Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Soccer-Mom Activist & the Avon Ennui

Over the past few years I've found that many societal problems are upheld by the very people who think they help. There are two specific types of middle to upper class heterosexual white women that maintain the social boundaries in our culture without conscious intent or knowledge that they are doing so. While the two groups intersect in cases, they do have specific qualifiers. These two groups are:

The Soccer-Mom Activist

The soccer-mom activist is a sweet, caring lady. She means no harm to others in the least. On any given day of the week she has to drop the kids of at school, pick up the dry cleaning, donate $20 to HIV in Africa, organize PTA meetings about vending machines' contents, pick up the kids, take them to soccer, get teachers suspended for showing fabulous French cinema, make a "Semi-Homemade" meal by Sandra Lee and be sure to clean up in time for Grey's Anatomy. The thing about the soccer-mom activist is that she isn't really an activist, but so desperately wants to be. She yearns to make a difference in our cold, cruel world. She just needs Bono, Sting or Angelina to tell her where to send her money. She's basically Donna Reed with a bleeding heart and a checkbook.

The Avon Ennui

The Avon Ennui is typically a upper-middle class woman with a lot of spare time. Many of them are single, vapid women that have the potential to turn into Soccer-Mom Activists. They either have jobs that don't demand much, or are bleeding heart students that have become so bored hosting Pampered Chef and Avon parties that they now march a few miles in their wedding gowns in a misguided stand against obesity. There are a few major differences between the Avon Ennui and the Soccer-Mom Activists. While the Soccer-Mom has already propagated her brood, the Avon Ennui has no offspring. She may dream of motherhood, but until the Mommy kisses the Daddy and the angel tells the stork and the stork flies down from heaven and puts the diamond in the cabbage patch and the diamond turns into a baby, she will remain an Avon Ennui. Because of her lack of children, the Avon Ennui cannot commit to PTA causes or other various maternally instinctual fights. The Avon Ennui often makes comments such as "how can I be racist with so many black friends!?" and usually her political agenda is ill-conceived, but her "demonstrations" are flawlessly planned. She's basically Paris Hilton with a purpose and a real, beating heart.


The major similarity between the two types of women is that neither of them realizes how their own issues fit into the bigger picture of our society. They sit in the window seats of their cute suburban ranch homes staring wistfully out into the yard wondering how they can help their fellow man. They plan these walks and bake sales and strive to end hunger and homelessness and obesity. But they don't look past their picket fences to see that many of the issues they seek to abolish are not just problems, but symptoms of the larger socioeconomic caste system in American culture. The very means these women use to make strides towards equality and peace perpetuate and darken the line between classes.

Their fights are noble, I suppose, from a simple point of view. At least these women actually do something instead of sneezing out snowstorms like the rest of the Lindsay Lohan generation. I don't want to tell anyone not to do these things. By all means, if someone is able to participate in a walk-a-thon go for it. And if they're too lazy or have a trick knee and can only write a check, that's great too. However, they should be made aware that this is not activism. This is the erasure of white guilt with money earned from a privileged throne in our culture. But if they really want to make a true difference, they should educate themselves about all aspects of the issue at hand and then educate their friends and urge those friends to spread the word. They should find people of other social standings and band together with them to fight these problems at the root, not at the top. Instead of purchasing black babies because Madonna did, they should learn more about why said black babies need to adopted. Knowledge and awareness are the strongest weapon in any fight.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

We Need a War

Buh-Bye Queer Eye!

In light of the recent news that Queer Eye will enter it's final season this summer, I can finally do a jig of relief.

I understand many other gay men and women thought this show was the beginning of a revolution. I felt like it was the beginning of a new kind of oppression. This show takes what are quite possibly the five most obnoxious and insulting stereotypes about gay men and brings them to life on the small screen in the form of five of the most non-sexual homosexuals I've ever seen in my life.

The men in this show portray the role of the housewife in the 1950's whose duties included cleaning, cooking and caring for her man and children. Her responsibilities were limited to familial care, and freedoms were limited to even less. She was a commodity.

