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Posts Tagged ‘cultural shame’

blank-slateIrene showed me this. Click here

It’s broken down into 4 videos, and adding them up results in 30 minutes of documentary about intersexuality.

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nothing-more-unsettling-than-a-queer-tranceDo you ever find yourself in bed at night tossing and turning in frustration over things you wish you’d said? Here’s one of mine, it’s based on something I hear a lot of people say and it echoes in my head.

“I’m scared that what I’m feeling is just a phase.” Why does it matter? The term “phase” was constructed by our society to assure everyone that a deviant tendency will eventually get ironed out by the norm. I know too many people who are scared that their “radical” ideas are just a phase, that they’ll look back on the decisions they made with regret because, GASP!, they changed their mind later. Most popular is my female friends’ fear of a “lesbian phase”.

Some women are terrified that they’ll make out with a woman, maybe even date her for a while, but then it doesn’t work out, and OH, they’re out of college and they get that “lesbian until graduation” label stamped on their history. The fact is that EVERYONE CHANGES. Sexuality is no exception. People flow in and out of sexual orientations and their world does not devolve into chaos. As a person who has identified as a lesbian once, I think it is ridiculous to worry that you’re going to offend me if it turns out you like men too. The attractions are not mutually exclusive. There seems to be a myth floating about that once you enter a relationship with someone of the same sex you must stay same sex forever lest you offend the almighty HOMOSEXUAL COMMUNITY. God forbid you ever allow yourself to identify with an oppressed group of people.

Back in high school, I started becoming attracted to women. I kept telling myself, “it’s just a phase, it’s just cause you’re going to an all-girls school, it’s the same-sex environment… once you go to college you’ll have boys to fall in love with and all the complicated social stigmas will go away… it’s just not easy being gay, if you have the choice, you might as well be straight and avoid controversy.” I have my diary for proof. So I see all these women in college doing the same exact rationalizing game I did in high school and I just want to scream. Sexuality is fluid. Love isn’t logical. Your socialization is telling you what the easy way is and you’re avoiding complication. It is true: it is easier to be straight in our heteronormative society. But the only way change happens is when people start accepting a deviance from the norm. Not just tolerating, but accepting. Letting it invade their life, too. Making it their issue. I am not saying that everyone should force themselves into same-sex attraction. I am saying if you are questioning, don’t suppress that emotion for sake of upholding the norm.

What do I want you to do, you phase-fearers? I want you to acknowledge the homophobia with which you’ve been raised. I see that you love your gay friends, but you do not tolerate queerness in yourself. It is as though you are walking through a mountain range with a friend who is carrying all the heavy backpacks and luggage (the gay) and instead of offering to carry something, you just run circles around them cheering them on. I dare you to take a bag. I dare you to queer yourself. Even those of you who have only been attracted to the opposite gender–allow yourself to stray from the straight paradigm. Even those of you who fit into the fledgling gay paradigm–stop putting yourself into sexual orientation boxes. Be comfortable being queer. Being weird. Doing something that’s hard for you but promotes a more accepting understanding of sexuality.

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Lately it’s been very hard for me to watch movies and theatrical productions that forward what I think is anti-feminist thinking. But I have found I have hardly applied the same standards to my music. I worry that I might be unintentionally brain-washing myself with all the male-dominated, relationship-obsessed, female-abusive lyrics. The third might seem like something I should be able to pick up on easily, but the problem is that I’ve been listening to these songs for years, putting myself in the lead male singer’s place. So lyrics like Dashboard Confessional’s “As Lovers Go”:

“This is easy as lovers go. So don’t complicate it by hesitating.

are you brave enough to leave with me tonight?”

Which I read as an anthem from me to scared, confused, but self-identified “straight” girls… but actually just sounds like non-consensual sex out of context. Or maybe it still does in context? I own so many angry relationship songs and, while they are fun to listen to when I’m feeling down, it’s embarrassing to read the lyrics and think that I would support anyone saying, “I’m gonna make damn sure that you won’t ever leave, no, you won’t ever get too far from me” (“MakeDamnSure” by Taking Back Sunday).

So. I’ve remedied this by finding Ani DiFranco, who sings about basically everything I’ve been thinking about regarding social norms and more. I highly recommend her if you feel me on this problem at all. However, I want to know what y’all feel about music.

