Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mississippi School Axes Prom to Avoid Lesbian Dancing, while Stars on Ice Drops Johnny Weir

My friend Bea, all the way in Groeningen, Netherlands, contacted me to alert me to this story by sex columnist and Seattle Stranger editor extraordinaire Dan Savage: High School in Mississippi Cancels Prom to Prevent Lesbian Student From Bringing Female Date—and Potentially Invites Violence Against Lesbian Student 

That may seem like a long title, but it gives activist Googlers and savvy readers (the only kind of readers The Stranger has, as far as I can tell) the info they need in a nice compact package. "Click to learn more," the headline beckons.

It's the 21st-century version of phone trees—a calling system activists like Harvey Milk (beautifully photographed, here and elsewhere, by legendary San Francisco photographer and activist Daniel Nicoletta) used pre-Internet to get their messages about rallies and protests out as quicky as possible: one person calls ten, each of those call ten, who each call ten, until a united front shows up to scare the bejezus out of the pigs. Already, the article has gone viral in the Twittersphere, and amassed over 172 comments on the original site (the average article in The Stranger or on similar news sites gets about 20 comments in a good month).

Now that a lot of "mainstream" folks—LGBT and otherwise—are out of work too, many middle-of-the-road Americans suddenly feel the way some people from disenfranchized groups, and many students, have always felt—that our politics and our ideals are the only things we reliably own.

That's my theory for why more people are getting angry about injustice of all kinds, from the persecution of LGBT children to music censorship and racism to advertisers of the upcoming Stars On Ice tour deeming gay artist and credit-to-skating Johnny Weir "Not Family Friendly Enough" to include in the extravanza tour, a major source of income for many athletes. (What, too gay for Ice Skating? Too many breathtaking, showstopping Lady Gaga tribute numbers?)

For shame, Smuckers, sponsor of Stars on Ice, for your Bible-Belt-pandering. I guess that's what we get, LGBTers and gay-savvy straight folks, for having switched to Polaner All Fruit, a corn-syrup-free preserves we found more salutory and palatable, decades ago. Now Smuckers is punishing all us urban sophisticates for our glucose-eschewing habits by choosing to disavow what should be their pride in one of the greatest athletes and charismatic artists to grace Ice Skating in a long, long time.

Evidently, Smuckers likes their Ice Shows to be as cloying and flavorless as their jams and jellies. And c'mon guys, Smuckers? You call yourselves "Smuckers" and you think Johnny Weir isn't family friendly? You sure provided my brothers and I with our share of naughty jokes in the breakfast nook growing up.

Anyone who thinks this is "just an ice skating issue" is just plain wrong. This is about gender roles and assimilation versus all of us embracing our unique gifts and contributions to the world as "queer" or somehow "deviant" or "different" people.

Get angry, people. Get very angry. Then contact GLAAD, and find out more about possible solutions. In the meantime, I suggest throwing out any stray jars of Smuckers you've been serving to undiscerning guests or using to hold up the wonky shelf in the bathroom cabinet.

So, other than raising my hackles, what's the connection between these two stories? Gender. Two girls dancing together freaks the heck out of some parents and principles in Mississippi, and the Smucker's guys' real fear is that Weir is too effeminate. Being a gay man is OK as long as you're masculine—even Eminem says so—but people can't stand a man who's feminine. Masculine's the thing to be in the U.S.—it's even OK for women and girls, as long as they know their roles at home and on the dancefloor.

But more on all that tomorrow.


  1. I agree. People need to get angry. All this injustice becausr of "family values" is so very ridiculous. If people value ignorance, hate, and stupidity, then by all means, I'm moving to canada.

  2. thank you. thank you, thank you, thank you. as a lesbian who had to go to prom with a grody boy in a small virginia town and as a feral lover of johnny weir, thank you. word needs to spread on both of these issues because they are both, in ways that are different and yet so similar, inherently about oppression.