Welcome!

"Gender: To Be Determined" is collaborative, interactive blog brought to you by University of Denver students in Lindsey Feitz's "Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies" class.

If you are interested in gender, sexuality, and popular culture, this is the blog for you.

There's some incredibly smart, sassy, and saavy analyses that cover a range of topics we're discussing in class. Please feel free peruse our archive and join the conversation.

We'd love to hear your comments and questions!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

People Are Not Soup Cans, Hollywood. (Unit II)




What makes sexual fluidity any different than bisexuality?

This a question I stumbled upon a few days ago and it seems relatively new and thought provoking (at least to me), but with the findings and theories of psychoanalysis experts such as Freud and Kinsey, I find myself wondering why this debate hasn't dominated our culture's sexual orientation "scene" over the past two or three decades. While doing research, I came upon a new term that has made its way into pop culture: hasbian. I learned that this term is usually used in a derogatory way, and in its most basic form, the word describes a woman who, at one point or another, identified as a lesbian and then in her later years "realized" she was straight (also simply described as a former lesbian) (Bendix). Women who have gone through this experience are usually publicly ostracized for their decision--especially in Hollywood today. Fellow blogger, Trish Bendix, uses the actor Anne Heche (shown left) to illustrate this concept. Heche infamously dated Ellen DeGeneres in the 1990s and after they broke up, she realized she was not gay, in fact, she ended up marrying a man a few years later. The given link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG4Hi01Kpfw&feature=related) shows Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres on the Red Carpet in 1999. The video shows the two as a couple, however the comments on the video itself are noticeably overflowing with harsh comments generated towards Heche and her decision to "become straight"; therefore, furthering the notion that society, including the every day commenters on YouTube, feel this overwhelming need to place people in categories.

The term hasbian, and the derogatory way in which is is used to define a woman who "can't make up her mind," leaves us to ultimately agree with what Kinsey, Freud, Mead, DiFranco, and Millet had to say about bisexuality. Jennifer Baumgardener, the author of What is Bisexuality?, an openly bisexual woman, goes on to discover what and how bisexuality came to be, as indicated by the title. She includes summaries of the many different theories made by multiple forerunners in the study of psychoanalysis. All of the previously mentioned theorists ultimately agreed that bisexuality is a natural thing for humans to experience; however, because we as people live in a "straight world", we applaud those who can slap a heterosexual label on themselves. (Baumgardener). I for one can conclude and argue that the ultimate prize we give to those who are "correctly labeled" themselves is acceptance.
The term "hasbian" makes this universal theory described by all these theorists, in one way or another, almost inarguable. It is a label for someone who experiences this sexual fluidity, or bisexuality (Gasp! Another label!). Our society is addicted to labeling human beings despite the fact that a majority of psychoanalysts, even today, would argue sexuality is indeed fluid and doesn't need a label.

I feel this post would lack any arguably due credit if I didn't mention the "Bisexual Queen of the Big Screen", Angelina Jolie. Jolie is notorious for her rendezvous with members of the same sex. She has infamously said the following on her own sexual preference:

"I love women and men equally and I see people and love as love" (Belge).

In an interview with Jane Magazine, Jolie once again stated how she felt about her sexuality and attraction to women after the readers voted Jolie as the female actor to "most likely make their knees weak":

"They're right to think that about me, because I'm the person most likely to sleep with my female fans. I genuinely love other women. And I think they know that" (Belge).

We all know Angelina Jolie did not end up in a civil union with another woman. Notably, she ripped Brad Pitt away from Jennifer Aniston (blah, blah, blah) and lived happily ever after with her Hollywood bohunk and their six children. Therefore, critiques everywhere ask "if it was necessary for Jolie to label herself as bisexual" (Belge). Was she, like Heche, simply experiencing a moment of sexual fluidity? Again, are they the same?

Now, if you're like me, I think you too will find it sort of comical that in our extremely hetero-normative world, the writers of Jane Magazine posed a question that would even allude to the fact that these females readers felt an "attraction" to a member of the same sex. This question acts as the perfect introduction to another point in supporting this labeling fanaticism our society is finding ourselves in. In Envy, A Love Story written by Anna Mills, we as readers find ourselves in the ever-so-popular debate on the relationships between women. Is partaking in homosexual sex the line in which we cross in order to be labeled as bisexual? Hollywood's images of half-naked women--who are they aimed at? Is a woman considered bisexual if she feels a desire to be that woman? Are those pictures simply an "unconscious way for women to desire women?" (Mills). This question is still up for debate in our society today. Many argue that Jolie was simply confused and felt a basic attraction to women because they were beautiful and pleasing to the eye. She stated herself that with her life as it is now, she has "no room" for bisexuality in her life (Bendix). Was she really sexually attracted to them or did she just admire their appearance and company? Did she want to be with them, or be with them?

