The Word ‘Queer’

The Allusionist, a podcast about language made by Helen Zaltzman, has a new episode about the word ‘queer,’ the complexity of its history and current use.  A79+logo+Queerimage from The Allusionist


Kink Camp

The most notorious episodes of the Risk podcast are probably the ones where host, Kevin Allison, talks about kink camp.  

In number 229 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 1” and number 230 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 2” Kevin walks the listener through his first experience of kink camp and what it is like to be a gay man at a primarily heterosexual orgy.

In episode number 828 “Make Believe,” Kevin tells a story called “The Whiz Kid” about his return to kink camp where he participated in “water sports” or urine play.  

Hipster Racism

The topic of hipster racism has been talked about in the past but now seems particularly appropriate to revisit.  Hipster racism is when “hipsters” think making racist comments is ironic, edgy, or a way to semantically diffuse weighty terminology.  Despite whatever cultural context or obfuscation, the statements/actions/objects are still racist.

indian viceimage from Vice

In 1979, Lester Bangs wrote “The White Noise Supremacists,” confronting racism in counterculture, as well as his own use of the n word.  Colorlines revisited the piece in 2012, pointing to the continuing problem in hipster culture.

Five years later, there is now a newly labeled hipster neo-nazi subculture, the “alt right.” Even the use of “alt” or alternative is a buzzword in subcultural circles.  Like larger hipster culture there is associated clothing, language, and haircuts.  Recently, Fred Perry felt the need to distance himself from the alt right because his polo shirts are quite popular with neo nazi groups like the Proud Boys.

To end on a happier note…

Paris Burning and/or Burnt

The documentary Paris is Burning is a particularly important record of LGTQ people of color in New York in the 1980s.  More specifically, the film is about the ballroom subculture, made up primarily of young, disenfranchised LGTQ POC gathering to “walk” and dance (where “voguing” comes from) in costume.  The film has had a lasting impact on current vernacular, such as “shade,” “kiki,” and “realness.”

There was controversy after the documentary around compensation and how the project was represented by Jennie Livingston.  The subjects of the documentary lived difficult lives in poverty and the film ended with the murder of Venus Xtravaganza.  The resulting question is for documentary film makers as it is for ethnographers – When your career is based in the lives of your subjects, what do you owe them?  How might you change their lives by making them famous while they still live in poverty?

The discord around the film reoccured around the 2015 Celebrate Brooklyn screening of Paris is Burning, which was to be accompanied by Jennie Livingston and DJ’ed by JD Samson, both of whom are white queer people.  No people of color or representatives from the continuing ballroom scene were invited.  Attention was quickly drawn to the silencing of people of color around their own stories and parallels to ongoing gentrification in Brooklyn.  A petition declaring “#ParisIsBurnt” was started calling for canceling the event.  Ultimately Samson dropped out and ballroom participants who appeared in the documentary were invited to participate.

This year the documentary Kiki was released and has drawn parallels to Paris is Burning, though the director seems to have taken a more collaborative approach and learned from Livingston’s mistakes.  It looks at the contemporary ballroom subculture, the importance of DIY, and activism.

Hipster Olympics

In Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital Thornton applied Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital to the rave subculture, whereby being ‘cool’ was dependent on a culture-specific values and knowledges. 

Thornton found subcultural capital was equivalent to ‘hipness’.  It is determined by being ‘in the know,’ wearing the ‘right’ clothing, having the ‘right’ haircut, liking the ‘right’ music, and moving the body correctly within a given situation.  The distinction of being ‘right’ is dependent on the invested meanings of culturally significant symbols.  Unlike Bourdieu’s cultural capital, subcultural capital is influenced more by gender than class.

Though this clip is a bit dated (replace myspace with facebook and flip phones with smart), a lot of the cultural cues have stayed the same.  The Williamsburg location, Pabst Blue Ribbon sponsorship, contestants participating ironically, being hungover, wearing tight pants, using cocaine, etc., all signify hipster-ness.

Columbine Shooting Moral Panic

In Folk Devils and Moral Panics, Stanley Cohen states moral panic occurs when “…[a] condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.”  Moral panics are “extreme social responses to the belief that the moral condition of society is deteriorating at a rapid pace.” 

Three major elements of a moral panic include 1) framing / the role of the media: amplifies and shapes public ideas of deviance, often reinforcing stereotypes, 2) the creation of a folk devil: a target stripped of favorable characteristics, often demonizing certain groups, and 3) policing / the development of new policies to “police the crisis“.

The documentary Bowling for Columbine examines the mass shooting as a catalyst for a moral panic.  The following interview with singer Marilyn Manson discusses some of the elements of a moral panic, including framing and creation of a folk devil.

The documentary also discusses policing of students in schools, with calls for school uniforms and use of metal detectors.

Cowboys are frequently, secretly fond of each other…

Ned Sublette originally wrote “Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other” as a deadpan satire around the stereotypes of gay men in the 1980s.  The song was later covered by Willie Nelson, in a softer, more sentimental tone.  Bonus: Burt Reynolds is in the beginning of this video.

Gay / queercore punk band Pansy Division also covered the song


Well, there’s many a strange impulse out on the plains of West Texas.
There’s many a young boy who feels things he can’t comprehend.
And a small town don’t like it when somebody falls between sexes.
No, a small town don’t like it when a cowboy has feelings for men.

And I believe to my soul that inside every man there’s the feminine.
And inside every lady there’s a deep manly voice loud and clear.
Well, a cowboy may brag about things that he’s done with his women.
But the ones who brag loudest are the ones that are most likely queer.

Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other.
Say, what do you think all them saddles and boots was about?
And there’s many a cowboy who don’t understand the way that he feels for his brother.
And inside every cowboy there’s a lady that’d love to slip out.

And there’s always somebody who says what the others just whisper.
And mostly that someone’s the first one to get shot down dead.
So when you talk to a cowboy don’t treat him like he was a sister.
You can’t fuck with a lady that’s sleepin’ in each cowboy’s head.

Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other.
What did you think all them saddles and boots was about?
And there’s many a cowboy who don’t understand the way that he feels for his brother.
And inside every lady there’s a cowboy who wants to come out.
And inside every cowboy there’s a lady that’d love to slip out.