clinically ill and dangerous man, just because he was my father.

We have cultivated a ludicrous adherence to biological ties as an absolution of all wrongdoing. I’m here to tell you that idea is bananas. If anyone (even your own family!) tries to guilt you for not associating with an abuser… it should be clear that they’re the deranged ones, not you. You know your own heart and needs better than anyone else. And having a Bad Dad (or any bad relation!) is not a reflection on you or your worth. That we have an official holiday for Fathers (and Mothers/Grandparents/Siblings/whatever) does not in any way invalidate your experiences and the choice to end a relationship.

If you feel sad today, that’s okay. It’s a lil sad! Sometimes I wish I had a dad. Not the biological nightmare I ended up with, but a dad who embodies all the greeting card sentiments. Like I said, it’s a complicated day. But you’re not alone and you’re going to be okay. The most important thing I’ve learned in my fatherless decade is that letting go of bad people makes room for really good people. And those people, the family I’ve chosen, are whom I’ll be celebrating today.

If today is difficult for you, be gentle with yourself. Whether you’re fatherless-by-choice (a new term I just made up and am now in love with), wish your dad was around more, or have lost a father you desperately miss, treat yourself with compassion today. There’s nothing wrong with you or your feelings.

 

All About That Bass

It’s time for another fun round of my friends and I critically analyzing music videos via email!! As with “Hard Out Here” Sam sent us Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass with this message,

yeah so issues with 1. skinny bashing, maybe? 2. basing appearance on what guys want to grab at night 3. jesus with the pastels 4. are the black back up dancers being used as props? is she being inclusive of all big booties or capitalizing on black booties? why can’t my white booty stop bouncing to this song?

I started to respond, but then I wrote an essay (why can I never shut up??) so I’m posting it here and maybe we can all talk about it together!

The message I took from this video is, “I’m not a size 2; I’m a REAL WOMAN.” Oh, ever so sorry, I didn’t realize I’m not a real woman. Turns out I’ve been a velociraptor this whole time.

I don’t understand how this song can simultaneously call for an end to unrealistic body images and harmful photoshopping while having lyrics like, “Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that– no I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat.” Haha, oh my god, that’s so funny, what a total laugh, women have been taught to hate themselves!! A real knee-slapper there. But then it goes on to say, “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” I’m so confused; didn’t you just say that the only good body is the one that has “that boom boom that all the boys chase” and that “boys like a little more booty to hold at night”?

We absolutely have body image problems in our society. We demonize fatness; “fat” is an insult. Our whole society needs intense therapy. We need to fix that stuff. Let’s all pause and listen to Beyonce.

Thin privilege is real. I could go to 7/11 right now and get the biggest size slushy possible and people would probably chuckle and think I was doing something endearing. Kind of like when I was out with Megan and Whitney and our server thought it was ever so precious when I ordered a cookie. He chuckled and gave me a look that said, “Aren’t you adorable?” But if my body were different, people wouldn’t think that. They would have nasty thoughts and they might even vocalize them. I don’t have to experience that, and I can only speak from my position as someone who benefits from having a body that’s considered worthy by the people who send certain sizes of clothes to Target.

I’ve noticed this demonization of fatness more and more as my sister’s gone through a weight loss journey. She’s lost nearly 100 pounds over the past year and people treat her differently now. I notice people responding to her differently. We talk a lot about how it’s been for her to transition, both bodily and in the eyes of society. People are nice to her now and they weren’t before. 100 pounds ago, people treated her like she wasn’t a human. That’s unreal.

With all of that in mind, this song seems like it should be great. We should be changing our cultural perceptions of bodies and worth. We need to stop equating skinniness to worthiness and fat to trash. But trying to replace one ideal with another isn’t the way to do that.

Sam, I read your comments before watching the video and I thought it must involve some kind of Jesus swathed in pastels. I think I would have preferred that, but you’re right, there’s no way to address that mess other than, “jesus with the pastels.” The video uses the pastels to play up classic femininity—sugar and spice and everything nice, now with big butts! But what all of this is really doing is saying that there’s one right way to be a woman. We’re still going to be pastel Stepford Wives, now we’ll just be curvy pastel Stepford Wives.

