I’ve been frustrated with myself lately because I keep missing things like Blog for Choice Day and Rabbit Hole Day. I tend to be a few days behind on my blog reading and only find out about them after the fact, when I see everyone else’s posts. I was telling Sarah the other day that there should be a Google Calender where everything like that is gathered in one place, and realized that the easiest thing would be to just make one myself and share it. So, I bring you BlogEventsCal. It’s pretty spare right now, so please leave a comment if you know of anything that should be on it (including non-blogging-specific things like Transgender Day of Remembrance that progressive bloggers will want to remember to blog about. I’ll probably spend some time tomorrow looking up dates for more of those.) The dates for International Blog Against Racism Week would also be super-helpful, I haven’t yet been able to find them.
Archive for January, 2009
Thanks in part to this post at She’s A Carnivore, I’ve been thinking about the way people are all too happy to chalk female same-sex attraction and activity at college up to phases and experimentation.
I think a lot of things are coming into play here. One is a general dismissing of female sexuality, and thus the idea that these women actually know exactly what they want. Similarly, the idea that young folks have no idea who they are and what they like, and so we can ignore all of the things they do as meaningless, or at best as figuring it out. Of course, both of these are exacerbated by the idea that queers in general and especally bisexuals specifically are confused or indecisive, and just need to find happiness with a member of the “opposite sex” to see the light. As the girl writing in points out, there’s probably also a healthy dose of a good old-fashioned suspicion of educating women at all.
Unlike men, who can be painted gay for life for one same-gender experience (and trust me, I don’t think that’s an ideal model either), society is only too happy to tell women that we’re just going through a phase and can come right back over to the side of good, healthy heterosexuality once we’ve gotten it out of our systems. That seems to be what this whole idea of “experimentation” is about. Go on, have fun while you’re young and stupid and don’t know any better; eventually you’ll come to your senses, marry a man, and raise his babies. Because, hey, women can’t be counted on to know what we want, and so a certain amount of “experimentation” can be forgiven, as long as we eventually let men take care of us and tell us what’s best for us. We’ve ranted about this idea of fluid female sexuality here before, and I’m sure we will again; in the queer until graduation model, it seems to be used to imply that queer female sexuality is temporary and thus not to be taken seriously. This plays into stereotypes about bisexuals in general. That we’re on our way in one direction or the other (in the case of bisexual women, generally back to heterosexuality), that we’re fluid and changeable and thus fickle and not to be trusted, that we’re experimenting and just haven’t made up our minds yet. All of these stereotypes seem to be seen as even more applicable to college students than other women.
Some of that has to do with our culture’s general disrespect for youth. There’s a lot to be said about the kyriarchy treating women like children, but it’s also true that the way we treat “young people” is disrespectful in and of itself as well, not just when applied to adults (and have you noticed that the dividing line between the two moves later all the time?). It makes sense that we’d tell college students that they don’t know who they are or what they want. We don’t trust anyone under 30 or 35 to know those things. Anything a 21-year-old does is subject to the suspicion that they’re experimenting, not in touch with themselves, just haven’t settled down to their real lives yet. There’s also this idea that later changing one’s mind negates everything one currently thinks, feel, and believes. When I was an outspoken 14-year-old spending most of my time with adults, I remember arguing constantly that what I was feeling and doing was valid regardless of whether I continued to feel or do it my entire life. I was told that once I’d really faced hardship I’d recognize my melodrama for what it was, that I couldn’t possibly know what it felt like to be in love, that as I grew up I’d realize how the world worked and stop being so liberal and idealistic. As I didn’t have the right to struggle because life would have worse to throw at me later, as if the pain and angst that so often go along with being an adolescent matter less because they’re widespread and they usually pass, as if it’s better to have become exhausted and given up on the world than to still be trying to change it. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. Even if the vast majority of self-identified bisexual college girls later go on to not only marry men but also identify as straight (and I don’t believe this is nearly as much the case as the media would have us believe), that doesn’t change the validity of their attractions, desires, or identities right now. And certainly the expectation that some of their peers will change their minds shouldn’t mean that we dismiss them all as straight girls in disguise. Like everyone else, young people should be trusted to know their own reality and report it accurately, rather than being told how we think they should be acting or identifying.
And really, let’s be careful, educating all of those women to begin with! They’ll get all uppity and start thinking they don’t need men at all! Particularly at women’s colleges — it’s interesting how the culture at large can both assume that queer women will eventually come to our senses and realize we need men, and that if you let women have only or mostly each other’s company for a few years, they’ll never look back. As Ms. Carnivore writes, framing things in terms of a woman being bisexual or a lesbian “until graduation” is a way of delegitimizing female same-gender relationships and so making them less threatening to heteronormativeland. It also tells women that everyone else understands them and their sexualities better than they do themselves. Because it’s not at all insulting to tell women that men/science/cultural bias have discovered that we’re wrong about what we think we want. The assumption with young women in college is that they show up straight, and pick up this add-on of attraction to other women that will eventually be jettisoned. It’s not possible that they’ve actually discovered things about themselves and what they want though the experiences they’ve had, or that because college coincides somewhat with sexual maturation, people are discovering there what they would have wanted all along. No, they’re being swayed to the dark side by all those liberal professors, pretty fellow students, and persuasive women’s and queer studies courses. They just need a little while away from it to clear their systems and come to their senses. And so of course we don’t have to take anything they might do now seriously.
