venezuela, ukraine: there they have pride. there they want freedom. here, we face one of the most effective exercises of totalitarian power ever created: a universal system of continual surveillance. why aren't we out in the streets, filling molotov cocktails and erecting barriers against storm troopers? because americans of our time hate and fear liberty, and love and respond sexually to their own subordination. all we want is to be raped by repulsive idiots such as james ("fucking") clapper.
russia is capable of producing pussy riots. we are capable only of producing squads of hillary clintons: currently focus-grouping her positions and indeed her entire personality.
i think pop music is very gay. but both hip hop and country have been among the last cultural bastions of homophobia; we live in a rather complex cultural landscape, don't we? the tv series nashville has a sub-plot involving a closeted male performer who is a sex symbol for women. one theorizes that this may have happened to randy travis, for example. back in the 90s, you could still say things like: travis has been accused of being gay. i speculate that that very great country singer may have been having a very difficult life ever since. on the other hand, i don't think you could say that country music is infested with actual anti-gay rants, routine insults and so on like hip hop is. what it's full of is normative heterosexuality. but on either racial end, it is only now even becoming vaguely conceivable for, say, a major artist to come out. (there have been attempts. chely wright came out, but maybe only after her commercial possibilities had petered out. at any rate she was never heard from again.)
i do think the macklemore song 'same love' and his performance at the vma's was a moment. now let's see kanye do something like that. and, in parallel, though without the star-studded mega-spectacle, the first anti-homophobic country song that i've ever heard from a major commercial artist was performed at the cma's: 'follow your arrow' by the really amazing kacey musgraves, who is also, at age 12 or whatever she is, one of the best and most important songwriters in nashville. anyway, i think that the thing below was a bit of a turning point. maybe country music doesn't much matter, but you might contemplate the possible effects of the expression of a completely changed attitude in the places where country is dominant.
the line she's dropping under the usual meaningless censorship constraints is 'roll up a joint...or don't.' really, we don't give a damn how your song sounds. only we can't let you make the noise 'joint'. reallym though, you can't blame anybody, because your little censors, whether at the fcc or wtihin a network, are not in control of the extent of their own intelligence. you know? no one decides to be stupid. it's all inadvertent, really.
that song is by far the most optimistic thing on kacey's 'same trailer, different park'. as many have remarked, kacey's is essentially a very bleak vision, and, i would add, also a very traditional realist project (courbet's, e.g.), which is also a project of hip hop (or was until there was nothing left except brand-name consumer products): representing the experience of, say, shattered working-class or impoverished families and neighborhoods (try 'merry go round') .
a ritual enactment of heterosexuality and a great country song:
one way to think about kacey would be as a melancholic taylor swift, natural because they're both about the same age, they're both astonishingly good writers, they both are kind of modely-looking. but that would unfair to kacey, who is an original figure. also they each have a very distinctive melodic sense, and they are very different. still, it's pretty cool to sort of have the light and the dark side of of girlish genius; they're a nice yinyang.
you know, it is kind of annoying how much easier it seems to be for pretty than for non-pretty people to make it as musicians. it's kind of irrelevant. but on the other hand, one shouldn't infer from the fact that someone is pretty that they're not good. if the looks helped in these particular cases to get the music out there, the looks did us all a favor.
whatever cory booker's sexual orientation is, he gives exactly the right response: "I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.’" this is especially the right response if, as his gay friend jonathan capehart says, he is straight. it's kind of difficult to say something like that, actually, and one feature of straight men (say of my generation) is that we/i were/are/am often extremely anxious to establish that we are not gay. i think probably at least for the first x years of this blog (started 2004), for example, i probably rarely or even never wrote about any issue of sexual orientation without finding a way to assure everyone that i'm straight. (there, i did it again!) i tried to stop doing that later. well, that there is homophobia, and booker's is the courageously right approach, especially in the middle of a senate campaign, for god's sake.
