And obviously at its root, this discomfort with any behaviour or perception that one might be seen as less than normatively masculine is grounded in society’s fear and hatred of women, which is the source not just of a lot of homophobia and effemiphobia, but as/more importantly the source of misogyny, transmisogyny, and prejudice directed at lesbians (lesbiphobia? i guess?), all of which can be found within the gay male community without having to look that hard.
Also, I don’t want to be presumptuous or make broad sweeping statements about the ‘gaybro’ scene or whatever, but the concepts of ‘bro’ and frat-ness and normative masculinity that are at play here are unmarked but silently seem pretty likely to code racially as white as well? Maybe I’m wrong, but the tone of the article and those interviewed don’t dispel that suspicion. Would welcome other folks’ perspective on that, though, because I am not particularly invested/involvement in bro culture generally, and Canada has a reasonable drinking age and so doesn’t /really/ do frats, so I’m even less familiar with that particular fratbro scene, let alone the different dynamics of frat/bro culture in the US across racial lines.
And I enjoyed it a lot. And Mitchell is a tool. And I like that we take four or five or six episodes to realize that. The pivot towards Jack becoming the character I empathized with more even if I identified more strongly with Mitchell was a nice narrative structure. Mitchell’s self-pity and infatuation with his own intelligence/self-conception as better than other people, and general… awfulness? … is something I understand and have done/been/etc. as a defense mechanism but it’s destructive and counterproductive, and he keeps doing things that ring emotionally true but are just so gross and self-deluded.
Anyway, it’s significantly better than Girls and more enjoyable and more interesting (to me at least).
What it isn’t is more representative. Or more universal. So while the creator of The Outs has done a better job than Lena Dunham at making clear that he’s just contributing one six-episode web series about two characters, and just in general hasn’t (to my knowledge) put his foot in his mouth as blatantly or as offensively as she has on matters of diversity and race and racism, if people praising this series (which I like, despite its small cast of characters and relative lack of diversity) could maybe avoid broad statements about universal appeal and that it shows ‘what it’s like being a gay 20something’ that would be awesome?
It’s about white gay 20something men who work in the creative industry/freelancing/whatever and fall broadly into the alternative/hipster/Metropolitan scene. It’s a good show. It is sometimes a great show. I was surprised by the intensity of feelings a few moments provoked in me.
But don’t claim that it’s something it isn’t, because it does a disservice both to the show itself and to the parts of the queer community that haven’t yet received the (limited, yes, but) nuanced and engaging representation in media and fiction that are getting attention. It’s great that Weekend and The Outs and Keep the Lights On exist, and it’s great that gay film doesn’t necessarily mean melodramatic coming out tragedies or Eating Out 7: The Cruise-y Cruise or whatever, but we can be psyched to have media that we relate to while being aware that this media is still pretty intensely white and UMC, and not take criticism of this media as personal attacks. (Cf. Franchesca Ramsay’s comments about Girls in a recent TC Interview) And maybe find some time in between repeated viewings of The Outs to watch Pariah.
Do I believe? I don’t even know what that means. I don’t think it’s up to me to label someone else as queer or not queer. They’re queer women if they identify as such. If they do, it’s certainly not for me to disbelieve them and if they don’t, it’s certainly not up to me to label them queer. It has been my understanding that both Angel and Azealia identify under the broad umbrella of queerness, but I’m certainly willing to be corrected.
Angel Haze, specifically, has written about and rapped about relationships with women, and spoken at length in interviews about her personal history of sexual abuse, and her same-sex relationships. She has explicitly described herself as bisexual or pansexual and has addressed that in her music since as early as her Altered Ego mixtape.
Azealia has also identified herself publicly as bisexual, and spoken about it here, notably:
So do you feel a special affection for your gay fans?
Definitely. I mean, I’m bisexual, so it makes sense. But I don’t want to be that girl who says all gays necessarily hang out together, of course! I have people say to me, “Oh wow, my friend is gay, too,” and I’m like, “Yeah, so?”
Which is a pretty on-point and eloquent critique of bs that we put up with as queer folks - not that she needs to demonstrate any particular experience to legitimize her identity, but I thought it was a solid response to a condescending question about ‘gay fans’ that a lot of female artists and queer artists get constantly.
