My recent feature in the GaydarGirls blog and my conversation with the folk there about future content, has made me think about the commodification and market appeal of gay lifestyle….

In a retrospective mood, here is a ‘celebrity cribs’ style feature in DIVA magazine, from 2008. (Photo by Emma Innocenti)

back to mine

 

Are we getting to the point where it’s not only ok to be a lesbian woman, but something marketable, loveable, motivational, aspirational…for the average citizen, male or female? Can lesbian arts, culture, lifestyle and social commentary ever become a major lifestyle export. Is there a uniquely lesbian perspective, i.e what do lesbians have that the non-lesbian doesn’t? Is it a special mixture of genders…a two-spirited approach that blurs the boundary of gender expectations, conventions or limitations? Is it a love and appreciation of women that champions, in a political sense, the achievements, dreams, stories and concerns of women? Is it a precious liberation from male approval? (many non-lesbian women have that – or do they?) Is it having the sensibility of a woman and the brass nuts of a man – or the other way round (do non-lesbians also have that?)

What is an ‘icon’, in the contemporary sense of the word? We all have our heroines and heroes, who may be sports personalities, musicians, spiritual leaders, authors, historical figures. Why do they symbolise so much for us? At what point do they just become an ‘icon’ through repeated exposure on the fabric of popular culture? You know something or someone has become a brand name once they are quoted or referenced as themselves (not as fiction) – in a fictional setting. How about lesbian icons that aren’t gay, (or even female) yet resonate, with their style or energy, for real life lesbians? How far does the media manipulate our tendency to consume and idolise such figures by just inserting someone in the public eye and telling us what they represent?

I always resisted the idea of fame for it’s own sake…but becoming more well known (at a pace that’s realistic) is a goal for anyone who has something to say or share. Especially in these days of direct artist/audience communication. Nowadays, the road to fame can be a gradual, self-governed curve, rather than an industrial process that catapults musicians into the spotlight, usually way too young, chews them to pieces and spits them out. I was brought up to believe that ‘fame’ was something that would ultimately limit, not enhance freedom. However much I may have envied the child stars of the 70’s and 80’s – Tatum O’Neal, Jodie Foster, ‘Kids from Fame’ and the Jackson family – I was sensible enough to know that I wouldn’t want that exposure or pressure. Yet.

These days, I’m very much enjoying the steady rise…I quite like the thought of being a lesbian Icon. I wouldn’t mind at all kids looking at me and thinking, ‘hey it’s obviously cool to be gay’. It is cool. Even on a bad day, it’s cool. And on a good day – well I’m not surprised it’s still illegal in so many places. It’s that good. It’s that powerful. One day, lesbian sexuality won’t be seen as something shameful, weird, laughable, unnatural, dangerous, threatening, unlawful, punishable by death or excommunication, or even remotely remarkable. And that too, will be cool with me.


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