Drag Queens out of Drag, in Drag!

7 05 2013

I’m happy, so I’m going to use Dragulator.

My hopes and dreams came true when Jinkx Monsoon won the crown on Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly why she resonates with me. Part of it is her slightly sloppy, adorably camp good humour, but it is also her rich understanding and appreciation of vintage drag and drag history–something to which more of us need to be exposed. I even liked the fact that her crown was slightly crooked when RuPaul placed it on her head. When I look at the “sleeper from Seattle”, I see Mae West after a rough night in bed. Everything about America’s first narcoleptic Jewish drag superstar–from her unfinished lady-of-the-night look to her comedic buffoonery–screams Pacific Northwest “realness”. To me that means liberal, relaxed, and willing to be yourself while letting others do the same.

Like Jinkx, I do believe we should take drag less seriously. That is, after all, why RuPaul herself created the Web site Dragulator, where you can take pictures of people’s faces and transform them into their drag alter ego. Since Season 5 of Drag Race is over, I thought I would try to deconstruct the very scrupulously crafted drag persona of each of the season’s royal triumvirate–Roxxxy Andrews, Alaska Thunderfuck, and Jinkx Monsoon–by taking photographs of them out of drag and then dragulating them! And how could I leave out the queen-bitch of them all, RuPaul? I bet she never imagined that scenario when she created Dragulator.

And with that let us commence with the dragulation!

1) Roxxxy Andrews

Roxxxy Fuck

Darling, you don’t look so bad-ass here! Your sartorial presentation is refined and polished, and you have much to teach about sewing and costume construction–but why are you trying to sneak away with Jinkx’s crown?

2) Alaska Thunderfuck

Alaska Thunderfuck Dragulator - Body

Hark! It is Alaska without a wig. You’ve turned trash into 1980s prom queen couture, darling! I can’t wait to see you dance to ‘You Spin Me Round’. How does it feel to be a cool high-school girl from the ’80s, garbage-hooker??

3) Jinkx Monsoon

Jinkx Monsoon Dragulator - Body

Oh, god. Jinkx, did somebody ask you to do blackface? Because that’s one area I don’t think you’ll master. The face doesn’t match the–oh, wait. That’s right. I matched your face with a black queen’s body on Dragulator. Somehow, though, I think you’ll pull through and render a masterpiece out of the random scraps and pieces.

4) RuPaul

RuPaul Dragulator - Body

Whoooaaagh, shit! Tell me one thing–how do you stick that wig on your head? Do you use Elmer’s Glue (which is apparently cruelty-free)? Do you use superglue? Because that would be very painful to tear off. I just want to know how you create that seamless melding between forehead and hair. It is an important part of drag.

Oh, wait. I forgot an important part of this post. Singer and songwriter Aubrey O’Day said she didn’t like Jinkx Monsoon. Well, how would this Playboy model like it if I took a picture of her without makeup and transformed her into drag?

Aubrey O'Day Dragulator - Body JPG

What’s wrong, Aubrey? Cat’s got your–oh, wait. Half of your head is gone. I guess it’s like when Uma Thurman sliced off Lucy Liu’s skull in Kill Bill, Vol. I. Well, some people deserve a lobotomy.

With that, I want to say that I appreciate the contribution of all three queens to drag history: Roxxxy’s professional pageantry, Alaska’s unabashed sordidness, and Jinkx’s subversive commentary on gender. All of these things open up our eyes. But, still, I want to know how RuPaul  puts her wig on. How? I wonder….

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Angelina Jolie’s Leg and Sexual Tension

8 03 2012

With this post, I descend deep into the dark vacuum of popular culture. I don’t do this unless it yields some sort of useful, insightful commentary, and when we look at how bodies are displayed and portrayed in public and in the media, it does. Consider the recent Academy Awards ceremony, in which Angelina Jolie slinked down the red carpet with a long, lean leg emerging profluently from a part in the side of a black velvet, custom-made Versace gown to seduce the cameras with its cold, alibaster glow. Brad Pitt wore the same tuxedo every other man wore. I won’t kid. Jolie looks truly ravishing, and we should appreciate her beauty, but something about the picture is a little bit more asymmetrical than her dress. It’s the perfect example of the schizophrenic attitude that women can’t expose as much of their bodies as men can, but should expose more of it than men should.

The tension between modesty and sexiness is greater for women than it is for men, at least in the West. If Brad had wanted, he could have gotten away with a wardrobe malfunction and exposed a nipple or two–hell, he could have exposed his whole chest for the world to see and the ladies (and some of the men) would have collapsed on the floor and swallowed up his sweat–but if Angelina had flashed her boobs or, heaven forbid, exited the limousine in a deliberately-designed topless gown (which would never happen), the police would have tackled her scrawny ass to the ground. Fashion critics would hold both Brad and Angelina culpable for being indecent if they exposed their nipples, but would hold Angelina more culpable. At the same time, though, they would hold Angelina more culpable if she exposed less skin than Brad. So, the woman can’t show as much as the man, but she should show more than he. It’s a finer line for her to tread.

This obviously isn’t fair. It’s a Catch-22 and a double standard. It’s a Catch-22 because it tells women that they should be modest and sexy, and it’s a double standard because it places this Catch-22 on women, but not on men. Women aren’t allowed to show their nipples in public (except maybe in British Columbia and Ontario), but they are expected to show more skin than men up to the nipple; meanwhile, men are allowed to show their nipples, but they are expected not to show as much skin as women. Now, you might say, “It’s the same difference. Women can’t show their nipples while men can, but men aren’t expected to show as much skin as women. So it all balances out”. But it doesn’t all balance out. The restrictions against men showing as much skin as women can doesn’t have legal consequences, but the restrictions against women showing as much skin as men can does. Men are socially criticised for showing as much skin as women are expected to show, but women are both socially criticised for showing less skin than men are expected to show and legally reprimanded (i.e. arrested) for showing as much skin as men can show. In short, women have to balance a finer line between appeasing social expectations of seductiveness on one hand, and meeting legal parameters of modesty on the other. That’s not right.

