Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A lesbian, A princess and eyelash curlers

What is obedient, always accessorized, and compliant in becoming what men desire? A) Barbie B) Lesbians or C) all of the above. According to Exodus International, a group dedicated to “freeing” lesbians from...being lesbians, the thing a lesbian most desperately needs for both happiness and heterosexuality is: A MAKEOVER (cue 80’s music, PJ’s and a pillow fight).

According to Willa Moberly who gives the Exodus makeover sessions, the traditional 60’s sex roles are the appropriate roles and characteristics for each gender. It is through creating these external roles that with “a more secure feminine identity…they (lesbians) will be able to choose heterosexual relating.” These sessions of make-up, hair styling and polished and painted nails is an attempt “to show them how pretty they can be” so they can “break free… from an appearance which would cause men to back away from them or to not even want them.” Sexual orientation isn’t about YOUR sexual desires, it’s about who desires you; well for women at least. The type of makeover Moberly suggests for gay men: a softball game.

As Exodus International testimonies from women detail, becoming a straight woman has far less to do with accepting yourself and far more to do with gender roles. As 35 year old “ex-lesbian” Melissa Fryrear found out: “I also began to learn about this thing called womanhood. Goodness! Who knew there was so much to learn: plucking eyebrows, hair bleaches, hair waxings, facial mud masks, eye lash curlers, manicures, pedicures, push-up bras, tummy tuckers, rear-end boosters, last year’s colors, and next year’s fashions?” Does joining Exodus International comes with an automatic subscription to Cosmo? I suspect so.

But it isn’t just Evangelical ex-gay ministries that hold out this pink-ruffled unicorn and rainbow painted dream of what being a woman SHOULD be; the Atlantic monthly writer, Caitlin Flanagan, famous for her quote “When a mother works, something is lost” told a LA Weekly reporter of her newfound enthusiasm for evangelical Christianity. Does this have something to do with her view that a modern and fulfilled woman is one who stays at home, has dinner ready and ever sexually available to her husbands needs (somehow ignoring that there are currently only 27% of mothers lucky or rich enough not to work)? In doing all this is she the perfect woman? When asked, Caitlin acknowledged it was so.

And Caitlin's lucky hubby? Rob Hudnut, an executive at Mattel whose job is....making Barbie movies (writer AND producer). He even gets part lyric credit for the Barbie song, “To be a Princess.” During my work at a video store, I often saw Barbie indoctrination films….I mean, DVD’s. Besides occasionally being found slumped over the counter from a sugar coma and calling every animal I walked by Princess for the next three days (Hello Princess Kitty!, Hi Princess Bluebird!) what leapt out was the overwhelming enforcement of gender stereotype, particularly the male villain Preminger. We clearly know he is evil because he is prissy and feminine, complete with poodle (The DVD received Christian Movie Review’s highest rating: Mostly Moral). One can only assume that diabolical dykes will show up in a later Barbie film.

As for me, I have no wish to be a plastic replica. Barbie, I reject you. I love women, in all their diversity and strength. If Barbie, makeovers, eyelash curlers and making sure your “man” is satisfied are the expectations of being straight or a woman or both then we have handed our brains and identities over to Mattel and the Evangelical Alliance. These are not people I trust with my identity.

To quote the lesbian singer Melissa Ethridge: Mothers, tell your children: be quick, you must be strong. Life is full of wonder, love is never wrong. Remember how they taught you, how much of it was fear. Refuse to hand it down - the legacy stops here.

Jpeg2 - http://members.aol.com/exgaynomad/images/lifestyle.jpg

19 comments:

kathz said...

It's hard to believe how stupid and cowardly some people are. It is cowardly to want to be nothing but a dependent servant - and that's what women who remake themselves as sex objects aim to be. This kind of makeover is nothing to do with being desirable to an equal partner but about being acceptable and desirable and compliant to an idea of men in general as a master-class - pretty insulting to men too, I would think.

Reading this, I felt nostalgic for the women's group to which I belonged in the late 1970s/early 1980s. For a year or two everything was up for discussion. It was probably then that I read Adrienne Rich on "compulsory heterosexuality" and it was certainly then that, as a group of mostly straight women, we considered the possibility of "radical lesbianism". While I don't think any of us did become lesbians out of political principle, the arguments involved made us all realise the inportance of lesbians in remaking the sexual and social identity of all women. It helped us all think through the way to which sexual identity was contingent on male power as well as desire - not that we reached a final conclusion or changed the world, but it was good to think these things through.