Soon after moving into Liberace's gaudy Las Vegas mansion in 1977, Scott Thorson, then a teenage hunk in the foster care system, learned that the jewel-smitten showman could love just as extravagantly as he decorated. Touring the premises before their relationship began, Liberace pointed out some decorative highlights, which included 17 pianos, a casino, a quarry's worth of marble and a canopied bed with an ermine spread. On the ceiling was a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel with Liberace's face painted among the cherubs.
When the pair became a couple, Liberace, who was 40 years older, was just as excessive. He couldn't bear to let Thorson out of his sight.
"We were at a hotel in Florida, and Liberace had the manager give us another suite, with windows that faced the beach," said Thorson, now 54. "He knew I'd be near the water and he wanted to be able to look at me."
i guess liberace is being treated as a profoundly liberatory figure. now, was the admirable part the abuse of foster children? or maybe it was the music? it's as though we were lionizing the lifestyle of roman polanski, and also it's as though roman polanski's movies just sucked all day every day. if you make such people your heroes or aesthetic exemplars, you better face up to the fact that you could have chosen something else instead, and the fact that you didn't really says more than i need to know about your taste or decency or intelligence.
look i understand that you can get into a mode where the worse something sucks the better it is. maybe you get sick of stuff that keeps trying to mean something; maybe good taste gets oppressive. but there are many kinds of cool schlock, mindless yet amusing cant, kitsch that arises from the depths of human depravity or consumer capitalism. the liberace variety of grotesque conspicuous consumption, excruciating mediocrity, and total, fatal corruption is only one of your myriad liberatory possibilities. for god's sake try something else.
i suppose one possibility is that all the aesthetic and ethical problems are redeemed by the homosexuality. really, you might want to think about that again. or: maybe my critique is driven by homophobia. so, really, you're going to put liberace above criticism on the grounds that he had sex with men (while denying it in public)? there's nothing wrong with men having sex with men (though i do hold that there might possibly be smething wrong with men having sex with boys), but on the other hand there isn't anything heroic about it either. also it doesn't per se improve your art, if any. also, if you will excuse my saying so, it's common as dirt and just not that outstanding or interesting.
obviously, i've been working on a chart of the interplay of gender, orientation, and aesthetics. in a positive moment in my aesthetic critique of girls and gay men, i said we love y'all anyway, in part because of the differences. now let me try to say a bit more about why, and how i'm thinking about this.
first you get the disclaimer: everything is at an absurdly general level; like, for example, david halperin, i'm trying to describe a cultural imaginary; no person occupies any point in the taxonomy with perfect centrality - and that goes for male and female as well as gay and straight and the various clusters of taste. also every interstice is occupied. i'm identifying an aesthetic coalition of straight women and gay men, and i'm saying that this alliance accounts for a lot of the way things look and sound in popular culture; i suppose one could sum it up like this: a celebration of artifice, an apotheosis of appearance, an orientation toward spectacle. but then just to portray the other side, where i was trying to pair lesbians and straight men, as the wholesale outlet of reality or sincerity or something would just be begging the question in favor of what i'm calling 'our side'. because, true, the appearance/reality split itself needs all sorts of examination. but one way it needs it is precisely as a gendered and orientated pair. it's a complementary system, a yin yang. you can't have one without the other. but i could also say: we're classical, you're baroque. you're rococo, we're neo-classical. you're impressionist, we're cubist. you're pop, we're minimalist.
look i think all these things arise in a system of complements, but then you've got to put them in action in time, like art movements, which they also literally are; they merge and diverge, divide within and coalesce across; the situation at a given time is complex and it's in the middle of reconfiguration. without touching the biology or genetics at all, the way male and female and straight and gay function makes them, i think obviously, interdependent and unstable. the center can be seen in all the sexual and erotic and aesthetic pairings, all the ways people in different groups are drawn to each other and repelled by each other, all the places and ways they merge and segregate themselves from each other, and each other from themselves: psychologically, linguistically, musically, visually, sexually.
