My Visceral Thought22032010
I can’t help it. I keep saying I won’t write this post. It’s not worth it, I’ll appear rude, my knowledge is limited, etc. But I’ve decided to put it out there, after a cursory read and setting the book aside in annoyance. The Gurlesque anthology, GURLESQUE: THE NEW GRRLY, GROTESQUE, BURLESQUE POETICS, by Arielle Greenberg and Lara Glenum, despite including a number of poets I admire and some I count as friends, has sufficiently gotten under my skin today, and to be fair, without giving it more than a few hours’ read. Perhaps I’ll regret it all and delete this rant later because, truly, I love a good number of the poems within.
What bugs though? Well in brief, Greenberg in her introduction parallels the Gurlesque with the Riot Grrrl movement. My memory of that movement, which I peripherally participated in by attending shows and working on a short-lived zine in the Baltimore/DC scene, “Shrill” (& listening to avidly), made efforts to include the queer. In fact, a large number of those bands were shout-out-loud queer and those that weren’t celebrated various permutations and manifestations of queerness, in fact, relied on it. This inclusion, I imagine, was predicated on the multi-cultural women’s movement of yore that imagined women who weren’t sexually beholden to men had something to offer. And that’s what’s getting under my skin. Despite similarities, in part, I don’t see the true parallel to the Gurlesque here. Content-wise, much of the poetry within this anthology is about straight women dealing directly (and sometimes sideways) with the push-pull of being romantically/sexually-invested in men while simultaneously being under their thumb/the symbolic as well as real power of men — I know several straight women who frustratedly deal with the issues that arise out of their desire for men that goes hand-in-hand with the power those same men hold over their heads. How does one navigate that? It’s hard, I know. I’ve been there. But I’m also somewhere else now, and this anthology doesn’t venture into that kind of experience. From what I can tell, I guess I don’t write the Gurlesque, nor do any other lesbians/queer women, despite Eileen Myles’ blurbage, “I like these dirty poems.” Yeah, but where’s the *real* dirt post-not-just-in-relation-to-men, just what are those pink claws and cute guns gonna do (as conjured in another blurb), you know, once the men go to sleep. What are these riot women going to rock then?? I guess this isn’t *that* kind of book, unless I’m missing it somehow…
This kind of reactive grotesque (from the “girls’” pens, beholden to Kristeva’s female groteseque) is why “cock” and “cunt” (cock ‘n cunt?) poems get play and other similar ‘fucking men’ pieces sell: these poems are very much querying and pushing against or into ‘what does it mean to be with men?’ & ‘how do I navigate/subvert/get out from under this mess’ via lots of sexual allusions, metaphors, and straight up physical descriptions, mostly frustrated and grotesque, however symbolic they may be. These kinds of poems demand reactions/attention because they’re very much about men, & female bodies in relation to men’s bodies, the mechanics and positions of that and how that plays out on the larger levels, through the lenses of women, toying with and reacting to how women are supposed to present/behave for men, etc. Certainly not all of the poems in the Gurlesque do this, but on my first and second quick read, a good majority of them. Perhaps, too simplistically from my perspective, is the Gurlesque simply a place for women who fuck men to work out their frustrations and deal with the accompanying power plays? Oh, and to trying to stop/subvert the conditioning of girls that rears them to be seen as such fuck dolls? Not that any of these efforts are wrong! It just feels like the Gurlesque strain in this particular book is claiming to do more (a la the Riot Grrrls), and I really don’t see it. Yet.
Well, thinking aloud here still, I suppose one could go further and say, gender (esp the hetero-binary) is everywhere and all the poems about penetration and cock sucking and being sexy-lady-fare could also apply to trans/boi/queer relations because some of us use (co-opt?) that language too. On occasion. But I dare say, and feel free to correct me, these are mostly if not all straight women dealing with the fallout of fucking men and/or resisting the implications of that desire in a society that positions them as the fucked, on varying levels of course/discourse. And for that reason, the Gurleseque is not the same as Riot Grrrl (nor do the women included in the anthology “not belong to any clubs that blah blah blah”, as Greenberg claims). Lara Glenum claims the Gurlesque is descriptive of a moment, something they observed:
‘The Gurlesque describes an emerging field of female artists who, taking a page form the historical burlesque, perform their femininity in a campy or overtly mocking way. Their work assaults the norms of acceptable female behavior by irreverently deploying gender stereotypes to subversive ends. The theoretical tangents germane to the Gurlesque that I’m exploring in my critical writing include burlesque and camp, girly kitsch, and performance of the female grotesque.”
