After the examination—the heels in stirrups, knees toward opposing walls, the scoot your bottom down, closer to the edge, that’s it—the doctor smiled.Everything looks great, she said.Then, Stay.The room was lined with teddy-bears and according to a chart on the wall, I had…
On one hand, I’m reluctant to contribute more to the obsessive discourse about a certain type of New York white girl. But on the other hand, somehow not addressing this new and pervasive stereotype of young, female adulthood (or maybe more accurately, extended adolescence) further marginalizes the disparate and increasingly political voices of women my age.
I’d like start with a look at the critical reception of this show versus the show Girls, which are ostensibly about the same thing—the impact of class on the creative economy of New York, or to even take it one step further, how wealth creates a creative aura to promote its self-sustaining correlative between New York and artistic success.
First, the Internet is finally shutting up about Lena Dunham. The unprecedented publicity garnered by her television show could simply be attributed to the fact that this girl has probably had dinner with everyone at “important New York media establishments” at various points during her childhood. Meanwhile, Gallery Girls has mainly been received with shrugs.
Most interestingly, however, is the debate about representation that these two shows evince. Girls, a scripted, fictional narratively manipulated package of Lena Dunham’s megalomania is critically received as representational of my age demographic of women. On the other hand, Gallery Girls, while obviously not unscripted and rife with notable forced interactions between the two castes it pursues, is a docudrama. And yet, response by New York media establishments has been largely, “This is not what it’s like.” Gallery Girls girls are not representational of the prescriptive New York art world where young women are relegated to curatorial or administrative positions*. In fact, they are anomalies, and there are so many more hard-nosed go-getters out there that don’t need to use reality television as a launchpad for their careers in trafficking aesthetically pleasing tokens of class privilege. Which almost makes me feel bad for our Gallery Girls. Almost.
The source of this obsession with female representation is so obviously the paucity of female voice, particularly young female voice, in mainstream media. Where representational discourse gets it wrong is that one young female voice—particularly the white, wealthy female voice—can be representational. The fact that media response to these two shows sets up the dichotomy between “good” (representational, Girls) and “bad” (nonrepresentational, false, Gallery Girls) just illuminates the misogyny in a system of valuation where women are supporting characters to be one-dimensionally and universally portrayed.
PHEW. All that said, let’s take a look at these ambulatory nightmares and play by media’s reductive understanding of womanhood. Which is actually a harder task than you might think because is there any difference between these people? This show might as well be called “The Work of Art in the Age of the Mechanical Reproduction of Female Capitalism Machines.” Anyway, let’s countdown from least-worst to worst-worst, shall we?
Congratulations, Liz! If I had six bullets and seven Gallery Girls, you would survive. Young Liz is doing exactly what is expected of her—that is, being rich and drunk. Art just happens to be the mode of decadence she prefers. She’s also from Florida, which grants her some sympathy points in my book.
5-6. The Rest of the Blond Girls
A few months ago I realized that I have very few blond friends, and I theorized that it’s because I can’t physically differentiate between the fairest of the white race. How many blond girls are in this show? Two? I think it’s two. One of them is rich and one of them watches Giants games in a local Long Island bar with her father who probably wears a commemorative 9/11 first responders baseball cap. One of them interns at Eli Klein and one of them… does something else related to art? By the sheer ability of being indistinguishable from one another these two have escaped bottoming out at the worst of the worst.
Poor, perpetually harried Claudia. What happened girl? You’re a beautiful, stylish rich young woman with good taste. You were born to be a gallery girl! And yet, your “gallery” (read: high-end TJ Maxx) is failing and your “business partners” do not give a fuck. Claudia is by far the most clear-eyed about the art economy. Instead of being dazzled by audacious displays of wealth like the “Upper East Side girls” or committed to some false sense of aesthetic bravado like the “Brooklyn girls,” Claudia is pragmatic. We have a bill that is $85, and we haven’t made any money to pay it. This is cause for concern. Unfortunately, it’s this pragmatism that makes her the least compelling of this terrible gang.
I cannot lie. Maggie is by far my favorite Gallery Girl. Her particular brand of privileged, myopic cuntiness and its relation to the absurd is the stuff of academic dissertations. I could watch her teeter around Brooklyn (and I mean Brooklyn as signifier of Williamsburg) worrying about crushed glass and getting murdered for days. I think at some critical point in her development, Maggie got bitten by a growth-retarding spider, and now she’s doomed to spend the rest of her life looking like a 12 year old about to go horseback riding. Maggie is definitely one of the worst, but god, do I love her so.
