Arrested Development: Queer Identity 2019

Recently, I tragically had one of my favourite shows of all time, RuPaul’s Drag Race, ruined for me by one of my closest friends. To add insult to injury, he committed what I understand to be a cardinal sin in the realm of addressing queer representation – he is a straight white man. What a dick.

For those of you playing at home, I picked episode 1 of season 6. We watched, I frothed over all the iconic parts of the episode, I explained the entire history of the show and the subculture references, and he was an amazing audience member. He asked clarifying questions and listened. And then he did it: he told me exactly what the show was about in a way that I cannot unhear.

“I get why you like it,” he told me in his typical sweet innocent cinnamon bun man manner, “and I can see why this might feel empowering but, like, isn’t this still just straight people telling gay people what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to being gay? Aren’t they still trying to say that they have to fit into this box?”

Shattered. Absolutely shattered. Face crack of the century.

Look, I still love the show, obviously. That’s a given.

But what he said plays on my mind, and not just when it comes to Drag Race. I feel like a massive part of my queer experience has been trying to behave in a way that is acceptable according to the standards of the norm. I don’t want to say for straight people exclusively because I don’t think it’s fair when the majority of my amazing friends and family are both incredible and incredibly straight, so let’s use a better word: heteronormative.

Whether or not it is realised, there is a spectrum of “acceptable” to “unacceptable” gay behaviour that has been set that I feel like I have to constantly be assessing and addressing within myself. Being confident is toward the acceptable end of the spectrum; talking about my experiences as a queer person is unacceptable in certain settings in my life. Being an effeminate gay man is acceptable if you’re a television personality; being a gay woman who wears “masculine” clothing is not acceptable typically. It’s something I’m constantly aware of, and that is constantly running in the back of my mind.

In addition to this, there is a lot of emotional labour that goes into making sure you’re the right kind of gay, and that you also take up as little space with your gayness as is humanly possible. Essentially, I feel that for a lot of queer people, Marie Kondo is in charge of how much we’re allowed to take with us to different social settings (IE. Not a great deal).

A friend recently asked me what coming out was like, and my honest answer is that it feels like I’m in the process of going through a second puberty – even now, 2 years after publicly coming out. What I mostly remember about my first puberty was constantly being in my head about where I fit in, who I am as a person, worrying about if people like me or not, and figuring out if I’m worthy or not.

When I think about my current place with coming to terms with my sexuality, I would describe it as constantly being in my head about where I fit in, who I am as a person, worrying about if people like me or not, and figuring out if I’m worthy or not. I’m in a state of identity determination – a process that keeps changing and getting easier. But it’s still a challenge. So much energy still goes into making sure people don’t judge me as one of “those” gays – where my whole identity revolves around being gay. It seems so silly even acknowledge it in writing, but it’s a real fear of mine.

I had a conversation recently with a man who has a daughter who is also gay. The whole time he was telling me how she isn’t “in your face” about being gay and that it “isn’t a big deal”, and the whole time I felt like there was an unspoken element of her being praised for not being like me. I’m vocal about being queer, and I talk about it, and it’s an astronomical part of my life experience.

The thing is, it’s not a big deal to me because my identity begins and ends with being gay. It’s a big part of me because the initial decision to come out feels like deciding whether or not to set yourself on fire. It’s a big part of me because the decision to be an openly gay woman marks a change in who I am – from being very socially anxious to being incredibly personable and open to people.

I draw a lot of strength from the experience, because I never thought I would be able to come out. Because I never thought there would be any part of my identity that I would be able to own. I thought I would spend the rest of my life apologising for taking up space. The decision to own being gay marked the decision to begin owning other parts of me that I’d thought were shameful, like I thought being gay was shameful. If not for coming out, I wouldn’t be able to lean on my friends when I need to, to support people when they need someone, or to appropriately address and process my emotions. These all come as a result of coming out; I didn’t get to be the person I am today without coming out.

It’s impossible to separate my sexuality from my life experience, because they are going to forever be linked. I understand where people are coming from when they say, “I don’t make a big deal out of being straight, you don’t need to make a big deal out of being gay” but let me also offer this suggestion: shut the fuck up.