My universal answer to these questions: who cares? These two women are just the tip of the iceberg that is our society's fascination and obsession with labeling people--especially in regards to their sexual orientation. If, as proclaimed by Freud, Kinsey, Mead, etc., sexuality is fluid and likely to alternate from time-to-time in a person's life, why must we find a need to give ourselves a defining sexuality? Can't we just accept that very few people in this world are born 100% straight? Does the term bisexual even need to exist? I believe that these women act as the perfect example of our sexuality fluctuating. People change and with that, I believe it is possible for their sexual preference to change, as well. Hollywood, the epicenter of almost every social happening that takes place, is the breeding ground for people in the public eye, such as celebrities, and with that fame comes the label. The label that is sexual orientation. Are these even necessary?

In the end, I pose this question to you all once again: What makes sexual fluidity any different than bisexuality?


Sources:

1. Angelina Jolie: Bisexual Actresses by Kathy Belge.

2. Going with the Flow: Sexual Fluidity, Bisexuals, Lesbians, and "Hasbians" in Popular Culture by Trish Bendix.

3. What is Bisexuality? by Jennifer Baumgardener.

4. Envy, A Love Story by Anna Mills.

13 comments:

  1. I agree who fucking cares who people love, it's not like they are hurting anyone. Also with the word Hasbian, this reminds me of the movie "The Kids are Alright". In this Julianne Moore's character gets ostracized for falling in love with a man while in a lesbian relationship. Her significant other even says so now you are straight, that's bullshit. Coming from Los Angeles, I happen to know many of my friend's parents who in later life changed which gender they preferred to be with. A good friend of mines Mother decided after having 3 kids and being with her husband for 25 years that she was actually a lesbian. She divorced her husband and moved in with her significant other. I wonder what society thinks about women like this? What would Kinsey and Freud say about being straight and then "turning" gay? Why is it such a big deal that people change their minds about who they love? I think heterosexuals change between people they care about but just because they are the opposite sex, people seem to not care. Just because heterosexuality is the norm doesn't mean they get it right. People break up and change partners all the time, whether gay, straight or bi. Why do people just bludgeon anyone who is different and/or who changes who they love? I always joke around with my friends that they go through boys like they change their outfits. So maybe Angelina Jolie and many others like her dabbled in dating the same-sex and going back to being "straight", who fucking care? It's all the same, love is love....

    ReplyDelete
  2. I completely agree with you, Mollie! I too had seen The Kids Are Alright and I know exactly what you are talking about in reference to that! It's a perfect example, thank you for mentioning it. We have very similar views on the subject which is good to hear! I love your analogy to the "go through boys like they change their outfits." I too have that experience with my friends ahah. Wonderful examples, and thank you for taking the time to answer my question! And yes, great point--love is love.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with you also, and your comment about not everyone is born 100% straight is true! I dont think everyone admits it to themselves, but even finding a person of your same sex attractive shows your sexual fluidity. If you are 100% straight would you find yourself looking at both men and women and thinking they are attractive. And I hate that society has to put people in categories, why can't we just live without the lables?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Something your blog made me think about... Sure there was some discussion and ridicule of Angelina Jolie's attraction towards women, however now that she's with Brad Pitt this doesn't seem to be an issue anymore. What if this situation was flipped, and we had a super famous male actor (Brad Pitt for example) who openly admitted to finding men beautiful and feeling attracted to men as well as women? Somehow I think that this would create a much bigger whirlwind of attention and reactions, most likely negative.

    This is just something that I think is interesting to ponder. We tend to greatly ostracize those who go from a more masculine personality to a more feminine one, so my guess is that if we were exposed to a male celebrity who openly admitted to bisexual feelings, shit would hit the fan. Quite the sad reality in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Paige- great point! I'm glad you can agree. I think it's definitely time for us as a society to not rely so heavily on labeling one another. I feel like such a hippie saying that, haha, but it's true! Everyone feels the same things when it all comes down to it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Awesome point, Zach! I completely agree with you, there are definitely not as many outwardly bisexual men in Hollywood. Clearly, there has to be some, but we never really hear about them. Actually, today in my theatre class we watched a clip of Alan Cummings who is actually openly bisexual and was at one point married to a woman and is now in a civil union with a man. He isn't, however, a huge star in Hollywood considering his from Glasgow, Scotland. I just found it funny because he is the only bisexual male celebrity that comes to mind! Thank you for taking the time to comment, I enjoyed all your though provoking responses!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The strongest theme I got from your blog is when you state that our society is addicted to labeling human beings, even though today sexuality is fluid and incapable of being labeled. I think this is 100% true, but where I have I disagree is how realistic it is to change this obsession society has with labeling people. Our society LOVES to put things into nice little categories or attempt to put a word/definition to each sexuality that exists today. Hence, isn’t the term “sexual fluidity” just another label? Defining one as “sexually fluid” is labeling that person in the same way that “bisexuality” labels a person. If a label simply serves the purpose of putting a common group under a universal name, then putting all people who “don’t choose” or “fluctuate between” a sexuality into the “sexually fluid” group indeed is labeling Isn’t technically labeling someone “sexually fluid” just as bad as saying they’re a “hasbian?” No matter what you want to call it, if society is attempting to “define” it or putting a word to it, then society is labeling it.


