Sublimefemme Tells All, No. 12

Femmes don’t observe gender rules; we discover new and unpredictable ways to break them.


“But Sublime and Van are married!”

My partner Van and I have been together for longer than most straight couples we know.  Friends recently told us that they were explaining battles about Prop 8 to their extremely precocious daughter, who is all of 5 years old. They talked with her about how families take different shapes and sizes, but how same-sex couples don’t have the right to marry. And this charming little girl said immediately to her parents, “But Sublime and Van are married!”

She’s right; we are.  But like many progressives, feminists and radical queers, my relationship to the institution of marriage is ambivalent.  I’ve never been a part of the LGBT right-to-marry movement, and in fact have been critical of it since its inception.  There’s no question (in my mind anyway) that we’ve paid a terrible price for the movement’s myopic focus on marriage equality, privileging the issues of a largely white, middle-class movement whose race and class privilege and affords them some protection from the most brutal effects of institutionalized oppression and violence, which disproportionately affect poor, immigrant and people-of-color communities.  

That said, I think it’s a mistake to see the recent protests against Prop 8 simply as the queer community coming together to support gay marriage.  Of course, it’s partly true that people are waving their rainbow flags for marriage, but I think it’s also true that they are unifying against forms of legal and economic discrimination that strip queers of rights.  I’m all about radical queer critiques of the institution of marriage–but I’m nevertheless vehemently opposed to Prop 8 and ballot initiatives of its kind.  They are intentional efforts to disenfranchise citizens and need to be fought by all civil rights proponents. 

I also think that questions about the economic underpinnings of the marriage debate–as well as the question of who marriage benefits–need to be asked more.  My state gov’t, which is also my employer, doesn’t recognize my union with Van so I cannot get health insurance for her through my job.  I always tell people about this and the huge impact it has on our lives because, all too often, it seems like people forget about the very real, material effects of excluding some couples and families from “the charmed circle” (to borrow Gayle Rubin’s famous formulation).  

But why should anyone have to be married in order to have access to a basic human right like health care?  I would like to see queers participating in a larger conversation about economic benefits and justice for all–one that recognizes the diversity of families, partnerships and households rather than requires people to conform to the traditional nuclear family (which is no longer a norm for most Americans, anyway).  Furthermore, for marriage equality to be inclusive of intersex, genderqueer and transgender people, marriage rights cannot be contingent on narrow definitions of sex, which the “same-sex marriage” movement has largely failed to interrogate. 

Can we aspire to a world in which marriage is an option and legal right for queer people, instead of the only way to secure benefits and economic and legal recognition?

Shop Til You Drop

What does shopping mean?  In her post, “A Truly Black Friday,” buddistfemme discusses how a 34-year-old, part-time worker was trampled to death by a mob at a Long Island Walmart as shoppers rushed the doors early this morning.  It’s a terrible image of the social scene engendered by consumerism, and it got me thinking about the consumer frenzy that has come to define the holiday season and the typical misconceptions about it.  

Consumerism appears to be something quite different from what it truly is.  The truth about shopping is revealed in a great essay by Jean Baudrillard called “Consumer Society.”  Here’s some food for thought before you head to the mall:

The world of consumer society is actually a world of “general hysteria.”  This is because the “profusion” of commodities–the spectacle of objects that makes you salivate when you go to the mall–is designed to overcome the consumer’s logic and produce a “frenzy of purchasing and possession.”  

Despite what economists say, consumerism is not about fulfilling needs.  We go from one object to the next because we’re trying to fulfill a desire that fundamentally cannot be satisfied.  You can never really get your “fix.” What we “need” is not the particular object but social meaning.  

Although it seems like consumerism is about pleasure and indulgence, it’s actually just the opposite.  Shopping is not a pleasure but the citizen’s duty.

Failing to consume, especially during the holidays, is seen as unAmerican.   If you say that you’re satisfied with what you have, that you don’t need to “shop til you drop,” you’re risking being asocial.   

Although consumerism is a mode of socialization, what we’re being socialized into is an individualistic and alienating world.  Maybe one reason why consumerism is so often associated with a feeling of emptiness (after the “high” of the purchase) is because it isolates and stratifies us, instead of bringing us together.