Huh. I suppose there aren’t many/any lesbian or female/femme-queer poets writing stuff that fits that particular bill? What would that be even? Do we know anything about pleasure beyond being in relation to men? Based on the rampant physicality in these poems: Pussy on pussy? Cunt to cunt? Boobs buoyed by female sinew? I’m a thigh and eye woman, hear me roar? Okay, now I’m just fucking around and denigrating the Gurlesque, sorry. But somehow this whole Gurlesque scene conjures the Alison Bechdel test for films that try to reach beyond the mainstream/status quo / structure: 1. It has to have at least two women in it 2. Who talk to each other 3. About something besides a man. Achoo. To be fair, I did spot some poems about girls doing girl things like hopscotch and one about a granny. And someone pointed at a literary history via Woolf briefly. But if you’re going to conjure the Riot Grrrl movement, give me something to get fired up about! Because I’ve been there (the hetero-”lockdown”), done that and am just not as invested in direct rupture from male-on-female-play-as-we-know it. I live post-that investment now, so to speak. I’m in a privileged position, and I think that’s something worth inquiring about. Just my initial two interrogative (reductive?) cents; I’m ready to be schooled, so fire away.
P.S. Coincidentally, The Runaways anesthetizes the queer dyke right out of Joan Jett’s story, apparently. Makes the film into a Little Debbie snack cake. Scoop from Susie Bright: ”I’ll tell you why dyke rock’n'roll legacy is important. Because in order to stand up to the shitheads who tried to keep young women out of EVERYTHING, you had to NOT GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THEIR SEXUAL APPROVAL.”
Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)
- Date : March 22, 2010
- Tags: 7 year bitch, Adickdid, Anthology, beth ditto, bikini kill, book review, Bratmobile, burlesque, Excuse 17, Feminaissance, Feminism,Feminist, Fifth Column, grotesque, gurlesque, Heavens to Betsy, Huggy Bear, Jack Off Jill, joan jett, kim gordon, kristeva, L7, le tigre, Lesbian,patti smith, Queer, queercore, queerness, review, riot grrrl, Sleater-Kinney, surreal, surrealism, Team Dresch, the gossip, The Third Sex, third wave, woman, women's issues
- Categories : Creative Writing, Education, Feminism, Gay, Gender Politics,Language, Lesbian, Literature, Love, Poetics, Poetry, Pop Culture,Publishing, Queer Culture, Sexism, Sexy, Women, Writer
So odd that something that obviously draws from contemporary burlesque eschews queerness! It seems so embedded in that aesthetic. Certainly, I saw a burlesque/dance show the other night put together by the amazing Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith, which might have interested you rather more. Sadly it’s in Melbourne, otherwise I’d urge you to go!
Yes, I was surprised and felt let down. Thanks for the show-tip, Alison; will keep an eye out for their state-side debut!
I don’t find Gurlesque boring, but maybe ’cause it’s about my hometown. And that in itself is kinda nice. I mean, how many literary fellas have had the privilege of boring me? And many of them get to bore in perpetuity. It’s about time I got to do some of the boring (boring into!) right from my very own subject position.
But this is really interesting! I think you’re spot-on about the relationship to sexuality in a lot of these poems. I definitely interrogate my position in the heterosexual matrix. And if that were all I ever did, it’d probably be enough for me, since I am a feminist breeder living in hetero town, often thinking, huh? well, how did I get here?
But even beyond the literal cunt-to-cock, doesn’t male gaze construct our cultural understanding of (life inside) the female form no matter who we have sex with? It’s not just the hetero lover that constructs the girl/woman. It’s the parents, the doctors, the teachers, the reception of queer women (I love that article that Heather Cassils interview Ana pointed out: http://www.out.com/detail.asp?page=1&id=26601). And most of those things construct a person before she gets anywhere near the first boyfriend. I wonder if the female/feminine grotesque can ever be performed without reference to male gaze and heteronormative sex acts… I mean, does a woman ever get to take her body out from under patriarchy? That’s a sincere question. Seriously–is there a place to go?
I dunno, I wasn’t in the right place at the right time for real Riot Grrrl scene (baby doll dresses and combat boots aside), but I do think that Gurlesque poems can do similar violence to the viewer (or vindication of the viewer if she’s identifying with the performance). They lock the gaze and exploit the stare. The Gurlesque reaction to the medico-sexualization of female bodies is worth getting fired up about. And the reconstitution of “girl” as viable subject position. Lately, I’m really interested in the way we market things to girls that we then denigrate them for buying, the way the “girl” is always/already a vulnerable, gaping wound, a burden on her people, ripe for demonizing. We don’t want to be called “girls,” we want to be called “women,” but when we distance ourselves from girl so aggressively, I think we’re buying into girlhood = disease. What’s less important than a “girl”? Or more vulgar than an old girl? And it’s not like a person gets to identify as “girl” or not solely on her own say-so. Woman & girl, both categories created by patriarchy, both labels applied willy-nilly, yeah?
