Just to be clear, here’s our starting point.
I am a fat butch dyke. It’s who I am. Generally, other people would say that things like “fat” “butch” and “dyke” are bad. Not to me…nor to folks who love a fat butch. (They’re out there, thank goodness.) But what I experience often is a feeling of being ignored, malaligned, and excluded. I don’t see people like me in magazines, movies, tv shows, and even in LGBT controlled media. (And when I do? We’re played by straight women, and they aren’t fat. Thank the lord for John Goodman on Roseanne…)
That’s where my first real twitter fight started. A friend posted a link to an Autostraddle gallery– the Transmen, Genderqueers, and Studs: Hot Human Gallery! [Some pics are not safe for work.]
The first thing I noticed when I perused the gallery is that there are very few pudgy/chubby/fat folks represented. Then I noticed that a ton of the pics were also featured in the first issue of Original Plumbing.
I tweeted back to my friend that I was disappointed that the gallery tended toward skinny bodies. Then I tweeted to Autostraddle.
– @autostraddle why is almost every body in the gq/trans gallery super skinny? i know tons of super sexy fat hot butches/gqs/transguys
Yes, I did it so that folks could see it who don’t follow me and autostraddle. [I don’t even follow @autostraddle.] Was it a public call out? Hell yes it was. They are a website that puts stuff out in public, and I feel like it’s my right as a human being to call it out in a way I knew would garner support from my troops– and it did.
The response from a few folks from Autostraddle was defensive. I had discussions in twitter, facebook, and gchat to help me figure out why I was so frustrated…and through our conversations, some questions came up:
Autostraddle bills itself as “news, politics, entertainment, and girl on girl culture.”
I’m a 32 year old woman with a masters degree who has adult relationships. I’m not a girl. There is nothing girl on girl about me or my life. Girl on girl raises my hackles because I think of fake lesbian porn made by straight men for straight men. Sure, Autostraddle could be using it ironically, or taking the power back… Quite possible–but after perusing the site for awhile, I found that they use the word girl constantly. Why girls and not women?
Secondly, opening up a gallery of “transmen, genderqueers, and studs” on a site that bills itself as “girl on girl” seems like a way to relive the dramedy of the Top Hot Butches kerfuffle of last year. Did these people consent to their images being used on Autostraddle? This gallery feels like a sideshow, like nothing but eye-candy because the people being featured are not Autostraddle’s intended audience (remember, girl on girl).
How does it impact those folks being put in a box they didn’t ask to be put in? Another friend said it well– if Autostraddle isn’t going to generate content relevant to the butch/trans experience, perhaps they should delete the gallery… It’s objectifying to just have these folks on parade in any way on a site which is intended to focus on the lesbian experience.
Another friend said this gallery of transmen, genderqueers and studs “can be read as denying those people the agency to declare their identities and in particular, it’s problematic to imply that underneath the binding or packing or surgery or hormones transguys/gq/studs are still somehow in the same category as girls, and it’s problematic to lump transguys/gqs/studs into one category anyways…because even within the category of transguys there’s a lot of different ways guys see their masculinity and want their masculinity to be validated.”
Hmm…it kind of feels like a gallery of hot women on a site for men. Would you consider that objectifying? Also, I’m asking the folks at Autostraddle to consider that bold/italic part– that was the impact that this had on just one person.
As the twitter fight exploded, someone sent me a link to this shitstorm on Autostraddle. Um, this is one of the most heinous things I’ve read in a long time– but you know, I live in a bubble of mostly radical queers who work hard to affirm each other, show love for all bodies, show respect for all genders, and challenge each other around issues of privilege, appropriation, and more. I forget that people still act like this…even on the internet. I point it out because I don’t think that the Autostraddle folks who were responding to commenters did anything to diffuse the level of anger or consider what people were saying.
Autostraddle also did a curvy girl gallery–and the impact there for some people is that curvy women and plus size ladies, you are weird and different and have to be put in your own gallery.
What have I learned from this? I’ve learned that twitter is a shitty place to try to engage in discourse. Just like email, you can’t feel/hear tone. I pretty much shut down when someone called me “mean.” I’m not mean– I’m far from it. I do call things I see out and if you don’t like being called out, don’t create public content without considering the impacts it might have on people. Just because we’re all queers doesn’t mean I should be quiet when I’m frustrated– on the contrary, I’ve come to expect more from LGBT folks.
So now what? Nothing. I’ve said my piece. I’m finished arguing about it on twitter. Please keep your comments respectful.
Last but not least, I think we should all read this perfect post about inclusive/not exclusive.