The comparison of being proud of being straight to being proud of being gay is non-existent; there’s a reason why it’s called heteronormative and not homonormative. I have spent most of my life being sent the message by society that being gay is shameful, not normal, and strange. I have to be proud of it, because it has made me a strong person who is capable of taking it when people don’t accept me. When you’ve been told your whole life that gay people end up alone and isolated, it kind of matters to be open about it and connect with people.

So much of what the queer experience entails revolves around doing what is right according to heteronormative standards. It’s exhausting to have to worry about people getting annoyed at me talking about queer issues and experience. But my straight male friend from earlier said another thing that also sticks with me.

He said to me, “I mean, yeah, if a pink elephant walked into the room you’d probably think, ‘oh fuck, that’s a pink elephant,’ but maybe if we spent less time trying to hide pink elephants it wouldn’t be such a big deal.”

I feel like  that quote was inspired from somewhere else, but I digress.

I’m really lucky. My core group of people – friends and family – are mostly straight, and I think that everyone could learn a few things about caring for your gay friend from them. So here are a few things they do for me that you can do for your gay friend!

 

  1. Listen to them and take their experiences seriously, as they take your experiences seriously and celebrate them with you. Keep being a good friend to them.
  2. That’s it.
  3. That’s literally all.

Life Beyond “Good” and “Bad”: Off the Cuff Review of Reviews

When I first started my journey through reading 52 books this year, I only had one criteria that I thought needed to be sated: did I enjoy the book or not? This is the simplest, most direct way of deciding whether or not a book is “worth” your time usually.

But, as with many things I do, it’s become more complicated than that as the weeks have bore on. For everything that I do in my life, there seems to be an ever changing criteria sheet which I use to make value-based judgements on my performance. I believe I inherited this from my father. The 52 books challenge has been no exception, and of late I would probably afford myself a C. Despite being proud of how my writing is progressing, I think my main concern was immediately noticing how I was following a set pattern.

The structure is as follows:

> I didn’t know if I’d like this novel or not.

> But I did end up liking this novel.

> Clever one liner for personality flare and points for style.

> Light analysis unsupported by evidence.

> “Ultimately I liked this novel but it might not be for you, I don’t know.”

Knowing your structure isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to writing, but for me the fact is that I’m essentially saying the same thing for each book. Perhaps the pitfall with reviews is that we get caught into that trap of deciding whether or not a book is good enough in our opinion to be worth someone else’s time on a grand scale. That is, I’m tasking myself with the responsibility of deciding whether or not a book is suited to everyone who may or may not read my reviews.

The answer to the question of if a lot of people will like something is almost always going to be yes. When you try to wrap a piece of literature into a neat package of objectively “good” or “bad”, it almost always ends up being good unless it’s a complete train wreck.

Besides that, for as much as I talk about avoiding homogenising culture, literature, society, etc., I end up homogenising my own content in following my review structure. This is the final irony which does not escape me.

In my life as an under grad I got to a point where it was less about whether a text was “good” or “bad”, or if the story was enjoyable or not. Every part of the process was enjoyable for me. When you penetrate a certain level of analysing literature, it becomes less about the thing as a whole and more about tiny pockets of what it is that you’re looking at.

Recently, I read a fabulous Musing from Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha on my WordPress reader. In his Musing, he reflects on the need to approach people’s actions as neither “good” nor “bad”, and rather to approach them instance by instance. I of course, being me, misread this entirely and for whatever reason thought he was talking about books at first glance. This is the price I pay for constantly being focussing on creating content: many things are slipping through the gaps unless they appear immediately relevant. I’m learning to closely re-read again, little by little.

I think that the advice given in Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha’s musing can be applied to what it is that I’m trying to do. Perhaps it’s time to not look at each book as another point towards my end goal. My reading chops are back up enough again that I don’t need to look at the big picture of a novel anymore, and I can take the time to appreciate all the little parts of it that make it interesting or compelling.

We’re in a constant state of evolution and appraising what we can do better. Or at least, I know that I function that way. And so I find myself in the wonderful position of loving everything I am learning through this process, getting to read a lot of great books, and getting better and better at my craft in my own eyes.