I’ve fallen prey to some of this myself. I’ve wondered how I would be different if my father had lived and I’d stayed a clergyman’s daughter, if I hadn’t move to New York and fallen in with such a politicized crowd. Then I remember that this is who I am and what feels right to me, that I sought it out. I moved into an intentional community full of queers and activists because it appealed to me to be surrounded by that level of analysis and skepticism of the dominant culture’s paradigms. I may have met my first girlfriend there, but I’d known for years that I was bisexual. And besides, if my father had lived surely I’d have gone to college and discovered my subversive woman-lovin’ ways there! Clearly there was no hope for me.
Actually, maybe that’s what’s wrong with me — since I didn’t go to college, I didn’t have a chance to give up my queerness at graduation. Oops. Maybe the solution is to send all queer women to college, so they can be straight again when they get out. Hey, it could work, right?
The Journal of Bisexuality is seeking proposals for a special issue on bisexuality and spirituality. I’m, um, not a spiritual person…but i know some of you are. Have at it.
It was a truly glorious weekend in DC. And I’m going to continue to refer to it as a weekend, even though it was five days long and I got home Wednesday afternoon (and I’m writing about it on the eve of another weekend.) Because I can.
Being at the inauguration was a marvelous experience, and one that’s been written about extensively elsewhere. We got lucky as far as travel goes. We slept optimistically late, and ended up getting on the Metro around 9:30. But even with train delays and a long walk on crowded streets to get around the parade route, we manage to get to the Mall (if the foot of the Washington Monument even counts as the Mall) by 11:15. We had a decent view of a Jumbotron (I cannot get over this word!) and could hear even though what we had taken for speakers when we chose our spot were actually lights for the Washington Monument. Within minutes of our arrival thousands of people had piled in behind us, with more coming.
It was an amazing crowd to be in. For one thing, it was probably the biggest crowd I will ever be a part of in my life. Possibly one of the biggest crowds that’s gathered to date, anywhere and for any reason? Instinct says yes, but I have no facts, and we all know how reliable instinct is in the absence of facts. Anyway, everyone was excited and remarkably good-natured. I always assumed that crowds of that size are, by their very nature, moments from turning into a mob or a riot. But this felt nothing like that. It was incredible to be surrounded so closely by so many people sharing the same moment of excitement, awe, and — oh, I hate how every time I use this word these days I feel like a campaign slogan! — hope.
Girlfriend, Esq. and I refrained from booing whenever Bush showed up on the screen, and from turning our backs when Rick Warren was speaking (nor were we wearing rainbows, aside from my ever-present shoelaces. That was more about not having any handy, though). Instead, we spent Bush’s moments on the screen and the entire invocation making out. Because sweet, loving same-gender kisses seemed a pretty clear, and thoroughly enjoyable, way to register my feelings about Warren’s presence. Mmm, peaceful protest.
Continue reading ‘Meanwhile, back at the ranch…’
I thought I would have a couple of chances to post while I was away this week — ha! It was a wonderful trip, though. Thoughts on the inaguaration and the aforementioned Bar Mitzvah when I have a chance to write them up, but in the meantime:
Alex Blaze has a great piece up on Bilerico about the religious right’s attempt to frame everything anyone does that offends them as an infringement of their freedom of speech or religion — in short, their attempt to limit others’ freedom of speech on the faulty premise that it violates theirs. I don’t really have anything to add, but he makes some really good points. And I wanted to share my outrage at the way donors to Yes On 8 think they should be able to hide from the natural consequences of their actions (queers and allies not supporting their businesses! Well, yeah, that happens when you donate to have homophobia written into law…).
There’s been a bit of a blow-up in the blogosphere around Elizabeth Bear’s novel Blood and Iron, which I have not read and on which I am not qualified to comment. But that prompted an important conversation about cultural appropriation on The Angry Black Woman. It also prompted this brilliant essay by Deepa D. on writing sf&f as a person of color, and this follow-up for white people who can’t seem to keep their own issues around racism out of POC space. I found all of these posts interesting and very helpful in my mission to become more aware of racism and develop a more nuanced analysis around it, but be careful wading through the comments, which can get pretty offensive.
I fell asleep last night thinking, again, about Rick Warren. A question in this week’s Savage Love brought it back to the surface of my mind, a girl asking how she could visibly but respectfully protest while Warren is speaking next Tuesday. But this time, lying in bed thinking about it, I was feeling optimistic. Mostly because my sister pointed out to me a few days ago that Obama has chosen the Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, to pray on Sunday at the kickoff event for the inaugural festivities.
It seems to me that this means a couple of good things. The first is that Obama is listening. People were loudly, persistently furious about his choice of Warren to give the invocation, and that seems to have had an effect. We are getting to have a voice that’s loud and powerful enough to demand change, to point out when we are injured and disregarded so that people have to actually listen. That’s important stuff. And I still don’t know what moved Obama to choose Warren in the first place, but including a gay voice in the festivities as well lends a lot more credence to his claim that he plans to give everyone a voice, rather than selling out the people who supported him in order to court those who, most likely, never will.
The other thing I find promising about this choice is actually Warren’s reaction to it. Look at that quote from the end of the article:
Continue reading ‘On hope and compromise’
It’s a short week this week, since last week spilled over into the weekend. I can’t say that much has gotten done in Aviva land. It’s been mostly work and errands, and those frustrating days where lots of little things go wrong and make you crazy, but nothing big enough that you feel like you get to really whine about it. But here’s what the corner of the world I’ve been observing has to offer us.