Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feasting on Queers: Allies and Assholes my Academic Arena

It's come to my attention that a lot of people in my workplace who claim to have thoughtful analyses of identity are perfectly willing to overwrite the identity claims/affiliations I've articulated about myself. I am entirely exhausted by heteronormative assumptions and expectations that run much deeper than I ever anticipated in my workplace. Was I naive to think that some of the self-assured "liberals" I work with actually know anything about identity politics? Maybe. But people are misleading, and as I've learned time and time again, assholes (too often) finish first.

If sexual harassment (whether or not the law recognizes it) takes a variety of forms, then I assure you I'm feeling somewhat sexually harassed. My choice to be out as queer at work has been everything from great to terrible. I often struggle to reconcile my proud queer identity in an academic institution that affords only small moments of lip service to queers while it maintains an unquestioned, heternormative, deeply conservative, corporate agenda.

That said, my choice to be out as queer among my colleagues is my CHOICE. But my colleagues' choice to think, for even one brief moment, about what that might mean for me is entirely out of my hands. It turns out I am surrounded by some disturbingly cavalier, presumptuous, non-allies, who moonlight as managers at a rumour mill specializing in people's sex lives. It must be a challenge to add spice to straight and narrow scripted lifestyles, and so, it makes sense they've turned to the token queer for dramatic inspiration. Really, what can I say to that?

I have to wonder if being open about my sexual identity has invited people to want to pry further into my sex life, make assumptions, ignore assertions I've made about myself if they seem unfitting to the narratives these people are/were hoping to create. Is that how my workplace justifies feasting on my body? They feel entitled to produce creative renderings of what my body does? What about my consent? What about my voice? Whatever narratives have been created about me have NEVER been checked out directly WITH me and THAT is, perhaps, the part of me that feels most erased--my right to speak for myself.

It might serve my workplace well to string a banner in the mailroom that reads: A Dose of Dick Will Cure the Dyke. At least then I'll feel a little less blind-sighted to people's politics, and I'll be more protective, less willing to take their loyalty and consideration at face value. But perhaps the problem here has less to do with the speculation that I've been "cured," but rather, the disbelief that I was every "really" a dyke to begin with. And my guess is that THIS has more to do with my gender presentation than anything else.

In a world where "femme" is too often invisible or disconnected from "queer" I have to say I feel pretty fucking trapped amid ignorant assumptions. Not victimized, but trapped. What good has it done for me to come out in a setting that refuses to accept, believe, and honour my asserted identity? I am no closer to ensuring people understand who I am now that their juicy stories have trumped my lived realities. Well, I can't devote much more time to this bullshit right now so I'm just going to carry on with my day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Girlcott the TV Guide Channel

I just wanted background sound for the ten minutes it took me to eat my lunch so I turned on the TV. Not wanting to flip through all the crap, I went directly to the TV Guide Channel, or should I say the 24-Hour Fat Phobia Generator. They were airing interviews with personal trainers to the stars, and these trainers had lots to say about how people, anyone, like even you and me, could have "hard" bodies like Madonna for example. One trainer explained that it was all about "hard work" and your genetic makeup didn't matter that much. Another trainer even declared we could learn the secret to longer limbs.

I dunno about you, but I am a full grown adult woman who stands at a whopping 5 foot 4. But apparently there's a secret that will lengthen my limbs? Two responses: 1) really? and 2) no fucking thanks.

"Hard work" is interesting and nuanced and kind of fucked up. On a completely personal note, I've noticed a correlation between exercise, circulation, and mood. When I exercise, I feel warmer for the rest of the day, which for always-chilled-me is a pretty great reward. I also notice that exercising somewhat frequently regulates my moods; it makes stress more manageable and I don't tend to feel long stretches of the blues and blahs. And no, I don't "work" very "hard" for these benefits but I still get them. Why wouldn't that be enough? Or maybe a commitment to being proactive about my circulation and mood is, in fact, hard work and in that sense I'm working very hard on my own terms.

