If you thought the Bisexual Obstacle Course was tough, you should see Pan’s Labyrinth
i have a question for you
what are your favourite happy films about lesbians?
I want to pause for a minute and talk about queerness and clothing.
I want to talk about how often when folks talk about gender neutral clothing they’re talking about clothing that is traditionally seen as male clothing.
I want to talk about how despite best efforts, masculinity and trans masculinity are still given great honor in queer spaces and that many things feminine and femme are given the stink-eye.
Last night I was reminded of all of this when I was pointed to “Unbinding Binaries: A Panel Discussion on Clothing and Gender Identity” I was absolutely stoked by the topic and it’s being hosted by WORN journal, a favorite of mine. But then I started reading more about who was on the panel and reading the critiques of the panel and it made me realize that there really is still such an emphasis placed on trans masculine folks who dress in a style that skews male (there are a number of problematic things with the panel - see the fb wall for some good discussion on the matter).
To me, being Femme means a lot of things. But it is especially a big glittery fist to the internalized misogyny in the queer community. I explore Femme with the use of clothing and style but also by intentionally speaking about the role of femme and femininity within my community. I specifically seek out other femme identified people to grow the community so we can make our presence.
All this being said, I’m excited by the amount of style I’m seeing in the local community - it’s the reason I’m writing about queer style (in all its facets) for The Qu and it’s the reason why I absolutely love having a fashion blog.
Femme Identified folks!!! If you’d like to be a part of a photo collage I’m making for this blog - send me a photo of you in your favorite outfit by 3/15/12. inthethickofitfashion @ gmail . com
I fall victim to all these flaws. For me, I think lots of the masculine/butch-skewed clothing choices I made are trying to protect me from the misogyny that isn’t internalised, that’s out there looking at me all the time. But that’s a passive strategy, and it has effects I don’t want it to. It’s probably easier for me to register as queer than it is for many people who’ve painstakingly put together their femme identities with queer in mind. Fuck that and everything that shames women for being women.
But that said, if it matters for them that queer stays specific and if it matters for a lot of other people, it could be worth me reconsidering. I think broadening queer to mean anything that says ‘fuck you and your implicit rules’ to society works nicely as a definition for me, and I say that as someone who’s not likely to ever experience straight privilege again in her life. I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks.
As I mentioned in the ask, you raise some very valid points and I’ll try to address those succinctly (and not have this turn into an essay).
I think that the main problem with using ‘queerplatonic’ to describe friendships is that it completely divorces and neuters the meaning of the word queer. It’s not an arbitrary definition; that word stems from a great deal of (negative) history. The fact that it’s a reclaimed slur is also especially troubling.
I used a particularly inflammatory word in my previous post to make a point: we know that the n-word is unacceptable (caveat: unless used by an African-American individual who is attempting to reclaim the word in some way). Consequently, if I went around describing my friendship with my best friend (which does fit, for all intents and purposes, the definition of a ‘queerplatonic’ friendship) as ‘niggerplatonic’, I would deserve every single punch I undoubtedly would receive.
A word like that cannot be divorced from it’s history.
I see queer as something very similar.
It’s all fine and good for the queer community to reclaim a word that has traditionally been used to harass and harm, but it’s another thing entirely for the word to become simply a catch-phrase for anything that doesn’t fit some hypothetical ‘norm’.
And even then, what then of the exclusively heterosexual couples who are into 1950s D/s reinactment kinks? Do they qualify as ‘queer’? Are they members of the ‘queer community’, despite their heterosexuality and adherence to ‘accepted societal norms’ simply because they’re self-aware? I hate to make a slippery-slope argument, but it is something that must be considered. If queer becomes so all-encompassing, where does it stop?
In addition, the slur is contingent primarily on the relationships you’re in, regardless of how many rules you break. But to use another example:
Would we say that the women of Sex In The City are engaged in a queerplatonic friendship? They’re certainly much closer than one would ‘expect’ of friends, and they discuss a wide range of topics—but they fit firmly into some sort of hypothetical heterosexual paradigm, and the only area of transgression is their willingness to discuss ‘taboo’ issues with their girlfriends.
