May 12, 2006

Hope.

For Rosie O'Donnell.

41 comments:

Seven Machos said...

I'll say here what I said there, to get the conversation started: America loves to give second chances but hates inauthenticity. I wonder which will trump.

Elizabeth said...
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SteveR said...

It won't take long to find out but I'll bet on the latter.

Elizabeth said...

Sigh. Where has Chris met all these mean lesbians?

Rosie has soft edges and sharp edges. I hope she's free to show them all. That would be authentic. But the show has apparently included a clause about her hair. No butch haircuts. I'd say that's authentically het hysterical, but then I'd be a mean lesbian.

So, bring out the smiling dykes. We can join the Queer Eyes guys and that nice Mary Cheney and funny, funny Jack in the queer minstrel show.

I'll try to crack a smile at least once today. Don't want to scare the young boys while I wallow in oppression.

Ann Althouse said...

But Elizabeth, you're kind of supporting his point. You're saying that being nice is like participating in a minstrel show. That is, that being cold and unfriendly is a way to demonstrate that you aren't oppressed. But why?

Elizabeth said...

No, Ann, I'm trying to be ironic about it. What we see on TV is a minstrel show. But that's hardly real life. I think it's problematic to compare the public outing of celebrities with the everyday reality of most gay men and lesbians. Anyone who's in the closet somewhere (work, family, friends) has to integrate and define what is inauthentic and authentic about themselves. That has to be particularly hard when you are a celebrity who does this on a big stage.

With Rosie and Ellen, there was some pandering to what they thought their gay audiences wanted and some defensiveness about what they might have felt as criticism from straight America. It was a process.

The gay people we see onscreen, like Queer Eye and Will and Grace, are different. They're programmed as a concept. They have to be non-threatening, over the top, and comic. That's a minstrel show. Ellen and Rosie shouldn't have to adapt to that to be acceptable. I think Ellen has struck new ground, avoiding that trap. I'd hope to see Rosie continue it.

As for the non-celebrity world, I think the generalization that lesbians are grim, masculinized meanies is unfair and dogmatic . Sort of like "Do you know feminists don't have a sense of humor?" "No, but hum a few bars and I'll wing it." It depends on assumptions that women are supposed to be nice, smiling, and make people feel comfortable. I find that lesbians, like other women, have quite a range of feminine characteristics, and that individual women are, like individual men, cranky or pleasant in different situations. Some folks are just cranky all the time, and others are generally nice. It doesn't correlate to their sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, responding to the assertion is like responding to someone who calls you defensive. No, I'm not! Well, there you are.

pc said...

Elizabeth - very well said!

David said...

Note to gays;


lose the attitude and be nice! Most of us don't care who you sleep with. We like having you around if you are fun to be with.

Elizabeth said...

David, I don't care who amuses you. I hope you have nice friends. But I'll be who I am, nice or cranky. I don't have to please you to enjoy the same rights as you. That's the "inalienable" part, you dig?

Straight people: lose the attitude. Gays don't have to be nice to you in order for us all to share a just society, under our constitution. We're not here to please you. We're just here, like you are.

Brent said...

Because of Elizabeth's post, I'll post the same over here as at Christopher's.

Elzabeth, the overall "sarcastic demeanor" might not be in all lesbians, but it certainly is in my neck of the woods, Southern California.

----- Comment Post from Christopher Althouse site:
So,okay, like, I must identify myself as one of those evangelicals who believe that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible. I do believe that it is not possible to square gay sexual relations as being "okay" with any reading of the Holy Scriptures.

That said, many, if not most, will turn off completely to anything further I might want to say on above subject. But here goes anyway.

My family and I, by virtue of vocations (music, theater, teaching) and academia, have frequent contact with gay life. Our experience with lesbians as opposed to gay men is often similar to what Christopher wrote. A good friend, who is lesbian (spare me the old "some of my best friends are black" references)and some one that I have had hours of conversation with about being lesbian, is a formerly abused, and still internally angry young woman . . . and that is her definition, not mine. While I do not believe that every lesbian has been abused or is "angry" at men or society, there is certainly a very large amount who are. Add to that the heartbreak of being often publicly ostracised, and you have an awful lot of sadness in many lives.

By the way, I have found myself in over half-a-dozen situations where I felt I needed to step in to halt rude remarks and unfit comments being made in public towards a gay person.

