Thursday, May 10, 2012


Because this is a blog project about blogs and I talked about people posting images of themselves as part of queer identity production online, I wanted to post a photo of myself.  Feminist methodologies and theory teach that the researcher is not and can never be fully separated from their subject.  Even as I write about bloggers, I am myself blogging.  So, this is me.

final thoughts

The title of this post is a little misleading because these are not my final thoughts on this topic.  I plan to continue working on this blog and sharing my ideas and observations about the way queer people use the internet as a site for identity production and community building.  This project grew out of my interest in this subject.  I followed and read the blogs I mentioned because I thought they had interesting things to say about queerness.  It may seem like a little thing to post a photo of yourself on a blog, but for people who are often asked to hide their identity, it can be a liberating experience.   Showing images of real people who identify as LGBTQ is a very important because these are not the images that are shown in mainstream media.  LGBTQ people are still very underrepresented in old media.  New media such as social media, blogs, and other Internet products can be a place for LGBTQ people to be represented and literally show their faces.  Not ever seeing an image that looks like you can increase the isolation that you may feel as a young queer person.  Finding images of other people who look like you look or identify how you identify, even if it is only on a tumblr can make you feel less alone.

That being said, the blogs that I examined are not perfect representations.  Most of the bloggers tended to be white and most of the photos posted were of white people.  Some tumblrs reinforced beauty norms by exclusively or primarily showing people who were young, white, conventionally attractive, thin, and able-bodied.  There still seems to be problems with people who identify as femme not being represented as queer or as visibly queer in the blogosphere.  I may have simply not found blogs that showed more diversity.   It is also very likely that the same problems with racism, ableism, misogyny, fat hatred, and marginalization that occur in LGBTQ spaces in the physical realm are recreated in the digital realm.  I do not want to claim to have any solid answers.  The blogs I listed are by no means representative of all of the blogs dealing with these issues on tumblr alone, much less in the blogosphere in general.  I urge readers to seek out other blogs by searching for "queer" or "queer femme."  These critiques aside, the blogosphere and tumblr can prove to be a site for community building and knowledge and identity production for queer young people, especially those from places without a large LGBTQ community.  I can personally attest to how much reading queer blogs has helped me to articulate and appreciate my own queer identity.  Because it is at least to some degree anonymous, the internet can be a safe place for young people to express and explore identities that they cannot express or explore in the physical world due to threats of violence and discrimination or lack of access to queer spaces.  Even though we do not bring our physical bodies with us to the cyber world, we cannot divorce ourselves from our bodies and their lived realities.  The way we come to think about those bodies through our online communities can change the way that we live our lives in the material world.

Blog Roll

In working on this project, I not only consulted related scholarly literature but also blogs of individuals who identify as queer and blogs that are about queer subjects.  I specifically sought blogs that discussed body image, fashion, and femme identity.  I found these blogs on the blogging website  I thought that Tumblr blogs were particularly interesting because they were easy ways for people to share not only content they created but also content created or submitted by other users.  It is also a good site to examine for examples of users using their own images to authenticate and testify to their queer identity construction or critique stereotypes of queer identities.  Tumblr is also a site of community formation around various topics such as queer identity, fat activism, politics, and various fandoms.  People share and comment on items posted by other users.  People follow each other and sometimes form friendships and even relationships through blogging.  Tumblr blogs focused on topics are also sites of community building and identity critique.  These blogs are usually run by one or more users who then posts items, usually images, that other users submit.  These submissions can be personal photos or photos from media such as advertising campaigns, magazines, films, or television.  I found most of the blogs that I followed because they were connected to topic tumblrs or had items shared by other blogs that I followed.  So without further ado, here is a list of tumblrs that I followed using my personal tumblr (  These tumblrs inspired my own construction of my identity as well as inspiring and informing this project.