the distinction between straight women and straight men - the immense venus/mars differences that supposedly make us incomprehensible to each other - are of course also the center of heterosexual erotics. right? we want to be incomprehensible to each other, and hence be ourselves. this really is actually symbolized in the yin yang, for example: it's a fucking cosmology of difference. and within heterosexuality, the differences become more and more intense because they are the center of the erotic lives of both sorts of people: men get manlier and drive trucks and watch sports, women get girlier and wear frills and makeup and stuff. they drink chardonnay and gossip or whatever. yo we despise that. we can't stand that shit. but what it means to be heterosexual is to emphasize the differentiation and want precisely people who drink creamy lattes and have closets full of incomprehensible grooming products. we are conniving to make ourselves so different that we can't communicate, and so different that we can't not want, can't not be for one another what the other lacks. then again, precisely because of wanting, we are drawn into proximity. we get to know each other. we want to be friends. we are frustrated that we can't communicate. we try. we oscillate toward similarity, and of course we are massively the same as embodied human beings and as part of the same culture or system of identities, even if our bodies and cultures are a bit different too. we try to approach our heterosexual relationships homosocially.
but and so, i don't think there's any objective normative weight in the eroticization of difference: sameness can also be eroticized (and every nuance in between). so we might call that homonormativity or, you know, yinyin or yangyang. well, guess what: heterosexual men and women are the same in that we are heterosexuals, and gay men and women are both gay. so this dimension is not just in play within gay and lesbian groups. now, as, say, lesbians emerge into a kind of erotic solidarity, straight men are migrating to similar symbol systems and erotic configurations, and vice versa: or as the hets push out they enter into an erotics of identification with the homos of the other gender, scattering outliers throughout the journey. one thing i'm trying not to do here is make the het categories fundamental; or to define the homo categories as parasitic on the het categories: i do think in their contemporary configuration they are mutually simultaneously caused, and inconceivable except as a whole system.
the thing is almost an erotic vortex or tornado, in which people are pulled in all sorts of directions by identifications and by disidentifications or disavowals. so the fact that i'm not female, and that i signal that with an entire repertoire - the way i move, the way i dress or groom, the way i adorn my environment, and so on - just is also the fact that i'm male: a complete aesthetic arsenal, but one that only makes sense in relation to its complements. and then the fact that i'm straight: well, that makes use of the same stuff. and so does the fact that you're not a straight woman. and then, with a tilde, that you're not a lesbian; then, that you're a gay man; then, with a tilde, that i'm a straight man, and so on, on each whirl picking up more debris, the whole thing changing shape as it spins.
pretty soon, you have, for example, the diva thing and all its doubly complex longings for the same and for the different. look one thing a diva is likely to be is a sex symbol among heterosexual men: the diva manifests various flavors of extreme femininity. and gay and straight men end up appreciating beyonce from different angles, but certainly erotically both ways round. if, say, lesbians at a certain point distinguish themselves from straight women by identifying with masculinity, then part of masculintiy is precisely eroticizing femininity: voila, lipstick. or if gay men are disavowing heterosexuality by disavowing masculinity or identifying as feminine, then part of being feminine is eroticizing masculinity: pretty soon you've got muscle-bound dudes with mustaches everywhere, more masculine than me by a ways.
but then these pairs might also put the eroticization of differences at an ironic distance, might put them in play, might be too conscious of them to regard them as natural, might see them as erotic resources rather than unbridgeable gaps. and that might be something you could teach us: to stop regarding our own sexuality as natural etc, or to not regard it as only natural, to see that it too is at least in part a performance, and put us in a position where performances of straightmaleness could be critiqued by straight males from different angles, or to see even paradigmatic enactments of masculinity as vulenrable to aesthetic and other sorts of critique. a muscley straight guy with a mustache might re-think his look and come to think of it as intentional. meanwhile, the hets are yearning across the gap and trying to keep the other side's interest or loyalty, and you've got straight women in business suits and metrosexuals. even in a very simplified picture of sameness difference/sameness sameness, there is a constantly volatile swirl of possibilities within all the groups and between them.
