Incognito Press

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Girls 2 Men

Posted by E on November 14, 2007

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Earlier this year, Ariel Levy of NY Mag wrote a provocative and controversial article entitled Where the Bois Are – Why some young lesbians are going beyond feminist politics, beyond androgyny, to explore a new generation of sex roles. I would post excerpts but I can’t copy the text and have to content myself with posting the above photo from the article and the article’s beginning paragraphs:

A girl in a newsboy cap and a white t-shirt with rolled-up sleeves is leaning against the back wall at Meow Mix and telling her friend, “Some femme… just some femme.  I met her at a party three weeks ago, but now she’s like e-mailing me, and I’m just like, chill out, b****!”  …  She thrusts her forearm in front of her face as if she’s rapping as  she says, “Some of these chicks, it’s like you top them once and then they’re all up in your face.   It’s l like, did I get you off?  Yes.  Am I your new best friend?  No.  You know what I’m saying, bro?”

Her friend nods and keeps her eyes on the blonde go-go dancer in tiny white shorts undulating on a tabletop.  “Bois like us,” she says, “we’ve got to stick together.”

Now, the Village Voice has published an article written by Chloe Hilliard  entitled, Girls to Men and subtitled Young lesbians in Brooklyn find that a thug’s life gets them more women.  Following are excerpts:

At the Lab, a Brooklyn nightclub and rental hall, a petite Hispanic bartender sporting braids down the middle of her back and a baseball cap is taking a break on a recent Friday night. Then she spots something in the crowd and leaps onto the bar. She sees another woman dressed in boyish hip-hop gear hitting on her femme girlfriend on the crowded dance floor. The bartender jumps to the floor, pushes her way past dancers, and grabs her woman by the arms. After giving her a rough, disapproving shake, she drags her quarry back to the bar, where the girlfriend will remain standing in silence the rest of the night.

“It’s a property thing,” explains Siya, who, like the bartender, looks like she’s walked out of a rap video. Among the 15 tattoos that adorn her beige complexion are a large Bed-Stuy on her forearm and Brooklyn on the back of one hand. She’s 20. “You can be holding your femme girlfriend’s hand in the club, and she could be looking around, searching for a flyer AG. She’s going to want to stray, slip her a number. All lesbians are sneaky,” Siya says.

At the weekly 18-and-over females-only hip-hop party going on, about half of the black and Hispanic crowd is femme, the other half “AGs,” or “aggressives,” who also refer to themselves as “studs,” whether they’re fly or not.

Later, when two AGs get into a pushing match over a femme, one shouts, “Suck my dick, n****! I’ll fuck your whole shit up!” Friends break it up, pulling one outside the club to get the story. One of the women had tried to talk to the other’s girlfriend while her back was turned. But it’s a common occurrence. No femme, committed or not, is really off-limits.

“When you go to the club and you’re an AG, your mission that entire night is to find the baddest femme in the club and make her your girl,” says another woman, who calls herself Don Vito Corleone. “Just like every rapper wants the baddest video chick on his arm, so do AGs.”

…for increasing numbers of very young black and Hispanic lesbians, the bitches-and-’hos lyrics of their musical heroes are the soundtrack for a thug’s life they pursue with almost as much passion as they do the hottest femme in the club.

… For these women, there seem to be few older lesbians they can look up to, or organizations that mean much to them, other than the crews they create themselves.

…After a previous location closed, the women moved their weekly dance party to the Lab after a five-week hiatus. “When we had our grand opening, almost two years ago, the fashion trend had changed dramatically. Our grand opening night we had 650 females. Half the crowd had on ‘do-rags and the whole thug look going on.”

…Siya dreams of success in the music market, but she’s already a steady presence at the Lab. And one thing she has in common with some of her musical idols: a rap sheet.

“It’s hard for me to find a legit job because of my criminal record.” At 16, she ran away from home with her then girlfriend. The two became engaged and moved to Albany, where money got tight and Siya, like many AGs, took to hustling.

