Opening up a national conversation: Ruby Rose and gender/sexual fluidity
June 19, 2015 6:03 PM   Subscribe

 
(Orange Is the New Black is also on Fanfare.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:12 PM on June 19, 2015


I just found her to be an irritating plot contrivance, but I'm sure she's a nice person for all that.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:16 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've never watched the show, and I didn't know who she was until now, but the basic message surounding her seems good.
posted by jonmc at 6:19 PM on June 19, 2015


I am sure she's a lovely human being but I am really not entirely happy with the whole "boyish white butch women with basically fashion model features are attractive to straight women" thing, partly because (while I'm a little fat and old for 'boyish' and don't identify as a woman) I certainly sometimes feel like straight/"bicurious" women think of people like me as Men Lite, or Like Men But Better or something. It's not that they're attracted to "women" or "gender fluidity" (they're never attracted to femmes, or to anyone whose gender fluidity isn't basically 'being a tomboy, but a tomboy in Esquire'); more that they're attracted to whatever the woman version of bishonen is.

And there's the whiteness thing. I don't think Ruby Rose would get read as sort-of-like-Katherine-Hepburn-in-Sylvia-Scarlett-dashingness-wise if she were Black.

I appreciate that there's this openness to not being totally straight all the time; I think that's a net benefit to society. Especially because while this whole thing is kitschy, it's a huge improvement over the late 90s/early 2000s "I kissed a girl"/watch me make out with another girl at the bar thing, which was just fetishistic; this at least seems to be about women's actual sexuality as they experience it.
posted by Frowner at 6:25 PM on June 19, 2015 [45 favorites]


Queer Women Have A Message For Straight Women “Turning Gay” For Ruby Rose
But a lot of queer-identifying women are not having it.
posted by andoatnp at 6:30 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Her performance on this show is okay enough but her character says a bunch of misogynist stuff about "women" in that sort-of derogatory way and so according to all these thinkpeivces straight girls (or girls who are questioning their sexuality because heaven forfend that media or soci.ety acknowledge that women who feel things for a woman character on a TV show played by a genderfluid actor are MAYBE not straight, that would just be weird or something) feel things.

And there's the whiteness thing. I don't think Ruby Rose would get read as sort-of-like-Katherine-Hepburn-in-Sylvia-Scarlett-dashingness-wise if she were Black.

Agreed.
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:04 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not watching either show but having vague ideas about both of them from osmosis, I'd somehow picked up the idea that Ruby Rose was a Steven Universe character.

Thank you for clearing that up.
posted by figurant at 7:22 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's like many of these people don't know about or don't believe in the Kinsey scale...
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:48 PM on June 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


*gasp*
posted by jonmc at 7:55 PM on June 19, 2015


Not watching either show but having vague ideas about both of them from osmosis, I'd somehow picked up the idea that Ruby Rose was a Steven Universe character.

Ha, that's hilarious. You're not as far off as you might think, mind you. Ruby (Steven Universe spoilers) is the one on the left, a technically nonbinary female-presenting character who's in an extremely committed relationship with Sapphire there. There's another character named Rose (on the left) whose total relationship preferences are somewhat more ambiguous, but which are not likely best described as "totally straight". I can see how you might have gotten some wires crossed.

(Steven Universe gives remarkably few fucks about sticking to standard gender tropes for something that airs on Cartoon Network, if you couldn't tell)
posted by Wandering Idiot at 8:13 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm so weary of talking and reading about all the ways the human race is divided against itself. I would ask, "Can't we do better?" but it seems we can't.
posted by harrietthespy at 8:20 PM on June 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


Ruby Rose is fine and all, but I'll stay with my Samira Wiley (Poussey) crush. Going strong since Season One!
posted by thivaia at 8:43 PM on June 19, 2015 [15 favorites]


I'd somehow picked up the idea that Ruby Rose was a Steven Universe character.

