Autostraddle

The other day I discovered a blog about “girl-on-girl culture” which made me laugh and also incredibly excited. This blog is definitely one of the most comprehensive lesbian blogs that covers pop culture, politics, contemporary news, and also has video.

Definitely check it out if you haven’t heard of it before: http://www.autostraddle.com/

The writers also include round-tables where they took about up-to-date feminist topics and also about self-identity (current round table is on intersectionality)

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Filed under Education, Feminism, gender, glbtq, politics, Pop Culture, Queer, Sexuality

Caster Semenya

Introduction

Caster Semenya is an 18-year old runner from South Africa who was about to compete in a 4000 meter run after she had run a previous race and won the gold medal. There had been reports that she was suspected of not being a woman because of her musculature and her deep voice (and I highly suspect people were sort of jealous) . This speculation led her to get an examination by the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations). A doctor from Otago tested and examined her and found her to have an intersex condition, meaning that she possesses both female and male gonadal tissue (she did not have ovaries or a womb, but possessed inner testes).

There is a lot of controversy going around her right now because she may not be able to keep her medal due to the tests showing she had three times the amount of testosterone a normal female would have.

Since sports is so divided because of supposed biological advantages and body compositions of men and women, Semenya may be banned from participated anymore in the competition.

Since ideas of gender are so built into self-identity and also are very emotionally bound (for example if someone accused you of not being man enough or much of a woman, you would probably be taken a back or maybe offended), this is a very sensitive issue. Many people in forums, on blogs, and on the news are now not considering her a woman. She has been raised all her life as a woman and ran as a woman and probably identifies as a woman. Her family did not report knowing of her intersexuality, nor does it seem to matter much . Since this supposed “discovery” of who Semenya really is, apparently she is not a woman anymore.

In a wordpress article (http://identityrevealed.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/man-or-woman-revisited/) I found out that You magazine did a make-over of Caster. All I can say to that is, interesting.

Intersexuality

In this section I want to highlight some things I find highly problematic and troubling with some of the reports on Semenya.

First, In the news people are referring to Caster as a ‘hermaphrodite’. Hermaphrodite is a controversial term and considered offensive because of its connotations with the authoritative power medicine has had over the bodies of people who have been born with both female and male gonadal tissue (ovaries and testes). The correct term, that is still used in science, would be psuedohermaphrodite because she does not have ovaries.  Hermaphrodite is an old term and is used in old scientific journals. DSD (disorder of sexual development) has been determined by the ISNA (Intersex Society of North America) and Alice Dreger to be the term that is to be used in scientific texts from this point on. This term is also considered offensive by some because of the use of “disorder” and the term VSD is more commonly used or “Variation of Sexual Development”. This population has been too often referred to as freaks, monsters,  not human, not woman, not man, in between, etc. Refer to them as they prefer. If they have been raised a woman, call them a woman. If they have been raised a man, call them a man. Its about respect, call them what they wish to be called.

Two, do not make it about gender identity. Just because Semenya has been found to have typically male gonadal tissue does not make her less of a woman. Gender is complicated. It is not just about biology or raising a person or self-identity. It is about all of the above and more and it is a personal thing and should not be contested publicly.

Third, I think most of this is a Western thing to be concerned with, gender. We are all about categories and who fits where and how so that they can have a certain role. Races and sports are all about categories and natural selection at its own form of visible entertainment. Displaying physical agility and ability started out as a Grecian thing, a male thing. Sports usually have been a Western male white thing. Since Semenya performed so well especially at something that has been so predominantly and historically white and Western, she is bound to come under scrutiny and one of the first things to be on the list is that since she performed so well, she must be a man!

Finally, LANGUAGE. For the last time, language. It is not a shame, a horrible thing, or “at worst” that she may be intersex.

Conclusion

Caster Semenya’s controversy in sport may lead to categorization about what makes a man or a woman, which IS problematic. In the past there have been distinctions about how much of a hormone, how long your clitoris or how small your penis is, how long your labia is, or how deep your vagina is, either makes you or leaves you short of being a “man” or a “woman”. Categories in popular culture are oppressive to individuals. The Western world is obsessed with people fitting and being able to fit into designated categories and sports has made this issue clearer. Be aware of what these categories mean to the individual before making policy or law about it because that is dangerous.

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Curve Magazine

If you don’t know about it, you should. If you are just coming out and scared to check it out I suggest looking at the website online, it has articles, interviews, advice, etc.They even have a section of the website for a forum and a hook up blog! which I didn’t know about until a minute ago. I think since its new, the relationship advice section is sort of limited unless you want to check out their regular monthly advice section (which is sort of witty and sort of helpful and sort of essentialist).

The magazine has a variety of representation and does not have an abundance of ads. During the L Word, they had interviews with most of the cast and the most recent magazine had an interview with a surfer (pretty sweet, huh?).