Perhaps the most ironic was telling a group of peers at a college seminar to quit teasing a gay cafeteria worker. I was told that I "must be gay" and "how ironic - I thought you Christians hated gays".

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

Bissage said...

Elizabeth: Please forgive me for being so forward, but why do you want to be so angry?

I'll admit right up front that I'm a mighty angry person myself, but I try to fight it. I mean, if you want to be angry, aren't you doing the jerks' dirty work for them?

What I'm saying must seem awfully trite. But I think I know how you feel. Maybe I've helped a little.

Joe said...

Elizabeth says:
"Straight people: lose the attitude. Gays don't have to be nice to you in order for us all to share a just society, under our constitution. We're not here to please you. We're just here, like you are."
I have seen a whole lot of gay people with attitude too, who feel compelled to be in your face all the time with their orientation. Now maybe because it's because I am an NYer, but most of us really don't care what you do in private, but find it annoying that we have to constantly validate your lifestyle. We aren't here to please you either.

pc said...

Brent,

I think what you call 'a large amount' and what I would call a large amount differ quite a bit. You said you have a lesbian freind and a few others that are 'angry'. Are we talking more or less than 5? If you only know 5 lesbians and they are all angry then, yes, I can see your point.

However, my experience has been the very opposite. I have come across angry people of all size, shape, orientation, colour, age etc. I have not noticed a higher rate of lesbians playing the anger card.

Joe - most of us keep our private lives private. Just be thankful Tom Cruise isn't *ahem* gay.

INMA30 said...

Brent said: "So,okay, like, I must identify myself as one of those evangelicals who believe that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible. I do believe that it is not possible to square gay sexual relations as being "okay" with any reading of the Holy Scriptures."

I'll assume you also don't eat shellfish or pork. Otherwise your just a hypocrite, and Jesus seemed to have a lot more to say about hyprocrisy than homosexuality (that would be nothing, not a single word).

Joe said: "I have seen a whole lot of gay people with attitude too, who feel compelled to be in your face all the time with their orientation."

I am sure there are gay people with attitude, but come on, "in your face with their orientation"? Just objectively, you have to admit that straight people are much more in your face about it, with the rings, the kissing in public, holding hands, announcements in the newspaper. I mean they have a virtual lock on the public ceremonies. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but they are much more forward about it.

Elizabeth said...

Brent, thanks for that story, or I guess, more than one story. I too know lesbians who fit that narrative. But because I know so many who don't, I don't want to pass up the opportunity to remind people that that's just one stereotype, grounded as most are in some reality. You offered another one, the image your seminar peers had of Christians.

The other stereotype in this thread is of gay men as more accepted than lesbians because they're "nicer." Inside lots of gay men is the abused kid, the one who got tossed out of home, the one who becomes the wiseass with the wonderfully bitchy cutting remarks. That IS more entertaining than a sullen dyke (though I offer that Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, by Diane DiMassa as an exception to that truism). But those are both common stereotypes. People are more complex and varied.

MadisonMan said...

Are David and Elizabeth being serious or ironic? I can't tell.

The lesbians I know run the gamut in personalities. I'd say that people who only know angry lesbians don't know enough lesbians.

Rosie never struck me as angry. She struck me as a typical New Yorker. Maybe New Yorkers shouldn't be so angry. Maybe I don't know enough New Yorkers :)

Joe said...

INMA30, straight people are more public, it is true, but you see more clothed people out there than nudists as well. My point is, straight is the norm - I mean that in terms of numbers alone, no value judgment therein - so it is natural that you are going to see more such behavior in public.
I have known many gay people of both sexes. They are nice, they are mean, smart, stupid, pleasant and obnoxious. Just like everyone else. No one deserves special treatment because of their sex, orientation, race, whatever.

Elizabeth said...

Joe, we agree. I want my legal rights, not your efforts to entertain or please me. No one's here for anyone else's amusement. I've never understood what that "in your face" thing is about. I think that's your issue, not ours.

Bissage, I find your comment baffling. I'm not "that angry." There seem to be some common assumptions that because gay people don't want to bend over backwards to make sure straight people know we really, really like them, we must be angry or bitter. Or if I challenge a stereotype, I'm angry. Those are ridiculous assumptions. I don't apologize for being gay, for talking about these issues from my perspective, as it is informed by being gay. That lack of apology is taken for anger, by people who don't know me, who haven't a clue about my personality, my happiness, my pleasure in life. They focus on the very narrow issue of gayness, and start tossing out the same comments: why are you angry? why can't you gays be nice? why are you in our face? The sheer repetition of these questions point to the people asking them, not to me.