there are many oppressions in this unfolding situation, long histories of oppressions that are also eroticized, as dominance and submission, for example. alright? but still we do not want to be without the thing, because then we'd stop wanting, and also become incomprehensible to ourselves. and there are also many liberations, many zones of liberation, many stonewalls. all sorts of loves and all sorts of beauties are opened up as possibilities in the midst of the storm; it's the longings opening up within and across that make the beauty possible or give rise to it or even are it. the het male beauty of a michael jordan or a v-8 engine, the gay beauty of a judy garland or the exact right outfit. and it would not be crazy to look at these as both homo as well as hetero-erotic, as expressing solidarity and difference at once, or the erotics of identification and the erotics of distinction. there might even be transpositions over time as an expressions of yearnings-across.
what you actually want to do with these identities is not destroy or overcome them: no one really has that power even if they are sheer or mere cultural constructions. what you want to do is play with them. we need to try to reduce some of the weight, or some of the power of these systems to configure hatreds even as we try to hold on to the ways they configure loves: hatreds of the same and hatreds of the different. for these are also systems of exclusion, of course, or that's just to say the same thing again. what you want to try to do is increase the pleasure of them and decrease the pain, and i say the best place to focus and celebrate is the art, taking art at its broadest possible sweep, from body presentation to food to music to scent to interior design to cityscape. this is where the play of differences is relatively harmless, but profound. you can't have the identities without exclusions or at least judgments of taste that more or less condemn what is in contrast. but a question is: to what extent can you have these judgments without contemplating destruction? we often actually do pretty well at that, and straight guys in particular need to do it better without abandoning ourselves.
so one thing i am not going to do is just try to disown my male straightness. rather i am actually going to celebrate its aesthetic. we have given a lot of great stuff to the world, and we are, in our own way, extremely aesthetically oriented, or if you could take the oppression out, what you'd have left would be all kinds of interesting symbols and gestures, including all these signifiers of sincerity and authenticity and simplicity, hard work and self-discipline. you might think those are oppressive ideas; you don't actually want to be without them though. that's how we want to be seen, how we dress, how we want to think, how we want to talk.
i think the oppression has been taken out of this aesthetic repertoire at least to this extent: gay male/straight female aesthetics dominates our culture, even if it's still for the most part (apparently! straight men might always be gay men passing) straight men in congress or the board room. now, i say that our various aesthetic expressions and principles constitute a contribution and that you love us for it. and we don't want to lose it partly because of course you do want it. need it, i believe. and of course these categories play out in the tornado in a complex and equivocal way: we become self-deluded in our dedication to the simple truth, and y'all come out of the closet or delight to dress fashionably as an expression of the truth that should not be hidden. bruce springsteen - dressed simply, workin hard all night - might be as much of a gender/orientation re-enactor as rupaul, but might be less conscious of it.
and then i will say, albeit with some grudgingness because i do have the aesthetics i do have, that y'all have made all sorts of contributions too. and even if they were correctly described as frivolity or play or appearance or pop or hedonism or melodrama or spectacle: well, who the hell wants to live without those things in the world, right? anyway, even if i tried to withdraw from them, the withdrawal is defined by their presence. but i don't withdraw: i distinguish myself from them and i eroticize them, see? but looking at it the other way round: hedonism is not sufficient for anyone's liberation. liberation requires hard work, and you want to liberate yourself into something true or meaningful. on the other hand, folks like me seem to be somewhat pleasure or play-deprived. you need anger, but we're perhaps too angry. sheer insulation or ever-growing polarization are unfortunate, but they also intensify the yearnings that end up in new syntheses.
