Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Battle for Fun: Queers and Straights

I recently posted this photo to the 'this is oz' website, an Australian initiative which basically involves people posting an anti-homophobia message in the form of a photo of themselves with a handwritten sign. The posts vary from playful, to political, to passionate pleas for equality, to more abstract statements.

I have received mixed responses to my "Queers have more're just jealous", from the positive to the confused, culminating last night in a straight woman saying something along the lines of "but I'm straight and I have fun"...or some such. Could she make a "Straights have more fun" sign, she asked.

No. No she could not.

There needs to be a class compulsory for all school students which explains privilege and power. Which explains why it is ok for a black person to say nigger, why there aren't straight bars or a straight mardi gras (because 364 days of the year ARE straight mardi gras) and why my statement about queers having more fun is not a flippant allusion to the idea that drag queens are like totes so funny right now and like being a lez is totally awesome cos it's just like falling in love with your bestest friend.

I chose my "Queers have more fun...' statement because I am sick to death of asking for acceptance, for equality, for tolerance (my MOST hated word). Because I am sick of gay rights meaning having exactly the same rights as straight people when I don't actually like the parameters of straight society and would rather redefine relationships and families for myself.

I chose it because I am proud to live in a society where, as a queer woman, I can have any fun at all! Where I am not gaoled, forced into straight marriage, beaten, silenced or killed. Because I could be raised by two amazing women and because I can live in a community of brilliant, out contemporaries who I adore.

I chose it because, in fact, I do see my queer community as capable of providing more of the kind of fun I want to have than my straight friends' communities do. I often wonder where I would find a community if it weren't for my sexuality. I see a lot of heterosexual friends (note I see a difference between heterosexual and straight) rally around politics or sports, past times or areas of study. But I choose to find the fun among queer politics, sports, past times and areas of study.

Being queer has given me a sense of history and culture. In a country where a lot is tossed around about a lack of history (white history anyway) and a lack of coherent, unifying culture, I feel I am part of an international shared history and language of queer. Though my community is extremely varied I feel a sense of nationhood and ownership and safety. We have citizens to be proud of and revere; writers and artists and activists and musicians and philosophers. And for me personally, I found that history and sense of unity in the family home where my wonderful mothers gave me a sense of my personal and global history - the events leading to the possibility of my mere existence! I had an A-Grade upbringing by queers.

It's fun to socialise and analyse with people that want to understand and better the world around them. Of course there are gays who do not strive for change and heterosexuals who work tirelessly for a better world. But when I think of my own queer community I see a higher than average willingness to support minority views and respect a marginalised group's right to agency. The other day a friend of mine who uses a wheelchair complained of perceived discrimination in a first aid course. Our coworkers initial reaction was to defend the tutor's intentions and try to explain his error, instead of saying to her - that's fucked that you felt persecuted. From a privileged position, it is easy to forget that when someone feels attacked they don't want the first response of their friends to be a justification of their attacker - they want support and then balanced analysis. I was really bothered by this interaction as I don't like to see a friend silenced, and on a personal level it reminded me of the myriad times I've been told I am overreacting to homophobia or seeing sexism because I want to (that evil Feminist agenda makes me oversensitive, remember?)

From the moment of self-realisation or 'outing' queers are explaining and justifying their sexual practices and relationships to the world. The number of overly personal questions that get asked is amazing. The positive of this (the fun part if you will) is that my queer friends are wonderfully analytical and productively critical about their relationships. We search for new ways to love each other and fuck each other and strive to find a model that makes us happy. We don't always get it right but I am proud and privileged to relate to people that care about how they love me and how I treat them and want to experiment with human interaction.

I'm going to say it: fucking queer women is fun. Now I can't make comparisons as my experience with men is limited, but I just can't imagine men being as...skilled... :-) Oh look, any straight friends reading this are going to have a tantrum now... One straight recently joked that lesbians shouldn't be allowed to use strap-ons - "you've made your choice" she quipped. Now the delivery was hilarious, but there's an underlying jealousy there no? Because we get to have it all... Am I due for another straight tantrum now? I don't care! The women I have loved have been bright, engaged, caring, supportive, adventurous, willing, playful, skilled, beautiful and yes - Fun. So I couldn't let this blog go by without acknowledgment of the joyous sex part of sexuality.

