Anibody out there?
Ok lesbians, stay with me. I know we have oodles of gay icons within mainstream media these days. I know we have straight girls singing chart toppers about kissing girls. And while having lesbianism validated as an acceptable and fun way of cheating on your boyfriend is really empowering for us all, I think its very important we remember where our lesbian entertainment came from.
A long time ago, before Ellen even, the little folk singer from Buffalo became the face of the "lesbian" music genre. It was the early 90's and Ani Difranco was playing her way to lesbian superstardom in colleges and bars across america, with songs like "The Whole Night" and "She Says". Women's studies dykes from Syracuse to Berkeley where beside themselves with pronoun delight. With her very own independent music label, Righteous Babe Records, Ani was the perfect symbol of female empowerment. And let's not forget that she can fucking play.
In 1998, Ani solidified her status as gay royalty with the songs "Two Little Girls" and "Little Plastic Castles". It was all over. From here on out, you could be sure to run into each and every one of your ex girlfriends at an Ani show, you were lucky if you could even see the stage over all the huge masses of dreadlocks pilled on top of vegan heads, and you wouldn't dare show up without your Feminist Majority or Food not Bombs T-shirt on. Ani became synonymous with all things lesbian culture. Oh sure, straight girls were listening too. But it was always a clear indicator that you had at least a six pack lesbo on your hands if you could get them to name their top 3 favorite Ani songs.
Here we are 10 years later and I wanna know, where have all the gays gone? Last Saturday I made the slow crawl down the 5 freeway to see Ani at the House of Blues in Anaheim or "Aniheim" as we referred to it for a month prior. Now when I was a young eager Ani fan, we used to have to sleep on the concrete outside the concert venue in order to win our front row spot during general admission shows. If you didn't make it into the line by 8 am, forget it, you were seeing the show from the back with the straight people, in the "reluctant boyfriend holding pen" as Ani herself coined it.
But here it is 2008 and apparently one doesn't need to show up until mid afternoon to get the coveted spot front row, left of center. Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed the fact that dining at the House of Blues restaurant allows one to wait in the early entry line. We showed up at 3 for a late lunch, then took turns standing in line and ducking back into the bar for martini's until we were let into the venue at 7. And then to make my Ani dreams come true, the stage was surrounded by a bar on either side that served throughout the show. I used to be the really excited bouncy girl in the front row, now I'm the drunk excited bouncy girl in the front row. Oops.
But my enabled drinking habits aside, what stuck out during this show is that the dreadlocks and the dedication are long gone. Sure the show drew more lesbians than the House of Blues in Anaheim sees on any day but some fortysomething year old Orange County dykes dressed up in their best Polo shirts does not an Ani crowd make. Where are the squealing baby dykes? Where are college girls? Yes, maybe we have all grown up and grown out our hair but has lesbian culture really become that assimilated by heteronormative culture?
I'm just concerned that the more we see LGBT representations on prime time, on Mtv and at the Oscars, the lazier we get about remembering our roots. It is so important to have those images in those places but let's not forget that the mainstream is just that, the mainstream. Queerness is still "the other" within popular media. Tila Tequila is making a mockery out of lesbian and bisexuality for the sake of her own bank account and Katy Perry's pimping night life bi-curiosity on behalf of industry behemoth Capitol Records. LGBT youth today don't have to look far to have their lifestyle's recognized anymore, but is this kind of recognition really that positive and empowering? Furthermore, is it's immediacy disenfranchising queer youth from finding the good stuff?