    This tumblr is run by E and A who describe themselves as "E is the blonde, A is the brunette. We live together in Center City, Philadelphia, and spend a good deal of time dorking about the city, trying out new restaurants, and sometimes planning and executing comic book type stories." They blog about queer things, comics, their relationship, fat activism, feminism, and other topics.
  • This blogger describes her blog as "fatshion, productive rage, shiny things, feminism, gender/identity politics, body hair, queer musings...queer, fat, glitter, femme." She posts photos of herself that question femme identity and gender because she has a mustache and presents a very femme gender performance.
  • Michael Spookshow describes his blog as "A look into the life & interests of Michael Spookshow. Expect all things dark, geeky, and weird. For those who always root for the bad guy." He is a cis male in a heterosexual marriage who believes that clothing should not be gendered. He regularly wears "women's" clothing such as dresses and skirts and posts photos on his tumblr and his other blog, He regularly blogs about what he calls men's fashion freedom. I included his blog on this list because he is using fashion to question norms about proper gender presentation. 
  • This blogger describes himself and his blog as "I am a black, queer, working poor, sex positive, body positive, fuck your slut shaming, Southern fried gent, organizer, and dedicated bacon lover. A fan of intentional & thoughtful language and communication that acknowledges varied lived experiences, i.e. don't forget about the intersections people! I love deep fryers, Xena/Buffy, and sweaty fun sexy times....In this space, you'll find super heroes, satire, biting wit, glitter, food, politics, emotions, grease, gifs, porn, gender fuckery, feminist/womanist thought, black folks, queers, scruff, bears, tight clothes, theory, shiny thangs, and more."  I really like the campiness that this blogger highlights as well as his focus on race and class. 
  • Zie describes hirself and hir blog as "I'm a queer outlaw. a queer femme. a feminist. body positive. trans positive. a trash enthusiast. on "all things femme. all things trash" you'll find pretty girls, hot queers, heels, glitz, drag queens, smut, monsters and zombies, smarty talk, food pictures, gender fuckery, fucking, tom foolery, teaching stories, cocktails, respect for elders, hope for revolution, & lady lovin'."  
  • This blogger describes hir blog as "this blog contains mainly of: queer sex (you have been warned), art, interior design, hot people, vegan food, non-human animals, femme delights, and stuff i find funny. there is a small amout of kink since i haven't figured out how comfortable i am sharing that side of myself with others yet."  I decided to include this blog because it is not so much about fashion but does include many photos of queer bodies in the nude.  It is not safe for work.  I like this blog because it is specifically about queer sexuality.  
  • This is a topic blog which claims to post "all things queer."  Most of the posts are images that users submitted of themselves because they want to claim their identity and visibility as queers.  One critique of this blog is that most of the photos are of white people who look fairly androgynous and are not visibly fat or disabled.  This is likely due to the fact that the content is based on submissions.  
  • This topic tumblr speaks to the problems of visibility for lesbians, bisexuals, and queer women who identify as femme and who's appearance conform to stereotypes of the feminine.  It proclaims that it is for "the lesbians who prefer to be a little bit more femme, this is your space to show the world your beautiful face.  We no longer have to be invisible!"  The blog features reblogged images of women kissing as well as user submissions. 
  • This is the site/blog/tumblr of awesome poet Lauren Zuniga who was the University of Oklahoma Women and Gender Studies Program Center for Social Justice Activist in Resident for the Spring 2012 semester.  She is a brilliant poet and shares her poems and thoughts about being part of the LGBTQ community in Oklahoma on her site which is why I included her in this blog roll.
  • This blog is a topic blog which features both reblogged images and reader submissions of people who are androgynous in appearance.  A critique of this blog is that the people pictured are mostly very thin, very white, able-bodied, and conventionally attractive.  
  • This blog is a topic blog which focuses on the subject of femme identity which does not fit stereotypes of femininity.  The blog description reads "a celebration of fabulous femme folks who look just as tough as they do fly and a plethora of hard femme inspirations."  I think this blog is very interesting because it is a critique of the femme identity that says that people who identify as femme can also identify as punk or "hard."  The blog features reader submissions and media images.
  • This is a blog that focuses on a style it calls tom boy femme.  I included it because it is a blog that is working on stretching and redefining the femme aesthetic.  It notes that tom boy femme is not about gender or sexuality but fashion.  The blog features both reblogs of inspirational images and reader submissions of readers wearing "tom boy femme" clothing.
  • This blog is written by Erin and Ashley.  They define glitter politic as "self-love blown open."  They belong to a queer community in Canada with Jessica Luxery and Majestic LeGay and post about queer sex, self-love, and femme identity.
  • This blog is written by Jessica Luxery.  She writes about herself and her blog "I'm Jessica Luxery. I'm a high-femme fatty who bleeds glitter and kittens in lace bonnets. I was born on a bed of frosting, with a can of hairspray and a jug of blush, to a young (but legal!) Elizabeth Taylor and your Lord and Savior: Freddie Mercury. My blouses are too low, my hair too high, but my heart is in the just right place. I talk about self acceptance, being queer, examining my whiteness, loving and worshipping my femininity and dreaming big."     Jessica's blog was one of the first blogs that I followed that focused on queerness, femme identity, and fashion.  She was a big influence to me on this project.  I found her blog through her fat activism.  She is married to Majestic LeGay and posts photos of herself with commentary.
  • This blog is written by Majestic LeGay.  They describe themselves and their blog as "I'm Majestic. I write and post about style, sex, gender, relationships, whiteness, body politics, power and my journey of self love. I've got a limp wrist, a tender heart and a magnificently fat ass. I live for laughter, love, heavy petting, rhinestone brooches and bizarre spectacle. I combine my activism and art with theory and glitter in ways that are aesthetically bad ass and probably revolutionary. Coming soon to a high glitz sex riot near you. xo"  They are married to Jessica Luxery and live in Canada.  They were another large inspiration to this project.  They prefer gender neutral pronouns and frequently post images of themselves with commentary about what they are wearing and why.  They discuss queer masculinity and modern queer camp.
  • This tumblr is a topic blog about vintage inspired masculine clothing.  This blog is literally a visual how-to of a type of queer masculine aesthetic.  The subtitle of the blog is "DIP ME INTO HONEY & THROW ME TO THE QUEERS WITH BOWTIES."  This blog questions gender norms because it features images of people who appear to be male, female, and of other gender presentations.  This blog features inspiration images and reader submissions of themselves in dapper clothing.
  • This blog is written by Margritte who identifies as a queer femme.  She blogs about fat activism, queer things, and fashion.  She posts photos of herself frequently.  
  • J is a trans woman artist, singer, and performer.  She posts photos of herself, information about her performances, and about trans activism.  
  • This blog is written by Charlie Reed.  They identify as third gender.  They post images of them self frequently as well as reblogging images of other queer people.  
  • This blog was written by Mark, a queer artist.  Her blog is still up, but she is gone.  She committed suicide in March.  I want to dedicate this post to her memory.  Her life and her memory are an example of the continued struggle to exist as a queer person in this society.  Her death touched many in the queer community on Tumblr and is symbolic of the relationships that can develop between people who have never met in the physical world.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Virtually Queer?" and benefits and problems with queer community building online

