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September 19, 2012 / missmarymax

On “Lesbian Chic”

Full transcript after the cut.

Ohhh, Style.

On the eve of New York’s Fashion Week, Style apparently decided “fail” would be this season’s fancy. A web article entitled “The Conversation” begins with this bang! straight out of a monster movie —

LESBIANS! THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

— and it only deteriorates from there.

For starters, Style’s “trend” is admittedly – less than a total new wave. The site supports their claim that “lesbian chic” is taking over by noting that “a couple of high-profile ladies [have] ditched their marriages and started dating women.” A coup-le. Now if two doesn’t strike you as a representative sample, fear not. Style also cites one British Vogue article on such team-switching , some Models.com coverage of one entire lesbian wedding, and a Tatler piece featuring (wait for it) SEVEN of London’s loveliest lesbians.

[Animated footage from Disney’s Brave Little Tailor plays. Various characters, including Pluto dressed as a knight, gasp “Seven?!”]

Ima try and keep this brief.

[MMax holds up black-on-white sign that reads, “I can’t believe I still have to vlog about this shit.”]

Lesbians don’t dress a certain way. Sure, there are trends within the lesbian subculture, much like there are in any subculture, but the wearing of stone-washed jeans, flannel, or Doc Martin’s does not a lesbian make. Plenty of straight people wear these same items; plenty of lesbians don’t wear these items, and the notion that a specific “look” can be titled “lesbian” is frankly silly. Even Mel Ottenberg, fashion editor for Purple and the one person Style bothers to quote in this piece, can’t actually get behind the title “lesbian chic.” Ottenburg points to increased presence on the scene of Air Jordans, baseball caps, and combat boots, but notes that he never “thought of that look as ‘lesbian.’” Here’s a quick hint why: cos it’s not.

(It’s also worth noting that trends within the lesbian subculture have existed for decades and therefore, are not the kind of ground-breaking seasonal shocker you ’d expect Style to focus on).

But let’s say for a moment that we could get behind this—that Style’s point was less “zomg, all the models be dressing like lesbians!” and more “hey, some of the key icons we see driving style among lesbians are starting to influence fashion in the mainstream.” That could, maybe, work… the way that talking about how rock&roll is something that developed – or was stolen from –Black musicians can work. The problem – on top of the aforementioned this isn’t lesbian style issue – is that Style is not talking about style. They’re talking about behavior. And frankly, they should stick to their strengths.

The piece does argue that lesbians are starting to influence style. I mean, Rihanna is “wearing combat boots in situations where before, nothing but four-inch-heel stiletto booties would do.”   (God, I’ve been in so many of those situations.) But other than this swap of stillettos for air Jordans – the majority of this piece is about identity and behavior. High profile fashionistas are dating women, marrying women, even identifying as lesbian. And the first answer Style has for their self-created question, “what will this high-vis lady love mean for fashion?” is “perhaps, […] in an industry stuffed with attractive young women, a few more of them may start dating each other.” Right. Why? “Seriously, trying to catch a man in fashion is like trying to catch a rainbow.”

Ooookay, so lesbianism here is a social wardrobe change. You’re hanging up last season’s straightness and putting on this season’s li’l queer ensemble.  Lesbian behavior is, essentially, a sartorial choice, something you can choose because it’s “in” –despite, you know, that tiny ongoing lack of representation and basic human rights and stuff.

Whether or not you believe sexual identity can be a “choice” – the notion that it’s always a choice or it’s a choice on par with which pair of boots to wear this fall feels a tad reductive. Lesbians aren’t the “in” crowd simply because we’re being represented to the point that straight people occasionally recognize we exist.  We’re denied employment, housing, and custody. The right to marry and the right to bury those we love. The right to live, freely, without the threat of violence.  Style’s sudden awareness of lesbian culture or lesbians, period, says very little about our in-ness. It says a lot more about how little attention they’ve paid queer culture in seasons past. And it says most, that they’re still buying into tired misconceptions – like lesbianism as an alternative for dissatisfied straight women, “athletic” equaling dyke, and dressing “like a boy” de facto meaning you aren’t into them. Style isn’t spotting some big new trend. They’re just trussing up some seriously outmoded stereotypes. And frankly? How do I put this?

Your heterosexist bullshit is so last season.

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