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Evan Rachel Wood and The Frisky's Belittling of Bisexual Women

evan rachel wood

Evan Rachel Wood, old soul alto of Across the Universe, ruthless Queen of True Blood, sister who wants a doll in High Lonesome—okay, I'm a fan; this could go on awhile—is officially post-closet now. While she's previously had coming-outs of sorts, the twenty-three-year-old actor broke it down for Esquire:

You date women?

"Yes," she says proudly, as if she was waiting to be asked.

Do you look for different things in men than in women?

"Yeah, I'm more kind of like the guy when it comes to girls. I'm the dominant one." It's with women, she says, that her inner North Carolina gentleman comes out: "I'm opening the doors, I'm buying dinner. Yeah, I'm romantic."

Hmm. As a feminist, I'm not thrilled by the assumption of stereotypical straight relationships, but, you know: good for her.

Unfortunately, in keeping with the depressing norms that creep up when famous ladies mention being queer, the haters are all over her, and not just in comment sections. Columnist and TV personality Zennie Abraham responded with a startlingly offensive piece for the San Francisco Chronicle's blog, and The Awl has already taken to using Wood's sexuality as a throwaway joke. The most revealing contribution in this corner of Doucheland, though, is The Frisky's "11 Famous Bisexual Babes" slideshow.

frisky title

With a name like "Bisexual Babes," you know it's going to lean on objectification, but is it too much to ask that major "entertainment" sites not deal heavily in homophobic cliches? Along with Wood's photos and words from Esquire, the list presents itself with these inauspicious gems:

When almost everyone in Hollywood is bi, it seems silly not to jump on the woman-loving bandwagon! [...] We could have guessed [Wood]'d be up for anything. She did date Marilyn Manson after all.

Let's count the anti-bi tropes here. With the first sentence, we have a tacit accusation that women's sexualities are affectations to fit in or not seem "silly." (As for the link attached to "almost everyone," it's—surprise!—another Frisky slideshow very much like this one. It also begins with talk of a "bandwagon" and relies on Britney Spears' kiss with Madonna and speculation about Pink, who has been adamant about the fact that she is heterosexual but a big supporter of QUILTBAG rights.) Secondly, they equate bisexuality with being "up for anything;" in other words, promiscuous and not picky.

The flipside of the she-just-said-it-to-fit-in attack, she-just-said-it-for-attention, gets a workout both at The Frisky and elsewhere, so let's address that one right now. I am of the opinion that it is never okay to doubt a person's sexual self-identification. Regardless of how much you think you know people, be it from outside the TV or from the next apartment over, you do not understand their preferences better than they do, and rejection of their personally articulated identities is disrespect not only of their autonomy but of the myriad ways sexuality can manifest itself.

Sure, coming out as queer can draw attention toward a celebrity. It also can—nay, will—make millions of people hate hir. At the very least, I believe we all owe those willing to take that risk the benefit of the doubt.

lady gaga

Getting back to The Frisky's latest charmer, they had this to say about Ms. Gaga:

Lady Gaga said that her lady-loving scares off her boyfriends, "The fact that I'm into women, they're all intimidated by it. It makes them uncomfortable. They're like, 'I don't need to have a threesome. I'm happy with just you.'" Silly boys, it's not all about them.

Terrific: more condescending, sarcastic use of the word "silly." Here, we have the assumption that bi women are greedy and unanimously non-monogamous, all in a flip seven-word sentence. It's tempting to stop here, but how many more ways can one piece be offensive, right?

Because there wasn't enough going on in her life, Amy Winehouse is also a lover of lady parts, telling friends, "So what? [...] I don't care what people think about me being bi—I do what feels good." Yeah, we know that about you.

Oof. Reducing queer women to "lovers of lady parts" reinforces the tired judgment that we must be all sex, all the time. (Just like the it's-to-fit-in/it's-for-attention double whammy, the it's-about-sex/it's-about-feelings stereotypes for lesbian relationships have always baffled me.) "We know that about you" basically equates bisexuality with alcohol abuse, because both are totes unhealthy and gluttonous, right? (Wrong.)

How about Jenna Jameson?

Shocker, Jenna Jameson is bisexual. She's been more than open about her lady-loving, saying off-camera she's slept with 100 women and 30 men [...] Recently she claimed to be "totally hetero," to which we responded, "lolz."