Ann Althouse said...

Chris can explain himself (and how many lesbians he's known), but I just want to say that I've known plenty of perfectly nice lesbians, and my point in linking to the post was not based on a generalization about lesbians. He refers to "many" lesbians, not all or even most. I linked to the post because of the observations about oppression and liberation. I think there's an inherent insult to men if masculinity is portrayed as coldness or nastiness. And we're all in trouble if kindness and warmth are believed to be marks of oppression. I'm interested in the cultural commentary too. Are gay men more a part of popular culture, more admired and beloved than lesbians, and if so, is it because they are channeling characteristics associated with women? Let's not be so uptight and puritannical that we can't talk abou this.

TWM said...

Elizabeth said:

David, I don't care who amuses you. I hope you have nice friends. But I'll be who I am, nice or cranky. I don't have to please you to enjoy the same rights as you. That's the "inalienable" part, you dig?

Straight people: lose the attitude. Gays don't have to be nice to you in order for us all to share a just society, under our constitution. We're not here to please you. We're just here, like you are.


You don't lose your rights because you are mean, Elizabeth. You just lose the support of many who might otherwise give it if you were nice. That is human nature and it doesn't matter whether you are straight or gay. People don't want to help assholes.

Not that you are one personally, mind you, I am speaking in generalities.

Elizabeth said...

madisonman, you're right! Everyone should know more lesbians.

PC, I too thank God, and ElRon, that Tom Cruise isn't *cough cough* gay.

Just curious, to put this all in context: does anyone here actually WATCH The View?

Elizabeth said...

I think there's an inherent insult to men if masculinity is portrayed as coldness or nastiness. And we're all in trouble if kindness and warmth are believed to be marks of oppression.

Ann, I'm all for redirecting our discussion away from whether gay people are nice enough for general consumption.

I'm not happy with associating coldness and nastiness, or kindness or warmth, with genders and sexual orientations. We do it, though, and that's a problem.

As for how we work those images in to our pop culture view of gay men and lesbians, doesn't that shift? Villianous male characters are sometimes portrayed as fey and effeminate. The bitchy gay male is both a figure of entertainment and of ridicule, depending on the context. I actually enjoy Queer Eye, with some reservations, and I love that about Carson.

Gay men and women also play the "Magic Negro" role in entertainment, the helpful neighbor or friend--almost always asexual, but with visible gay behaviors--who is there for the straight character to rely on (Greg Kinnear in "As Good as It Gets"). Then there are the hot lesbians or straight girl characters having a hot lesbian moment during sweeps week...

I'm intrigued by the gay men in pop culture who are admired and loved. Who are they? Queer Eye plays the emotion thing up, the nurturing guys who help the straight guy win his woman's heart. I've cried watching Queer Eye, I admit it.

Is it that we're more comfortable with men displaying "feminine" characteristics than with with women NOT displaying those characteristics? If that's the question Chris is asking, it's a good one. There must be limits; we tolerate androgyny in women's dress more so than in men's. But the point at which appearance becomes confusing, or too much toward the other gender, is problematic for us. The haircut clause for Rosie seems to support that.

INMA30 said...

Joe-
I completely understand your point(although the nudist analogy doesn't really work), but it seemed like you were equating visibility with "attitude". I am not sure how a gay couple is asking anything of anyone by behaving exactly as their stright counterparts do in public. If anything straight people constantly seek validation of their lifestyle through all of the ceremony and ritual surrounding weddings and births (forget the whole legal aspect).

Does the fact that there are more brunettes than blondes make you feel like blondes are seeking your validation when they canoodle in public? Is their not wearing hats in public a sign of their "attitude"?

Blondie said...

"Lesbians often associate all the positive personality traits of being feminine with oppression."

Obviously, Ann's son doesn't know enough lesbians either with that rather blanket statement.

The vast abundance of lesbians and bisexuals (I call them equal-opportunities) that I know cover the whole gamut of people and personalities. And most of them are pretty happy.

I think all us just need to label and classify others to feel comfortable in our own skin.

And hey, if you have lots of angry lesbians in your life, maybe you should stop pissing them off so much, huh? :)

Elizabeth said...