It was obviously a real fight to death for our last two Gallery Girls, but somehow Angela managed to redeem herself by… I’m not really sure? First of all, Angela, you are not a model nor a photographer nor an outsider. You are a rich girl who is so astoundingly narcissistic that you can almost be categorized as your own medical disorder. Angela’s “high-concept” wardrobe (wearing petticoats as shawls and dressing like an extra for an X-rated version of Cirque du Soleil), her evenings out with “her gays,” and describing herself as a “maneater” when in reality she is so vapid and self-absorbed that it would be impossible to sustain any type of human relationship with her, really makes me wonder how she only ended up at number two. But then, then I think about…
I knew months ago from previews of Gallery Girls that Chantal would elicit the kind of revulsion in me typically reserved for matters of international importance. Her vapid affectation is endemic to the New York art world and white, hipster Brooklyn culture. What is wrong with her mouth and throat? Her practiced apathy is exhausting. Furthermore, because she is just so goddamn typical she doesn’t even warrant a reprieve from rage. I want to put her head in a vice and squeeze her brains out onto a canvas then shove it down Eli Klein’s throat.
*Not to undermine the importance or creative impact of curatorial or administrative work, but work within the power dynamic of artistic creation as important or elevated.
And if we’re going to circle takes the square over here, this is a fantastic example of what And the Band Plays On does well, which is argue that in the early days of the epidemic everyone was real eager to relegate the disease to America’s undesirables uh no duh doi—gays, IV drug users, prisoners, Haitians—but even within the gay community itself and the notion of “fast lane gays.” And it’s no big shocker that something addressing attitudes about AIDS in the 1980s is still so great at portraying the attitude of someone who READILY CITES IT AS A REVOLUTIONARY WORK because we clearly haven’t come as far as we think. Hey Yale, viruses don’t care about your pedigree, class or intellectual prowess, is what I would say if I was ever drunk at a bar with Yale.
In any case, it’s fortuitous that instead of working on my graduate school coursework, I was looking through my Photo Booth pictures (first of many times I will be typing that sentence in the next two years), which if anyone cares I mostly use to document great hair days and fantastically executed braids. But I came across these photos of some of the more amazing bits and pieces of Charles Shively’s, editor of Boston’s revolutionary Fag Rag, personal collection. And if there’s one thing I want it to say on my tombstone, it’s “Tatyana sure loved parallels and resonances RIP.”
I obviously took a photo of this headline because it is funny and empowering and amazing. I believe this article was from a mid-80s issue of Fag Rag, and it outlines the various ways that people can positively embrace their sexuality amidst the growing realization that AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease. In And the Band Played On there are constant discussions amongst health care professionals, gay leaders and governmental wellness organizations about how to delicately warn gay men of the potential threat of “insemination” and promiscuity in contracting AIDS. Prior to the AIDS crisis, (according to ATBPO) the SF bathhouse scene was viewed as an orgiastic expression of repressed sexuality that gay men experienced throughout the country and in pre-Harvey Milk San Francisco. To encourage gay men to reduce their number of sexual partners was seen by many as a way of shaming the nascent sexual positivity associated with the gay revolution back into the closet. On the other hand, you have homophobic biggots who equate gay lifestyles with promiscuity and disease and this would just equally fuel their fire and further relegate AIDS to the incorrect position of a “gay disease.”
Nonetheless people were contracting AIDS at exponential rates while government officials were arguing in air conditioned conference rooms. And when you consider the disease’s latency period (that is, before the language of HIV was invented), you have the AIDS patients of 1985-87 paving the road for the next 10 years of the epidemic. Meanwhile, Larry Kramer, who was apparently a prudish nana pariah in the early 1980s is screaming EVERYONE JUST STOP HAVING SEX PLEASE DON’T DIE and everyone is STFU Larry Kramer. Luv you, dude. When are people going to realize that the crankier you are the righter you are?
[Do you see this? This is me in like 5 years, because pairing a “where is the outrage” shirt with a FUCKING BLOSSOM HAT is Tatyana in nutshell. I luv you Larry Kramer.]
Anyway this piece is fucking great because it gets the message out, but it’s sex positive and it’s not pushing a monogamous lifestyle, the benefits of which were vetoed by gay-friendly Mayor Feinstein during the heart of the epidemic.