Me, I thought everyone was talking about Ruby Rhod, who is something of a gender-fluid pioneer in his own right.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:06 PM on June 19, 2015 [12 favorites]




I *JUST* finished season 2. Actually, I'm about to. And this new character comes in season 3 (like a few hours away for me).

So that means I've watched 2 seasons of fictionalized women in prison. And then theres 6 seasons of fictionalized men in prison, but thats just something else.

Is there ANY aspect of Ruby Rose that has not been portrayed before in OITNB, or is this just another white girl who we are supposed to lose our shit over?

Because a lot of different situations have taken place in OITNB...and not all of them have received this kind of attention...probably because the actors weren't classically hot white women.

CHWW
posted by hal_c_on at 9:50 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had no idea who she was when her character showed up in the show, but the very first thing I uttered to my husband was "Oh my god she's hot."

However as someone who is very openly bisexual it wasn't a huge surprise. What an interesting phenomenon this is though, I had no idea she worked everyone else up too.
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:14 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not watching either show but having vague ideas about both of them from osmosis, I'd somehow picked up the idea that Ruby Rose was a Steven Universe character.

Same here!

I think this is relevant to the OitNB situation being discussed.
posted by odinsdream at 10:24 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


My first encounter with Ruby Rose as a non OITNB watcher (it's on my list, just haven't gotten there yet) was the video from which these gifs (questionably SFW) come. As a middle-aged child of the 80s, I think she looks a lot like Annie Lennox with more hair and probably less voice. Mind you, Annie Lennox, while she didn't carbonate my hormones in a big way, certainly helped open me up to the hotness of androgyny, so I get the attraction. I guess I just don't see a lot new in what she's doing--not that it was new when Lennox did it either (see also: Hepburn references)--just in the ways she, and we, talk about it.
posted by immlass at 11:32 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Speaking as a bisexual, agender, cisgendered, white woman... (I mean I figure the PC world of the internet would like to know my baggge or the lack thereof.)

I whole-heartedly appreciate Ruby Rose for who she is and what she's doing. Though, she's been on my radar for years before OITNB. Maybe I am bias, but she's a triumph because I have been irritated my entire life about the assumption that we can only be attracted to people who fit into neat, little boxes. I am not just talking about heteronormative boxes. No, even gays have their boxes. Femmes must be attracted to butches. Men are either tops or bottoms. Once someone goes gay (has gay sex), they can never go back.

Bullshit.

Life is far more fluid than that. I still remember the "straightest girl" my friends had ever met who [i]pursued me[/i]. Was she bi? Who the fuck knows or even cares. Maybe I was the only girl she slept with. Maybe I was the only girl she had slept with in the last five years. Doesn't matter. I love the gay alphabet soup as much as the next person as it allows us to conceptualize the many possibilities in which we may act out our lives, but I hate it when out labels become brands burnt into our skin.

So, what if a straight girl is crushing in Ruby? Maybe she's uncovering repressed feelings. Heteronormativity is good for that. Or, maybe. It is just a simple fascination, no different that a straight girl being obsessed with a pumpkin spice latte. I am not offended. I am actually stoked because it might mean people will stop trying to put each other into boxes. We should have the right to like anything without question. Gay people policing straight people (or other gays) is just as bad as when straight people do it. Belonging to a minority does not make you mightier.

But, hell. I am a white girl. It's my culture. I recognize Ruby fits a role no other ethnicity can. She's also has the thickest Aussie accent because you know Americans love that shit. She was looked exactly like the model she is in real life. Everyone else in the show such as the blacks look like fucking prison inmates. It's problematic. At best, it's a foot in the door. It just ruins the race relations of the show, but can we at least enjoy what it does for fluidity? It sucks that sometimes we need a person like ourselves to connect to, but that doesn't mean we cannot connect with others latter down the road. Everything takes time.