But I am not a spokesperson for their sexualities or for the queer community and our relationship with these artists (as if we’re a monolithic community) and I’m especially not a spokesperson for black queer culture and whether or not individuals from certain queer black cultures feel used or appropriated from by queer black hip hop artists who may or may not come from those particular cultural contexts. So um. Again, the best sources for answers to the question “are they queer women” are Angel and Azealia themselves and a cursory google search would have shown a bunch of quotes and articles where they discuss their sexual identity and the way that their sexual identity interacts with their music and the perception of them as artists etc. etc. etc.
Everything else re: the stance of the queer community and issues of appropriation, are something that I can’t speak to or speak for. As a white cis gay men, it’s really really not my place to delineate acceptable uses of queer and trans black culture.
I wasn’t making any statement about whether or not it was wrong for Macklemore to make such a record. Again, I haven’t spent enough time with the record to really analyse the details of his argument and whether it holds up, although trying to convey nuanced political arguments rather than lived experiences in music is always tricky. I feel like you’re trying to pin me down to an answer here, and I’m not making a declarative statement because I don’t think it’s that simple.
I will ask what you mean about “these issues”, because I think that merely by existing and being visible and taking up space and being great rappers putting out great tracks, Mykki and Le1f did a heck of a lot. Beyond that, both of them spoke about “these issues” insofar as they touched on their experiences of homophobia, offered witty and strong-willed rejoinders to those who target them with bigotry, and do so without getting preachy. Le1f threw tons of shade at homophobes, made jokes about converting them to queerness, alluded to the constant fear of gaybashing in a couple of songs, cleverly but pointedly discussed racism in the gay community and the sexual fetishization of queer men of colour, etc. etc. etc.
Angel Haze and Azealia Banks also didn’t explicitly address ‘political’ equality messages either, but Angel writes astoundingly beautiful love raps about falling for women, and while that’s not ‘about these issues’ it’s exactly ‘about these issues’, you know? I think humanizing queer folks and portraying our experiences and rendering us real is an important project. It’s about getting the variety of our voices out there. And it’s not necessarily going to take on the form of an advocacy-type argument. But that doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact.
And while Azealia did have some uncomfortable biphobic and transphobic moments in a few songs, and there are debates over whether her use of ball culture was appropriative or not, she is a very visible queer rapper, and in a number of songs deploys her sexual interest in and prowess with women not as something to titillate men (as often happens in pop music) but rather as something threatening to male superiority. (i.e. from 212 to Esta Noche she is going to steal straight dudes’ girlfriends.) That might not be ‘addressing the issues’ and it might not be a positive portrayal of queerness per GLAAD or whatever, but it’s something new and aggressive and powerful.
In terms of explicitly political pro-equality messages, I suppose neither of these artists made songs that fall into that category, but there were others who were more like this, including Baltimore’s DDm, who I mentioned in that previous post, and who made a concept album about the life as a gay black man, that directly addressed political issues (although perhaps not marriage equality - I forget). There were and are lots of other queer rappers out there though, beyond the ones that got national media attention in 2012, and I’d hazard that some of them were probably writing on-the-nose songs about political equality.
So, again, I’m not saying that it’s wrong for Macklemore as an ally to write a pro-marriage equality rap song. I’m saying that it is symptomatic of a bunch of problematic things in our society and in the queer community and how we deal with race and sexuality and so forth that an explicitly political song by a straight white dude that (well-meaning-ly, from a place of perceived membership within the ‘hip hop community’) criticizes hip hop culture (read: a large segment of black American culture) for its failure to live up to the ideals of equality and the civil rights movement (from what I can remember, and at the very least this part of the song/video is pretty sketchy. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a white guy to appropriate the ‘lessons’ of the civil rights movement in order to lecture black folks about gay rights) is seen as the best and most righteous and most productive and most helpful way of advancing the cause of LGBT rights while comprehending the entire output of a broad spectrum of queer rappers of colour of various gender and sexual identities as apolitical or not addressing the issues because the ‘issues’ aren’t framed in ways that speak the language of rights or politics or advocacy but instead speak the language of hate and love and discrimination and sex and so forth through first hand human experience.
