Tag Archives: heteronormative

Facebook Engagement Fatigue

I’m not sure what it is about chilly weather, but all the sudden diamond rings abound on my Newsfeed.

marryme

I should start this by saying that I am happy for people who want to get married and then get asked to be married, and that I hope everyone is successful in their relationships, and anything else they put their mind to for that matter. I always feel defensive when I talk about being irritated or annoyed or uncomfortable with this stuff, because folks assume that I am man-hating/bitter/hate love/unromantic, etc. But that’s categorically untrue.

That being said, all the hand photos, to show off the ring, and the #isaidyes hashtag and the really large bridal parties and the floofy dresses and the stuff… I don’t know guys. It has me feeling…. itchy.

mindyno

I think my itchiness comes from the fact that so much of what is shared is steeped in traditions that I find deeply problematic. Rather than coming up with new traditions, making room for alternative partnerships and lifestyles, we are creating hashtags and crafting cute announcements that show just how pretty and fabulous and romantic the whole event it using our iPhones and social media presences. But it’s the same old story (emphasis on old). I think most people’s journey is a lot more interesting than a photo of your hand with a new ring, or a new hashtag, or a new name…

a smattering of results from an #isaidyes search
a smattering of results from an #isaidyes search

Ah yes, the issue of names. On Facebook this is particularly apparent, because all of the sudden your friend from high school that you used to skip class with and drive around with and yearn for college with isn’t searchable under their name. Same with the girls who lived on your dorm floor in college. They have a new name. I can never think about these old friends as anyone other than the name I met them with. I can’t be the only one for whom this is disconcerting (can I?). It feels so retro, so abrupt. It seems so serious, so fundamental. And I guess maybe that’s the point, but who the fuck can keep track of all these old girlfriends, with their new names?

who?

I know people who are excited about changing their name, and that’s fine. But when you look at it in cultural context, I think this tradition sucks. I know this question isn’t exactly earth shattering, but why should women have to change their identifying name, their family name? Think about growing up, being part of your family, but knowing that one day your last name would be different and that you would, symbolically, be part of a different family and no longer your own. That’s fucking weird. I can’t imagine having a name that is different then my name now. It feels right, my name. It has a rhythm, I have a catchphrase, and I’d never wanna be anyone else. I think your name is a large part of your identity and personality, and like it or not this tradition places women in a cycle of having first their fathers and then their husbands determine this identity marker. Oddly enough, I don’t feel strongly about my own future child having my name because they will be their own person, a little monster with their own identity and personality. But I do feel strongly about my name, my ties to my own 3 person original family unit, and no matter what my family looks like moving forward I wish to always have my name to bond me to them and to my memories.

tradition-o

I know people like tradition. And I’m not really against a person changing their name to symbolize a new union. But why not have both parties change it, to maybe a hyphenated name (ugh, I hate hyphenating) or some kind of hybrid, or I mean it could be anything at all! Your drag queen name or an allusion to your favorite poet/character/musician or the street your grew up on or that you met or WHATEVER. Why does it have to be so literal, so patriarchal? And all those other traditions that are played out too, like why are all my girlfriends waiting for a ring presentation when these kinds of decision can (and arguably should) be made together? Why a diamond ring when we all know that tradition was invented and sold to consumers by the diamond industry itself? Why a white wedding dress when that color upholds virginity as the ultimate female virtue, and anyway not everyone looks good in white? Why not rethink all of it? I wish we could all think outside the box more when it comes to unions and love and partnerships.

blaineproposal
Homoerotic, but heteronormative. #justsayin

So yea anyway, love is great and I’m glad people are finding it. But just a heads up, no one’s hand looks pretty in those ring photos. It’s weird. Post a photo of you and your partner and your smiling, joyful faces. That’s what it’s really about anyway, right?

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The ‘B’ in LGBTQ

Do you know anyone who identifies as bi-sexual?

Do you think they are greedy? Indecisive? Are they lying or seeking attention?Perhaps really just gay and not ready to take the full leap yet?

Check this classic Sex and the City convo about Carrie’s young  love interest (sorry for the bad dubbing, that wasn’t me and youtube is not trying to give me what I want!)

