I recently watched Tipping the Velvet with some friends. I thought the direction, cinematography and much of the acting wretched (please, movie gods, never let me see a periscoping effect again) and utterly without subtlety, but I just couldn't resist this BBC film chock full of Victorian gender bending and lesbian sex. As you might suspect, the title comes from a euphemism for cunnilingus. One of my friends liked the romance, two of my friends mocked it relentlessly, and I started out the film trying to unfocus my eyes slightly and imagine Keeley Hawes as Keira Knightley and Rachel Stirling as Martine McCutcheon, if that gives you any idea. Fingersmith, another movie based on a Sarah Waters novel of Victorian lesbianism, is the better film. But where Fingersmith stays primarily with closet lesbianism, pickpockets and cons, Tipping the Velvet takes a broader path with male impersonation, gender roles in employment, the lesbian social scene, strap-ons, prostitution and socialism. It starts with drag, as a fascinated young Nan (Nancy) views Kitty singing and dancing in male impersonation.

I was amused then, when the very next week found me referred me to Ciara's gender-bending music video for Like a Boy:

And then there's this kind of sad performance of What it Feels Like for a Girl (Spanish version here) by gay-boy-adored Madonna:

Or take a look at Boys and Girls by Blur. It's more a commentary on indiscriminatingly sexual British vacation culture, but I've danced my ass off to this song at many a gay bar. It really gets at the fluidity and confusion of sexuality and gender performance these days, even if it is probably criticizing that same blurry haze of loveless sex--let's say the criticism comes in knowing that the same sexually exploratory vacationers would cling to a rigid binary and self-identified sexuality.

Thus segueing away from pop culture and toward science, I'd like to note that Robert Epstein announced in Scientific American his study finding, among other things, that "fewer than 10 percent of subjects score as 'pure' heterosexual or homosexual." He presented on Sexual Orientation Lies Smoothly on a Continuum: Verification and Extension of Kinsey's Hypothesis in a Large-Scale Study while at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality last week.

Unfortunately, here ends my lighthearted banter on sexual orientation and gender expression. Now for the serious stuff. GPAC in August reported on an Ohio University study exploring the intersection of race, gender and sexuality in American classrooms:
A new study shows that teachers tend to view the behavior of black girls as not "ladylike" and therefore focus disciplinary action on encouraging behaviors like passivity, deference, and bodily control at the expense of curiosity, outspokenness, and assertiveness.

You can find the extended article at an academic library near you:
Morris, Edward. (2007) "'Ladies' or 'Loudies'?: Perceptions and Experiences of Black Girls in Classrooms." Youth & Society. 38(4): 490-515.

This sad but unsurprising study reminds me of similar articles in my Education & Social Control class, discussing how cultural means of communication that do not fit within the dominant racialized and gendered mold (for example, too much or too little eye contact) are misread as behavioral problems. Blogger Kameelah has already done an excellent job responding to this information--including providing the referral to Ciara I mentioned above--so kindly check that out.

A recent article in the NY Times, Should Hillary Pretend to Be a Flight Attendant? reveals the continuing gender differences in heterosexual attractiveness of intelligence, looks and economic success, as well as workplace disparities regarding adherence to gender expectations, sexy attire and displays of anger. No comment is made on race in this article, which is rather a shame. I would especially like to see further analysis given to Obama's "fired up" campaign in relation to perceptions of not merely masculinity but black/African-American masculinity.
There is just one thing the article casually mentions that I must highlight:
Hillary Clinton, who is trying to crash through the Oval glass ceiling, may hope that we’re evolving into a kingdom of queen bees and their male slaves. But stories have been popping up that suggest that evolution is moving forward in a circuitous route, with lots of speed bumps.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could avoid assumptions about the necessity of the "opposing" sexes and their struggle for domination? Tough Stuff blames it on capitalism, at least partially. What do you think?

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