Swapping out one oppressive ideal for another won’t get us anywhere, ESPECIALLY if it’s done through the lens of pleasing men. Ugh. Ugh. Ew. I can’t. As the resident outspoken (ironic) misandrist of our friend group, allow me to loudly state that I don’t care what men think about women’s bodies. I don’t care and neither should anyone else. As kids, we’re taught that we should avoid peer pressure by being True To Ourselves and Not Doing Things Because Our Friends Are and Don’t Jump Off That Bridge Because Your Friends Say To, but none of those lessons seem to apply when it comes to heteronormative relationships. Then, throw all of that self-actualization out the window and do everything you can to make a dude happy.

The song reinforces that message- that we should craft ourselves around the aesthetic ideals of men. There’s nothing more important than being wanted by a boy! And boys want big butts! And nobody likes skinny bitches!

Putting down women hurts all women. Why doesn’t anyone seem to understand this?? Love your body; it’s awesome. Be all about the bass. Just don’t vilify the treble while you’re at it. (Aside: I really can’t get over bass/treble being used as a stand in for fat/thin.)

I want to meet with every person who’s been hurt by this toxic thinking and clutch their cheeks while staring into their eyes and whisper, “All bodies are good bodies.” over and over until they believe it. And I want everyone to stop pitting women against each other. Nobody signed up for this fight, but we keep being thrown into the ring.

I didn’t even get to the race stuff going on in the video, but I think Sam’s right about the appropriation/capitalization. And, as always, a thousand thanks to Riot Grrl Whitney for popping in with some of her musical preferences. Here’s her selection: Half Girl’s Lemmy, I’m a Feminist. I’m going to slink back into my cave and listen to The National.

Dale Hansen, Be My Valentine

Like Leslie Knope’s ideal man, Dale Hansen has the brains of George Clooney and the body of Joe Biden. And you’re lying if you try to tell me you weren’t feeling some major sexual attraction when Mr. Hansen started QUOTING AUDRE LORDE.

And in that moment, I swear I hated straight white men a little bit less.

Since NFL-hopeful Michael Sam came out as gay earlier this week, all sorts of sports folks have been in an outraged tizzy. Then Dale Hansen (Unplugged!) came along with a great response.

Right before quoting Audre Lorde he did say, “I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay. I don’t understand his world. But I do understand that he’s part of mine.” That sort of sucks because, ugh, why is everything always about you, straight white men? You know who’s not always comfortable? Gay folks living in your heteronormative society! But then he quoted Audre Lorde on national television and I went into a trance.

Here’s another gem from the video:

You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs pulling her hair out by the roots; you’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk; that guy’s welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes*; we know they’re welcome. Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away. You lie to police trying to cover up a murder; we’re comfortable with that. You love another man. Well now you’ve gone too far.

*Just to be clear, this is a pro-sex worker blog!! We don’t demonize sex workers here!!

In all, this is pretty delightful. Do you think Dale Hansen has a Valentine’s date yet? Those Clooney brains; that Biden body. Be still my heart!

This Week in Politics [part 1]

If ever there’s been a week that’s made me want to move to Sweden… well that’s every week, really. But this week in particular has been vexing in regard to US politics and culture. This week reinforced the many reasons why the United States ranks sixth overall on the Social Progress Index. (We’re seventh in personal freedom and choice, sixth in personal rights, fourth in equity and inclusion, and forty-eighth in ecosystems sustainability. OUCH.) Sweden is ranked first overall.  I want to go to there, Liz Lemon. But running away or choosing not to care doesn’t do any good. Apathy does not an ally make.  Let’s talk about two big things happening around the US this week, and why we should care.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA. Huzzah, hurrah, it’s about time. I’m annoyed that this is even an ‘issue’ that the government needs to intervene upon. I’m more annoyed by all the idiotic and frustrating responses coming out around the ruling. This morning I heard some lady on NPR say, “Of course I don’t support same-sex marriage because I don’t support same-sex couples.” Hi, lady. I don’t support you or your bigotry! Other people were going on about the man/woman marriage precedent set by the Bible, which is a totally valid argument since this country is and should definitely be governed by that particular religious text. I feel absurd stating that I’m being facetious here, but apparently there’s still a large group of people who don’t understand why the Bible isn’t a credible political document. Hey, y’all. Don’t like same-sex marriage? Okay. Don’t have one. And while you’re at it, stop trying to legalize discrimination. All that hatred doesn’t look cute on you.