Gillette: A Close Shave with Genuine Sentiment

Do you see what I did there?

In the unlikely event that you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve just escaped some sort of religious cult and this website was your first stop, or this is your only source of news for pop culture (if so, may I ask, why?), 2019 has come out swinging with Gillette releasing a short film entitled,We Believe: The Best Men Can Be. Before reading this article, you may wish to peruse their wares below:

 

 

As is to be expected in the current climate, an all-out internet civil war has been sparked as a result of the advert being released. I’m at the point where whenever anything to do with gender comes up in a mainstream internet setting, I try to make myself as small as possible and pray for it to be over soon. Not because I don’t care about gender politics, but because I know exactly what it eventually devolves to over the internet. If you are not sure what it might look or sound like, please refer to the video of two foxes screaming at each other previously featured in my article about outrage culture.

We’ve got all the sides coming in to say their two to five cents on the topic of Gillette’s video. I think it’s their god given right to do so, just as it is my god given right to lurk and continue to gain intel on my endless quest to understand human emotions and behaviour. I find you all fascinating.

In one corner, we’ve got men who feel their masculinity is being threatened by an advert for a $10 razor. In another, we have misandrists who continue to call for the blanket punishment of men everywhere, despite the fact that they don’t realise it’s counterproductive for their cause. They’re pro $10 razor, from what I can understand. We’ve got other people saying, “hey maybe we need to just be more committed to all being better people.” Then we have that one corner of people saying, “You’re not my real dad and you never will be.”

I’m not here to talk about gender politics for once in my entire life, nor am I here to defend either side of an argument about a shaving implement when everyone knows that this isn’t Communist Era Russia and you are free to simply buy a different brand. Seriously, Gillette does not have the monopoly on razors and you have plenty of independent companies you can choose from if you don’t believe in corporations. I know Proctor & Gamble is massive, but there are so many other alternatives if you are bothered by it – which you have the right to be. I’m for it. Do what you need to do to maintain your integrity.

The corner that I’m coming from today is the corner with a bit more of a complicated title. This corner is titled: corporations do not care for us and we need to stop allowing them to make us upset and impact upon our wellbeing, though we can still enjoy their products should we choose to without feeling like we’re siding with Darth Vader.

Whenever I have romantic thoughts about corporations, and I do often, I’m reminded of a time before my own, where cigarettes were marketed to men, women, and children alike as healthy. I think about all those scenes from Mad Men, which I use for fodder in imagining my life as a film but set in the 1960s, where the everyone smoked like chimneys, even in the doctors office. It was in the best interest of corporations to keep selling the message that cigarettes were healthy for you. And do you know why?

The answer has four words, features in a famous song from the 90s, and it makes the world of businesses go round. That’s right: dollar dollar bills ya’ll.

Call me jaded or incendiary, but from the first frame of this short film I knew that Proctor & Gamble were trying to get my hard earned money at the expense of my values and beliefs. They were trying to nickel and dime me using the well-known advertising technique of pathos. They made me feel emotions at the expense of my integrity. How dare they! How dare I buy a Gillette Mach 3 Turbo four months ago because it’s a closer shave and my European heritage refuses to let me have soft feminine leg hair and now it’s my feminine shame! I’m going to burn my tube of Oral B while I write this!

This is not the first time we’ve seen this happen, with a recent example of this being the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial. Pepsi Co had, unfortunately for them, far more transparency in their advert. The ham-fisted representations of fired up youth who can’t get their protest on without that sugary sweetness flowing through their veins was an exercise in hitting me over the head with, “buy my soda you damn millennial!” and then dragging my corpse back through it.

Clearly Proctor & Gamble learned from this, because here we are, getting angry over a $10 razor. For what it’s worth, I think this is actually a really well put together advertisement. One of my guilty pleasures is that I actually love analysing adverts and derive a lot of joy from figuring out what they’re trying to sell to me, besides the product itself. Sometimes KFC tries to sell me happiness, sometimes it’s just fried chicken. Either way, I’m enjoying the show.

I think the key to P&Gs success also stems from the fact they haven’t made the face of their campaign someone who earns more than most of their customer base will earn in a life time. Sure, they used the footage of the incredible Terry Crews speaking on issues of abuse and toxic masculinity, but it was used tastefully in my opinion. That’s right: I like the way they made this advert. Sue me.

