This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness. Many of you are familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.
Much of this post deals with how lesbians and bisexual women are represented in the media, though it certainly applies to gay men when it occurs as well, it occurs far less often and certainly much more rarely than in mainstream media. I am not a lesbian nor do I think merely being GBLT makes you any particular authority on the other letters under the umbrella (something I've argued before). It gives you an insight, but it's still an outsider's view. As such, I give my impressions and how I feel but I cannot speak for Lesbians and bisexual women, do not wish to do so and make no guarantees I am getting it right.
I watch representations of GBLT people in the media with a great deal of cynicism. Most of the time it's not there at all, when it is there it is often highly problematic and even when well portrayed it often focuses so much on the negative (homophobia, AIDS, family rejection, internalised hatred, etc) that it's not just depressing but damn near triggering to watch. So when I see GBLTs in media or literature I tend to approach cautiously and not exactly in an open and fluffy mood.
Miley Cyrus has simulated a lesbian kiss in her latest performance on Britain's Got talent, part of her ongoing campaign to ditch the 'nice girl' image.
Not too long ago Madonna and Brittany had their oh-so-dramatic lip lock on stage.
As far as I'm aware, none of these women are Lesbians or Bisexual or anything but straight (despite much gossip in each case), yet they all engaged in on-stage woman on woman kissing.
t.A.T.u is another rather infamous example. 2 female singers from Russia that became popular across much of Europe - who pretended to be lesbians both in their music and their performances. They're not, they're straight.
And I look at these and find them more than a little off. Not because there shouldn't be portrayals of lesbian and bisexual women being loving, sexual and sensual on television and in music - most certainly we need more - but because I don't think that's what we're seeing here. Is this done to show lesbian sexuality? To celebrate it? To protest that it should be acceptable and wonderful and respected?
Or is it done to titillate? Is it done so straight men can speculate and drool? Is it done to shock? To prove to a heterosexist world how edgy and cool they are? Is it done so people can gawk and chatter and gossip? Is it done to hit the headlines and draw attention because it's so *gasp* outrageous?
See this is something that preys on my mind when I watch portrayals of gay people in the media and certainly when I read books in the m/m genre and slash fiction (neither of which are particularly my habit any more). I look at the portrayal and ESPECIALLY if there is sexiness going on and I ask - what is this for?
Because owning our own sexuality, being proud of it, wearing it, being open with it and being fierce with it is a whole world of difference from our sexuality being paraded so straight folks can drool or stare.
Because portraying a gay or lesbian person or a gay or lesbian couple to show their lives, their families, them as real people due respect, love and happiness is a world of difference from portraying them so they can be viewed or read with one hand, or for shock value or as a publicity stunt.
Because there's a difference between Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga on the one side, and t.A.T.u. and Miley Cyrus on the other.
Because there's a difference between lesbians living as themselves and 2 women getting it on for the joys of straight male viewing.
Because there's a difference between a book that tells the story of gay men in love, and a book that treats gay men as pose-able mannequins to drool over.
And I'm not saying that from any kind of anti-porn/erotica standpoint - I'm generally pro-porn. But recognise that not all portrayals of us are about us and most certainly are not for us. Some of them are appropriating us with varying degrees of respect - and a fair few of them are downright using us and not holding in to a great deal of respect or concern in the process.