Let this take its time.
posted by thetoken at 2:16 AM on June 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I'm appreciating the fact that women can now apparently be considered to look beautiful while not looking feminine. If they're conventionally attractive enough. Well, it's something.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:08 AM on June 20, 2015


By the way, where does the 'national conversation' part come from? I don't watch, so I don't know, but is this about a show that's only watched or talked about in the USA?
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:15 AM on June 20, 2015


Can't be. I've been getting ads for it on Danish netflix. (As for myself, I am stuck way back in season 1 due to not having my own netflix acct, so I haven't met this character).

Not knowing the character, I don't actually think she's that hot. But I can certainly sympathize with being an approximately straight woman who gets crushes on other women (I'm just more into a different look, I suppose).

So yeah, down with labels, down with policing attraction of anyone for anyone else. And up with the actress for recognizing that bi people exist (and may be much more common than generally recognized..)
posted by nat at 5:01 AM on June 20, 2015


"while not looking feminine"

Are we even looking at the same pictures? I've seen vulvas less feminine.
posted by idiopath at 6:20 AM on June 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


It just ruins the race relations of the show, but can we at least enjoy what it does for fluidity?

No.
posted by Ashen at 6:28 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I should probably elaborate. The longer answer is no, not really, because:

POC who are members of GSM communities are definitely not given the same level of flexibility in regards to gender presentation, performance and identity. In my experience, also, Black women are more likely to be read as butch, as hardened, as even being more prison-esque (not even prison-chic like OINTB character Alex Vause) even when they don't identify as such.

Also I kind of cringe when people exclaim "I'd totally go gay for [some celebrity]" because one of the not-so-nice side effects of joking like that is that queer-baiting becomes a lot more common. To be gay or lesbian or "a little bit bisexual" (ugh) becomes this trendy new mantle that gets cast off when the joke is over.

I and a lot of my friends (of varying gender identities) have also been burned by straight women who view us as a fascination and obsession not unlike "pumpkin spice lattes," and it's not fucking fun when you've caught feelings for someone who fetishizes you and you realize that shit a little too late.
posted by Ashen at 6:43 AM on June 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


"while not looking feminine"

Are we even looking at the same pictures?


Maybe? I saw some pictures of her with short hair, androgynous or masculine clothing, and little or non-obvious makeup. That's what I call not looking feminine.

But I'll readily admit that I don't personally understand gender on a deeper level, and my language has just one word for feminine and female. So fuckups are always an option.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:53 AM on June 20, 2015


I do not have any strong feeling on the public reaction to Ruby Rose (and I have not gotten to the third season of OINTB yet, so I have no reaction myself), but if Joseph-Gordon Levitt's Sandman film is going ahead, I hope RR is at the front of the line to play Desire.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:16 AM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Did she come to us from an alternate universe where Billy Zane is a woman? I approve.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:51 AM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


> Femmes must be attracted to butches. Men are either tops or bottoms. Once someone goes gay (has gay sex), they can never go back.

I reject this boring reality and substitute my own exciting one.
posted by ostranenie at 8:30 AM on June 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


I feel like the problem here is that we're sort of forgetting that objectification is harmful even when it comes from women. Like, when the entire world reduces one young woman to being some paragon of universal fuckability it makes many others of us feel left out or feel like their kind of beautiful doesn't rate.

I feel like maybe some of the blogs that are racing to proclaim how much they want to fuck this hot woman don't realize how much they have in common with Maxim or a Carl's Jr ad.
posted by shmegegge at 10:00 AM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


It sucks when tou become fetishized. It has happened to me, but people of all sorts have broken my heart even those who truly loved me. I guess I am a little callous like that.
posted by thetoken at 10:16 AM on June 20, 2015


OK so there are links within the linked articles of the post, I hope people read those because they open up the conversation a bit (for instance, the BuzzFeed article that andoapt links to is in one of the articles, and is one of the most interesting as it shows how straight women / queer women are talking to each other - or perhaps, past each other - on social media. Despite the limitations of Twitter, there are some really salient points being made on that platform between people.)

I don't watch the show but thought it was interesting how a character that apparently people are reacting strongly to also has a personal identity that she talks about - "gender fluid" - and that was one of the most interesting aspects of this story.

