Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pride Recap!

Pride! I survived! And I'm experiencing ace withdrawal already. This year, I was prepared to feel a bit down after Pride ended, so hopefully I won't be having a replay of "Post-Pride depression". I need some other project to work on now, though...

I realized while trying to explain why asexuals would be in Pride that there are two distinct components to it. One is visibility/education, and the other is asexual community-building. Let's start with vis/ed, shall we? Merciless and possibly excruciating detail to follow...

As one marcher commented, it's really hard to come up with catchy slogans that actually explain what asexuality is to people who have never heard of it. We can get the word "asexual" out there, but we can't really explain who we are very well in a parade context. I'm sure at least a few people looked seriously at the flyers we handed out. And since we know asexuals are 1 in 100 people at the least, there must have been a handful of folks in the crowd who had been looking for the word "asexual" to describe themselves. However, I wouldn't have been surprised if a lot of people thought we were a bakers' union or something. Responses ran from a few obscene gestures from spectators (really, people?) to a woman telling me she loved my "Asexuals Party Hardest" shirt. One really nice response came from an employee of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who told some of us that his sister just came out to him as asexual.

Although we weren't actually shown on TV (not sure how that mistake happened), the commentators did talk about us, and actually gave accurate information this time. They said that "even though asexuals aren't in LGBT, they're still part of the community", which I thought was a cool thing to say. It's worth mentioning that while the Pride Committee claims to plan the parade order with great care, I have my doubts. We were between representatives from Jerry Springer: The Musical and some anti-circumcision activists sporting a "Foreskin is Fabulous" banner. The parade was moving so quickly that we had a hard time staying clumped together, and our cheers, which weren't that loud to begin with, were probably drowned out by the louder chants of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" Sigh.

(A brief note about the guys: Last year, the AVEN contingent was described as "a group of women" by The Chronicle. This year, it was fairly accurate, as our group of 20-something people only included two men (Hey DJ and my dad!). Someone did come up to our group when we were in the assembly area and asked us if asexuals were all women. I heard someone explaining that AVEN does most of its organizing online, and that online forums tend to be more popular with women. Usually, we have more women than men at meetups, however, the ratio is not usually quite this skewed. Do women just like parades more than men? I have no idea.)

As for the asexual community-building aspect, that was awesome. It was, as usual, great to meet all the aces who had traveled from near, far, and very far. It always makes me really happy to hear people say, "I've never seen so many asexuals in one place before!" At meetups, people often say, "This is my first time meeting other asexuals" and I think that's a really powerful experience. Honestly, if we just had some sort of big, special asexual meetup without the parade, I might even enjoy that more. The parade is a cool experience, sure (as well as a hot, crowded and tiring one), but it's not a good place to really talk to people and get to know them. That's not the point of a parade, I know, but it's just so rare that this many asexuals get together...I wish we could get even more mileage out of it, somehow.

I want to thank everyone who participated, as well as everyone who was there in spirit! I was very proud to march (and skip and dance and whistle incessantly!) with all of you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Zine Action!

More zines! But here's one you (yes, you) can get involved with. A zine about asexuality and feminism is in the works, and you can see all the information about it here. Submissions are being accepted until July 16th. I submitted something myself; I think it'll be a very interesting zine. If you're not familiar with zines, here is article about them. Wow, I said the word "zine" too many times in my head, and now it's starting to sound really weird.

PRIDE APPROACHES. Oh my goodness. If you're just hearing about this now, which I somehow doubt, all the info is here. Expect a recap! And if you really like to plan your blog-reading schedule in advance, more thoughts on romance after that.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Binaries? Yeah, I'm generally not a fan. That's one thing I've come to learn since identifying as asexual. For a while now, I've been wondering if I really had an "affectional orientation" that I would be able to coax out with enough thought. A lot of other asexuals seem to know so easily whether they're romantic or aromantic (and beyond that, which gender(s) they are attracted to if they are romantic). But I recently realized that the reason I couldn't figure it out was because the romantic/aromantic thing is a binary I don't fit into. I'm neither, both, or somewhere in the middle. I am, for lack of a better word, grayromantic. No, it's not a term I'm looking to popularize, but I think it's one that will make sense for those who are familiar with asexuality.

