Thoughtful Thursday: Femslash Fallacies.
So, my post, “…but aren’t you a lesbian?” inspired Fright Dyke to rant at me that lesbians are not more socially acceptable than gay men. That both are looked down on (she said despised) and that it pisses her off when people say “the gays have it easier.”
I was confused, becuase that’s not what I meant to write. Then I realized that the way I had written the post was unclear and actually did say what she was ranting against, even though that’s not really what I meant.
What I meant to say, was that the media (television) portrays lesbians as more acceptable as gay men, even if that isn’t the reality. I was basing my argument over the fast that there are less gender issues involved in lesbianism as there is (today) a broader spectrum of what is acceptable fem behavior (thank you, women’s lib!). Then Fright Dyke pointed out to me that the accepted lesbians on television are not real dykes at all. They have been either feminized or fantasized and don’t represent reality.
Maybe that’s why I’m so lukewarm about femslash. There is no real lesbian subtext on television, because there are no real lesbians. Not even Willow, whom I love, as she taught me that:
Not Wicca, mind you. But full-blown cauldrons-and-cats witchcraft. Don’t flame me, or I’ll turn you into a newt. And I can promise that you wont get better. Muahahahahah-heheheheheheheh-*cough-hack-wheeze*
Tara and Willow were the cutest couple on television for far too short a time. In true Joss Whedon fashion, as soon as it looks like someone might develop a stable, healthy relationship, someone dies. And we keep going back for more. Damn you Whedon. Why can’t I quit you?
I ship Tara/Willow. I ship them hardcore. I very rarely read fic with them. Was it because my emotional needs were met on the show? I’m not sure. I can’t watch an episode with them without knowing what’s going to happen and crying into my cocoa. It makes me feel so many feelings, I’m not sure. Then again, to be fair, I read very little Buffy fic, and the fic I did read was focused around Giles (and Ethan) and Wesley (and Gunn). The brits on that show were such interesting side characters, they got the fic focus. Willow, because she was a main character for 7 years, doesn’t really get the same fic treatment. At least, not that I’ve seen.
But, then again, Willow is a lesbian “in real life”, so to speak. So, would writing about her and another lady really be femslash?
I say yes. Because Willow and Tara’s relationship, as cute and sweet as it is on screen, isn’t really dealt with, not
in the same fashion, or with the same depth as Buffy/Angel. Or Buffy/Spike. Or even, really Xander/Anya. Or Willow/Oz (w
hich, while I’m glad Willow is playing softball on my team, they were also a really great couple).
Just look at this picture. Look at it. It’s adorable. It’s sweet. It’s obvious they care about each other. But, barring a few references and one scene that’s cut off during Once More With Feeling, they never have sex. Buffy has marathon sex with both Angel and Riley (in fact, it’s a major plot point both times) and there is a lot of skin in both scenes. Willow and Tara is played off, tongue in cheek (so to speak.)
Willow and Tara are special for my generation, as they were one of (if not the first) lesbians in tv directed to us. (I don’t coun’t Xena, because I don’t think Xena was directed at anybody such as absorbed by everybody. Also, Xena/Gabrielle? Totally canon. Doesn’t matter that they didn’t admit it until later. If Starsky and Hutch was filmed in the early 90s and lasted for 1,000 seasons as well, they would have been together by the end.)
Speaking of Witches (see what I did there?) I’m also a huge Gelphie shipper. Not know what Gelphie is? That’s ok. It’s a portmanteau of Glinda (or Galinda, depending on when it’s set) and Elphaba. That’s right. The Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West, as re-imagined through Wicked. Fright Dyke and I saw the play for our anniversary last year (TOTALLY AMAZING!) and around intermission, we looked at each other and said, “wait, are Galinda and Elphaba…we don’t care, we’re gonna say they are.” Mostly because of the song, Loathing. For your edification:
What is this feeling?
So sudden and new?
I felt it the moment
I laid eyes on you:
My pulse is rushing:
My head is reeling:
My face is flushing:
What is this feeling?
Fervid as a flame,
Does it have a name?
I’ve read the book. I read it with a slash-y bent. Their love story is a tragedy. It’s beautiful. And when they made it into a play, they made it into a love triangle with Fiero. Because heaven forbid they have a lesbian romance in a hit musical (*cough*RENT*couch*) Maybe Idena just didn’t want to get typecast… 😉
Anyway, Gelphie is rare, in that it’s the first paring I’ve seen where femslash is the main slash pairing in fic.
Look at this picture, and tell me they’re weren’t trying to tell us something. Somewhere, Gregory Maguire is laughing at all of us, because he wrote Wizard of Oz femslash, a HSAU no less, got it published, wrote two sequels, and they ATE IT UP.
We went from canon lesbians that don’t really get addressed in the show, to lesbian main characters that’s been reduced to subtext that’s so strong it’s freaking text. Now, a lesbian who people always forget she’s a lesbian.
No, i’m not just claiming her. I have proof.
That’s right, they don’t call it “Paradise Island” for nothing. It’s a manless utopia filled with warrior women having crazy post-fight sex with each other. (That’s the implication here, anyway). It’s freakin canon! But, because it was written in the 40s, Wonder Woman has always had a male love interest, starting with Steve Trevor, and eventually both Batman and Superman.