That conversation may seem dated, but I know plenty of people who’d still describe that as ‘real talk’. Which is why this excellent article from the New York Times, regarding a new push to ‘prove’ that bisexuality exists, wasn’t shocking to me. The writer describes various studies, all collecting physical data and hoping to measure arousal levels to compare with personal identity statements. I can only imagine that this push for scientific legitimacy is happening because folks who identify as bi are actually super likely to be met with ire and mistrust. In some cases, this pushback is more than a gay or lesbian person would get, because lots of folks think that bi-sexual isn’t a real identity.

idontbelieveyouGIF

This situation is a clear example of the problem with linking sexual preference to identity. Actually linking any choice with identity, at least a large group identity. The way that the mainstream LGBTQ community has managed to gain access to rights such as marriage and non-discrimination laws is by a savvy combination of ‘I was born this way’ and ‘we’re just like you.’ And the idea that people choose who they are attracted to is actually super dangerous to this fight, because hateful idiots would use that as ammunition to discriminate and withhold inalienable rights.

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But sexuality and sexual preference only exist as an identity marker because the culture demanded it. I used to joke that ‘gay people didn’t exist before 1960’, and that’s actually not completely inaccurate. Folks who wanted to sleep with same sex partners before that was culturally acceptable did so in secret, or in the semi-open as more of a lifestyle choice. Lesbians, in particular, got away with this a lot because it wasn’t seen as a threat to men (because how could sex possibly happen without a penis??) Because these folks were not organized and asking for legitimacy in society, they were less visible. And their sexual choices were what they did, and not exactly who they were.

I do, of course, think it is important that folks are able to live openly, without fear of violence or prejudice and with the full range of options for how to live their lives. However. The more categories you create, the more boxes you draw and the more pressure everyone feels to fit in a box. And we do love boxes don’t we? Male or Female. Gay or Straight. Chocolate or Vanilla. PICK A FLAVOR!!!!!!

banana

But these boxes, these binaries, are reductive and exclusive and they breed a lot of hate and misunderstanding. And bisexuality is an interesting example, because even folks in the traditionally maligned group (gay/lesbian) and their allies are distrustful and ignorant. The same could be said about transgender folks, who face discrimination even from other liberal or oppressed groups. The inbetween people face the most antagonism.

Why is this? What are we all so uncomfortable with? I remember learning about the word queer in grad school, reading about queer time and queer space. I felt so saved by the ideas I learnt about, ideas that gave a name to life trajectories that don’t follow a heteronormative path and a world view that is more circular and leaves room for error. I wanted to exist in those spaces, outside the world of marriages and jobs and the lives that so many choose without choosing. I wanted to exist on the page, at dusk and dawn, living a path of otherness as many had done before me.

And actually, I rejected the term bi-sexual. It was another box, and felt strangely surgical to me. As though that word, bi-sexual, split me into two parts. As though those parts were competing with one another. But there are not two parts of me, just one whole self. And as I learned how to love, I did have experiences that I felt took me out of the ‘hetero’ category. But I don’t, and have never, liked any of the labels I heard as options. So I thought to myself ‘I love at dusk’, and I left it at that.

iamcomplicated

The studies being done now do shed light on the variations and complications intrinsic to our sexuality, our sexual preferences, and our experience of our own sexual identity. There is a reason why people think that bi-sexual men don’t exist because they are all secretly gay. It isn’t, however, because men can’t be bi-sexual. It’s because we live in a culture where women are believed to be more fluid, and men are given less freedom to experiment. Less wiggle room. And so, it stands to reason that men are less likely to explore desires that could make them vulnerable to a label they are not comfortable with. And that sucks. And it sucks that lots of young women who come out as bi are told ‘it’s just a phase’ and that ‘they’ll grow out of it.’ And it sucks that if you are bi, it can be super hard to find same sex partners because they are distrustful and fear that you will leave them for a hetero relationship. And it sucks that in order to be recognized as a human worthy of respect and rights, you must draw a line in the sand and say ‘I exist, and there are others like me.’ The more categories of folks that come forward, the more we miss the point: That sexuality is a continuum, a path along which we are all traveling. It grows, it evolves, it changes. And our sexuality doesn’t define us. And no sexuality could possibly negate a person’s right to be treated with respect and live a full life.

samwatersonGIF
here here

Although, I do kinda like this definition quoted in the article:

I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way and not necessarily to the same degree.

