“I can’t compete with an Asian chick,” says the comedian Amy Schumer. When a busty, blue-eyed blond—a type that launched a thousand wet dreams—admits she can’t contend with Asian women, it signals a certain shift in our culture’s preferred sexual tastes.
Ask any World of Warcraft player about “Goldshire” and you’ll likely hear more than a little embarrassed giggling. The small town just outside the human capital of Stormwind is a known hotbed of ERP—shorthand for erotic roleplaying—derided but secretly loved in the gaming world in a way that mirrors the physical world’s vexed relationship with sexuality.
At the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, I once went through a bisexual stage.
I was a teenager, and I tried on the label as a way to describe my affection outside of prescribed definitions of love and lust. But like the too-small shoes I’d wear before I came across affordable size 12s, the identity was ill-fitting.
In May of this year, comedian Sarah Baker garnered a lot of attention for the monologue her character, Vanessa, delivered at the end of an episode of Louie. Vanessa asks Louie (Louis C.K.), point blank, why men hate fat girls so much. “What is it about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that’s just not in the cards for us?” she asked.
We are the fighters. We are the women who don’t take shit from no man.
We are the women with the sharp tongues and hands firmly on hips. We are the ride-or-die women. We are the women who have, like Sojourner Truth, “plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head us.” We are the sassy chicks. We are the mothers who make a way out of no way. On TV, we are the no-nonsense police chiefs and judges. We are the First Ladies with the impressive guns.
More than a decade before Maureen “Moe” Shea was Hilary Swank’s sparring partner in Million Dollar Baby, she was struggling just to get a jab in. “There were gyms that closed the door in my face,” says the now 33-year-old featherweight champion. “One person said, ‘Boxing is for people who’ve been in jail. You should be at home baking pies.’”
“You bitches are lucky to have a health clinic,” one of the girls said. “Hold up, ladies,” Marisol said. “Remember, you are not bitches,” she said. “You are hoes.” The women laughed. “Bitches are dogs,” Marisol said. “But whores are…?” “Professionals who get paid,” they chorused back. “Thank you,” Marisol said. “Show some respect for the trade.”
I recently overheard a media colleague say, “I don’t get Lena Dunham. She’s no Courtney Love.” My ears perked up because I’m nosy, but also, huh? “When Courtney Love was 26 and you talked to her,” my colleague went on to explain, “she had this captivating spark. You could tell she was crazy but a genius. Lena, well, she’s just regular.”
I first noticed the books about five years ago in a grocery checkout line in suburban Chicago. Their covers sport bonnet-clad heads on demure-looking young white women posed in calm domestic or pastoral scenes. Perhaps a horse-drawn buggy rolls by in the distance, or a barn is etched on the horizon. Maybe a young man in a wide-brimmed hat stands gazing at the woman in the foreground.