All The (Stupid) Things She Said

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I was watching Rage one fine Saturday morning at the tender age of ten when, between the usual Eminem and Jennifer Lopez was something quite different. I was too young to quite realise what it was about the video that so captured my attention; it was all very fast paced, the atmosphere was moody and there was rain, two schoolgirls and an abundance of feelings. I was transfixed. The song had grabbed me, its lyrics were as emotionally intense and profound as I was capable of imagining as a ten year old, and there were two pretty girls with exotic accents.

I was taken in by the intensity of it all and was contemplating the song’s uncanny synchronicity with my own personal cocktail of preteen emotions when, seemingly out of nowhere, the girls kissed. Holy shit. Up until that point I wasn’t even aware that girls could kiss. It may seem obvious that anyone with mouths can kiss but at this stage I hadn’t really devoted that much time to thinking about kissing, occupied as I was with trying to catch all 150 Pokemon and keeping up with the adventures of the Powerpuff Girls. But that all changed the first time I saw t.A.T.u. on television.

And so it was that a Russian pop duo ignited a journey of confusion and self-discovery that would eventually lead to me claiming the label of bisexual, a declaration that would in no way surprise any of my friends. While it would be absurd to pin my particular brand of divergent sexuality on a three minute video, I can still remember the moment where a switch in my brain silently clicked on the moment I saw Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova make out on television. A sudden awareness of something that had been there all along.

Given the widespread popularity of their debut single, I can’t have been the only awkward babydyke to have experienced a weird sexual awakening to ‘All The Things She Said’. I was faintly aware of the rumours that the girls were ‘fake lesbians’, and that they were being exploited by the music industry into putting on a show to sell records. But at ten, that video was the only positive representation of female romantic relationships that I had seen. So despite their reputation as queerbait, they have always had a special place in my perverted little heart.

This is why I was especially disappointed when this morning I read reports that former t.A.T.u. member Yulia Volkova had said in an interview on Russian television that she would ‘condemn’ her son if he was gay. According to the translation on the YouTube clip, the interview went as follows:

Will you condemn your son, if he is gay?

“Yes, I would condemn him, because I believe that a real man must be a real man. God created man for procreation, it is the nature. The man for me is the support, the strength of… I won’t support gay son.”

Stop stop… you just told me that you do not mind if your daughter was a lesbian. You were talking about freedom …

“This only applies to a daughter, not a son.”

So you think that freedom can only be for women?

“I think for men it’s a bad freedom. In our time, there is a very large number of frivolous girls (and a man can be with a large number of these girls). This is freedom for men. And a man has no right to be a fag. Two girls together – not the same thing as the two men together. It seems to me that lesbians look aesthetically much nicer than two men holding their hands or kissing.

“But! I want to say that I’m not against gays, I just want my son to be a real man, not a fag. I have many gay friends. I believe that being gay is all still better than murderers, thieves or drug addicts. If you choose out of all this, being gay is better than the rest.”

This is so cosmically stupid and hateful I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe I shouldn’t expect better from someone who supposedly put on the pretense of a lesbian relationship to sell records, but it seemed like t.A.T.u. were at the very least supportive of same sex attracted people, even if they didn’t necessarily identify that way. As they should be having made great profit from behaving like same sex attracted people. In 2008 the band released this statement on their website prior to performing at a Gay Pride celebration in Moscow:

“As always, our music will be about people and standing for people, about love and standing for love. We think that every person should express his or her love to another person in the way these two people wish, and no third parties may interfere with their dogmas. We are supporting people disregarding their sexual orientation or any other differences.

“When t.A.T.u.’s second album came out, many of our fans of alternative sexual orientation thought that we lied and betrayed them. This is not true! We’ve never done that and we’ve always advocated love without boundaries.”

So… why is one half of this duo now hating on gay men? The hypocrisy is so painfully obvious I’m amazed it didn’t form a black hole and suck all of Russia into oblivion. Her very career is built on acting like a queer person, but heaven forbid any dudes give it go. Also the “men are for procreation” argument is a new twist on an old favourite. It’s quite possibly the most bizarre argument against male homosexuality I’ve ever heard.

A man has no right to be a fag because it’s not ‘aesthetically pleasing’?! Are you kidding me?! Have you seen Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka? Those two look like they’ve come right out of the Target catalogue of my wildest dreams. Then there’s the clean-cut physical splendor of Ricky Martin. The rugged handsomeness of Zachary Quinto. Thousands of other absurdly good looking gay dudes I can think of off the top of my head. These dudes are good looking, and 1 + 1 equals 2, so thusly, two good looking dudes together equals twice as good looking. Of course dude on dude action is aesthetically pleasing. Science* says that 90% of humans enjoy gay porn and 10% of humans are lying to themselves. Even lesbians love gay male porn. Just ask DeAnne Smith.

Lesbians are ok because they’re aesthetically pleasing? Who gives a flying toss whether or not two people who love each other are ‘aesthetically pleasing’? Nobody should, because it’s nobody’s business except the two people involved. If only hot people are allowed to have sexual relationships with each other then I guess we should split up I don’t know, about 60% of all couples (depending on what your threshold of ‘aesthetically pleasing’ is).

Also, the idea that lesbianism is fine because its ‘aesthetically pleasing’ feeds into the idea that womens’ sexuality is a performance for other people, and that a woman’s value is based on her appearance. I hate to burst Volkova’s bubble, but not all lesbians look like members of t.A.T.u. I hate to undermine the message she’s been selling for the first half of her career, but when I have sex with women I don’t do it because it’s pretty, I don’t do it because men like to look at it and I don’t do it to sell records. I do it because I want to.

And can we please, for the love of god leave the idea that gay men aren’t “real men” back in the last century along with the word “fag”. This hopelessly ignorant assumption is built upon the idea that gay men are weaker and more effeminate than their straight brethren. First of all, the idea that all gay men are limp-wristed hairdressers is hideously outdated and has been proved wrong time and time again by the huge variety of men who exist and happen to be gay. I’m also really tired of the idea that limp-wristed hairdressers are somehow less legitimate as men than those who sport a more traditional shade of masculinity. It implies the idea that traits traditionally associated with femininity are somehow weaker or lesser than those associated with good old fashioned butch masculinity.

But hey, at least being a dainty fag isn’t quite as bad as being a murderer, according to Volkova, who has “gay friends”. Who are these people? Every time a homophobe claims exemption from bigotry because they have gay friends, I can’t help but wonder what self-respecting queer person would publicly validate that claim. I’ve noticed that none ever seem to.

So, not only are Volkova’s ideas insulting to gay men, they’re insulting to lesbians and to herself as a woman. I am sad for her son, who will hopefully never have to realise that his mother’s love is conditional on the basis of his presumed heterosexuality. It also bears mentioning that this attitude is all too common in Russia, where there are laws banning ‘gay propaganda’. Jezebel writer Kat Callahan rightly pointed out that under Russia’s current laws, the members of t.A.T.u. would probably find themselves imprisoned if they released that same content today.

My heart breaks for us, all the babydykes who found hope and recognition in a three-minute music video in 2003. We’re all women now, and can hopefully find support from our own community rather than a brief glimpse of Saturday morning television. I guess it’s up to us to provide better idols.

*And by “science” I mean facts I made up that are probably totally true

Sophie Joske

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