And another thing that just occurred to me–Gurlesque tactics must also be about the relationship of straight women one to another, or the relationship straight women have to queer women? Hmmm.
Okay, I’m mostly just yakking here. And taking up a lot of space.
Reply23032010Amy King critiques the Gurlesque « Reading the Gurlesque(04:41:17) : edit
[...] Amy King critiques the Gurlesque’s heteronormativity and appropriation of Riot Grrrl punk here. Leave a [...]
Boring? That was one of the risks I knew I was taking simply by critiquing this anthology and speaks to my hesitation: that I would somehow be read as going against what the poems within those pages are doing: I’m not. As the project stands, I think it’s a fine one and there certainly should be poems out there that address those heteronormative structures/contents/images/symbols and fuck the hell out of them, to make a poor pun. I’m all for you and the women included interrogating the hell out of the hetero-matrix! And some of those poems give delight, cause pause, etc in many good ways. I wouldn’t deny you that neighborhood because I know it’s a liberating one and I want the option to visit too sometimes bc I don’t only inhabit a queer sensibility at all times (nor have I historically)…
But the implications set forth by Glenum and Greenberg imply a scope that I don’t think this anthology reaches. That’s where my disappointment lies. A few of the Riot Grrrls wore baby doll dresses; many did not. Many played naked, wore attire across the board, mixed and matched, took punk and feminized it on their terms, (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3616/3540472347_63b22e2462_o.gif) etc. This anthology does not cover that range, in my humble estimation. But it seems that sensibility, or a nod towards it at least, was part of the project:
Glenum wrote, “I happen to think that the Gurlesque is about performing gender in a way that causes gender binaries to fray, skew, collapse. It is absolutely about queerness (in the broader sense that Seth describes)”… I don’t know what Seth described, but in my book, queerness is not just about being in relationships with men — and ‘performing gender in a way that causes binaries to fray’ can and should extend beyond what I’ve written in my post above and have seen in this book (i.e. primarily reacting to those hetero-strictures/structures via A. fucking men and B. liberating girls from the sexualization for A). In fact, including the work that is (to me, glaringly) absent is imperative, as one can see via the Riot Grrrls example. Some of the boldness and the wildfire of that “moment” came from straight girls being inspired by what queer women had: some freedom to think beyond the hetero-normative.
And yes, I agree, we all grow up being pushed into those “girl” subject-hood positions (the princess-soon-to-be-fuck-doll); but not all of us remain within its confines exclusively (though we are certainly aware of its maw constantly trying to consume us – two lesbians get it on for men, anyone?), but that’s not the point. The point gets at Cixious’ notion of writing the “feminine,” that it hasn’t happened yet and is only beginning to emerge because it has been suppressed/unarticulated/stuck-in-the-structures-that-be for so damn long. So how do we get at writing the feminine, the as-yet-unheard? How do we even begin to recognize it? Well, in my book, the queer is one route full of promise. What does it mean to live a daily life loving, and all that entails, another woman? Women? And all of the questions that fall in after… just as you point out at the end of your comment: what about relations between straight women and with queer women? I’m totally for exploring those! How do we feed off of each other, energize, etc. What do we end up creating together? Is it even fathomable to go past the patriarchal coding/discourse/positioning? What happens if we succeed? What then?
But it’s five a.m. and I’m fading here. As I’ve slept only briefly, upon waking, I pondered who I might investigate to find if they, at some point, wrote anything fitting what I thought the “Gurlesque” might include that extends beyond the scope of what I’m seeing in this anthology– Off the top of my head, if I were going to spend an hour or two looking around, I’d check out work by Cynthia Sailers (Lake Systems is a damn fine book and likely would offer something akin to Gurlesque) (oh, here’re two tho they’re not from her book –http://www.shampoopoetry.com/ShampooTwentytwo/sailers.html), as well as work by Metta Sama, R. Erica Doyle, Michelle Tea, Daphne Gottlieb, Megan Volpert, Tisa Bryant, Rachel Zolf, Erika Kaufman, Staceyann Chin, and oh just a host of others that I can’t list as the true waking hour draws near (here –http://amyking.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/steal-this-list/). But among even just those short-listed, I know that some of them at some point (moment!) have enlisted that burlesque/grotesque and go beyond the framework of the cock.