Come to think of it, perhaps there's a greater need for an alternative group, "freeing" heterosexual women from heterosexuality. I've encountered quite a few women who would benefit from that, as well as some who have found that freedom for themselves. Think adventurously!

elizabeth said...

A thought about the stay at home Mom....dudududun.
I am one. Now -this clearly makes me an expert so take notes...
Once upon a time I worked in an office and I was dressed in beautiful suits and lunched at lovely Italian places and put in the occasional weekend and received lavish bonuses(overachiever that I am). I also took a part time job at an urban health centre -not so much for the money as for the experience(that was fun) so.... I always worked really hard and I loved it.
Then my husband (and I reluctantly) decided I would resign my position - produce another offspring and become mother of the universe (or a prisoner in my home forever more- depending how you look at it). I mean - yes it is rewarding but...you reach a point. And to all of those shitty woman who want to say - you should be grateful and muaw muaw bla bla muaw - kindly remove your head from your arse. The problem is - I know want to return to school since I have been home for more than 4 years - and my husband likes to have the little wife at home tending the chilluns. So now I plan my escape... the blog certainly helps...lol.

elizabeth said...

By the way - I love Melissa Ethride. I rock at singing Karaoke - Come to my Window....in fact in some town/ex-strip joint type of places I am a star.... it's true.

elizabeth said...

And since I am already late in getting my son up I may as well keep talking...
One of my best friend's when I lived out west was a lesbian and I used to dress her up like a barbie all the time, put make-up on her and do her hair. Does that make me the absolute worst lebian friend ever? (I also did the same thing to this guy I knew though and he really was a beautiful girl...)

B.V. Brus said...

The "fixing gays" people believe they're operating from empirical evidence based loosely on psychological theory. They tend to dabble in whatever fits their expectations, whether it's a mostly cognitive therapeutic model -- Beck’s cognitive therapy, for example, the premise of which is that percepetion defines emotional feelings, so changing thoughts will change behaviors -- to behavioral therapies such as classical conditioning or operant conditioning, which focus on changing behaviors and, thus, the person within.

In the case of this dumb-ass advertisement you shared, they're operating under the assumption that a gay perspective can be changed from the outside. Change the external behaviors, change the person's internal belief system.

Yeah, I know: They're frippin' morons, blithely ignoring anything they don't want to believe in. And they're jerks, to boot.

Wendryn said...

Argh!

I am not compliant. I do not wear makeup. I *hate* Barbie. I am completely secure in my femininity. I know a lot of people, both women and men, who specifically do *not* want women to be like Barbie, who want intelligent, strong women who are eminently capable of taking care of themselves.

I saw something recently about a Barbie Live show - lots of little, impresisonable girls saying "Barbie power!" - and it made me angry. What kind of power does Barbie have? She can't even stand up on her own. She is about the worst role model I can imagine for a little girl - helpless and dependent, with a body that is pretty close to impossible but encourages starvation and plastic surgery.

I'm bisexual. I am not extremely femme, and if anyone ever tried to pluck my eyebrows I'd probably deck them. I don't need a makeover. If a makeover attracted people to me who were not attracted before, I'm pretty sure that the people attracted to me would not be people I wanted to deal with, let alone be in a relationship with.

I know women, straight and lesbian, who are butch, femme, and everything in between. I can't imagine any of them changing because of a makeover - they are people, they have made their choices, and they are happy with themselves.

It ticks me off when people decide they know what is best for others.

elizabeth said...

I just wanted to point out that - when I dressed up my friend I wasn't trying to change her - she was fine the way she was. It was just fun like having a life size doll. And she wouldn't have let me do it if it offended her. I hope...

elizabeth said...

I am admittedly very girly girl. I wear make-up (love makeup) and love to play dress up. Does that imply that I am not capable or strong?

elizabeth said...

And at the risk of getting myself shot - Barbie has come a long way lately. She no longer has quite the ridiculous measurements and there is Astronaut Barbie, Dr. Barbie and many other professional type Barbies. (plus she has the most fabulous shoe collection ever...)

Elizabeth McClung said...

