Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bitches Come and Go, But Friends are For Real

Yes, ladies and ladies, these were the words from our favorite "real" LA lesbian, Whitney (no last name, just Whitney, along with Sara, Romi, Claire, Sajdah, and Francine)--bitches come and go...

Safe to say, there are several things that bother me about this show:

1) it is painful to watch, for a number of reasons which I will detail later, but I really feel like I need a shower. No joke, I feel kind of gross. And my stomach hurts.

2) white women with dreadlocks. This may be a tired critique, but come on, has this ever really been addressed? When did it start being ok for white people to just have 'locks? It's not just a hairstyle, or lack of one, people.

 3) BOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGG. I mean, come on,  what did the editors have to work with, because reality tv shows are known for the lack of substance, stereotypes, and nothing close to real life, but this...was it just sorting through drunken footage and sex to splice something together? And the dialogue, someone (Whitney) on the show actually said, "you get under my soul, it's like leprosy," and "we have a magnetism to one another." Um.

4) Ilene Chaiken. She confuses me.

However, what I find really disturbing is the way that lesbians, bisexuals, butch women, femmes, Asian women, Black women (yes, they have amped up the diversity they say, but since when has Puerto Rican--which two of the cast were last season--not been "diverse"), all of us, and anyone who associates with us, are being portrayed.

Let's cut to the chase. Two things that happened on the season opener was full frontal nudity (and a close up) while one of the cast members, Romi, was getting in the shower. A close up. Like really close. This is the same Romi  who had strap-on sex with Whitney last season. Porn, I'm just gonna say it. Porn. And, we get to see Whitney again have pretty explicit sex with her on again, off again girlfriend or something, Sara, who she has oral sex with near the end of the episode (they then switch to kids playing in the park, I'm not joking, brilliant editing, and the other lesbian couple trying to have a baby). And, I'm not talking about camera pans away as she makes her way down Sara's torso, I'm talking full on, you're basically sitting on the bed with them as Sara grunts and says oh baby. My stomach is turning again. Now, you might ask, "Why are you watching this?" "How come you're being such a prude?" "Do you not like lesbian sex?" Well, this is my first and last time watching Season 2. There was very, very little to keep my attention and I am a sucker for television, mindless television, for true. But this, I had no emotion about: I didn't get angry, I wasn't invested, I didn't care. Not one bit. Not about the mullets, or the drinking, or the unfortunate grammar...I basically got through the 55 minutes or so because I've been wanting to blog about it after reading another hilarious post about it on afterellen (that's right, I read mainstream lesbian blogs). And, no I'm not a prude. Lesbian sex is cool :), I just don't want to watch real women doing it in front of a camera as if they are in the room by themselves. Not to mention doing it in "I want to be famous so badly I'll do anything" Los Angeles. Like, insert dialogue that the producers tell me to say, like "I wish we'd packed the strap-on, honey" (I'm not making this up).  That kind of desperation, while rampant on reality television, slices a little more when it's my people.

Look, I'm not separating myself out from these women. I like the ladies--well, one lady, only one lady--and I love, love, love lesbians. But, I'm not feeling the exploipresentation that's happening here. I don't care if it's easily written off, it's still a representation, one that's out there, being sold/marketed to an audience. And people are responding to it, check out the facebook pages and blog comments on Showtime's website. I sat and watched it for an hour and, though I feel dirty, am sitting here, commenting about it before I go to bed. And, I may not have if it wasn't for the last line of the previews for next week--the tag line, the one that may now appear at the end of each episode: "bitches come and go, but friends are for real." What does that mean? And, when, when did it become okay for lesbians to refer to other women as bitches and hoes (thanks Kreayshawn)? I know breakups happen and people may become bitter every once and a while, speaking from experience. But, this ongoing portrayal, which was also present in the show, that lesbians are some jacked up group of backstabbing, sex-hungry, emotionally unstable, desperate, dumb, and physically abusive women is more than problematic to me. **See also, Rainbow Noise, hip-hop's great gay hope, whose members boast "I beat the pussy up, call me Dyke Turner." Creative? Possibly, in some world where it's okay to reference the violent beatings that Tina Turner endured from Ike Turner in the name of lyrical flow, with no critique or concern for another woman, let alone another Black woman.

But, I fear that is the world that we live in, even as I revel in my queer, feminist, women of color communities.  And, the more than occasional brushup against this kind of realness makes me long for the days of Joan Armatrading--who is the same age as my mom and, consequently, still singing--and lyrics like:

Now I got all/The friends that I want/I may need more/But I shall just stick to those/That I have got/With friends I still feel/So insecure/Little darling I believe you could/Help me a lot/Just take my hand/And lead me where you will/No conversation/No wave goodnight/Just make love/With affection...With a lover /I could really dance/I could really move

Lover, whoo hoo. Sing me another love song!

Well, I wouldn't say I long for Joan Armatrading, sometimes she puts me to sleep. And, I don't actually own any of her music, though I dig her now and then because she's, you know, subtle. She emphasizes the friendships, the love, the enjoyment of women because we are women. And, though I may sound like it, I'm not an ageist. This is not a  "I can't connect to this generation" post. I've written critiques about "older" generations of lesbians before and the word lesbian itself as overriding my experience as a queer/hip hop/feminist. But, this feels different. This is disregard, not just for women, but for women who love and prioritize other women. And that's me you're representin'. And, for lack of a better comeback, I'm not your bitch. And while that's really a lame comeback, neither are you.