Monday, June 26, 2006

Reflections of Pride

It doesn't matter how annoyed I get by the constant corporate barrage of product placement or how tired I am of the endless train of churches and campaigning politicians: I adore the Pride festival in June. It gives me the same kind of shiver that walking into a gay bar in an unknown city gives me. There are queer people here, lots of queer people I don't know, people to flirt with, people to talk with, people to just be in the same space among.

The Twin Cities Pride Festival is the fourth largest in the country. Kind of amazing considering we are way down the list on city size, but I guess we just love our queers. I was starting to get a little stale on Pride - see previous paragraph regarding more corporate and less cock-sure - but then I had Luca. Little child might be straight, queer or indifferent, but I want her raised in this. I want this to be normal for her. And it is. Like her buddy, Miguel, Luca cites the calendar by the holidays with Pride falling between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July/Miguel's birthday.

This is the first year where she really got it. Meaning, where Pride was more than following her family around, eating bad food and scooting in a short-term memory way from one stimulus to the next. This year, she made her demands. "Mama and mae," she said, "when we go to Pride every year, it's ok to march in the parade and to see our friend's sing, but really, what I want to do every day all day and not leave, is watch the drag queens." That's right, you couldn't drag Luca away from the drag queens. Big and busty, thin and sultry, old, young, Mama Cass, Judy Garland, Eartha Kitt, Christina Aguilera and Madonna: Luca was enthralled. We stopped by the Stonewall Stage a.k.a Drag Central each day and sat there long enough for my butt to get sore. And Luca watched. And didn't smile if friends came up to say hello. And she craned around the bodies of those rude people in front of us who would get up off the grass to, oh, I don't know, go pee or something. It took her awhile but then she realized that folks were going up there, getting in line, holding dollar bills out to the queens and then getting kisses and hugs. It was open-the-purses time and Luca, usually kind of shy about standing up in front of folks, was down there with her dollar bills and dewy eyes. Twice. It would have been more if we had more single bills. I love that Luca loves drag. I don't care if she is learning her feminine ways from drag queens or if she is learning about the kind of femininity that she is going to hunger for in other people: I love that she loves drag.

Saturday night I went out to dance. I, of course, freaked out when my fabulous and glamorous friends came to pick me up because there I was, in shorts and sloppied on the couch watching a movie with Rocki and our housemate, Kelly. After a cheerleading session, I went out, feeling not as hot as I used to but hotter than I often do these days. You know what's a pain in the ass? When you have been dancing the bump and grind for a whole bunch of hours with women you know, women you don't know, you are feeling so good and so fine and yes, she was packing and it was fun to rub right up there, and then you run into someone who asks first thing, "How's your baby daughter Luca?" and then proceeds to just mama you to death. I want to scream in those moments - I am happy being a mama, I love being a mama, right now I am NOT a mama, thank you very much please.

Next year, I am going dancing every night and I will flounce away should someone start mama-ing me rather than ask me to dance. Happy Pride.


Anonymous said...

wow- you are from a different part of the island of lesbos than i am . i am trying to understand your ways but i don't think i want to meet your leader yet. you see- i have a problem with the drag queens. these guys personify stereotypes of women that are wholly unflattering and offensive. it is bad enough that women are objectified by the straight community into role playing but more bothersome when done and promoted by our own. the emphasis of breast size and doing something sexual to a nearby pole doesn't do anything for me except bring up a little phlegm in the back of my throat. if a characterization of any other minority was done like this, it would be roundly and justly decried. so why don't we women?
and don't even try to convince me they are practicing an art form(other than misogyny)- female impersonation is very different.
wait- i am not done ragging on your side of lesbos island. you find dildos attractive.... i find what is underneath even more so. the female form is soooo great, why mess with it. i would have said fuck with it but i do, so i can't. feeling the erotic figure and what comes next is perfect and beautiful. i bet your part of the island puts ketchup on a fine steak. while to each her own, not to my taste. lastly, being a mom is hot. it says something about the person that i think is positive. you can be a mother and still be a sexual magnet- (kristin comes to mind!). hell- if the asker is cute, find out if she wants to massage your episiotomy scar. work it.
well, it's a big parade, and a big community.

Susan Raffo said...

Leigh, is that you?

raquel said...

i love dildos. but i hate ketchup! oh, i'm soo confused...
but i do know i don't like either-or type comments either, so i jut had to respond to the view from mount anonymous. :) yes, i think there is mysogyny within drag queen culture, just as i think there is misogyny within butch culture (and many other queer cultures). not all are stereotypical, mysogynist, and offensive. i've met some cross-dressers who do more pro-feminist work than many women i know.
one of the queens that Luca wanted to give her $1 bill to was singing an anti-war song addressed to the president sung from a mother's perspective. and there was no pole nearby!
of course things are more complicated than mine or your perspective, but i sure as hell want Luca to see others, even if it requires a lot of talking afterwards. feminism informs my parenting on an everyday basis, which is not to say that i do it well all the time. oh, but i'm digressing now.
and duh, of course moms are sexy and sexual - don't you know Susan!?

Vikki said...

I've been swamped at work and I have a moment to think and comment...

I'm not a big fan of drag queens but it has nothing to do with gender expression. For me, it's about the lip synching. I don't see much talent in dressing up and pretending to sing. Maybe it is the musician in me but I just don't find it that entertaining.

