There’s a world of difference to me between showing a masculine-presenting woman with an interest exclusively in men in a universe with no canonical queerness and showing a masculine-presenting woman with an interest exclusively in men in a universe where some of the other characters are canonically queer.

The latter is just showing that gender expression doesn’t always match up with sexual orientation the way stereotypes would have us think that they do, but the former is almost mean; it’s like saying “even the women you’d ordinarily consider as subtextual representation are straight! You don’t exist here in any way!”

About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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6 Responses to

  1. jaelscribble says:

    In theory I agree! But honestly, mainstream YA has been pretty hard up for ANY examples of female masculinity lately (unless those Strong Dystopian Heroes count, and I’m not sure they do). Female masculinity (when it’s not about shooting guys) is often presented as a lack of self-esteem or some flavor of laziness. Whether the character is gay or straight, that’s the part that gets me, really. When the girl falls in love and “blossoms” and then…no more flannel shirts! Or…whatever.

    The one example I can think of in recent memory is the hetero lead from Here Lies Arthur. She presents as male for most of the story, and then “tries” the girl role for a bit and gets tired of it and goes back to presenting as a guy. Her love interest happens to be a guy who prefers presenting as a girl, and goes through a similar thing, so I don’t know if that counts as “hetero masculine girl in a non-queer world,” but otherwise I can’t think of many other than Rivka!

    • Shira says:

      That post reflects something I’ve felt for a while, but I was prompted to post it by Tasha Yar from TNG. She’s relatively masculine-presenting, but all her on-screen relationships are with men. This wouldn’t feel like erasure if there were OTHER women on TNG with canonical interest in other women, but there aren’t, so it just feels like the one place where it’s easy to stick an alternative sexuality, well, isn’t. Like “nope, you can’t even have this one!”

      So it’s not even that I need Tasha to be queer. It’s… it’s that Tasha’s heterosexuality makes me uncomfortable, whereas it totally wouldn’t in another context. It wouldn’t, if the TNG version of the human species wasn’t entirely straightwashed.

    • Shira says:

      When you get right down to it, a lot of problems could be avoided if writers would only stop writing “queer-free universes” to begin with.

      • jaelscribble says:

        Well, I hate saying this because it probably makes me sound quite a bit angrier and political than I am (I swear!), but I’ve pretty much written television off at this point! I don’t think limiting myself that way is ideal, but…there’s just SO MUCH OF THIS. I will occasionally put on Netflix when I’m home for the summer and there are only a handful of shows that aren’t being offensive like you say.

        So yeah…TOTALLY agree.

        …at least a lot of recent YA novels have at least featured non-sterotypical gay/lesbian characters without making a huge deal about it (of course, they’re rarely if ever masculine, so that’s a whole other issue…)?

    • Shira says:

      it won’t let me reply to your other message, but anyway: I knit while watching TV, and TV is also a sharing thing for my spouse and I. We analyze and discuss and talk about it. So, it would be hard for us to swear it off.

      • jaelscribble says:

        That sounds like fun (on both counts)! I think I’d like TV if I had some kind of discussion outlet.

        But also I can’t knit so that’s possibly also an issue!

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