Like the gender binary in mainstream society, the romantic/aromantic binary seems to be intuitive for most people in the asexual community. That it informs so much of our internal dialogue on asexuality can make people who don't fit into it feel like their experiences are even further outside of the ordinary. Just like there is no clear demarcation at the end of "asexual" and the beginning of "sexual", there is no such clear line for affectional orientation, either.

It's a uniquely asexual issue, I know, and maybe not a very important one. But it gets me thinking about our labels-- do we define ourselves by a dictionary definition, how we feel about ourselves, or what most affects our lives? I think that is an important question, for any orientation (or other label), although it might only be able to be answered by the individual. If you went by what asexuals would call a "dictionary definition", I guess I would be hetero-romantic, since I experience romantic attraction towards men (I also like long walks on the beach, candlelight, etc). However, I don't feel hetero-romantic, probably because my romantic attraction towards men has not influenced my life very much. I'd like to be in a romantic relationship, but not just for the sake of being in one. If I ever had a hetero-romantic card, then it has truly expired due to lack of use.

So since I don't try to date men and never really have, what real difference do my fleeting attractions make? Putting a romantic orientation in front of "asexual" would also just sound strange to me, when the "asexual" part is so much more important to my life. The most accurate term for me, I think, would be something describing my confusion with the whole concept of "romance". Now, what was I again?

This post has a second and perhaps even third part, so stay tuned.

(Also, one week until the Pride Parade! Eeee!)

Monday, June 14, 2010

White Blackbirds: Prelude

Just popping in to share a link Lanafactrix* sent me:

A zine about "Women who aren't married and don't want to be", reviewed by Bitch Magazine.

It sounds pretty intriguing, so I'm going to try and get my hands on a copy. I've read a few different works about long-term single women, but this is the only one I've heard of, thus far, that involves women younger than their late 30's. Some of the comments to the post were interesting as well.

*If you like knitting, you should check out her blog.

And to all the friends who have given me blog fodder over the years:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Kid, We're Too Much": Sex and the City 2

I've written about Sex and the City a few times before, so it seems fitting for me to review its new movie. It was actually better than I thought it would be, however, that's not saying much. Based on the trailer, I thought it would be unwatchable (and I say this as a big fan of the show). And at least, it was moderately entertaining and had a plot, albeit a silly one. A lot of reviewers found it offensive, especially to Muslims (a large part of the movie happens, inexplicably, in the United Arab Emirates). But as someone who tends to be easily offended, both for myself and others, I couldn't really get riled up about it. It wasn't as if the visiting Americans were portrayed in a better light than the Muslim characters; everyone was over-the-top and unrealistic. I mean, look at the photo below; the characters were pretty much just something to hang clothes on. In the show, the main characters would learn and grow to some extent, but in the films, that doesn't happen. The characters stay pretty much where we left them, with the possible exception of Mr. Big. I think the movies missed a chance to be real movies in their own right, rather than just inferior extensions of the show.

I thought this part of Slate's review was apt: "...its complete disconnection from our current economic and geopolitical reality, by moments achieves a perverse Warholian profundity." I do find it interesting that this particular movie has been targeted as an example of pointless excess. Yes, it is full of pointless excess, but isn't almost every action movie evidence of the same thing? You don't usually hear people accusing Batman or James Bond of spending too much money. I'm not sure exactly what to make of that, but find it interesting. Now believe me, I'm not a fan of excess, on a personal level or in the film industry. But there must be a comment about gender in there somewhere. Women are supposed to spend tons of money on every useless thing (firming body lotion! prescription eyelash lengthener!) so I'm actually kind of surprised that there seems to be an upper limit. Do male characters just get a pass because they overspend on cooler things? Probably.

