Posts Tagged ‘queer politics’

Ethical community.

December 17, 2008

“We do not want to be hated for who we are, where we come from, and what we do.” — A prominent queer femme activist.

Wait. You don’t want to be hated for what you do? There seems to be an underlying assumption here that “we” only includes the honorable ones, the ones who are out there fighting the good queer fight, challenging outdated and oppressive assumptions, defending the most vulnerable and disenfranchised among us — and, moreover, spreading kindness and charity along the way.

But the queer community, like any other, is made up of good, bad, and — mostly, if we’re honest — complicated characters. I don’t think we should hate each other for instances of bad behavior, but I certainly think we should be discerning and explicit about what we expect from one another. No matter how talented and devoted an activist, no matter how brilliant a social commentator, no matter how attractive or intelligent a person, people — femmes and feminists included — fail.

And when “what we do” just isn’t right — when a person spouts racist invective or unexamined class assumptions, or is emotionally or physically abusive, or crosses sexual boundaries, or acts in ways that fly in the face of common sense and shared values — then I would argue that it is the right and the obligation of the community to hold our own accountable.

I don’t think of community as a group of people behaving as they please with mutual agreement not to judge or even react to unethical or destructive acts. I envision community as a dynamic, diverse network of people who are deeply committed to interrelated goals and who rely on one another to encourage and — if necessary — enforce behavior that leads us towards those goals.

We have to build trust if we want to build solidarity.


Uncoupling consumerism and high femme.

December 14, 2008

Being an avid flea-market-treasure hunter and coupon-wielder myself, it’s taken me a while to realize that frugality alone doesn’t do much to combat consumerism. All those newly minted recessionistas are still spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need.

Nope, sorry: just because you don’t spend as much money on material goods doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the cycle of obsession and possession.

There’s a disturbing tendency in our culture to equate happiness and self worth with purchasing power. And while everyone is in danger of identifying too closely with the objects that allow them to feel comfort, confidence, and contentment, women have been the targets of particularly damaging and divisive marketing campaigns.

Magazines, billboards, and commercials conspire to make us believe we aren’t lovable or desirable without certain beauty products, clothing, accessories, and other items – and, as if that weren’t harmful enough, many ads propagate the myth that women must compete against one another to prove our value in the world. One of my dearest hopes is that women, and femmes, can work together to challenge and dismantle these frameworks over time.