Wendy Davis is a rockstar. Oh, man. Oh, men. Oh, white men of the Texas senate. You are the worst. Wendy Davis led a one-woman filibuster against SB 5, a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and would close most clinics across Texas. For thirteen hours, Wendy Davis stood and spoke against the bill. She did not sit. She did not even get a bathroom break. For thirteen hours. Republican senators tried to trick her into speaking off topic, a violation of rules, which would have ended the filibuster. They tried to claim she broke the rules by receiving assistance putting on a back brace. When the bill was finally voted on, the numbers were in favor of passing SB 5. (After all that!) The vote took place a few minutes after midnight and was therefore invalidated on a technicality.  But because white men in politics can do anything, they tried to change their own rules. They tried to kill the bill, even though the vote was taken after midnight. Wendy Davis was treated terribly all day long by a bunch of people without uteruses (Hey there, white dudes. Don’t like abortion? Okay. Don’t have one.) and then they tried to change their own rules. All that hypocrisy and cruelty doesn’t look cute on you. Oh, and Big Media? The way all of you felt the need to comment on Davis’s pink tennis shoes? That sexism doesn’t look cute on you, either. And I clearly know about what looks cute on people, seeing as I have a uterus which radiates fashion sense. That’s a biological fact, isn’t it?

I love the idea of politics and hate the way they’re carried out in this country. A cursory glance at any comments section will show a lot of sweeping and often off-topic generalizations about “all liberals” and “all conservatives”. We’re so mired in our camps and we all get off on hating each other so much, that we’ve lost the ability to converse like compassionate humans. We can’t even treat each other with basic decency. (Someone helped you put on a back brace because we won’t let you sit down and we don’t care about your physical wellbeing? Rule-breaker!!!) We’re not willing to listen to each other. This includes me- I don’t want to hear anyone’s ideas on why they think homosexuality is wrong. I’m a fallible human and I don’t have time for that nonsense. I just wonder when we’re all going to realize how terrible we are, and decide to do something about it. When are we going to decide life could be a little better if we tried to be a bit more like Sweden? Is that ever going to happen? I worry about the fact that none of us seem to be concerned with the embarrassing and shameful conduct of our country.

Speaking of that shame and embarrassment… tomorrow we’ll be talking about racism. George Zimmerman, Paula Deen, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act…get ready. This Angry Feminist Killjoy is coming for you.

On Being Out and About While Female

There’s a classroom activity done in Women’s Studies courses that illustrates the differences between what it’s like to be a man in the world and what it’s like to be a woman in the world. It’s very basic; I mean “in the world” in the sense of “walking down the street”. The men in the room are asked to describe the things they do to ensure their safety when they go out. The usual response is crickets. When women are asked how they keep themselves safe, there’s a flood of responses. Never go out alone. Carry mace. Hold your keys between your fingers so you can a) jab a potential attacker with them and b) aren’t fumbling around at your car like a sitting duck while you try to unlock the door. Imagine what it’s like if you happen to be trans or gender queer or your sexuality doesn’t fit the dominant narrative. There’s a whole pantheon of extra things you have to do to stay safe, then.

I tend to disregard all these ingrained rules for being Out and About While Female. It’s not a smart decision to wander around as if I have the same privilege as men, but I do it anyway because I’m really mad that I’m denied the simple right to feel safe in my own community. My logic is nonsensical, and I’ve regretted my lack of mace/key shanks/rape whistles more than once when a man has felt okay stepping in my path, touching me in some way, or suggesting I spend my evening with him.