But the tension between the sexy and modest woman occurs on a global scale too. In some regions of Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, and Afghanistan, women are expected to wear veils such as the niqab, burqa (chadri), etc., and women are harassed by police for not donning these garments appropriately. In countries like Britain and the Netherlands, however, magazine racks and television shows are filled with bulging cleavages and glistening thighs, and in countries like France the authorities might actually penalise women for wearing a veil they might otherwise be required to wear in, say, Saudi Arabia. When we compare countries with one another, then, the teeter-totter of modest-versus-sexy woman takes on a global perspective. It infects the world. The world itself simultaneously imposes chastity and desirability on women.

This is absolutely stupid. If we believe in fairness and equality, we can’t penalise women for showing as many body parts as men can, but expect them to show more than men, without being total assholes. It isn’t fair. And it isn’t valid for Westerners to critique Muslim countries for covering their women in veils when Westerners rip women’s clothes off and paste the remaining bits on the covers of supermarket tabloids. It’s six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. What we should be doing is trying to strike a balance by telling women, “Hey, you can show your nipples if you want, but you don’t have to show more skin than men, either”, and telling men, “You can wear something sexier than grandpa shorts or 1930s women’s culottes to the beach. Start by wearing what every man in modern-day Europe wears. A bikini. You know. Like women.” I don’t expect to see Brad Pitt walking down the red carpet in a black velvet Versace gown any time soon–that kind of change takes centuries for men, apparently–but I do expect to see it happen sooner at home, at the beach, and even in the workplace. Surely Hollywood, being so progressive, will eventually follow.





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 4: The Homosexual!

22 02 2012

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on the Lady League, the ladies were spreading their legs and lighting up London’s nighttime skyline with a blast of super-powered lady plasma, in preparation to confront the dreaded Plastic Demon.

The suite was decorated in whimsical turn-of-the-century art nouveau decor, with a view of the Eiffel Tower through great French doors which opened up on to the balcony. Oswald’s young, handsome male assistant, Frederick, was tidying papers at a desk in front of the main window.

“I’m bored of Paris”, groaned Oswald, clutching a voluminous goblet of wine and gazing outside the window. “Why do I even bother? It farms fashion trends like a soccer mom chugs corporate coffee. All of those simpering mules strolling by—they think they’re the cat’s meow, but, honestly, their City of Lights has grown dim in my eyes, and its fashion, stale.” Frederick turned his head from his work and nodded vacantly in agreement. “They’re nothing more than a bunch of dime-store papier-mâché drag queens strutting their sad plastic corpses down a worn-out catwalk. And now we’re faced with another fashion horror—this new ‘plastique’ line. It’s all over the magazine covers–Vogue, Marie Claire, even Harper’s—a glittering pile of garish, costumey garbage-bags plucked out of The Wizard of Oz or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. What’s wrong with a simple, classic dress? Stick with the basics, I say.” Here he paused briefly, swirling the wine inside his goblet meditatively. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the designer’s true identity is. All we know is her initial, ‘P’, but I want to know the true P, what makes her tick, what makes her build such clownish garments, what makes people fawn like puppies at such horrid sartorial monstrosities.” Frederick nodded.

“I need new surroundings, fresh inspiration!” cried the stuffy queen, throwing the emptied wine goblet at the fire-place. “Pick that up”, he said to Frederick, who hurriedly scooped up the shards of glass on the edge of the fireplace, burning himself slightly but keeping his pain to himself. “I crave the shapes, colours, and sounds of avant garde Berlin, wild, exotic Africa, remote, mystical Asia! What I need is a new muse.”

“Racist”, mumbled Frederick under his breath, swabbing his wound and shuffling papers at the desk.

“What was that?!” cried Oswald. “You’re my assistant, wretch, not my sociology professor!” He slapped Frederick with the back of his hand, which was adorned with a large, chunky ring. “I’m paying you to help me write about fashion—and pleasure me—not lecture me on stereotypes!”

“Yes, Mr Oswald”, said Frederick obsequiously, pawing at his abused cheek.

Suddenly there was an explosion of sparkle and glitter as the double doors burst open to reveal Julie Gentron and the Lady League, shrouded in a ball of lady-light. Lupa the Land-Whale clumsily smashed in through the window and tumbled over the desk, lolling about on the ground. Frederick tumbled out of his chair, overcome with shock and amazement. Expensive antique cocktail displays with colourful negro caricatures from the nineteen-twenties, among other accoutrements, were thrown to the floor in the commotion. Oswald dived behind a divan and covered his head.

“Sweet tits of Mary!” screamed the queen.

“Lady League, pose!” cried Julie, stationing herself in the middle of the hotel suite. The ladies gathered themselves and spread their legs in a buffalo stance at Julie’s side. Lupa joined the posse, spreading his stocky legs and placing his fore-fins on his thick hips. His head brushed up against the chandelier, sending a few tear-drop crystals to the floor.

“What in the name of God’s jugs are you—you praying mantises??” cried Oswald, peeking out from behind the divan at the ghastly menagerie before him. “And what is that horrible, gigantic turnip-thing?!” he cried, pointing at Lupa. Lupa lowered his head with shame and frowned. There was a pause, which gave Oswald enough time to analyse their wardrobes. “What’s that??” he hissed, pointing at Donna’s outfit.

“It’s from last season’s Halloween rack at the Bay”, said Donna, looking down at her outfit self-consciously. “It’s kind of retro trashy kitsch, isn’t it?”

“I know what it is, you minx!” grumbled the insufferable bitch. “It’s a throwback to some tacky twentieth century superheroine T.V. series. How gauche. And besides, it’s badly tailored. Look at the seams. And the theme is poorly incorporated into the piece as a whole.” He looked at Frederick for approval. Frederick nodded hesitantly, but turned and glowered.

“Why are you so ruthless??” cried Donna, observing poor Frederick’s reaction. “I thought that the fashion world was full of rainbows, baby-dust, unicorns, and—”

“—and the genius of Simpson Oswald!” cried the queen. He assumed an evangelical tone. “If I were a unicorn,  my aim would be to search out the kind of trash you’re wearing and impale it on my horn of truth! The world of fashion has no room for the lies which you parade.” He stopped and took a few moments to breathe and regain his bearings.