In the article "Virtually Queer? Homing Devices, Mobility, and Un/Belongings," Mary Bryson, Lori MacIntosh, Sharalyn Jordan, and Hui-Ling Lin discuss their project to examine the way that queer women in Canada use media and the internet as a source of information and site for community building.  They note that the internet can be used to create spaces for community building on email lists and chat room websites, but that these spaces can also be sites of policing if people do not meet criteria set by other users (Bryson, et al., 2006, 794).   They also interviewed lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer women to see how they engaged with new media, fandoms, and television.  I found their discussion of blogging and blog reading to be particularly relavent.  They write,   
"The narrative act of blogging adheres to a performative standard that is tightly tied to audience expectation and thus audience’s consumptive participation in the blogging process. Blogging as a self-productive act is driven by desire and is both a “means” and an “end” to the production of the “self as—” (Cohen, 2005). Individuals perform the “truth(s)” of who they are via gender identifications, belief systems, political positionings, et cetera. This “truth” of being requires that others witness and thereby confirm the recognizablity of the self’s emergence (Butler, 2005). Yet blogs are not utopic spaces of virtuality where the self can posit an endless number of representations, claiming subjectivities in an online world of free-floating signifiers." (Bryson, et al., 2006, 802).
I think they do a really good job at hitting at the possible conflict between the act of revealing parts of the self in the public act of blogging while maintaining some degree of anonymity.  People have to share some parts of their identity in order to engage with their audience.  The act of engagement and writing for others is an integral part of the idea of blogging.   They especially noted the act of creating the public self in the personal blogs of the people they interviewed who tended to maintain blogs about their lives rather than blogs that are focused on a topic or issue (Bryson, et al., 2006, 801-802).

They also note how important the internet can be in allowing LBTQ women to find community and a place to find information and ways to express their sexuality.  They note, 
"Irrespective of age and location, interviewees continued to identify an ongoing relationship both to “the closet” and to pervasive and persistent impacts of homophobia. While unevenly distributed as a function of geography, occupation, and likelihood of being perceived as “queer,” participants’ narratives of sexual subjectivity testify to the cost of the “economy of visibility” within which being recognizable as queer is both necessary and also constitutive of a mark of difference that is a target for violence in its myriad incarnations." (Byrson, et al., 2006, 803)
I thought this was a particularly astute statement about the problems of visibility for queer women.  The problems of being seen and not being seen as queer or gay are very real and complicated for queer people.  This problem can be compounded for queer women who identify as femme and are less visible than women who noticeably break gender barriers and for people who live in rural places where there is not a large queer community or where people are not allowed to express divergent sexualities or gender presentations.

They do note that the internet is a very critical space for people to find not only information but also communities, either in the physical or the digital world, where they can connect to people like themselves (Bryson, et al., 2006, 806).  They do think, however that it is not a perfect place and that problems of identity policing still take place there and that there continues to be lack of awareness of racial marginalization of minority women by white women (Bryson, et al., 2006, 806-807).  It is problematic to think that the internet will be a magical utopia for queer people where the problems of the "real" world do not exist.  Because the internet is constructed by people, people bring the problems of the physical world such as racism with them on to the internet and recreate those problems.

Bryson, Mary, Lori MacIntosh, Sharalyn Jordan, and Lin Hui-Ling. 2006. "Virtually Queer? Homing Devices, Mobility, and Un/Belongings." Canadian Journal Of Communication 31, no. 4: 791-814.Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2012).

On Fashion

I read two articles related to fashion.  One focused on fashion bloggers while the other addressed the idea of the fashion victim.  Unfortunately neither article was as helpful to my project as I expected though both present interesting arguments.  In "Blog Ambition: Fashion, Feelings, and the Political Economy of the Digital Raced Body," Minh-Ha T. Pham discussed high profile fashion bloggers, particularly Asian American and British Asian fashion bloggers.  The article raised issues of the way fashion blogging is ignored in media discourses about blogging even though political blogs are studied and how this ignores female bloggers even though there are women that blog about politics because many female bloggers focus on culture and fashion (Pham, 2011, 5).  The article also seeks to discuss the way that fashion industry reacts to bloggers and has sought to co-opt bloggers and bring them into the corporate world (Pham, 2011, 11).  Finally it discusses how the democratic nature of blogging has opened fashion and beauty discoures for people who have historically been excluded such as Asian American women (Pham, 2011, 14).  I hoped that this article might talk about fashion blogging more generally rather than focus so much on the issue of the interaction of high profile fashion bloggers and the fashion industry.  There needs to be more study of fashion blogging beyond discussion of popular fashion bloggers particularly in how fashion blogging can help people to construct identity and celebrate bodies that are not seen as beautiful such as queer bodies and fat bodies.

"Fashion Victimes: On the Individualizing and De-individualizing Powers of Fashion" by Bjorn Schiermer takes a more philosophical look at fashion.  Schiermer examines the concept of the fashion victim in modern society.  Schiermer defines fashion victims as people who are too extreme in their fashion choices and who display "individual excess that transcends cultural norms" (Schiermer, 2010, 90).  I found the most interesting part of Schiermer's argument to be about subcultural fashion and anti-fashion.  Schiermer writes,
"Inside the subculture, there are no fashion victims—not because there is too little mimicry, but because there is too much. In fact, the display of uniform subcultural excess often coincides with a strong collective pressure and the existence of a definite and clear-cut symbolic imaginary that alludes to more "primitive" religious societies. On the other hand and in contrast with tribal sociality, the modern counterculture often defines itself through an opposition to commercial fashion dynamics, which are considered the epitome of repression. These groups are, as Davis would have it, not outside of fashion, but antifashion.' In reducing fashion to commercial clothing fashion existing outside in "capitalist" or "materialist" society, antifashion hides its own fashion character. This "externalization" explains why the counterculture does not conceive of its own uniformity in terms of fashion—and consequently why an unprecedented conformity is possible here." (Schiermer, 2010, 90-91)
I found this discussion interesting because I am looking at individuals who are part of the gay and queer subcultures.  Because so much of subcultural identity is based on being perceived as part of that group, fashion becomes very important.  There is a certain level of importance placed on looking gay enough or queer enough to be recognized not only by other members of the group but also by people outside the group.  It may seem odd to people who do not identify with a subculture to want to mark themselves as an "other," but it can be an critical part of forming an identity based on that subcultural belonging to be recognized as being a member.  This can mean that people will choose clothing that may not fit their individual preferences or that erases some of their individual choice in clothing because it makes them look how they think they are supposed to look.

