Whither fair lesbians?

Gay Pride marches on, leaving its lesbian sisters to cough up the dust. Plus: The Boston Phoenix reports on Starbucks' latest conquest and why pheromone perfumes only make you stink.

Topics: LGBT,

Village Voice, June 23-29

“Planet Queer” by Richard Goldstein

It has been 30 years since a small riot in Greenwich Village blossomed into the Gay Pride movement of today. Most city papers will mark the occasion with a straight, reported article and a few garish photos from the weekend celebrations — leggy men in dresses and bare-chested women on motorcycles. It’s up to alternative weeklies, with their less conservative advertisers and classified ad-buying readers, to explore Gay Pride from a crotchless-chaps perspective.

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the Village Voice looks beyond its home turf, where it all began, to the movement’s supposed impact on the rest of the world. “As ambitious as gay liberation was from the start … its creators never expected their movement to become a global phenomenon. Yet … gay liberation reverberates across wildly different cultures,” Richard Goldstein explains in his introductory essay. The articles — touching on cross-dressers in Thailand, transsexuals in Israel and gay immigrants in New York — paint a global picture of the current state of gay rights.

There’s just one problem: Where are the lesbians? The dykes? The loud, proud, rug-lickin’ mamas? I know, “gay” is the blanket term, but why is it just Gay Pride instead of Gay and Lesbian Pride?

The pieces in the Voice’s package are about gay men, not women; sodomy laws and cocksucking, not cunnilingus; drag queens, not drag kings; women who used to be men, not the other way around. Even stories that claim to focus on gays and lesbians lead with an anecdote about a gay man. When lesbians actually are addressed, it’s only after the male side of the story has been explored, as in Martin Foreman’s piece, “‘Yab Daudu’ and Proud,” on same-sex relationships in African culture, or George Gurley’s New York Observer report on “gay quotients,” in which no women are mentioned until the article is almost two-thirds over. When writers search history for homosexuals, they’re usually searching for men — like Abe Lincoln or Walt Whitman.

The Village Voice is obviously not alone in giving editorial precedence to the phallus. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read an article addressing major gay issues that gave any thought to lesbian mothers being forced to give up their children, or abusive women-women partnerships. No, it’s always men wanting to adopt, or the hazards of bare-backing. And you can’t blame only the journalists. Just read Inga Muscio’s angry, poignant essay on the misogyny of gay men and the anti-woman bias of the Gay Pride movement to get a sense of how deep this problem goes.

Commendably, gay writers and thinkers are rethinking the ideology behind Gay Pride — as evidenced by Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan’s musings in The Stranger (Seattle) last week — in a way they haven’t since AIDS started killing off their friends and loved ones. As Gay Pride seeks to mature its image and purpose, let’s hope that future celebrations and related coverage will not forget gay women.

“Mod, Mod Relaxation” by David Kushner

The online selling of products that used to be only available offline is no longer news, even if the products in question do involve people shooting water up their butts or wearing magnetized vests. Why not just write about the at-home enema kit sensation itself instead of pretending there’s a tech angle here? OK?

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Feed, June 21

“The Elaborate Lobe”

At the core of Feed’s fine special section on the brain are eight essays by brain experts on their favorite lobes. Joseph LeDoux waxes rhapsodic on the neural wiring of the amygdala, which causes us to sense fear. Steven Quartz draws from an encounter between his 2-year-old son and a chimpanzee at the zoo to explain what aspects of the prefrontal cortex separates humans from apes. In addition to these odes to the lobes are several provocative pieces and interviews, including an essay by Erik Davis on how Buddhism fills the gaps left by neuroscience and an interview with “Listening to Prozac” author Peter Kramer on the “future of cosmetic pharmacology.” This package is a timely and stimulating read — timely, because the zeitgeist has recently shifted back to biological explanations of human behavior, and stimulating, because the section presents its discoveries in crisp, smart, accessible prose. Feed proudly defies the conventional Web wisdom that more content is better — which means they have time to create brilliant offerings such as this one. Let’s hope they continue to stay behind the times, even while staying on top of things.