What role does music play in your life? When do you most listen to music? When you’re upset, when you’re really happy, when you’re doing homework, when you’re having sex…
Do you sing along? Are the lyrics things you would say? Are you ashamed of your music, are there certain songs that you play only when you’re alone? What makes you do that, what about the song are you embarrassed of?

These are the questions that come to my mind because I think we could look to our music for answers about our socialization. Songs that I’m ashamed of are usually ones that convey feelings I’m uncomfortable displaying to the public. And so sometimes I find it really empowering to play a song that means a lot to me to a friend. I know I’m one who makes a mix CD to convey my feelings to someone. I think it might be fun to analyze one of the more subtle forms of cultural training. Feel free to answer my questions or bring up your own!

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Even Rizzo just wants a steady.

I was shocked to discover two years ago that I see the “perfect me” as someone in a relationship. And I still haven’t figured out how to break free from this expectation. And I think I know why. It seems nearly every classic story, if it has a happy ending, ends with a wedding, a getting-together or something that involves finding your happiness in another person. I despise this notion that everyone has a “better half” or someone to “complete” them. I am a whole human being! There is nothing missing. WHY am I sad when I am by myself? Society has taught me, “hey, you have a great life, you’re a hard worker, you’re a fabulous person but who are you kidding? The only thing that can REALLY make you happy is love.” My brain has been hard-wired by repeated viewings of the Princess Bride, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Juno… even WALL*E that my single self is not good enough. I’ve been told: “Someone else needs to tell me I’m beautiful. Someone else needs to protect me from harm. Someone else needs to pleasure me. Someone else needs to calm me down when I start convulsing with sobs.” This is wrong. I know I can do all these things. And I cannot decide who falls in love with me, but I can learn to love myself. I may find someone who happens to bring me joy, but I can also be happy BY MYSELF.

Is this just a female problem? I think this is a reason that so many female-identified feminists continue to shave their legs, wear tight clothing, and put on makeup. (Note from 2012: this sentence should perish, but I feel the need to keep it for posterity’s sake (= )

I feel as though all my life I’ve put so much pressure on myself in preparation for this mysterious future lover. And it wasn’t simply when I thought I was heterosexual. This is not a giving up your dreams to be a housewife thing. I’ve felt it when I accepted my attraction to the same sex too. It is a desire to be desirable, but to the extent that I deny my own comfort and love of my body. Now that I’ve mostly erased this expectation, I do so much more for myself!

How often during the day do you fix yourself up to appeal to this impending relationship? How often do you compromise your own comfort to make yourself desirable?

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Warning – some links NSFW

My ex and I share a flagrantly offensive sense of humor and a taste for the repulsive, but I’m a feminist, and he does college sketch comedy. We’ve been communicating a little bit recently, and doing what comes naturally—I sent him a link to a cookbook incorporating semen in every dish, he sent me a recipe for roast placenta; I made a Donner party riff on the Aristocrats joke, he posted LOLClits.com on my wall four times in a row…wait, WHAT?

LOLClits is a website where users submit photos of female genitalia with “funny” captions. They usually involve googley eyes or hats or something added to the genitals in Paint or Photoshop, and may I be the first to say that they are really not funny?

The original photos are almost all close-ups of female genitalia, never including the women’s faces. The women are all exposed—not only are they in front of a camera, they’re opening their legs and spreading their lips. A lot of these photos include or imply male presence—there are many in-and-out shots, and male-looking hands spreading labia and yanking on clits and piercings. Most of the pictures seem originally intended for someone’s sexual gratification, but on LOLClits, clits and vaginas play the roles of hungry monster, nasty old wizard, ray gun target, shocked plutocrat, dog, Diglett, and even a pimple. And, of course (this is LOLClits—LOLDicks just wouldn’t be funny, right?), the penises are never ridiculed. The male presence in the original photos functions only as a pretext to knock down the women—once you’ve got ‘er exposed, quick! Does her hymen look more like Homer or Flanders? And that’s all she wrote.

The original close-up photos of vulvas and clits and vaginas are completely one-dimensional acts of sexual openness. There’s no push-up bras, no bar-hopping, no multiple partners—in other words, none of the social expressions of sexuality that our culture tries to shame women for—in these photos. In the world of LOLClits, just having a pussy makes you fair game for rotten tomatoes.

And that is incredibly disturbing to me. I know that femaleness marks us for special shame, ridicule, and disregard in boys’ clubs the world over, but I’ve never seen hatred and disdain so pure before. What a wake-up call.

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