Pham, Minh-Ha T. "Blog Ambition: Fashion, Feelings, and the Political Economy of the Digital Raced Body." Camera Obscura 26, no. 76 (January 2011): 1-37. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost(accessed May 9, 2012).

Schiermer, Bjørn. "Fashion Victims: On the Individualizing and De-individualizing Powers of Fashion."Fashion Theory: The Journal Of Dress, Body & Culture 14, no. 1 (March 2010): 83-104. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 9, 2012).

Julie Rak and queer blogging

In her article "The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity," Julie Rak discusses general trends around LGBTQ blogging and discourse around blogging in general.  She begins by discussing the problems with classifying blogs or web logs as diaries or something else.  She says that in the early days of the internet blogs were different from online diaries or journals because they served as catalogs or producers of information and links rather than as simply journal entries (Rak, 2005, 170-171).  She also examines discourses around blogs as diaries or other.  I personally perceive the blogs that I read as more like zines than diaries.  I agree with Rak that a blog is different from a diary in that it is written with the intention of attracting readers (Rak, 2005, 171).  Rak posits blogging within the generally liberal framework of the early and as part of liberalism because the blog focuses on the writer as a individual with the agency of writing and making choices outside the traditional world of publishing (Rak, 2005, 172-176).  
What I found most interesting about her article was her attempt to articulate what queer blogging is.  She connects queer blogging with earlier ideas about sexuality and the need to share the private identity with others.  She writes:
"Foucault also concluded that the study of sexuality needed the sexually deviant subjects of scrutiny to “confess,” not just their sexual practices and desires, but also their sexuality as an identity in itself. Sexuality as an identity therefore has had the need for confession (or coming out of the closet) at its core, which based claims of sexuality on repeating and narrating experiences that “prove” what one’s real identity is." (Rak, 2005, 169).
She says that bloggers are walking a continue line between disclosing private details in a public way in order to attract readers and to prove that they are who they say they are since there are no guarantees that the bloggers is being honest about their lives and experiences.  Because queer people are also asked to confess their lives and sexuality in order to be seen as queer, there is already a common link between the queer and blogging.   The same is doubly true for queer bloggers who not only have to share details to validate their stories and writing but also to declare that they are in fact LGBTQ and should be classified as such.  This raises the important question of what are queer blogs.  Are they blogs written by queer people?  Or do they need to be explicitly about queer subjects?  If they are about the writers lives, is that queer enough?  Do the writers get to decide how they will be classified if they share their sexuality with their readers?  These are difficult questions.  I have chosen to focus on blogs that are explicitly about queer things by presumably queer bloggers.  Rak also chose to read blogs that listed and marked as queer.  This may mean that the conclusions that I or Rak draw about queer blogging will be limited due to seeking out self-identified queer blogs.

Article source:
Rak, Julie. "THE DIGITAL QUEER: WEBLOGS AND INTERNET IDENTITY." Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 28, no. 1 (Winter2005 2005): 166-182. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 9, 2012).

Camp again

As a counterpoint to yesterday's post about Camp as discussed by Susan Sontag, I want to discuss the article by Aymar Jean Christian titled "Camp 2.0: A Queer Performance of the Personal."  In this article Christian is discussing the way that people perform camp on  This article was very interesting and somewhat related to my subject matter in that it is talking about the way that young people today are interacting with Camp sensibilities online.  The major difference in Christian's subject matter and mine is that zie is focused on actual performers rather than people who are writing blogs and posting photos.  I see the difference in that zie is comparing these videos to traditional drag or Camp performances  and I see blogging as being more related to diary writing or zine making.  In many ways, I think blogging, particular tumblr blogging, which is very image heavy and involves sharing not only images and writings that you created but also works created by other users, is more like zine making than anything else.  Both involve putting private work and sentiments into a public, digital forum, but blogging is more about sharing personal statements and information than about performing.  I did like Christian's analysis of queer camp and online camp as being two separate things.  Zie says that queer camp did not have a place for discussion of the individual self while online camp focuses heavily on the self and individuality while embracing identity construction and categorization (Christian, 2010, 361-362).  Christian claims that it is the high visibility of gay culture today that enable young people to claim a place in larger queer and gay movements while still feeling able to construct their own identities as part of yet separate for more monolithic formations of identity (Christian, 2010, 362).  I'm not sure if I agree with all of zie's assertions about individuality because I think the fact that zie's subjects are in the act of performing on YouTube may make them more individualistic than other people in online communities, but I do think that there is a strong current of individualism and the importance of individual productions of identity in online work by LGBTQ young people.  If people are not expected to be symbols of a movement that is fighting for any sort of visibility, then there may be more room for them to play with, question, and redefine identities.

Christian, Aymar Jean. "Camp 2.0: A Queer Performance of the Personal." Communication, Culture & Critique 3, no. 3 (September 2010): 352-376. Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed May 9, 2012).