It’s a pressure many young AGs feel as the dominant figure in their relationship. If you have the sand to knock down another woman in order to grab the hottest femme in the club, you don’t want to admit that you have little cash to keep your prize happy.

Don Vito Corleone

Siya served four months for grand larceny, first degree assault, and attempted assault, and was placed on three years’ probation. “Hustling is the next best thing if you can’t find a legit job. There are a lot of females that boost or sell drugs,” she says. “I wouldn’t say it’s hard for all aggressives to find jobs because there are some that are sacrificing: putting on tight clothes, female suits, or business suits to go to work. Then there are a lot of us who wouldn’t feel comfortable like that. I could apply for a whole bunch of jobs and if I don’t come in looking like the girly girl or because of my tattoos or just by me being gay raises a red flag.”

During the day Don Vito (she’s reluctant to give her up real name) works on Wall Street in the IT department of a prestigious law firm. Her co-workers don’t know that she’s gay, but some of her female co-workers wonder why she never talks about a boyfriend.

“I’ve never been with a man,” she says. “That’s gross. But I’ll tell you what’s funny: I did have to go to prom when I was high school, and what made it worse was that I was a debutante.” She laughs at the thought of herself in a dress and heels. ..She stands around five foot eight, and though an AG, doesn’t deepen her voice or bind her breasts. She walks with a light bop and likes wearing a bandanna over her face when she’s in the club. It gives her mystique.

Two years ago, Vito moved to New York with her then girlfriend to attend film school. After the program ended she got the job in IT but writes screenplays in her spare time.

 Notorious Corleone aka Jenell Hall

She’s the “father” and creator of House of Corleone, a tightly knit group of young black and Hispanic lesbians. Modeled on the extended-families structure used by previous generations of New York gays and lesbians, a number of hip- hop houses have sprouted up recently with names like the Da Vincis, House of Mecca, and the Bossalenos and Belladonnas. Vito’s crew has attracted young AGs like Chick Murda, a/k/a Aisha Sampson.

“I joined House of Corleone four or five months ago,” Sampson tells the Voice during a photo shoot held at the Lab. “I was on downelink.com and Vito hit me up. She told me to look into it. I didn’t know gay women had houses. As time went by, I saw the house’s progress. I like to meet new people, and met a lot of people in this house. It’s a lot of exposure.”

Vito says she was motivated to start her house as a result of the self-destruction she saw many young lesbians headed toward. “There are a lot of AGs that are going down the wrong path,” she says. “A lot of them are selling drugs. I used to sell drugs and almost went to jail for a long time. A lot of these AGs do it because the girls think it’s cute. They are so serious about keeping up appearances that they’ll either hustle or take a fast-food job so they can wear their low haircut or gold teeth.”

Life as a young lesbian of color, of course, has its risks. In 2003, a young AG named Sakia Gunn engaged in a shouting match with a man named Richard McCullough at Newark’s Penn Station after Gunn had returned from an evening of partying in the West Village. The altercation turned violent, and McCullough stabbed and killed Gunn. He’s serving 20 years in prison. Last August, Patreese Johnson and six other women got into another shouting match with a man named Dwayne Buckle, a street vendor outside the IFC Center. Buckle was stabbed, and identified Johnson as his attacker, telling the press that he was the victim of a hate crime against straight men. Johnson has pled not guilty to charges of attempted murder and gang assault.

Well aware of such incidents, Don Vito has recruited 50 women—a mix of femmes and AGs—including Siya, from across the country and even overseas into the family just since January. But a rash of other groups are giving houses like Don Vito’s a bad name.

“…In my house I require my members to partake in at least two charity events a year. I want a family bond and I don’t want it to be about drama.”

Growing up in Atlanta with a preacher for a father, Don Vito wasn’t able to talk about her feelings or her sexuality. “To this day I can’t say to my parents, ‘I’m gay.’ I didn’t come out to anyone until I was 26. I don’t want my ’sons’ to have to go through that.”