Those frenzied Walmart shoppers are not the exception but the rule.   They are us.

The Feminine Mystique

Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #3. 1977. Gelatin silver print, 7 1/16 x 9 7/16" (18 x 24 cm)
Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #3. 1977. Gelatin silver print, 7 1/16 x 9 7/16

 Photo Credit:  MoMA The Museum of Modern Art, New York

I Want to Look

I’m always interested in how readers find me.  There are those wonderful people who actually are googling “sublime femme” (kisses to you!), but except for them, people seem to arrive at my blog by a familiar set of search terms such as: “what does a lipstick lesbian look like;” “difference between lipstick lesbian and femme;” and “lindsay lohan and samantha ronson.” (Yes, I know; it’s my fault for ever writing about them.)

I often wonder who these googlers are and what drives their desire to know about “stone femme” or “lipstick butch” (those 2 are from today, actually).  When I see “don’t understand the butch femme attraction” in my list of search engine terms, I genuinely hope that person left my blog feeling a little more enlightened than when s/he arrived.

I must admit, I do have an all-time favorite googler: “lesbianism to a point of i want to look.”  This is my letter to you, my voyeuristic friend.

Dear I Want to Look, 

Your googling has caused me more than a few sleepless nights.  I would be more than happy to answer any and all of your lesbo-related queries if you would just tell me one thing:  what exactly do you want to look at?   This does seem to be the heart of the matter.   

But maybe you’re concerned about another kind of lesbian look–wanting to look like a lesbian.  Just to fill you in, dear darling girl, we all look the same.  We’re extremely glamorous and bear a striking resemblance to Angelina Jolie.  But at nights and on weekends, we look like Rachel Maddow.  If this is what you look like, you’re totally gay.

It may be time to ask yourself if you’re ready to take the plunge and become a lesbian.  There are a lot of very reputable and trustworthy tests on the internet to help you make this decision.  Also, you might be interested in reading my manual, Given Up on Men?  Come Over to the Sapphic Side

My nocturnal ruminations about your plight have led me to one conclusion:  Sure, sometimes looking is lesbian, but frankly who doesn’t want to look?  Case in point:  this classic photo of Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield from my post “Sneaking a Peek.”   So my humble advice is this:  Go ahead, look.  Live a little!

Prada and Mulberry dubbed see no evil, hear no evil twins of high fashion

My favorite femme enchantress of numbers, Sarcozona, just posted on gravity’s rainbow about the appalling conditions faced by workers for luxury labels like Prada, Mulberry and Louis Vuitton. Hundreds of leather workers in 3 DESA factories in Turkey earn poverty wages, work long hours, and suffer from a variety of health complaints linked to poor health and safety conditions. The few toilets they have access to are filthy, and the only drinking water is from a hose on the toilet floor.

I’m sickened that workers who make exhorbitantly expensive products are earning poverty wages and subjected to such abusive conditions. These workers are trying to unionize to improve their working conditions, but they’re being harrassed, dismissed and denied their right to organize.

Go to Labourstart and join their online campaign! It just takes a minute to add your name and tell companies like Prada to support the basic rights of the workers who make their products.

You can check out the article from which my title is taken, “Prada and Mulberry dubbed see no evil, hear no evils twins of high fashion” on

Lindsay Lohan and Femme Invisibility

During the past week, my blog stats registered approximately 2500 views, almost all of them because of Lindsay Lohan.  On the highest day of LiLo frenzy, I had over 600 views for my post, “A Lesbian Looks Like…Lindsay Lohan?” 

Despite my best efforts to ignore the LiLo frenzy, I too have been drawn back into its orbit.  But let me make one thing clear:  to those readers who’ve asked me to weigh in on the matter of Lohan’s sexual orientation, you can stop reading now because I won’t be offering my opinion about whether or not Lindsay is lesbian or bisexual, or in or out of the closet.  In keeping with my previous analysis of her “post-gay” coming out, I remain agnostic on the question of her sexuality.  What interests me is how people seem to be invested in uncovering the “truth” of Lindsay’s desire, and yet remain stuck having the same unproductive conversation over and over again.   On message boards and elsewhere, it goes something like this:

Lindsay is a lesbian!! 

