On Thursday, Bitch Magazine decided it would be an awesome idea to run an article titled “Sapphic Salon: The Death of An Heiress, The Rise of the Fake Lesbian Relationship.” The “article” focused on Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson‘s recent death, the fallout from it, and her relationship with bisexual reality TV star and entertainer Tila Tequila. In Natalie Stein’s totally omg! 100% feminist! piece, she threw out accusations that Tila Tequila uses her sexuality for attention seeking purposes, chastised her for not being a better queer role model, and implied that Tila’s constant tweeting is about saving her own ass over anything else.
This all led the author to use the term “fake lesbian relationship” in her headline.
Luckily, many other Bitch readers were also pretty pissed about the off-base and phobic shit in the article. Frankly, I am shocked that anyone from Bitch thought this article should have been run on their website, but before I delve right into that mess, I really need to unpack all the sterotypical garbage here.
1. Oh, those darn attention seeking bisexuals!
As one Facebook user remarked, no one claims that Paris Hilton isn’t into dudes because she’s used her sexuality for attention. The attention seeking portion of it doesn’t make the sexuality any less real or valid, and is so heavily rooted in bi-phobia. What bisexual hasn’t heard claims that they’re just doing it for the attention, especially bisexual sex kittens – who are also always doing it for male attention? Surely no femme looking sex kitten or vamp type could have actual desire for another woman or even be experimenting; nope, it must be Girls Gone Wild syndrome.
2. Why can’t these homos be two-dimensional Super Gays instead of being nuanced individuals?
I can’t believe that Bitch Magazine would allow something to run that was so dangerously close to making a “credit to your race community” argument. Dude, really? Do I have to make more of a point here? Seriously, Tila Tequila, Courtenay Semel, Samantha Ronson, Portia De Rossi, Fergie, Perez Hilton, Neil Patrick Harris, Margaret Cho, Andy Dick, Sir Ian McKellen, Elton John, Jim McGreevey, Barney Frank, Dan Savage, and Christian Siriano are NOT the emperors of gay people. None of ‘em hold that title. They are not saints, they are not perfect, and they are certainly not two-dimensional stereotypes. Are we good on this?
3. OMG TILA TEQUILA HAS GONE OVER HER 140 CHARACTER LIMIT OF GRIEF!
Before Shot at Love, the only real distinction Tila had was to be the person with the most popular Myspace page ever. Shocking that she might grieve online? Let’s be honest, yeah, it’s not the smartest idea. If nothing else, when you’re emotional, you are so much more likely to say things you’ll later regret, and given this twisted mess of clusterfuckery, it’s probably a much better idea to take a breather and log off Twitter for a few days. But is Tila Tequila really the first person to publicly mourn the loss of a loved one? Is she really the first person to make bad decisions on the internet? Even if she was the first to do it, how on Earth is this proof that this is somehow a “fake” lesbian relationship?
There was a lot of great feminist theorizing that could have happened here. We could have seen a discussion open up about the media circus surrounding Casey Johnson’s death, or even a discussion about any of the objectionable portions of Stein’s post; instead, Bitch Magazine’s web editor, Kelsey Wallace, felt that this bi-phobic tripe was a better use of bandwidth. How do I know this? Well, Ms. Wallace jumped into the fray of critical comments (after I had commented that I would likely never get another subscription to the magazine) with the following miffed comment:
Hi, this is Kelsey, the Web Editor at Bitch. Thank you everyone for your comments. I have contacted Natalie, the author of this post, and asked her to respond to your concerns about her interpretation of Casey Johnson and Tila Tequila’s relationship. Please keep our policy in mind that “Opinions expressed on this website are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch.”
As for those of you who feel that all of the content on the Bitch Media website is rapidly declining and is at the level of a high school women’s studies course, please feel free to contact me (email@example.com) to relay any specific criticism you may have.
Notice two things: the statement does not address the specific issues others had with the post, and it uses a disclaimer to deflect all criticism onto the author. Opinion disclaimers are meant to protect a publication from extreme criticism over an unpopular view. In this context, it would be meant to cover the mag’s asses if they had someone writing about why they don’t support gay marriage because they don’t support marriage (for example). The disclaimer isn’t intended as a clever little shield to deflect rightful criticism such as horribly bi-phobic language and points made in a supposedly feminist publication. (What’s next? Are we going to see articles warning us about the Lavender Menace?)
By hiding behind it and hanging Natalie Stein out to dry, Kelsey (and, by extension, Bitch Magazine) might as well be saying, “not our problem!” I guess we’ll just ignore the web editor’s responsibilities re: approving pieces for publication. It was completely irresponsible to allow this article to run in the first place. The solution was to change the headline of the piece (to “Sapphic Salon: The Death of An Heiress, The Milking of the Press“), to completely disregard the issues within the article, and to give a half-hearted “sorry if you were offended” styled “apology” within Facebook comments. As of right now (11 pm EST, 1/9/10), there is still not an apology or any acknowledgment that the article was shouldn’t have been posted in its current form.
Considering that Bitch likely won’t be asking Angela Keaton to contribute any pieces to their site under the guise that her opinions are not necessarily shared by Bitch Magazine’s, I think it’s safe to call “bullshit.” It’s even more depressing to me because it feels like Ron Paul campaign BS all over again. Why is it that my issues – as an LGBTQA woman – can be sold out and dismissed, but it would be the worst crime in the world to give Jill Stanek a voice? (I say this as being one of the main organizers on this event.) I’m guessing that it will be a cold day in hell before we see Kelsey Wallace giving either Wendy McElroy or Camille Paglia a voice in the publication.
It’s the same old homo/bi-phobic crap that we queers have been subjected to since the beginning of friggin feminism. It’s tired and played out, but sadly, probably won’t fully change; instead, privileged straight people will continue to act like they know how we should feel about any subject. Maybe we would all be a little better off if we started listening to marginalized groups and stopped speaking for them.
Then again, what do I know?
If you’re reading this from my Facebook notes, please go to the original blog post (located here) to comment.