Susan Sontag and a discussion of camp

Of course, Susan Sontag's essay "Notes on Camp" was written in a much earlier period about a different generation than I am discussing, but this does not mean that an understanding of camp cannot inform my discussion of queer blogging and identity production.  The most obvious way that camp informs young LGBT and queer people is that camp has become part of dominant narratives of homosexuality.  We act the way that we think people with our identities should act.  The narratives that we see and hear about how we should act are dominated by camp and by people's perceptions of camp.  In a number of ways, the mainstream gay rights movement has abandoned ideas of camp and flamboyant presentation in order to fit in to normative environments and argue for inclusion into mainstream society.  The correctness and viability of this move are debatable, but it is easy to see how this has made many in this movement act and choose aesthetics and performances of gender and sexuality that are more acceptable to the mainstream.  Sontag uses her notes to try to describe Camp both in the practical and in the more obscure.  She lists certain styles of furniture and art forms as being Campy as well as describing Camp more broadly.  The main thing about camp is that it highlights the artificiality and produced nature of objects, media, arts, and behavior.  She writes,
"Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style -- but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the "off," of things-being-what-they-are-not...As a taste in persons, Camp responds particularly to the markedly attenuated and to the strongly exaggerated....Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It's not a lamp, but a "lamp"; not a woman, but a "woman." To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater." (Sontag, 1964, 8-10).
Sontag notes that Camp is not exclusively homosexual but is strongly associated with homosexual culture and was largly created by homosexual people (Sontag, 1964,  51-53).  I would argue that Camp is more strongly associated with gay and queer cultures today because the two have become extensively linked in modern culture and media representations of gay people.   Many young people who do not necessarily identify as LGBT or queer are enacting, to some degree, the ideas behind Camp.  Hipsters are engaged in ironic, self-aware engagement with older cultural forms and proclaim a love for the tasteless, obscure, and overwrought.  Many people see this engagement as an act of cultural appropriation or as a way of making fun of earnest love and appreciation for these clothes, artistic styles, books, movies, music, furniture, and even beer.  Whether hipsters consume these products and adopt these aesthetic styles as a legitimate form of expression or as an act of ironic appropriation, they are acting in a Campy way and engaging in the discourse of Camp.  In many ways, many young queers identify as hipsters or embrace cultural attitudes and production associated with hipsters.  They like thrifting vintage clothing and tacky artifacts.  Many of them choose to engage with cultural styles that are more associated with older gay cultural styles than the more modern, tasteful cultural styles associated with the mainstream gay rights movement.

A major difference between Sontag's perceptions of Camp in the 1960s and young Queer activists online is the political nature of their discourse.  Sontag notes that Camp is not political and is even apolitical.  Young people online are actually highly political.  Even if they are not engaged in mainstream political discourse, they are very engaged with politics effecting LGBTQ people.  Probably these differences can be explained by the change of LGBTQ visibility in the US.  Sontag wrote her notes in 1964 which was well before the Stonewall Riots and the gay rights movement.  Today, LGBTQ people are arguably more visible and more politically engaged than ever before.  This visibility and political engagement have greatly effected the way that queer young people, even those who are not out in their off-line lives, can live and construct their identities and employ Camp.  A love of glitter, leather, studs, pin-up styles, too much make-up, rainbows on everything, elaborate nail polish, nudity, revealing clothing, artists such as Ke$ha and Lady GaGa and Nicki Minaj, vintage menswear, bow ties, piercings, elaborately dyed hair, under-cuts, androgyny and hyper masculine and feminine styles, tattoos, and mustaches are all modern queer aesthetics that owe a great deal to Camp sensibilities.

You can read "Notes on Camp" online  here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Judith Halberstam, "Queer Time"

Judith Halberstam's essay, "Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies" in In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, which I read online, contains some very important definitions of queer, queer time, and queer space.  I think all of these concepts will be helpful to my project and to the understanding of what queer is and what makes it different from "straight" thinking.  Part of what makes queer so appealing to many people over or in addition to the traditional identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or even transgender is the way that it can symbolize radical shifts in thinking and conceptions of life, relationships, public and private spheres, and even time and space.  The concept of space is important to this project because the blogosphere, tumblrsphere, cyberspace, or whatever else you want to call it is not traditionally pictured as a "real" space.  If this is not a real space, then that means that the actions and the identities formed there are not real.  This is problematic and something that I want to argue against.  I conceptualize these spaces as real because people think they are real.  The identities and the relationships that people enact and find in these spaces are real as well because they have meaning for those people.  Queer also deconstructs the idea of real space and time as matching some sort of physical phenomenon as well as being linked to normative constructions of how people should live.  Judith Halberstam provides definitions for queer, queer time, and queer space as well as discussing how other theorists conceptualize these ideas.  Halberstam writes, "
Queer uses of time and space develop, at least in part, in opposition to the institutions of family, heterosexuality, and reproduction. They also develop according to other logics of location, movement, and identification. If we try to think about queerness as an outcome of strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules, and eccentric economic practices, we detach queerness from sexual identity and come closer to understanding Foucault’s comment in “Friendship as a Way of Life” that “homosexuality threatens people as a ‘way of life’ rather than as a way of having sex” (310). In Foucault’s radical formulation, queer friendships, queer networks, and the existence of these relations in space and in relation to the use of time mark out the particularity and indeed the perceived menace of homosexual life. (Halberstam, 2005, 1).
I really like this conceptualization because it gets to the heart of my understanding of queer and the LGBT subculture.  Queer is a defining aspect of people's lives.  It is much more than who a person desires sexually or has has sex with.  It is a culture.  It is a way of looking at the world.  It is a way of thinking of gender, sexuality, and relationships.  Halberstam says queer  "refers to nonnormative logics and organizations of community, sexual identity, embodiment, and activity in space and time" (Halberstam, 2004, 4).  She goes on to define queer time as "a term for those specific models of temporality that emerge within postmodernism once one leaves the temporal frames of bourgeois reproduction and family, longevity, risk/safety, and inheritance" (Halberstam, 2005, 4).  Queer space is  "the place-making practices within postmodernism in which queer people engage and it also describes the new understandings of space enabled by the production of queer counterpublics (Halberstam, 2005, 4).  Queer space can also refer to the ways that queer people have to find to use and create spaces that are not used by normative peoples because queer people are often not welcome in normative spaces.  If they do exist in these spaces (as everyone must at some point), they have to masquerade as the norm in order to gain admittance and limit the repression they face.  They are always in danger of being unmasked as not normative.  This is why cyberspace has become a place where queer people can create communities, explore identities, and show their true colors as it were.  Young people in particular are bared from the traditional gay and lesbian spaces of the bar and nightclub.  People in rural areas also do not have access to these spaces or may have to travel to visit these spaces.  People with disabilities or of other marginalized identities may also have trouble accessing these spaces.  Not everyone feels welcome in these spaces if they cater mostly to binary identified people who embrace more normative understandings of space, time, and identity.  This can be a difference between people who identify as LGBT and people who identify as queer.  Even people who are part of the LGBT subculture can still have normative ideas about binaries, relationships, time, space, gender, and sexuality.  Homonormativity and heteronomativity have more alike than either has with queer.  Queer and homosexual do not have to mean the same thing at all.