The Boston Phoenix, June 24-July 1

“False scents?” by Michelle Chihara

When I was younger, so much younger than today, I spritzed myself with a so-called pheromone perfume and wandered the endless stacks at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon, convinced that some bookish boy would catch a whiff and make mad, sweet love to me between the erotica and used poetry aisles. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I was also, I’m ashamed to admit, duped. Michelle Chihara’s well-reported piece on the pheromone perfume scam is a must-read for those of us easily persuaded to spend money by sex-shop workers.

“Brewhaha” by Jason Gay

The yuppies are coming! The yuppies are coming! You can almost hear the hooves of Paul Revere’s horse as he gallops through the streets of Boston, San Francisco, Brooklyn and Seattle bellowing his warning to the commoners. One if by SUV, and two with cigars! Their plan is to infiltrate your neighborhoods and destroy the landscape with identical, corporate storefronts and mediocre, homogenized products! For a while, we kept these evil young success stories at bay — exiling them to the dull and unpleasant wasteland known as suburbs. This way we could keep our inner city neighborhoods poor and segregated. God bless America!

Jason Gay describes it succinctly: Somerville’s Davis Square “used to be a mixture of working-class families, Tufts students and random slacker types killing time in rock bands and MFA programs. But the death of rent control in Cambridge and the bustling economy increasingly has made it home to well-scrubbed twenty- and thirty-something professionals and affluent young couples with children.
This demographic change, of course, has given rise to accompanying concerns about high rents … the displacement of long-time residents, and the decline of small businesses. This, of course, leads to a predictable and warranted fear: gentrification.”

In this rambling interview, apparently with himself, Gay resists the urge to jerk his knee and decry the impending arrival of Starbucks in a coffee-swilling, rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. He rightly notes that even an independently-owned store-produced latte is still a sign that poor residents are being bought out of their homes. But I have to disagree with his assertion that “this is mostly about coffee.” His article may concern itself with java, but the issues it raises aren’t so simple. If writers continue to discuss gentrification in terms of expensive vehicles, overpriced lofts and Starbucks coffee, they may miss the real — and far more difficult — issue at hand: the widening chasm between rich and poor, which won’t be eliminated by the success of a locally-owned cafe.

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New York Observer, week of June 28

“Snitcher in the Rye” by Elizabeth Manus

Poor J.D. Salinger. First that Joyce Maynard bitch writes a memoir and sells his letters and now his own daughter has turned on him with a memoir about life with reclusive father. Elizabeth Manus discusses Peggy Salinger’s apparently not-so-elegant take on the subject.

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Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, June 23-29

“The People Formerly Known as Fans” By Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter straight-facedly reports on a scuffle between the Artist With an Unpronounceable Symbol for Name and the makers of a fan zine devoted to him. You, however, may feel the need to laugh as you read this bizarre tale of obsessed fans and rock star control issues in the face of declining record sales.

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The Stranger, June 24-30

“Sister Sedaris” by Steve Wiecking

Amy Sedaris has a sense of humor that makes Charles Addams’ disposition seem about as dark as “Mama’s Family.” Alas, Steve Wiecking feels the need to tell me how funny Sedaris is, explain it over and over, instead of just letting the subject of his interview prove it in her own words.

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Salt Lake City Weekly, June 24-30

“Down the Hatch” by Ben Fulton

In the great tradition of exposing Republican hypocrisy, the Salt Lake City Weekly’s Ben Fulton cheerfully points out a shocking truth: Sen. Orrin Hatch of the dry state of Utah has accepted campaign contributions from the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. It’s more complicated than that, but you should read the article for yourself.

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If you feel the need to express your anger (or maybe just fuel it with more information) at the usual suspects — Starbucks, drivers of Ford Explorers, yuppies in suspenders who think they discovered Sinatra, consumer culture and the whole damn status quo — I highly recommend Adbusters. This organization expresses its “overwhelming rage against consumerist culture” by creating mock ads (intended to expose the hypocrisy in advertising), fun events (Buy Nothing Day! Whee!) and guerrilla tactics such as defacing billboards and pasting “GREASE” stickers on McDonald’s trays. Although I’m not — how shall it put it? — there yet, Adbusters is a good-looking magazine and an enjoyable read.

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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