in short, we should really love each other. secretly or not, we do. we certainly need each other and depend on each other and want each other. we should stay different and we should yearn and try to appreciate. we should slum in each other's bars from time to time, and smile, etc. right? i think if you let these things play with you and play with them, the system might become more liquid or improvisational or multi-dimensional. but really who knows? it might even get more extremely differentiated or simplified, which could be interesting too if it doesn't freeze. but you want to start thinking of the gender/sexuality square as an immense set of aesthetic resources, which are also ways to be.
so, y'all think you can dance. could jerome robbins or rudolf nureyev improvise a great dance while you were trying to kick his ass? didn't have the stones, baby. but my people can do that. and we go a step further too: we dance while we kick your ass. we kick your ass by dancing.
people like jill filipovic are spearheading a revival of classic second-wave feminism; she's amazingly appealing in a way just by being foursquare where ms. was in '72. but she definitely is writing in a different era; she has to deal now with her own love of fashion, which when you feed it through second-wave feminism just comes out as false consciousness. she takes a traditional line: women have to care about their appearance so much and engage in these consumption patterns and so on because the expectations on women's appearance by the patriarchy are so throrough and extreme; you can't survive an office job without carefully calibrating, etc.
this is a complete misunderstanding of where we are as a culture, i think. the fashion world is an aesthetic coalition of straight women and gay men that has developed autonomously for decades and which surely cannot, at this point, be plausibly regarded as sub-altern. (you have to think about these identities as combinations of privileged and deprivileged elements: gay, but male (and also, er, white); female, but straight (and white, etc.). they are not exactly only oppressed minorities.) we heterosexual guys for the most part have no idea what is happening or why and we don't care. perhaps straight women theorize that we have very fine-grained expectations about their appearance. not by their standards, we don't. so look, let's take the common obsession with shoes. if you think your 60-year-old het male boss at the real estate company is evaluating your shoes every day, or has any idea what the styles or brands or prices may be, or can distinguish a manohla or whatever it is from a target store brand, you're just wrong. 'aren't those boots from last year?' or 'i wonder whether those are knock-offs,' say, are sentences that simply cannot appear in the idiolect of people like me.
maybe straight women just stopped being subordinate to straight guys and started being subordinate to gay guys. if so, i think that was your call, not ours, though perhaps you were sheltering together against the storm of us. on antm or on the pages of vogue or seventeen: who is taking the pictures, designing the clothes, working the images over in photoshop, selecting the models, judging or training the contestants, doing the make-up? you might compare the images there to those in maxim, for example. the images that come from the het-wo/gay-man side are much more relentless, much more processed, and the models are skinnier. what the readers of maxim want is pretty straightforward: pretty girls in lingerie. on the other side is a gigantic fantasy world of images and identities that we just didn't build for you, that we could not possibly have imagined.
it would be worth exploring how far one could go with the speculation that the way the images look has less to do with what straight men want to do than with what gay men want to be. they are hard to explain on any other terms, i believe. that might be the overriding source of the repertoire. this could plausibly be extended way backwards to when fashion designers and people who were dressing movie stars were still at least nominally in the closet. people like camille paglia or david halperin have looked back for the slightly-concealed gay sources of all sorts of arts and culture; what they say is plausible. but, it has got to be plausible for better and worse. finding the impetus in gay men probably gives straight women too little agency in the whole thing (as little as second-wave feminism attributed to them with regard to the hetmale gaze), and whatever the source, the images obviously work very powerfully on many straight women. one thing to consider: gay men are men, and straight women are women. the exercise of patriarchal power is possible, or indeed structurally inevitable, between the two groups in patriarchy, even if the story gets complicated after that. the gaze of a gay man is the gaze of a man.
at any rate, i'll tell you this: straight guys could not possibly have invented this repertoire; it corresponds to nothing we ever knew or envisioned. maybe it wasn't straight men who conveyed the message that you should stop eating and disappear, after all. (really, we never did want you to disappear. we needed your bodies with us, even if we didn't always want to have every piece of the subjectivity.) then think about the inextricably intertwined fantasy and shame that a gay man might have experienced in 1970 or whenever, and think about how images of what gay men wanted to be might really have come out. that is a rather brutal diagnosis. but...is it clearly false? that would need showing in the details of the history.
