MAYA'S JUNE COLUMN: PRIDE MONTH AND THE COMMODIFICATION OF QUEERNESS
Fun fact: fetishes - defined by Google as “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.” - have diagnostic criteria by the APA (American Psychiatric Association). While technically understood as a paraphilia, a fetish is (technically) any sexual proclivity bound by an arousal exclusive to that particular object. Since corporations love using oversimplified logic to sell ideas of queerness to us, I’ll use oversimplified logic to understand fetishes – if fetishes are defined by sexual exclusivity, then any sexual orientation is a fetish. Why, then, aren’t corporations targeting straight people in a specific month? Why isn’t there a holiday built around the characterization of this fetish?
As answering my own ideological questions is kind of my gig in my columns, I will follow suit: cisgender heterosexuality isn’t considered subversive – it doesn’t fit the seedy notion that fetishes have come to represent independent of their relationship to mental illness. There’s a hot sickness that goes into fetishes – something dirty and forbidden that feels “oh so good.” The way the entire month of June is sold as a giant “proud” rainbow flag says: “You’re different from the norm,” while ironically homogenizing an entire community into a norm of its own. This is undeniably a hard thing to start writing, because of the culture of fetishization that I believe defines this contemporary moment - with the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community came the condition of being able to sell a cherry-picked subversion.
It’s deeply ironic considering how beauty norms have changed in line with this. In the past decade, more “unconventional” types of beauty have re-standardized the industry, where the only thing defining them as “unconventional” was the opposition to what is considered “conventional” in the first place. How, in this present moment, might yesterday’s “unconventional” become today’s “conventional?” Moreover, how could today’s “conventional” still reflect the underlying principles of yesterday’s “unconventional” – being the pervasive forces of race, sex and class? During Pride Month, these are all clearly delineated through the “lewk.” What was last year’s holographic vinyl and chunky glitter highlights will give weigh to what I predict is today’s metallic Y2K craze accented with none other than a pair of Fila Destructors (please, please, PLEASE don’t buy those shoes). The fact that I can make such (albeit, lofty) educated guesses speaks to how yesterday’s trash becomes today’s treasure in the never-ending trend cycle. Yesterday’s fetish is today’s edgy as the false notion of “progression” and “growth” falsely begets tolerance, when it is really evidentiary of capitalism further hiding itself in culture.
And can you blame them? The corporations, that is. Uber changes its little map to a rainbow for one moth only, suddenly everything can be bought in a multicolor option, Funfetti with extra colorful sprinkles is available at every ice cream and cupcake shop. Come the fuck on, America. Queer people are already considered a fetish. The times will lead you to believe that queer people are acceptable, but that’s as long as they function as a product and as long as that product can lead you to believe that “representation matters.” The reality is that representation during Pride only matters as much as queer people are fetishized as a “yas kween” alternative beauty still bound by the confines of what is considered “normal.”
I will take a break now and step off my soap box. I want to encourage you to think about all of the products that just came out pledging to support queer people and foundations, all of the collaborations with drag queens and gay stars, all of the specials on television and clever one-liners written into sitcoms for their air dates in Pride Month. It’s a fetish, a catharsis that feels really cool and dirty and “so wrong it’s right,” and that’s the convenient polypropylene packaging of queerness that comprises Pride – a plastic sheath that needs to be shed.