    Now, I completely agree with your answer “who cares.” I agree with you because I don’t particularly like the arguments made by all the theorists such as Kinsey where he puts a numerical scale to sexuality. Yet, ( and again this will sound probably just as pessimistic as my first paragraph) how can you realistically expect people to just “stop caring.” I mean look around. There are growing fields of psychology, sociology, and even more that I probably don’t even know of yet. These fields or areas of study basically are grouped under one common theme- they all are interested, have a fascination, or care about everything that people do, ranging from their sexuality all the way to what they like to eat. My theory is, “ face it, labels will always exist and be a major part of our society because majority of our society has such a strong obsession with labeling people, especially the “minorities” like the sexually fluid. While, yes, I do believe there are people out there who don’t care to label people, I think the people who care and are obsessed with labeling greatly outnumber those people who don’t care. With terms such as “bisexuality” published in all types of articles, books, and websites, I don’t envision anytime soon a society where terms such as “bisexuality” do not exist. If we lived in an ideal world, and If I had my way, I would create a utopia in which labels do not exist and no one person would exist in the same category as another because everyone is their own person. Yet, we don’t live in this utopia and derogatory terms such as “hasbians” exist and labels such as “bisexual” and “sexually fluid” exist, and will continue to exist as long as media, psychology, sociology, and the human brain are real things.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Really well done! Great introduction to the word 'hasbian', just another label, like bisexuality, that has negative connotations because of its sexual fluidity. We change, why can't our sexuality change as well. I love that you call society's labeling an 'obsession' because it totally is, why does everything have to be put into these labels that restrict or confine peoples true desires. And I really agree, who cares who other people love, why is it anyones business and why make a big deal about it. Also I really liked Zach's point about what would the reaction be to a male being bisexual or saying he was attracted to men. I was thinking the same thing while reading your blog, its interesting that we really hear more about women's bisexuality or sexual fluidity rather than men's.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I loved your article. I never thought about bisexuality like that before. I also completely agree with Zach. If the situation was flipped and Brad Pitt admitted to finding men beautiful there would be such a different reaction. Why is it fine for females to recognize other feminine beauty whereas it is completely shocking for another man to recognize masculine beauty?
    It's true that our society is obsessed with labeling things, however I think that there is a difference between being truly bisexual and being attracted to the same sex. Though Angelina Jolie admitted to being attracted to other females, could she truly fall in love with them? Or is it merely lust?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love how you include the reader by asking questions and supplying us with not only facts but also with your own opinion. Never before have I heard the word "hasbian"; I agree that it comes with a negative connotation towards women who can't "make up their minds." Why do people need to necessarily choose a side they're attracted to? The same goes for men and the bromance. Obviously the men feel some sort of love towards their male companions so why do they need to label it as a bromance in order to ensure to people that they're not gay? Sorry, that was a little off topic but for some reason my mind kind of connected "hasbian" and "bromance". However, I agree with Nellie and what she asked: is Angelina Jolie truly attracted to both females and males equally? It's hard to say, especially when she's married to Brad and has a family with him.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Natalie--I loved your comment. Thank you for making it so thorough, it means a lot that you took the time to do that. I don't think anywhere in the article, however, did I say it would be easy to change this part of society. You mentioned that in your perfect world we wouldn't have this labeling and I believe that was, or at least was supposed to be, the point of view I was trying to take on. People are people, it's our nature to put them in to categories. I found it necessary while writing, however, to ask ourselves why we feel the need to do that. This problem will never go away, but potentially changing how some people view this issue is good enough for me as of now.
    Also, you mentioned that the term "sexually fluid" would turn into another label if we did manage to get rid of the others. Again, I don't see it that way. I think we could just deem sexual fluidity as a potential way people might go about their sexuality. We would not be labeling them as sexually fluid, this would just be a term to describe human sexuality as a whole, not just any given person. Thank you for bringing this issue up, however, because I agree that it could easily just become another label.

    ReplyDelete
  12. AbNewb--Thank you! I'm glad you can agree that this obsession is undeniably prominent in our society today. Again, I completely agree with and thank Zach for bringing that point to the table.

    ReplyDelete
  13. nellie.quinn--thank you very much! I appreciate your comment on whether or not people can actually be bisexual. I agree that that is definitely something that needs to be considered here. I think the question is how can we tell the difference? And ultimately, does it even matter? I didn't attach another quote made by Angelina Jolie, but there was one where she openly said she had fallen in love with a woman. In that instance, I would say Angelina is "bisexual."
    KenzieBlue--I'm glad you had never heard the word "hasbian" either! Haha I was worried I would have been the only one and would've ended up looking stupid. Thank you for bringing in "bromance," this article could have easily dealt with the topic of platonic man-love as well.

    ReplyDelete