Tag Archives: queer representation

What’s Kim Kardashian got to do with it?

2 Nov

Okay, so. I am very new to Kim Kardashian. Obviously I knew she existed, and I could have probably picked her out in a line-up but, until very recently, she was completely irrelevant to me. In fact, I am about to argue that she remains completely irrelevant to me; her only and very temporary relevance is that I now feel compelled to speak out against other people’s inference that her life and choices have anything to do with mine.

In the last few days, my Twitter feed has been full of people saying the exact same thing. (Well – most people I follow are white, middle-class, artsy, feminist, queer or queer-friendly, and educated to university standard, so this isn’t really very far out of the ordinary. But, anyway.) In the wake of Kim Kardashian’s now notorious seventy-two day marriage, pretty much everyone has been going, ‘AND YET GAYS COMPROMISE THE SANCITITY OF MARRIAGE.’ And I have been getting fucked off with every single one of them.

For one thing, it’s a logically defunct argument that, because Kim Kardashian is alleged to have had a brief heteronormative marriage for publicity and money-making reasons – an accusation of whose evidence I know little but feel is quite unfair given that divorce and relationship breakdown are usually actually really upsetting, so maybe she’s actually really upset – this means that non-heteronormative couples ought to be able to get married. Before we even get onto my feelings about “gay marriage,” this is wildly problematic, because it still positions marriage between people perceived to be of the “same” gender as something of a deviancy. The argument tacitly runs, ‘because Kim Kardashian can do this supposedly fucked up thing with the institution of marriage, so should people in non-heteronormative relationships,’ which does nothing to challenge the view that marriage between people in non-heteronormative relationships is deviant. Way to promote your cause. (It reminds me a lot of this awesome article about justification of abortion – TRIGGER WARNING.)

For another, taunts about ‘Kim Kardashian’s seventy-two day marriage’ carry the implicit assumption that marriages are not authentic unless they last a certain amount of time. I was particularly interested to note in the last month or so that Mexico is considering offering finite marriage contracts to its citizens which, of course, has also prompted some to complain about the ways in which this might threaten the “sanctity of marriage.” Personally, I feel that, if marriage has to be institutionalised – which I think it does at least in the short term – check-in points during marriages are a great fucking idea, because the idea that anyone would feel anything forever, let alone love someone, is one that I tend to find, in hypothesis, highly idealistic.

I would like to point out here that I do not believe all marriages to be doomed, or all those who choose to get married to be foolish. However, my reason tells me that such a promise would be far better framed as ‘I will always endeavour to be committed to you,’ although I am aware that not all marriage ceremonies involve this promise, and I am also aware that, just because someone promises they will always try to maintain commitment to whatever relationship you have agreed upon, this does not mean that they will actually always do that. I understand that my experiences of being the child of a desperately unhappy marriage and ensuing divorce probably have some sway over the way I feel about this, but I do not think that my approach is solely emotional: I couldn’t, in right conscience, however besotted I was with someone, tell them that I would always love them. I just couldn’t. Because human beings change all the time, and our feelings change all the time, and obviously some people will be more constant than I am, but to promise to be consistently constant? I’m afraid I don’t buy it.

There is also the issue of non-heteronormative couplings by marriage and queer assimilation. I don’t take the view that queer people oughtn’t get married because they’re copying straight people, although I do recognise the potential for oppression that homonormativity carries with it, although I think this potential lies more in those who would seek to oppress non-normative others anyway rather than those who choose to marry their “same-sex” partners. However, I worry about any degree of submission to an institution – and there will be some degree if you are legally married, however you choose to phrase your vows and maintain your relationship – whose history is steeped in oppression. Of course, just because marriage began as the facilitator of possession of women does not mean that it still necessarily does that; this isn’t even really a valid point to raise with many non-heteronormative married couples. But marriage can still function to facilitate oppression, whomever you are marrying – it can compromise recognition of equally important polyamorous relationships, it can compromise the idea of the significance of the non-biological family, and it can impose a hierarchy of importance upon others’ relationships.