Maybe I think you're jealous because you have to stifle any urges you have for the same sex to fit in with your societal position. Whereas I can have a sexuality that is fluid and will not suffer the wrath of my friends if I deviate from their expectations of my gender and desire. Maybe you are jealous because I have sports teams I can join just for my kind and I have parties and events designed to appeal to my sexuality and desires. Or because some of my people are so clever they developed a whole queer theory. Are you jealous because I can define the rights I am fighting for and have a framework for analysing this very confusing world? Or because there are websites devoted to people posting messages of support for ME.

If you aren't jealous, you should be!

DISCLAIMER: I don't think the people I have referred to here read my blog, but if you do and you find it problematic that I have used your comments in this way, please let me know. I do not wish to offend you, but I do think it's worth me bringing up stuff I find problematic. If I am even talking to you, I obviously like you so hold you to a higher standard than the general population. And I'd be willing to chat and clarify. xxx


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

'the f word', or 'the longest blog in the world'

It's funny how things come in waves. I won't hear about something for months then all in a week, it's the hot topic; spurred on by a news item or social happening, suddenly wherever I go we're all speaking with the same focus.

Since the NRL incident, women and sexual assault have been bashing their way through opinion pieces and coffee tables. But I have noticed a relative silence on the matter among my social circles (in person rather than online), as if we have assumed we hold the same position, we are the same brand of Feminist, we know where we stand. That little tidbit of sensation has all but exited the mainstream now, but it and the subsequent furor have rekindled my thoughts around Women and Feminism.

Things comes in waves and yesterday I could not avoid Feminism and its waves. At work, through my searches of disability blogs I came across an online battle between "radical feminist" (for want of another term) bloggers and sex worker bloggers. The contention was over bags made by and for sex workers at an Australian convention that said "Sheila is not my sister." Outraged, the women who say "prostituted" rather than "worker" had made a "Sheila is my sister" logo for their blogs and had then waxed lyrical over the "attacks" made by these "privileged, non-representative" sex workers against their "hero" Sheila Jeffreys.

Now I don't want to blog on about Sheila because what struck me in these comment wars was not about her views, but about the bloggers' inability to hear each other and their references to the alleged waves of feminism that have flowed in and over society in the past century or so.

Apparently, feminism has had three waves and apparently these waves hold values that are mutually exclusive.

You can be a second-wave anti-porn anti-prostitution warrior OR you can be a third-wave pole-dancing ignorant "mind-dazed" (an actual quote!) slacker.

You can be a rigid, out-dated, radical anti-sex Sheila wannabe OR you can be an enlightened, sex-positive, queer-friendly, sex-work activist.

You can't like porn and be a feminist.
You can't have an opinion on sex work unless you are a sex worker.
If you believe in sex worker rights you are supporting the patriarchy.
If you are anti-porn you are anti-sex.
If you engage in BDSM you are a victim.
If you are a sex worker you have a history of sexual abuse.

I couldn't believe the barrage of simplistic conclusions that absolutely disallowed complexity of thought or varying views or debate. And! When one person's comments were deemed too challenging to the view of the original blog, they started to be blocked!

I commented here and there, tried to point out that perhaps there was a middle ground. Perhaps Sheila-ites should listen to the sex workers they were supposedly saving. Perhaps there was a place for some porn, especially when it is female-made, queer or demonstrates safe sex practices...

Now, I am aware that I am demonstrating a bias towards the sex-positive, sex-worker rights side of this debate and I make no apology, nor do I wish to hide this. As a rule, I adhere with a lot of what this "wave" of feminism has to say.

The problem here is that then I am labelled third-wave, not allowed to use the word "radical" to describe myself and, according to some, am aligned with the "I can wear a short skirt if I want to" camp. Incidentally, I can and do wear a short skirt most weekends, but I digress.

Back to Tuesday:
I left the blogs and headed out for a beverage or two (non-alcoholic: see health plan).