One minor thing I liked about the movie was that the "You mean you don't want KIDS?!?!?" people were made to look ridiculous. They're not bad people, but one scene in the movie shows how rude and intrusive their questioning can be. On a slightly related note, you know how so many romantic movies end with these montages, in which the woman is suddenly pregnant? I always thought that was a cop-out, a shorthand for "let's portray a long-lasting relationship", as if one thing magically flowed from the other. You never see the couple actually talk about kids or parenting. You never see the couple actively choosing to have kids, but isn't that a good place to be? I think this is the right trope...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Representation (Now with Extra Flibanserin!)

I recently finished the book No Logo by Naomi Klein. I highly recommend it-- not only is it about an important topic, but Klein has an absorbing, conversational style of writing that actually made me laugh out loud a few times. In one chapter, Klein talks about her days of involvement in the "identity politics" movement of the 1990s. As I read that part, I couldn't help but think that there were potential lessons in her story, somewhere, for the asexual community.

Basically, at some point in the late '80s, people in Klein's social and academic circles, and folks in similar ones, all started to become preoccupied with the idea of "representation" in the media and advertising. Rightfully, people were sick of looking at advertising, which was increasingly dominating their landscape, and seeing no one that looked like them. So they pushed for the inclusion of women, queer people, and people of color. Not just onto college reading lists, but into the commercials and billboards of the time. And they got exactly what they wanted. This ad for Diesel jeans, featuring two male sailors kissing, was shown in No Logo as an example of their "victory":

In the end, corporations and their billion-dollar marketing budgets didn't see identity politics as a movement that threatened their supremacy as cultural arbiters. Rather, they saw these activists as one more source of "cool" to be mined, like the hip-hop or grunge scene. Suddenly, even the most staid brands were being told that "diversity" is what sells, so "diversity" is what they started to deliver, en masse. Looking back at her past efforts, Klein wondered what had really been accomplished. Seeing legitimate social movements re-packaged and sold back to the people (ie, feminism --> "Girl Power!") didn't seem like such a big victory after all.

Klein went further, describing later examples of corporate co-option of the very figures that fight against them. In one ill-fated plan for an ad campaign, Nike approached Ralph Nader, asking him to be in one of their sneaker commercials; Nader would hold up a shoe and say "Another shameless attempt by Nike to sell shoes" (302). (He declined.) I couldn't help but think that a weirdly visionary adperson could easily use asexuals to sell products to a populace that is sick of sex being used to sell everything. Obviously, that's a very far-fetched scenario, but then again, I never would have thought that Nike would approach Nader to sell their shoes.

Asexuals talk a lot about representation, although not usually in those exact words. But let's not reinvent the wheel here. I think there are pros and cons to a lack of asexual representation. I'm pretty sure we all know the cons by now. But as to the pros, at least our identity remains uncommercialized, for now. It isn't being used to sell anyone anything. Without representation, we're more free to create our own identities, which I think is an amazing opportunity. And it's all the more so, if it may not last.

If you'll bear with me a little longer, I'll try to relate this to the proposed drug Flibanserin, covered here and here. I don't have anything new to say about the drug itself, but maybe I can speak to the multi-million dollar marketing campaign that would no doubt follow it, focusing on telling women in emotionally fraught situations how bad their lack of sexual desire is*. My first impression of this possibility wasn't a good one, but it could actually have a bright side. Maybe opposing these advertisements could give asexuals the visibility that being asexual alone has not yet gained us.

In the identity politics chapter of No Logo, there is this quote: "...Daniel Mendelsohn has written that gay identity has dwindled into 'basically, a set of product choices...At least culturally speaking, oppression may have been the best thing that could have happened to gay culture. Without it, we're nothing" (114). While Klein says that "The nostalgia, of course, is absurd" I think that Mendelsohn brings up an interesting point. While I don't want asexuals to be oppressed more-- that would indeed be ridiculous-- if we are oppressed in the future, by no fault of our own, it may not be all bad. Yes, it will be bad, but there might be ways to draw something positive from it. As you probably know, I'm not often quite this optimistic, so again, best to enjoy it while it lasts. *wink*

[*Do any other Americans find our constant advertising for hospitals, drugs, and medical procedures a little odd, at best? Especially considering a great number of people don't have enough money to make those choices?]