I’ve only listened to ‘Same Love’ a couple times. I don’t particularly love it, but I haven’t spent enough time with it to describe what about the video or song itself is troubling and problematic.
I am troubled, as I’ve written about before, by the fact that in a year with a lot of visible queer rappers, a decent number of whom have rapped about issues of visibility and discrimination and so forth, and in a year when straight black rappers have advocated for and rapped about gay rights. (Murs, notably, but some other folks too) that so many (white) gay media outlets were so eager to celebrate the importance of a pro-gay rap song by a straight white man, and label it one of the most important musical moments of the year, especially given that they did so often in ways that constructed his song in opposition to an idea of ‘hip hop culture’ and by extension ‘black culture’ that was implicitly 100% bigoted and homophobic, erasing and ignoring the complicated role homophobia plays in all genres of music, all aspects of American culture, all racial communities, and marginalizing further the voices of queer people of colour, who were (and are) rarely looked to for opinions about hip hop or stories about their relationships with the genre.
So, I don’t know. I think regardless of my opinions about the song itself, which I don’t have fully developed, it was used in ways that reinforce a narrative in which white gay men like myself take offense at and are alienated by a cultural product that comes from a culture that they are not part of, and which we then use to castigate and shame black American culture as a whole for the perceived homophobia of hip-hop, without ever racially generalizing the homophobia present in some country music or some rock music or some aspects of whiteness and white culture in America to all (or even most) white people. It constructs a discourse of ‘tolerant liberal white culture’ and ‘intolerant black culture’ in ways that are inaccurate and harmful and counterproductive - and in ways that ignore the people who these critics claim to be concerned about - i.e. gay black people. But all of this has less to do with the song itself and more to do with how we talk and write and think about activism and rights and intersectionality and music.
Odd Future fans, much like Lady Gaga fans, are angrily dismissive of any attempts to suggest that their favorite artists were elevated to their respective echelons in the music industry for any reason other than their supposedly singular talents.
Both fandoms also like telling people who don’t adopt the party line to “shut up”. Of course, shutting up is something we can promise we will never do—either with our serious culture crit or our casual opinionating.
(P.S. It’s cool if you like Frank Ocean; we feel that his songwriting is just kinda weakly cornball and not our thing, but we trust that our readers will make up their own minds. Important thing to remember is that there’s a whole bunch of awesome black R&B artists who’ve been out for a long time if you’ve been paying attention. The biggest bummer about the way FO has been covered has been the erasure of that piece of black musical history and present reality.)
I was gonna let this slide because it’s like 2 weeks old, but that last bit really pissed me off. Because it is so fucking disingenuous. You got called out for outright getting facts wrong so you could put forth a narrative you invented in your head. Unable to accept that you got called out, you dismissed the criticism as the whining of OF stans. How you gonna run a call out blog and not know how to handle being called out, especially when the people taking your ass to task were black queer people? You can have your opinion, but a lot of your opinion was dumb and it got noted as such.
But the worst bit for me was the bit about “awesome black R&B artists who’ve been out for a long time”. So the reason you, as a tumblr that supposedly stands in solidarity against racial injustice were trying to undercut an important moment for queer black people is because you felt amazing black R&B artists were being ignored? But you didn’t mention even a single part of that in your original post.
Don’t try to run and pretend that you were really just worried for all the unappreciated and unknown out R&B artists before him not getting any attention, because they were not even a factor in that first post and you failed to actually give them any name recognition or shine in this one too. Probably because you don’t know any and couldn’t be bothered with a Google search. Stop pretending you care about black queer people. We aren’t pawns for bolstering your credibility.
And I reiterate, pointing out that artists backed by major labels will get a bigger push than people on labels with less money like this info is scandalous or unknown? You must be brand new.
Yeah. The amount of smugness on display among certain segments of (usually white) queer-dom in their need to make it clear that they’re superior to mainstream (usually gay male) culture is often incredibly obnoxious, but the degree to which it can be grounded more in a desire to feel superior than an actually well thought through critique is revealed most often when they totally drop the ball on intersectionality. (And like, I have probably been guilty of this at times, but nonetheless, it’s a really gross impulse that isn’t quite about one’s own marginalization and isn’t really about solidarity, and this is what it looks like.)