I’m going to take a stab at analysis of this book based solely on the title and my own interpretations of And the Band Played On. A large portion of the beginning of the book’s examination of pre-AIDS crisis gay culture, and not to go back to Larry Kramer but here we go, Larry Kramer’s inherent crankinessof the time was due to the floundering, carnivalesque semi-mainstreaming of queer radicalism and the celebratory revelry that left a strong late-70s movement floundering in bathhouses. This may be a homophobic narrative embellishment as Randy Shilts is wont to do, but before AIDS a lot of gay activists were wondering exactly what issue would galvanize the community again. Which first of all, YIIIKES a fatal disease and subsequent epidemic being seen as a political gamechanger, but also HMMM. But no seriously, mostly YIKES though.
Anyway, there is a dearth of information online about Charles Shively, which is a total fucking tragic shame. The academic, anarchist and gay libber has produced and curated some of the most prescient information about an incredibly interesting and important time period of American history which, when examined can support and reframe a more controversial, mainstream and heterosexual take on the AIDS epidemic, lookin at you Randy Shilts.
My pursuit of narcissism continues with a self-directed lesson in calling things “boring.”
The great thing about narcissism is that it’s inductive reasoning hinged on a personal experience translated into universality. In the case of narcissism, feminism and Tumblr discourse this means that a (my) personal experience can be representational of the personal experiences of all women, or mostly The (singular) Woman Experience. Which a) HA and b) ha HA ha. But ha-ha’s aside, maybe that’s just my self-effacing womanness shyly peeping its head around the corner then quickly slipping away again.
For this experiment we will use the example of my previous inability to use the term “boring” to describe many things that I was bored by. So, like, this is a self-help story; also empowerment.
The past two years of my life have been characterized by what I would call “traditionally” boring conversations. You want to talk to me about crystal healing? OK, but that’s boring. You want to tell me about how the universe bestowed its knowledge upon you when you were fucked up on DMT in the middle of the night, but really you were just ranting about Subway restaurants? Let me get my pillow and blanket. To identify a traditionally boring discourse is easy, but to define it is harder. I am not a scientist, nor a philosopher, nor someone necessarily concerned with avoiding the endless contradictions of life, so I will go ahead and define a traditionally boring discourse by borrowing a phrase from one of my favorite misogynists, and say it’s any conversation held in “Bad Faith.”
However, as an itinerant observer/inveterate discourser, I have borne the brunt of highfalutin and ham-fistedly flatulent discourses on subjects that I would ostensibly find interesting. Regardless of whether the subject of these conversations was art, music, books, politics or, I don’t know, some other cultural signifier that dudes like to get their panties in twists all about, I frequently (not always) find myself unable to engage in conversations I normally would want to. I internalized this aversion to certain types of conversations, feeling that there was something wrong with me for not being interested in them.
The real culprit however, were WMDs—that is, weapons of male discourse—or that battery of hidden rhetorical devices including language oppression, invalidation, refutation of emotion and intuition, and other aggressive and aggrandizing acts which I, in my ideological understanding of discourse as a means of attaining a higher understanding of something, find inherently boring. To use language as a pissing contest is boring. Furthermore, oppression is boring.
Perhaps the most boring thing about these tactics is that I am expected utilize them to hold water in any discourse. Because of this, I am abandoning my priority in discursive engagement (ie, greater understanding) to tangentially jerk off some asshole and/or prove myself to a person who clearly has no interest in understanding me. See also: participating in the patriarchy. I dunno, what do you think Chris Kraus?
Art supersedes what’s personal. It’s a philosophy that serves patriarchy well and I followed it more or less for 20 years.
Tips for calling things boring:
+A discourse is boring when you are intentionally excluded from a conversation by language oppression.
+A discourse is boring when someone tells you your opinions or experiences aren’t “valid.” Or they tell you that you are “overreacting” or use other “emotional words” to strip you of your critical agency.
+Once you have identified a boring subject, wait for an inopportune moment to announce its inherent boringness. I find that in the middle of someone’s sentence or just before a particularly revelatory moment works well.
+Issue non-verbal cues. We women are great at body language and subtlety. It’s what we do instead of rational thinking! Try obsessively checking your cell phone (and smiling or laughing at what you see), yawning or getting drunk really fast.
+Synonyms for boredom include: distaste, dullness, ennui, lassitude, monotony and tedium.
Expected results from appropriate application of “boring”:
+Immediate removal of yourself from said boring conversation; possible re-engagement in more interesting conversation, possibly with someone more interesting or attractive.
+Giving a flippant, dismissive and altogether AGGRESSIVELY GIRL response that turns the use of WMDs on its head, while manipulating preconceived notions about how women understand things.
+Offending someone that has offended you. See also: playground revenge.