And hey, if you have lots of angry lesbians in your life, maybe you should stop pissing them off so much, huh? :)

Blondi is my new favorite! 'Cause she's funny!

Joe said...

Liz (may I call you Liz?), the "in your face" comment refers to the "we're here, we're queer, deal with it" aspect of living in the NY area. Enough already, we are dealing with it, get on with your life.
INMA30, I don't think you understood what I meant, I meant real attitudes not mere visibility. And to say straight people are seeking validation through weddings and births is nonsensical - these traditions predate anyone coming out of the closet, predate most people even being aware that homosexuals exist, if what you are saying is that we have these traditions because heteros are seeking "validation" from gays. These traditions are for the most part deeply rooted in religion and culture.

Joe said...

What I really want to discuss is Ann's question: "Are gay men more a part of popular culture, more admired and beloved than lesbians, and if so, is it because they are channeling characteristics associated with women?"
This might be due to a certain flamboyancy with which gay men have been associated - not unjustly, every stereotype has a kernel of truth - which is a manifestation of their girly side. And lesbians, manifesting a strong boy side, appear somewhat duller and less colorful. As a result, gay men more easily find a niche in pop culture which, after all, exists to entertain us.
I also wonder if gay men are drawn to the arts, design, etc. because they possess a female sensibility in that respect, combined with a male drive/ambition/aggressiveness that helps them to succeed in those areas.
And before everyone jumps ugly, keep in mind, we are necessarily talking in generalities here, it's just a discussion. Plus, the boss said we should not be so puritanical and uptight that we can't talk about it, right boss?
At this moment I feel lucky not to be President of Harvard.

Bissage said...

Elizabeth: I did not conclude you are "that angry" for any of the reasons you set forth. My conclusion was based on inferences based on what you wrote, how you wrote it, and why I think you made the decisions you made.

I was not speaking to the great mass of gay people. I was speaking to you, personally. I wasn't sure if this was proper etiquette. That's why I started with an apology.

Looks like my conclusion was wrong. Good. No harm done.

Christopher Althouse said...

Joe: Why would gay men having more feminine characteristics make us more able to permeate popular culture than lesbians? Shouldn't it be the other way around? I thought thought we lived in a patriarchy, after all.

In any case, I've known PLENTY of lesbians. Elizabeth, the answer is: in San Francisco, Madison, and Austin (the places I've lived). I'm sure I'll blog at some point more about my experiences with a certain type of lesbian--the leftist, self-pitying variety. This is a personality issue I'm raising, keep in mind, nothing more. I was very careful in my post not to word the observation in absolute terms, so I'm not sure why some fuss about it not applying to all lesbians. Is it really so hard to believe that some people in a subculture with relatively uniform political and social views would develop similar personality traits, not all of them good?

Christopher Althouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David said...

Elizabeth, a lesbian friend of mine just told me that Hollywood is coming out with the lesbian answer to Brokeback Mountain. It will star Angelina Jolie and be called "The Fur Traders!" Insert laugh line here!)

Now that is a humorous lesbian that doesn't take herself too seriously.

I was having coffee with a buddy of mine and told the barista that we weren't gay but if we were, I could certainly do better than my buddy. He then asked what was wrong with him that I could do better?

I love standup comedy!

LOL

Elizabeth said...

Chris, surely the Austin lesbians know how to have a good time! I too have known one too many San Francisco lesbians with a bad attitude, but I also know too many Californians with snarky 'tudes, so I thought that was the problem. I took your wording as overly general, but I'll accept your clarification. I'm not sure that sharing political views means sharing personality qualities, but I can agree that I've at times had to resist a Borg-like influence, not just as a lesbian but as a feminist, or as a Southerner, etc. Ultimately, my own qualities prevail.

Your question to Joe sums up my feelings. I'm starting to think I've wandered into a Camille Paglia book here!

Dave, my lesbian happiness quotient would be raised by another Angelina Jolie as onscreen lesbian experience. But the whole Brad Pitt thing kinda detracts from seeing her as lesbian in real life.

What exactly is it you do better than your buddy? Badabum.

Elizabeth said...

Joe, it's Beth, but thanks for asking. You made me think of a great Onion article, with the "in your face" thing. It had Marilyn Manson wandering around suburbia trying to shock people, unsuccessfully. Honey, Marilyn Manson's on the lawn with a pig fetus necklace. What, again?