So, why the shocked lolz? Because the words with which Jameson describes herself have changed? No, "silly," because she does porn and is therefore, in Friskyville, assumed to be overly sexual and without standards, and thus bisexual. Haven't we learned anything from the rest of this slideshow?

But where can the list go from here? What celeb does the media have more scorn for than Jameson?

tila tequila

Tila Tequila has spent her career trying really hard to make us believe she is, in fact, bisexual. [...] Whatever, Tequila.

I guess they only doubt straightness when it comes to sex workers.

They finish off by throwing in actor Drea de Matteo for the quote "I can't say I've never been with a woman" and retorting that Margaret Cho "just had to one-up everyone" for saying she is "more than bi." In other words, female bisexuality is assumed to be inherently competitive... in addition to an affectation, a sex addiction, a selfish indulgence and, oh hell, I can't even keep track of all this wrongheaded judgment anymore.

Commenter thoughtcrime asks if this might not all be backhanded progress (or something):

I actually see poking fun at people to be indicative of equality. The Frisky snarks on het people all the time, too, and subjecting minorities to the same standards means that cultural taboos are lessening and minority groups are entering the same arenas as non-minorities.

Yeah, no. While gossip-laden sites can and do make fun of avowedly hetero celebrities, I've yet to see them singled out in a "Straight Babes" list that strategically doubts, condemns and rejects their sexual orientations. No equality here.

What a loaded list. Bravo, Frisky, for exposing so many angles of biphobic bullying!

Oh, wait. Is that not your intention?

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Comments

16 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Reading the Chronicle

Reading the Chronicle article, it's extremely obvious that this person is bent out of shape over an already down-hill relationship with a woman who may have somewhat different ideas on relationships than his obviously "traditional" ones. (As exemplified by "you have to pick one person to be with" -- No, you want her to pick one person and think it should be you. If she does indeed want an open or multi-partner relationship, then let her go do that while you find someone who wants a closed, single-partner relationship.) When a partner is genuinely wanting someone else and it looks like there may be a break-up on the way because of it, most people make accusations of "sluttiness," even of hetero, male partners. A mature person looks back and goes, "Okay, I was pissed at them and lashed out." An immature person believes their accusations despite any evidence to the contrary several years down the road and makes sure that any future partners hear this story as a warning. Even if the on/off partner in question was into open, multi-partner relationships (there's no indication beyond his own assumptions and accusations), a mature person wouldn't entwine that with her bisexuality, unless, perhaps, this just happened and they're still in an accusation frame of mind. The writer gives no indication of which category he falls in, but whatever the circumstances are, lasting immaturity or fresh emotional wounds, it's blatantly obvious that he's not the right person to be covering Ms. Wood, and any supervisor he has should have told him "These accusations aren't at all okay or even relevant, and this article is more about how pissed you are at your on/off girlfriend than Ms. Wood's sexuality."

who comes out as bi?

i totally agree that the articles that you linked to are fucked up responses to evan rachel wood's coming-out. but i also think that it's fair to ask questions, not about wood's sexual identity (which i also take people at their word for), but about the conditions under which she chose to make a public announcement about it. in hollywood, people don't make statements like that without considering their careers. so either wood (and her agents/managers) thought that it wouldn't hurt her career, or they thought that for an actress with a rebel-girl reputation like wood, it might actually help her career.

what does it mean that we're at a place now that for certain actresses - and most of the actresses or performers who've come out as bi are thin, white, in their 20s, conventionally feminine (not overtly butch or androgynous, in any case), and currently in a relationship with a cisgender man - coming out as bi is either a neutral or beneficial career move? and what does that mean for queer women in hollywood who are less privileged in any number of different ways?

I think in these times,

I think in these times, coming out can tremendously help one's career. Just look at Neil Patrick Harris. The man is everywhere! Ellen has a fantastic career as well (although it took awhile to get back after coming out). And there are numerous other celebrities who have come out whose careers haven't tanked, people still remain loyal, and their careers flourish. It's a new age where actors and actresses don't have to appear straight if they are gay or bisexual.

"what does it mean that we're at a place now that for certain actresses - and most of the actresses or performers who've come out as bi are thin, white, in their 20s, conventionally feminine (not overtly butch or androgynous, in any case), and currently in a relationship with a cisgender man - coming out as bi is either a neutral or beneficial career move?"