In our culture, we teach girls and women to be constantly on guard and take preventative action. Violence is assumed, and it’s our responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen to us. This also assumes that the violence will be inflicted on some other girl or woman, one who (maybe like me) wasn’t willing to play the precaution game. If you’re harassed, assaulted, or raped- it was probably your fault for not fending it off well enough. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get our lives together and start reframing these issues as the perpetrator’s problem? Rape isn’t a woman’s issue. Rape is a man’s issue. Instead of teaching our girls and women not to get raped we should be teaching our boys and men (hold it in your holsters here, pals, this is one heckuva thunderbolt coming your way!) to not rape.

Last night, my friend and I were out together when we found ourselves propositioned by two of the most flap-mouthed, milk-livered gudgeons I’ve ever encountered. We just couldn’t seem to shake them- even when we moved to another bar entirely. This is the moment when that Personal Safety bit came up again. There’s a line between maintaining social decorum and feeling safe. These men were total jerks sure, but was it enough to justify being rude and giving them the what for? But, why is that even a question we felt the need to ask ourselves? This was our night out- why did we feel obligated to keep spending our time with these (im)perfect strangers?

Because we’re socialized to be nice and polite and pander to men. Ugh. Even us Angry Feminist Killjoys fall into that trap sometimes. And then one of the dudes bought us drinks. That’s the kiss of death on a quick getaway. My friend and I took one of those group trips to the bathroom so we could discuss how we were going to make our escape. That’s when we were told we couldn’t take alcohol into the bathroom. Because of course we couldn’t. This bar happened to have a strange setup where the bathroom was technically outside of the bar, so while I understand the liquor licensing issues going on, that presents a huge problem for Lady Safety.

What were we supposed to do with these brand new drinks? Leave them with the absolute codpieces who purchased them? That would definitely work… if we were hoping to get drugged. We ended up making a desperate plea to the employee barring our entrance. My friend said, “We’re with these awful guys” right as I said, “Look, I think they might actually slip rufinol in these.” She was very kind about it, babysat our alcohol, and I’m pretty sure she was ready to help us sneak out the back. Ladies have to help each other out, you know. We broke away shortly thereafter. The fellas didn’t take our departure kindly, which was just so endearing it made me want to change my mind and spend more time with them after all!

The point of this post wasn’t merely to complain about that uncomfortable experience, but to illustrate the frequency with which these same stupid situations crop up in our lives. Every time my lady friends and I go out without a gentleman amongst us, we end up spending the night fending off handsy dudes. Sometimes we meet really great people and have nice conversations and a fun time, but… there is always the assumption of violence. Is this situation safe? What do these people really want from us? Is this going to end poorly? The presence of even one male in our group will change the course of our night entirely. At one point, my friend mentioned her boyfriend to the dudes. Even though we’d been saying we weren’t interested all night, they didn’t hear it until a male partner was invented. Why is it that men will respect men (even imaginary ones!) more than they’ll respect the women they’re courting?

It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating that none of our male friends ever fully understand what we’re trying to tell them. I was out with two male friends once, and they couldn’t understand why I was frustrated when they vanished for a quarter of an hour. We were in an unfamiliar city and I had to spend the entire time alone, trying to escape leering eyes and unwanted advances. (I was tipsier than I should have been, because until they disappeared, I felt safe with my friends around.) I really pride myself on my independence, but there are some situations where even I know that being mouthy and snarky is going to get me into trouble.

Our culture keeps making all of this my problem, but it’s not. I shouldn’t have to be constantly sparring and on edge. Because this is a man’s problem. Apparently that’s a really difficult concept in our society, so here are a few things you can stop right now: expecting sex because you bought me a beer; assuming that I owe you my time; becoming rude and violent when I don’t give you my time or my body; touching me without my permission in any way, at any time, ever; generally being a nuisance. Let’s start there, okay?

Disney’s Brave: White Feminism Strikes Again!