…Behind these brick walls, the girls are free to be badass rap stars and their girly dates. They’re free to grab their crotches, kick it to a pretty girl, or dance in a tight embrace. It’s a life you might not imagine when you see one of them on the street, look at her face, and think to yourself, “She looks like a boy.”

Photo Gallery, Entire Hilliard Article

Many of you will see this as exploitation – others as subversive. Tell me what you think, let’s have some discourse here.

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7 Responses to “Girls 2 Men”

  1. Alecto said

    Radical Feminist lesbian here.
    I blame post-modernism. Women acting like men and fucking/abusing/owning other women who act like women is all the rage within lesbian communities in Australia. Recent studies have shown that domestic violence has risen to 40% in lesbian relationships. I think that the lack of feminist insight and its replacement with post-modernist ideas of transgression and subversion and genderplay have completely screwed up young lesbian communities. I joined the queer collective while in uni and called myself queer and bi-sexual and believed in some of the post-modernist ideas for a time simply because I did not know of the radical feminist alternative. I couldn’t understand why I felt no connection with the other lesbians I met and why I had no interest in reading Lesbians on the Loose (a free lesbian mag). I couldn’t understand why there were women out there who paid money to see other women stripping. I didn’t realise at the time that according to post-modernism women watching other women strip is subversive. Whatever.
    Suffice to say, I found radical feminism and began to understand what the difference was between me and the other lesbians. I was not a pomo I was a rad fem. I recently picked up a copy of Lesbians on the Loose and was quite shocked by the contents. There was page after page of women’s bodies made up, semi-naked and objectified. Quite sickening but it made the lack of feminist within the lesbian community make a whole lot more sense. I recently moved to Sydney and I’ve had a lot of difficulty making friends despite living in the queer suburb. All of the ‘girls’ nights at the local pub are advertised with posters of semiclad, high-heeled women. I cannot stomach such blatant women hating. I met one girl who I got along quite well with until we discussed our feminist stances. She was a post-modernist who believed that radical feminists are critical of women because they analyse women’s choices. She supported women’s right to choose sadomasochism. She supported women’s right to objectify each other and to be objectified. And she didn’t see any discrepancy between those beliefs and her belief that women shouldn’t be raped.
    I am reminded of Catharine MacKinnon’s quote, “a theory that works well in theory but not in practice is not a very good theory” (or something like that). Well, the idea that genderbending is subversive is belied by the existence of AG’s and femmes. It is clear to me that this ’subversion’ does not result in freedom for women. Women’s sexualities are increasingly being coopted by the pornographic, sadopatriarchal culture. I am afraid that in the current trend of individualising and decontextualising sexuality we are being forced to believe that freedom is whatever a woman chooses. I think that as radical feminists we know that this freedom is the freedom of a woman to be fucked and in our worst nightmares, and increasingly in reality, the freedom of women to be fuckers.

  2. agree said

    I agree with everything you say there, all of it. I, too, can’t stand the “girls’ night” style objectification, women objectifying women in all sorts of ways, bringing in the stripper poles and the lap dances and all of that, and whoa be to anybody who says what you’ve said, or what I will say, which is “fuck that noise,” and “fuck that mess.” That stuff has been, is, and will continue to be LETHAL to lesbians, to all women. If, to us as women, “freedom” comes to mean the same thing as male supremacist “freedom” means, the freedom to objectify, to use, to exploit, the “freedom” to say, “Oh, but I LIKE to be objectified, used, and exploited,” (when that is bullshit and I’m not afraid to say so) then women will not be free any time soon. That’s not how we go about building new relationships, a new world.

  3. Rita said

    Another straight radical feminist woman weighing in. It is so sad and hard to comprehend for me that a lesbian would choose to ape the dominant male stereotype. I can certainly understand wanting some distance from the female stereotype, having been tomboyish as long as I can remember, but why go to the other extreme? I suppose it can be intoxicating to indulge that kind of power trip, but I see no sense of freedom in that, just exchanging one straitjacketed role for another. Perhaps when these young women get a little older and wiser, they will realize these stereotypical roles are thoroughly messed up arbitrary caricatures of what they could be, crafted by men to maintain male privilege, and find the courage to break away from all that.

