Naturally, we hold very high reverence for John Waters. But recently, the Pope of Trash made us cringe way more than when we saw "Pink Flamingos" for the first time. In an interview with the U.K.'s The Spectator, Waters commented on the topic of Caitlyn Jenner, insisting that she should be made fun of because she's a Republican on a reality show. We certainly wouldn't argue with that, but during an interview on WGBH News, Waters referred to the transgender celebrity as "he" and "Bruce" and questioned whether or not she was "tucked."
"He says he's not going to get the bottom surgery," Waters said, "and, well, to me that's important. If you're going to do it, go the whole way!" It's disappointing to see a queer icon reject an individual's preferred identifiers, but it's even more disappointing that he fails to recognize that while his all-or-nothing aesthetic translates brilliantly through his art, it does not apply to a person's deeply personal decisions regarding their own body. Many transgender people cannot afford the often-extremely-expensive bottom surgery, and even for those like Caitlyn Jenner who can, many are completely comfortable with the genitals they are born with and experience gender dysphoria in other ways. We can certainly make fun of Caitlyn Jenner for being a rich conservative reality show star—why wouldn't we?—but there's nothing particularly funny about her identity as a trans woman. (Maura Callahan)
Elizabeth Boyd, a research associate in American Studies at the University of Maryland, has an op-ed in WaPo that asserts hoop skirts are racist. "While donning a hoop skirt on occasion may not constitute a hate crime (whether it is a crime of fashion is another matter), make no mistake: The Southern belle performances routinely staged on campuses across the South constitute choreography of exclusion." But of course it is not merely the hoop skirt that signifies this racist exclusion; white women per se are part of this exclusionist choreography: "In campus productions — sorority rush, beauty revues and pageants, sporting traditions — young white women serve as signs of nostalgia for a bygone, segregated South and all its attendant privileges." Boyd is serious. She did her 1999 dissertation on this. Her beef is specifically with the world of "debutantes" and pageants, and more generally with white southern bourgeiose culture and tradition: the way the rich and wanna-be rich kids learn to act in the New South. It is a culture that is easy to criticize, and satirize, and popular culture has been doing so for 40 years. But, meanwhile, the world of "belles" has already crossed racial lines (and gender lines too). Boyd's admonition that we take the hoop skirt very, very seriously ("Discounted but powerful, these belle performances may not stem from conscious ill intent, but they are surely racial symbols as much as any noose or flag," she writes. "And they can be plenty intimidating.") seems at odds with the culture in which she claims expertise. It also raises the questions about that old apologist for racism and hate—the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. "If UGA and other Southern schools really want to lead, they will not only ban the hoop; they will also go after the belle," Boyd writes. She does not say how they should do that. (Edward Ericson Jr.)