The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bloodthirsty lesbians

I just love it when women cause trouble. Growing up I never understood all that 'sugar and spice and all things nice' that girls were supposed to aspire to. So I couldn't help being a bit pleased when I read that female authors and especially lesbian ones are far more bloodthirsty than men – according to popular crime writer Ian Rankin. Speaking to an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Rankin said, "The people writing the most graphic novels today are women. They are mostly lesbians as well, which I find interesting."

It seemed like an innocent enough comment, but the shit subsequently hit the proverbial. Val McDermid – one of a number of lesbian crime writers and famous for her Wire in the Blood novels which have been made into a TV series – slammed Rankin's comments as "so offensive". Yet according to the Sydney Morning Herald, McDermid's The Last Temptation features a killer whose signature is to take a pubic "scalp" from his victims, The Treatment by Mo Hayder has a crazed killer who forces a man to rape his own child and Heartsick by Chelsea Cain features a beautiful serial killer who tortures the detective hunting her by hammering nails into his ribs, pouring bleach down his throat and removing his spleen without anaesthetic.

So does Rankin have a point, and does it really matter? If men write about women being cut up, tortured and raped, it's often seen as misogynistic, so what happens when a lesbian writes these kinds of scenes involving women? Obviously it pushes some people's buttons: on the Girls' Wall on gay message board Pinkboard, one poster said she was so disturbed by the "gratuitous" and "sick" sexual violence portrayed in one of McDermid's books that she vowed never to read her again. But some female writers argue that what they write is less gratuitous than men because they highlight the consequences of the violence because they have a keener appreciation of what it means to be a victim of it.

McDermid may have taken offence at Rankin's comments, but, political correctness aside, the truth is, some of us are a bit bloodthirsty. We much prefer to immerse ourselves in crime novels such as McDermid's Wire in the Blood, with their depictions of axes slicing through human flesh and other horrific scenarios, than succumbing to the ancient art of lesbian poetry, for example. Call me trash if you like, but the only sort of poetry I have any affinity for is silly ditties you can clap along to with lines such as 'Four and twenty virgins came down from Inverness and when the ball was over, there were four and twenty less …The mayor's daughter she was there and having forty fits, jumping off the mantelpiece and landing on her ….' (You get the picture). As a young teenager my creative stories consisted of epic disasters in the vein of The Poseidon Adventure but in which there were no heroes and everyone died horrible deaths. I think Rankin may have a point.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A good bitch

Why waste money on basic civil, human rights and protecting minority groups when you can spend it on giving internet service providers (ISPs) a hard time? That must have surely been the logic running through John Howard’s head recently. Last week the PM announced a $189 million “crackdown” on “online bad language, pornography and child sex predators”, including $90 million to provide every household that wants it with software to filter out porn. Fair enough. Porn’s not everyone’s cup of tea; while I may chuckle at sex sites struggling to gain my attention by an ever-increasingly creative set of subject headers (‘My cock is really huge, but my girlfriend’s mouth is so small’), others may burst a blood vessel. But Howard’s new policy also includes plans to force ISPs to filter web content at the request of users – something the ISPs have branded ‘unworkable’. Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer at iiNet, told the Sydney Morning Herald that such a move would “affect the performance of the network quite significantly” and that “it’s hard to understand ... how people will make decisions at the network about what Mr and Mrs Average ought to see, and you're talking about a censoring service provided by the private sector”. Quite. Especially since Mr and Mrs Average are just as likely to be tugging and fingering themselves to porn as a pierced, tattooed dyke or horny scene queen.

And if you think this is political correctness gone mad, be glad you don’t live in New York City. The NY Times reported last week that a bill has been proposed to outlaw the use of the word ‘bitch’. The city drew headlines earlier this year after it introduced a citywide ban on the word ‘nigger’, and now Councilwoman Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn wants to do the same with what she terms the ‘b’ word. ‘Bitch’ is “hateful and deeply sexist” according to Mealy, and creates a “paradigm of shame and indignity” for all women. Does that mean that the popular feminist magazine, Bitch, which has been running for eleven years, will be banned from newsagents in NYC? BANG! That was the irony of the situation making its presence felt, in case anyone missed it.

Then there’s the gays and drag queens to consider. “Half my conversation would be gone,” said Michael Musto, the Village Voice columnist renowned for his celebrity gossip. Whether a flat-out ban on the word is on the cards, or simply the context in which it’s used, is unclear. If I shout ‘Hey bitch!’ to my girlfriend while on a trip to NYC, how will they know if I’m being friendly or not? Extending the pronunciation to ‘Beeeeeeeaaaaatch!’ won’t necessarily make its intended effect on said girlfriend any clearer, so will it come down to voice tone and body language? And if so, who will police this? Even kennel-club owners and those who live with female dogs won’t be immune from penalty. Expect to hear the phrase ‘This is my doggess’ some time soon. Rap and hip hop just won’t be the same.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Transphobia

Evidence of the rise of right-wing fundamentalism is abundant: a concrete wall will be erected around the CBD next month to prevent anti-war and other protestors from getting near the APEC summit; police have bought a water canon to use on anyone who tries to assert their right to make their opinions known (yes, we blinked and missed it – the 'it' being the moment democracy as we once knew it was annihilated); the two major political parties in the country are united in their stance against same-sex marriage; and the Foreign Minister has signed a nasty piece of legislation, without any community consultation, that puts trans people at risk (see my story in SX magazine at http://evolutionpublishing.com.au/sxnews/features/danger-zone.aspx.