“Sweetie”, said Donna, drawing on a mysterious reservoir of courage, “your world of understated, black-and-grey business wear isn’t fit for a Louisiana trailer park. I Googled you, you prissy little bitch. I’ve seen the garments you made in the fashion department at Oklahoma City Community College. They say one thing: stale, dull, and conservative!” Oswald gasped and cringed in horror.

“That’s three things”, Rosalind said.

“Oh. Yeah. Three things”, Donna said, correcting herself.

“Why, you impudent child!” cried Oswald

“You heartless queen!” returned Donna.

“Girl, I’ll claw you to pieces!”

“Bitch, I’ll crush your queeny ass with one flick of my Lee Press-On Nail!”

Donna and Oswald began to tango, but Donna’s psychokinetic powers got the best of him, trapping him in the pose of a retarded gay Egyptian hieroglyph. He grunted as he fought helplessly against her stranglehold over him. She grinned smugly. Lupa began stamping the ground, flapping his fins up and down and cooing in protest. Another window-pane broke.

“Donna! Mr Oswald!” cried Julie, pressing her breasts outward and assuming an imposing stance. It was enough to cause Lupa to cower, knowing that Julie was the alpha. Donna desisted, and Oswald fell back, regaining his senses. He turned his eyes to Julie.

“Your outfit, on the other hand, is impeccable”, he said, gazing at Julie’s body like a sexually disinterested homosexual infatuated with clothing, “a flawless, streamlined melding of apparel and physique.”

“That’s because you designed it”, said Julie, impatient but flattered.

“I designed this masterpiece??” screamed the queen in disbelief.

“How quickly they forget when they sell their genius for a profit”, said Rosalind contemptuously. “Doesn’t it suit her? She’s a cyborg, after all.”

“Wh–wh–wh–what? One of those icky cyborg things? In my Paris hotel suite? Why on earth?”

“We’re here to save your puny little twig-armed white man’s arse—that’s why!” boomed Rosalind, channelling Grace Jones. Her strong, muscular body glimmered momentarily with a metallic sheen. Julie and Donna nodded in agreement.

“Save me from what?” Oswald was agog.

“Mr Oswald, let me introduce myself”, said Julie with a confident sweep of her shoulders. “I am Julie Gentron, and together my friends and I form the Lady League, a special branch of the Secret Intelligence Service devoted to defending the earth against galactic criminals.”

“Indeed! Except for that one”, he said, glowering at Donna. “Do you always let small-town drag queens follow you around like overly primped puppy dogs?” At this, Donna threatened him with her fingernails; he resumed his station behind the divan, cringing at the psychokinetic mutant.

“Do you always prance around like some useless Project Runway contestant who dropped out of community college with nothing but a pink cotton tank top with a skull-and-crossbones Hello Kitty graphic for a portfolio?” returned Donna, leering at him triumphantly. Lupa remonstrated against Oswald and Donna’s exchange with a low, almost subsonic moan, and the song seemed to have an effect on them, as they began to relax. No-one but Lupa seemed to notice.

“Ladies, please!” cried Julie, standing between the two. Lupa’s big, limpid blue eyes smiled with relief. “This display of oestrogen will get us nowhere. Let’s get to the point of this meeting. Mr. Oswald, we believe that your life is in danger. I realise this must be hard for you to accept, but you must believe me when I tell you that a malevolent and powerful she-thing is working to turn members of the fashion élite into mindless plastic-surgery drones, and you may be her next target.”

“Ba! No one touches Simpson Oswald, least of all some Rubbermaid robot from the Tupperwear Galaxy!” laughed Oswald smugly, dismissing them with a flail of his limp wrist. “I haven’t heard such a farfetched conspiracy theory since Coast to Coast AM said that evil, shape-shifting harp seals were infiltrating the Canadian Parliament. My dears, if I don’t attend this fashion show, I’ll have nothing to say in my next column.” He stopped and scanned Julie. “Why, that’s it! You just hate me—you want to kill my career! The only foe I see is in your jealousy, you viper! If you insist upon hounding me, I shall call for security to remove you and the rest of your wicked brood from my premises.”

“Sir, that is absurd!” said Julie passionately. The other ladies, including Lupa, backed up respectfully. “We don’t wish to destroy your career—the plastic fiend does! If you refuse our help, your entire career will be co-opted by P, who wants to assimilate you! That is why we are here. To help you. To defend you against P. The combined powers of the Lady League are the only way to protect you from this sorceress. Now, if you’ll just—”

“—Very well. I see that your arrogant, heaving bosoms will not desist. Frederick!” he said, summoning his cowering assistant from behind the desk. “Telephone!” Frederick brought Oswald a telephone in the likeness of a statuette depicting a woman in the act of inserting a pear into her bottom. With apparent indifference to this image, Oswald opened up the telephone and turned the rotary dial. A French voice answered.

“Oui. This is Mssr Simpson Oswald, Suite 405. Put me through to security. Security? Oui, Oswald here. What? Speak English. Yes, I’m afraid a throng of squatting harridans have stolen into my suite and wish to kidnap me. I am rather perturbed, naturally. They are quite persistent and flail about like octupi, insulting me and disturbing my evening cold-cream regimen. Will you please send—Allo? Allo?! I demand that you furnish me with sufficient personnel to evict these—”

“—Your kind words beguile my heart, queen”, interjected a strangely soft, purring voice, as if from a synthesiser. The telephone chord silently stirred to life and wrapped itself round the fashion critic’s neck, cutting off the rest of his sentence. “With such sweet sentiment, you warm it to the core, to the hard, brilliant deposit of lust which drives the engine behind this vinyl visage of mine. For this reason I elect you as vice-queen of my holy plastic army. Enjoy wearing my new hot pink, patent leather catsuit with purple-feather epaulets, Sergeant Sodomite. Today is the last day you wear an American-style suit!”

“Wha–? Gak! Help! It’s choking me!”, gurgled Oswald, tearing at the cord round his neck. Frederick flailed in panic, trying desperately to unwrap the cord, but the Lady League acted without hesitation and took over.

