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Annotated Bibliography #1: Anti-Assimilation

Errea, Lauren. "Queercore: A Musical Declaration of Queer Pride." Daily Californian February 8, 2002, Print.

Author Lauren Errea, of the Daily Californian, begins this article by asking this question: "Queer. Insult, compliment, or declaration of pride?" She thinks if you were to ask Jon Ginoli, of the band Pansy Division, his answer would be the latter. Pansy Division is an all-gay rock band from San Francisco and one of the many numerous bands that could be considered "queercore." Queercore is the crossbreeding of the gay and punk scenes of the early nineties. Both queer culture and punk rock culture are subversive to mainstream culture and challenge norms in society. Errea continues to detail the career of Pansy Division in this article, explaining how the band got started, and how they are trying to spread the message about gay issues through their shows. One fan described a Pansy Division show he attended, "It was crazy. They used blow up dolls and all sorts of crazy gimmicks you don't normally see on stage. They're definitely not hiding anything." The article also mentions a few other queercore bands such as Tribe 8, Panty Raid, and Erase Errata. Tribe 8 is noted to have written a song about gay adolescents who kill themselves after being ridiculed by their parents. Errea concludes the article by explaining that not all gay people embrace the anti-assimilationist tactics that these queercore bands use, and that they are still quite confrontational.

This article is relevant to my term, anti-assimilation, because this is the sort of strategy that these queercore bands employ. They use confrontational, in your face lyrics, and a shocking stage presence to educate and inform people about queer issues. As the article plainly states "queer punk is about anti-assimilation. It's about using music as a medium to show people a way of life they never new before."

du Plessis, Michael, and Kathleen Chapman. "Queercore: The Distinct Identities of Subculture." Queer Utilities: Textual Studies, Theory, Pedagogy, Praxis. 24.1 (1997): 45-58.

This article begins by introducing the 1995 post-grunge band, Garbage, who had a song titled "Queer" although none of the members of the band identified as queer. The message that the song seems to proclaim is that the term queer is no longer anything special. The authors are not sure if this is true or not, but decide to focus on the queer subcultures before the 1995 song was released, especially between 1989 and 1993. The queercore culture consisted of a variety of media such as fanzines, records, clubs, music, videos, and some novels. This culture was in opposition to middle class gay and lesbian organizations like GLAAD and established an "us versus them" mentality. Queercore was created through an allegiance with the post-punk subculture and queer. The authors compare queercore to avant gardes as they are both used to subvert norms. The functions of queercore are to "deny legitimacy to the public sphere, to stress internal coherence around its own proper differences, and to turn to the networks created by queerzines, clubs, music and other subcultural practices so that a counter-public sphere can be created." The queercore culture highly values secret codes and signs through their lyrics and band names, to help build coherence within their subculture. The authors then detail several bricolages that members of the queercore culture have created through things like autobiographies. One example of such a bricolage is that of Vaginal Davis, black drag queen whose lyrics and zines include controversial lyrics and in your face declarations such as "When they see a woman like me, they can't deal, so they dismiss me, but I'm way too big to be dismissed!" du Plessis and Chapman say that "Davis will not let anyone rest comfortably with an assimiable presence." Queercore has allowed many disenfranchised groups, such as people of color, transsexuals, transgender people, and bisexuals, a space to stake their claim more than just "gay and lesbian" culture could.

This article relates to my term, anti-assimilation, because queercore is an anti-assimilationist culture. The whole point of it is to have a separate space for people who identify as queer and can express themselves through music, zines, and other forms of media. Queercore is distinctly separating themselves from mainstream culture and using their "in your face" lyrics and performances to challenge societal norms. One example of this is Fertile La Toyah's appearance in Vaginal Davis's video zine where she insists that all life in the U.S. is defined by racism and says "We ain't all one big happy family like the little birdies! Fuck that shit!" and is seen wearing a t-shirt with the words "I'VE HAD 21 ABORTIONS" on it.

Youtube video of queercore band, Tribe 8: "Femme Bitch Top." Tribe 8. Youtube. 1995.

This video is a music video for the queercore band, Tribe 8. This "dyke punk" band is known for their controversial lyrics and stage presence. Lead singer, Lynn Breedlove is known to have performed shirtless, wearing a rubber dildo. This video depicts images of lesbian sex and S & M and includes a topless Lynn Breedlove. I think this video epitomizes the anti-assimlationist strategies used by queercore bands of the nineties; it uses direct in your face lyrics and images to subvert norms.