I came across a group of friends sitting, primarily silently while two wonderful women waxed lyrical on what was wrong with the world. With the system. With the patriarchy. With the fact that even in Newtown - our supposed "pocket" - one of them could be assaulted in a park, then asked by the cops afterwards "Is that what you were wearing?"

These women are (perhaps including but not limited to) queer, sex-positive, kinky, radical, angry, intelligent, witty, bright and engaged. They have become my community in the past few years and represent a diverse range of views. And they debate!

When the conversation steered to a t-shirt worn by a man one of them knew, someone spoke up in opposition to the party line that had been drawn in the past minutes. The offending garment had said "Dead Girls Can't Say No." (It says something about my dark sense of humour that I stated that if a girl was wearing that I would think it sassy, confrontational and ironic...) One reaction was that the shirt was woman-hatred, plain and simple. Another advocated that necrophilia was the problem and that the shirt would be just as bad if it said "Dead people..." When will it stop being about women's rights and start being about people's rights?


Never tell a Feminist that Feminism isn't needed anymore unless you want to see her face go purple. I won't transcribe the rest of the debate, but it was fiery and I imagine continued on after I skipped off to go see a movie (Synechdoche, New York, which incidentally I have a lot to say about - largely on the role played by women!)

But these Tuesday adventures made me sad. It made me sad that my angriest, most clever and passionate Feminist friends are debating these issues with each other but not always being heard in the wider community. Feminists are battling against each other online, but not face to face where a little more compassion may be allowed for and where comments can't be "blocked" with the click of a button. I was sad because I am tired of fighting and fighting and fighting and would rather leave the office than speak out when co-workers gather round a computer to violently denounce pictures of women at an award show as "fat," "ugly," "a tranny," "a grandma" and so on... (but that's another story)

I am not part of a wave. I see Feminism as a continuum with space for the views of everyone (yes, even Sheila Jeffreys though I think much of her work ridiculous). I don't want to fight with other women about Feminism, but I am not going to be silent when people say she was asking for it or think that, in a world where women are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of violence, we haven't got a struggle anymore.

It was quite a Tuesday all round, and I haven't even told you about the meat tray I sat beside for an hour.


Monday, 1 June 2009

My Extensive Intensive Comprehensive Health Plan

I hereby declare that , for the next two months, I shall:

- not drink alcohol (excepting the housewarming we may be having and if my soccer team wins - these are the ONLY exceptions).

- drastically reduce my take-out consumption. I have never been one to buy when I can bake, but life has been a bit hectic and suddenly my diet is incorporating way more felafel rolls and big brekkies than it should. For the next two months I am only allowed to buy dinner / breakfast once a week and lunch at work once a week.

- take vitamins, not just buy them and remember every now and then to pop a few. I will be taking flaxseed and B.

- cut out heavy carbs (as in potato, rice, pasta, bread) after 3pm. This will be hard as carbs are so tasty and I am so good at making them. But I shall try!

- not smoke socially. I have cut this down since going overseas but now it's a no-no. If I ask say no...unlikely that I'll ask though as I won't be drunk! Hurrah!

- find a yoga / pilates class to do once a week. I believe there is pilates at Newtown gym at 10.30am on a Friday and Yoga at 6pm.

- start working Thursdays and Fridays. Three days a week does not a work routine make.

- tidy room once a week. More is just unrealistic.

- turn off computer at 10pm every night and place it in the lounge room. Unless I am chatting to France.

- regular coffee not large!

- buy the following things which will add to emotional well being:
* new mattress
* camera
* work pants
* new underwear
* washing machine

- start saving again like a crazy woman to make up for all the crap I just bought!

Prizes for me if I make it to August 1!



The Blurb

For maevegobash: yeah, I just like thinking/writing/talking about myself. That's what blogs are for, right? For vegepalooza: I have been vegetarian for 25 years now - so that's always for me. My mothers cooked a storm up in the kitchen and I am carrying the torch filling my friends bellies at every opportunity. I love food and want to share my recipes, tips and tricks here to encourage creative vegetarian eating. There will also be a lot of vegan recipes for my friends with more willpower than me (sorry kids, I just love the cheese). Anyway enjoy, feel free to criticise and most of all Happy Eating!