Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On Bromance

While in my Rhetorical Criticism the other day, my professor spouted out a word that was new and quite puzzling to me: "bromance". A portmanteau of "bro" and "romance", the word apparently refers to a non-sexual romance between two heterosexual men. A little more from this article from MSN:

The Urban Dictionary defines... more bromance as "the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males." And while it may be a relatively new term within the American vernacular, coined in the 1990s by writer Dave Carnie in the pages of Big Brother Magazine, bromantic relationships have been intricately woven into the fabric of art and pop culture for centuries.

For those more versed in queer/literary theory, this might be more familiar to you vis-à-vis Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick from her book Between Men, as male homosociality. However, in Sedgwick's book male homosociality must be triangulated through a female--in other words, it can never be expressed openly, but rather as a contest between two males over a woman, though the woman is nothing more than an extra prize from victory. It should be said that Sedgwick was referring to Victorian (et ergo Victorian culture) in her book, though a lot of her theories have held true in modern society (Foucault also posits that, in terms of sex, we are more like the Victorians than we would like to admit--this is where Laura's screen name comes from).

But the movie that the MSN article is written in response to, I Love You Man, seems about as far away from that as possible. (From what I gather, the movie is about a man whose best man and fiancée do not get along, and the "hilarity" that ensues from that.) For one, the homosocial love between men is articulated in the title, and is not skirted around. Second, there is no triangulation through a woman, rather the fight is between a man and a woman over a man, and this fight is overt, not subtle.

What does this mean? I really can't say for sure. On one hand, this seems like it would be a good thing, especially in terms of Sedgwick's work, as the inability to openly express homosocial desire has resulted in many instances of sexism and homophobia. On the other, the whole "bro" cultural phenomenon has always bothered me, as it seems to be focused on excessive, almost to the point of grotesque, masculinity--(bad) beer guzzling, sports watching, flamboyantly heterosexual, not to mention the air of ""douchebaggedness" that seems to surround them. To me, this just seems another way to reinforce heterosexism, because it makes male homosocial desire acceptable between two straight men, and thus pushes non-sexual homosexual homosocial interaction outside of the bounds of acceptable, and homosocial interaction between a straight man and a gay man is almost unthinkable.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On Rachel Maddow

I have struggled for some time to come up with something witty to say about Rachel Maddow, my new favorite commentator and visible lesbian. I wanted it to be something that was intelligent, that included commentary on what it is to be "butch" (whatever that means), how her show is so incredible because of its depth and insight, how most of the media coverage of her to this point has been ridiculous and patronizing (and unnecessarily essentializing and feminizing).... etc.

Obviously that's a lot to talk about and I just haven't done it. So let me instead direct you to this wonderful article by Malinda Lo of AfterEllen.
Any time a lesbian who does not fit feminine norms makes a splash in the pop culture landscape (and it doesn’t happen too often), it is followed by a mass of handwringing as the media attempts to make sense of why she looks the way she looks.

...A Rhodes scholar, Maddow has also benefited from Americans’ renewed interest in intellectualism after eight years of Bush idiocy. It’s cool, these days (finally!) to be smart. But I don’t think it’s only her intelligence that people are attracted to, and Maddow’s sex appeal - which is ultimately what Merkin was trying to understand - is a transgressive one.

...A butch lesbian, at least in the ideal, is not the best of both worlds, male and female — she is a new world. She is the discovery, every day, of how a woman can be a woman without the trappings of femininity. The set of a woman’s shoulders, the way she crosses her legs, the angle of her hips when she walks - all of these are signals of butchness. And we know it when we see it. That kind of recognition takes place in the gut.

So good. On all points.