I also don't see how their relationships matter, either, or how it has any effect on their career. Coming out, regardless of who they are, what they look like, and who they are dating/married to, is good for their career because being open with one's sexuality has become much, much less taboo in Hollywood.

This seems like a very

This seems like a very overblown reactionary response to very minor errors in PC-ness on behalf of the Frisky. As an openly bisexual woman, I was certainly not OFFENDED when I read either of these on The Frisky originally.

Meh...

My thought is this: how much much adversity can rich, beautiful sex icons really be faced with for coming out as bisexual? Rachel Evan Wood, Tila Tequila and Jenna Jamenson have very specific fan bases (read: hetero males), and you can't tell me these girls don't know that. Coming out as bixesual only feeds into some sort of frat boy wet dream. I'm not dismissing their sexualities, that's not of my business, but I can't see their careers or daily lives being negatively affected by this, especially when you're talking about women who've built entire careers peddling sex in the first place.

But has coming out negatively

But has coming out negatively affected any celebrity in the recent past? Besides, what do you suggest these women do? Not come out as bisexual because it's a fantasy of many heterosexual men? Why not try to change the stereotype and the "frat boy wet dream" so bisexual women can feel like they're in a safe environment?

I don't think we necessarily

I don't think we necessarily know the answer to your first question. I can't off the top of my head think of celebrities who've publically suffered for coming out, but I'd be willing to bet out actors/actresses aren't being offered the romantic leads or, if they're male, the action movie parts they might otherwise be getting. Hollywood has generally shown very little faith in their audience's ability to tell characters from the people who play them, and with some good reason. The homophobia isn't necessarily in what we see so much as what - or who - we don't.

"I'd be willing to bet out

"I'd be willing to bet out actors/actresses aren't being offered the romantic leads"

But they are. Look at the part Neil Patrick Harris plays on HIMYM. Plus you have to consider that not every actor wants to play the romantic lead. It's a shtick role according to some actors.

"if they're male, the action movie parts they might otherwise be getting."

Perhaps. But like I said above, not every male actor wants to be an action star. Of course there's typecasting, but I honestly can't think of any gay actors who have been typecast to the point where the only characters they play are gay. And you also have to consider if they only want to play gay characters, like how there are numerous straight actors who only want to play straight characters. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Gay actors, actresses, singers, screenwriters, etc, are all tremendously successful. Look at Alan Ball, Darren Star, Adam Lambert (who is arguably way more successful than the guy who won American Idol), Sir Ian McKellan, Ellen, Elton John... I could go on and on. I really am going to have to argue that there is little homophobia that exists in Hollywood and the music industry and the entertainment industry as a whole.

However, that being said, there is still some sort of odd fascination with actors and actresses who are bisexual. Which is why this list, to me, bordered on offensive because of the way that these women were described. I didn't like how the descriptions they used almost all involved sex. Because for a lot of bisexual people, myself included, it isn't always about sex.

Proof? I don't know.

I really am going to have to argue that there is little homophobia that exists in Hollywood and the music industry and the entertainment industry as a whole.

I'm not sure, actually, that any of us are in a position to say that, or that being able to name queer performers is evidence that Hollywood is post-homophobia. As for whether being out diminishes financial chances in the entertainment world, there are indeed examples on both sides. (NPH strikes me as a spurious source for conclusion because, in addition to being only one person, he was, like Wood, a child star prior to coming out. He also had already been cast in his current sitcom.) Regardless, I am more interested in the media and public reaction to QUILTBAG celebs, and I can say with certainty that those who come out get a raft full of queerphobic shit. Be it flip ha-ha-bisexual jokes, musical boycotts, public speculation about what sex acts are their go-tos, news stories with the wrong pronous or accusations by other famous folk of corrupting the young, celebs who come out do so with the knowledge that they'll be putting up with a lot of nonsense. They're in the public eye, and a lot of people behind that eye are really, really not tolerant, both amongst fans and "news" sources.

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But I guess my point isn't

But I guess my point isn't about public reaction, it's that entertainers can safely come out now without it negatively affecting their career, meaning that they aren't blacklisted. If someone like Rock Hudson came out as gay back in the 50s or 60s, he wouldn't have ever worked at all ever again. Now? That's not the case.

"Regardless, I am more interested in the media and public reaction to QUILTBAG celebs"

I think it goes both ways. I think it can be both positive and negative, but it depends on where and what media outlet is. Fox News, not so much. MSNBC, better.