Danielle, you hit one of the nails on the head with your last paragraph – Gurlesque tactics must also be about exploring those (less valued?) relations and I just don’t see it in the anthology, though I know that exploration thrived and vibed among riot grrrls and that was thrilling. I wanted this book to similarly motivate/inspire me. But I admit, I was disappointed and bogged down by what seems to me to be a terrible omission. This anthologized strain of the Gurlesque is limited mostly to exploring relations only btwn men and women (& the conditioning of girls for men). That’s fine and certainly worth exploring, but as I said, limited in scope and that’s my gripe.
Amy, I think this discussion raises the very relevant question of how the countercultural, grotesque, autre and queer intersect, where they overlap and borrow from each other and where they don’t. Can one queer language/imagination without queering life? There is an element of danger to being queer: to female lovers holding hands in a Southern diner, to hailing a cab or boarding the subway in drag, to a FTM trans boi in a gay-male bar — all open up the possibility of being not just sexually mocked and exploited but of physical harm. When the pressure/violence of that harm is deflected onto the language to the point where its muscles rip and then expand: that, in my mind, is when language is queered. And god/dog knows women are always in the danger of being harmed. Harmed as a somewhat known (though dangerous) Other — but is that the same as being Monster, part of no binary? (See Heather Cassils, above, again…) From Lara Glenum’s guest post on Johannes’s blog: “[Female burlesque performers] were utilizing their masculine attire as a sort of fetish object, in fact emphasizing their feminine sexuality by contrasting it with markers of masculinity. The effect of such ‘unladylike’ conduct led at least one critic to deem burlesque performers neither men nor women but “creatures of an alien sex, parodying both.” I want to read through the anthology to see where and if the poems wear that male attire–does it actually happen? (Nota bene: I’ve only glanced at the anthology so far.) A poet who achieves boy-drag to stellar effect in her poems is Stacy Szymaszek, see “Homo Sailor King in Emptied of All Ships,” Julian Brolaski’s review here:
http://chax.org/eoagh/issuefour/brolaski.html. Or is the project of the anthology really to sing the “horrible prettiness” of the femme dentata who may or may not be venturing into the truly queer? All this is really wide open for discussion and I do hope people who talk and think about Gurlesque engage you without holding back. I’ve thought/read a lot about Gurlesque, its embrace of kitsch resonates with me (http://othebleedingdropsofred.blogspot.com/2009/10/me-is-him-is-them.html), and so I look forward to sitting down with the anthology this weekend and seeing (with my queer third eye) where it takes me.
Just wanna give the link to that Glenum post on Gurlesque, as there is some use of ‘queer’ in the comments there. Seth Abramson comments:
“I think [the post] emphasizes, even more than its implications for feminism, the relation of the gurlesque to (using the cultural and lit-crit sense of the word here) ‘queerness’ (as opposed to the more narrow category of homosexuality).”
Totally valid, though as a queer woman, I admit it’s hard for me to forget that the momentum of queer theory draws heavily on LGBT studies & queer activism, and always hope to see the full range of the non-normative/deviant written through/about — not for representation’s sake, but to open doors.
Thanks, Ana & Amy for this discussion! Very exciting! I want, actually, to address what you’re saying about Cixous, Amy. Have you read Monique Wittig’s The Warriors? It attempts to perform l’ecriture feminine. Its characters are living in this post-man feminist utopia. And it drives me batty! Because, of course, if you are writing in the same ol’ language, and the writing itself isn’t particularly experimental, how can you be even remotely in that place outside the phallogocentric? Ditch your characters’ surnames, but if you don’t ditch grammar, you’re still talking to Daddy. I think Cathy Park Hong actually comes a lot closer to sticking it to Big Daddy Language in herDance, Dance, Revolution patois. Anyhow, that’s to say I don’t know about the other poets in the anth, but I do know that the whole feminine writing thing gives me the queasy. I don’t think it’s possible at this point in time/culture to write feminine. I do think it’s possible to bust some holes in the matrix (living queer, mangling language, etc.), but that doesn’t get us out of the culture that cultured us. And, of course if one lives the daily hetero (even if, ahem, her partner tattooed g-i-r-l on his knuckles), one’s getting constantly reformatted by heteronormativity.
Also, with regard to Kristeva, yesssss, Gurlesque poets definitely owe her, but I think they recognize the abject as an opportunity for border crossing in a way that Kristeva’s work doesn’t. I say this a lot, but I’m gonna post it here, too: anthropologist Anna Tsing’s In the Realm of the Diamond Queen has a great passage on how Western Kristeva’s thesis is, and the value of maggots/flies/other abject properties as gateway between life and death in other cultures, shaman, etc.