Halberstam, Judith. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. (New  York: New York University Press, 2005).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kathryn Bond Stockton, "Cloth Wounds"

Kathryn Bond Stockton theorizes ideas about the way queer people wear clothing in her essay "Cloth Wounds, or When Queers Are Martyred to Clothes: The Value of Clothing's Complex Debasements."  This article appeared in Women: A Cultural Review in Winter 2003.  In this piece, she discusses how clothing a person wears can be symbolic of how they are viewed and treated in society.  She discusses three novels (The Well of Loneliness, Stone Butch Blues, and Querelle) as three novels where the clothing that queer people wear are a site of conflict.  For this project, I am more interested in her theories about clothing than in her literary analysis.  She discusses the idea that choosing certain clothes can be an action of self-outing and self-betrayal (Stockton, 2003, 289).  It is an act of self-betrayal for queers because wearing their preferred clothes can be an act showing their true selves and opening themselves to violence.  Stockton writes: 
"Clothing, in these novels, is a throwing and catching, a centrifugal force.  In the act of clothing, one is thrown outward into cloth arms (the arms of one's clothes), caught and held as a public gesture, in the social field.  Clothing is this act of public self-betrayal, by which one seems to reveal oneself."(Stockton, 2003, 290). 
Stockton wants to explore the idea of women's clothing as exposing the wound of being female in society.   She says that clothing can "wound" by making a person susceptible to violence or by making them feel pain because the clothing does not match the inner thoughts or desires (Stockton, 2003, 291).  She also discusses the way that women's clothing emphasizes her gendered position as the "wounded" gender as theorized by Freud (Stockton, 2003, 291).  She also says that queer people may become obsessed by their clothing and what it represents (Stockton, 2003, 291).  She defines these pains and stigmas as "cloth wounds" (Stockton, 2003, 291).  She contradicts the dictionary definition of clothing as something that cover the body and Freud's definition as the covering of genitals like pubic hair (Stockton, 2003, 291-292).   Instead, she thinks that clothing exposes the body and particularly female genitals to public view (Stockton, 2003, 292).  She uses Freud's definition of vanity as coming from women's shame in their wounded body to contradict his ideas of clothing as covering the female genitals (Stockton, 2003, 292). She writes: 
"By Freud's rendering, in spite of what he claims, clothing is not primarily concealment; it is not primarily a more attractive version of its model, public hair.  Clothing, rather, is bold revelation, a cover turning inside out: it reveals the category (male or female) of the person's genitals it purports to cover.  On 'every women's' sweater, a vaginal wound." (Stockton, 2003, 292).
Stockton notes that not every one, such as psychoanalyst J. C. Fluegel, shares the idea of women's clothing as a sign of the "shame" of her sex (Stockton, 2003,  292-293).  She connects this idea to the concept of the New Women in the 20th Century who rejected feminine clothing and lesbians who also chose to forsake women's clothing (Stockton, 2003, 293).  She notes that this rejection marked these women as deviants and calls it a "stigma" (Stockton, 2003, 293).  But she wants to make the point that it was their lesbianism that marked them and their clothing rather than their clothing marking them (Stockton, 2003, 293).  Stockton notes,
 "Refusing women's clothes may publicly reveal one's sexual preference for other women's bodies, thus resulting in a stigma.  But can we put emphasis on the other way around?  One's public preference for other women sexually can make the public see--and see, perhaps, in a whole new way--something about some women's refusal of women's clothes." (Stockton, 2003, 293). 
 This is a key component of her argument.  She wants to point out that the way queers wear clothing marks the importance of clothing and the way that gender and shame are intertwined into the way that we wear clothing.  The point of the shame the wearer may feel is very important in this essay.
I like Stockton's discussion of feminine clothing highlighting the stigma of the female body.  So often, in discussions of clothing, sexuality, and gender, the feminine is not recognized as a site of queer production.  Because femmes are not seeing as wearing clothing in a deviant way, they are not seen as being visibly queer.  In this essay, the female and wearing of female clothing is recognized as a place of gender shame and public visibility.  There is also not enough discussion of how the female body and feminine appearance marks people as a person that is vulnerable in society.  Women and female-identified people are treated as objects that can be violated, discriminated against, and owned in society.  For all the strides female identified people have made, their bodies are still shamed in society and are still sites of state, public, and private violence.  I do not think that Freud was right in saying that having a vagina is a psychic wound, but society does construct the male body as the "correct" and "normal" body and the female body as the "broken" and "deviant" body.   Regardless of whether this is real or not, it does effect the way that the female body is portrayed, constructed, and treated in society.  I do think that this argument about genitalia can be cissexist and should be questioned on those grounds.
I also really like her discussion of the preferences of the person marking them rather than their clothing as showing their "deviant" preferences.  This is a sharp distinction.  What marks one as queer or gender variant?  Is it identity, thoughts, and feelings, or is it visible actions such as wearing the clothing that is traditionally of another group?  Is the femme only queer in reference to their relationships with other queers?
Stockton addresses the idea of clothing as the place of public visibility,
"The subject-in-clothes seems thrown to a public all too real, caught and held by a social world that, traditionally, has been devoid of caprice in its gender prescriptions.  Here, however, is the insight of our novels: if the act of clothing is this public self-betrayal, in a known social field, clothing can also be a move towards self-enclosure inside the wrap of fantasy.  When clothes seem inappropriate to wearers--for example, butch women adopting men's clothes--they discernibly signal a body broken from established versions of 'real relations.'  As a result, the social field must hold, and behold, this wearer as one humiliated, cast beyond its reach.  The question then arises of how the subject bears humiliation and her seeming break from the larger social field, even as she's held on public display."  (Stockton, 2003, 311).  
I like the idea of clothing as the signal of inner deviance form social ideas rather than as the act of deviance itself.  This implies that the act of wearing clothing as a queer is a more complicated proposition than simply being judged as queer for wearing deviant clothing.  For it is the inner ideas that are the queer rather than their outer presentation.   Clothing can be a very important public declaration of these ideas and desires, can even be a necessary part of identity marking and creation for queer people, but it is not the sum and total of queerness.  But this text also emphasizes that there are very real and violent social consequences to the act of wearing deviant clothing and marking one's self as queer through appearance.  People are judged by society and place themselves in vulnerable positions for discrimination and emotional and physical violence by wearing clothing that marks them as queer, gay, transgender, or gender variant.  People can also feel conflicted over clothing because the clothing they want to wear may not be the clothing that society tells them they should wear.  While choosing the clothing one wants to wear can be liberating, it can also be difficult because it can be painful to actually name and recognize your desires, especially if those desires are shamed in society.  This public act of wearing deviant or marking clothing can be a reason that young people may find liberation in wearing and discussing this clothing in their internet personas.  It may not seem easier to a privileged person to wear the clothing you want, photograph it, and put it on your blog before you wear it in public, but for a young person who is more out online, it can be a safer way to experience and experiment with identity.  
  Stockton, Kathryn Bond. "Cloth Wounds, or When Queers Are Martyred to Clothes: The Value of Clothing's Complex Debasements." Women 13, no. 3 (Winter2002 2002): 289. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 3, 2012).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Judith Butler, "Imitation and Gender Insubordination"