so first of all, maybe you shouldn't feel bad or wrong or anti-feminist for literally buying into that world. one thing it actually is is a sphere in which oppressed minorities have found power and self-determination (others have found there only prejudice and exclusion, however). but if you do feel funky about it, for god's sake you can't blame us (though we have plenty of actual oppression to answer for); the whole thing is internal to a culture that is closed to folks like us or is explicitly designed to extrude us and that we basically find incomprehensible. the standards of beauty it enforces really have very little to do with anything we ever thought or wanted. take some responsibility.
so to fend off the pernicious girl/gaydude aesthetic, now dominating everything and described primitively below, i think that a conscious arts coalition of straight guys and lesbians is called for. we're being thrown together anyway, and it's just as well because have you seen those people's taste? dress plainly, my people, love your woman right, and listen to excellent roots music. you're not going to believe this but i think we might like the same pornography! who knows? maybe they do too. as each other, i mean.
nothing from a broadway musical is permitted on this here jukebox. sorry, no, we don't serve mojitos. take your sparkles, your designer bag, your cosmetic surgery, your self-esteem issues, your david bowie and beyonce and boy bands, your theatrical emoting, and get em up out this bar, girl; you'll be more comfortable next door. you'll dig the techno. it's supposedly raining men over there again, so you better hurry. dunno, dude, they wander in here sometimes. slummin i guess.
we love y'all in spite of it all, though - even because of it a bit, maybe - and some of us will see some of y'all later on. or let's take in a movie saturday night, sweetie; we can split up by sexual identities in the lobby. you guys can do les mis: just please, i'm begging you, don't come home with the soundtrack. it would be wrong to make us pay for a ticket to that or to force us to smile vaguely and say it wasn't as bad as we thought it might be. you go look for something with amazing costumes; me and my lesbians will rummage around, hoping for explosions. actually, i heard this multiplex might be installing separate entrances. we can meet back here when it's over. we deeply respect foodies, fusion, the chew, and stuff, but we're going to need strictly segregated restaurants, so we can enjoy a burger and a beer without all that chatter. what we need is a tvroom of our own. you guys should go shoe-shopping together. we'll just stay here and watch the game. seriously, it's fine!
if i go down this road, believe me i know that i am liable to hit a mine. so, i'll begin by saying that the boy scouts should change their policy on gay participation immediately. you just can't profile like that, and you should think about how you would feel or do feel about being tarred with the notion that you might be an abuser on the basis, not of anything you have ever done or thought about doing, but on the basis of your demographic segment. also, if there has been a problem of abuse, i feel that people who are out of the closet are a lot less likely to be the sorts of people who abuse boys than those who are huddled within it, and all these bans ever did was build more closets. any policy with that effect should be repudiated on the spot.
but still, i get a bit sqeamish. i was myself a boy scout and let's just say there were some weird 'your hand's on my knee' moments and unsettling rumors. and...perhaps you might want to think about how some of the gay men you've actually known or been have regarded very young men. oh, the cult of justin timeberlake as it existed a decade or so ago, say. now, you might say that het males are no better with very young women, as we might put it. once i knew a dude with a cheerleader fetish that was extraordinarily disturbing after awhile. right, but then again, as a parent, for example, you wouldn't necessarily be absolutely comfortable if girl scout troops or cheer squads were led by heterosexual men. of course, i am also going to assert that my proclivities don't run in that direction at all, and i am going to be pissed if cast under suspicion just in virtue of being a het male. so i am saying that the other way round too.
this is the sort of thing that turns women, and even men, against men in general, by the way; there and not in orientation is where the people with the problem are clustered.