It’s problematic to characterize Gurlesque as queer. I wouldn’t call my own work queer, except maybe in that Judith Halberstam “queer time and space” fashion. I think Gurlesque does queer heterosexuality (that is, reveals all the elements of heterosexuality that run counter to its identity as “normal”), but I dunno… This is beautiful, Ana: “Or is the project of the anthology really to sing the “horrible prettiness” of the femme dentata who may or may not be venturing into the truly queer?” Maybe it is!
At the end of the day, I think the Riot Grrrl that the Gurlesque draws on (if it does), is the trickle-down version. The Sassy magazine version. Which I don’t want to belittle, ’cause it meant a lot to suburban girls like me who weren’t able to get to clubs or zines or anything but the mall. The ones for whom Riot Grrrl bled into Ghost World geek-chic. I think Arielle’s talking more about the place where the daughters of the second wave feminists tumbled headlong into burgeoning third wave environs.
Okay, I (clearly) haven’t had my coffee yet, and have to run teach, so apologies! Amy, I love your list of writers there! Sister Spit was here at UWyo in the fall, and they definitely had a burlesque vibe. Have you seen Ben McCoy perform? Swoon.
And sorry for suggesting you found the Gurlesque “boring,” Amy. I think it was the “fired up” line that led me to think so. Anyhow, I see what you mean re: the Gurlesque anthology falling short on these points, but I also think that because it’s a descriptive project, it’s looking not just at the actual poems, but also where the entire zeitgeist can take us. I’ll be curious to hear what you think upon more thorough read (um, and I haven’t thoroughly read it either–in fact, I don’t have my hardcopy yet). And I’m going to go think about how my own work has/will address those other relationships that I think are indeed less valued (straight-to-straight girl, queer-to-straight girl, etc.).
First, thanks for thoughtfully engaging my post – I’ve rec’d a very large number of backchannels (more than usual) confirming that several others felt similarly about the anthology, but I guess they don’t want to venture into public to say so because it might be perceived as some sort of betrayal… I’m guessing.
But the short of it is (& I apologize for my hurry), if this project aligns itself with a movement that made efforts to include the queer, and the editors conjure the queer, then based on the content I’ve read, I’m wondering if Gurlesque “queer” now omits/leaves out actual queer women and content that I’ve long understood to be queer. Because this anthology feels quite exclusive in whose work it includes and what *kinds* of poems are within. What is being described from these inclusions is, well, limited.
This is not to say anyone can’t employ queering, so to speak, but when content omits the queer/queer sensibility/efforts, it seems to be a disservice that does not actually describe what’s happening *fully*, except through a very exclusive lens. The suburbs house all sorts of women engaging/creating all sorts of writing, not just hets!
And I don’t mean to be short with your post; I’ve got to run but will return to consider more of your ideas here shortly, esp on the “theory” end of things, which I am not very well-versed on. Thanks for your take on them!
I am glad you wrote about this. I remember seeing bikini kill as a young’un and loving many a riot grrl band/zine. It just felt R.G was more all encompassing of many female perspectives vs. Gurlesque. There is a subversiveness in one that is not there in the other? If we are working from within the positing of heter-sexualized binaries then where is the pushing of language? The writing outside of the male gaze? As Cixous would say, writing out of the world of the male (symbolic) and creating a new space?
Hey, wait, rushing here, I am big time ignorant I realize! Amy, can you say more about Riot Grrrl as queer culture/movement? I wouldn’t (from my great distance) have read it as queer. I was just asking my partner, who was way into music as a teen, and also he wasn’t really aware of the Riot Grrrl queer. Now I think I’ve been teaching Riot Grrrl very poorly (it’s even in the intro to gender & women’s studies textbook I use!). Do you suppose it got sanitized in the same fashion as The Runaways?
@Erika–I wrote about Cixous in my rambly comments above–would love to hear your thoughts!
Danielle (running ever so late!)
Just wanna say Thanks! to Danielle for your awesome response. I totally dig what you say about how ecriture feminine can’t be performed w/out actively examining the Master’s Tools. Working & continuing to listen in…as far as Riot Grrrl queer, many of the bands associated with RG were queer/there was lots of overlap with queercore, instead of listing all I link to the ever-helpful Wiki:
Oh god, a ton of the bands were queer or included queer members, the zines were all over the place with queer content, pushing the limits, etc. One big critique of Riot Grrrl was that it was predominantly white… and mostly classed as well, though I think there was more effort to include ‘working class’ as a product of punk than not-white folks.
