Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

21 September 2006

Pondering Femininity, Homosexuality and Divahood

I have been thinking this evening about female behavior. This week I was thinking about all of these boys in their flip-flops on campus. All of these untouchable undergrads, to whom I am not supposed to be attracted, but who walk around in various states of undress. And I was thinking that nudity in males translates also to me as femininity. I like men who wear flip-flops not because I fetishize feet, but because I fetishize vulnerability and bare feet represent the uncovering of something traditionally covered, something that is normally hidden now exposed to the air, inviting danger, needing protection like traditional thinking about women. And no matter how much I attempt to approach my relationships from the point of view of a "normal" homosexual, I find that I'm following heterosexual norms and attempting to fit into the traditional hetero-male role of the protector.

Juxtapose this thinking with what the second year MA student said to me last week: "Aaron, you make a terrible black woman." I was, of course, stunned and hurt. I vented to roomie later about this girl's insensitivity to me and I said, "almost every homosexual wants to be nothing else in the world but a fabulous black woman." What she said, was, obviously, insensitive and mean-spirited and though I was shocked by her statement, I understand. I am not a black woman and I never will be but, damn: a girl can dream.

I've also been thinking about male-male relationships. Not having had one for any length of time that is worth discussing, I don't know that I can even offer an opinion on the role of femininity in homosexual/homosocial relationships. In short, I wouldn't know what I was talking about. So instead, I worry about the role of femininity in my relationships with other men: how feminine am I? Am I too feminine to attract another male? Am I not feminine enough to stand out in this crowd of heterosexuals? Is that why he doesn't like me? Am I too feminine?

Thinking about these issues made me dig out Wayne Koestenbaum's The Queen's Throat, where I happily happened upon this:
Codes of extravagant female behavior have arisen around the diva: these mannerisms, collectively, are as famous and influential as any masterwork in the operatic repertory, and they transcend the borders of opera culture. Diva conduct, whether enacted by men or women, whether, indeed, we feel that diva conduct differentiates between men and women, has enormous power to dramatize the problematics of self-expression. One finds or invents an identity only by staging it, making fun of it, entertaining it, throwing it—as the ventriloquist throws the voice, wisecracks projected into a mannequin's mouth. Geraldine Farrar dared to tell Arturo Toscanini, "You forget, maestro, that I am the star." One need not be a star to relish Farrar's concise way of gathering a self, like rustling skirts, around her; he or she who will never become a diva, no matter how many social or vocal revolutions occur, may still wish to imitate Farrar, to say, "You forget, maestro, that I am the star." No single gesture, gown, or haughty glissando of self-promotion will change one's actual social position: one is fixed in a class, a race, a gender. But against such absolutes there arises a fervent belief in retaliatory self-invention; gay culture has perfected the art of mimicking a diva—of pretending, inside, to be divine—to help the stigmatized self imagine it is received, believed, and adored. (133)