speaking of beyonce i would say in 2002 that justin timberlake's audience was made up primarily of teenage-or-so girls and, you know, 40-something men. it is an aesthetic alliance worth pondering. now speculating on the basis of inadequate data, i would guess that beyonce's audience is somewhat similar, which is rather surprising in some respects. (yo this gender/identity thing is remarkably complex.) i have as it were exposed the entry below to some of my students. and of course college-age guys think beyonce is the very ultra-concentrated essence of hot. so they have her poster up, even. but is that who eagerly awaits her new release or listens to it over and over, dancing about? or goes to the concert when not encouraged by the gf? also i know nothing about beyonce's currency among gay men, but i am assuming that a drag show is inconceivable without her.
why the agreement on justin and beyonce, and perhaps on a number of other things? here's a notion. paraphrasing eve kosofsky sedgwik, there are two modes of the erotic: who you want to make out with and who you want to be. so, the girls and the gay men both wanted to...kiss timberlake, and they both wanted to be beyonce. not everyone, of course.
we might think of girls and gay men as for some purposes a single group of consumers of mass culture, and it is, not to be nasty about it or anything, rather a consumption-oriented demographic. what someone like me is always going to say is: too much surface, not enough depth; too much appearance, not enough reality; too much spectacle, not enough art; a naive aesthetic on one end, a too-ironic, worse-the-better, exceedingly decadent aesthetic on the other.
now, you should, if you do, enjoy this material. but you can't put it beyond criticism on the sheer ground that it emerges from or appeals to in-other-respects admirable groups; nor can you, i believe, safely chalk up the criticisms to sexism or homophobia, though that could be an element in a given straight dude's response. that doesn't show that you don't, to put it gently, have an extreme sucking problem lurking in your culture. so, you might have an alliance between 60-something women (who were younger in 1970) and gay men on barry manilow. nice! groove. buy. but you're going to have a long day defending that crap. well the coalition has had better moments: bowie, say, though i'm still, with complete sincerity and total commitment, nominating 'space oddity' for worst song ever to chart. or 'glee' is pretty good.
so if i'm ragging on beyonce, it's just who i am. but i'll also say this to any re-visitors. i gave reasons not to like beyonce. so far, i haven't heard much in the way of replies to those, only, "no matter what, beyonce is the greatest." i completely defend your right to like what you like. but there might be some pretty devastating drawbacks, or to be fairer, things you might be missing, or ways you might develop.
david halperin is one of the people trying to re-enrich gayness after the genetic meltdown. well, among other things, this is a foucault approach, and halperin has been one of the very best readers of foucault.
“Gayness,” Mr. Halperin declares, “is not a state or condition. It’s a mode of perception, an attitude, an ethos: in short, it is a practice.” The great value of traditional gay male culture, he further posits, perhaps even more challengingly, “resides in some of its most despised and repudiated features: gay male femininity, diva worship, aestheticism, snobbery, drama, adoration of glamour, caricature of women and obsession with the figure of the mother.”
now let me ask me this: what does it mean - how does it relate to my heterosexuality or to my homophobia - that i reject the gay aesthetic repertoire more or less entirely? and i don't mean that i sit there and think 'that's too gay': i mean just flatly coming on such things i dislike them without effort or reflection; i wouldn't spend any money on them, e.g. i try to avoid divas of any kind at all costs in life or in entertainment. it's not that broadway musicals never had a good moment, but i find the whole style basically uninteresting: wow you just burst into extremely predictable song and dance there right in the middle of your life. cool. fun. oops i'm really fucking bored. the figure of judy garland does not interest me at all, or no more than a thousand other dead actors or celebrities. i abhor glamour. i would go far out of my way to avoid any exposure to opera of any kind, except maybe gilbert and sullivan. i do so love a snob, though, har har.
so my aesthetic repertoire is just the opposite of gay, i guess (not that there might not be the occasional overlap). and i certainly developed the basic set of preferences before i fully understood the sexual sub-culture signifiers (to the extent they were in place in 1972 or whatever). but i did develop these preferences at the same time that i was trying - i'd say with some embattledness - to establish a straight sexual identity. in a way, maybe every time i put on a merle haggard record i am fending off gayness or experessing homophobia.