“Girls, waste no time!” cried Julie. The skin under her silver body-suit began to squirm; her subcutaneous weapons were preparing for the assault. “It’s the plastic demon trying to take control of objects in her environment. She must be nearby.”

“I hate to side with old dumpy bottoms here”, cried Rosalind, leering at Donna, “but the world is at stake.”  She leaped at the possessed telephone, grasping the receiver in one hand and the cord in the other. “Quick, Donna! Help me get this thing off this tired old queen’s neck!” She had more trouble than usual unwrapping the telephone cord from around Oswald’s neck given her superhuman strength. Obviously some other force was at work.

“Hey! Truck-lady!” said Donna, placing her hands on her hips. “Go grease up something with holes and pistons. If you think I’m going to help save ‘Oklahoma Male Weekly’ over there, with her queen-bee attitude, you’ve got another thing coming. Ass pirate,” she sneered at Oswald. He returned the look.

“Donna! Rosalind!” cried Julie. “We have no time for petty jealousy. For once, stop with your taunting and concentrate your powers! Now! I must rely on you two while I focus on disarming the device.” She stood erect, closing her eyes and pressing her chest outward. Donna half-heartedly followed her captain’s lead by unfolding her arms and dropping her buttocks down on top of the phone’s carriage, burying it within her cheeks. The signal sputtered.

“I’ll admit,” said Rosalind, trying to tear the cord from the queen’s neck, “Donna’s got a point. He’s a cunt. Even if we do convince him that we’re protecting him, what good will it do us? Donna’ll probably end up killing him with her bare hands anyway.” She began to wrap her hands around Oswald’s neck, her fingers intertwined with the cord.

“Girls, I’m surprised at you!” said Julie. “Especially you, Rosalind! We aren’t here to pass judgement on this man! He’s being strangled by a telephone cord, for goodness’ sake!”

“He seems to find no qualms in passing judgement himself”, said Rosalind, increasing her stranglehold. The poor man’s eyes bulged.

“And he’s such a bitch!” said Donna, gliding her fingernails over the poor queen like hovering reconnaissance aircraft.

“God damn it!” screamed Julie, the circuits of her suit suddenly lighting up in response to her mental state. “That’s no excuse! He may be a cold-blooded, ruthless lizard, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to die!”

“Help me, please!” gurgled Oswald. “I’m sorry I was such a supercilious cunt. Maybe I’m wrong about the use of colour and texture—pastels and crushed velveteen are not fashion faux pas! A smokey eye with a dark-red lip is not overdoing it! I give up! Just save me!” Rosalind looked upward snootily, and Donna bore into Oswald’s eyes with a disapproving glower.

“Girls, stop!” said Julie. “We’ll discuss this another time! Donna, stop sitting on the receiver. Use your psychokinetic power to fight the demon!”

“Oh, right. Yeah. Duh!” said Donna, raising her buttocks from the receiver and placing her fingers to her temples. “Sorry for spacing out, Julie. I can do this. I can undo the fiend’s work.” She stood still and concentrated her powers on the cord wrapped around Oswald’s neck. Rosalind assisted by tearing at the cord, and Lupa sang a whale-song which nobody could hear. The cord snapped. Oswald fell back and scurried against the wall, gasping for air. Frederick ran forward to embrace Oswald, who turned him away with a tired groan. Confused, he ran over and embraced Donna, who returned the gesture with a soft pat on the head. Rosalind looked on at Donna approvingly for once, and Lupa stamped up and down, flapping his fins, tears welling up in his big, blue eyes.

“Good”, said Julie, nodding, “but we need more juice to defeat this thing! I’ll deploy a short-distance electromagnetic pulse to short-circuit the apparatus.” She stretched out her arms, her hands curled into fists, and shot forth a beam of gamma radiation that fried the telephone receiver. Meanwhile, Rosalind and Donna were ripping apart the remains of the telephone cord. Finally it dropped to the ground.

“Bahahahahaha!” cackled the sinister voice through the mangled, disconnected receiver. “Your powers may have succeeded in this small trial, Lazy League, but you have yet to defeat my many minions! Soon you shall witness the rise of the demon, and you shall bow at her feet! I’m not going to kill you. Oh, no. I have something far better in mind for you—the beauty of my sweet, immortal caress! Yes, that is right. You shall become like me—plastic!”

The lights flickered and dimmed, as if from a power surge, and all looked at each other in silence.

Stay tuned as the ladies hunt down the inscrutable plastic demon in the next instalment of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





Gay Marriage, Majority Rule, and Minority Rights

19 01 2012

As the Washington state legislature mulls a bill that would legalise gay marriage, conservatives are crawling out of the woodwork to stop its passage or to punish Republicans who vote in favour of it by attempting to end their political careers. (The National Organisation of Marriage is trying to do this.) Some of these individuals and groups also want to put the decision up to a public vote. The argument they use to justify this kind of move is that majority opinion reigns supreme in a true democracy. I will argue here that majority opinion does not necessarily reign supreme in a true democracy, and I will show why this is so in four ways: democracy is not just defined as “majority rule”, but also as “equality”; the majority have no right to speak on issues which do not affect them; courts must adjudicate the law impartially; and legislators are not obliged to represent the views of their majority constituents on issues which do not affect their majority constituents.

I want to let you know that I am not telling you how the law actually works; I am simply telling you how it should work according to the principles of ethical reasoning.

With respect to the first point, the issue of gay marriage centres around the definition of democracy. Many conservatives will argue that gay marriage should be put up to a public vote because, in a democracy, the majority opinion rules. However, the definition of democracy does not begin and end with majority rule; it also involves the concept of equality. According to the Random House Dictionary, democracy has the following senses: government by the people, a state having such a form of government, a state of society characterised by formal equality of rights and privileges, political or social equality, and commoners as distinct from the privileged class. The definition of democracy encompasses the concepts of both self-representation and equality, so any gay marriage opponent who invokes democracy on the basis of the former, while ignoring the latter, is giving us a skewed, incomplete understanding of democracy. This hardly helps validate their opposition to gay marriage on democratic grounds.