That shape feels large enough, with flexible enough edges, that I may just be able to dance in there comfortably, with other folks on similar adventures. Cause we are all just trying to be who we are, really. I think this grumpy pug in a unicorn costume illustrates our collective struggle to metamorphize into our most magical selves.

unicornpugGIf

Never stop trying. The struggle is real, haters gonna hate, the journey is long. Find other folks wearing unicorn outfits, love those people for their whole unique selves, take care of them and allow them to take care of you. One day it won’t take scientific data for folks to accept the truth about who we all are and who we all love.

The Economics of Sex (OR misinformation and subjective data interpretation with dumb animation)

Here is an infuriating video from The Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture about how sex is a commodity and marriage is always good and men and women are operating under a strange and simple system that disregards their personalities and desires. I honestly had a hard time getting through it, so I’m gonna present my thoughts in a sort of live blog format. What follows is a (largely unedited) list of the thoughts I had while watching, so you can listen and follow along. Anything in italics are thoughts I’ve added after the fact to expound on the  more important(ly disturbing) points. And there are gifs because I love gifs and they make this whole thing easier to think about.

~first assumption: marriage is good and divorce is bad This is obviously untrue depending on where and when you are in history and who you are personally. Just a gross simplification of people’s lives. Completely stupid. 

facetopalmGIF

~is sex a commodity? Definition: a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee. So, no. 
~is it an exchange? Yes, but what is being exchanged is not axiomatic or universal.

~men have a higher sex drive- NO Just, no. 

britbrit
no.

~how can you possibly know that they link sex to romance less often? The general use of data to support their point without actual stats/sources and without mentioning that interpretation of data is not entirely objective is super manipulative. 

~female motivations: expressing love, commitment, affirming desirability, security. uuuummmmmmm what? how is that shown in the data? Also, those motivations are not gender specific, lots of people have sex for those (and other varied) reasons.

sex will happen when women want it to? what? relationships all work the exact same way all the time???!?

tyraGIF

~men want sex but women don’t? men sacrifice for sex but women don’t?

andersoncooperGIF

~market value. no. there are cultural expectations, and no it isn’t entirely private, but sex is not a supply and relationships are not a price. To paraphrase a perfect Jezebel comment I read on this topic: I am not a cow. My vagina is not milk. My partner is not a customer. 

middlefingerGIF

~comparing pesticides to birth control is not so subtle and gross

~’lowering the cost of sex’ would apply for everyone… And this is where the metaphor stops working the way they want. People generally like it when things are cheaper, especially things they like a lot of. So really, from where I’m standing, everyone benefits if the ‘cost of sex’ drops. But ‘the cost of sex’ isn’t an actual real thing in terms of how humans live their lives so this is a dumb point all around.

~’sex was oriented towards marriage.’ THIS IS HETERONORMATIVE AND TOTALLY LIMITED.  Also, again, assumed to be positive. But I happen to think that more people having agency over their bodies and experiencing a greater variety of relationships/orgasms is super positive. 

colbertFIVEGIF

~yea the unanticipated side affect is more autonomy for everyone, mostly women, and we are still adapting to the gender role shift. It’s not a catastrophe comparable to THE ONGOING DESTRUCTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT. Not even close.

notreallyGIF

~”in the past it really wasn’t the patriarchy that policed women’s relational interests, it was women. but this agreement, this unspoken pact to set a high market value of sex has all but vanished. but in a brave new world where having sex no longer means babies and marriage has become optional, the solidarity women once felt towards each another in the mating market has dissolved. Women no longer have each other’s backs. on the contrary, they’re now each other’s competition.” SO BAD. This is, for me, the most destructive idea, because it actually blames the entire problem on women. Women policing other women’s behaviors was not a result of a worldwide agreement to ‘set a high market value of sex.’ It was a result of patriarchal ideas about women’s sexuality, and the ensuing rules and options regarding sexual behavior and marriage. Getting an oppressed people to participate in their own oppression is a wildly smart and effective tactic that has been used by the elite and powerful for centuries. Women were always each other’s competition. Marrying has historically been one of women’s best options for climbing the social ladder and creating a better life for themselves. It was not about sisterly bonds anymore or less than it is now. And to blame women for their own devaluation is just such bullshit, it’s taking it back to Eve and original sin and I will not stand for it. I will not take it seriously as an idea and I will not internalize guilt or self-disgust and I will not accept that women are to blame for their own  institutionalized and culturally accepted oppression. 

sorrynotsorryGIF

~so women control sex and men control marriage, but women want marriage and men want sex. THAT IS COMPLETELY SIMPLE AND OUTRAGEOUS. The only limits on humans behavior are societal norms and cultural expectations. If people tend to act in certain predictable ways, it is due largely to videos like this, that expound a divisive and dangerous perspective on relationships and gender roles.