I’ll have to get back to you on that as well, but if you just do a search on Riot Grrrls queer, you’ll get a ton of hits that include zine info and bands (some under “queercore” but many of the female queer bands were just Riot Grrrl). But yes, a great number of the bands and members identified as queer, produced what was characterized as queer fucking and the like, I believe. I don’t think they specifically segregated, which is the point. I don’t see that kind of inclusion in this anthology, despite the parallel drawn…
I don’t think Riot Grrrl was characterized as a queer movement, but rather, was (mostly) inclusive and sought out the queer, not just in the sense of a “trickle-down” ‘queering’ relations with men. There was an alignment, in other words, that I don’t see in the anthology.
As for this particular Gurleseque, which is the only definitive one so far set forth by LG and AG, it seems to exclude the kind of queer found in Riot Grrrl, except perhaps that claim to queer the hetero-matrix, as you put it. Hence the “cock/cunt” focus. I’m getting redundant here, I know. But this is still where I’m hung up, and I’m not alone, except maybe in that I’m saying so ‘publicly.’ And this is not a betrayal – it’s a query and a hope that future efforts will range broader to match the scope outlined/implied…
As for Wittig, I haven’t read her tho I took a peek once and wasn’t pulled in. I can’t imagine that hers, esp as you describe it, is the only decent attempt, or will be, to write the feminine. I buck against that bland characterization in fact. If you say it’s impossible, I guess I’ll sideways insert Ashbery here (after reading Stein), “And if, on laying the book aside, we feel that it is still impossible to accomplish the impossible, we are also left with the conviction that it is the only thing worth trying to do.” Or at least imagining and shooting for that impossible… starting it with very wide eyes (& far reaching).
I don’t get the sense that Glenum and Greenberg are going for a “trickle down” version of Riot Grrrl. Greenberg’s intro pretty much attempts to own Riot Grrrl in direct relation to the Gurleseque, which in her version, again, omits actual queer inclusion. I mean, is the Gurlesque supposed to be only for straight women? It’s not blatantly stated but I understood it to be so based on the contents of the book. And that saddened me. What a way to leave out some seriously important work going on, an entire tradition/community that certainly has and does utilized camp, the burlesque, parody, etc , often borne out of sheer necessity – much of what they say they premise (or observe) the Gurlesque on (doing) — and I am still speculating as to why they left that stuff out. Is it because the Gurlesque will get more attention if it’s written in direct relation to men? Because straight women can be monstrously kawaii but still remain fuckable/desiring men? And queer women presumably aren’t in that camp so the Gurlesque isn’t for us? Is that the message I’m supposed to receive? And in turn, just what are Gurlesque practitioners really aiming for? Just to get out from under the man? Still wondering…
A few miscellaneous grabs for ya, as requested—
For “legitimacy’s sake”, CUNY ran a panel exploring that history:
For decades, queer media has spanned everything from riot grrrl record labels to campy ‘zines. These mediums interact with mainstream media and capitalist business models in divergent ways, spawning different visions of the creative potential of avowedly queer media. — http://web.gc.cuny.edu/clags/QueerCUNYSchedule.doc
Though I don’t know what the end publications were…
“Her deep friendship with a very serious queer femme riot grrl, Lila. We talked about veganism, bands, racism, and pornography. (They had class differences. Lila and a lot of the other girls were richer.) Making mix tapes and trading them. Gina read ‘The Persistent Desire’. Traded zines with every girl I met and hundreds of others through the mail. Starstruck at meeting Kate Bornstein. The overwhelming joy of finally being taken seriously as a queer girl.”
Kathleen Hanna explored/included the queer:
“Besides being in Le Tigre [which included queer member JT], I am working on the theme song for Lori Singer and Laura Cottingham’s all lesbian remake of the Genet classic “Querelle” and just had an essay published in Robin Morgan’s third anthology Sisterhood Is Forever.”
Again, including the queer:
“In NYC, along with zine writer and artist Johanna Fateman and musician/video artist Sadie Benning, she started Le Tigre, a dance/punk band focused on feminist and queer-friendly issues.”
“When Kathleen Hanna shouted out ‘we’ve got to show them we’re worse than queer’ it struck a chord in me despite the song being sung from one woman to any number of other women. There was anger and passion and defiance and politics all rolled together in that lyric and it blew my mind. From there I ran out and bought my own copy of the EP and continued to get any and all BK music as it was released. I also got into lots of other music that was categorized as “Riot Grrrl music” or queercore/queerpunk and all of it rocked my world and even got me into playing the drums, which I still do 16 years later. But Bikini Kill was the gateway to all of that for me.”