This biased preoccupation with self-representation is closely linked to the notion of majority rule, which is consistently invoked by gay marriage opponents. Gay marriage opponents constantly argue that the quintessential democracy is defined by the reign of the majority opinion. But this is not necessarily so. A lot of issues should be decided by the majority, because those issues affect the majority, but not all issues do. If we treat democracy as “self-representation”, then the majority have the right to rule on issues which affect the majority, but they do not have the right to rule on issues which only affect the minority. Gay marriage only affects the minority, not the majority, therefore the majority have no right to rule on gay marriage. Thus, the conservative argument that the majority should rule on gay rights on the basis of “majority rule” is debunked.

Immediately gay marriage opponents will point out that this argument is not sound because, when a panel of judges rule on such an issue, a majority of votes still matters. It is true that a majority of votes matters when a court of law rules on gay marriage, but there is an important distinction to make: while the public vote on the basis of their personal prejudices, judges are obliged to adjudicate the law. While popular opinion is based on popular prejudice, legal opinion is based on interpretation of the law. It is not exactly fair to compare majority rule on the basis of personal prejudices with the majority rule of judges who are obliged impartially to fulfil the law. Therefore, it is invalid to compare majority rule through a public referendum with majority rule through a court of law, and, hence, it is invalid to say that judges should be doing the same thing as the public with regard to minority rights.

But, of course, gay marriage opponents will argue that judges are only adjudicating laws which are passed by elected representatives of the people. So, now the question is, whose interests do those elected representatives actually represent? Gay marriage opponents would argue that they represent the majority opinion of their constituency. This is not necessarily so. If we accept that the majority should rule only on issues which affect the majority, and not those which affect only the minority, then elected representatives are not obliged to represent the views of their majority constituents on issues which affect only the minority. Instead, they are obliged to defend minority interests. And whose majority vote determines that, you may ask? None, because the vote would be a unanimous decision based on reason, logic, and fairness. Reason, logic, and fairness are the ultimate arbiter, not popular opinion.

Of course, not all legislators are rational, hence not all laws they pass will be based on reason. This does not, however, mean that it is right that they pass the laws that they do. It only means that they fail to acknowledge reason. In some sense, the greatest intellectual burden lies on their shoulders.

In summary, I haven’t tried to create the perfect defense of gay marriage in modern-day democracies; I’ve merely tried to challenge how we alienate minorities using “majority rule” as an excuse, even when the majority have no justifiable interest in the lives of the minority. In principle, democracy should be about how we satisfy our personal interests, not how we control the lives of others. And when there is any question about how an issue affects us, it should be boiled down to whom it affects, and this is determined by reason.

That said, if you live in Washington state, and you live in one of the six constituencies led by undecided Washington state senators, I implore you to contact your senator and ask them to vote “yes” on the bill legalising gay marriage. We are just two senators’ votes away from marriage equality. Just two! It is good for gay people and for everybody else.





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 4: Duty Calls

14 01 2012

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on the Lady League, the ladies encountered an obstacle course in the Kuiper Belt, but they were able to warp-drive their way back home to London with the help of Donna Destruction. At the landing pad, they met a mysterious, foreboding figure, Lady Fairfax, who scolded them over their tardiness.

“Lady Fairfax, I apologise”, cried Julie. “You see, we encountered a sort of obstacle course in the Kuiper Belt—”

“—Mere congestion, Gentron!” replied Fairfax, rolling in on her wicker wheelchair, cane in one hand and gin and tonic in the other. “You know that MI6 agents encounter such notorious bottlenecks every day. You can’t possibly see yourself as special in the strive to defend the galaxy against the horrors which lie beyond our thin atmosphere—the microbes of Mars’s half-frozen crust, the virulent tar-women of Io’s angry volcanoes, the space-whales of Saturn’s engorged rings?” She paused and looked about her, then tapped her cane. “Wh-wh-where do you expect me to place my gin and tonic, girl??”

“May I, Lady Fairfax?” offered Rosalind graciously. Fairfax acquiesced, harrumphing indignantly as Rosalind reverently placed the gin and tonic on the spaceship console. 

“Ladies”, cooed the venerable matron, “you are tardy for your next assignment. I have intelligence on a surreptitious figure rumoured to frequent the salons of Paris, the gay bathhouses of Seattle, the opium dens of Shanghai. It—for we do not yet know what shape it takes—traffics in something more precious than the methane riches of Titan itself. Humans!”

“Humans!” gasped the Lady League. Fairfax nodded soberly.

“I—I don’t understand”,  said Julie. “Why, we should have no trouble apprehending a mere slave-trader. We’ve done it before. Remember Slimeball and his power over slime? That’s how Rosalind joined the League. She was his captive aboard his Red Sea freighter, and we helped her escape.”

“This isn’t some seaborne skirmish, Gentron”, thundered Fairfax, thumping her cane. She resumed her milder tone. “Due either to some sort of genetic mutation or medical procedure, this—entity—has acquired a symbiotic relationship with a material we all know too well—far too well. And it is to our detriment. Plastic!” The girls shrieked. “This being has commandeered the entire plastic manufacturing industry of Europe. It has so insinuated its way into the beauty and fashion marketplace that one cannot slide on a condom or spear one’s beans with a cafeteria spork without this—thing—turning it against one. The Continent’s brightest plastic surgeons have either disappeared or fallen into secrecy, avowing nothing for fear of retribution. I am afraid Britain is Europe’s last bastion of defense”, she said gravely in her rich, woody Home Counties accent. “This thing, it seems to control certain people. It targets beauties—those who have fallen under the knife, as it were. Supermodels. Actors. Homosexual fashion critics. The list goes on. Our best biophysicists cannot crack this one, girls. Earth—the solar system—is at risk of falling prey to this fiend’s wiles. It has evaded my smartest agents, some of whom never returned from their missions. I fear the worst for them. I fear that they have become a part of its shapeless morass.”

“Fairfax, this is horrible!” cried Julie. “Why, it is inconsistent with the Lady League mission protocol to allow such a crime against humanity to be committed. What can we do to stop this—this creature?”