~this video puts women as the gatekeepers of morality, specifically men’s morality. this is terrible for everyone but especially for men. This idea is not new, but it is just as damaging for men as it is for women. If men are just a-moral dummies wandering this world and women must control them (in part by controlling their own behavior) then humans have an extremely limited capacity for depth and for growth. It means that men are silly boys and women must act as every man’s mommy. It’s gross, and reductive, and it sells every single person on the planet short.

minajGIF

~so in this world sex is a commodity linked to marriage, and no one can possibly want other kinds of relationships, to explore one of those things without the other, and only heterosexual sex/marriage exist and matter.  It’s really not rocket science kids. There are an immeasurable amount of reasons that a person would want to have sex, with whomever that person wants to have sex with. And it is true that sexual and romantic relationships are kinda tough these days because we are all dealing with the break down of traditional roles in a rapidly changing/ technology flooded world. But harder doesn’t mean worse. I fail to see how people being liberated to explore more options is bad. I fail to see how a world with less marriages is bad. I fail to see how the break down of gender roles is bad. I do see a world where (hopefully) folks will be less constrained by cultural ideas of who they should be or how they should act or who/what they should desire. Sex is not something to be traded for commitment, that idea is so passive aggressive and fucked up. If you want commitment you should ask for it and if you want sex you should ask for it and if you are still trying to figure it all out then just be as honest as possible but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Men are not all soulless animals looking for a trophy wife while trying to satisfy base instincts and women are not all worrying manipulators who are wielding their sex as a weapon while counting down  their remaining days of fertility. People are people, with complicated motivations and a variety of desires that may even be existing in the same moment and sometimes communicating is hard and this kind of distorted, reductive information is bullshit and I won’t accept it. Don’t allow anyone to dictate your desires or tell you the right way to get what you want. Women and men do not exist as separate groups that act as one singular entity, and no one is actually beholden to this garbage about what it means to be a man or a woman. You exist as you, and you act as yourself.  And you are probably great. 

flawlessGIF
we woke up like this. flawless.

And you know what else, there actually was a time where sex was part of an economy. But it was women and girls, their bodies and minds and whole selves,  who were actually being bought and sold as familial property. This is not something to be nostalgic about nor is it a time to long for or extoll the forgotten virtues of. It was gross and patriarchal, a time where women’s bodies were not their own and where women did not possess full humanity. And it is a time that, frankly, we are not yet past despite some incredible progress. Until all women are free from the threats of sexual and reproductive violence and until women are economically independent worldwide and until this kind of video propaganda with this misogynist/homophobic/sexist worldview ceases to be disseminated (or have widespread support) we cannot truly say that we are beyond the historical moment of gender tyranny.

smashpatriarchy

Let’s get beyond it.

Quarter Life Crisis

I’m feeling a little lost today, a little unsure. I think this is a really weird time to be growing up, in this world that is moving faster and faster. All of this technology, all of these ‘advances’, are supposed to make things easier. But mostly I feel like they make things more difficult.

Now that we have all of these options, are we more free, or just prisoner to ever more mis-information? There used to be this really easy hetero-normative model to follow. There were great big landmarks that you checked off. School, marriage, babies, grandkids. Clean and simple. But that didn’t work. That was too far down on the scale. Especially because of how we define marriage, and how we’ve constructed the child-rearing system. Of course, the way we do it is only one way, and we could totally create other ways. And maybe thats what we’re trying to do in this moment, figure out new timelines that make more sense as time compresses. A time line that moves only forward is just one kind of timeline. Circles, cycles, memories and dreams: this is how i feel time moving in my life. I am grasping at time, trying to make it work for me.

But sometimes I feel like as I get older, I just lose things. I lost that sassiness you only have before heartbreak. I lost faith, in things like God and home and ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I’ve lost people, for reasons I think I’ll never really understand. I’ve lost some of that certainty that you have when you are just arriving in the world, and everything is bright and shiny, and it seems like it’ll be so easy to get to where you’re going.

