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?

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Femmes and Flamers Welcome!

What happens when you’re Kate Brown, Oregon’s newly elected Secretary of State and the highest-ranked out bisexual elected official in the United States?  Apparently, Portland’s Just Out, who supported and endorsed you, publishes an article before the election telling you to butch up your look!  Who knew anyone would so mourn the passing of one elected official’s dykey haircut? 

Whether it’s coming from straights or queers, or whether it focuses on Hilary Clinton or Kate Brown, it’s sexist when a woman is told that in order to be a better leader, she needs “better” hair.  Back in the 90s Hilary’s look wasn’t “soft” enough to be first ladyish (excuse me while I throw up), and now Brown’s look isn’t butch enough for some Oregon homos.

Since Brown now has a male partner (scandalous behavior for a bisexual, isn’t it?!), heterosexual privilege is probably the subtext that’s making these queers get their panties in a knot over their new Secretary of State’s hairstyle.  But notice how they displace their anxieties onto femininity, which they represent as the emblem of heteroprivilege?  Certainly, the idea that Brown is betraying the movement by failing to “read” as sufficiently Sapphic reflects longstanding stereotypes that femmes–much like bisexuals–aren’t “real” lesbians/queers. 

At the same time, I think what has happened in Oregon also points to a more pervasive devaluing of femininity.   In her post about this issue, Aviva of Bi-Furious! says, 

I’m offended by this as a bisexual and as a femme. I’ve spent enough time thinking I’m not good enough or queer enough because I don’t have the right haircut, I’m over hearing other people given grief over it. Come to think of it, I’m outraged as a woman as well; I can’t imagine a gay man being told to be a bit more nelly to get community support, and I think that’s all about a demonization of femininity and failure to take it seriously.

Aviva is right.  No queers would write editorials protesting that their gay male elected official needs to be more of a femme.  (e.g. He’s done great work fighting for our civil rights but, sister, he’s just not flaming enough!)  This wouldn’t happen at least in part because femininity is still far too often disparaged by mainstream (read:  white) upwardly mobile gays.  When’s the last time you saw a queen at the helm of some national LGBT rights organization? 

For queer women like Brown, I suspect it’s a catch-22.  If you’re too femme and bi, then gays write editorials about you telling you that you aren’t butch enough to be read as “openly” queer.  But I bet that if Brown were perceived as being “too” butch, these same guys would be writing editorials saying, Would a little lipstick kill her?  

What needs to change is not Kate Brown’s hair.  It’s the narrow minds of those in our communities who expect people to conform to stereotypes in the name of “visibility.”