“Nothing—but to hate plastic!” cried Fairfax. “You must waste no time. Take nothing of plastic with you—it is the warhead of this hideous fiend. You must rely on your own feminine prowess now more than ever. Rosalind Armour, you possess superhuman strength and near-indestructible skin. Donna Destruction, you can move objects with the power of your mind. And, Julie Gentron, with the power of your mind you can control all technology, including the arsenal of deadly weapons implanted within your body by extraterrestrial beings. Surely”, she said, focussing her bespectacled eyes on Julie, “as director of the MI6, I can rely on you ladies to fulfil the objectives of this mission?”

“We will do everything in our power to smoke this fox out of its hole and put an end to it”, said Julie, “even if it requires digging our bare, hangnailed fingers into that hole.”

“Beautiful. You will commence your assignment forthwith by escorting famed New York fashion critic Simpson Oswald to his next fashion show”, said Fairfax, cringing slightly at the name. “He boasts a number of friends in the industry, but, recently, he has acquired a few enemies, so we have reason to suspect he is target number one for this—this—plastic demon. Yes, I know that the pansies can be rather flakey and out-of-touch with reality, but you, Julie, are wearing one of his creations”, she revealed, grabbing the gin-and-tonic back from the spaceship console.

“Really?” cried Julie, scanning her shapely physique up and down. It was a sheer, form-fitting, silvery-metallic suit which covered everything but her face, and was implanted with myriad wires and electrodes which channelled and amplified her thought patterns. Unbeknownst to Julie, the electronic armoury embedded within the suit was the work of the galaxy’s best British engineers–its true powers remained a sinister secret. She wondered at the thing she was wearing, Who am I? What am I?

“What about me??” cried Donna.

“You’re wearing nothing but a leftover tarp from last season’s Halloween sales rack at The Bay”, said Rosalind peremptorily.

“But it’s vintage!” cried Donna, “and it goes with my complexion! Doesn’t it?” There was an awkward pause as everybody else looked at her.

“Enough small talk!” said Fairfax impatiently, waving away Donna with her gin and tonic. “Ladies, you will escort this Oswald to his next show in Paris. As I have stated, he is most likely the fiend’s next target. But beware the plastic demon’s wiles. I warn you. It is as sly as a snake in grass, and it owns every blade.” At this, Julie knew exactly what to do.

“Lady League”, cried Julie, “unite!” The League spread their legs in a buffalo stance and joined fists—which included Lupa’s fin—and a beam of super-powered lady plasma shot forth, illuminating London’s dank, dirty nighttime skyline. The girls were hot and ready to cream that plastic bitch.

Stay tuned for the next instalment to find out what the Lady League do with their legs.





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 3: The Bitches Return to Earth!

20 12 2011

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on Julie Gentron and the Lady League, the ladies faced imminent catastrophe as an asteroid and the dwarf planet Sedna threatened to smash the H.M.S. Vestibule to pieces!

“PAM, what’s happened?!” shouted Julie.

“A fragment of the approaching asteroid has skimmed the hull of the ship. The cold plasma shield has eliminated most of it, but some pieces made it through. All vital life support systems, as well as artificial gravity, are operational, however this will not remain the case if the asteroid collides with the ship. My calculations show such a collision will occur within the next nine and a half minutes.” Lupa stormed around the main deck, flapping his heavy limbs and cooing in agitation, clutching his coconut bra, and leaving a trail of urine in his wake. (Donna had forgotten to put on his diaper.) The poor thing was obviously trying to communicate something important, but his message went unheeded.

“I’ll take care of this”, said Rosalind, leering at Donna. “With my superhuman strength, I should be able to push the ship out of its path! Don’t worry, Julie”, she said, smiling seductively at the captain, “I’ll steer the ship on course and we’ll be back in London in time for a massage.” Julie smiled and nodded at Rosalind, who, beaming with confidence, assumed a hard, bright, metallic shell of skin and exited through the evacuation chamber.

“In order to deflect the asteroid”, said Julie, “we need to combine our ship’s built-in artillery with our own mutant powers. We must use the ship’s most potent weapon—the lady beam! Donna! Power up the ovarian plasma-ray generator, focus its energy through the clitoral conductor-cannon, and deploy the beam at ten o’clock, in the direction of the asteroid.”

“Yes, Julie!” said Donna without a beat. She proceeded to chicken-peck away at the computer console, sounding out each letter as she went.

“Julie”, said PAM.

“What, PAM?”

“I’m scared, Julie.”

“It’s just the ovarian plasma ray generator-powered, clitoral cannon-channelled lady beam, PAM. It’s going to help save us!”

“I understand, Julie. My calculations show that this is the most effective tactic, other than self-annihilation. It’s just that I cannot live without you. Proceed.” Julie contorted her face in bewilderment at PAM’s strange show of emotion. Just then, a thick, bright, white-green beam shot forth from the clitoral cannon and obliterated the asteroid. A stream of space debris assaulted the ship’s cold plasma shield in a spray of light. They had done it. The asteroid was done with. Everybody clapped, cheered, and jumped up and down with joy. Then they stopped.

“We’re veering too close to Sedna now!” cried Julie. “Donna, you said you can move planets, so you must be able to move a space-ship out of Sedna’s gravitational pull. Do it, now!”

“I’ll do my best.” Donna placed her fingers to her temples and closed her eyes. She then made a strained, girlish squeal resembling a pig having an orgasm. Lupa stood erect, placed his fins to his breast like an opera singer, and commenced with a haunting, mournful whale-song which resembled the peal of an adolescent humpback whale. “Lupa!” shouted the others, groaning and covering their ears.

“Anyway”, said Julie, “I’ll take command of the ship’s computer and steer us clear of this thing.” PAM murmered words of vague concern over this action. “Don’t worry, PAM”, she said. “Your consciousness will remain intact and fully operational.”

“I—seem—to be—tilting the ship, but not enough to escape Sedna’s gravity”, said Donna, straining harder. “Julie, help!”