Quick run down of a handful of queer bands associated with Riot Grrrl:
Tribe 8, Team Dresch, Third Sex, Mr. Lady, Le Tigre, The Haggard, Slant 6, Huggy Bear, God Is My Co-Pilot, (1/2 of) Sleater Kinney, CWA (Cunts w Attitude), The Butchies, The Raincoats (tho I used to hang w a woman from that band and I don’t think she was queer), Au Pairs (not sure they were Riot Grrrl affiliated tho), Tracy and the Plastics (again, not sure RGrrrl affiliated), and Lunachicks (at minimum, content-wise queer), and more I’m leaving out/forgot/don’t know about.
The grouping of riot grrrl with queer is common:
“The book’s most successful chapter is its first, in which Julia Downes explores the birth of riot grrrl in Olympia, Washington DC, and even Britain. The PhD student and Ladyfest organizer discusses the founding of K Records, the forming of bands like Heavens To Betsy and Huggy Bear, community meetings, zine culture, and early feminist/queer/riot grrrl events.”
More excerpts from the Susie Bright blog post:
Everyone called themselves “bi,” although that was really code for: don’t tell me what to do…. [I remember a number of straight women doing the same when I was going to shows, because to do so was to get away from existing only for men - these women wanted to value the women they were hanging with and the things they were making together. If a cool dude came along who wasn't threatened, then fine. But otherwise, they'd rather prioritize differently.]
The mosh pit and the queer liberation scene were an organic ecstatic teenage wasteland, true compost, but no one knew how it was supposed to come together….
Let me make something clear that the movie only hints at: The Runaways band would not have happened, could not have been conceived, without the Underground Dyke Punk Groupie Slut culture that stretched from the San Fernando Valley to the bowels of Orange County.
What is wrong with saying that? Do dykes never get to claim anything? Is the historical lens going to stay coated with Vaseline and excuses FOREVER?
Etc. Again, off to class. More soon. Again. xo, a
The more I read about this, the more I’m finding “Gurlesque” – the term itself and concept originated and has been used for many years in relation to queer performance art. See below for a few of the many links available:
Apparently Gurlesque started as some sort of Lesbian Strip Show/Performance Art thing pre-2000…
“Once again GURLESQUE opens her doors for Queers of all gender persuasions & blends it up for an unofficial Mardi Gras show
GURLESQUE presents…”Bee My Dirty Little Valentine” a mixed queer cabaret/burlesque”
Chicago Pride, “Gurlesque Burlesque with Margaret Cho – ,” January 13, 2007
AN ENTIRE DISCUSSION FROM 2005 ABOUT GURLESQUE, THE LESBIAN STRIP SHOW … Just a few EXCERPTS:
I don’t know if there have already been posts about this so please direct me there if there is! How do people feel about so-called Lesbian Strip Shows such as Gurlesque?
I found myself at such a show without really knowing what I was going to. (It was a women’s only event as part of a festival I went to and a great bunch of women I was hanging out with were going for a night out and I joined them).
I think your experience was tainted by the audience members, not Gurlesque or the actual performances. I haven’t experienced the type of leering and sexist comments you mention when I’ve attended Gurlesque performances in Sydney. I’ve always found the audience supportive and receptive.
As for Gurlesque itself, while the nudity and themes covered in some of the performances may not be everybody’s cup of tea, Gurlesque as a women’s event is necessary and much welcomed.
Gurlesque is the most progressive event our community has. Gurlesque allows women to be themselves; where else would you find size 20 women stripping along side size 8s? Where else would you find a women comfortable enough to strip when she has her period and her tampon string is exposed? Where else would you see a breast cancer survivor feel comfortable enough to strip and show her mastectomy scar? Where else would you find an intersex person comfortable enough strip and detail the invasive surgery s/he was subjected to as a child?
As for objectification of women by women, I think it comes down to consent. Personally, I don’t appreciate being objectified by men – it happens without my consent on a daily basis with comments and leers when I’m going about my daily routine – but when it comes to a place like Gurlesque or other lesbian venues, I give my consent to being objectified. I think the same goes with the performers at Gurlesque; by stripping for a group of women they are consenting to being objectified and that is their choice. It can be quite empowering to create a sexy show, allowing the crowd to desire you, yet knowing you’re in full control. It’s all part of the show.
Gurlesque creates a safe and sex-positive place for women to explore and exhibit their sexuality in a consentual environment. And that, in my opinion, can only be a good thing.