I don’t know if my beef with marriage is really reasonable on these grounds – perhaps it’s similar to my feelings of concern regarding that K-Y intense advert and how it might fuel bigoted ideologies. What do you think?

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Boo or hoorah? BOO OR HOORAH?!

5 Sep

Today, I saw a tumblr post reporting the emergence of an advert for K-Y Intense featuring a couple consisting of women, which is due to be first aired today:

On the one hand, I think it’s really rad that, as the original Jezebel post says, a couple consisting of women is being represented for reasons other than the fact that they are a couple consisting of women (obviously I have a bit of beef with the Jezebel post for presuming – and the Deviant Femme post for not questioning the presumption – that they identify as lesbians but, since this niggle isn’t to do with the advert itself, I’ll leave it to one side for now.) The idea of living in a media culture in which more positive depictions of non-heteronormative couples (or groupings) are more frequent is a very pleasant one, and I would really like to think that this advert might pave the way for that kind of environment: I have, after all, never seen an advert involving a couple consisting of women before.

That said, I have a fair few questions and issues with this representation. Following a Facebook comment from a friend of mine, I’ve been thinking about how it is going to be appearing on television (I presume that it will be appearing on television since it has an airing date). How many channels will it be appearing on, and which channels will include it in their advertising breaks? Which programmes will it be shown next to? Is it aimed at an audience of queers/queer women/queer people who have connections with the labels ‘woman’ or ‘female’ (which seems odd since it’s such a comparatively small group and no company ever seems to have done this before), or is it also hoped to function as a tool for promoting further inclusiveness and tolerance (which seems wildly unlikely, although that might just be because I am very cynical about business)? Will it have to adhere to a watershed? I wish I had the means I could find this stuff out myself, although bloggers in a position to might yield this information in time. The answers to these questions make quite a big difference to how positive I feel this advert is, or can be – that it would be on television is, obviously, awesome, but there are lots of degrees of awesome and I don’t want to feel like it’s making-out-with-Lady-Gaga-awesome when it’s actually finding-a-pound-in-your-sofa-when-you-previously-had-38p-to-live-on awesome.

I also have some concerns regarding the way in which women who have or are in relationships with other women are being represented here. I really like the conversational tone and feel it adds to a sense of validity – these characters are clearly very close – as does the friction between the characters when one of them produces the K-Y jelly and derails the other’s serious monologue about the ways in which their relationship is “successful.” I wish very much that there were direct references to orgasm rather than the use of euphemism to shroud it; although it might seem a little “too much” to expect from an advert, this is the first thing that made me feel tense about the representation of positive sexuality without masculine involvement. The second thing that made me feel tense about this was one member of the couple’s use of the phrase ‘like nothing we’ve ever felt before,’ and the reason that these things make me feel tense is because I worry that, for some bigoted viewers, this will support the myth that sex between women can’t be as fulfilling as (specifically penetrative) sex between a heteronormative couple.

Personally, I do not think that the inclusion of lube, sex toys, role play, or any other “marital aids” (lol) in sex compromises the quality of that sex, providing, of course, that those involved are using these tools because that is what they want to do. I don’t think that anyone watching this advert should have the right to use it to bolster their own prejudices about what women “need” in bed, and neither do I think that this advert should be used as “evidence” for the belief that, for a woman, sex with another woman will be inherently less fulfilling than penetrative sex with a man. But just because I believe that the advert should not be used for those purposes doesn’t mean that it won’t be.

I understand that you can’t encapsulate the nuances of any gender politics in something as brief as an advert. I also understand that there is a revolutionary aspect of including a couple consisting of women in an advert without linking their relationship with a heteronormative man. I think what I’m trying to figure out here is whether it is worth the risk. Or, in saying this, am I just pandering to the offensive and oppressive attitudes that I am seeking to minimise? What do you think?

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