No she isn’t, it’s just a stage! (Lindsay fan determined to heterosexualize her idol)

Hello, in case you haven’t noticed she’s been with a girl for months!  Sam Ronson looks like a dude but he’s a girl.  Lindsay is a lez!!  (Idiotic straight guy #1)

No, she’s bisexual. 

What a waste of a gorgeous girl! (Idiotic straight guy #2)

That makes her hotter!  She’s bangin.  (Idiotic straight guy #3)

So what if she is a lesbian or bisexual.  She’s awesome and gorgeous!  Leave Lindsay alone!

With a level of discourse this high, what’s left for your favorite sublimely femme queer theorist to say?!    Well, really just this.  There seem to be two dominant schools of thought about Lindsay’s sexuality, both of which turn on the “problem” of her femininity.  The first position, which I’ve written about before, is that she couldn’t really be a lesbian because, hell, just look at her!  The other position is the inversion of the first.  It claims that Samantha Ronson is a real lesbian (hell, just look at her!) and Lindsay wouldn’t chose a girl like that unless she was herself really queer.  In this reading, it’s the butch’s supposedly irrefutable lesbian appearance that provides evidence for the femme’s queerness.  However, in both cases, queer femininity is fundamentally framed not just as a contradiction in terms but as a disappearing act.  

In her song titled “Rumors,” (insert ironic aside of your choice) Lindsay sings, “I just want to be me.”  But how do you come to terms with yourself in a world that doesn’t even see you?

Transgender Day of Remembrance

In honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, here is queenemily’s “how to mourn” from Questioning Transphobia

How do you mourn someone?  Let alone people you’ve never met?  Why would you?

Transgender Day of Remembrance is not a once-a-year deal.  You don’t show up for services, murmur “lest we forget” and then promptly forget for the rest of the year.  Today lives within us, because we cannot afford to forget.

Still.  Today most of all, we remember those who were killed.  Because we die violently, unmemorialised, and are mocked after our deaths.

Because the world sees us disposable, less than human (and who can mourn that?).  Many of the dead lost their lives because they were trans women of colour, doubly disposable.  Racism is killing our sisters every bit as much as trans misogyny is.

Who would mourn a thing, a that, an it?

Few will respect our lives as they were, and few will mourn them, and they must be mourned.  Their lives were meaningful, their names and genders were real and important, and they lost their lives from hate.

Today we hold on to some memory, even if it only be a name and a photo, so that they are not as erased as completely as their killers would have.

Because the medical people treating them will have tried to erase them.  The media.  The police.  The juries.  Will try to excuse, to render less than real, the lives that have been lost.  Because who would mourn?  Who would bother?

This is not Pride.  This is remembering our dead.  This is not something you can make fucking upbeat and acceptable and call “awareness.”

And yes, today we remember those of us still living–our fear, the fear that lives at the heart of every trans person, that someone will know that we are trans, and will kill us for it.  Today we remember all the other times we murmured “oh fuck” as we read the news.  Today we discover the deaths we missed, because we couldn’t bear hearing about them anymore for awhile, even though we must.  We must.

Sometimes we forget ourselves, you know.  Sometimes we think that if we look like cissexuals, pass like them (are passed like them), that they must accept us.  And we forget that it is only the fact that they have assumed we have the same gender history as them that keeps them from hating us.

We do not live fake lives.  We do not live as nicknames, as aka.  We live hard, we love hard–we have to.  And we deserve to be mourned.

Sublimefemme Tells All, No. 11

If heaven exists, it must have a gorgeous bathroom.


Anchors Aweigh

Bon voyage, my darlings!  I’m writing you from the “penthouse” lido deck of the most uberglam lesbian cruise ever–the mothership of all femme cruises–and we’re just about to set sail!  My debonair escort and I will be traveling to an exotic destination over the rainbow while drinking lots of champagne, indulging in decadent pleasures, and doing beaucoup research for the blog! 

I know what you’re wondering… where exactly is this “over the rainbow” place and do troubles really melt like lemon drops there?   These are very important questions indeed.  I’ll report back, I promise.  In the meantime, know that I already miss you all terribly.  Be naughty while I’m gone so you’ll have lots to tell me when I get back next week!