J I think there is definitely a certain look that has arisen in the past five or six years that is almost entirely to do with not looking like lesbians anymore.
S Mm, I agree.
J In terms of clothing, in terms of attitude, style, all the rest of it.
C This isn’t close to my experience and I’m really interested in what that means.
J Well, Diva not too long ago did a whole piece on this, about the fact that fashion has really changed the lesbian community and lesbian politics. I mean I remember
and it’s not even that long ago, I was fifteen, in the space of a decade so much has changed, but I do remember there being this time when I used to think to myself that lesbian was about plaid and doc martins and stonewashed jeans and you wore these garish rainbows and it was a political look, it was politicised, it was about not looking like women, the way women are supposed to be.
S Double denim, white vest…
J Yes, exactly, like spiky hair or if you were black you had this weird sort of lumpy Afro.
C Things that you can say.
J Yes, I say it with love, because I love the way that looks now. I actually dressed up.
S Me too!
J Exactly, you look at pictures of yourself and you’re like what were you thinking? And yet it was such a liberating thing. I remember the first time I went to Pride and
I was wearing cargo pants, which I wouldn’t wear ever now, I wouldn’t touch that shit, and these cargo pants and trainers and a vest and I had this fake labrys thing around my neck. It was disgusting, it was disgraceful, yet it was so brilliant and liberating in so many ways.
S I remember, I would have to do this sort of ‘dressing up as a lesbian’ thing for Pride. And that was very exciting. I couldn’t possibly have worn those things where I grew up, because they said ‘lesbian’ so loudly that it would have just been like lying down in the road.
J You may as well just beat yourself up.
S Exactly. It wasn’t an option.
J But isn’t that interesting that this is a concern for us, you know, looking like a lesbian and not looking like a lesbian. Looking gay now means a really different thing, because I see people on certain bikes with certain kind of haircuts and certain clothes and like oh yeah, you’re probably queer, but it’s not a political statement anymore, it’s more a fashion …
S It’s aesthetic, yeah. And the aesthetic has a very different relationship to fashion more generally than it used to. A queer (not gay male) aesthetic has a much greater influence on fashion for everyone than perhaps it used to, and it takes more from fashion more generally than it used to. And the lesbian aesthetic that you and I just described lovingly…
J Mm, I love it, I love it.
S …was deeply anti fashion, like its entire point was to be anti fashion.
J Absolutely, but also I think it was also a time when queerness hadn’t been commodified in any way and so to be anti-fashion and to look like you were a lesbian was political, could still be political, whereas I feel like now you just look a bit silly, you know.
S There’s an amazing bit in NW by Zadie Smith where she talks about Nike Airs and about how it’s this really audacious moment in which this thing that people previously thought was freely available for the consumption of all was suddenly encapsulated in the sole of a trainer that you had to pay £90 for… that the audacity of this is incredible, that Nike had taken what circulates all around us and made us pay for it.
C Well, they were basketball shoes, they were for bonging about and playing basketball in. The thing about aesthetics and visibility is two fold. One thing is this
always comes back to gender norms, the gender norms of male are I am not interested in fashion, because that’s a bit sissy, so the gay male norm is protesting
that gender norm. It goes backwards and forwards, the relationship, the comfort of gay scenes to effeminacy kind of ebbs and flows hugely and sometimes it’s very
macho and compensatory and sometimes it isn’t. And the lesbian norm rejects the idea that women are consumable fashion objects.
J But the point is that now we’re in a commodity culture where to reject something …
S Can be commodified.
J Can be commodified, exactly, so how do you get outside of it?
C There’s a Bill Hicks thing about ‘Ah, you’re chasing the anti-commodification dollar.’ No, I’m not! no, I’m not!
S Yes, it’s ‘no logo’, the ‘stealth’ Starbucks.
read more in the Feminist Review Issue 108 – http://www.palgrave-journals.com/fr/journal/v108/n1/index.html
many voices, one chant: 30th anniversary roundtable FREE