Visi(bi)lity: How Bideology Battles Biphobia
Straight women: would you ever date a bisexual man? Do you think that bisexual men are more likely to spread STDs than straight men? Do you think that bisexual men are more feminine than straight men? These questions have preoccupied writer and filmmaker Arielle Loren's work for the last few years. After falling in love with a bisexual man, Loren developed The Bi-deology Project, a two-part web series exploring straight women's perceptions of bisexual men, particularly in the context of romantic relationships. The series has since inspired a feature-length documentary, Bideology, which will be premiering at film festivals this spring.
Though Loren is a straight woman (and not a bisexual man), she is quite knowledgeable about bi men and the bisexual community. As a student at New York University, she wrote a thesis titled "Proper Heterosexism: African American Female Voices in the Media on African American Male Bisexuality and the Down Low." She also answers questions about bisexuality on her personal web series, Ask Arielle Loren (see episode 7, episode 11, and episode 14 to hear her comments). Her commitment to advocating for bisexual visibility and acceptance is clear, and it comes through the most in The Bi-deology Project. In the first episode, Loren explains that she started the project to foster a dialog and combat stereotypes that straight women often have about bi men:
I first started The Bi-deology Project because I was inspired by a personal experience. I really hope that this gives the opportunity for women to see that, you know, bisexual men don't have one type. They're not monolithic.
In her efforts to start this conversation, Loren interviewed a diverse assortment of random women she met on the street about their thoughts about dating bisexual men. She also interviewed women like writer Twanna A. Hines and filmmaker Josephine Decker (of Bi the Way fame) about their relationships with bisexual men and the misconceptions and prejudices they've overcome. The ultimate conclusion is that bisexual men, like any other group of people, are all individuals, and the fact that they're bisexual isn't a reason to date or not to date them. As Hines aptly puts it in the second episode:
"I'm always interested when people say, 'Why do you date bisexual men?' or 'Why would you date a bisexual man?,' because I think the more interesting question is, 'Why are there so many women who are against dating bisexual men?'"
The Bi-deology Project doesn't include the voices of any bi men, which initially bothered me. Isn't the best way to combat biphobia to amplify the voices of the people directly impacted by said biphobia? But the lack of bi men isn't a thoughtless omission on Loren's part—it's a very clear decision, and upon watching the episodes, I think it was a wise one. Loren reaches out to straight women by using the voices of straight and bisexual women. Rather than lecturing about oppression and identity politics to people who may not necessarily be social justice minded in that way, the voices in The Bi-deology Project relate to the audience by speaking in the viewer's own language, reflecting the viewer's own experiences and beliefs. The series is less about bi men and how they combat prejudices against them and more about the actual process of overcoming prejudices that straight women go through. It's a twist on the way the media tends to address these issues, and one that works well.
For folks interested in both the voices of bi men and the straight women who love them, that's where Bideology comes in. I haven't seen Bideology, as it has yet to be released, but the trailer makes it look like a longer, more thorough incarnation of The Bi-deology Project, including some of the same voices from The Bi-deology Project and introducing new voices, such as Paul Fitzgerald and Cedric Maurice, two bisexual men. Given how well The Bi-deology Project explored this topic in only two short episodes, the idea of a feature-length documentary on the subject makes me very intrigued.
Loren is a phenomenal ally for the bisexual community, and the work I've seen of hers is incredibly valuable. I look forward to checking out Bideology whenever it's available in NYC, and I hope that other media-makers who are interested in addressing bisexuality follow in her steps. Depicting the lives of bi people certainly increases visibility, but it's only one way to educate people outside of the community. Another method is sharing the stories of people who have overcome biphobic prejudices, and because this approach is less common, perhaps it's one which audiences are more likely to listen to. So far, Loren has approached bisexuality in creative and innovative ways, and I look forward to seeing where her work goes next.
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