The Putative Black Lesbian Speaks

June 14, 2011

As it is wont to do, the blogisphere will tackle, pin-down, chew-up, devour, and spit out the story of the phony “lesbian blogger Amina” and her pseudo-lesbian editor, “Paula Brooks.” I would like to enter my two-cents to the fray by speaking as a “black lesbian.” I do not take on this position lightly, as was also true for Tom McMaster and Bill Graber who say they understood some of what was at stake during their lengthy charades as “lesbians.” However I do not do so because I hear this titillating character inside my brain or because I need a beard to write in support of lesbian issues. Black lesbians speak just fine for themselves, and much of what they demand and produce is the possibility to voice their experiences and knowledge into history and culture on their own.

I speak here as a “black lesbian” because when I was teaching my course on feminist online spaces during the Spring, to my surprise and initial confusion, so many of my students did. They were assigned to inhabit an online space for the semester and make a number of interventions there about feminism and anti-racism. Somehow, a significant enough number of them decided to do so as a “black lesbian” that this became a short-hand for us to name a number of online behaviors worth noting here:

  • the “black lesbian” marks the outside limit of difference on the internet, a non-differentiated space where race, class, gender, and sexuality are neutralized
  • the “black lesbian” marks the outside limit of difference for the bodies and lived experience of many humans who are more hegemonically situated
  • these limits so broken, the “black lesbian’s” position authorizes her to raise otherwise unmentionable or outlawed points about race, gender, class, and sexuality online by anchoring these forbidden thoughts to a body that seems to have the right and need to so speak
  • as if we white, straight, male, wealthy, Latino, biracial, bisexual, working-class, transgender, Jewish, Hungarian others don’t already have our own authority to trouble so easily or casually or “honestly” or “naturally” the norms, boundaries, and rules of the spaces we inhabit

Internet studies has thoughtfully and carefully worked through the reasons of the cyber-ruse over these many years, and I hope the blogisphere will find Lisa Nakamura’s work on cybernetic-tourism, or Allucquere Roseanne Stone‘s thinking about “virtual cross-dressers,” to be useful to think through today’s late-breaking fake-news. My own work on the “Increasingly Unproductive Fake,” in relation, in particular, to queer representation and YouTube ironic freefall might also prove helpful.

MacMaster blogs, “I want to turn the focus away from me and urge everyone to concentrate on the real issues, the real heroes, the real people struggling to bring freedom to the Arab world. I have only distracted from real people and real problems. Those continue; please focus on them.”

The problem with this plea, as sincere as it may be, is that popular culture reminds us again and again that men and white people always play better women then women, better lesbians than lesbians, and better blacks than blacks because the real ones are too right, or correct, or left, and in the end, it’s easier to palate difficult issues with irony.

5 Responses to “The Putative Black Lesbian Speaks”


  1. […] on Cave of Dreams. Meanwhile, other blogs on Cedar Rapids, YouTube and the Arab Spring, and my most recent post on the phony lesbian blogger, did not pass […]

  2. viola2bee Says:

    Jon Stewart featured the white male lesbians story on his show last night. I was pleased to note that I’d learned about the story from your blog. I support the digital picket line.

  3. bitchwithopinions Says:

    Thank you for a great entry. I envy your students. What types of spaces did they end up inhabiting, and what kind of interventions were they able to achieve?

  4. MP:me Says:

    If you look back a bit here you’ll see several detailed posts on the class, but briefly: more than I expected ended up inhabiting generic corporate spaces (even as I warned them not to) and many of these were called out as trolls (and kicked off) just for talking about race or gender. A few of these students had quite bad experiences in places they had often spent time in, deeply altering their understanding of these places.


  5. […] Activity, Catfish, I’m Still Here, Taking Woodstock, Exit Through the Gift Shop, or “the lesbian blogger Amina“), just to stay current. But I won’t go to see Devil Inside at a movie theater, and […]


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