The "OMG she's so hot" is the _least_ interesting aspect of this story, but unfortunately it's the one that gets the most kneejerk response to.

The criticisms of Ruby Rose's character being a positive queer representation when there are other characters on the show that are queer but not slim white women with feminine features is spot-on.

The 'opening up a national conversation' I used in the title was, I'm afraid, a writerly flourish I put in because I didn't know how else to frame it: basically there's been an explosion of talk online about this, that's what I meant to convey. (It bugged me that I used that title after I had posted it.)

Really this is not such a new thing, you can go back to Marlene Dietrich et al. to see examples of very feminine women who have embrace masculine styles in their performances that people really respond to; the weird part, to me, is encapsulated by MrBobaFett (above).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:02 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some of us continue to crush on Poussey. She's beautiful, intelligent, complex, interesting, brave, hurting, needs hugs, gives hugs. Poussey is an amazing character being portrayed brilliantly by a brilliant actress. The character of Stella has nothing going for her except her looks.
posted by bleep at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


Too-Ticky: Rose's facial features are quite feminine, she's either had the same sort of facial surgery that a trans woman would get to make her features more feminine, or naturally developed those exaggeratedly feminine facial features.
posted by idiopath at 1:13 PM on June 20, 2015


I and a lot of my friends (of varying gender identities) have also been burned by straight women who view us as a fascination and obsession not unlike "pumpkin spice lattes," and it's not fucking fun when you've caught feelings for someone who fetishizes you and you realize that shit a little too late.

Yeah, but I feel like all of us have been burned by people - women, men, whatever - who view us as an obsession and then all of a sudden you have feelings and they just were into your breasts/ass/Cool Girl/Goth/whateverthefuck. It doesn't have to be all Ruby Roses' fault.
posted by corb at 9:17 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rose's facial features are quite feminine

Yeah, I figured that might be what you meant. So I tried to explain what I meant when I said 'not looking feminine'. Sorry, these things are hard in a foreign language. I'm doing my best.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:49 AM on June 21, 2015


If more people become okay with openly admiring/pining for/crushing on people of the same gender, I personally can only imagine it being a good thing. I would have certainly welcomed this growing up instead of being a fetishized mysterious bi girl. Standards of beauty seemingly written in stone these days nonwithstanding, it makes me extremely happy to hear both men and women embrace a more fluid take on what floats their boats. (Thank you, I'm here all night.)

I can certainly understand the worry that this can be a purely superficial costume the majority of people try on only to discard it when push comes to shove, but trying things on is also how we learn about ourselves. You have to be able to let people know that it's okay and safe to explore their feelings, don't you? It's such a big part of letting people discover who they are.
posted by erratic meatsack at 4:28 AM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


It wasn't a worry. It was an observation based on anecdotal and personally-gleaned evidence.
posted by Ashen at 6:27 AM on June 21, 2015


Rose's facial features are quite feminine, she's either had the same sort of facial surgery that a trans woman would get to make her features more feminine, or naturally developed those exaggeratedly feminine facial features.

Or she's got a team of make-up artists making sure she looks conventionally hot for the media.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:38 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd also like to emphasize that to be fetishized in a queer context is completely unlike the generalist context. It isn't just "oh darn, I got burned by this person I really liked and all they wanted me for was my ass." It's "oh darn, I got burned by this person I really liked and all they wanted to do was hang out with me for cool points among their straight friends." It's "oh darn, I got burned by this person I really liked and all they wanted to do was use us as a ticket into ballrooms and ballroom culture." Or "oh darn, I got burned by this person I really liked and all they wanted was to be able to say they've fucked someone like me."

Do you see where I'm going with this? It is a power dynamic, between straight people and people in GSM communities, that gets played out when those sorts of things happen.

Also corb, can you please indicate where I placed blame on this phenomenon squarely on the shoulders of Ruby Rose?
posted by Ashen at 6:40 AM on June 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ashen, thanks for going into more details. I've realized there's a lot more nuance to this. Being the token "cool ____ friend" without knowing it and getting taken advantage of is definitely crappy.

