Normalizing the outliers

Standard

One of my (new) favorite websites is The Feminist Wire and so much good stuff has been coming from there lately I’ve wanted to share with you all but wasn’t sure how to keep it relevant to the topic of this blog.

I think I finally found one.

Lose like a Man: Who is Really Losing in the New Weight Watchers Campaign? focuses on the body weight as a civilizing discourse. Using Charles Barkley and his new Weight Watchers advertisement, the piece argues that Weight Watchers reifies gender boundaries by reclaiming weight loss as something a “man” can do and still be “manly,” and that it attempts to bring black bodies into civilized standards by emulating the white, European body image.

Weight Watchers transforms (Jennifer) Hudson, and more specifically Barkley, from ‘fat’ and ‘undesirable’–from non-role models to role models worthy of national adoration.  Acceptance comes not only from adaptation to ‘European standards of beauty and size,’ but from their exposure to the systems and skills purportedly practiced by wealthy white suburbanites.

After spending a few days with this piece, I started thinking about the way society tries to civilize gay and lesbian bodies.

Think:

  • Ellen DeGeneres hawking CoverGirl makeup (which I have issues with anyway. Why are we using the word “girl” to promote something to women unless we’re trying to keep them young and woefully innocent?);
  • Neil Patrick Harris playing the straight man-whore bachelor on How I Met Your Mother;
  • Gay men and lesbians only being talked about in mainstream culture when the topic is “gay marriage” because marriage is supposed to be the most civilizing discourse of all.

So then my thoughts wandered this way: with so many people in America against gay marriage it seems that folks are deliberately trying to keep us “uncivilized.” But why? If marriage is supposed to be good for America because it creates economic and cultural stability, I don’t get why folks would want to leave out a group of gay men and lesbians (e.g. me) who want to do just that.

It’s like America is saying “We want you to be civilized when it’s convenient for us, when we can use you to make money or sell a product, but when it comes to full civility, well, that’s just not for you to have.”

America, I want you to stop giving me a bar of soap to wash with without giving me the water to rinse. If you’re going to include me, go ahead and do it. Don’t just go halfway.

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