Elizabeth - I have no problem with dressing up or doing hair or whatever - Linda and I do it sometimes for amusement except we are both really bad at it (Blush? How do you do blush? Awww forget it. Does anyone know how to use eyeliners? Nope.) I think femmeing or butching for fun is kinda like drag, you know who you are but you are just having fun - which is kinda why it is fun to dress up for Pride day. But we don't expect anyone to seriously change thier orientation because they are wearing lip gloss. It also is demeaning, as occurred in a recent court case, when one is REQUIRED to have full makeup because that is what females do (a lesbian of 20 years service at a bar got fired when the manager decided all women needed to wear full makeup)

I support stay at home moms, particularly as they tend to be seen scratching at the windows screaming "I need some adult conversation!" - but for people or groups to have some sort of moral code attached to something that only a minority even have the opportunity to do is unjust (especially as for single moms, usually more than 80% have to do some sort of out of the house employment). I am guessing you are probably talking to the screen when you watch Desperate Housewives?

Elizabeth McClung said...

"I am admittedly very girly girl. I wear make-up (love makeup) and love to play dress up. Does that imply that I am not capable or strong?"

You are strong because you know who you are, instead of being told you should be. I am sure there are similar lesbians out there (somewhere). I wear makeup. Well, I OWN makeup and have worn mascara when I want to make my eyes particularly anime-like - except then I forget and start rubbing my eyes.

There is a good book called Femme: Feminists, Lesbians and Bad Girls which says that femmes are STRONGER than butches. Femininity starts as social expectations which allows others to determine if you are a "good" or a "not nice" girl (for example one Exodus mothers testamony states that her daughters closet "no longer looked like a girls" - which meant, no longer fit female expectations). But after realizing that it is imposed and viewing choice, then chosing what reflects how you want the world to see you is self affirmation instead of fitting what some authority figures expects: Just please don't end up looking like Barbara Cartland.

Elizabeth McClung said...

"And at the risk of getting myself shot - Barbie has come a long way lately. She no longer has quite the ridiculous measurements and there is Astronaut Barbie, Dr. Barbie and many other professional type Barbies. (plus she has the most fabulous shoe collection ever...)"

Actually there was once a "lesbian" barbie which was created for an ad for GLAAD awards - however once pressure from Christian Groups kicked in, they quickly disavowed the ad.

elizabeth said...

I should point out that much of what I say should be taken with humour - that is it's intention. I'm sorry if it came out wrong. I poke fun at myself constantly for the fact that I am such a girl - I bought my daughter - like about 20 barbies (well some are disney princess ballerinas so....sputter cough) and now I won't let her play with them in case she messes up their hair --- but I can hang with the boys too. I just have to be wearing something prettier than them. ;-D
Also - the stay at home Mom thing --- I have been judged so much for that.... but I just have to laugh and pretend that I just sit here all day doing my hair, painting my nails and talking on the phone (well... actually I'm blogging....)But I desperately need to get back into "it"... so that is why I am writing books and studying genes and cell structure for fun and planning to return to school for a degree in the next two years... sounds fun hey?

elizabeth said...

Lesbian Barbie - that rocks. They should totally do a drag queen barbie.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Actually they sorta did - which a drag queen ken - when a clerk decided Ken needed a "makeover" and suddenly everyone wondered what exactly was going on at Mattel with a box on the shelf with Ken dressed up in Barbie's clothes - you can see it here: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/ken.html

elizabeth said...

Okay that right there - makes me so want a job at ToyRUs. That is so funny.
Actually - where was I? .... Cape Cod... and this one house had like 100 cross dressing ken dolls hanging out in the yard. It was awesome.

Perspective of Pete said...

How can anyone not think of "But I'm a Cheerleader" (one of my favorite movies) when it comes to their views?
I just watched "Fish Can't Fly" in preparation for the discrimination research I'm doing, and it's scary how warped the ex-gay beliefs are.

kathz said...

I was relieved to find that my daughter's imagination when playing with Barbie dolls went way beyond what Mattel envisaged. Her Barbies had very exciting adventures. And one similiar doll (Posh Spice, if anyone relembers a group called the Spice Girls) acquired a severe haircut and a scar on her forehead so that she could stand in for Harry Potter (before the films and cpin-offs). I doubt J.K. Rowling ever thought that Harry Potter had tiny feet, high heels and huge breasts!

CrackerLilo said...

You know, I'm very feminine in appearance, and grew up to like girls. And my wife, who is bald by choice and borders on butch, gets asked out by men in the martial arts classes she teaches *all* *the* *time*. What men are told to like and what they actually like are such different things.

Then again, it wouldn't be the first time Exodus divorced itself from reality.

Oh, yes, and I have three words for these idiots--Portia de Rossi.