Sunday, May 25, 2008

Homophobic Antics.

It's getting a little tiring to hear of people who are homophobic bigots, and it's also tiring to hear of people who think these bigots don’t exist.

With the turn of the tide in California, where gay folks can now be legally married, a slew of pundits have risen to the surface. Much of it is so gross that I just stare at the videos and try not to cry. How much work we have, but what message do we have to convey in order to shake the naysayers?

The talk show Ellen had John McCain on the other day and the message was humanity. She asked him to see that we are all just people at the core, and similar to the marginalization of black people and women in this country, there has to be a time where we recognize this humanity – even if the proposal for change appears on paper; meaning while the Civil Rights era proved successful legislatively, reality does not always reflect the ant-discrimination laws that were drafted and enacted. McCain’s answer is just so mind-blowingly sad because he totally dehumanizes queer folks, while attesting to such an unfair ideology:

“I think that people should be able to enter in to legal agreements, and I think that is something that we should encourage, particularly in the case with insurance, and other areas. Um, decisions that have to be made. I just believe in the unique status of marriage between man and woman.”

In another California-related incident, in which Hollywood star Lindsey Lohan has been spotted holding hands with her gay DJ friend, the New York Post decided that it be OK to include homophobic antics in the article’s title: “Lindsey to Sam: Les Be Friends.”

Seriously? A reputable paper is really going to perpetuate such grossness? Clearly, as noted in the web site’s reader comments, lesbian women are still seen as a product of a male desire. Post after post asks Lohan, “Damn Lindsey, that sexy bod and you get a dyke like that? Come on! Give us some better candy to look at!”

Women making out? Must be for men. People getting married? Must be soley in support of the patriarchal economic design of our country. Not love. Not natural attraction. Nope. Only for attention and for the reasons such as insurance and sexiness.

Come on.

These are just two examples of hundreds, if not thousands of homophobic misogynistic stories that infiltrate our media. On the one hand I think that it is important to show because society at large gets the chance to disentangle the difference between real life and societal expectations. However, at the end of the day the sting felt by comments made by these folks seriously effect and, sometimes damage, those who are absorbing these messages. Queer folks across the world may continue to wonder what is wrong with them for wanting to take an oath of love with their same-sex partner, or if (for example) they are a pretty enough lesbian.

Allies and queer communities need to continue to rise up and fight this madness, remind the mainstream media that it is not ok. Do it. Right now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Queer Assimilation

Sex and the City Star Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda on the show, was recently interviewed in the New York Times. Not only was the title of the interview unnerving ("Chick Crit"), the questions surrounding Nixon's relationship with a woman were equally offensive; I mean how many f'd up perpetuations about same-sex couples having to assimulate to heteronormative standards can they fit in to one article?

A few years ago, you moved in with a woman, after leaving the father of your children. Do you find it easier living with a woman than a man because you have more in common?I think you do have more in common.

You can use the same bathroom in movie theaters, for instance.That’s absolutely true!

Can you share clothes?No. Christine doesn’t wear women’s clothes; she only wears men’s clothes. She won’t even wear any kind of women’s shoes. I bought her a pair of cowboy boots that were from the women’s department, and she was like, “Don’t do this again.”

Does she watch sports on TV?She does. We don’t have a TV. But when there was a World Cup, we went to the local Ruby Foo’s and watched it. And we actually did watch the Super Bowl as well. She tried to explain it to me.

Do you think of her as the male figure in the relationship?No, I don’t at all. Look at what’s happening now. She’s at home with the kids, and I’m the one out pounding the pavement. . . . She’s for Hillary, and I’m for Obama.

Outraged I composed a letter (in the confines of their 150-word limit) to the editor at the New York Times:

To Whom It May Concern:
It was with awe that I read Deborah Solomon’s “Chick Crit,” as it not only began with such a gross label (women are not baby birds), but it encouraged stereotypes of same-sex relationships.

The author asks a series of questions that diminish the reality of queer couplehood; I mean really, does the writer believe that two women occupy one another’s space and hearts only because they can share a bathroom or shoes? And upon mentioning Ms. Nixon’s partner’s affinity for less-demure clothing, Solomon makes further assumptions about watching sports and being the male in the relationship. This is not only unfair journalism, it is also a glimpse into the world of homophobia, one in which includes the consistent need to force people to assimilate to the heteronormative standards of society.

Contrary to such belief, straight and queer individuals fall on the continuum of identities. The NYT should be challenging the gender binary, not perpetuating it.

Cartoons are more than just entertainment

Perhaps kids watch to much television these days, but one has to question whether or not it is truly a mind-numbing activity; and decide how many stereotypes are perpetuated daily.

A recent study found that while many girls watching cartoons, the lead characters in the shows are males, 2 to 1, which effects both girls and boy viewers because the characters punch up the expected norms that society would like to continue.

The female characters, when presented, were found to be oversexualized, and fall in to three categories:
1. Daydreamers: Have no goals, and want to be romantically swept away.
2. Derailed: Have goals but get romantically swept away and never return to goals.
3. Daredevils: Have goals and ambitions, not willing to let romance derail them.

What’s especially interesting is that while many characters have been designed through a socially conscious lens – the article’s writer points out Fiona from “Shrek” – research shows that animators still cannot throw a female character in to a slapstick skit (think Wile Coyote) because females getting run over would simply not be funny to much of the viewers. Nor would most viewers believe it if a "regular looking" girl were a hero (currently this only happens if the female character is masculine or if she is portrayed as a nerd). This is not to say that I suggest females start getting injured, but by leveling the playing field we have the opportunity to see girls and boys as realistic, as opposed to this fantasy of perfection.

Why is it ok for men to be the only one to be able to take on the role of hero, while they must also take on the role of stupidity? This alone may have serious affects on the way that boys grow up, and it also affects the ways in which girls view themselves (can they be a hero if they are not boys) and how they view the opposite sex.

Because there is double the number of male characters flashing across the screen, girls subconsciously take note of these ideas, while boys may not even compare themselves with the female characters unless she is a “tomboy.”

The article points to the historically all-male creators behind these shows when explaining where the disparity began. As more women made headway in the field, more well-rounded female characters began showing up. Still, the numbers are lacking:

Her report shows that, as of 2004, only 18% of WGA-employed film writers and only 27% of TV writers were women. In 2006, female membership in the Animation Guild was only 17.3%, and of these only 8% were producers, 14.9% directors and 10.8% writers. "Maybe the answer is that for change to occur even more women are needed in the creative process where key decision-making occurs at the pitch and story development level," writes Smith.

Or, as she writes in the introduction: "Clearly, along the entire creative and marketing process, participants can develop, design and engage in practical solutions to the problem of gender under-representation aimed at children. As balance and portrayals improve, children now, and the next generation of children, will be the winners. They will be exposed to entertainment in which females take up half the space and both females and males are active, diverse and complex."

And while they have a good point, it should only be up to females to break in to the world of animation, the men who are already there have the opportunity to jump in to the movement as well. Everyone suffers if collaboration is not met.