Reading Reflection #2

Lisa Duggan beings her essay "Making it Perfectly Queer" by advocating for the potential of Queer Nation and Queer Theory. Duggan says the best way she can discuss the new meaning of queer is through a process of storytelling, so the essay includes three stories demonstrating queer politics.

The first scene is focused on Mayor David Dinkins, who walked in an Irish parade with a gay and lesbian group, and was the target of violence and hostility by the spectators. Several days after the parade, Dinkins compared the "intolerance" he saw at the parade to the civil rights movement he had experienced in the past. Duggan argues that while the civil rights movement analogy is deeply moving, liberal tolerance has been met with very limited success and many political organizations still ignore lesbian and gay issues.

The second scene features posters of celebrities like Jodie Foster with captions that say "Absolutely Queer" or "Actress, Yalie, Dyke." These posters have been put up by groups like Outrage, engaged in the practice known as "outing," which is basically forcing someone to come out of the closet. Duggan says that many of these anti-assimilationist activists "reject the liberal value of privacy and the appeal to tolerance which dominate the agendas of more mainstream gay organizations." They instead favor direct action and public activism. Duggan cautions that practices such as outing and other nationalist strategies are still "fixing desire in a gendered direction" and still represent solely the "twentieth-century, Western, white, gay male."

The final scene that Duggan describes is at a lesbian and gay writer's conference in San Francisco which is actually comprised of all sorts of different kinds of people. Sloan, author of the article Duggan is quoting, says that the thing all these people seem to have in common with each other is that they are all different and she hopes that perhaps these gatherings can be used to "lay the groundwork for peaceful and productive futures."

Duggan concludes her essay by contrasting constructionist and essentialist theories and discussing the struggle to actually put queer theory to use. The only issue I have with these queer politics is the practice of outing. I can understand how it would be beneficial to publicly out prominent members of society, so that others can see the large number of queer people that are actually out there and important to society. However, I do still think people have a right to privacy and a right to decide to come out when they feel they are ready. Coming out may have serious consequences for people, such as Asian people who would be disowned and kicked out of their house if they came out. They could potentially be putting themselves in danger. So, I think people have the right to decide if it is worth it to them to come out or not.

Reading Reflection # 1

Cherry Smith's essay, "What is This Thing Called Queer?" opens with several definitions of queer from various sources. She then begins to discuss the group Queer Nation, an organization formed in 1990 that was concerned about the frequent bashings of gays and lesbians in New York. Outrage was formed around the same time as Queer Nation in London; they used similar confrontational tactics, such as KISS-INs and queer weddings. Several other groups sprouted up in the early nineties, such as SISSY, PUSSY, LABIA, and Whores of Babylon. These organizations all called for direct action, opposed to simply trying to assimilate and, according to Smith, are "not interested in seeking acceptance within an unchanged social system, but are setting out to 'fuck up the mainstream' as visibly as possible."

Smith explains how for many people queer marks a "growing lack of faith in the institutions of the state, in political procedures, in the press, the education system, policing and the law." Queer is used to question assumed norms surrounding culture, society, history, sexuality, and everything. Smith has several excerpts in her essay from various people about what "queer" means to them, and there are many different kinds of answers. Some people embrace the term, reclaim it, or feel that it describes them more than "gay" or "lesbian" ever could, and some see queer politics as more fitting for them than feminist movement, while others are still hurt by the homophobic ways "queer" has been used against them in the past. Smith continues to describe how queer organizations use their particular brand of activism to challenge systems of power, such as taking up the case of Jennifer Saunders who was sentenced to six years in prison for dressing as a man and seducing two seventeen year old women. One of the most controversial strategies that queer activists use is "outing," which is to publicly out someone as queer.

I see the queer tactics as being effective, not only that but they seem to make more people feel included than terms like "gay" or "lesbian" can. Smith says that for her "the taking back of words has been a survival strategy." There were no words to describe how she felt, gay, for instance was never an option because it was seen as a male word, but queer was a more all encompassing term that made her feel like she could reclaim who she was. If that is what queer activism does for people than I think it is useful.