And it’s obviously working, because all anyone seems to want to talk about on the internet is either Gillette or the returning queens for Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4.

I want to impress this upon you: whether you want to boycott Gillette because you think they’re misandrists, or you’re standing with Gillette because you feel like they’re putting women first, or you’re having any sort of reaction at all that will impact upon whether or not you buy this product, I want you to keep in mind what I’ve talked about in this article. It is a corporation’s sole duty to make money. If someone is trying to sell you a product, they will do anything they can to get you to spend your hard-earned cash. No matter what, they want to close the deal. They only care that you buy, and they don’t care how they get you to do it.

My favourite example of how far someone will go to sell you something comes from the Tyra Banks Show. When I first heard about this clip, I assumed that it was a parody, or it was fake, or it was some Mad TV shenanigans, because it sounded so ridiculous to me. But anyway, here’s a video of Tyra Banks giving her viewers Vaseline tubs and everyone freaking out like they’ve been given the elixir of eternal life.

 

 

Yep.

And you know what? That’s the reaction that is desired by marketing campaigns. They want you to buy their products. They want you to be invested in their product and to ensure brand loyalty. They want you to buy into the idea that your quality of life will be better for buying this product. To afford a corporation any sort of moral direction is somewhat laughable. Whatever will sell, they will use.

Believe it or not, this article isn’t put together so that I can tell you whether you should or should not buy Proctor & Gamble’s products. It’s not my job to tell you anything you should buy, unless I think it’s worth endorsing. I think people should have the right to choose what they want to buy and to make informed decisions. That’s the benefit of living in our capitalist society. I don’t have time in this article to consider whether I’m pro, anti, or post consumerist culture and capitalist: I just want a razor that works, and I just want milk that tastes like real milk.

What I’m trying to impress upon you more than anything is to continue to be an informed consumer, and to not allow the efforts of a multi-million dollar corporation to sell a $10 razor to cloud your judgement on issues or products. So often we get caught up in what’s going on in the internet world and don’t really pay attention to what’s going on in the real world. For every caricature in advertising of a dangerous man or a vapid woman, I can guarantee that there are tenfold more wonderful people who in every day  life are a testimony to how good people can be.

That’s right, I believe people are good and have the capacity for great things under this jaded façade. You want to come for me for that?

 

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Anyway, thanks always for reading. Love your work. Remi.

Bleeding Hearts of the World Unite: Outrage Culture in the 21st Century

abstract board game bundle business

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

We live in the age where everyone is a public figure, no matter how small their reach. Everyone gets to say their two cents on any topic they can think of. I think Banksy said it best:

In the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes.

One of the topics I’m most fascinated by is that of “outrage culture”. Much like Nick Carraway looking over Manhattan, I am simultaneously entranced and revolted by outrage culture. I can’t look away, and yet I continue to have a foul taste in my mouth.

I’m defining “outrage culture” as being specific to the internet, characterised by a readiness to “cancel” people, engage in witch hunts, and dogged character assassination. A cursory Wikipedia search returns this as a definition of outrage culture: “Call-out culture (also known as outrage culture) is a term for the social phenomenon of publicly denouncing perceived racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry.”

Typically what results from outrage culture is the following:

 

Anyway, you get the point.

Right off the top I need to stipulate that I’m all for addressing problematic behaviours people exhibit. It’s important to set boundaries, and to re-educate people who might have outdated ideas about things such as race, gender, homophobia, transphobia, and so on. This will always be important to me. I would hazard a guess that it’s important to most people.

I also need to stipulate that this is not an article intended to defend anyone’s actions. It is especially not an article intended to defend people who have been pulled up on damaging behaviours and statements, who continue to demonstrate bigotry because they think it makes them funny or edgy, or because they prefer to be ignorant because it makes them feel safe.

The issue from outrage culture doesn’t arise from the correction of behaviour, or from defending the rights of minority groups to live safely and with the respect experienced by the majority. The issue arises from a culture that determines someone is “cancelled” and lambasted long after they have attempted to rectify their actions.