What I’ve lost is balanced by what I’ve gained. But sometimes the holes that get left behind are more apparent than the additions to my life. I think so often of my mother, and how even after all she has lost, she is convinced that she is gonna be able to stick around and really live. Maybe that kind of certainty only comes with age and experience, because mostly I feel scared. I’m scared of losing more, scared of not reaching my full potential, scared of missing out. There is so much world, it’s changing so quickly, and we are all bogged down in our own teeny tiny personal lives. Sometimes I wanna roam and frolic, keep moving for as long as I can stand it. But then I remember. At the end of the day, what good is it if I get to see the Taj Mahal, if I can’t take my mom with me?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, so I’ll end with a poem and a picture… 2 picutres:

But I miss the proximity of our bodies, the way we talked in code

and felt in tandem. I want so badly to say

‘I’ll never let you go’, but you are gone without even realizing,

and you’d only turn back and say ‘don’t be so hard on yourself.’

Maybe you don’t wanna come back,

and I can’t make you wish for what we had.

a wonder. a monument to love.
headband. no heartache.

Mamma Mia, here I go again…

OMG 2 posts in one night. Hey, when inspiration hits you gotta run with it.

So I’m uptown babysitting my precious Ry bear, and I’m watchin Mamma Mia!. Now, I recognize that this isn’t the greatest musical adapted to film, probably because the music is ABBA, but Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried are AWESOME. So cute. Meryl can do no wrong. Here’s the trailer just for fun-sies.

Obviously marriage is a large theme of the film. And there are some really lovely mother/daughter scenes. And as I was watching, I started wondering about my own parents. See, I don’t want to get married. Ever. And don’t roll your eyes like ‘Oh you’re just a baby!’ ect. Marriage is a particular kind of life, just one kind of relationship, that is complicated and privileged and oh so political. It affects everything from your name to your health insurance to your cultural status to your gym membership. And it hasn’t historically been good for women, being that it used to be (and sometimes still is) the trading of property. Property expected to shut up and bear children, honor and obey. And we don’t let the gays do it even tho over 1/2 of husbands and wives divorce. So I’m not into it. (Read The Trouble with Normal by Michael Warner for some really excellent scholarship on this issue.)

Here’s a confession though. I’m really a romantic person. Seriously. I can tell you all about the name of the 1st boy I fell in love with, and my top 5 kisses of all-time. I love romantic comedies, especially old movies with Audrey Hepburn. And my parents have been married for 28 years, I have their wedding song tattooed on my wrists, and I admire their relationship so hard it hurts sometimes. I very believe in love. But love is hard in this day and age, and I can’t bring myself to hope for a life where I’d give up some of my autonomy and dedicate my days to one other person. I mean, why can’t I share health insurance with roommates, or have a party with a lot of cool gifts for me and my best friend just because we’ve known each other for 25 years (love you CEM). There are so many ways to organize your life. It’s just this one heteronormative (fav word) way that has gotten raised up above all others. Even though it doesn’t always (1/2 the time, actually) work. But sometimes I feel guilty. I mean, I’m sure my parents didn’t predict that I’d grow up to be such a beast feminist. And I know they want what I want, and they support me totally (not just this blog either, but like my academic career and my life in NY… it’s outrageous). But does my dad wanna walk me down the aisle? Does my mom wanna help me pick out a dress? Do they worry that I won’t have anyone to take care of me the way they take care of each other?

I don’t really know the answers. They are probably in the range of ‘well, sort of, but…’. I have been in love, in lust, indifferent and heart broken, and I hope that I can continue to have a range of relationships, with people who teach me new things (or at least provide me with good sex). I wanna fall in love again (when I have the time… then again it always seems to happen at just the wrong moment so I shouldn’t be picky), but I also don’t wanna become single minded. Its been my experience that friendships take a back seat to relationships, and I don’t think that needs to be so. I never want that, because my friends have been there for me through all that shit I mentioned above and god bless them they put up with my rants and I owe them all that I am. So I guess I can only try to be present in the moment, say thank you to those I am grateful for (for all of you reading, FYI) and try to do what makes me happy. I hope my parents understand. I’ll be lucky if I find someone who is half as wonderful to me as they are to each other. Hopefully I can find love and have a life that is just off the beaten path, outside the heteronormative box, in some kind of queer space… Ah, the dream that dare not speak its name. Here’s hopin…