I don't really know how to address that while also being able to say that it's a good thing for people to challenge their notions of what they like. I hate that stuff like this will make people up their guard instead of increasing the sense of community.
posted by erratic meatsack at 5:20 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fuckability is not the pinnacle of acceptance or even particularly a compliment.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:06 PM on June 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's a bit of both. Increased visibility comes with challenges. I'd like for more people to be able to figure out their sexuality and have space for that, but also not at my expense or the expense of my friends. I think that we need to have more conversations about how to really keep yourself (and whatever privileges you start out with) in check, also.

It wouldn't really stop those who want to tokenize us from going right on ahead and doing so, but at least the wheat would (hopefully) be separated from the chaff as more questioning folks learn how not to hurt others in similar ways.
posted by Ashen at 7:07 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems like "So and so is hot" is different from "I'm suddenly gay for so and so." The first is maybe opening up one's sexuality (though still objectifying someone); the second is claiming an identity that they may have no right to.
posted by jaguar at 9:53 PM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


It seems like "So and so is hot" is different from "I'm suddenly gay for so and so." The first is maybe opening up one's sexuality (though still objectifying someone); the second is claiming an identity that they may have no right to.

Damn, I disagree with that. Who decides which people have a right to any identity? Bi-erasure much?

I think the actual problem with "I'm gay for so and so" is that many of the people saying it don't mean it straightforwardly. They mean something more like "I can appreciate this single person's aesthetic attractiveness, and of course I'm not *actually* gay/bi, so instead I'll make a little fun of that and just say 'gay for so and so'."
posted by nat at 9:01 AM on June 23, 2015


I think the actual problem with "I'm gay for so and so" is that many of the people saying it don't mean it straightforwardly.

Yes, that was my point.
posted by jaguar at 10:15 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I don't think it's fair to say "they don't have a right to claim that identity". They aren't claiming it, first off, not really; and second, who is anyone else to judge the right for someone to claim a particular identity?

Sorry, maybe I'm just a little sensitive as someone whose reluctance to claim any identity other than straight stems exactly from people telling bi folk they don't have a right to that identity if they aren't bi enough (and not so much from any realities about my actual sexuality).
posted by nat at 11:15 AM on June 23, 2015


People tend to use "I'm gay for so and so" not to mean "I'm gay" or "I'm bi," but just that they think someone of their same gender is hot. I think andoatnp's link is saying the same thing, especially this series of quoted Tweets:
Okay I'm very tired of girls calling themselves gay because they recognise another woman as attractive.

That doesn't make you gay.

It's okay to be gay, it isn't okay to imply that the only way a person can recognise someone of a similar genders beauty is if they're gay.

Unless you're having a very casual coming out, this needs to stop.

Ruby Rose is beautiful, I recognise that, but if I wasn't queer the fact that she is amazing looking wouldn't make me queer.
I mean, I don't see a lot of straight women saying/posting that they're "straight for" some dude. That particular phrasing (being "gay for" someone) seems like a "Tee hee! I'm transgressive! But I'm really straight!" as opposed to a "very casual coming out."
posted by jaguar at 12:11 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some of us continue to crush on Poussey. She's beautiful, intelligent, complex, interesting, brave, hurting, needs hugs, gives hugs. Poussey is an amazing character being portrayed brilliantly by a brilliant actress. The character of Stella has nothing going for her except her looks.

So I'm finally in it. Seems a rather minor role. Of all the diverse women on oitnb, there is a post about the most classically hot white woman.

And from most angles, she looks like angelina jolie's sister, so I don't get this BS about her being different from any other actress trying to make it in LA. Besides that's accent.

I think if you want to talk about sexual fluidity according to that show, we should talk about 'crazy eyes'. I mean her book is?!?!

I don't even understand what's going on there, but I can't wait for the next chapter.

But no. Let's fawn over the hot white chick who goes topless.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:39 PM on June 25, 2015


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