I suggest taking a look. Something my boss at Sappho (a lesbian bar in Amsterdam) told me rings true right now. She said it in reference to movies, media, etc: “I don’t need them when I’m in a couple because I know I’m a lesbian, I know I like girls. When you’re single you have this need to be near it, to know that they are out there, you know?” After I thought about this I realized how true it is. Since straight people see other straight people all the time they don’t need something to validate their existence, glbtq do and this magazine helps. It helps you feel like you are not alone and in the magazine, there is someone for everyone to relate to.

(http://www.curvemag.com/)

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Unrequited Love

Introduction

I am tired of love songs. The thing is since I graduated and entered college, crushes have seem to become sort of obselete, they are looked upon as middle school phenomenas, though for me, it is a not so recent past. I feel as if more so for people who date people of the opposite sex crushes are more potential dating than for people who predominantly date or are interesting in people of the same sex. Maybe its the fact that I am not living on my own yet and my 21st birthday is still a few months off, but I feel as if I am more attracted to straight girls, which obviously is an unavailable field unless you want a casual hook-up and the boy field is a small and an attraction that is slow to happen or a very rare occurence.

In my life I have many an unrequited love affair, mostly with girls, straight girls (though I call them “straight” girls). Every one, at least once in their life, has fallen for someone they cannot have because the other person simply is not attracted to their gender, is unavailable (whether physically or emotionally or both), or just does not have the same feelings. Unrequited love is sort of fun and as we all know, there are many songs and poems written about it because of the thrill of liking someone, aching for someone, pining for someone.

I have noticed a commonality in myself to like people who are unavailable and I began to wonder why that is and so I wanted to discuss and present some of the theories that I have come across.All of them have a truth to them even though they may not ring true for you.

Crushes As a Reminder

I came across an article, handout rather, that said you have crushes that remind you of your first love. This doesn’t have to be romantic love, it can be a parent or a friend, or a relative who raised you, etc. It says that if this person was emotionally unavailable to you, then you will recreate it because it was a model for your first love. This attraction is done out of habit despite the pain it will cause later.

Thrill

Everyone loves the chase, maybe not the game, but the trying to get the person. Flirtation is fun and the adrenalin that comes with liking a new person is addicted because you fawn over every little cute or handsome or attractive thing they do.

Idealism and Fantasy

Unrequited love is all about fantasy and created a person who is ideal for you and seeing that in this person. You never really get to know them, but keep them more as a prince or princess figure, sort of on a pedestal. This person is always who the unrequited lover wants them to be because the fantasy is all they see.

Fear of Intimacy

I had someone mention this to me once about how maybe I fear intimacy unconsciously, which I thought was very strange because I have this conception that I love being close to people. I think this theory is very Freudian, the whole basing past experiences on the experiences you have now sort of thing.

Recreating a Happy Ending

Everyone wants a happy ending and in being attracted to a similar person who was like a past love and trying to create another ending, the lover can time travel. This never really works because the unrequited lover is living in the past, trying to correct a love.

Reflection

Love has been romanticized in our society and unrequited love makes me question our romanticization of certain expressions of love. For example, obsession and jealousy. I don’t really think those should be romanticized. This also brought about another question for me in terms of unrequited love. I wonder if more of the people who fall into this “trap” let’s call it, are women? Usually men are seen as pursuers and women the pursued (though this of course is not always the case) so in that case men go for their crushes. I know this is an over-simplification of things because obviously social categories fall into how we attract or follow or get who we like, but it still makes me wonder. I usually do not find a lot of men who are attracted to women they can not get, but it is more women who I encounter or queer people (I am using queer as an umbrella term, the whole gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, etc, etc community).

So looking on these and reading about it, I talked to one of my very good friends about unrequited love. She told me that all of the people I have been attracted to have been very different and I thought maybe I just like to psychoanalyze, overanalyze, and dissect my love life a little too much to make it make sense. Maybe love or attraction does not really have to make sense at all, but then again, I find a hinting similarity between all of my attractions and it makes me wonder if attraction should be analyzed and some sort of attractions should be problematized and therefore changed.


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Encyclopedia of Androgyny

Introduction

I found this while searching around either on wikipedia or somewhere else and found it fascinating. It has a bunch of pictures and stories about people who are famous, through history, mythical people, and gods, who are androgynous. Its very interesting and here I will include a basic background about it.

The Encyclopedia of Androgyny

This is on the introduction page:

“The idea of androgyny has hounded humanity from its very beginning, whether you consider “the beginning” as a creationist, an evolutionist or through some other hybrid of standard mythology and spirituality. While the “creator” of the world, either God, Zeus or some other figure has been consistently portrayed as male, the immediate progeny of these creators have experienced some of the closest encounters with androgyny of all figures throughout history. God’s Adam, an archetypal man, was originally something more than, or daresay, other than a man. He was originally both man and woman, a creature from whom woman, Eve, was created. Adam became the first man only after Eve was taken from his rib. As a man, he was the remainder of a more complete organic and sexual being whose sexuality was not distinctly male or female” (http://www.androgynylist.com/intro/intro.htm).

Conclusion

This is a very interesting site to explore due to the variety that you encounter of the site. It has many categories, including the third sex fetish and andryogyny in body and soul. I highly reccomend visiting it and checking it out.