I generally try to avoid Disney entirely, because I have pretentious tastes and because Disney is every kind of problematic. The princess movies are especially frustrating, as they gleefully celebrate tired sexist and heteronormative narratives. Plus, I’ve never understood America’s obsession with princess narratives. Isn’t this nation’s origin story wrapped up in leaving monarchies behind? Despite my aversions, I watched Disney’s Brave while recovering from surgery last week. I’d heard that it was actually wonderful, and by day four of bed rest, even Disney seemed more appealing than staring at my ceiling.

Like most Disney movies, Brave is filled with only white people.  It also draws on Scottish folklore, featuring magical wisps and spells cast by the classic old witch. There’s probably a lot of cultural appropriation and inaccuracies tied up in the depiction of the clans and their histories. However, the movie did a nice job of exploring and challenging the traditional princess tale.  In the film, Princess Merida doesn’t want to wear the clothes her mother chooses, learn the ‘feminine’ skills her mother tries to teach her, or act like a traditional princess in any sense. When three suitors arrive to compete for Merida’s hand, she is not pleased. She ultimately competes for her own hand, out-shooting all three suitors.

That’s awesome! This all happens quite early, and the betrothal line takes a backseat for the rest of the film. I was glad to see the movie abandon the usual ‘She doesn’t want it now, but she’ll be gushing in love by the end!’ way of these stories.  Ultimately, this isn’t a story about gender roles. It’s a story about familial relationships, especially the mother/daughter bond.  This was all explored within the framework of the traditional Prince/Princess setup, but it was nice to see the storytellers manipulate that in productive ways. Hopefully, we’ll eventually reach a point where strong, independent young women aren’t shown as rebels and rule-breakers, but we’re moving in the right direction.

I was feeling pretty pleased with Brave, only to immediately hear about Disney’s redesign of Princess Merida. Before Merida could be officially inducted into the Disney Princess membership club (why is this even a thing? Honestly, why?), some official decided she needed to be sexier. Yeah. 16 year old Merida just wasn’t sexy enough to be an official Disney Princess. Even though it’s antithetical to her entire character, Merida was stripped of her trusty bow and arrows, stuck into a fancy dress (the exact kind she literally tore off her body in the film), her wild hair was tamed, and she was made much skinnier. This is why we don’t get along, Disney.

Here’s where things get interesting: there was a huge public outcry! The sexed up version of Merida was not receiving any kind of approval. Disney has been petitioned, the film’s director expressed anger, and it seems like the entire internet has been yelling, so much so that Disney replaced Sexy Merida with Original Merida on the official website. Unfortunately, it sounds like Disney is still planning to use Sexy Merida on their official merchandise.

I think this public response is great. Really, I do. I can’t help but to feel frustrated, though. Because this isn’t the first time Disney has redesigned a Princess. It’s kind of their MO, honestly. When Mulan became an Official Princess, her weapons were taken away, too. Not only that, they made her white. That’s right. They changed her race. And it’s not just Mulan. Jasmine and Pocahontas? Also suddenly white.

Yes, it’s wickedly annoying that Merida was completely changed into a sexy cartoon. We should be frustrated by that. But where were all the petitions and outcry when this exact same stuff was happening to Princesses of Color? I mean, really, white feminism? Really? It’s anti-feminist to care about issues only when they pertain to people who look like us. That is wrong-headed in so many ways. I’m happy that Brave has been received so well, that people are excited about a princess who breaks out of the traditional roles.  But by getting angry at her redesign and not the same problematic redesigns of her fellow princesses, we’re not doing any better.

Feminism has an utterly unsavory history of excluding women of color, lesbians, the working class, basically anyone who wasn’t white, straight, and rich. I don’t want to be a part of that feminism. So if we’re going to have a canary about Merida, we need to have canaries about Mulan, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and while we’re at it, let’s talk about how Tiana, the first black princess, spent most of her movie as a literal frog. We need to stop caring about all of Disney’s problems only when they pertain to white girls.