I see a lot of outrage culture being directed at young content creators, especially young men. One of the most controversial figures subject to this is Felix Kjellberg (better known as Pewdiepie). I know, when will the straight, white man catch a break?

Again, I feel the need to reiterate that I’m not defending anyone. It isn’t my role or responsibility to decide whether or not we should be outraged by Kjellberg’s past mistakes – and boy howdy, they were extensive and career damaging. I don’t hold the key to “forgiving” Kjellberg on a larger level, but for what it’s worth, I do think his experience with the media provides us with an interesting case study.

I also want to acknowledge that at the time of writing this article, Kjellberg has apologised for the unacceptable behaviours he has engaged in, acknowledged the issues with them, and has worked to correct his behaviour while remaining aware of the impact of his actions. In my opinion, this is all someone can do when it comes to saying or doing the wrong thing.

As a recent example of the outrage culture directed at Kjellberg, a Twitch streamer implied that the lyrics of Kjellberg’s parody diss track, “Bitch Lasagna” (what a name), have racist undertones. The lyric is as follows:

I’m a blue eyes white dragon, while you’re just dark magician.”

Now, for those of you who aren’t as well versed in Yu-Gi-Oh as I am, blue eyes white dragon is a very desirable card to have, while dark magician is a relatively common card that isn’t as powerful. It was essentially the deus ex machina of the series. And yes, I was a very cool person in primary school.

While I understand that “blue eyes white dragon” may be misconstrued to be linked to Aryan features, I think you have to perform some pretty extensive mental gymnastics to interpret this as Kjellberg intentionally using a children’s card game to put forward some sort of racist message. When I look at the title of the track itself, I’m not really given to taking this song to be one with particularly deep messages.

To me, the streamer’s interpretation is a clear example of how no matter what Kjellberg does from this point on, his past mistakes will always be dragged back up from the mire and held against him. Where he used to be known for frankly cringy gaming videos with relatively unfunny jokes, people will now seemingly forever associate Kjellberg with “edgy” alt-right ideology as a result of the character assassination occurring after his remarks. Regardless of if there is any concrete evidence to prove that Kjellberg subscribes to alt-right beliefs, that is now who he is to the larger general public. Furthermore, it is easy to assume that if not for the controversies, this rap would have been taken for what it is: a pretty idiotic lark making fun of the 2018-present subscriber war on YouTube.

It isn’t my job to decide whether or not Kjellberg is deserving of the continuous public criticism he faces and the microscope he is under, especially given the severity of some of his more “edgy” internet stunts. But it does work to demonstrate my point about the extent to which outrage culture can affect a person’s career and character.

In outrage culture, no matter how much you correct your behaviour or attempt to make reparations for your ignorance, you are always going to be twisted and misconstrued to reinforce that you are still the person you were when you made the mistake in the first place. There are no second chances on the internet. They think, therefore you are.

On a long enough timeline, we are all bound to say something stupid or ignorant. We’re human, and sometimes we simply don’t know better until someone teaches us. In real life, outside of the internet, most often when the behaviours of people around us are corrected the issue is dropped. We tend to look down on people who call out others for things that are no longer relevant. So why is it that on the internet, everything is fair game?

night television tv video

Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

 

What I would argue is that part of it is a desire for people to appear to be on the bandwagon – to be “woke” and “progressive” –  as opposed to a genuine outrage or taking of offense. Sometimes I see a tendency to wait to be told whether or not to be offended by something. What really gets my goat about this is the fact that the very same people who engage in constant public humiliation of people who are trying to fix their mistakes are the same people who preach “only good vibes”; you cannot have both.

For as long  as we keep internet outrage culture alive, we’re going to foster a society where people won’t speak their minds authentically because of fear of being lynched by public majority opinion, and when you do that you eradicate intelligent discussion. We’re going to homogenise culture until we all think, feel, and act the same way out of fear of being completely annihilated.

What it really comes down to is this: yes, address problematic behaviours and opinions. Yes, challenge people’s beliefs and identify gaps in knowledge. But you have to allow people the chance to demonstrate that they’ve changed and that they’ve learned. If you ask me, the cost of someone’s character isn’t really worth the internet points you might gain.