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Vogue (dance)

Introduction

While I was in Philadelphia for the summer, I went to a Ball with my friend. At first, I had no idea what Ballroom was until I heard of the movie Paris is Burning. After I watched Paris is Burning, I wanted to learn more about voguing, which is what they do at a Ball. You might never have heard of Balls or voguing, but now you will know about the history if you haven’t heard of Willi Ninja.

History of Voguing

Since I don’t know that much about voguing, I’m going to refer to my favorite site wikipedia and give you some background information:

Vogue is a form of modern dance characterized by photo model like poses integrated with angular, linear and rigid arm, leg and body movements. The style of dance arose from the Harlem ballrooms back in the early 1930s, which was then called “performance” and evolved into the more intricate and illusory form that is now called “vogue”.

There are two distinct styles of vogue: Old Way (pre-1990) and New Way. Old Way is characterized by formation of lines, symmetry, precision in the execution of such formations and graceful, fluid like action. New Way is characterized by a more rigid, geometric pattern movement coupled with “clicks” (limb contortions at the joints) and “arms control” (sleight of hand and wrist illusions). Vogue also encompasses other forms of dance and movement, namely modern jazz, ballet, gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, martial arts, breakdance, yoga, etc. Some dance historians even point out that breakdance and vogue evolved out of each other, with artists from both sides interacting with each other in New York City’s Central Park, West Side Piers, Harlem and Washington Square Park during the 70s and early 80s.

Voguing has evolved since its beginning and continues to be developed further as an established dance form that is practiced in gay dance clubs in New York, and other big cities throughout the United States–mainly Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami and Chicago.

Though voguing usually takes place in gay clubs frequented by African Americans and Latin American males, it is also practiced by a small number of non-gay individuals and outside of the club scene. Formal competitions occur in the form of balls held by houses or collectives of dancers and performers.

Some influential houses include the House of Xtravaganza, the House of Revlon, the House of Ninja, the House of Infiniti, the House of Aviance and the House of Milan” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogue_(dance)).

Paris is Burning

To learn more about voguing, you should definitely watch the movie Paris is Burning. Its a documentary (I know, boring) and in the end you want to try the dance moves yourself or check out a ball late at night.

Here is a synopsis: “Paris Is Burning is a 1990 documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the poor, African American and Latino gay and transgendered community involved in it. Many consider Paris Is Burning to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, as well as a thoughtful exploration of race, class, and gender in America”

Conclusion

While I was in Philadelphia, I went to a glbtq youth center and saw kids practicing for a ball. It made me happy because I knew what it meant. A Ball was created and has survived as an outlet, a dance outlet, for people to survive through homophobia, racism, and poverty. I knew how it felt because dancing is when I can forget, feel like I am above, in ecstacy. Voguing is both a legacy and a party.

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Milk and No on Prop 8

Sean Penn is amazing. After seeing Milk, I felt inspired, renewed, and empowered. Harvey Milk , played by Sean Penn in Milk, was amazing and is definitely my new hero. He reminded me of myself in many ways. Half way or more through the movie, Harvey’s lover, Scottie, talks to him about a soap box speech Harvey just made. Scott, played by James Franco, confronts him about wanting people to be out, where Harvey referred to Scott as “his roommate” or acted as if he wasn’t there. Most of Harvey’s lovers had committed suicide because he wasn’t out. This reminded me of myself, not because my lovers have committed suicide or because I had hidden them, but because I tell people to out and I didn’t come out or feel comfortable with it until college. The movie made me become more aware of the division between personal and political, theory and practice. The movie also made me feel more passionate about what I want to promote, what I want to do, and how I want to go about doing it.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be put into public office in California. California is now known as one of the most open-minded states in the United States. It is known for voting democrat, for San Francisco, for Los Angeles (to much dismay from some), the Gold Rush, and one of the birth places of the Gay Liberation Front. Then, the castro district in SF was just about to be born, there were police riots, and there were a man and a singer who were trying to get homosexual teachers out of schools because they would convert the children to their way of life.

Sean Penn renewed the legacy of helping the minority, of bringing human rights into focus, and hate based on ignorance. The history of Harvey is not irrelevant, but is a lesson that is timeless. He is someone to look up to because he fought for what he believed in even though his way of having sex and openness about it was being openly targeted by authority. His courage and political will was not based on power, but more on love and the desire to help others like him.

After many attempts at gaining office in San Francisco, Harvey did not stop though he was discouraged. Prop 8 is something Harvey would be fighting against because it is blatant discrimination. There are many criticisms of the issue that the Prop is backing, such as it backs a white gay issue and is backed by the HRC, a human rights corporation. The Prop though, is not about gay marriage if you look at the wording. The Prop is about equality and rights. The Prop should not be about corporations backing it such as Google or car companies, which it was. The campaign needs to change to progress.

The thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the Proposition even got on to the ballot. That is the first step and it is a major step because it was in the spotlight. Harvey Milk was finally in the spotlight in 2008 and the film was a part of pop culture. Even straight people cried when Harvey died.  That is a step. Gay rights is having steps, small ones, but steps nonetheless.

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