Actually, let’s stop caring about Disney entirely! That might be asking too much, but it seems odd that we keep celebrating a company that consistently makes overt racist, sexist, and heteronormative choices. If you really can’t kick Disney, check out this great blog called Feminist Disney. We have to challenge our media. All of our media. Not just the parts that cause white tears.

My Love Matters

My friend Katherine has lovely and important words, and has very graciously agreed to share some of them here. I feel so honored to publish her thoughts and to share them with all of you! I will pass along your comments, but you can also visit Katherine and her wonderful words over on her blog, A Collection of Lights. Thank you, Katherine!

——-

My name is Katherine, and I’m kind of gay. Gay as in delighted, mind you, and in the sense that I fuck women. (Well, one woman.) I’m queer. Queer like I’m odd, ever so slightly strange, and I fuck women. (One woman.) I’m a lesbian in the sense that it’s an easy label to peel off and stick on, just as any label might be. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly bothered about the label. Well, that’s sort of a lie. I’m a little bothered by it, but theoretically it doesn’t matter.

Before I came out, I had to come in – into myself, that is. There were years of slight self denial, sure, but I wasn’t lying when I told people I was straight. Okay, maybe I should have questioned the frequency with which I had to deny the queer aspects of my personhood. Perhaps there were clues. But at the tender age of nineteen, when I found a woman making my heart flutter and a stammer trip up my tongue, I was probably the most surprised person of anyone I knew.

And despite the rampant heterosexism in our society which is compounding directly into the newfound difficulties I am facing, finally I can truly say that I am happy. Five months ago, I met the most wonderful woman. There is nothing I regret–being with her is one of the single greatest experiences I have had in my lifetime. But with this and the somewhat new discovery that I am queer comes a sort of strange navigation. Is it okay to hold hands? What will my boss think if I tell her that my partner is a woman? What will my peers think? What will my mother think? The questions don’t end.

In the state of Texas, I cannot get married to the person I love. I cannot foster children with the person I love. I cannot adopt children with the person I love. My university and place of work are supportive, but I could – in another position, another place – be taunted and terminated for sharing who I am with other people. Institutional, symbolic, and individual oppressions intersect. They are all out to get me. Governmental and social institutions reward heterosexuality.

And okay, marriage is a construct, but I’d like to be rewarded for the love I have someday. My love matters.

Being queer is as normal to me as getting up in the morning (new, frustrating, ultimately rewarding), yet in order to be taken seriously – in order for change to be made – I must be an activist. Activism is great, but it’s frustrating to me that I must make who I love something political. Granted, our society has made me a political figure already. This time? It’s going to be on my terms.

This is all to say, I don’t have a huge amount of experience as a queer human being, but I do have the somewhat unique perspective of someone who identified as heterosexual until fairly recently… I have supported queer equality for quite some time, but life as an actual goddamn queer is very different.  And lately, a lot has pissed me off. You’re welcome in advance.

If your only defense of common and garden, everyday feminism is “we’re not all lesbians!”, fuck you.

If you try to console queer individuals by telling them of this one time, in a separate life, you–or someone you know–knew a gay person who was really cool despite their crippling gayness, fuck you. (You know, I knew a straight person once. He was pretty cool!)

If you ask a queer lady if/how scissoring works, fuck you.

If you heckle a queer person and their partner, fuck you. (If you heckle anyone, fuck you.)

If you refer to a queer person’s partner as their roommate despite correction, fuck you.

If you have the audacity to find yourself feeling discriminated against for being straight, fuck you.

If you ask queer ladies who the “man” is in their relationship, fuck you.

If you identify as heterosexual, consider completing this questionnaire.

Condescending Gold Star Award: Love Is All You Need

Last night I watched a short film called “Love Is All You Need?”. That link will take you to the film if you feel like spending 20 minutes acquainting yourself, but this needs to run with a massive trigger warning: the film is full of slurs and shows graphic images of bullying, violence, and suicide. If those might trigger you, I think it’s better to sit this one out than to have a seriously day-ruining experience because of a mediocre movie.