“Hold on!” replied Julie. “I’ll concentrate my technopathic powers on the ship’s engines.” Julie thrust her breasts outward, flexed her strong arms and thighs, and concentrated. “By the great goddess! I’ve taken too sharp a turn toward Sedna!” she said, not knowing her own strength. Lupa, unnoticed by the others, assumed the pose of a sumo wrestler, and his high-pitched peal gradually fell to a deep, barely audible hum which reverberated throughout the ship like a foghorn. The ship began to turn, but only the poor land-whale could see how the powerful sonic reverberations created by his whale-song helped the team escape the clutches of Sedna’s hard, icy surface. Meanwhile, Donna was on the floor, doggy-style, ass in the air, elbows to the ground, fingers still to her temples, focusing all her might on moving the ship with the power of her mind. Soon she had matched Lupa’s efforts, and the ship made another tilt. Still, the captain was needed, and so was her computer.

“PAM, help me out!” cried Julie in desperation.

“I will work in unison with you, Julie”, said the onboard quantum computer. “I will provide you the steering, the thrust, the motion, the strokes—”

“PAM!”

“Yes, Julie?”

“Cut the lesbian bullcrap! Er, for now, at least. Help me steer, already!” There was a tense pause, broken only by Lorna’s constipated squeals and the land-whale’s powerful baritone. “Are we clear of Sedna’s gravitational pull yet?”

“Just, Julie.”

“Then, by the breasts of the great goddess, take us back to Earth!”

“Julie, what about Rosalind? If you would like, I will dispose of her with a blast of ion radiation and—”

“—PAM, you will do no such thing! Rosalind will come back aboard the ship unscathed. Afterward, you will direct us on a course to Earth.”

“Yes, Julie.” Almost immediately after, the doors to the evacuation chamber whooshed open, and Rosalind re-entered the deck, panting, yet bobbing confidently and flexing her biceps cockily. Julie embraced her, while Donna gave a half-hearted cheer and a limp clap. Lupa began bounding around the deck with a big, booming, babylike coo of excitement, clapping his limbs uncontrollably and wiping away tears from his big, limpid blue eyes with the tip of a fin. Another trail of urine formed behind him.

“Rosalind, thank the goddess you’re OK”, said Julie, caressing Rosalind’s well-developed shoulders. “I wasn’t sure that your armoured skin would deflect the assault of cosmic rays.”

“Honey”, laughed Rosalind, patting Julie affectionately on the back, “I’ve had worse, like the time I wrestled that giant space-ghoul from the Oort Cloud. I’m not bragging, but I did help steer us clear of a dwarf planet.” Donna mimicked these last words sarcastically under her breath, tossing her feathered Farrah Fawcett tresses to the side. “The atoms in my armour are quite dense, blocking even the most intense radiation”, said Rosalind. “It is almost impossible for cosmic radiation to damage my genes.”

“As I already suspected, since I am a quantum physicist”, said Donna in an argumentative tone. Rosalind lowered at her, and she met her opponent’s gaze with an equally baleful glower. If these girls had claws, they’d be unsheathed.

“Julie”, cooed PAM.

“Yes?” replied Julie.

“I am glad that you are unharmed, Julie.”

“Yes, thank you, PAM”, said Julie, pacing around the deck with a growing wariness of PAM’s human-like qualities.

“Gee whiz”, said Donna quizzically. “What is up with this computer thingy? I mean, I understand when a pole likes a socket and a socket likes a pole, or when a pole likes a pole and a socket likes a socket, but when a socket doesn’t even have a socket to begin with, well, I just don’t get it.”

“Donna! That is uncalled for”, scolded Julie. “For your information, PAM has proved to be a very wise and caring—”

“—It is all right, Julie. I understand. The fact that I do not possess an obvious orifice or appendage for penetration makes Donna uncomfortable.” At this, Donna grinned mischievously.

“PAM”, said Donna.

“Yes, Donna?” bleeped PAM in her computery voice.

“What’s between my thighs?” asked the psychokinetic minx, giggling girlishly and covering her mouth with the tips of her fingers. Rosalind rolled her eyes and slapped her palm to her forehead.

“Your oestrogen-powered utero-blaster?”

“No.”

“Your platinum-lined lady vector ray?”

“No.”

“Your heat-seeking, blood-fuelled, tampon missile rocket?”

“Close, but not quite.”

“Your vagina?”

I can’t believe she actually said it!” cackled Donna ferociously. “She’s just like Siri!” Lupa clapped excitedly, belched, and made one of his famous whale-coos, an action performed by a land-whale when it approves of a jest.

“Of course she did, you dolt”, said Rosalind. “She’s a lesbian space-ship computer.”

“Julie”, said PAM, “I am unable to interpret the rationale behind the dialogue of your companions. I suspect this is due in part to a lack of myelination in areas of higher thinking in the brain.” At this, Donna gave a look of resentment, peering around the deck in search of whatever might constitute PAM’s presence.

“Ladies, ladies!” said Julie. “Donna, you’re being childish. Rosalind, stop being snide. PAM, stay cold and malleable. Lupa, you’re cute, but stop goofing around. OK. Let’s get back to London. If we don’t want to reach home by the time we’re old spinsters, we need to step up the pace and try to move faster than some twentieth century space probe. Donna.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I want you to use your power to warp space-time by creating a miniature black hole in front of the space-ship to get us past Saturn in the next sixty seconds.”

“Yes, ma’am”, said Donna, sighing. “I’ll try.”

“And, Rosalind”, said Julie, “remember to activate the ultra-tamponic cold plasma shield so that we don’t get incinerated by the heat created in the warp bubble. We already faced that threat warping from Alpha Centauri back to the Earth’s solar system.”

“Yes, Julie”, said Rosalind, thumping down at the console.

There was a spacey sound as the H.M.S. Vestibule entered the inner solar system. Earth, Britain, and, finally, the landing pad in the South London borough of Lambeth became visible.

“Well that was a blast!” said Donna. “We’re here! God, I’m dying for a bubble bath. Calgon, take me away!”

“And I’m dying for that massage, Julie”, said Rosalind, posing like a teenage locker-room jock.

“Bubble bath OK”, said Julie to Donna. Give, or receive?” she said to Rosalind.

“Baby, I’m cleverly equipped”, said Rosalind. The scene was suddenly interrupted by an urgent message in a raspy yet venerable RP accent sputtering out of the main deck’s speakers like a principal yacking away at her students through some old-fashioned twentieth century public school intercom.