Maxima. Oh. Maxima. I haven’t read a lot with Big Barda, but she’s about as heterosexual as they come, despite (or maybe because of) how much of a freakin’ tank she is. Somehow, the bigger you are in comics, the more het you are, for both men and women. She’s also not human, and not raised on Earth. Does that excuse her attitude? It doesn’t need to. She’s expressing her opinion, and when others give an opposing viewpoint, she doesn’t condemn them or start hatin’, she laughs with them and even acknowledges Wondy’s pwonage like a mature adult. I have no problem with anybody having a viewpoint, I belive in different strokes for different folks, just, you know, don’t get in my way. I like that this is showing Barda with the ability to keep an open mind despite her beliefs, even if it is just a set up for a lesbian joke.
The point is, this scene is often forgotten, and Wondy’s past is viewed as just that–the past. And, honestly, most of the Wondy I find in fic paints her as sexually naive, bitchy, a home wrecker (usually between Supes and Bats, but I’ve seen it between Bats and Flash), or any one of the sexless female archetypes. She’s the virgin, the sister, the sexless mother. (Which, oddly enough, her mother is. Diana was created from clay). And, in fic, when she is a lesbian, she’s a background character. It’s like DC’s biggest female character is in the closet for political reasons. She’s popular, so she can’t be gay.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t lesbians in comics. (HARLY&IVY FOREVER! Pam is so much better for you than the Joker, Harls…) My favorite is Rene Montoya.
Montoya was a lady cop, then a lady detective, under Jim Gordon in Gotham. She was one of the main characters in Gotham Central, the comic series about the GCPD. For a long time, she was Gordan’s go-to detective, because she was one of the only trustworthy cop in the division. She had a crazy connection to two-face as a result of the aftermath of No Man’s Land, was one of the few latina characters in comics, and rose to the top in the boys club because she was a KICK ASS COP. She is an interesting character.
Then, she was outed as a lesbian.
Her linked Venus symbol necklace was burned into her chest, and she has the scar on her sternum. She was kicked from the force. She sank into alcohol. She lost her partner (a chef. she was killed. it was bad). Then, she met the Question. He was dying of cancer.
Now, she is The Question in his place. That, was an awesome move. The Question was a great character (Rorschach, but with less crazy) and perfect for a detective with nothing to loose. Which she was.
She had such a great story arc, she was such a great character, and she’s disappeared. She dated the goddamn BATWOMAN for crissakes, but doesn’t appear anywhere outside of a six-issue mini-series. She is the closest I have seen to an honest-to-goodness lesbain in media. I have seen her in fic only a few times. She was the main character once.
WE NEED MORE MONTOYA. Not just her, but more like her. People who’s sexuality is a part of who they are, not defined by or absent. They cannot be caricatures, they have to be characters. That’s why the men get slashed. They’re characters, therefore there is emotional investment and the need filled by fic is more, well, fulfilling. Once people start writing awesome women characters, I think there will be a rise in femslash. But right now, the interesting women are marginalized or disappeared.
Now, I’ve seen panels of Montoya as the Question from Birds of Prey, which is an awesome book (also with little fic about it) and I think everyone should check it out. Including me. I’ve fallen woefully behind.
Stop treating lesbian relationships like pornography. We’ll take care of that ourselves. Don’t make a character a lesbian, and never really address what that means. And for goodness sake, don’t take it back! (I’m looking at you Whedon. I saw what you did with Buffy in the comics. It’s great that she had that experience, but really, why was that scene there? hmm?)
Part of why I love slash is that it fucks with stereotypes. Since “straight” men are made gay, they don’t act like gay stereotypes. But, women have to be made sexual without being made into sex objects, and lesbians in the media need to be seen as real people, not “hot-grl-on-grl-action” lesbians, before they can be slashed appropriately.
I’m not saying, don’t read because it’s not there, I’m saying, write it, because I want to read it, because it’s not there.
I’ve seen two really good femslash fics recently. Both supernatural.
1) Deep Breaths by trollprincess. “AU. Azazel offered Mary a choice, and she did what she had to do. She looked him in the eyes when he offered to bring her dead boyfriend back to life, and she told him no. Fifteen years later, she’s divorced, a single mom, and living in the sort of quaint small town she used to dream about raising her family in. Enter a strange woman with a mute little girl, a woman who cracks through Mary’s barely stable facade of a normal life. Featuring five tequila shots, four threatening angels, three fatherless children (maybe), two kickass women, and a platter of peanut butter brownies.” I love Mary. I love Ellen even more. She’s strong, no nonsense, and can drink anyone under the table. The two of them? Work. The little ones all together is super adorable and heartbreaking, and the development of the relationship, particularly in the early 90s, feels real to life. It’s a story of outliers living on the outskirts, and it’s totally worth the read.
2) Truth & Clarity by lazy_daze. “Escaping from her mother’s stifling concern, Jo’s on the road, hunting by herself, when she meets Kathleen Hudak, a sheriff in a small town in Minnesota that’s crawling with EMF. Rudely introduced to the supernatural world by a ghost from her past, Kathleen ends up working with Jo to put the disturbed spirits at rest, and takes off after Jo to join her on the road, hunting evil and learning the ropes. Jo wonders if she should be replacing one authoritative older woman with another – but Kathleen is different, and fascinating. Their bond changes into something unexpected and more than a little scary for Jo, but it becomes worth it – until a hunt goes south, and they both have to examine just what they have and what they mean to each other.” Long and plotty, this is a wonderful fic. And Jo’s sexual awakening is just the right kind of fraught. It’s not any easier for girls, people. Also, I love it when women are portrayed as human people. Read this, and you’ll see what I mean.
Anyway, all of this ranting has led me to this conclusion: I want to read more femslash. If there was more fic like this in the world, I would read more femslash. It’s not the girl/girl that bothers me (obviously), it’s the lack of interest by the community. I didn’t just post two random femslash fics. I posted the only two that came to mind. That ain’t right.