As for the piece about sexiness and motherhood, well, that's complicated. I don't think of myself as particularly sexy but it has little to do with being a mother. Susan - I know that you revel in being a sexual being but your role as a mother does not take away from that. I think you are still struggling to merge all of those wonderful aspects about yourself with the idea of being a mother. So, next time you are being all sexy and flouncy and someone asks about Luca, just say, "She's great" and stick your tongue in the inquisitor's ear.

Susan Raffo said...

tee hee hee, vikki. how interesting this all is. for me, once we can divorce gender from essentialism linked to biology and/or culture, we can start to get to some of the places that feminism wants to take us. i admire the perfomance of femininity and, on good days, aspire to perform myself. for me, feminine gender expression should be available to all, no matter what body they inhabit. and yes, many of the symbols of feminine expression carry with them histories and current experiences of subjugation. working with those symbols, subverting them, questioning them, queering them: i believe this has more power than denying or trying to destroy them. symbols have power and they do not go away. the challenge is to redefine them. for me, there is something about a drag queen, adam's apple bobbing, that directly challenges the kind of gender/sexual essentialism that assumes women must behave as passive sexual objects in high heels. and yes, often this kind of highly-feminine gender expression is a sexual one - but what's wrong with that, assuming that the person wearing the symbols feels powerful enough to do, say, demand, respond as he/she wants to?

Kristin said...

Please pass the ketchup

Emptyman said...

In what ways do drag queens actually hurt women? Can you actually say that the presence or absence of drag performers -- in the 21st century -- has ANY influence at all on women as a group? Are women denied promotions because their bosses have been poisoned by watching drag performances? Does domestic violence occur because abusers watch drag performance? What problems facing women as a group can be attributed to drag queens? If drag queens were eliminated overnight, would those problems disappear?

As far as dildos are concerned, it seems to me that fundamental to the concept of Stonewall and Pride is the idea of NOT DISPARAGING PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU DISAGREE WITH THEIR PREFERRED MEANS OF SEXUAL GRATIFICATION. I mean in the end that's the whole concept behind including homosexuals in hate crimes legislation, striking down same-sex marriage bans, outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and holding the parade.

So long as nobody is forcing you to use a dildo or go see drag queens, Anonymous, what's it to you what some other consenting adult does? Tolerance is not a one-way street.

Vikki said...

Well Susan, you were lamenting a lack of comments recently. Look at the bounty here...

Anonymous said...

hey all
well it looks like i took a day off and was walking around the lake and you all were solving the worlds problems. The anonymous post was not from me...i try to
have as muc integrity as possible
and that means signing my posts...
most of the time :)
i would comment on all of this but i think i would do better with a live in person conversation.
Happy Pride!
peace & love

Anonymous said...

my remarks were meant to generate a decent discussion and to think about it. sorry if i offended or was disparaging. sorry emptyman- you don't get it. male privilege is everywhere. you could make the same argument about hooters- both objectify women. i never have seen a drag queen doing joan jett or grace jones. i am of the belief that strong women don't need to use their body to garner an audience. i don't care that men want to wear women's clothing- but i will walk when they start acting in ways that are not empowering and in fact degrading. i would imagine that behavior to occur in strip clubs- which hasn't affected my life but i do not support. i think hooters and strip clubs are free to exist but i would hope to share my opinion with those who enter.
and about the dildos, i could give a rat's ass if some want to use a dildo or not. i just wanted to promote my passion for God's natural creation ( see- i do have a shift key). i love to think we are marching for dildo rights- i want to see that on a sign.
my partner thinks that we are all affected because it contributes to the cultural mentality of the overall attitudes about women. we are having a disagreement about being anonymous- i think that the comments can't be so readily dismissed because you know who i am and have some judgement about that. she thinks that knowing the author brings with it historical information about their attitudes and can help put things in a larger framework. but i bitchslapped her with a dildo, so i win.
peace, aka notleigh

Anonymous said...

i don't know anonymous
i think you lack any credibility when you don't sign your name...i think the same when i don't sign my name
and you say what you said and then you use bitchslap!?!
yeah i guess i wouldn't sign that either
you're just trying to mess with people's heads

Susan Raffo said...

wow, using bitchslapped and the notion of objectifying women in the same comment stream. dear sweet fearful anonymous, you are rife with contradiction. makes it that much more intriguing to figure out who you are. i think what is always sad for me is the ways in which the degradation of women/femaleness (sorry, i still assume it's femaleness as opposed to the essential category of woman - in the ways that suzanne pharr wrote about in homophobia, a weapon of sexism) can't coexist alongside a conversation of the subversion of symbols. this is a both/and moment for me. always is. and if i want to pole dance for someone because it makes us both hot and i own the pole and i claim the power in that moment, then that is my moment and does it dance with a history of the sex industry? of ocurse it does. there is nothing you can be - white, american, christian-raised, home owner - that doesn't dance with the history of oppression embedded within those categories. it's the dance of complexity in which power, authority and reflection are essential. come out, anonymous, come out.

Emptyman said...

Ah, yes, "privilege," that magical word that allows one to dismiss any other human being while at the same time garnering carte blanche for any bit of asininity one cares to put forth... I humbly apologize for having a penis and recognize that the presence of Y-chromosomes instantly renders anything I say meaningless. Let's revoke the 19th Amendment to try to fix this problem, shall we?

Seriously, Anonymous, I forgive you for the fact that your position of privilege blinds you to the prejudices and flaws in your reasoning.

Susan Raffo said...

oh, and by the way, to go back a few postings, i didn't have an episiotomy. my watermelon seed of a child just flew out.

Anonymous said...

I love women- they get so deep

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