Judith Butler's ideas about gender very influential to my understanding of gender and queerness.  In Butler's 1990 piece "Imitation and Gender Insubordination," she dissects a number of issues surrounding queerness, identity, and performativity.  I read this piece as part of The Judith Butler Reader, which was edited by Sara Salih and Butler.  The essay originally appeared in Inside Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, edited by Diana Fuss and published by Routledge in 1991.  She begins the essay by discussing her reservations on writing for a Lesbian and Gay anthology because she has problems with identifying as a Lesbian theorist (Butler, 2004, 120-121).  She thinks that identity categories are regulatory institutions, even when people claim them.  According to Butler, homosexual identity categories cannot be stable and if they became stable they would stop being appealing to her because she is attracted by their instability.  She says,
      I'm permanently troubled by identity categories, consider them , as sites of necessary trouble.  In fact, if the category were to offer no trouble, it could cease to be interesting to me: it is precisely the pleasure produced by the instability of those categories which sustains the various erotic practices that make me a candidate for the category to begin with.  To install myself within the terms of an identity category purports to describe; and this might be true for any identity category which seeks to control the very eroticism that it claims to describe and authorize, much less "liberate." (Butler, 2004, 121)
This is very provocative statement, particularly in the face of mainstream homosexual discourses that rely heavily on proclaiming oneself to be part of an identity category such as Gay or Lesbian.  By criticizing the idea of stable categories as regulatory features, Butler is opening the door for current discourses of queerness and fluidity of sexuality.   She also describes the problems with the discourse of "coming out."  She says that the process of coming out as homosexual does not free people from the constraints of the "closet" (Butler, 2004, 122).  Being out in society simply puts different constraints on people's behavior. A person may be freer to act in a way that matches their inner self, but one will also now be judged by the stereotypes of that identity.  It can also put people in very real physical danger as well as open to other types of discrimination and violence.  She goes even farther to say that the idea of being out is necessary to create and maintain the concept of the closet.  Butler writes,
"Conventionally, one comes out of the closet (and yet, how often is it the case that we are "outed" when we are young and without resources?); so we are out of the closet, but into what? what new unbounded spatiality? the room, the den, the attic, the basement, the house, the bar, the university, some new enclosure whose door, like Kafka's door, produces the expectation of a fresh air and a light of illumination that never arrives?  Curiously, it is the figure of the closet that produces this expectation, and which guarantees its dissatisfaction.  For being "out" always depends to soem extent on being "in"; it gains its meaning only within that polarity.  Hence, being "out" must produce the closet again and again in order to maintain itself as "out."(Butler, 2004, 122-123).
For this project, the idea of coming out as a problematic concept or a regulatory action is particularly important.  I want to explore the idea that people may use internet as a way of coming out or proclaiming identity that they may not be comfortable proclaiming in physical spaces.  It may also be a way of being more explicit about sexuality and identity than may be visible in regular spaces because feminine identity and presentation are rarely questioned or seen as queer in people who are perceived as being biologically female.   Coming out has traditionally a very important political act for LGBT people.  It is not usually seen as being potentially negative or as a way of reproducing problematic institutions and binaries.