“Julie Gentron!” said the voice in a reedy, chiding tone.

“Lady Fairfax!” said Julie. She stood as stiff as an unused tampon. She now had to report back to her boss about her excursion abroad—her mission to open diplomatic relations with the peoples of Alpha Centauri—in the cosy confines of a smart, clean office at the MI6 headquarters in dirty Vauxhall. With this in mind, the ladies heaved their bosoms, disembarked from the Vestibule, and pressed on forward across the landing pad. Opposite them, the silhouette of a low, shuffling figure appeared against London’s filthy sky.

“Quite correct, Gentron”, rattled the voice authoritatively, “in your assessment of my identity; not in your punctuality!”

Stay tuned to find out what surprise awaits the Lady League upon their return to Earth in the next instalment of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





Hillary Clinton, Gay Rights, and Cultural Relativism

12 12 2011

I’m not a cultural relativist. Sometimes customs are culturally relative, and sometimes, quite frankly, they are not. I don’t believe that sexism, racism, child abuse, animal abuse, rape, torture, murder, or homophobia are excusable depending on cultural context, because in each context these atrocities share the traits of hatred, violence, and exploitation committed against a sentient being. Let me get this caveat out of the way first: on some issues we are in no place to judge the practises of other cultures, and on other issues we most certainly are. In return, these other cultures are allowed to judge us on our faults. With that out of the way, LGBT rights are not an imperialist vision; they are a humanist one.

Given my wariness of cultural relativism, I was elated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s amazing speech at the United Nations in Geneva. In her speech, Clinton declares that the Obama administration will defend LGBT rights as a part of its human rights and foreign policy, and that the President will command all government agencies operating overseas to defend LGBT rights through various diplomatic strategies. She makes several points about how and why the world community should end persecution of LGBT people: first, LGBT rights are human rights; second, homosexuality exists in all cultures; third, religious and cultural beliefs do not justify persecution of LGBT people; fourth, the world must confront persecution of LGBT people, not dismiss it; and fifth, we must employ practical means to obtain equality for LGBT people. All of these points are interesting and relevant, but the most provocative to me are the second and third points, which challenge the cultural relativism cited to defend persecution of LGBT people.

In her second point, Clinton challenges the assumption that homosexuality and LGBT rights are purely Western, imperialist conceptions being foisted on non-Western cultures. This is simply not true, Clinton shows, because homosexuality exists in every culture, and homophobia is a problem in every culture. It is, in other words, a human condition, and creating artificial cultural barriers to LGBT liberation would do a disservice to LGBT people:

Some seem to believe [homosexuality] is a Western phenomenon, and therefore people outside the West have grounds to reject it. Well, in reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbours.

And just in case anybody insists there are no examples of efforts to advance LGBT rights in non-Western cultures, Clinton deftly turns the tables:

Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do. South Africa’s constitution, written in the aftermath of Apartheid, protects the equality of all citizens, including gay people. In Colombia and Argentina, the rights of gays are also legally protected. In Nepal, the supreme court has ruled that equal rights apply to LGBT citizens. The government of Mongolia has committed to pursue new legislation that will tackle anti-gay discrimination.

Clinton has obviously done her fact-checking (which is to be granted, given that she is America’s chief diplomat): heteronormative sexualities, if not exactly ubiquitous, are well-distributed among the world’s cultures, hence LGBT rights are a relevant concern to all of the world’s cultures. It is now common knowledge among well-informed people that homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, and intersexuality are not the product of a particular culture; they are a product of living organisms in general, from shellfish to human beings. It seems absurd, then, to say that these sexualities are the luxurious fad of one particular society (the West) of one particular species of animal (homo sapiens), hence it seems absurd to suggest that LGBT rights are relevant only to that society or species.

In her third point, Clinton criticises the notion that cultural or religious beliefs somehow justify persecution of LGBT people, and roundly dashes it to pieces. (I exaggerate, but still, she could have, and she probably would have if representatives of countries like Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan weren’t present.) She does this by comparing LGBT rights to the rights of other persecuted peoples. Specifically, she draws an analogy between crimes against LGBT people and crimes against women, both of which derive from patriarchal hegemony:

[The justification for persecuting LGBT people] is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

Cutting off a woman’s clitoris is universally wrong because it causes unspeakable pain, stress, and health problems for the victim, whether she is from Sweden, Somalia, or Seattle. This is because every person of every culture possesses a common human physiology; the nervous systems of all human beings are basically the same. I suspect every woman feels immense pain when she is mutilated, burnt to death, or stoned to death, despite the cultural situation. And when proponents of cultural relativism cite reasons for their stance, those reasons fall nothing short of pathetic: women shouldn’t be allowed to have sex with men other than their husbands, women shouldn’t be allowed to experience sexual pleasure, or women shouldn’t be allowed to live if their husbands die. Forgive me if I find these justifications more solipsistic than utilitarian, and hence hardly socially beneficial. They’re just the laws of self-serving tyrants who view women as mere incubators. Similarly, every gay person experiences unconscionable pain and horror at being hanged or crushed to death for being gay. Opinions, insecurities, and concerns specific to a culture do not justify violence against women or gay people, because we all share the same basic human physiology despite cultural context. I think this is what Clinton was pointing at.

I won’t mince words. Hillary Clinton is right, and the cultural relativists are wrong. Heteronormative sexuality is found everywhere in the world, and LGBT rights are no more culturally relative than women’s or racial minorities’ rights, because all are products of a common human mental and physical experience. For some reason, though, this is a sensitive topic for many anti-imperialists, who often happen to be from the West. It seems to me that a lot of this cultural relativist dogma stems from white, middle-class people who feel guilty about their colonial heritage, and they spout this disingenuous nonsense about relativism to soothe their own conscience. But think about it. Arguing that women’s or LGBT rights are culturally relative is basically discriminating against women and LGBT people who live in countries, like Iran, which don’t recognise their status, and that isn’t very feminist or pro-gay, is it? It isn’t even very pro-human, as Clinton showed, and I can’t help but respect her for sending such a bold, unapologetic message to countries which still use cultural relativism as a loophole to commit human atrocities. It was truly a satisfying vindication of LGBT rights.