Fat phobic TV seems to have a definition of "hard work" that defies genetics, reveals secrets, and frankly, attempts to ruin my lunch. Of course I won't let it. Next time I want background noise I'm going to try WPR or maybe just the sound of Mabel snoring. She's got "hard work" down.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quick and Dirty

It's been a while. I don't want to lose too much steam so here's some stuff I've been thinking about:

Dressing up for the first day of the semester when it's freezing cold outside... it's a challenge and a conflict.

Feminine-presenting teachers often receive comments/judgments on their physical appearance (clothing, "looks," hair...) in student evaluations. How incredibly sexist is that?

I can't for the life of me find a pair of vegetarian plain black boots with decent flat soles (for walking on ice) that fit my calves. Narrow calf boots meeting these requirements seem to run in the $200 and upward range. ARE YOU KIDDING? It's a real affirmation that thinness is posh in much of my immediate fashion world. It's exhausting and classist (to say the least).

Heteronormativity in the workplace (my workplace being academia) is palpable. I'm seeing this in terms of benefits, social networking, and simultaneously tacit and overt gender codes for "appropriateness." What is going on here?

If you don't like dress shoes don't wear 'em. I say so.

Is there a way to avoid cardigan pits so you don't have to launder the cardies after every wear?

My household has been having frequent talks about cleavage (and our love of it) recently. Home sweet homo.

What radical political queer fashion thoughts have your panties in a twist? Please share.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gaza. Now.

Let me be clear: I do not align myself with ANY religious views in spite of my prescriptive faith-based upbringing. In fact, it is precisely my experiences with religion that led to the critical choices I've made, steering myself away from these practices and beliefs.

My question is actually pretty simple: isn't this genocide? And what the fuck are we doing? We are all implicated in this:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gendering Cells

My cell (and only) phone committed suicide on Monday afternoon. The battery is completely fucked and I consequently lost all of my contacts, pictures, and worst of all, the text messages I had been saving for sentimental reasons throughout the last year or so. But it’s ok. It’s forcing another new start for me and although it’s a nuisance having to collect and enter everyone’s phone numbers from scratch it’s really not that terrible.

The phone people asked me if I wanted to get a new one with a full keyboard or super video functions or double flip or music download-ability. (We’ve come a long way, baby.) I refused. I told them I wanted a replacement for my very basic flip phone, and I wanted something very inexpensive. The salesperson walked me over to the section of phones that fit this description, warning me that ANY and EVERY phone available would be much more advanced than my two-year old phone that had just died. But I was sorely disappointed. Everything was boxy looking—sharp right angles, lots of silvery metal, no colour, no sass. Finally, the salesperson (reading my lack of enthusiasm) led me to the cheapest phone available—a light blue razor-style with rounded corners. Without even touching it I knew it was the one.

It occurred to me in that moment that there’s something to be said about phones and technology and gendered aesthetics. I wanted something cheap and that was my first priority. But then I wanted something that looked softer, less machine-like, and more colourful than the first selection of phones I saw. I later described my new phone as more “feminine” and admitted that this quality was what compelled me to choose it. Am I uncritically gendering cell phones? Or, more accurately, how have I been seduced by the gendered marketing ploys of phone-designers?

The tragedy of all this is that phone-makers’ rendering of gender fits so squarely into stereotypical, mainstream depictions of masculine/feminine binaries (and I totally rolled with it!). But here’s the messier stuff: why are the more gadgety, tech-savvy, do-your-taxes-and-make-you-dinner phones made to look a certain way? How have we been culturally programmed to associate technologies with gender, race, class... through aesthetics of decorum, dependability, advancement…? I think it’s worth paying attention to the aesthetics of technologies, what attracts and repels us and why, and how the nuances of these aesthetics cut across the complicated ideals of “progress.”

My new phone functions. It suits my purposes and I hope it will last. And I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to replace the old one. But I have to wonder if the phone-folks make the cheap “girly” ones to fall apart sooner…disposable and weak. It’s not an anti-feminist conspiracy at work as much as I think THAT’S the heart of stereotypical, mainstream depictions of masculine/feminine binaries. And I just can’t roll with it.