It was a tough one coming up with an opinion about Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey’s Shit Girls Say. Someone sent me the link ages ago; I found it funny-ish, but nothing to write home about. I didn’t think about it much, because it was one of those silly viral videos that I figured was viral for faggots alone. But low and behold, it gets shown at TIFF -- and suddenly women are getting offended. And everyone is wondering if Shit Girls Say is misogynistic.
Someone has to call a spade a spade. Because behind all this (although no one is talking about it) is the idea that gay men are by nature misogynistic, and, of course, that drag is inherently misogynistic too. Let me say it now, once and for all, gay men are not misogynistic and neither are drag queens -- at least not more so than anyone else. Men don’t prefer to have sex with men because they dislike women. In fact a lot of gay men I know like women a lot better than men. (Is this news to you? We don’t always LIKE who we screw….). I would venture to say that nothing could match the misogyny that you would be privy to if you happened to eavesdrop on a bunch of young straight dudes discussing their girlfriends. But the fact of the matter is that our entire culture is racist, sexist and homophobic. So I don’t think you can blame anybody in particular, just patriarchy in general.
But, although neither gay men nor drag queens are essentially misogynistic, Shit Girls Say IS.
So ahh…how did that happen?
Do Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey hate women?
We’ll never really know. But I think what has happened here is very interesting. This ruckus all has to do with the mainstreaming of gay culture.
I don’t think Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey are particularly misogynistic, but I would say that they know how to make a buck, and they sure know how to get their names in the paper. Beyond that they aren’t too thoughtful.
You see, Shit Girls Say is camp humour. It’s about how silly and stupid women are. This kind of thing belongs is in a gay bar on a drag stage; it belongs ONLY there. Straight men don’t need to see demonstrations of how stupid women are. Why? Because, unfortunately, they are all too often quite eager to believe it’s the truth. The oppression of women is based on the idea that women are dumb; that oppression is still alive and well.
Everything depends on context. Who watches drag shows in gay bars? Well -- gay men, lesbians, straight women, and the occasional straight guy who stumbles in (supposedly by mistake). If you’ve ever seen one of Toronto’s great, nay brilliant drag performers – queens like Keith Cole, Donnarama, Miss Conception or Georgy Girl -- you would notice that despite the outrageous things they do and say, they create an atmosphere that is inclusive (and equally abusive) to everyone -- male, female, straight, gay, white, and non-white.
But more importantly, gay men have a special relationship to women and to femininity, which is directly related to homophobia. As much as we try, we will never in our lifetimes be ‘real men’ in the eyes of straights – who will never forgive us for all the sexual acts that make us appear essentially feminine in their eyes. Camp culture is about owning our femininity – rather than having it hurled at us accusingly or gossiped about behind our backs.
What Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey have done is taken camp – true camp (it’s as serious as it is funny, and involves devotion to women as well as making fun of them) and drop it into the middle of straight culture, saying – ‘we’re all the same, aren’t we, and we all laugh at the same things, don’t we?’
Well sorry to repeat myself yet again, but -- we’re not, and we don’t. Nothing distorts and misrepresents gay culture quite as much as yanking it out of context and dropping it into straight culture and hoping straight people will like it. It’s like taking your mother to the backroom of the Eagle on a Saturday night.
Am I saying gay culture SHOULD be a secret? No. I’m simply saying that like it or not, it IS a secret, and always will be, as long as there’s gay and there’s straight.
Probably Kyle and Graydon are just hopelessly optimistic -- like a lot of gay men are right now. They think they’re doing gay men a favour by pulling our culture out of a darkened gay bar and into the light.
It’s an unfortunate but true fact about oppression that none of us are ready for that.