I remember when Gurlesque was starting out, and the audience was WAY different than it is now- it was much more suburban and sleazy. A lot of audience behaviour was pretty inappropriate, as the idea of a strip show was so new. I went because friends of friends had organised it, so I went along. But the feminist ideas of the performers was different than the anti-feminist crowd at the time. Or at least, there was a group of women who made the most noise and showed the most disrespect. It was pretty cringey.
Now, the audience is more arty and “performative”- more like the performers themselves- a lot of leather people and people who are more used to avant-garde stuff.
When we saw the modified for general public gurlesque performance at chill out however, we both enjoyed it for different reasons. i loved the feminist aspect of it – the women (as far as I know) own the show and thus earn their income from it.
Each of the women is markedly physically different and when they got women from the audience they encouraged them to explore and be comfortable with their bodies but were at the same time entirely respectful of the women’s boundaries. I have never seen the full show but i liked what i saw and i would say I’m a fairly rigid kinda feminist in many ways – some might say i’m one of those doctrinaire types who they might expect to can Gurlesque. It does, as others have said, seem to have stemmed from the audience.
Re: “Lesbian” strip shows
I have seen Gurlesque shows maybe four times now and each time has been brilliant, very creative, well run for women by women.
The shows have always shown a strong political and sex positive base that held no comparison to any male-owned and run strip club. The two who started Gurlesque used to strip for men till they got jack of it and started a group for women.
From what I’d heard some of the strippers/dancers work in (mostly) male frequented strip joints and loved doin’ it for women because they enjoy female appreciation more.
When you take the ‘man’ out of your head and just appreciate it for what it is rather than what it reminds you of your view just might be something more positive than it is now.
For those who like to deconstruct, here’s a link to a queer theory analysis of Gurlesque. Perhaps kismet, you might see the avant-garde notions at play in this article.
AND THE DISCUSSION/EXPLORATION GOES ON AND ON.
“On the one hand it makes sense, right? I mean, the Chicago Kings–the fathership of kinging in Chicago–has disbanded, and Gurlesque Burlesgue–the mothership of queer burlesque is inactive. Both rose in popularity with great force and were vital catalysts of the queer performance world in Chicago for quite a while. But are these art forms dead? I say, Hell, no! They are just evolving, shapeshifting. Some performers are taking a break, some are pushing forward down new avenues of gender performance.”
10. Favourite Live Australian Act: Gurlesque
Formed by duo Sex Intents and Glitta Supernova in…THE YEAR 2000, Gurlesque is a favourite in the queer scene. With shows that feature a fantastic host of performances, dancing and side-splitting comedy, these monthly acts aren’t to be missed. I’ve been to two of these shows now and have had a spectacular time at both.
Gurlesque originated in queer culture… I still hope to discover more about this updated anthologized Gurlesque in relation to the origins of the term and the queer work that seems to be missing…
Wow, Amy, treasuretrove! Really helpful to my understanding of the Riot Grrrl scene. I’m gonna be a better fem theory teacher!
This is the most thoughtful and interesting critique of the Gurlesque I’ve heard (if not as hilariously & revealingly ill-put as the one in the comments box at HTMLGiant: http://htmlgiant.com/presses/if-you-like-it-naughty/#comments Eye. Roll). I wish others would speak up. Maybe I am being to much of a comments box hog? Apologies! I cannot still my enthusiasm.
Okay, trying to make sense of things, I see two different criticisms:
1. The Gurlesque as described by AG & LG purports an allegiance to &/or co-opts the queer, but then omits queer poems.
2. There are a number of queer women poets performing the type of Gurlesque that LG outlines in her introductory essay who haven’t been included in the anthology.
So, one problem is that queer sexuality fits under the Gurlesque rubric, but then there’s no room for it in the anthology. The other problem is that there are queer women doing just what Lara outlines in that passage on the burlesque who weren’t included in the anthology. Am I getting this right? I’m beginning to confuse myself…
Re: writing the feminine, prove me wrong humans! Send me books! Write it! I try/tried/try to write NOT phallogo, and feel I have only minor, brief successes, if any. And then sometimes I think it is big fatty success to put on Ezra Pound’s bones & make ‘em dance around as I choose. Gimme that phallogo & I’ll make it sing, I’ll bastardize it *wink*.
Oh, and here’s Greenberg’s first go at “gurlesque” in a review of Chelsey Minnis, 2002:http://www.epoetry.org/issues/issue3/text/prose/greenberg1issue3.htmlI’d be surprised if she was referencing the Sydney lesbian strip show–the Gurlesque strip show hadn’t hit the states in 2002 had it? But I dunno, you’d have to ask Arielle.
Causes Amy King Supports