Other hints: The co-signing of the whole weird “MCA: the one decent feminist man in all of hip hop!” thing, the approving quoting of - of all people - Rufus Wainwright, who bravely speaks out against Lady Gaga’s cooption of queerness and substanceless pop music or whatever, the most extensive coverage of queer hip hop (besides posting that awesome video Dream Hampton directed) is a link to that queer swag Pitchfork article, the continued focus on ‘authenticity’ as a measure of music worth listening to/supporting, plus what I assume is the standard white people on the Internet reaction to anything Chris Brown related re: the Grammys (I mean, it’s a throw-away comment but given the fairly shallow and/or dismissive treatment of R&B and hip hop and the weird ‘authenticity’ stuff that usually gets deployed against R&B more often than not, it seems doubtful that a real understanding of the racial dynamics of the CHRIS BROWN IS THE WORST HUMAN EVER party line is present.)
Oh! and the time they quote a totally on point Greg Tate critique of the racial dynamics of critical approaches to Gaga and Beyoncé only to bludgeon their critical target of choice, and then ignore any discussion of the relationship between Beyoncé’s music/videos/dance and queerness (especially queer people of colour) or the actual content of Tate’s quote so they can post a blithely dismissive comment about Beyoncé and Target and how this means we don’t like here either.
I mean, critical discourse about pop music and pop culture is important, and there’s plenty of problematic stuff about Lady Gaga, but the flip derisiveness that comes through in how they write about her is the same way that a lot of this other stuff has been spoken about (esp. the Chris Brown and Beyonce and MCA posts) and I think generally, as a white person who loves R&B and hip hop, I’m loathe to write anything too hastily about this music, which I love, without really thinking it through, because there is a landmine of bad racist assumptions and potential ways to get it totally wrong. If you’re going to write queer critiques of this stuff, you owe it to yourself and your audience and most especially to the people of colour and queer people of colour you are writing about to think, and think about nuance, and make sure that you’re not reinforcing really messed up ideas (even unintentionally) while trying to advance a radical (presumably white) queer agenda.
ETA: I’m not denying that people can do both serious culture critique AND casual opinionating, but that certain types of topics should not be left solely in the realm of casual opinionating because for many many people the related intersecting issues are not things that can merely be casual opinions but have really tangible impacts on their lives. And that if you can write an in-depth critique of Gaga’s tactical essentialism or transphobia or capitalist whatever, you can certainly take the time to check yourself when writing about race.
If we could have a moratorium on all the patronizing discussions of how “brave” Frank Ocean was for coming out in the hip-hop community, with the implicit understanding there being that black homophobia is somehow particularly heinous, awful or egregious and so this somehow elevates the nature of his coming out, that would be great. Let’s remember that it’s white people who are the driving force behind many anti-gay initiatives at almost every level, from towns to the federal government. Compare the racial make up of the list of the 7 most anti-gay representatives with that of the list of the 11 most pro-gay representatives.
For all this talk about how brave he is and how hip-hop and the black community need this to be brought into the 21st century and all these expectations of backlash, the backlash never comes. When Obama and later Jay-Z announced his support for marriage equality, polls showed that black Americans were not the backwards idiots the media keeps insisting we are.
The NAACP has openly expressed the need for marriage equality. Kanye West has, well I don’t really know what to call this other than Kanye being Kanye, but you get the idea. OFWGKTA, the collective of young people of color that no one could stop talking about for what felt like months due to the extreme misogynistic and homophobic nature of some of their members’ lyrics, not only didn’t hesitate in throwing support behind Frank Ocean, but also have now spawned two young, out, queer artists of color.
Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood is dealing with a lot of crap because she openly voiced support for marriage equality. Notice that doesn’t get portrayed as white people being homophobic, it gets portrayed as country fans and/or southern and mid-western religious folks as being homophobic. But when southern religious black folks express homophobic sentiments, all that nuance and all those qualifiers disappear, they just become black folks and their bigotry becomes typical. Because white people are complex individuals and black people are a monolith. So this type of support of Frank comes off not as actual support, but as patronizing words born racism and stereotyping. If y’all could cut that out, it would be great.