Is that ‘queering’ the idea of friendship, or is it simply accepting that women in the modern day feel more uninhibited about discussing ‘taboo’ subjects with their girlfriends? Should these heterosexual women get the right to use the word queer because they have close bonds of friendship with their friends?
As for the privilege-erasing: I don’t feel as though being a lesbian woman in any culture affords me much privilege. You might disagree, and that is certainly your prerogative (which I respect, you do you). However, it is a fact that lesbians (butch, femme and otherwise inclined) are the recipients of a great deal of aggression, which frequently manifests itself in the form of physical attacks. Is this as common in the asexual community? I don’t agree that it’s necessary to form a heirarchy of privilege in regards to asexuality v. sexuality—especially when in some cases, an asexual hetero-romantic will receive more privilege than a gynesexual homo-romantic. Conversely, an asexual genderqueer may receive less privilege than a lesbian femme. So it’s all a bit of a mash, but the only thing that is for certain is that, regardless of who stands on who, we’re nowhere near the top of the totem pole.
This shit is fascinating. Thanks a lot for your response, it’s super detailed and thoughtful, and actually I think I agree with you on almost all of it. My response: I feel like as someone with a very definitely queer presentation and lifestyle and political identity I could reclaim queer in this kind of way and choose who I apply it to. But then not coincidentally I’d pretty much always apply it to, y’know, actually queer people. And, yeah, I’m not comfortable with het asexual folk flinging the word around indiscriminately as if it’s a slur they’ve got a definitive right to claim. I didn’t really think through the difference between ‘I want to be able to say this’ and ‘I want anyone to be able to say this’.
I do think it’s not quiiiite as specific a slur as you’re making out, though: I’ve been called a queer bitch for being butch, for not flirting back, for just being a woman doing something unwomanly. I bet whole a lot of asexual folk have been called queers for not wanting to be in het relationships or have sex over the years, and whether or not it was an accurate insult according to the sense you understand it in doesn’t change that. No, that’s not the same as being out and claiming an identity that puts you in danger, but… I dunno. Queer just meant ‘not normal’ until pretty recently. I’d rule out gayplatonic or lesbofriendship straight out if they were suggested, but one of the things that interests me about the word queer is that it’s both amazingly vehement as an insult and also kind of vague.
Also, can I give you a bit of information in return for this: ‘in some cases, an asexual hetero-romantic will receive more privilege than a gynesexual homo-romantic’?
Pretty much every adult asexual woman I’ve talked to who’s been in a heterosexual relationship has been abused by a partner. I agree with you when you say straight women don’t get the risk of violence or insults from strangers. But straight-identified women who start relationships with straight dudes? They get fucked over royally if they’ve never been taught how to say they want a committed romantic relationship but they don’t want sex to figure into that. I’ve been calling myself gay for a fair few years and have been out and had my picture all over the place claiming that identity — but at the end of the day I live in a fairly affluent area and with a bunch of fellow leftists and I’ve only gotten insults for it.
I know asexual women who have been raped. I know some of them have had to run away from marriages with nothing; have ended up as single mothers. And, well, I haven’t spent long at all talking to asexual communities so far. No, I don’t want to fight for which marginalised group gets the worst deal, but I do want to challenge this assumption that violence is a risk that comes exclusively from strangers and being out as $identity. That’s not the whole story.
So, no, I don’t want this kind of vocabulary to be available to people because all straight folk ought call themselves and their friends queers because they once bought one another a vibrator or whatever. I do want words to exist that mean ‘I want to start a relationship with you but I’m not ever going to want to fuck you, if that’s not okay back off now’. I don’t think that needs the word queer in it, or that queerplatonic definitely is the best word for that, but fuck do I really wish the concept existed and was something people could know about and use and name and accept.