But it's not just the right-wing politicians trannies have to watch out for. Beware the return of the radical lesbian feminists into the mainstream media arena – this time with new tactics. Instead of the histrionic, belligerent and blatant anti-trans sentiments of yesteryear, the Sisters of Womyn-Born-Womyn Indulgence are attempting to disguise their transphobia by appearing to play nice. A friend of mine attended the International Feminist Summit in Queensland recently whose guest speakers included Sheila Jeffreys and Catharine McKinnon. She reported that angry outbursts in which women referred to male-to-female (MTF) trans people as men and were aggressively anti-trans had been replaced with calm, relaxed tones that advocated being pro-womyn-born-womyn rather than anti-anything.

It's an interesting tactic, but smacks of NIMBYism: 'I have nothing against transgenders, I just don't want them anywhere near me'. Replace the word 'transgenders' with 'blacks', 'Aboriginals', 'Jews' or 'Muslims' and the 'pro' argument is shown up clearly for the prejudiced rhetoric it is: 'I'm not anti-black, I'm just pro-white'. And the rad feminists wonder why they were nicknamed 'Feminazis'.

The co-option of porno chic into mainstream culture over the past decade appears to have opened the door to a backlash against sexuality and sex and gender diversity. Gender Centre founder Roberta Perkins was vilified in the Australian press a few months ago by feminazis who disliked any suggestion in her new book on prostitution that not all sex workers were screwed up by their jobs. Now British writer Julie Bindel – who in 2004 said that a world inhabited only by transsexuals would look like the set of Grease – is claiming that gender reassignment surgery for trans people is like aversion therapy for gays and that trans people have a 'psychological problem' that shouldn't be fixed by surgery. In the same breath, she calls for an end to discrimination for 'this community'. Um, yeah, Julie, that would be nice.

Bindel likes to think of herself as 'controversial' which is possibly why she contradicts herself on many occasions. In her regular column in The Guardian, she publicly unleashes her hatred towards men who commit violent crimes and rape against women one minute, while supporting and condoning rape and murder the next when she reveals that she eats meat and dairy.

It's not that I have anything against hypocritical feminazis, of course. I don't even care if they live next door to me...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wishful thinking

The phrase ‘Be careful what you wish for’ springs to mind this week. A couple of weeks ago I read my opposite-page counterpart Mitzi’s column in SX magazine on how fast life has become nowadays and how we’re so busy ‘doing’ that we have little time to ‘be’ and enjoy the simple things. ‘How true’, I muttered to myself, thinking that it would be nice to have a week off work before embarking full-throttle with the new girlie mag I’m editing. I envisaged a cosy cottage, perhaps with a log fire, in the mountains or by the coast, tucked away in a relaxing retreat with my girlfriend and a couple of books. Well, I got my week off – but not in the manner I would have hoped for.

Last weekend, after throwing up at least ten times and clutching my stomach in pain, I was taken to the emergency room at a local hospital. A day later a doctor finally diagnosed appendicitis, whereupon my appendix was removed that evening. I spent the following few days pumped full of a concoction of drugs (the only fun one being morphine) and having what seemed like pints of blood removed each day for what could only be an impending vampire convention about to hit town, of which my nurse was the organiser. The third night I was transferred from a single room to a four-bed dorm with three others – a woman of 70-ish, a man of similar age and a 95-year-old Scottish woman who’d fallen over and fractured something – all of whom were delirious and spent the night talking in their sleep. Apart from the small pleasure of feeling positively foetal among such geriatric company, being on the ward felt like I was a bit player in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I wanted out. I can’t fault the doctors or nursing staff who were all lovely and took good care of me – except for not giving me Pethidine as a pre-med before my operation.

Back in London, 1994 when I had a nose job (who says lesbians aren’t vain?), I enjoyed the euphoric high of this delightful legal substance, which was designed to ‘relax’ the patient before they are put under anaesthetic. To my delight I found that Pethidine does more than relax – it send you completely off your trolley, makes you cackle with glee and you couldn’t give a dog’s bollocks what the surgeon does with his or her knife. A little shot of that would have gone down nicely last weekend instead of the panic attack I experienced when an oxygen mask was placed over my face and I was told to ‘keep your eyes open’. But apparently Pethidine is no longer politically correct. ‘We get a lot of junkies come in and ask for it,’ the anaesthetic doctor told me. ‘It’s very addictive.’ Hmmph. A week later and I’m back at work suffering a bit of ‘brain fog’ but definitely on the mend. Motto of story: If you want something – be very specific.