Friday, January 6, 2012

Carrie Brownstein and historical denial of queers

Did you happen to catch the Carrie Brownstein interview on Fresh Air the other day? I made a point of tuning in because, you know, Carrie Brownstein was in Sleater-Kinney and, hence, she's an important figure in the lesbian community. I also happened to be unloading the dishwasher and listening to NPR, which is how I spend a good deal of my day.

Okay, but bear with me. This is important. I'm not very knowledgeable about queercore and riot grrrl music, but even I know that Brownstein was influential in those movements. I also saw Sleater-Kinney in that L Word episode. Therefore I was stunned while sorting the flatware and listening to Terry Gross that there was no mention of Brownstein's iconic status in the lesbian community. Terry Gross did refer to Brownstein as a "feminist icon," but that's not really the same thing, is it? It's not really the same thing at all. I mean, it's not even really true. Does Carrie Brownstein come to mind as a feminist icon? Not that she does not deserve to be a feminist icon. But it bothered me because the F-word just seemed to be a way to avoid the L-word in the interview. It's not as if there weren't opportunities. They talked about the Portlandia skit making fun of women's bookstores, they talked about tattoos. Terry Gross even went so far as to ask Brownstein about the experience of seeing her own image tattooed on a Sleater-Kinney fan. And the lesbian icon thing still did not come up! Who other than a queer girl would tattoo an image of Carrie Brownstein on her body? Or am I not grasping the fanatical heterosexual scope of the Sleater-Kinney fan base?

I know, I know. Carrie Brownstein identifies as bi, and that's all fine and good. But it's also quite well known that she was in a lesbian relationship with Sleater-Kinney bandmate Corin Tucker. And they have a huge following in the queer community. So all I'm saying is it would've been nice — and journalistically accurate — to acknowledge the undeniably queer component of Carrie Brownstein's career, rather than offer up a sad 21st century example of what historian Blanche Wiesen Cook has called "the historical denial of lesbianism."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What lesbians wear to work

Hi. I'm back, and I propose we talk about what lesbians wear in the workplace. I know you want to talk about this. Here we go.

I recently received a tattered copy of a Dec. 14 article published in The Hollywood Reporter. It's so 20th century, I know, to receive a paper copy of a magazine article, but, truth be told, it's just my speed. Therefore I thank my lovely friend in NYC who handed it to me on New Year's Day, speaking with the most tender voice, "God, just look at her." She was referring to this photo of Rachel Maddow, which appeared with the profile. My friend loves a tall slim drink of butch, and who better than Dr. Maddow to create that particular cocktail? Rachel does look especially sweet in this photo. But more striking, I think, is how so perfectly gay she is. I mean, it would be clear to even the most unsophisticated eye that this person is a lesbian. And here she is in her office at Rockefeller Center, preparing to go on national television, no less, as one of the industry's most highly rated anchors. I love knowing that this is what Rachel wears around the office. When on camera, she makes a minor adjustment by throwing on some eyeliner and, according to the article, her signature uniform: "I have a monochrome rainbow of the exact same $19 blazers from H&M." She says she dresses herself because when others attempt to style her "it doesn't work. The whole androgynous thing goes away, and I just end up looking like an ugly man or a 14-year-old boy."

When attempting to navigate the challenge of presenting our authentic selves at work without looking like Joan Jett or Justin Bieber, I recommend the blazer. For me, it serves three purposes: 1. The blazer makes my jeans look presentable. 2. The blazer has pockets, which can be filled with lip balm, keys, flash drives, and the occasional sandwich (my students find this amusing.) 3. The blazer suggests androgyny, which many lesbians in the workplace — fighting off the feminine standard of pumps, florals, and skirts — are trying to achieve.

Other arbiters of lesbian fashion to look to: Ellen DeGeneres for the sweater vest and man-pants combo (Ellen, we love you!); Pia Sundhage for those of you in the coaching profession; Bette Porter if you are so good looking you can pull off wearing dreadful puffy silk blouses; and Christine Lagarde, who is not a lesbian, but nonetheless serves as a magnificent example of how to dress if you are, or aspire to be, a power lesbian.