David said...

Elizabeth;

TOUCHE!

That was a good one! Can we expect more?

PatCA said...

Elizabeth,
I agree with you about how attitude should not determine your constitutional rights, but I think the original post was about Rosie and her success/failure as a TV personality, and attitude does matter there. She will have to find some acceptable persona to find success--as you say, Ellen seems to have found it and remained authentic as well. (Her joke at the Oscars is still IMO the best, most moving Oscar joke of all time.)

The minstrels and the guys in bondage on Gay Pride Day make me squirm. The lesbians who start film colonies and refuse to be nice to each other or have classical narratives in their films because it's too patriarchal (I kid you not) also make me squirm....laugh, actually.

So, yes, your jumping to conclusions and expanding TV popularity to constitutional rights does seem prickly.

Elizabeth said...

Pat, if you go back and read, I think you'll see it took awhile to get to the constitutional part, and I didn't get there on my own.

I'm with you on the bad films; plot is good. But then I like representational art. I'm one of those folks who need a picture to look like something.

David, thanks. Can't take all the credit; I had a good straight man.

Pogo said...

Elizabeth and Christopher demonstrate the problem of reconciling a person's private and public faces.

The stereotypes discussed above are stereotypes precisely because they contain a core truth. But by definition, stereotypes are less useful when applied to individual people because they lack precision.

I agree with Mr. Althouse here. Rosie's former public face was pleasant enough, and funny enough, that people enjoyed watching her on TV. She adopted the 'militant lesbian' persona when she came out, and it was unpleasant and unfunny, and her popularity waned. But is that so surprising?

Elizabeth's reaction is also true. Her gay friends exhibit the usual range of human personality types, rather than a stereotype. She finds many of them pleasant enough to become friends with. No surprise here either.

Both views are two sides of the same coin. The public persona of a nice person can be unpleasant and unyielding. The 1960s approach to civil rights has resulted, not in a dreamy buy-the-world-a-coke utopia, but in the progressive balkanization of identity groups.

So lesbians are nice to each other, but angry to straights. Blacks don't sit with whites at the cafeteria. La Raza wants California back, not to become American. Muslims want to live their entire lives interacting only between themselves.

And people who try to get along are merely 'minstrels', that is, traitors, or, from times past, Uncle Toms.

Elizabeth said...


So lesbians are nice to each other, but angry to straights.


That's a big, and unsupported, leap, Pogo (ha, that's funny. Pogo leaps!)

As for minstrels, that's a strawman, too. People who try to get along are fine with me. People who whore themselves flogging an obnoxious stereotype, like the Jack character on Will and Grace, are sad dancing bears. There's a difference, but I suspect your political agenda doesn't allow you to see it.

Pogo said...

Re: "As for minstrels, that's a strawman, too."
I believe the "minstrel" comment came first from you, did it not? So if it's a man of straw, it's one you erected.

"People who whore themselves flogging an obnoxious stereotype ..."
Is it possible that some gays don't agree that his character is obnoxious, nor an entirely false stereotype?

"...but I suspect your political agenda doesn't allow you to see it"
I agree that conservative politics favors civil relations between humans based on shared dignity, and refusing to grant special status to identity groups. While there is a difference between being nice and being a fool, you haven't demonstrated that has occurred by pointing out a minor TV character's flamboyance. Rather, it reinforces stereotypes about humorless feminist-lesbians.

Their battle cry seems to be: "That's not funny."

Elizabeth said...

I agree that conservative politics favors civil relations between humans based on shared dignity, and refusing to grant special status to identity groups. With whom are you agreeing?

Otherwise, do you have a point to make, Pogo, other than lesbians are mean?

Pogo said...

Re: "do you have a point to make, Pogo, other than lesbians are mean?"

That's an odd distillation of my position, Elizabeth. I gather you prefer to simply reject debate by misrepresenting the disagreement, rather than engage. That's fine.

I just find it curious that the approach to political and sensitive topics most preferred by the left is quite often like yours: skipping the discussion entirely by labelling all dissenters as hopeless barbarics or even evil.

So my point about balakanization and public/private faces explaining the different experiences people have of lesbians or any identity group becomes to you "lesbians are mean". So while I have clearly failed to persuade you of my conclusion, you eschew persuasion for discussion-ending trump cards.