The basic premise of the film is to flip the societal script. Our current world is heteronormative and full of homophobia. The world of the film is homonormative (I guess? Is that a word?) and full of heterophobia. In the film, heterosexual individuals are the targets of hatred and bullying which emerge from society’s systematic othering. The film is attempting to show hetero people how it feels to live with the kind of violence that is inflicted on queer people every day. It’s been received positively and has won lots of awards. Unfortunately, this movie is a problematic disaster hiding under a façade of good intentions. Congratulations, “Love Is All You Need?”, you’ve just been awarded a Condescending Gold Star!

You Tried Gold Star

First and most glaringly, this film features a blatant erasure of identity.  The film gives no space, voice, visibility, or even acknowledgement of anyone other than cisgender gay people and cisgender straight people. The entire community of trans* folks, as well as people who identify as bi, pan, or asexual are completely absent. This erasure of identity is a form of violence, and is extremely problematic in a film that is allegedly advocating for social justice. On top of all of that, there are no people of color in this film. (Help! I’m drowning in a sea of white people!) Oh, wait! There is one person of color… a black man who beats up a white girl. Your star is being amended.

No You Didn't Star

One of Ashley’s moms is aggressive and disinterested while the other is passive and compassionate. These obvious male/female role assignments are clearly a heteronormative representation. I don’t know what the filmmakers were trying to do there but it was disappointing to see queer parenting presented in such a heteronormative manner. Emphasizing our sameness is not equivalent to celebrating our difference. Just like the idea of being colorblind, this approach ignores very real struggles. It results in more identity erasure.

This was further emphasized by another of the film’s galling missteps: the bizarre portrayal of gender role reversal. In the film’s world, acting is for boys and playing football is for girls. Of course I support boys in the arts and girls in sports, but the film showed a reversal not a mingling. That is completely inappropriate in a film about sexual orientation. It seems like these filmmakers don’t understand that sexual orientation and gender identity operate independently of each other. This film effectively reinforced the harmful and idiotic stereotype that all lesbian women are butch and all gay men are femme. The film’s website argues “this film is not about ‘genderizing’ or ‘stereotyping’ but I really can’t see how perpetuating the masculinization of lesbian women and the feminization of gay men is helpful in any way.

In fact, very little in this film is helpful. It speaks to a group of hetero folks who probably already vaguely identify as allies. These hetero ‘allies’ should be learning about microaggressions and legal inequities, and how they can use their privilege to change those things. I have a feeling that were a violent homophobe to watch this film, they would leave feeling more justified in their hatred. Because homophobic individuals are already operating in an illogical framework, they’re going to use the film as a justification for eradicating homosexuality in order to prevent the perceived end result of the gay rights movement- heterophobia. I can already hear the deranged chorus, “If we don’t stop the gays, look at what they’ll do to us!”

The real kicker comes at the very end of the film when a slide appears saying, “This film is dedicated to every child who has ever felt such darkness due to others’ hatred and misunderstanding. Always know that love is meant to be within and you should never feel wrong or alone by being who you are…Unique” which is a seriously minimalizing and hurtful message. They may as well have said, “Oh, you precious gay kids. Sure, you live in a violent world where people literally try to kill you because of who you are, but it doesn’t even matter if you just love yourself!!”

Tried and Failed Star

“Love Is All You Need?” is an unfortunate example of the problematic ally relationship. Too often, allies come into a movement and silence the group they’re allegedly advocating for. I don’t agree with the rhetorical approach of this film; I think it’s a blatant straight appropriation of a queer movement. Straight people should not gain sympathy or decide to become an activist as a result of the issues being made all about them. Everything is already about straight people!

I do think this film could work. But it needs to be made by queer folks. If we’re really going to be allies, we need to stop taking control of movements that are not ours. We need to have more public discussions, and I appreciate this film’s attempt to do that. I think the filmmakers’ hearts were in the right place… but there reaches a point when love is not all you need. As allies, what we need to do is to shut up and stop trying to take control of movements that do not belong to us.