  4. Hi, radical queer feminist here:

    Just the antiquated phrase “Ape-ing the dominant male steroetype” sounds like ape shit to me. Women and transpeople (lesbiansand other queers in particular) have moved wayyy beyond anything that even approaches “apeing” apes.

    Who woulda thunk that almost three decades after the debacle at the Barnard Conference on Women where so-called radical feminists denounced (and blacklisted) lesbians for being sexual at all and, god-forbid, dicsussing lesbian sexuality in all of it’s beautiful manifestations, we are still having this debate/discussion?

    There’s nothing “male” involved in AGs (or anyone else’s) creating/forming/living in a house or environment that brings love and support to them and gives value to who they are. I cannot beleive the vitriol from the responses of straight feminists who seem very prudish. How dare you judge?

    I guess you all simply do not approve (or understand)–as usual–the expression of lesbian/queer sexuality sitting in your privileged heterosexality. I’ll bet none ya ever been thrown out of yer house at 11 , 12, 13 for being feminist. That none ya ever lacked support or love from your family or were denied a livlihood b/c of your feminisim. And, I’ll bet none y’all ever comtemplated–or acted on–suicide b/c of your feminism!!!

    Oh my, “lesbians acting like men.” I thought that phrase (and idea) went out with the decontruction of masculinity by post-modern queer theorist (which according to the first post, if to “blame” for all of this mess), the dissection of butch-femme dynamics, and the newer female-to-femme type of dialogue within the queer community. Which is by the way the latest and greatest way to describe individuals both such as myself (a plain ol’ middle-aged goldstar lesbian) and the people written about above: QUEER.

    Get with the program: We’re NOT living in the 70s or 80s. The lesbian/queer community has had to oversome so many obastacles (including straight feminist repulsion and resistance) that having any straight feminist tell me–or any of these young bois, gurls or how the hell ever they want to ID that what they are doing is wrong in any way, smacks of not only polite condescention, straight privilege (when was the last time you got in the face of a man abusing you or another women for being a feminist?) and just plain ignorance of the real, immediate issues facing the queer community today.

  5. Elisa said

    Well put, Beautifulwreck. Your analysis is so perceptive you should post it as a blog.
    I’ve been reading the reactions to these articles on a couple of blogs and they are overwhelmingly against this new “trend” of sexual expression.
    Actually, I am in the process of writing a novel set in the 1950s and as I’ve gone over my research of the butch-femme dynamic, I am finding it surprising to see the backlash going on these days – it seems that too many queer feminists have thoroughly forgotten that the liberation they cling to so badly was earned on the backs of all those 40s and 50s “AGs” and the strong femmes who stood alongside them in police raids on bars, bashings and assaults, just so they can now have the power to speak up and direct contemptuous voices toward their predecessors.
    I truly believe that history that is forgotten is doomed to be repeated. What a shame that so many people’s knowledge about the history of own community is so limited and/or tainted with a quasi-cerebral justification for arrogance and exclusion.

  6. Hi Elisa,

    Thanks for understanding my point(s) made in response to your Girls 2 Men post. I am flattered that you think I’m “perceptive” and completely agree that history forgotten is history repeated.

    In fact, I have been smelling the distinct odor of a radical feminist backlash against lesbians and transpeople for some time and it’s starting to scare me just as much as Bush and his right wing, rich cowboys do.

    By the way, I put Subversive Writer into the “Hot Links” seciton of my own blog, which you can find by going to http://www.stephanieschroeder.com.

    Thanks for all of your own perceptive and insightful (inciteful?) posts…keep writing.

    Best,
    Stephanie

  7. Jay said

    As an Oldschool Butch, I personally think that it’s disgusting the way that these AG’s treat their Femmes. A Femme is “No One’s Property” let alone a woman to be objectified. Sounds like someone needs to be teaching these poeple some manners on Etiquette, and on how to treat a Lady!

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