Perhaps the most important part of this essay for my project are Butler's ideas about the drag and performing gender and appropriation.  Butler says that homophobic discourses and compulsory heterosexuality posit homosexuality as an appropriation and copy of heterosexuality (Butler, 2004, 127).  She says that drag is not the act of putting on the trappings and clothing of another gender but the way that all genders are repurposed and reenacted (Butler, 2004, 127-128).  She writes,
"Drag constitutes the mundane way in which genders are appropriated theatricalized, worn, and done; it implies that all gendering is a kind of impersonation ad approximation.  If this is true, it seems, there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself."  (Butler, 2004, 127).
This is a fascinating approach to the idea of performing gender.  Drag is usually thought of as the way that a person of one gender uses the mannerism, appearance, clothing, and aesthetics of another gender.  People perform drag by coping the a different gender than their own.  Butler challenges this notion.  She says that everyone is appropriating and coping gender whenever they are performing gender.  Because gender is enacted in this coping, the action is actually creating the very thing that is copied.  Because this performance is an action of creation rather than appropriation even though people are enacted their preconceived ideas about gender, whether the gender they are enacted is their assigned gender or not.  Butler goes on to say that we only think heterosexuality is the original that homosexuality is coping because it is compulsory and so is endlessly recreated (Butler, 2004, 128).  Butler also says that for homosexuality must exist and be seen as a copy for heterosexuality to be seen as the original (Butler, 2004, 128).  Furthermore, she says that homosexuality is not a copy of heterosexuality but rather heterosexuality is a copy of itself (Butler, 2004, 129).  It has to copy and reiterate itself because it is always in danger of being questioned and being made not compulsory.  It is through playing with gender and heterosexuality that it can be further questioned and shown as constructed (Butler, 2004, 129-130).  She also says that
"sexuality is never fully 'expressed' in a performance or practice; there will be passive and butchy femmes, femmy and aggressive butches, and both of those, and more, will turn out to describe more or less anatomically stable 'males' and 'females.' There are no direct expressive or causal lines between sex, gender, gender presentation, sexual practice fantasy and sexuality.  None of those terms captures or determines the rest.  Part of what constitutes sexuality is precisely that which does not appear and that which, to some degree, can never appear.  This is perhaps the most fundamental reason why sexuality is to some degree always closeted, especially to the one who would express it through self-disclosure."(Butler, 2004, 131).  
This is important because people try to make so many connections between sexuality and performance of different ideas about gender.  People think that a person's clothing, appearance, or mannerisms are always effective markers of their sexual desires or actions.   People can use these things to express ideas about their sexuality, but they can never completely express all the components of their sexuality.  Queerness is more than something that some one puts on or the way they walk; it is a very part of their being, desires, fantasies, relationships, and construction of the self and the other.  These ideas will be very important to my project because I want to talk about how people can use clothing and appearance on their blogs to express their sexuality and gender.  To effectively discuss this, I also have to be able to talk about how far that expression can go and what it can and cannot convey.

Judith Butler, "Imitation and Gender Insubordination," in The Judith Butler Reader, edited by Sara Salih and Judith Butler. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004): 119-137.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I will be posting links to blogs and tumblrs that I think will be useful to my project. These blogs will represent individuals using fashion to express gender and sexuality or using images and text to outline a specific point of view regarding fashion and gender/sexuality performance. I will also be posting critical reviews and thoughts about these blogs.

I will also be using this blog to include critical responses and reviews of scholarly works regarding this subject. I will be working with Butler's theory of the performativity of gender first and then including other works as I go along.


In my feminist method and theory class, we have talked about the importance of the researcher acknowledging their own position and standpoint in conducting their research. In order to place center myself in my research and use strong reflexivity to counter claims that researchers can be objective, I want to describe my interest in this project. My stake, if you will. I am identify as a queer femme. I am cis gender. I am fat. I am very interested in fashion, body positivity, and using clothes to express your gender. This project comes from my own interest in queer fashion and empowerment. The blog that I will discuss are all blogs that I read regularly. I consider myself part of the queer and gay subcultures in my physical location and in virtual communities. I want people to be able to use fashion and ideas about performance to express their ideas about gender and sexuality without fear of violence or repression. I want my research to be useful to people studying this topic for both academic and personal reasons.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Hi everyone. This post is to introduce my project and myself. I am senior Women and Gender Studies student. I am creating this blog as part of a research project for so that I may graduate with honors. I am examining the way that people who identify as queer or as part of the larger lgbtqqia identity spectrum use the internet and social media to create body image. I will be including links to blogs and tumblr which feature relavent posts. I will also be providing reviews of books and articles about subjects such as body image, queer theory, and internet spaces theory. I hope to continue this blog after I have finished this project. Please fill free to provide links to any relavent material that could help me with this project. I hope this project in blog form can be a resource to others who may be interested in this topic.