With the advent of more and more gay programming in the last decade, gay men have been commodified without any objection. They've been categorized into this hybrid subspecies of the women of the 1950s and the women of today that love to shop, do make-overs, cook and redecorate apartments while having sexual encounters that everybody hears about in just enough detail to make them seem just above a common whore without exuding the sexuality of the town slut. After all, how threatened can society be by a mixture of June Cleaver with a pinch of Paris Hilton?

While these programs do give gay men exposure to people who would otherwise never encounter homosexual peoples by putting them on TV screens across America, it also puts them into a position where they must trade their sexual identity to be treated with decency.

These shows greatly desexualize homosexual men in such a way that they become harmless eunuchs. Much in the way that Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson were stripped of any sexual qualities that might give them more power than they rightly deserved, gay men are being transformed into neutered dogs trained to satisfy the culinary, stylistic and hygienic needs of the heterosexual male.

Case in point is Robert Laughlin from the short lived (thank the Goddess) spin off "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl." Seen here is the photo spread from his interview in Instinct Magazine's September 2002 issue:

Three years later, his sexuality was subjugated when he was cast as one of the new "Queer Eye's" "Gal Pals" which is more obvious in the the actual context of the show, but is slightly evident in this picture:

He was changed into yet another prissy, sweater-vested puppet to portray the harmless version of the contemporary gay man. The new gay man with so little dignity that he will trade his sexuality and the right to be sexual for a five episode stint in the limelight.

To television's credit, I will admit that Queer as Folk is adept at characterizing gay men in a more varied light. It shows that gay men are not just the bee hived librarians that Queer Eye and Will & Grace make them out to be. They love, hate, have sex and develop relationships on friendly and romantic levels. The fact that (I feel) the acting is slightly sub-par can easily be overlooked for how daring and true to life this show can actually be at times.

We're in a war right now. I'm not entirely certain that people that fight for gay rights understand this war, or even realize its presence. We have people that bow to the current norm and take it as face value as acceptance from society. A good example of this is the subculture I call "the 12 year old girls trapped in middle aged men's bodies" that read Tiger Beat and listen intently to Lindsey Lohan’s newest single. Then there are people like Dan Savage who actively engage in the fight for homosexual equality (I do not claim to be one or the other either, I just comment on the facts as I see them).

Granted that state by state, country by country gay men have begun to receive more rights on a global level than were ever provided to them before. But here in America, when you're given the option of a civil union, or domestic partnership that provides you with none of the 1,138 federal rights of an actual legal marriage, doesn't it seem like gay and lesbian people are just given the booby prize to shut them up? Personally, I would rather have a legally binding contract that is upheld in all 50 of the United States. Not a cheap consolation that would be null and void when I take a vacation in Florida and can't get into the hospital room because I'm not "family" while my loved one lies prone and paralyzed, nearer to death with every breath because a venomous jellyfish stung him.

This is a war, and instead of being called to arms, most gay men would rather cash in their dicks for thirty seconds of airtime. The next time you have a chance to be the feature of a gay themed television show about free makeovers for overweight, bald republicans, or the next time you're asked to play the promiscuous yet horribly desexualized "Jack" type character on the next "Will & Grace" think about how the price of your 15 minutes of fame is more than just your own personal dignity. To sell your sexual identity for a coveted role comes at the expense of your fellow gay men. To be illustrated as subservient commodities instead of actual people who are entirely willing to fight for something that they deserve is to take a giant leap backwards in a fight for equality.

The day that we finally have gay comic book heroes, gay video game characters, gay television shows on regular programming TV that actually show the sexual aspect of gay life is far from today. But that doesn't mean that we can't do anything today to make it happen for tomorrow. We can no longer lie like dogs while our bones are being taken away. This is a war on a different kind of terrorism. If you have ever been afraid to hold your man's hand in public, or kiss at the movies, or share a fork in the food court, then the time has come for guerilla warfare. The time has come to rise up and take position in the gay militia and fight.

But first let me go make myself over.