'They're in the public eye, and a lot of people behind that eye are really, really not tolerant, both amongst fans and "news" sources."

The thing is though, these are the same people who criticize celebrities in general for being "too liberal" and who decry Hollywood for being "too liberal" and so on. Glee is one of the most popular shows on TV, and it's a select few conservatives who constantly criticize every angle and aspect of it. They already hate Hollywood and are looking for new excuses to hate it even more.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that within the actual Hollywood community itself, now, is much less homophobic than it was 10 years ago, seeing as how many gay celebrities arent seeing their careers destroyed. But you are absolutely right, it's a section of the public who will react with homophobia, because let's face it, they're homophobic to begin with.

The thing with The Frisky article is that they want to give the impression that they are fine and dandy with bisexuality, but it's underhanded. It's like a backhanded compliment. They do have the right intentions but didn't execute it in the right way.

Hollywood may not be as friendly as you think

Rupert Everett has talked about homophobia in Hollywood and links his lack of leading (heterosexual) man roles in Hollywood to his openness about his sexuality. There was also the homophobic review written a few years ago in which a theater reviewer went on and on about how he couldn't see Sean Hayes playing a heterosexual character on stage and found his performance unconvincing because of Hayes' personal sexual identity.

But that's one person's

But that's one person's personal bias, probably against Sean Hayes. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, what I am saying is that it has greatly diminished over the recent years. Of course it's not problem-free, but you have to admit it is much, much better than it was even 10 years ago.

Lack of lead roles for gay/bis

I agree that actors will suffer being picked over for parts due to their sexuality. This is more so apparent with "overtly" gay actors, as casting agents have a hard time seeing the actor in a straight role. Neil Patrick Harris got lucky, satirizing hetero males with his "Barney" persona (on HIMUM.) FOX's Glee shows a few examples of this, through Kurt's (and Unique's) struggles to find appropriate songs/jobs/roles. Of course, as a feel-good show, the characters usually win in the end but real life is not so kind.

the article

(This is Andrea, I finally got an user name, yay!) My response was more geared to The Frisky's article, which to me, read like a very deep eye roll, like, yeah, you're bisexual stop the presses. I do agree that the stereotype needs to change, and that people of all sexual orientations should be allowed to come out to society safely and without judgement, but I can't help but feel that some of the women listed above do feed into the Hot Bisexual Babe stereotype, knowingly. I keep thinking about Tila Tequila's A Shot of Love, and how during the show its was reported that not only was she in a relationship during the time but once the show ended, the guy she picked never even got to see her. And then there was season 2! She was literally making money off that image, and it does more harm than good. So yeah, I'm kinda defending The Frisky on this one.

THe thing about Tila Tequils

THe thing about Tila Tequils is that she's not a serious actress like Evan Rachel Wood or Anna Paquin, nor is she a comedian like Margaret Cho. She does things for the shock value, and she absolutely feeds into it knowingly and makes money off of it. I don't think the same can be said for the rest of the women on the list. There's being outspoken about sexuality, and then there's being blatant about it. So you're definitely right regarding your opinion on her, I just don't think that the rest of the women on the list count. I've read Jenna Jameson's autobiography and she talks in detail about her relationships with women in a candid way and I really respect that about her.

Anyways, it has definitely helped her career by being controversial, although I personally don't know anyone who can stand her. And a part of me feels that her in particular are like those women who say they are bisexual and kiss other women to receive male attention. At any rate, I blame porn for this. Ugh.

Thank you, thank you

"Regardless of how much you think you know people, be it from outside the TV or from the next apartment over, you do not understand their preferences better than they do, and rejection of their personally articulated identities is disrespect not only of their autonomy but of the myriad ways sexuality can manifest itself."

Thank you.

Yeah, I don't want to sound like I'm comparing myself to Hollywood starlets, but I've basically had the same responses when I've admitted to my own bisexuality. They've ranged from, "No you're not, you have a boyfriend" to "You're just saying that because everyone else is" to "I always knew you were a dyke." Thanks, because your input about my sexuality is totally what I need. I hate that female bisexuality has become so commodifed as of late, to the point where it's not taken seriously as a facet of identity, but rather as a stunt or as proof of abject skankiness. Coming out is difficult enough when it comes to my more conservatve relatives, but now it's hard to express this even to my more "open-minded" friends because they don't take it seriously or assume an ulterior motive. I wish people could, when it comes to the sexuality of others, just believe what they're told.