but on the other hand, no one is really a monster in virtue of their sheer aesthetic preferences. can it be morally wrong to prefer flatt and scruggs to verdi or to dislike rococo interiors? first off, it's not under my control, exactly; i just do, though of course tastes can be pursued or cultivated. and second: it's not that i can't make actual arguments for these preferences; i do it all the time.
at any rate, i propose to criticize my own homophobic tendencies in almost any dimension but the aesthetic. i intend to promote equality and liberty for all god's creatures. but i don't propose to pretend that i think judy garland made better music than muddy waters. we're in a great gay moment. i propose to approve this politically with all my heart and soul while rolling my eyes at its aesthetic products.
you're probably not going to be too sympathetic to the example i'm going to use, but i want to say that the pragmatic theory of truth, and also the idea that truth is a social artifact produced by convention or agreement (rorty: 'truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying') is just wrong. their negations would be nearer the mark. ok sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. now note: i am not declaring that to be false. i am declaring that the enforced social consensus about it should make you suspect that it is. the proponents of such a view believe that its acceptance would have excellent political results. here's a very clear way to see what's wrong with pragmatism: the political results are irrelevant to the truth of claim, and they yield a motivation for purveying the view that is disconnected from its truth. this is obvious. whether sexual orientation is imprinted on your genes: the evidence on that has to do with genes etc: a happy polity is neither here nor there. believing it might help you toward self-acceptance; well that's obviously completely irrelevant to the truth of the claim.
if a factual claim is being insisted on by people for whom the truth of the claim would produce desired political results, you should immediately provisionally assume that the way the opinion was generated had to do with those desired results and not with the evidence for the claim. for example: paul krugman says that austerity has demonstrably failed. and science is a social world as well as a quest for truth, and as the matter linked above shows, one that is fully capable of pressuring people into expressing agreement about factual matters for completely irrelevant political reasons.
i think along these lines you should suspect scientists just like anyone else; they too are immensely subject to the social enforcement of ignorance. think seriously for a second about the actual social consequences spitzer faced for his position. after the gantlet of beatings and ostracisms, anything he says should be viewed as likely to be mere capitulation.
one reason this is a good illustration is that the whole politics and self-esteem-enhancing aspects of the position could easily reverse valence. so once we get some tiny way beyond the stigma, perhaps people would like to regard their selves as things that they had themselves a hand in creating. 'it's not my fault!' might give way to a pride that could happily take some responsibility. whatshisname on glee: "i'm gay; i create culture." but only because you absolutely can't help yourself? once the choice would not be regarded as evil or defective, you might be happy to have made it. after awhile, "i'm sorry, i can't help being black,' would itself be regarded as a projection of racism, as this thing is of homophobia.
i actually think that the way people arrive at a sexual identity is immensely complex: a course of genetic elements, social situations, contingent events, individual decisions and so on. but the point here is: whatever evidence there is for the present consensus position, it is thoroughly socially and pragmatically useful or essential according to its proponents. that's why the evidence is very likely to be distorted. the social situation is such that an honest attempt to find the truth is unlikely for anyone.
truth is what your contemporaries will hang you for saying. truth is what does not work in the way of belief. ok those are not adequate theories of truth. but they're better than rorty's.
well, that obama finally endorsed gay marriage is a relief. actually i do think it took some guts to do it before the election. but really it ought to be a matter of conscience, which is what biden was saying.
this situation in which ric grenell was on a foreign-policy conference call but under a demand for silence is intensely disturbing and it is truly an emblematic moment, a time when reality actually seems intent on providing symbols like a fable, as if it were being directed by terrence malik. it might as well have been: get your fag ass back in the closet. surely this morning grenell can't be thinking of himself as a republican. after that, if these accounts have anything to do with what actually happened, no one ought to.